WSJ Contest — Friday, April 29th, 2022

Grid: 25 minutes; meta: a day and change  


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Scale Back” — Conrad’s review.

This week we’re looking for a musical term. There were seven starred theme entries:

  • [*Museum worker]: GUIDE
  • [*Comes to]: ARRIVESAT
  • [*Unimportant]: TRIVIAL
  • [*Sired]: BEGAT
  • [*Support in times of distress]: COMFORT
  • [*Present but not visible]: CONCEALED
  • [*Bejeweled topper]: CROWN

I ran down a few deep rabbit holes, spotting TRIAD (clued as “Common chord”) and GIRTHS (“Middle measures”). I threw in ONE for good measure (“It shares a key with an exclamation point”). Those seemed important. I Googled triad, chord, key, and measure and threw these into my notes:

  • Do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do
  • C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C
  • Triad: CEG (Root, third, fifth)

I stared at the themers, trying to find a common thread in the grid. THERED was odd fill. I applied triads (skipping the 2nd and 4th entries in various entries). The theme clues were vague and could probably be applied to other entries (a time-honored meta mechanism). TIARA seemed like a better entry for bejeweled topper, and DOCENT kept leaping to mind as an alternative answer for museum worker. I took the obvious step of looking for those in the grid. They weren’t there. Well, part of them wasn’t.

WSJ Contest – 04.29.22 – Solution

WSJ Contest – 04.29.22 – Solution

I slept on it and woke convinced that the vague clues were important. I re-checked the center and final horizontal entries (common spots for meta-relevant content). I spotted CENT and had the rabbit: DOCENT was there once I appended Do. The rest fell quickly:

  • DO -> (C)ENT -> Museum worker
  • RE -> (A)CHES -> Comes to
  • MI -> (N)OR -> Unimportant
  • FA -> (T)HERED -> Sired
  • SOL -> (A)CE -> Support in times of distress
  • LA -> (T)ENT -> Present but not visible
  • TI -> (A)RA -> Bejeweled topper

The first letter of the mapped grid entries spell CANTATA, our contest solution. I am curious about TRIAD and GIRTHS. Matt Gaffney has often said that he doesn’t intentionally include red herrings in his grids (they sporadically occur on their own). Mike hasn’t weighed in on the subject to my knowledge (solvers: please let me know if he has and I missed it), but I imagine he’s in Matt’s camp. Either way: it was a great “aha” moment with a 100% lock. Solvers: let me know how you made out, and all the rabbits you chased.

It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, The minor fall, the major lift. That ran through my brain as I chased red herrings. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah has been covered roughly a bazillion times. I like this version by Vektormusic.



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16 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, April 29th, 2022

  1. jefe says:

    Ahh, stumped but that’s clever. Didn’t give myself enough time. I initially put in TIARA when solving too!

  2. Bungalow Bill says:

    Another one way over my head.

    kd lang does a wonderful cover of Hallelujah.

  3. Gary C says:

    I was certain that there was a reason why CROWN was used in preference to the more common vowel-studded TIARA, and that was where I got my head start on the meta. Very elegant construction.

  4. Neal says:

    DO/CENT was my entry into the correct rabbit chase, followed quickly by TI/ARA.
    Beautiful puzzle.

  5. boharr says:

    I think I was helped on this one by not knowing very much about music at all. I even had to look up Cantata.

  6. alan askins says:

    I failed to solve but did have the do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti scale in my notes; I just could not figure out how to apply the letters to a mechanism. After spending a couple hours Friday and not seeing anything Saturday morning I waved the white flag, not wanting to spend more time on it.

    FWIW: Is that fifth note “so” or “sol”. For purposes of the meta it is the latter, but lyrics of the song in TSOM and numerous Google hits present as the former.

    Here’s my new version of the scale thanks to this meta:

  7. Thurman8er says:

    My entry point to the meta solve was also DOcent and TIara.

    I shouldn’t admit this, but I solved this while sitting at a red light. I was bringing the puzzle home with me on Friday to work on over the weekend. I picked it up randomly and just saw the answer.

    No individuals were harmed in the solving of this puzzle.

    • Barney says:

      “Docent” just was not in my wheelhouse, but in its honor I will use it as entry point for tomorrow’s Word Hurdle (the six-letter version of Wordle).

  8. Garrett says:

    Conrad, you said, “It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, The minor fall, the major lift.”

    What goes like this?

  9. Jon Forsythe says:

    It’s weird to read people having a hard time with this puzzle when it fell so fast for me. For me, the fill answer being GUIDE for the museum worker was the oddity. I was like “no, there’s a term for this.” When I saw that it was docent, the cent at the bottom right corner of the grid told me I was on the right path. Finding the rest of them took a bit longer, mostly because I was using the Sound of Music lyrics, and they have sol as so in the song so that it can be a “needle pulling thread.” But once I remembered it’s usually spelled sol, I was able to find the final A in Cantana.

  10. criptik says:

    As usual, I marvel at the construction. (I did manage to solve this one for a change). I liked the fact that the ‘RE’ syllable word (REACHES -> ACHES) did not have the typical use of the ‘RE’ prefix. As mentioned previously, ‘THERED’ seemed strange enough that it had to have something to do with the meta. I wrote a little program to search for other qualifying words from the scrabble dictionary, here are a few interesting ones:

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