Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Inner Turmoil” — Conrad’s review.
This week Matt tells us, The answer to this week’s contest crossword is a word that (I hope) describes this puzzle’s wordplay. I wasn’t able to solve the grid until Saturday due to work, and faced the dreaded three-meta pileup (WSJ, MGWCC, and MMMM). I finally completed the WSJ grid and spotted the final horizontal entry FOUR, clued as “Number of letters in our contest answer–and the number of letters between certain pairs of letters in this puzzle.”
I noticed a lot of O’s in the grid, including plenty of “OO” fill, so I ran right down the wrong rabbit hole, looking for doubled letters. The doubled O’s in POOP and SCOOPOUT can be connected with PECT (four letters, handily). Then the doubled O’s in SCOOPOUT can be joined to FOOLS via POFF. That rabbit hole looked promising, but lead nowhere. So I put the puzzle down and shifted to the MGWCC.
I revisited the next morning, compared the long horizontal theme entries, and step one appeared: each entry was two words, and the first letter of each was separated by four letters in the alphabet:
[20a: Judi Dench played her in “Mrs. Brown”]: (Q)UEEN(V)ICTORIA -> Q[RSTU]V
- [37a: Voice mails, e.g.]: (A)UDIO(F)ILES -> A[BCDE]F
- [43a: Drummer in John Coltrane’s quartet]: (E)LVIN(J)ONES -> E[FGHI]J
- [54a: Bout ender]: (K)NOCKOUT(P)UNCH -> K[LMNO]P
Those letters didn’t form any recognizable pattern, so I needed to find step two. I had the right idea fairly quickly: search the grid for 5-letter words that contain the four in between alphabet letters. Then I picked up the wrong grid (MGWCC), scanned, and found nothing. Solvers: have you ever done that before? Maybe it’s just me. Needless to say: it’s not helpful. One of the risks of solving multiple metas at once. I put the (wrong) grid down, circled back later, realized my mistake, and scanned the WSJ grid. There was step two:
- RSTU -> [C]RUST (16a)
- BCDE -> C[U]BED (25d)
- FGHI -> FIGH[T] (61a)
- LMNO -> M[E]LON (33d)
The fifth letters spell CUTE, our contest solution. I hesitated a bit before submitting, since I hadn’t used the title in any way. I believe Inner Turmoil refers to the rearranging of the inner letters to match the five-letter entries. Either way, it was a 100% lock for me.
I’m glad I didn’t spend the rest of my life on that one. I gave it my best ten minutes. Congrats to those who solved it.
Us too. 🥂
Ditto on 👍
Utterly stymied by the meta. But I can’t fault the puzzle. All the clues were there!
0 progress here and then I mistakenly deleted my answers by clearing my browser cookies, which was probably a blessing in disguise. I couldn’t get past my assumption of it being four letters physically embedded between two others letters versus the brilliant (imo) idea of needing a sub-range of four within two letters of the alphabet.
Same here. I read and re-read the revealer hint, “between certain pairs of letters,” many times, and could only conclude that it was referring to a pair of the same letter. That actually works in 20A: QUEENVICTORIA
Take away the pair of Is and you have CTOR.
I was looking to do this elsewhere, including diagonals in the grid, and even started looking at the clues!
What got me is the use of ‘pair’. I’m thinking like, “pair of cards,” as in, “pair of twos,” or, “pair of aces,” e.g. two of a kind. Now I see that it is more like two eccentric lovers, of whom people say behind their backs, “What a pair!”
Another half-hour of my life I’ll never get back. Didn’t catch so much as a whiff of the solution.
I made it as far as id’g the 4 theme answers but could not do anything more than rabbit chase. I thought about submitting cute as a hail mary but didn’t since I couldn’t uncover the mechanism, which is the whole point.
I went done the same “OO’ rabbit hole and quickly gave up.