WSJ Contest — Friday, July 17, 2020

Grid: 6ish; Meta: never, got help  


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Rename That Tune”—Laura’s review

This week, we’re looking for an eight-letter word that describes some song lyrics. Full disclosure: I didn’t solve the meta, asked for help, and the explanation made sense but I’m still a little stumped.

WSJ Contest - 7.17.20 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 7.17.20 – Solution

We’re looking for an eight-letter word, and there seem to be eight themers:

  • [18a: “Everybody understand?”]: ARE WE CLEAR
  • [20a: “Hah!”]: SO THERE
  • [30a: Phoenix airport]: SKY HARBOR
  • [39a: Azure]: SKY BLUE
  • [41a: “Can’t I get any peace around here?”]: WHAT NOW
  • [48a: Refuser’s phrase]: I WON’T DO IT
  • [59a: “Not gonna happen!”]: YOU WISH
  • [64a: Show on which Beyoncé and Britney Spears competed]: STAR SEARCH

And then a suggestive clue at the end:

  • [74a: Famous children’s song that shares its tune with another famous children’s song]: ABCS

The other famous children’s song is, of course, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” But this is where I hit a dead end — I kept seeing YOU WISH and then STAR and thinking of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” I knew “Twinkle Twinkle” was likely the key, and I saw some connections with its lyrics, but nothing was coming together. I was traveling and put it away for a few days, then solving pal Gideon offered some more direction. I was feeling pretty stupid, even when he gave a stronger hint, that the first word in each themer was important — “ARE SO SKY SKY WHAT I YOU STAR huh?” Finally, he suggested that if each song shared a melody, what could I do with the lyrics?

OH! A cypher! But even then I couldn’t make it work — here’s my pathetic attempt:

The first line is correct, but I could just not make it right. Turns out the internet is helpful for this sort of thing:

I still can’t make my brain see how LMNOP = WHAT YOU ARE … but what the correct cypher does is this, if, I guess, you sing the ABCs correctly, which apparently I have never been doing:

A       B    C     D    E  F   G
Twinkle twinkle little star

H      I  J     K    LM    NO  P         — note: huh???
How I wonder what you are

Q     R   S  …     T       U     V           — note: fudging it a bit here
Up above the world so high

W                   X     Y  &   Z              — note: W takes up three syllables
Like a diamond in the sky

Given that key, the words ARE SO SKY SKY WHAT I YOU STAR spell out PUZZLING, which is an eight-letter word that describes some song lyrics and our answer, and also a good descriptor of my experience trying to solve this meta.

Here’s the ABCs set to another tune:


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15 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, July 17, 2020

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Laura. Here’s a link that shows the correlation between the two sets of lyrics:

  2. jefe says:

    This was a very satisfying solve. Of course, Baa Baa Black Sheep also has the same tune.

  3. Abide says:

    Most ingenious! I like how when you have a double letter ( for the “what” and “you”), you use the first letter. Having the double sky at z made things helpful.

  4. bergie says:

    For a while I was stuck on exclamations (not sure what the correct term is), of which I counted eight: AREWECLEAR, SOTHERE, WHATNOW, IWONTDOIT, YOUWISH, MUSTI, GIT, WHOA.

    Only seven of the eight were clued by other versions of the exclamations in quotes, so I didn’t feel great about it and fortunately looked elsewhere.

    Anyone else go down that path?

    • Joella D Hultgren says:

      We also spent all weekend on the 7 exclamations (exclamations was our word as well), but couldn’t connect the exclamations / one-liner come backs with Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. In seeing the “correct” solution, I didn’t like that there was NOT a 1-1 correspondence between syllables and alphabet letters (“what you are” uses 5 beats, and W uses 3 syllables).

      • Seth says:

        Yeah but it doesn’t matter that W has three syllables. All the letters in the solution are one syllable, so it’s completely unambiguous what word in “Twinkle” they match with.

  5. Billy Boy says:

    I did not know what to think of this, I had several ideas, but never got past step 1 or 2. Clever.

    I should have asked my NSA buddy, he doesn’t puzzle because of the proper nouns, none of which were in play here. I’m going to save this and run it by him, since it’s a cypher, see if he looks at it and say ” … … …”.

    I didn’t realize that a pad and pencil was de rigeur

    • Billy Boy says:

      NSA guy got immediately where I did but doesn’t do Metas so he didn’t know what to do next. He didn’t think of and I didn’t mention cypher.

      I think I just need go out the box on these sometimes (but when?), however the last time I pulled out the pencil and scratch paper I waaaaaaaaaaaay over-thought it.

  6. Seth says:

    This was brilliant! Such a cool idea, and so satisfying to figure it out.

  7. Barry Miller says:

    Above my pay grade.

  8. Steve Thurman says:

    I lollygagged and watched a movie last night…then turned to the puzzle. Imagine my joy at solving it at 11:30 PM!

    Imagine my sadness at remembering the deadline was midnight EST and not PST.

    Still, a very nice AHA.

  9. Christopher Morse says:

    After getting the two songs that have the same tune as ABCs, I noticed that STARSEARCH crossed with TARS and was right next to ASTRO, both of which have ‘Star’ in the letters. I went searching for more stars, couldn’t find any, but did notice the two SKYs, which seemed related enough to be relevant. And that’s when it hit me. Nice puzzle!

  10. Neal Racioppo says:

    Solving this puzzle took so many hours of my weekend and finally solving it was the highlight of my pandemic. Thank you, Mr. Gaffney!

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