WSJ Contest — Friday, August 19, 2022

Grid: 10 minutes; meta: an hour 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Position Statement” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking for a six-letter word. A six-letter answer often leads to six theme entries and the long horizontal entries provided six candidates. Mike is famous for using the central and/or final horizontal grid entries as part of the meta and the central entry ABUSERS (clued as “They’ll walk all over you”) struck me as thematic. I pondered different ways to parse “Position Statement,” leading to the following dead rabbit holes:

  • RELO, END, and PUTS seemed position-relevant
    • Lieutenant UHURA (eventually promoted to captain)
    • PRINCESS (standalone entry) was also in the grid

The title/rank rabbit hole was too disjointed, so I abandoned it. I spun my wheels and kept looking at ABUSERS, noting the positional preposition “over” in the clue. I scanned the other potential themers: four of the six long entries also contained positional prepositions. I knew I had the right rabbit hole when I noticed the theme clues also contained homophones of letters:

WSJ Contest – 08.19.22 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 08.19.22 – Solution

  • NICELOOKING: Easy on the eyes -> on the I’s
  • PONTNEUF: Landmark over eau -> over O
  • ABUSERS: They’ll walk all over you -> over U
  • PRINCESS: Character who slept on a pea -> on a P
  • CAPTAINNEMO: He traveled 20,000 leagues under the sea -> under the C

Five themers, and we needed six letters. NICELOOKING provided two: R and E were on the I’s. M was over the O in PONTNEUF, A was over the U in ABUSERS, R was on a P in PRINCESS, and K was under the C in CAPTAINNEMO. The letters above/below the theme entry letters spell REMARK, our contest solution. Mike’s on a roll; I loved the “aha”moment. Solvers: let me me know what you thought, and how you found the path to the right rabbit hole.

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10 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, August 19, 2022

  1. Jon+Forsythe says:

    Never got close to figuring that out. Couldn’t spot which ones were the themers and different thoughts on position or statement didn’t lead to anything. I’m not even sure if the themers had asterisks on them if I would have figured out the homophone mechanism. Anyone else ever feel like they hit a wall in their lateral thinking? I’ve been doing metas for about 5 years & feel like I’ve either plateaued or actually gotten worse at figuring out metas.

  2. benchen71 says:

    It was the clue for ABUSERS that got me looking in the right direction. I saw “all over you” and went looking at the letters directly above the “U”s in the grid. There are indeed 6 “U”s, but one of them is directly under a black square. So that was a dead end. But it wasn’t long before I saw the “on the eyes” and I was off and racing.

  3. BrainBoggler says:

    I was fixated on “IN” being in NICELOOKING, PRINCESS, and CAPTAINNEMO and kept questioning if I had somehow messed up PONTNEUF to not have had “IN” in it as well. Then, while desperately trying to get a foothold on other ideas, I couldn’t help but notice PRINCESS + (7D entry of LEI) as an incomplete PRINCESS LEIA (thinking of UHURA sci-fi angle) and thought perhaps I needed to find completions similarly for KING, PONT, and CAPTAIN. All the while, I completely overlooked the prepositional connection. Nice puzzle, Mike!

  4. Simon says:

    This was the first contest puzzle I ever got the answer to, a REMARK-able feat. So I have to admit I found it less challenging than previous ones. My first suspicion was that”EZ on the I’s” might be a clue. So I looked for EZ. But when that didn’t pan out I looked at the I’s. I also figured that something about Pont Neuf had to be one of the hints too. And then, voilà! I saw the eau for O and I was on my way. Merci, Conrad.

  5. MichelleQ+(onaquest) says:

    So clever. And too clever for me. I listed all the clues with prepositions but didn’t notice the five with letters also in the clues. I got fixated by all the ‘in’s the grid. Kept going back to the grid over the weekend and got nothing. There’s always next week…

  6. cyco says:

    I thought there were an unusual number of French clues/entries in this grid, so I went down that rabbit hole for a while before giving up. There were 5 and I couldn’t find a 6th, or a connection between them that would pinpoint specific letters. Relatedly, “Neuf” happens to mean “nine” in French, but other numbers were not used. Also: “position” made me look closely at the “first lady” entries, to no avail.

    • Garrett says:


      The sixth one I found was CAPTAINNEMO, because the book he was in was written by Jules Verne, who was French, and that was what I thought the answer was.

  7. alan+askins says:

    My downfall was assuning there would be 6 theme answers so I mistakely highlighted “takeoffs” and “spread em” as themers. I disregarded “abusers” despite knowing how Mike uses the central across. Just didn’t see it. Got caught up with the French red herring even thinking Nice in Nice looking could refer to Nice the city. By the time I concluded this to be a false rabbit, I had other things I needed to be doing and put it away.

    What a shame, and such a classic Shenk puzzle. When I read the solution, big eye roll and a smile!

  8. Neal says:

    Delighted to solve this one fairly quickly. Mistakenly thought eau was pronounced U, so found REIARK at first… but then my coffee kicked in and all was tres bien.

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