WSJ Contest — Friday, March 11th, 2022

Grid: 20 minutes; meta: 10 more 


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

This week we’re looking for the a nine-letter, two-word phrase. There were five theme entries:

  • [17a: 2017 AL Rookie of the Year]: AARONJUDGE
  • [26a: Worker who’s often a whistle-blower]: GYMTEACHER
  • [40a: It knocked “Paint It Black” off the #1 spot]: PAPERBACKWRITER
  • [58a: Expert with the press]: SPINDOCTOR
  • [68a: “Sweet Love” singer]: ANITABAKER
WSJ Contest – 03.13.22 – Solution

WSJ Contest – 03.13.22 – Solution

I looked for possessive clues, such as “Atty.’s org” (ABA), trying to map to JUDGE, but that rabbit hole fizzled out quickly. I saw nothing helpful in the grid, so I scanned the clues. The clue for SIX (Dozen Halved) matched BAKER’s dozen, and the rest fell quickly:

  • CRANE – Chambers dated him on “Cheers”  (JUDGE’s chambers)
  • HAIR – Pet owner’s furniture cover (TEACHER’s pet)
  • EPEE – Block performer’s sport (WRITER’s block)
  • FIRES – Orders from the office (DOCTOR’s orders)
  • SIX – Dozen Halved (BAKER’s dozen)

The mapped entries spell CHEFS, leading to CHEF’S KISS, our contest solution. I was impressed by Matt’s construction: each mapped clue begins with a possessive, and the mapped entries are in grid order. We’ll end with The Donnas covering KISS’s Strutter.

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27 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, March 11th, 2022

  1. jefe says:

    Additionally, KISS was the first word of the last across clue [Kiss drummer Criss].

  2. Barry says:

    I got thrown off by Doctor’s Patient, which led to Siege, which led to CHESS. Didn’t know where to go with chess, so I opted for CHECK MATE, even knowing it’s really one word, not two. Can’t a mate can be possessive!?! Anyway, I chose lap swimming over additional searching. Beside’s, I am unfamiliar with the term Chef’s Kiss. Is that the gesture made just before saying Voila! Nice puzzle.

  3. Robin says:

    What is the world is a chef’s kiss?

    • Seth says:

      Like when you put all your fingertips up to your lips and kiss them with an audible, overacted “Mwah!” Imagine a chef who just made something, tastes it to see if it’s good, and it’s really good, and they go “Mwah!”

      • Mary K. says:

        I’m not really familiar with this term, either. I had to use google to confirm. Chef’s kiss seems more like a thing rather than a phrase to me. I kept looking for something else but settled on this for the answer. Not a strong click for me.

      • JohnH says:

        New to me, too. Open kitchens are newly fashionable, I know, although less common than one might expect even in fashionable NYC, but can’t say that I’ve ever caught the eye of a chef or been blown a kiss. With luck, it won’t happen anytime soon.

  4. Jonesy says:

    I went for Doctor’s office instead of doctor’s orders. Whoops! Same answer but less elegant.

  5. Garrett says:

    “The clue for SIX (Dozen Halved) matched BAKER’s dozen, and the rest fell quickly:”

    Ahem, a “baker’s dozen,” is thirteen. That ls no match at all.

    • Flinty Steve says:

      The last word of each possessive phrase matches the first word of one of the clues. In that system this is indeed a match.

  6. cyco says:

    CHEF’S KISS was an easily recognizable phrase for me, but maybe I spend too much time on the internet. Here’s a primer:

  7. JC says:

    A lot of rabbit holes to fall in to. Judge mapped to ABA, Teacher mapped to NEA, Baker mapped to TBSP, Writer mapped to Pens (maybe also Alec), Doctor was a loose one, maybe OCD.

    Even if I had gotten to Chefs I would never have thought to complete it since I’ve never heard the term or ever seen anyone do it outside of corny TV ads. Nothing in the puzzle adds up to Kiss outside of the Peter Kiss clue which doesn’t match the mechanism.

    Not a big fan of this one.

    • David L says:

      Same here — there were several things in the grid that could be tied to the professions. Doctor could somehow go with DNA or PARIETAL, I thought. I tried mightily to make something out of those connections and never moved beyond that.

      • Seth says:

        This was my first thought too, with ABA and NEA, but as soon as the others didn’t produce exactly the same connection, I abandoned it. That’s something to remember about metas — a connection like this, if it is indeed the correct path, is going to be completely consistent. If the first two connections are initialisms for professional groups, than the others will too. It will never be “some other random word in the puzzle vaguely related.”

    • alan askins says:

      Doctor could have mapped to Crane; i.e. Dr. Frazier Crane.

  8. Larry Baldauf says:

    I googled “judge’s” and found “judge’s hammer”, and “hammer” was in the 10 across clue. I found the other 4, but could not get unstuck from that error.

    • Larry Baldauf says:

      I should also add that I then got distracted by 5 possessives within other clues: “Monk’s”, “Cornell’s”, “Performer’s”, “Sinatra’s”, “Atty’s”. So a lot of ambiguity for me.

  9. Mikie says:

    Got the CHEF’S fairly quickly, but then went back through the grid and the clues at least 3 times looking for “SALAD” before I finally grokked “KISS.” More of a “Duh!” moment than an “Aha!” moment. Nice puzzle.

  10. Carolynchey says:

    I thought the puzzle was great, particularly having the last across clue link to Kiss, confirming the meta answer. A real Gaffney touch! Our daughter informs us that “chef’s kiss” is more than a gesture these days, it is an expression – if something is delicious they say “that is really chef’s kiss!”

    • Conrad says:

      I agree 100% (and with Jefe’s comment above). I meant to mention the KISS entry (hence the awesome KISS cover by The Donnas), but ran out of time. It’s the final horizontal entry (the tradition “extra hint” position), and fits the format of the other theme tries (first word in the clue is possessive). That makes it a lock.

  11. Laura says:

    I spotted two x’s in the bottom row which, while possibly coincidental, read to me as nods to kisses as well. xx

  12. Silverskiesdean says:

    Great puzzle as always. However, I didn’t know Chef’s kiss. So in keeping with the format, I thought of “Chef’s recipe” and used the answer for recipe i.e. “Chef’s tbsp” which was 9 letters. Just wondering if anyone else did that.
    I also figured Doctors office, doctors orders, of ambiguous, they were in the same clue, take your pick.

  13. Neal R says:

    This meta puzzle was perfection. No notes. Five Stars.

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