Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Closing Credits”—Laura’s review
This week’s answer is a three-word phrase.
There’s one grid-spanning themer in the middle:
- [36a: Happy outcome]: HOLLYWOOD ENDING
And there’s a bunch of similar entries — five-letter movie star names, placed symmetrically in the grid:
- [1a: Ed of “Elf”]: ASNER
- [15a: Davis of “Thelma and Louise”]: GEENA
- [27a: Colin of “Apartment Zero”]: FIRTH
- [46a: Tommy Lee of “Cobb”]: JONES
- [62a: Nick of “Hotel Rwanda”]: NOLTE
- [66a: Sam of “Jurassic Park”]: NEILL
Those don’t seem to spell out anything interesting, but look! There’s another hint, also placed symmetrically in the grid:
- [23a: Filmography listing]: TITLE
- [49a: Puzzle listing]: CLUES
There are TITLEs in the CLUES, the marquee is HOLLYWOOD ENDING, and the title of the puzzle is “Closing Credits.” I’m going to guess the mechanism has something to do with the ending or closing of the credits in those movie titles in the clues.
And lo, the last letters of those movie titles — ElF, ThelmA anD LouisE, ApartmenT ZerO, CobB, HoteL RwandA, JurassiC ParK — spell out FADE TO BLACK, which is a three-word phrase and our answer.
The tell, in my opinion, was Apartment Zero. Lots of better known movies for Colin Firth, so there had to be something relevant to the answer in the name of that movie.
So there was no need to solve the crossword at all. Hmmm.
This is a major issue that I think a lot of people had with this puzzle. This is not really a meta crossword; it’s just a themed-ish crossword with a related word puzzle next to it.
Hollywood ending plus titles plus clues were a good reason.
(Unfortunately I didn’t catch them.)
I find this to be an issue I have with Mike Shenk’s metas a lot. They often rely more heavily on the clues, or on just a small portion of the grid. I rarely like metas where the answer comes from the clues, because writing clues with a hidden gimmick is SO much easier than making a grid with a gimmick. This one isn’t the worst example of this I’ve seen, but it’s definitely a clue-heavy meta.
The past two weeks, I have returned to the WSJ puzzle on my phone browser to discover that my work had disappeared, leaving me with a totally blank grid. This had never happened before—has something in the software changed? Any way to save the puzzle between solving sessions? (I am not a subscriber to WSJ.)
I am a subscriber, and it happens to me, too, sometimes mid-puzzle, always when I go back later. Frustrating.
I thought this was a great puzzle and meta. The clues for 23A (title), 36A (Hollywood ending), and 49A (clues), in addition to the title of the puzzle, told you exactly what to do. 23A and 49A were symmetric in the grid; the 5-letter actor names from the 6 movies were also symmetric in the grid. Those who say you didn’t need to solve the grid have a point, but the grid answers provided confirmation for the meta answer.
Did anyone else get distracted by 46D Indeed listing (JOB?) Since it was clued as another “listing” like 49A Puzzle listing (CLUES) and 23A Filmography listing (TITLE,) I spent a lot of time looking in the clues for the jobs of the six movie characters. What a rabbit hole. But how perfect is 34A “Winter glider” (SLED) for Ed Ansner as Santa Claus? And 25A “Problematic roommate” (SLOB) for Apartment Zero? I then forced a clue to “work” for each of the movies, some of which are funny in hindsight. I thought the last letters of the resulting grid answers might be the answer, but of course it was gibberish.
I did look at the last letters of the final words in the titles, but not at the last letter of EVERY word in the titles. So close.
Dammit, I thought of that because of the Hollywood Ending and Title/Clues. It was one of the earliest tactics I tried. So, I got this far:
Thelma and Louise
Which in my mind spelled FEOC which is bunk, so I immediately tossed it aside and never revisited it.
I, too, didn’t think further of the clues once I got past them, except perhaps as an obstacle I was lucky to overcome (particularly “Apartment Zero”). Of course, I’m not typical, since I fail week after week (and wish I could do better, but I saw first just five entries long enough to pass for themers and nothing special about the grid’s final entry. I looked to see if they had anything in common or else in common with letters immediately above and below. No dice, but then the instructions required six letters, not five.
The central entry has an obvious relationship to the title, so I looked at it further. Would some ending to “Hollywood” (such as “boulevard”) comport with possible endings to other words in the potential themers? No luck. In cryptics “Hollywood ending” would be D, so what about other D’s in the grid? No help. After returning to the puzzle a few times over a couple of days with no further insight, I tossed it.
I rarely get these right but I got this one right away for some reason. I saw “Hollywood ending” and “clue” so I looked in the clues for the endings of the six Hollywood movies and there it was!! Three minutes maybe. Now the problem was that it usually takes me all weekend to work on these and still not get it so by kept thinking I should work on it… I am sure that will not happen again!!
I did not get this puzzle.
But I also think this puzzle did not get a fair rating. Where’s the appreciation?!
Great puzzle. I didn’t get it. I think that the people that criticize Mike should only be allowed to do it saying whether they were able to get the answer or not. Sounds a little like sour grapes. However, I think their comments would be more legitimized if I knew they were able to figure out the metas and then had a problem. It’s like how do you rat a meta hard or easy if you can’t figure it out.
I got the answer very quickly. It wasn’t hard. Am I allowed not to like it now?
If the grid is superfluous to the puzzle, it doesn’t seem like it can really be called a “meta crossword,” which is the complaint I think a lot of people had that drove the rating down. Clues are often used in metas (more often Gaffney then Shenk metas in my experience), but usually they refer back to the grid somehow.
Yes you have my permission to not like it.