WSJ Contest — Friday, February 10, 2023

Grid: 10 minutes; meta: 3 more 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “The State of American Cinema” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking for an Oscar-winning film of 1992. There were seven movie-themed grid entries:

  • [2006 police drama that won Best Picture]: THEDEPARTED
  • [1931’s Best Picture, based on an Edna Ferber novel]: CIMARRON
  • [1995 drama featuring Don Rickles]: CASINO
  • [1950 John Wayne classic]: RIOGRANDE
  • [2020 Oscar-winning film with dialogue in Korean]: MINARI
  • [1933 classic with a famous stop-motion scene]: KINGKONG
  • [1994 movie based on a Winston Groom novel]: FORRESTGUMP

I’m from Boston so THE DEPARTED jumped out. Massachusetts was the key: each famous movie was tied to a state:

WSJ Contest – 02.10.23

WSJ Contest – 02.10.23

  • Massachusetts: THEDEPARTED
  • Oklahoma: CIMARRON
  • Nevada: CASINO
  • Texas: RIOGRANDE
  • Arkansas: MINARI
  • New York: KINGKONG
  • Alabama: FORRESTGUMP

The first letter of each state spell MONTANA. Our contest solution, A River Runs Through It, was an Oscar-winning film released in 1992.

Solvers: please share your thoughts, and describe any rabbits you chased. Speaking of being from somewhere: how far away can you live from a city and still be “from” there? Please weigh in. I was in New Orleans for business, and a bartender asked where I was from. I said Boston, and he said “Me too: what street?” I answered “East First Street in Southie” (when I was very young). He said “Wow, you’re actually from Boston!” I responded, “So you’re from Boston: what street?” His response: “Oh, I’m from Braintree.”

We’ll end with a song by Woody Guthrie.

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15 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, February 10, 2023

  1. Harry says:

    An added hint is that the central entry is a river, which literally runs through the center of the puzzle. Oh, and Minari is Arkansas, not Arizona.

    • Conrad says:

      Fixed, thank you!

    • Eric H says:

      Nice catch on the river in the middle of the grid!

      The Rio Grande flows through an impressive gorge outside of Taos, NM. It’s worth stopping if you’re in the area.

      • Marga says:

        Gorgeous, and scary bridge to walk across! Hot springs bubble out on the river’s edge up upstream a bit…worth the journey to soak in the water and the incredible view.

        • Eric H says:

          I didn’t know about the hot springs. Sounds wonderful! I’ll try to remember the next time we’re in that area. (We drove through Taos on our way to skiing in Colorado last month, so I doubt we’ll be back there anytime soon.)

  2. Eric H says:

    I didn’t chase any rabbits on this one. The puzzle’s title was a big hint, but what tipped it was that “The Departed” has such a strong sense of place — Boston is as much a character as any of those played by actors. (It’s also a great movie, maybe my second favorite Scorsese movie.)

    I knew CASINO is set in Vegas and that the conclusion of KING KONG was in NYC, but I had to look up the settings of the others (none of which I have seen).

    When I figured out Montana, my first guess was “Brokeback Mountain,” which I should have known was not as old as 1992. When I checked the date on that, the next movie that came to mind was “A River Runs Through It.”

    Great puzzle! I don’t know how constructors get meta puzzles to work; I have enough trouble making a workable grid when I have more flexibility with placing the theme answers.

    • Eric H says:

      Simon’s comment below reminds me that I did go down one rabbit trail, though not for long. I also tried to do something with the postal codes for the states each movie was set in, but as I was staring at the list of states, “Montana’ jumped out.

  3. Steve says:

    On a trip to Alaska some time ago, my wife and I were chatting with someone we had just run into. He said he was from San Francisco and asked where we were from. We said “Oakland” because, well, that was the city we actually lived in. When we pressed him for details, we found out he lived in the part of San Francisco commonly known as “Sacramento” – about 90 miles away.

  4. carolynchey says:

    We also saw the river running through the center of the puzzle, but only after we had found the states and the resulting solution. I also wonder if it was a coincidence that 38D on the bottom left was HOMONYM and 61D on the bottom right was P-I-T, a homonym of the movie’s star? Lots of Easter Eggs in this one!

    Also, I wonder if anyone got tripped up by looking at the winners from the 1992 Oscars, which were actually movies released in 1991.

    Another great meta, Matt!

  5. Simon says:

    You managed to figure it out in 3 minutes? Props! It took me most of the day but I finally arrived at the correct solution and sent it in.

    My problem with any and all crossword clues regarding the Oscars is that the awards usually are given out the following year. So when constructors refer to a picture that won the Oscar in 1992, it could be “Silence of the Lambs,” etc. I spent some time looking up all these movies to find out what year they actually won the awards in (Although “Cimarron,” I believe, actually came out in 1931. Btw, it’s considered by many to be one of the worst films ever to win Best Picture.)

    You asked for rabbit holes. 1) I thought maybe the trick was to ignore the films that didn’t mention winning an award in the clue. Three of them didn’t. Seven themers seemed high to me. So I thought maybe it was only four (TOYS?) Waste of time. (Altho that clue about the winning tennis player also seemed like a themer. KORDA was a well-known name in the film industry. 2) I got the states and wrote them down as the Two-Letter abbreviations and then thought they would anagram into the name of a lesser-known movie. Waste of time. 3) Blame it on Clint Eastwood. I was sure the answer was going to be “Unforgiven,” shot in Wyoming, also 7 letters, but nothing matched up. 4) Stuck in a rut, I decided the trick was the use of the year in each of the themers. (That tennis clue also had a year in it.) Dead End.

    My biggest hurdle was that I had not seen any of these movies, including the solution, except “King Kong” (and I happen to be a major movie buff) which was famously shot in NY at the end, so I was at sea with the other states. I had to google them. “Minari” really threw me for a loop. Guess I have to add that to my watch list. That does sound interesting.

    Curiously RIO GRANDE did not get any Oscar nominations.

    Eventually I wrote out the state names again vertically and saw the acrostic-like MONTANA.

    Sorry to “run” on so long.

  6. billy boy says:

    I first slowed myself using Postal 2-letter state codes, looking for an anagram but quickly recognized my folly.

    Nice simple meta.

  7. Jeff says:

    The diagonal from SE to NW is intriguing starting with TOU and ending with EAM. Also, I was thinking about listing the film’s directors but once I looked up MINARI on IMDB, the Arkansas in the description jumped out.

  8. Neal says:

    This was one of those rare puzzles where I had the theme almost instantly, based on the title and finding THEDEPARTED, which I agree is so much about Boston. So no rabbits to chase…
    It did lead me to a rabbit hole on IMDB of just how many movies in the 90’s were so very good.

    I’d also like to give an upvote for Minari. It is a wonderful film with dynamite performances, and was rightfully nominated in a slew of categories for a variety of awards, including an amazing Youn Yuh-jung who won Supporting Actress awards (Oscar, BAFTA, SAG, etc) and she probably deserved even more. :)

    I would like to give an award to Matt for making such wonderful meta puzzles, too. There I said it.

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  10. Sarah Tiberi says:

    As a longtime (elderly) crossword lover who has never tried to create one myself, I am blown away by the cleverness required by Matt to find seven movie titles of the right length which take place in the necessary states and arrange them in the grid in the required order. Not to mention filling in the rest. Amazing!

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