WSJ Contest — Friday, September 9, 2022

Grid: 10 minutes; meta: fifteen more 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “I Made you a Pair of Shorts” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking a noted cartoonist. There were five long theme entries:

  • [17a “The Gods Themselves” author]: ISAACASIMOV
  • [23a “The Handmaid’s Tale” novelist]: MARGARETATWOOD
  • [38a “Black-ish” and “Law & Order” star]: ANTHONYANDERSON
  • [49a Self-described “prairie lawyer”]: ABRAHAMLINCOLN
  • [61a “The West Wing” Emmy winner]: JOHNSPENCER

I spotted the theme pretty quickly: each first name has a common nickname. ANTHONY -> TONY, ABRAHAM -> ABE, etc. I tried to map those names back to the grid and got nowhere. Then I spotted the clue for CHAIR (“IKEA purchase”), and I had the rabbit hole. Five clues contained the nickname as the first word, plus one additional letter:

WSJ Contest – 09.09.22 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 09.09.22 – Solution

  • ISAAC -> (IKE)A Purchase: CHAIR
  • MARGARET -> (Meg)a– or pinch- finish: HIT
  • ANTHONY -> (Tony)a Harding’s milieu: ICE
  • ABRAHAM -> (Abe)l Tesfaye genre: POP
  • JOHN -> (Jack)s player’s need: SPEED

The first letter of the mapped grid entires spelled CHIPS. Chip is short for Charles, leading to Charles Schulz, our content solution. At least I’m pretty sure: I’m not feeling the “lock” that I normally get with the WSJ. “Pair of shorts” also threw me off a bit: IKE is short for ISAAC, and A is short for ASIMOV (pair of shorts), but JACK isn’t shorter than JOHN. Interesting meta either way. I liked that the first initial of each last name matched the grid entry:  ISAAC (IKE) Asimov, MARGARET (MEG) Atwood, etc. Solvers: let me know what you submitted, and if I landed on the right beach.


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23 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, September 9, 2022

  1. NonnieL says:

    Uh, my guess was Chip Sansom, who does the “Born Loser” strip. His real name is Arthur.

  2. Andrew says:

    It’s a very interesting meta mechanism, but “Charles Schultz” is not the most elegant possible answer because while Chip is a general nickname for Charles, Charles Schultz has a much more ubiquitous nickname (Sparky). Even just making the solution “A financial services company” would be a no-cost improvement.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Not relevant since not all the theme examples went by the shortened form (only Abe Lincoln AFAIK)

      • Bonnie Adamick says:

        Agree 100%. The term “short” simply refers to a nickname associated with a more formal name. So “Jack” is short for John even though it is the same number of letters, because it’s a nickname – in the old days people didn’t often name their kids what we saw as a nickname – nowadays there are lots of kids named Max, Jack, Will and so on. In this puzzle specific nicknames for the themed persons are irrelevant. What initially threw me was the “Pair of Shorts” because I was fixated on Chuck Jones, creator of Merrie Melodies & Looney Tunes, both of which were animated shorts. However Chuck Jones was an animator, not a cartoonist, and of course his surname does not begin with S. Great puzzle construction, Matt!

  3. Gideon says:

    I Googled “cartoonist chip s” and didn’t see much, so I went with Charles Schulz. He wasn’t nicknamed Chip but then I don’t think Margaret Atwood was nicknamed Meg either (was she?).

    Sansom looks plausible. I didn’t find him but couldn’t say if he is notable enough to count.

    Agreed that there was wasn’t much closure here.

  4. Scott says:

    I wonder if Charles Addams would have been accepted.

  5. MBS says:

    I also submitted Chip Sansom

  6. e.a. says:

    Matt if you see this, don’t bother, just let them be wrong

  7. Harry says:

    Chipper Jones, arguably the most famous celebrity with that nickname, is real name Larry.

  8. Simon says:

    This was a tough one for me because I got the nicknames very quickly, So quickly in fact that I thought it can’t be that. So I read the title and thought “I made U” must mean we switch those. And that led nowhere. I then thought you make shorts by cutting off the legs, of a pair of jeans, so I toyed with SNIP and NIP and even LASER intersecting the themers, thereby cutting them off, etc. a waste of time. While I have no problem with the answer as is, I don’t think of Peanuts as a cartoon, but as a comic strip. that’s my problem. Not the Puzzle’s.

  9. Dean Silverberg says:

    Yes Jack is a nickname for John. If you remember, but I don’t know how old you are, President John Kennedy was often referred to as “Jack” Kennedy. Also, it was a bit confusing because when googling chips as a cartoonist, the following came up:
    “Chips cartoons and comics” with a bunch of cartoons.
    Great meta using the nicknames in the clues. You seem to always have fresh ideas.

  10. Dean Silverberg says:

    Yes Jack is a nickname for John. If you remember, but I don’t know how old you are, President John Kennedy was often referred to as “Jack” Kennedy. Also, it was a bit confusing because when googling chips as a cartoonist, a bunch of cartoons came up marked as being
    by chip as chip cartoons.
    As always, great meta using the nicknames in the clues. You seem to always have fresh ideas.

  11. Garrett says:

    I’ve known a number of Isaacs (3) who all went by Isaac, never using a nickname. There were any number of girls with the given name Margaret in my hometown, and the common nicknames were Margo(t) and Margie. And I remain mystified why a name like John needs or has a nickname.

    Thus, this meta was an impossible solve for me to even get started on.

    When I got to the part of the explanation about CHIPS, I was even more astounded with the assertion that it’s short for Charles. Every Charles I knew in school went by Charlie or Chuck, and my own uncle Charles by Chuck as well.

    I rate this as an extremely difficult meta.

    Tony and Abe I get.

  12. David Roll says:

    A very difficult meta for me, as for example, I too have known a lot of Charles, and they weren’t nicknamed Chip.
    Also, I didn’t spend much time on this–I got annoyed with “MMHMM”‘ for “yep”–and I still don’t get it.

  13. Bob says:

    The only Ikes I’ve ever heard of are Ike (Dwight) Eisenhower and Ike (Izear) Turner. I’ve known a few Isaacs, but none went by Ike. I’ve also known a couple of Chips, but neither were originally named Charles, while OTOH I’ve known several Charles, none of which went by Chip. Maybe the answer might be valid if Charles Shulz actually went by Chip, or if Isaac Asimov went by Ike, but neither did.

    Fortunately, I completed the grid and spent about 30 seconds looking for an easy meta solution, then set it down and never got back to it. I’m glad I didn’t spend additional time as I clearly don’t have the knowledge of nicknames required. I’m honestly surprised anyone did.

    I usually enjoy reading the solution after the fact and marveling at the cleverness, but this one left me very unsatisfied. The only satisfaction I have is knowing I didn’t waste time on it, which also makes me less inclined to spend much time on future puzzles.


  14. Jon+Forsythe says:

    Never got close to figuring out this one. And I’m not sure how I would have faired had someone told me the mechanism was nicknames for “short.” Being a Jon – short for Jonathan – I often forget that there’s an alternative for John. Jack being used for John feels so old school & dated. I’ve never really understood how Jack and John are interchangeable as family nicknames go.

    And I’ve never heard of Chip being a nickname of Charles. But when I Googled “chip nickname”, Charles did come up.

    I do like that all of the nicknames aren’t just shorter version of the longer name. Like mine is just the -athan cut off from Jonathan. But with Isaac, Margaret, John, Anthony, & Abraham, the spellings and letter orders can change quite a bit. Though I guess perhaps that’s why some might be miffed at how these nicknames aren’t “short” versions of the longer names.

    I think the final nickname, had it been a nickname that Charles Schultz actually used, instead of the Chip that he didn’t, perhaps the click would have been there? Googling “Sparky cartoonist” brought Charles Schultz up. But going for that nickname would have changed up so much of what Matt was going for. And because I don’t know how to create crosswords, I have no idea how easy or challenging it would have been to aim for Sparky instead. 4/5 stars from me.

    I’d be interested to know, Matt, what was the genesis of this meta?

  15. Michael in Chelsea says:

    Could someone explain the contribution to the theme of “I made you” and “a pair”? Usually every element of the title has significance and I’ll bet there is a good reason this puzzle was not titled simply “Shorts.”

    Full disclosure: I didn’t solve this meta. I considered the possibility the nicknames would be important, but got hung up on pairs (like the double AA’s in the grid) and trying to turn I’s into U’s and vice versa to no avail.

  16. Neal says:

    My name doesn’t have a nickname. As a child I was envious of kids with nicknames; it just seemed cool. My best friend had a nickname. He was a Frank, Jr. but went by Chip to avoid confusion with his dad’s name. I didn’t know Chip was specifically a nickname for Charles until this puzzle. I solved the meta pretty quickly and I liked it.
    There. I said it.

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