WSJ Contest — Friday, January 7, 2022

Grid: 20 minutes; meta: needed a nudge 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Three-Pointers” — Conrad’s review.

This week we’re looking for a basketball term. There were a couple of long across entries, but no obvious themers. This was a classic Simple and Difficult (SaD) meta: you could spot it very quickly (or not). I was in the latter category and needed a nudge to find the signal.

Here are various rabbit holes I explored:

  • 3-letter words
  • Scrabble (lot of Scrabble): three-point tiles (BCMP)
  • Three-letter words comprised of one-letter tiles (SOU, STA etc.)
  • Various sports references in the grid (HURL, SAVE, PUNT, etc.)
  • Entries with triple letters: HORROR (three R’s), TOMPETTY (T’s), etc.
  • Basketball team cities referenced in the grid: A(DEN), GA(TOR)
  • Frequency analysis: more P’s, T’s, R’s (and others) than usual
  • Circled the letters in POINTERS in the grid [Narrator voice: he was so close]
WSJ Contest – 1.7.22 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 1.7.22 – Solution

With the Fiend deadline looming: I asked a solving pal for a nudge. Then I saw it: THREE appears diagonally in the grid five times, and each THREE “points” to a letter. In grid order those letters spell LAYUP, our contest solution.

I analyze metas that I miss with the hope of improving my future solving skills. In hindsight: frequency analysis gave a hint, but the P’s threw me off (frequency analysis is often a noisy endeavor). Scanning for diagonal entries is one of my go-to mechanisms, but I haven’t solved a meta that used that technique in a while, and forgot to try it here. And I looked for the letters in POINTER in the grid, but didn’t do so for THREE. I would have solved it if I had.

This is a fantastic meta: the title locks in directly with the solution, and the answer was a no-doubter. I didn’t submit for the coveted mug because I got a nudge, so everyone’s chance of winning is now roughly 0.1% higher. Good luck! And be sure to let me know how you approached this Simple and Difficult meta. Tom Petty’s in the grid, and I already used Square One, so we’ll end with While My Guitar Gently Weeps from George Harrison‘s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, featuring Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, Dhani Harrison, and Prince.


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10 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, January 7, 2022

  1. jefe says:

    didn’t see it at all, but did submit LAYUP as a hail mary! (and the crowd goes WILD)

  2. Scott says:

    There were two black blocks that looked like Ts in the grid that had 3 ends pointing toward letters. The letters LOGSHE gave me nothing. I was convinced that this was a possible path to the solution. It was not.

    • alan askins says:

      I did the exact same thing, then started looking at 3 letter words within longer words. Needless to say, DNF.

  3. David says:

    Three letter words, three-of-a-kind letters, three letters pointing at things, nope. DNF. :(

  4. theodreiser says:

    Ultimately spotted it, but not without a weekend of headaches every time I looked at the grid. Lots of NBA team abbreviations in the grid: CHI, MIN, DEN, POR, etc., but couldn’t make anything with the extra letters. Also, I was unwilling to let KARLMALONE go as a themer for the longest time.

  5. Garrett says:

    That must have been incredibly difficult to construct.

  6. Ellen Nichols says:

    I didn’t really even try for the meta. B-Ball is not my game, so my vocabulary is limited. But I have to comment on the brilliance of the solution. “THREE as a pointer.” A true meta.

  7. Bob says:

    I kept thinking the answer was “triple double” mostly because of the clue for 49D, since points, rebounds and assists are the most common stats for earning a triple double in a game. I figured there would be words that had some combination of double and/or triple letters that would confirm my suspicion, but there wasn’t anything obvious that went that direction. Then I gave up. Once I start down a rabbit hole, it’s really tough to look for anything else. Having said that, I thought this puzzle was doable and admire the work that went into it.

    • Paul says:

      That was pretty much my exact experience with this puzzle, and it was impossible to unsee “triple-double” after my second look at 49-D. “RATTRAPS” was a word with three pairs of letters, but there weren’t any other great examples. Nice to know I wasn’t alone!

  8. David L says:

    Yep, you either see it or you don’t. I didn’t. But a clever idea and a well-constructed puzzle.

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