WSJ Contest — Friday, November 18, 2022

Grid: 25 minutes; meta: solved it while completing the grid 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Make a Run for it” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking for a type of footrace. There were four long theme entries:

WSJ Contest – 11.18.22 - solution

WSJ Contest – 11.18.22 – solution

  • [17a: Airport gift shop buy?]: TACKYKNICKKNACK
  • [26a: Small stand outside an experimental lab?]: SKUNKWORKSKIOSK
  • [44a: Paddling person in an Illinois city?]: KANKAKEEKAYAKER
  • [59a: Illegal payments in a Japanese playhouse?]: KABUKIKICKBACKS

Each theme entry had five K’s, leading to our contest solution Five K. Well, that’s what I submitted. I hesitated a bit due to the extra K in LACK/NECK. There were 21 K’s in the grid, and a half marathon is also known as a 21K race. I think five K races are more commonly known, and adding an extra K from a non-themer seems off. But: you could make an argument for 21 K, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they accept either answer. Solvers: please let me know what you think. Were you on team 5K or 21K?

I’m doubling down on team 5K, and thought I’d share a song by Pizzicato Five. If you were a fan of 90s alternative rock back in the day you may remember Twiggy Twiggy. I planned to share that song, but heard イッツ・ア・ビューティフル・デイfor the first time today and I loved it. Another “aha” moment for me.

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

  1. Cindy N says:

    21K is also – and perhaps better – known as a half marathon, which is definitely a type of footrace.

  2. Harry says:

    There will be lots of pushback on this one. 21Ks in the grid equals a half-marathon. Seems a better answer than 5-K to me, since there’s no basis for just skipping that 21st K.

  3. Mister G. says:

    I went with 5K, I’d never heard of the 21K half-marathon. But will 5K be accepted, or is it “five k”? Most sports articles I’ve read refer to it as 5K, hopefully either is ok, because I’m sure it’s finally my turn to win the mug!

  4. carolynchey says:

    Matt Gaffney does not put things into puzzles by accident. There are 21 Ks in there for a reason. 21K is a half marathon!

  5. Sarah Cheever says:

    Definitely it’s 5K. Each theme answer has 5Ks. If it were “21K” there would have been a sixth K in one of the themers. Also no one in the USA (where Matt is from) calls a half-marathon a “21K”. It’s 13.1m here.

    • carolynchey says:

      No one calls it a 21K, but that is how long a Half Marathon is. No one calls a full Marathon a 42K either, but that is its length. The meta solution asks for a type of foot race – both 5K and Half Marathon fit the description. (I actually thought 5K was the answer at first but that seemed too obvious. And because Matt included that 21st K, the answer Half Marathon made more sense.)

  6. Barry says:

    If you are just counting the 20 Ks in the four theme answers, that is an Olympic walking race. I went with 5K, but now I think that’s wrong. Was there an additional hint in the grid? Time to look. The new puzzle has been published.

  7. Barry says:

    I’ll bet he’s unaware of a 21 K. Also, the 20Ks in the theme answers could constitute an Olympic 20K walking race, also a foot race.

  8. Jonesy says:

    They should definitely accept both 5k and half marathon.

    Pretty inelegant to have that 21st k in there with 4 themers each having exactly 5 k’s. I can’t imagine the intended answer isn’t 5k.

  9. Bob says:

    According to the Monday pdf the answer for Friday is Five-K. That’s what I submitted since the four long answers all had five Ks.

    • CdelB says:

      Your explanation (5Ks) then does not fully jive with a singular answer (5K). I understand that MG used the singular (“footrace”) but the ambiguity could have been removed if he said “footraces”. That’s what led me to Half Marathon. I know, we are indeed splitting atoms here…

  10. Uncle Bob says:

    This contest lacked the usual extra step that locks in the answer. I submitted “five k run” with some hesitancy because of that. The alternative 21k is ruled out by the puzzle title. The themers all have “5-k runs” in them.

  11. Simon says:

    I thought it might be 20K which is the usual term for a half marathon. Then I noticed the extra K in neck and lack. I sent in Marathon, because there are 42 words with a K in the grid. 42 K is sometimes used for a marathon race. Whatever the answer is I enjoyed all the k’s. Kool!

  12. Simon says:

    Correction: I should have said I counted 42 K’s in the grid, if you include the down words as well.

  13. JohnH says:

    Strange puzzle. On the one hand, I caught onto 5K less than halfway through solving the puzzle, and I never ever get a meta. (Why not is still a puzzle in itself to me, but to me they come off as mind reading.) On the other, I’d never heard of half the themer seeds, and the whole puzzle was almost impossible for me. (Also not at all enjoyable, whereas normally I just do Friday as an ordinary crossword before tossing.)

    FWIW, surely it is 5K on multiple grounds. It’s so well worked into the puzzle that I, for one, used it to help me with the entries. Second, 21K is awfully obscure, even for Matt, and I say that as a former distance runner and former physics major totally comfortable with metric.

    • Eric H says:

      Meta puzzles as mind reading — I like that.

      The 5K answer was the first meta I have solved successfully. With others, the Fiend reviewer’s explanation of how they solved the meta always makes sense, but I often don’t how they made some crucial determination of what to look at to solve the meta.

      • JohnH says:

        That rings true to me, too. I tried the several-page tutorial, and it seemed less than helpful because it didn’t develop the whole idea of how to find the pertinent reasoning, leaving it unstructured as ever. Instead, it seemed to need more than one page (like this week’s solution here at Crossword Fiend) only to run through several examples, each of which amounted to “try this.”

  14. Bob Cruise Director says:

    FWIW – I ran a poll on the forum zoom call last night (everyone had one or more answers already) of whether the right answer was 5K or 21K/half marathon. I also included 20K and Turkey Trot. The results were split 50-50 between 5K and 21K. It will be interesting to see the results from the WSJ and the rationale from Matt/Mike.

  15. Neal says:

    One more vote for half marathon from me. I, too, figured the 21st K was to be counted. As ever, I will abide by the creator’s ruling!

  16. Dusty Gunning says:

    5K is almost “too obvious” especially for mid-month.

    And a tighter construction would have avoided the 21st K.
    Those of us in the 21K camp can sit back smug in our superiority, ;-))

  17. JD Hultgren says:

    I like 4 by 5K relay.
    There are 4 horizontal grid entries of 5K……obviously a relay.

  18. David Roll says:

    What the heck is a skunkworks? How does it relate to an experimental lab? Thanks for some enlightenment.

  19. Bonnie Adamick says:

    I did not count the K that was not part of the themers, because that seemed like over-thinking it, which I am often inclined to do. Without any clue, directive, or hint to total ALL the Ks, and since each themer had 5 Ks, FIVEK (or 5K) seemed obvious to me as the best answer. I’m a simple minded person, perhaps. As others have said, I’d love to know what Matt and Mike have to say.

  20. Kim says:

    I really only see 5K as the solution. It seemed obvious and I think maybe too obvious for people who felt the need to do more with it. It is a clean solution and follows the rules.

  21. Matt Gaffney says:

    My apologies for the ambiguity on this one between the 5k and 21k answers. Please read my explanation of what went wrong here:

    • Keith says:

      Thanks for the explanation… but “5K” seems like a sloppy solution for you. Having four separate 5-K answers doesn’t align cleanly with the singular answer of “a type of footrace”. Unfortunately, the “half-marathon” answer would have been so much more clever and cleaner. BTW… as a distance runner myself, I can assure you the half-marathon is as popular, or more than, the 5K race.

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