WSJ Contest — Friday, November 20, 2020

Grid: 6ish; Meta: about half that  


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “From Top to Bottom”—Laura’s review

This week, Matt wants us to find a two-word phrase.

WSJ Contest - 11.20.20 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 11.20.20 – Solution

Big hint right there in the center, with two down entries:

  • [7d: Half of a saying about the inter-connectedness of all things]: AS ABOVE
  • [48d: The other half of the saying]: SO BELOW

It did not take too long to find sets of letters where AS was above SO — with other letters sandwiched in between. Those letters spell out, in grid order, MI SS IN GL IN KS — or MISSING LINKS, which is a two-word phrase and our answer.

I had though the phrase “as above, so below” was from the Bible or something, but I was mistaken. It is attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, the mythic author of the Hermetica, a series of mystic texts written between circa the 1st century BCE and the 4th century CE. The Hermetica, and the portion called the “Emerald Tablet” from whence the phrase in question, had great influence on the alchemists of the Renaissance and early modern European period. Perhaps the alchemists were looking for the missing links from above to below?


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7 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, November 20, 2020

  1. Mister G. says:

    I got this one, but was disappointed the solution didn’t relate more tightly to the title. Usually the title is an important piece of information in the solve, and there is an “aha” moment when one observes the clever interplay between title and solution. In this case, not so much for me.

    • Barney says:

      From top to bottom?

      As above; so below?

      I thought it was perfect.

      • Mister G. says:

        I was saying the solution “missing links” was not tightly bound to the title “from top to bottom”, not the two long down clues, which obviously were.

  2. jefe says:

    Oof – so literal!

    I tried flipping and rotating the grid to see what letters matched in the top half/bottom half, and looking for vertical palindromic trigrams, and I wasn’t sure if ISOGRAM itself was meta-related. I think based on the title I focused only on the downs and not the acrosses, and didn’t notice the repeated bigrams. I did think there were more L’s than usual, which seems to be wholly coincidental.

  3. Uncle Bob says:

    I got it, but wasted some time wondering if PASSOVER and LASSO, two downs with AS above and SO below, held the secret.

    • JML says:

      Yes, my thought exactly. Lots of extraneous AS and SO bigrams that convoluted the solution, in my opinion

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Unfortunately I have to agree, it’s about a .4-star ding. I got rid of as many as I could but there’s so much stress on the grid and AS is such a common bigram that I couldn’t get rid of them all. Doesn’t exactly impact the meta of course but it’s an unfortunate inelegance that’s baked in if you go with a 12-letter reveal. Maybe going down to a 10-letter reveal would’ve been better. Certainly cleaner.

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