WSJ Contest — Friday, September 18, 2020

Grid: 7; Meta: an hour  


Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Group Outings”—Laura’s review

This week, we’re looking for a five-letter word.

WSJ Contest - 9.18.20 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 9.18.20 – Solution

Let’s see what we can find in the themers — or at least in the five longest across entries:

  • [18a: Tips of wingtips]: TOE PIECES
  • [24a: Discrimination based on social status]: CLASSISM
  • [41a: Pierced with buckshot]: RIDDLED
  • [55a: Sticks by the coffee maker?]: STIRRERS
  • [61a: Cause to flee]: SCARE AWAY

Hmmm what do we notice? Turns out (and I needed a nudge to see this), each themer has a letter that repeats three times. That repeats thrice. That threepeats.


ESDRA? That’s a five-letter word, anagrams to DARES, but is it the answer? (Spoiler: It is not.) What was the title, again? “Group Outings” — what if each group of letters went on an outing? Like, if we took them out of the entries?


Turns out, those are all clues:

  • [28a: Topics]: THEMES
  • [41d: Claim]: RETRIEVE
  • [15a: Rile]: IRK
  • [34a: Sties]: PENS
  • [47d: Screwy]: STRANGE

The first letters of those entries spell TRIPS, which are kinda “group outings” and also a five-letter word, and our answer.




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12 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, September 18, 2020

  1. Harry Reis says:

    And of course TRIPS is poker slang for three of a kind.

  2. Garrett says:

    If you get the fill in the order of the clues derived from the “outings,” it makes no immediate sense. You have to keep the linkage from the themers and their modified forms to the other clues and their answers to get it right.

    I have a friend who mostly understood the mechanism and got it wrong!

    I thought this was a marvelous meta, in a marvelously constructed grid. Loved it.

    There was one (from my perspective) really outre clue/answer pair, and that was [Topics] THEMES. It really stuck in my craw. Thus — when I was looking at the themers, I kind-of gasped when I realized that TOEPIECES contained TOPICS artfully hidden!

    I am guessing that was a nudge.

    The construction was clean and awesome, and this meta was a delight!


  3. Bromsey says:

    I put STRIP! I thought it made sense because the letters are “stripped” from the answers. PB is usually awesome but he loses points on this one for two possible answers

    • Flinty Steve says:

      This doesn’t strike me as a fair criticism. If you follow the order that the themers appear there’s no ambiguity. If STRIP is possible, then what about SPRIT? After all, ships are sometimes used for outings.

    • Barney says:

      One thing I’ve learned is that you virtually always have to *find* it, not “think” it.

    • mkmf says:

      The answer should be plural to match the title.

    • Daniel Barkalow says:

      There has to be some reason to put the letters in a particular order. There are several possible orderings that are reasonable, but none of them I can see put the S first. You could get ITPRS in clue order or number order, or RPITS finding them in the grid left to right, but these don’t mean anything.

  4. Bromsey says:

    A truly elegant puzzle as we have come to expect from PB and MS would only have 1 possible solution. Sorry but that’s the truth

    • Flinty Steve says:

      Sort of. I would say it should only have one probable solution, and that “strip,” while “possible,” is improbable.

    • Garrett says:

      You really are missing how it works. If you follow the intended process correctly, there is only one possible outcome. To get the answer you came up with means you wound up with a jumble of letters which had to be anagrammed. That’s the only way you could have arrived at that answer. Reread Laura’s explanation or mine and you’ll see there is only one answer possible when you do it right.

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