WSJ Contest — Friday, March 10, 2023

Grid: 15 minutes; meta: 20 more 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “There’s That Voice Again” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re told, The answer to this week’s contest crossword (which is 12 letters long) is something you might say after solving. Matt gave us a big clue at 48a (PASSIVE, clued as  “___ voice (construction that obscures the performer of an action).” Speaking as an English major who worshipped at the altar of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White: sign me up!

A portion of the Elements of Style by Strunk & White

A portion of the Elements of Style by Strunk & White

Matt wrote twelve clues passively, here they are with the active participant inserted:

  • Country that was defeated (by ITALY) in its bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics: SWEDEN
  • Fruit-bearer that got felled (by George WASHINGTON), in American folklore: CHERRYTREE
  • 1865 literary bird who was asked (by ALICE) “What is a Caucus-race?”: DODO
  • It gets defeated a third of the time (by SCISSORS), in a kids’ game: PAPERWSJ Contest – 03.10.23
  • It was defeated for Best Picture (by NOMADLAND) in 2021: MANK
  • God who got pushed out of an airship (By THOR) in a 2013 movie: LOKI
  • He was bested (by FRAZIER) in the “Fight of the Century”: ALI
  • He was instructed (by OTHELLO) to kill Cassio: IAGO
  • He was nominated for vice president (by OBAMA) in 2008: BIDEN
  • Tiny animal that was spared death (by the LION) in one of Aesop’s fables: MOUSE
  • Italian currency that was displaced (by the EURO) in 2002: LIRA
  • His locks got broken (by DELILAH) in the Bible: SAMSON

The first letter of the active participants spell I WASN’T FOOLED, our contest solution. Beautiful meta by Matt: I loved it. Solvers: please share your thoughts. I’ll end with Mo Kenney’s wonderful cover of my favorite Guided By Voices song Game of Pricks.

This entry was posted in Contests and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, March 10, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    This was a satisfying meta to solve. First, I noticed that several clues referred to some sort of defeat, including those using words like “felled” and “bested.” But a list of those answers (seven in all) yielded nothing.

    Then, I saw that CHERRY TREE starts with CHER, so I looked for other answers that hid singers (“voices”). But there didn’t seem to be any.

    After an hour or more of looking at the puzzle, I belatedly noticed that many clues were written in the passive voice. I listed the answers to those clues, but the first letters spelled “SCDPMLAIBMLS.” At least then I knew not to waste time trying to anagram something from it.

    When I reread the clue for PASSIVE, the solution finally hit me. Finding the missing performers was a mix of gimmes like Washington and Delilah, educated guesses like Othello, and lookups like Italy and “Nomadland.”

    I never did find who pushed LOKI out of an airship. I’d guess Thor, but it doesn’t matter. The T in the meta answer was obvious by that point.

  2. Baroness Thatcher says:

    Masterful meta from Matt. Thankfully the mechanism was not complex, but it was a fun game with lots of humor and a very satisfying solution, also in the passive voice. Genius!

    The question Maggie and I have is “I wasn’t fooled” by whom? Surely not by Matt, right? Matt doesn’t do red herrings. Perhaps I wasn’t fooled by my own proclivity to chase false rabbits.

    My most favorite meta in the 3 years I’ve been doing this, but what is the solution to that nagging question, “I wasn’t fooled by whom?”

    Thanks Matt for a wonderful, satisfying puzzle.

  3. Jon says:

    Even though English is my native language, and the only one I know, English class was always my worst subject. Verb tenses particularly being my Achilles heel. That clue did not stick out at me when solving & noticing a pattern of verb tenses requires you to know verb tenses in the first place. And I was never in that advanced of an English class that went even deeper to talk about grammatical voices. Although I’ve heard the phrase “passive voice” before, I never realized there was more to it.

    I thought foreign languages were going to be involved in the mechanism & basically stopped trying to solve the meta when that led nowhere.

    Maybe if I had tried harder I would have noticed that clue shared a word in the title. Maybe then I would have Googled “passive voice” to get a better understanding of what that meant. But at least I’ve better learned a thing about grammar and English. Maybe it’ll help me with something down the road.

    A very clever meta that was too clever for me.

    • EP says:

      I fear that that’s my new mantra, Jon: ‘A very clever meta that was too clever for me’…very clever indeed.

      • Eric H says:

        I know the feeling. I’ve tried to solve a few dozen meta puzzles, and my success rate is probably around 30%. When I read an explanation of how someone else solved it, the explanation always makes sense — I just don’t see how they made the leap that got them on the right path.

        Keep trying! I’m hoping these get easier with experience.

        • Conrad says:

          I look for patterns in the grid and patterns in the clues. Both the title and the clue for PASSIVE mentioned “voice,” which is an indicator that it may be important.

          • Eric H says:

            Thanks for the tip. That’s basically what I have been doing. I’m a bit chagrined that it took me as long as it did to spot the passive voice clues, but I’m glad that I stuck with it long enough to figure it out.

  4. Mister G says:

    I’ve come to expect any “hint” answers to appear in a “standard” place, such as the bottom right or center. This may be something that only Mike Shenk does, but it is very helpful to know to look for that, and it doesn’t give away the game. The word PASSIVE didn’t pop out enough at me in its location, although to be fair, it is kind of an oddball clue that distinguishes itself somewhat in that way.

    • Mikie says:

      I have the same nitpick over this one…it’s an awesome construction with an ingenious meta trick, but I think the “hint” was a bit obscure. JMO.

  5. Tom says:

    I think they should have taken it a step further and used the same meta process for the answer.
    Then you could have the meta answer be something like:
    “a 9-letter famous person” – Mike Shenk, editor
    “an 11-letter famous person” – Matt Gaffney, constructor.

    Still, a fun solve!

  6. Simon says:

    Three cheers to Matt for this terrific puzzle. And to Mike for editing it so well. I spent a good deal of time thinking the solution had to do with an ECHO effect (based on the title) and saw that DODO sitting there and thought maybe I need to look for other repeat sounds or words. That led to DOR crossing euDORa, and ERR abutting chERRy, and IGOR in VIRGO, etc. But ultimately a rabbit hole worthy of Alice herself. Then I thought maybe we need to look at the animals and creatures: DODO, BUGS, MOUSE, to no avail. I put the puzzle down for a while and when I came back I noticed the repeated “defeated” in various clues and “bested” and “pushed out” and that got me thinking more about a PASSIVE voice. When I looked it up in the dictionary to find out more about it (I thought it referred to a narrative device) I was rewarded and got the solution. Great tomfoolery!

  7. Iggystan says:

    I got the 12 passive clues, but never thought to apply the actor even though I read that passive voice clue quite a few times. Doh!

    • Eric H says:

      That sounds like me with most metas. If I get the first step, there’s usually another one that I don’t figure out.

Comments are closed.