Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Double Trouble” — Conrad’s review.
This week we’re looking for a seven-word phrase that describes this crossword grid. There were three thematic long acrosses, each using the wrong time:
- [17a: Color that was also a Top Ten hit for Lou Gramm in 1987]: EIGHTAMBLUE (Midnight Blue)
- [37a: 1952 Gary Cooper classic]: HIGHEIGHTPM (High Noon)
- [58a: Stubble that grew since that morning’s shave]: ONEAMSHADOW (Five o’clock shadow)
And there were also four symmetric entries in the corners, each missing “QUARTER”:
- [1a: Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady, for two]: (QUARTER) BACKS
- [13d: Wimbledon or U.S. Open round with an octet of players left ]: (QUARTER) FINALS
- [41d: Touristy part of New Orleans]: FRENCH (QUARTER)
- [66a: Coin for Colorado or Connecticut ]: STATE (QUARTER)
The first rabbit hole was obvious, but then what? In hindsight: my mistake was noting the long across times as +16 hours (and not -8). I kept trying meta-crosswordy tricks such as mapping numbers back to the grid. For example: 17a + 16 hours = 33, so check that grid square, etc. But we were looking for 7 words (not letters), and it’d be hard to cram that much meta-relevant content into a grid. I tried mapping numbers to the clues. I pondered the twin-relevant clue GEMINIS (mapping to “double” in the title). I calculated various numeric sequences: double, quarter, 16 (again, not 8). I counted doubled letters in the grid (ICEE and many friends). I re-read Act 4, Scene 1 of Macbeth.
I slept on it, and woke up with… nothing. My meta-solving odds drop considerably if I don’t find the solution by the next morning. My wife saw me staring at the grid Friday night and offered to give it a look. She doesn’t normally solve metas, but can sometimes look and spot the answer instantly. I showed her the grid, explained the missing quarters, the 16 hour (again, not 8) time discrepancies, walked towards my kitchen, and… BAM! Lightning struck: we’re missing four quarters, meaning we’re a dollar short. And we’re missing 48 hours… duh. It’s minus 8, not plus 16, so we’re missing one day. That leads to our contest solution A day late and a dollar short. Two problems, tying neatly to the title.
I really enjoyed this meta by our Merry Gridman. I’m sure some folks got it nearly instantly. I definitely did not, but I’m not complaining: the endorphin rush from “aha” moments like this never gets old. For folks who solved it: I’m curious to know how long it took you to spot the answer. Please let me know in the comments.