WSJ Contest — Friday, December 2, 2022

Grid: 15 minutes; meta: 10 more 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “I Almost Gave Away the Ending” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking for a two-word phrase. I spotted the clue for MALES (“Lions with manes”) while filling the grid and thought it was odd. Same for IRAN (“Major producer of iron”) and CLUE (“Hint on “NYPD Blue”). I scanned the grid after I completed it, saw no obvious theme entries, so I focused on the odd clues. I had the rabbit: there were eleven clues who’s last word had one letter changed from its matching entry:

WSJ Contest – 12.02.22 - solution

WSJ Contest – 12.02.22 – solution

  • [9a: “The Maltese Falcon” actor]: A(S)TOR 
  • [14a: Performer who doesn’t need a mike]: MI(M)E
  • [17a: Major producer of iron]: IR(A)N
  • [21a: Lions with manes]: MA(L)ES 
  • [37a: Goal of counting sheep]: S(L)EEP 
  • [39a: Hint on “NYPD Blue“]: (C)LUE
  • [47a: Food in a Monty Python sketch starring John Cleese]: C(H)EESE
  • [53a: It can swallow an octopus whole]: WH(A)LE 
  • [60a: Any of Hanukkah’s eight]: (N)IGHT
  • [66a: Classic asset to hold]: (G)OLD
  • [67a: Number of apples Hippomenes threw]: THRE(E)

The changed letters spell our contest solution SMALL CHANGE. That was a 100% lock for me, but I didn’t initially see a connection to the title. So I asked my friends. They pointed out that that the “ending” word of each clue was changed. Also: the answer was in the grid, not the clues: you had to solve the grid to get the answer. Another solid meta from Matt; I enjoyed the mechanism. Readers: let me know how you made out, and please share your first foothold on the mechanism.

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12 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, December 2, 2022

  1. Rheywood says:

    Initially I explored the anagrams SWINE, WINES, and SINEW, but that led nowhere. Then I noticed Cleese and Cheese, and I was off to the races. Fun puzzle. Thanks Matt!

  2. alan+askins says:

    I chased a couple of rabbits before whole – whale hit me. Then Cleese Cheese and Blue-clue fell into place. The primary rabbit I chased was Schwa (One of Alabama’s two). There were a number of schwas in the clues and answers.

    Overall. fun puzzle from Matt!

  3. Homer says:

    I was like you except noticed IRAN/IRON first. Then when I saw MALES/MANES I went back and found MIME/MIKE and knew I was on to something. They rest fell into place as I worked through the grid, and the answer was clear before I finished.

  4. J B says:

    There were seven answers that began with “I”. I got stuck on those and never resurfaced.

    Anyone know if seven entries beginning with “I” is particularly uncommon? Six of them were four letters long to boot.

  5. Seth says:

    The NYPD Blue clue was the first I noticed while solving. Saw others during the solve and knew I had it. I often miss metas involving the clues so I’m glad I got this one!

  6. EP says:

    Just when I thought that I was at least AWARE of all of the different mechanisms and schemes that constructors use, Matt comes up with this one — absolutely brilliant. Of course I didn’t get it, didn’t even come close, but I have to marvel at how he continues to come up with things like this.

  7. Simon says:

    I spent way too much time noticing that ALE rhymed with WHALE and RUE with CLUE, TEE with THREE, and looked for more, since so many puzzles in the past relied on three-letter words. But the sly change of one letter in MANES to MALES made me change my game plan. And my having to erase LORRE from the Maltese Falcon slot struck me as important. I guess the title means that the ending words of the meta clues are ALMOST given away, i.e., whole is almost whale, etc. SMALL CHANGE as the answer was perfect. Even without the switch this was a very fun puzzle. All the clues were cleverly written.

  8. Neal says:

    It is odd to me that even after solving dozens and dozens of meta puzzles, that I have only recently begun to take note of odd clues. When I think, “hm, that’s a new way to clue that word,” I make a mental note to circle back. This one such occasion where I spotted the meta early and didn’t chase many rabbits… an elegant meta!

  9. Eric H says:

    Like J B, I got stuck on the “I ___” entries. The title threw me off. But that went nowhere.

    I also looked for words that could be lacking an “ending’; for example, ASTOR can be expanded to ASTORia. That also went nowhere.

    I never noticed the similarities like cheese/Cleese. Maybe I’ll remember to not focus entirely on the grid next time.

  10. pannonica says:

    factette: John Cleese’s family’s surname was originally ‘Cheese’.

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