Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “This Place Has Changed” — Conrad’s writeup.
This week we’re looking for a six-letter geographical place name. There were six long theme entries. I spotted LOGOS as soon as I filled in that entry, thought “this is going to easy: change it to LAGOS,” and then…
I worked the “major city” idea for a while, and unfortunately had AGRA as the city for ACURAINTEGRA, which delayed my solve quite a bit. I chased other rabbit holes, noticing ERIEPA and EERIE, but found no signal. I focused on TUNAS (which seemed odd), finally spotted TUNIS and decided to camp out in the major city rabbit hole. Things came together quickly once I saw ACURA/ACCRA and corrected my AGRA error (it only used four of the seven letters of INTEGRA, making ACCRA a far stronger answer). The theme: replace one letter in one word of each themer, forming large African cities:
- PEPSI[LOGOS]: L(A)GOS -> A
- [PEZ]DISPENSER: (F)EZ -> F
- SULTANOF[OMAN]: O(R)AN -> R
- BLUEFIN[TUNAS]: TUN(I)S -> I
- [ACURA]INTEGRA: A(C)CRA -> C
- DICK[DURBIN]: DURB(A)N -> A
The new letters spell AFRICA, our contest solution. I managed to find LAGOS (Nigeria), FEZ (Morocco), TUNIS (Tunisia) and ACCRA (Ghana) from memory. That gave me AF.IC., so I knew the answer had to be AFRICA. I backsolved the last two by swapping an R in OMAN and an A in DURBIN. ORAN rang a vague crossword bell. I used this list to confirm ORAN (Algeria, population: 1,587,550) and find DURBAN (South Africa, population: 3,981,205). It’s amazing how a simple week one and a half-ish meta (on the MGWCC weekly difficulty scale) played as hard as it did for me. I suspect DURBAN was new to a lot of folks (including me), but it’s the 16th-largest city in Africa with a population of nearly 4 million people (roughly the same as Los Angeles), so it’s fair game, IMO.
I’ve been playing Worldle (note the second “l”), which has exposed my atrocious knowledge of landlocked African countries. I study Google Maps every time I miss one and my knowledge of African geography has improved from hopeless to merely terrible. Solvers: please let me know how you cracked the code to locate the six cities.