WSJ Contest — Friday, April 1st, 2022

Grid: 15 minutes; meta: an hour or so 


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

This week we’re looking a four-letter word. I looked for theme entries: VICARAGES and STRUCKOUT seemed like good candidates but I wasn’t sure about the others. I checked the title and spotted CAR and TRUCK in those two and I found the rest of the themers:

  • [Some parish properties]: VI(CAR)AGES
  • [Melt away]: (VAN)ISH
  • [Fail financially]: GO(BUS)T
  • [Failed completely]: S(TRUCK)OUT

I identified four vehicles, now: find step two. I tried to “trade in” the letters of each entry for other letters, but the only word that matches V…AGES is VICINAGES, and that seemed… unlikely. I set the puzzle down, picked it up, and tried another trade-in program: I backsolved the solution by trading one letter for each vehicle. The answer appeared quickly.

  • (VAN)ISH -> (W)ISH
  • GO(BUS)T  -> GO(A)T
WSJ Contest – 04.03.22 – Solution

WSJ Contest – 04.03.22 – Solution

Some entries had multiple options such as DISH/FISH,  SCOUT/SHOUT/SNOUT, etc. But SWAP fit the title, and had to be the answer.

I raced past step two and circled back to find it. There it was: each theme entry was paired with an adjacent grid entry that served as an alternate definition:


The full solve confirmed SWAP as our contest solution. Another no-doubter by Mike. I’ll end with a cover of Kate Bush‘s Running Up That Hill by Meg Myers in a music video hand-colored by 2130 children.


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7 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, April 1st, 2022

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Excellent meta.

  2. Dan C says:

    Wow, this one stumped me but the explanation is great. Very very good puzzle

  3. RAD26 says:

    I am very disappointed I did not get this. So very elegant. I took the title literally and spent too much time playing with the letters “in” in the grid and then looked for words inside the grid and clues that could be swapped. The vehicle connection never clicked. Terrific idea and execution.

  4. Matt says:

    Ha! The mind sees what it wants to see. The SUV clue with answer ISUZU had me look at ISUZU models of CAR, VAN, BUS, TRUCK – and found models whose first letters spelled BOAT which folks often trade in for another. I did not bother to look for anything better.

  5. carolynchey says:

    We immediately thought of cars when we saw “trade-ins”, and we spotted the vehicles in the words, but weren’t sure how to proceed. We looked at the clues to see if anything pertained, but only Isuzu seemed relevant, and we couldn’t find anything to do with that – is an SUV a car or a truck? We looked at the various “IN”s in the puzzle, but that didn’t take us anywhere. Next we tried taking the vehicles out of the longer words. When we saw “VI_AGE”, We realized adding an S would make a new word – VISAGE. We checked the other three and found there were single letters that could make each one into a new word. Looking at the possibilities, we saw a combo that made “SWAP” which gave us the aha moment. Curiously, we never noticed the confirming words adjacent to each answer, which make it an even more brilliant puzzle!

  6. Neal says:

    Fell down all the same rabbit holes already mentioned until I set it down and picked it back up (the equivalent of restarting your computer) and saw TRUCK and CAR immediately, and connecting FACES and VISAGES within seconds of that. It just all fell together so quickly it was kind of beautiful. Excellent meta. No notes.

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