WSJ Contest — Friday, July 24, 2020

Grid: 8ish; Meta: same  


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Color Code”—Laura’s review

The answer to this week’s contest crossword is a five-letter word.

We have five theme entries, so it’s likely that each on contributes a letter. Let’s see how:

  • [16a: It’s described in Revelation 19]: THE SECOND COMING
  • [25a: Four-legged omens]: BLACK CATS
  • [34a: Bishop’s domain]: DIOCESE
  • [42a: Workers in some colonies]: SLAVE ANTS
  • [56a: Longtime NBC Symphony conductor]: ARTURO TOSCANINI

And then there’s this suggestive clue/entry:

  • [55a: Color, like you might want to do with the title’s last word]: TINT

Hmmm. The title is “Color Code,” and at first glance, it might seem like an adjectival phrase, but the entry suggests we take it as a direction. What happens when we color the letters of CODE in the grid? Turns out, the only entries that contain those letters are the themers, so we must be on to something:

WSJ Contest - 7.24.20 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 7.24.20 – Solution

And, hmmm, with some imagination, one might think that those colored-in letters of CODE resemble … well, it is a stretch to say, a code of some sort? Like, a Morse Code? Let’s follow this lead:

DOT == E

… and that spells WIRES, which is a five-letter word and our answer.

Portrait of Lafayette, by Samuel Morse.

Portrait of Lafayette, by Samuel Morse. Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!

I did a little research on Samuel Morse (“a little research” = read the Wikipedia entry) and I did not know that he was a fairly renowned portrait painter before being inspired to invent the single-wire telegraph after observing some experiments with electromagnets.

And speaking of color codes, it also turns out that Morse was a unrepentant defender of slavery, publishing a treatise called “An Argument on the Ethical Position of Slavery in the social system, and its relation to the politics of the day” in 1863, during the Civil War. Apparently, after the Emancipation Proclamation, Morse decided that if a democratically elected government would do something so ill-advised as to free enslaved persons, then there must be something wrong with democracy. Yale University, Morse’s alma mater, has a residential college named after him.

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8 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, July 24, 2020

  1. Seth says:

    Really impressive construction. I imagine it must have been really hard to find symmetrical themers whose spacing works perfectly to create the code, plus not using CODE in the rest of the grid. Liked this one!

  2. Torridd says:

    Ugh! I did that originally, but didn’t catch the Morse code thing. I was also diverted by “black”, “brown” and “tan” in the puzzle.

  3. Joe says:

    I flailed and flailed and flailed. Colored in the C, O, D, E occurrences. Thought I was supposed to see a picture or something? Assumed the colored-in squares added something to the existing black boxes. Ugh!!

    Also, PUTTNAM in a grid that also contains PUTT and NAM?

    These are my sour grapes and I’m done now. Brilliant construction and brilliant meta.

  4. Garrett says:

    Not my cup of tea.

  5. Bill Katz says:

    As a ham radio operator who once took a Morse code test at the Federal Building in New York, I really enjoyed this one.

  6. Amy L says:

    Samuel F. B. Morse’s best known painting is “The Gallery of the Louvre,” which is 6 feet wide and includes representations of some 40 artworks in the Louvre. He was probably a better inventor than a painter.

    • Joella D Hultgren says:

      Took a look at Samuel F. B. Morse “The Gallery of the Louvre”. Looks very good to me. He was an excellent painter, much better than most, including myself. “The monumental Gallery of the Louvre is his masterwork, a canvas he created for the edification of his countrymen.”
      Don’t sell him short on his artistry. Many inventors and artists are multi-talented.

  7. Neal says:

    I followed so many rabbits down so many holes on this one, most already mentioned. Delighted to hit upon the solution in the end. Great meta!

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