WSJ Contest — Friday, December 24, 2021

Grid: 15 minutes; meta: 10 more 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Now That’s a Gift!” — Conrad’s review.

This week we’re looking for a word related to Christmas. There were six starred theme entries:

  • [16a: *Howlers of horror]: WEREWOLVES
  • [23a: *Cotton candy]: SPUNSUGAR
  • [26a: *Site for a two-person lumber task]: SAWPIT
  • [43a: *Continued speaking]: WENTON
  • [45a: *Longtime Saints quarterback]: DREWBREES
  • [55a: *Beheld]: LAIDEYESON
WSJ Contest – 12.24.21 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 12.24.21 – Solution

I didn’t spot the theme right away. Mike often uses the center or final across entry as an additional hint, which he did here: PRESENT (37a), tying to the title. I noticed the past tense verb WERE in WEREWOLVES, which mapped t0 the present tense verb ARE in (C)ARE, and the rest came together quickly:

  • WERE -> 62a: (C)ARE
  • SPUN -> 61a: SP(A)IN
  • SAW -> 15a SE(R)E
  • WENT -> 65a: GO(O)
  • DREW -> 45d: DRAW(L)
  • LAID -> (S)LAY

The leftover letters in the present tense entries spell CAROLS, our contest solution. Solvers: let me know what you thought of the meta. I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays; I’m looking forward to 2022. It can’t be worse than 2021. Here’s to hoping. My adopted state of Maine is in the grid, so we’ll end with this gem from Patty Griffin.

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14 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, December 24, 2021

  1. alan askins says:

    Funny, My meta submission was correct, but for the C, I mapped acres rather than care. Thankfully, it was not a fatal error.

    Like you, I noticed the past tense verbs in the asterisk answers and the central answer Present, but next to Present was Use (Present Use), so I figured we were looking for present tense verbs that aligned with the asterisked clues. Seeing the Drew (45A) and Drawl (45D) put me on the right track.

    What I like about Mike’s metas is he puts nudges in the grid. So I really enjoyed this meta. Thanks Mike Shenk!

  2. EP says:

    I loved it, but I’m no doubt biased because it’s one of the few of Mike’s that I got right. This also helped, it appeared in a nationally syndicated column on contract bridge recently:

    Past, present, and future walked into a bar….it was tense…

  3. Neal R says:

    Asked my daughter to help with the meta on Christmas eve, thought we’d have a lovely bonding experience for the holiday, then she basically solved it in under two minutes. Bonding experience completed. Next!

    Great puzzle, btw!

  4. Michael in Chelsea says:

    Clever and fun puzzle! A nice extra touch was the lifeline provided for those who (understandably) have trouble remembering the conjugations of LAY and LIE: either sLAY or LIEs would’ve worked for the meta.

  5. AbcdefMom says:

    Anyone else consider adding the R and E in RELAY to make CAROLERS?

    • Michael in Chelsea says:

      Brilliant! (And I did not notice this myself.)

    • Larry Baldauf says:

      I submitted the answer “caroler”. Since they did not specify the number of letters in the answer, I consider it to be a valid solution.

      • Harry says:

        But it doesn’t line up with the tense game, so it is less satisfying on the aha criterion.

        • Larry Baldauf says:

          Harry, it does. “Laid”, past tense is “Lay”. “Relay” adds “er”. It is instead of “slay”, which I had overlooked. What it doesn’t line up with is one letter difference per word, but no where does it say that that has to be the case.

  6. Sam McCrea says:

    Hi. When I click on the Wall St. Jr. crossword or the Universal Crossword nothing happens.
    when I click on LA Times Crossword that one does work but the other 2 don’t. Any ideas?
    did anything change with the site beginning shortly before Christmas?
    thank you,

    • AlanW says:

      The Internet connection to the server that hosts these puzzles is down for a few days. For an alternate source, follow the link in pannonica’s reply to the comment below.

  7. Derek says:

    The link to Evan Birnholz’s WaPo doesn’t work:

    Is there a different way to download a printable copy?

Comments are closed.