WSJ Contest — Friday, July 9, 2021

Grid: 10 minutes; meta: 30 minutes  


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Under the Table” — Conrad’s review.

This week we’re told, The answer to this week’s contest crossword is an adjective. There are four long theme entries:

  • [17a: Bird on the reverse of many U.S. silver dollars]: BALDEAGLE
  • [33a: Hiders of pots of gold]: LEPRECHAUNS
  • [43a: Wrought-iron icon in the 7th arrondissement]: EIFFELTOWER
  • [64a: Lead comedian in a burlesque show]: TOPBANANA

What next? I found a few shallow rabbit holes. There was a weak country theme going in the themers: LEPRECHAUNS (Ireland), EIFFELTOWER (France), BALDEAGLE (U.S, mentioned in the clue, weakening that theory), and TOPBANANA (time to abandon this rabbit hole). I noticed 62a (PLATE, “Setting item”), which is “table”-relevant. EIFFELTOWER had the substring FELT (as in pool table), but those theories petered out immediately.

WSJ Contest – 7.09.21 – Solution

WSJ Contest – 7.09.21 – Solution

I rescanned the clues and found the thread: the four theme clues mention silver, gold, iron, and lead, respectively. Silver’s atomic symbol is AG, gold’s is AU, etc. I scanned the grid for those symbols, and found each in the relevant themer:

  • Silver: BALDEAGLE

Last step: look under the (periodic) table entries. The grid letters under AG, AU, FE and PB spell DISCREET, our meta solution. Another elegant meta by Mike; the title ties in perfectly and I was impressed that each theme entry contained its own atomic symbol. I also enjoyed the subtle lead/lead heteronym curveball. We’ll wrap up with L.E.S. Artistes by Santigold.

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13 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, July 9, 2021

  1. jefe says:

    Ah that’s clever! I didn’t think to look at the clues. *facepalm*

  2. sharkicicles says:

    ha, before getting it i went through the table rabbit hole- you had FELT, then also END table in EFFENDI… then it went cold.

  3. Scott says:

    I also have a tendency to not relook at the clues after finishing the grid. So I didn’t get this one. Lesson learned.

  4. Neal says:

    I was utterly befuddled. Set it aside. Picked it up again and almost instantly got it. Something about the EIFFEL TOWER clue referring to it as cast-iron tickled my brain and voila, there were metals detected in the other clues. Really satisfying!

  5. I liked the mechanism of this one, but while Conrad said he enjoyed the “lead” curveball, that part didn’t work for me. The others are all directly related to the metals and “lead” in TOP BANANA isn’t. Granted, off the top of my head I can’t think of a phrase with PB in it that refers to something made of lead, and it didn’t stop me from figuring out the meta, but I probably would have preferred it if they all followed the same pattern, or if at least one of the other metals similarly changed meaning.

    Then again, I guess it’s fitting that one of the clues was more discreet about its metal.

  6. Jeff Jardine says:

    “TOPBANANA (time to abandon this rabbit hole)”

    Heck no, that’s what quitters do! Following this rabbit hole I discovered that India is the world’s top banana producing nation. That went nowhere. Then I learned the names of the “top bananas” of France (Macron) and Ireland (Higgins), to go along with Biden for the U.S.

  7. Seth Cohen says:

    Didn’t get this one, but “Lead” not being used as the metal really really should have been fixed. The whole point of the meta is that the metals are used in the clues. Lead the metal is decidedly NOT used in the clue. It doesn’t matter if it’s spelled the same — it’s a different word.

    That said, the mechanism is great. There just should have been a change to make “Lead” into the actual metal.

  8. Katie M. says:

    I know “lead” is not consistent, but it made me laugh, so I liked it.

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