WSJ Contest — Friday, February 12, 2021

Grid: 7ish; Meta: while filling the grid  


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Looking for That Spark” — Laura’s review

This week, we’re looking for a well-known rom-com.

… which, maybe you’ll have what I’m having? What!? It’s just a pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Deli, don’t get all excited.

WSJ Contest - 2.12.21 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 2.12.21 – Solution

Anyway, you got people named HARRY crossing people named SALLY:


  • [18a: “The Banana Boat Song” singer]: BELAFONTE
  • [60a: Wizard with a lightning bolt on his forehead]: POTTER
  • [5d: Magician born in Budapest]: HOUDINI
  • [59d: Senate majority leader before McConnell]: REID


  • [24a: Best Actress winner for 1979 and 1984]: FIELD
  • [64a: “All in the Family” Emmy winner]: STRUTHERS
  • [19d: Eponymous comic strip woman since 1982]: FORTH
  • [63d: She became the first American woman in space in 1983]: RIDE


  • [39a: Spark creator you’ll spell when you’ve made the right connections]: FIRE (the letters where the HARRYs and SALLYs intersect spell out FIRE)


  • [33a: John Updike novel of 1960]: RABBIT, RUN
  • [46a: Romeo or Juliet, e.g.]: CHARACTER (the main character of Rabbit, Run is HARRY “Rabbit” Angstrom)

Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash. But I would be happy to partake of your pecan pie. The well-known rom-com is, of course, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, as the HARRYs and SALLYs “meet” in the grid.

Can’t remember if either Harry or Sally solved puzzles in the film, but a crossword did once appear in SALLY FORTH:

Sally Forth comic

Do you want to make more money? Train at home for a better career!

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8 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, February 12, 2021

  1. Martin says:

    Solved the meta in like two minutes, but I spent hours down a literal rabbit hole. RABBIT RUN / CHARATER is, of course, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. But there’s no fifth Sally. I couldn’t believe this long entry Harry was not thematic. I’m still not sure it isn’t a flaw (unless I’m missing something). I guess it could be an Easter egg, but it drove me nuts.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Wow. This is a good example of why I don’t often insert red herrings into metas; enough of them creep in on their own. This ghost Harry was completely unnoticed by me until I read your comment just now.

      I read all the Rabbit books in the ’90s so I knew that Rabbit’s real first name was Harry, but when I was filling the grid that didn’t register at all. The entry RABBIT RUN was by far the best fill in that tight section (not a lot of wiggle room with most of the crossers and FIRE has to sneak in there as well), and CHARACTER too was by far the best solution on the other side. Just extremely unfortunate that they’re long, symmetrical entries that are so suggestive WRT the theme.

      Much easier to overlook if you don’t happen to know Rabbit’s real name…

  2. Barry J Miller says:

    I thought that Harry Angstrom was a nice bonus. It did have me frantically searching for another Sally for a few minutes. But Yeats’ wife wasn’t Sally and there didn’t seem to be a meaningful Sally Ebro, with apologies to all Sally Ebros, who are meaningful to all who love them, especially on this special day.

  3. boharr says:

    If you went down the RabbitRun rabbit hole looking or a fifth Harry, you could find a Sally (if you pushed it) to go with him. Yeats, who/which crosses RabbitRun, wrote a poem called Down by the Salley Garden. And if you wanted to go all phonetic (as these constructers often do), looking at 21D Yeats, you could arrive at Sally Yates, the former deputy attorney general.

  4. River Sol says:

    What a fun solve partnered with my girlfriend on Valentines Day Sunday. Together we pulled the Harry and Sally connection to capture the meta.

    We’ll take the confluence of sparks, fires, and impassioned characters as a grand sign that our romance is heading down a path worthy of many more Gaffney puzzles to come!

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