WSJ Contest — Friday, October 15, 2021

Grid: 8 minutes; meta: 5 more  


Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Take Five” — Conrad’s review.

This week we’re looking for a four-letter word. There were four long theme entries:

  • [18a: Speechless with astonishment]: DUMBSTRUCK
  • [29a: Penny pincher’s opposite]: SPENDTHRIFT
  • [47a: Endured, as a lengthy ordeal]: WENTTHROUGH
  • [60a: Too dark to see anything at all]: PITCHBLACK
WSJ Contest – 10.15.21 – Solution

WSJ Contest – 10.15.21 – Solution

1d (VOWELS) had this helpful clue: “What’s been taken from this puzzle’s fives.” It took me a minute to see it, and then I saw it: each themer had 5 consecutive consonants. MBSTR jumped out right away, becoming HOOD’s clue (“Mobster”) once I added vowels, and the rest fell quickly:

  • MBSTR: Mobster (63a) – HOOD
  • NDTHR: In a dither (36d) – AGITATED
  • NTTHR: Untether (38a) – LOOSE
  • TCHBL: Touchable (12d) – TACTILE

The first letter of each matching grid entry spells HALT, our contest solution. I’ve enjoyed Frank Longo’s Vwllss Crsswrds, which definitely gave me a leg up on this one. We’ll end with Nightswimming by R.E.M.


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12 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, October 15, 2021

  1. jefe says:

    Oof, never saw it. Spent hours looking at all the 5 letter entries in the grid, removing and readding vowels, going down all the rabbit holes.

    • JohnH says:

      I had a similar experience, and as ever wish I knew why others thought along the WSJ’s line but I never do. I started by looking hard at the four long entries, as standing out and corresponding to the need for four letters. What could they have in common? Nothing obvious in meaning, whole or part. Two contained THR, but another only TH (close, no cigar) and the other nothing at all along those lines.

      So what about the “fives”? Does the term have a fixed association I just don’t know? How about five-letter entries. I looked at those and can’t say I spent hours on them. After a couple of tries to make sure there was no way they were missing vowels, I had to find something else. Were there entries in the grid associated with groups of five? What is a common group of five anyway, other than baseketball players? Nothing in sight in the grid, and once again I gave up.

      • Barney says:

        “Take five” was the string of five consonants in each of the four long answers. These same five consonants could be found in the clues for other answers. The first letters of the ANSWERS to those clues spelled out HALT, a synonym for “take five.”

  2. Dave Bromsey says:

    Same here. I never saw anything in the 4 long entries. All I did was look at the squares with a 5 and play with the letters. I also looked at the V in box one thinking about Roman numeral 5.

  3. Michael Hanko says:

    I wasn’t sure if HALT was the final answer, or if I should once again look for a second answer in the grid for the clue that worked for “take five.” I did indeed find REST, and submitted that.

  4. Conrad says:

    I meant to mention REST in my writeup: I saw it after finding HALT, considered it briefly, and discarded it. REST allows you to bypass the meta mechanism entirely, so I figured it couldn’t be the answer (and was probably there as a nod to HALT).

    • Michael Hanko says:

      I rationalized my decision by telling myself that once you remove the vowels from the words, what’s left is the REST of the letters. I’m probably overthinking this! Next time I should HALT while I’m ahead.

  5. Seth says:

    I wonder if Patrick ever considered not including the VOWELS nudge. Definitely still doable, but much harder. Like MGWCC week 4 instead of 2 I’d say.

  6. Garrett says:

    I took it to mean that the fives were five-letter words that had the vowels removed, and there was support for that. For example:


    has BST at the end of dumb and the beginning of struck. Add two vowels and you have a five-letter word (such as BEAST, BOOST, or BASTE). I was happily entertaining this like if though in a rather interrupt-driven weekend and never got past that rathole.

    Seeing now that I should have been looking for a string of five consonants, it seems ever so easy!

  7. Neal R says:

    I went down many of the same rabbit holes as others, looked long and hard at the answers without vowels (BMW, VCRS, DKNY) which clearly NEEDED vowels to become … what exactly? Circled back to the big theme answers which had so few vowels in them and realized they each had a 5 consonant sequence. After getting goose eggs on the previous two puzzles I was delighted to get my AHA moment. Still, “This puzzles fives” is a weird phrase….

  8. Brian says:

    How you guys getting REST?

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