WSJ Contest — Friday, October 8, 2021

Grid: 20 minutes; meta: 30 more  


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Seeking Answers” — Conrad’s review.

This week we’re looking for the two grid entries that combine to describe the theme. There were five long theme entries:

First I Was Afraid The Office GIF - First I Was Afraid The Office Michael Scott GIFs

  • [17a: What nighttime condition is treated with a CPAP machine?]: SLEEPAPNEA
  • [24a: What aptly named #1 hit of 1977 is used in CPR training due to its number of beats per minute?]: STAYINALIVE
  • [38a: What charity is known for its use of military ranks?]: SALVATIONARMY
  • [51a: What brewery’s beers include Wicked Hazy and Boston Lager?]: SAMUELADAMS
  • [61A: What U.S. city is known for its 15-mile River Walk?]: SANANTONIO
WSJ Contest – 10.8.21 – Solution

WSJ Contest – 10.8.21 – Solution

They were all phrases with words starting with “S” and “A.” Matt provided clear instructions, so I scanned the grid for words beginning with those letters, compiled a list… and found nothing useful.

I set the puzzle aside for a bit and then scanned the grid for anything potentially meta related. ESSAY  jumped out, and I had the rabbit hole. The “S” “A” entries were clued as questions, so TEST fits the theme (and also matches the title “Seeking Answers”). That leads to ESSAY TEST, our contest solution.

I solved this puzzle while watching game one of the White Sox/Astros ALDS series. The epic riff from Seven Nation Army played in the stadium. Its title was “inspired by White’s misunderstanding of the name of the Salvation Army as a child”.

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14 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, October 8, 2021

  1. Sara Beth Dacus says:

    Ooooo. I submitted ESSAY SET. Maybe they will be lenient?

  2. Ellen Nichols says:

    Finally, another easy one. Only 2 layers to the meta.

  3. sharkicicles says:


  4. MichelleQ says:

    Much grumpiness in our house this morning. My husband is confident that MENSA TEST (with SA in MENSA) also fits the bill; saw ESSAY but thought that was a clue only. ?

  5. TK says:

    I submitted ESSAY SEER. Since ESSAY was a phonetic interpretation (SA), I looked for something similar. It may be a stretch, but I turned ESSAY SEER into SA’s HERE and went with it.

  6. Barney says:

    SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) gave me the 100% “aha” for Essay Test. I wouldn’t submit at 80%.

  7. Bob says:

    I saw two grid entries that I thought were a wink and a nod to all Muggles: ASH and ORE. Mash them together and you get ASHORE and I was all but convinced that was the answer.
    I was so close to sending that in. It didn’t feel 100% but amused me so much I wanted it to be right. In the end I sent in ESSAY TEST but I’m hoping for a comment from Matt as to whether or not that was intentional. There are very few accidental red herrings with his puzzles.

  8. Seth says:

    I got ESSAY TEST, but I really think they should accept basically any two words that have ESSAY in them. ESSAY SET is fine, ESSAY SEER is iffy but good enough, etc. Point is, the only word that’s 100% gettable is ESSAY. The other one is open to interpretation.

  9. Bob says:

    I also found alternate words that could go with ESSAY, but the fact that all the clues were posed as questions made be conclude that this was a TEST. It is unusual to have clues shown this way, and exactly what you would expect to see on a test–although probably not on an essay test.

  10. Neal R says:

    I found ESSAY right away, but for some reason took forever to find ESSAY TEST. Along the way I looked long and hard at IDES and TSA, which combined give us ID EST S.A. Right?!?! But decided that that was probably a bit more complex than Matt was looking for… :)

  11. J.R. says:

    I also submitted ESSAY SET, which seems to fit.

  12. Jeremy Smith says:

    I crashed and burned on this one.
    Seeing the SA theme of the five themers, I dutifully made a list of all the grid entries beginning with S and another of all beginning with the letter A. Looking at each of the clues for these grid entries, I put 15A and 26D together: Shelled out….More than usual. Their respective grid entries? SPENT ALOT. A very oblique reference to the title, perhaps, but no more so than some other metas we’ve solved.

  13. Garrett says:

    There is an interesting pair of clues which can combine and whose answers fit the pattern:
    15A Shelled out
    26D More than usual

    Whose answers when combined are SPENT ALOT

    However, they do not answer they do not answer the meta question. I finally realized the phonetic value of ESSAY, and because all the themer clues had ? marks, I paired it with TEST, which felt right.

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