WSJ Contest — Friday, June 24th, 2022

Grid: 20 minutes; meta: 20 more 


Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Alternate Version” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking an eight-letter word. There were four long horizontal theme entries:

  • [17a: Studier of the stars]: ASTROLOGER
  • [34a: From a nation bordering Romania]: BULGARIAN
  • [39a: Acrobatic feat that turns you upside down]: HANDSTAND
  • [56a: Conical formation in a cavern]: STALAGMITE

I initially filled in ASTRONOMER for 17a and stumbled into the rabbit hole: each themer has an alternate answer that swaps two letters:


The new letters form the following new down entries, which (in classic Patrick Berry style) each match the clue for another entry. Here they are in across, then down grid order:

  • 19a: KEEN: Sharp (HONED)
  • 22a: NEARED: Approached (CAME)
  • 38a: ONSET: First sign (ARIES)
  • 59a: CURE: Doctor (TREAT)
  • 62a: KEEP: Squirrel away (HOARD)
  • 32d: ODDS: What are the___  (CHANCES)
  • 50d: FORE: Word meaning “no later than” that begins with an apostrophe (TIL)
  • 52d: FIDO: It might be engraved on a dog tag (NAME)

That leads to KNOCKOFF, our contest solution. I continue to be impressed by how much meta-relevant content Patrick can pack into a grid. Not to mention the clean fill, 100% lock on the answer, etc. Solvers: let me know what you think. We’ll end with Rihanna‘s Te Amo.


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12 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, June 24th, 2022

  1. Mister G. says:

    Got it after coming back to it a third day – was convinced the ONE/Scrabble center clue was significant, and I do think it was perhaps a hint to look at the words crossing the long themers. In fact that’s precisely what got me on track.

  2. ant says:

    This meta relied on the vague clues for the four long theme answers, as well the eight other theme answers. What made this meta really impressive was all the vague clues for non-themed entries to hide the mechanism. Brilliant.

  3. Cindy N says:

    I got tripped up with the wrong definition for TREAT and originally had GLEE which made no sense at all. It was pointed out to me that perhaps there might be a better way to answer that. Oops! Fortunately it was before the deadline.

    • Jeff says:

      I was defeated by the same mistake. I thought a great delight could be a treat. My bad.

    • Larry+Baldauf says:

      I also had GLEE. Plus, I considered CAME for APPROACHED, but to me, CAME and NEARED are not synonyms, so discarded that idea. And even though I had the other theme words, I was stuck at that point.

  4. Mary says:

    This meta was brilliant. It had just the right amount of challenge and fun. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

  5. criptik says:

    Brilliant construction. I also got tripped up by GLEE for a while.

  6. David Roll says:

    Once again, I am flummoxed–I don’t see how, “The new letters form the following new down entries…etc”

  7. Garrett says:

    Once I saw the new down words, I was able to get started pretty fast, thanks to the coincidence that ONSET and ARIES had the same number of letters. Early in the grid solve, I looked at the [First sign] clue and thought, “Aries.” Checking cross clues in the area shown that was wrong, and the answer was instead ONSET. This stuck in my mind.

    Later, when I saw ARIAS turn into ARIES, I immediately made that initial connection.

    The hardest one for me was CAME. After a couple of passes through the clues, I had seven, with CAME still pending. It took a third pass to think [Approached] a possibility, and when I came up with nothing else on that pass, that settled it.

    Then there is the order of how you use the new letters. I had ordered everything according to the occurrence of the new down words, so the new letters in the clue-associated letters did not appear to spell anything. Undaunted, I quickly anagrammed them into the answer.

    I thought it was brilliant.

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