WSJ Contest — Friday, November 11, 2022

Grid: 10 minutes; meta: got a nudge 


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

This week we’re looking for a four-letter word. I got stuck on this one. I spotted this doomed rabbit hole:

  • 22a BERM: Earthen embankment
  • 23d PITS: Peach parts
  • 28d RHINO: Horned herbivore
  • 34a LEDGE: Pigeon perch
  • 40d ACE: Superb service
  • 45a WEEPS: Displays despondency
  • 51a ASS: Balky beast
  • 60a PRISONER: Pen pal?
  • 63a NEWT: Small salamander
WSJ Contest – 11.11.22 - solution

WSJ Contest – 11.11.22 – solution

They all had two-word clues that started with the same letter (just like the title). That couldn’t be a coincidence, right? Well, it was. A friend nudged me out of that rabbit hole and into the right one: the clues were important, but not those clues. There were four clues containing the words “for example:”

  • [Pamphleteer, for example]: WRITER
  • [Cartoonist, for example]: ARTIST
  • [Baseman, for example]: PLAYER
  • [Trial judge, for example]: JURIST

Those entries are adjacent to longer entries that match when you shift one letter:


The shifted letters spell PLAN, our contest solution. This meta is simply stunning. My hat’s off to Mike. Readers: let me know what you thought.


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18 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, November 11, 2022

  1. carolynchey says:

    We didn’t get anywhere with this. There were lots of Ts in the grid, and this seemed significant, especially since the title seemed to instruct us to “shift T”. Also, the SW corner answer 63A suggested “new T”. We moved Ts, added Ts all over the grid without any luck. Obviously the wrong rabbit hole!

  2. Harry says:

    I was waylaid by that BELOW right in the middle of the puzzle.

  3. Barry says:

    Sweet that Bil Keane would have turned 100 last month. I had never known of him, but I just reviewed about a dozen of his charming cartoons.

    Very clever puzzle. I did not solve it.

  4. Paul M says:

    I got as far as seeing the 4 “for example” clues, but couldn’t find that next extraordinary step. I was briefly diverted by an odd, irrelevant “leafy greens” sub-theme, with PTOMAINE being so close to “romaine” and LACE INTO being a near anagram of “lacinato” (kale variety).
    Thematically important words, but not for their salad connections.

  5. I got this, but completely missed those four “for example” clues. I just spotted PTOMAINE –> TOM PAINE and it was off to the races. The four examples being adjacent to the names was a nice touch.

  6. Tim H. says:

    Wow. My first question is, how much time did Mike put into collecting names that do that?

  7. Simon says:

    I got the scheme fairly early on (altho was seeing ALITO before ITO) but assumed Alter Ego and Prisoner might be part of it. Knowing the solution was only four letters steered me back to the four themers. My first idea was PICK for Paine, Ito, Carew and Keane, but I felt it was wrong. Not in order. That led me to look at the letters that actually shifted. And voila, PLAN appeared, which fit the title perfectly. A smooth, fun puzzle.

  8. Neal says:

    My rabbit hole was four letter words that had only one letter different (or shifted, maybe?) STEW/STOW, ALAS/ALPS, PINS/PIUS/PITS, GERM/BERM/BERT.
    Strangely, I noticed the occupations and their locations before I noticed they all had the “for example” similarity. The fact that ALTER EGO had the clue “Hyde, e.g.” made me focus briefly on famous people with initials E.G. Then, FINALLY, I saw Tom Paine hidden in PTOMAINE and I was off to the races.
    Brilliant Meta!

  9. Todd Dashoff says:

    I got Road Carew first, then saw the matching clues on the same rows and got the rest. But then I was stuck. I tried first letters, last letters, position of the shifted letter, etc. I finally thought to just take the shifting letters and got PLAN, but it didn’t have that click, since it didn’t seem to have a lot to do with the theme of the puzzle. I echo the kudos to Mike for finding enough of these to make a meta.

  10. Garrett says:

    What I liked about it was the “, for example nudge to the WRITER, ARTIST, PLAYER, JURIST entries, couple with the associated entry being the only other thing on that row. That’s very cool.

  11. Bob says:

    After finishing the grid I spent maybe 5-10 minutes looking for something to chase, then set it down, and gave it another 5 minutes the next day. As it turned out I had no chance of getting this. I could have spent many hours and still not found the answer. Which makes me feel less inclined next time to spend any more than 5-10 minutes. But congrats to those who figured it out.

  12. Steve Thurman says:

    This was one of the most satisfying CLICKs I remember from solving metas. It helped that I am a life-long Angels fan and ROADCREW looked like RODCAREW to me.

  13. alan+askins says:

    Brilliant Meta, truly Shenkian. I shelved it after an hour. I, too, went down the rabbit hole of alliterated two-word clues but could not figure out how to apply them. At that point I raised the white flag.

    I shoulda seen the for example clues, but even had I, I would not have come upwith Bil Keane or Lance Ito.

    Good learning experience though.

  14. fnf mods says:

    The Road Carew hint was the first puzzle piece I cracked, and it guided me to the other solutions, which I discovered by matching puzzle pieces on neighboring rows. However, after that, I was stuck. I tried the shifted letter in the initial position, final position, shifted letter position, etc.

  15. jefe says:

    DNF, but that’s really amazing!

  16. I’m probably stupid, but I didn’t manage to guess even 2 words in the crossword game

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