WSJ Contest — Friday, March 17, 2023

Grid: 10 minutes; meta: 5 more 


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

Happy Saint Patrick’s day, everyone! This week we’re looking for a famous Irish person. There were five two-word theme entries, and changing a letter of one word turned each into a type of rock:

WSJ Contest – 03.17.23 - Solution

  • [Pregrilling applications]: SPICERUBS -> RUB(Y)
  • [Makeup of some blinds]: WOODENSLATS -> SLAT(E)
  • [Maze solvers, at times]: LABMICE -> MIC(A)
  • [1054 split between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches]: GREATSCHISM -> SCHIS(T)
  • [Largest animal ever to inhabit the Earth]: BLUEWHALE -> (S)HALE

The changed letters spell YEATS, our contest solution. SHALE struck me as a bit inelegant, since the other four entries featured a changed letter at the end. I suppose ending with an S would have been tricky (the other entries are singular). The answer was a 100%-er regardless. Solvers: please share your thoughts.

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9 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, March 17, 2023

  1. Barry says:

    Loved the puzzle but glad I didn’t spend much time on the meta, or make my St. Patrick guess. I thought Schist was a creek I was on once without a paddle.

  2. Neal says:

    The puzzle’s title had me looking for kinds of sham rocks from the jump and RUBS/RUBY leapt out at me. Nifty puzzle!

  3. Simon says:

    I won’t bore you with my many missteps, except one. I went for what I thought were the five Irish theme answers in the Downs. Saw LACE in LAbmiCE and AER in AsnER etc. Searched for MAYO etc. No luck of the Irish today. Couldn’t shake it. I guessed it had to be YEATS, WILDE or SHAW but never thought of adding letters to the Across answers to get the ROCKS. Well done.

  4. Eric H says:

    The puzzle’s title had me looking all over the grid for rocks, but it never occurred to me to switch letters on parts of entries. I should’ve thought of that; Mike Shenk’s last WSJ meta (Oscar-winning movies) used a similar trick.

    The “sham” concept had me spending some time staring at the long across answers and wondering if the clues had intentional errors. Maybe the GREAT SCHISM was really in 1055?

    The plethora of Irish-themed answers also distracted me. I made lists of those and got nowhere. There were some with “Irish” in the clue (“Irish county” (twice!), “Irish export,” “Irish currency”) that could have been clued in other ways. Were those “sham”?

    I’m glad the answer wasn’t Wilde. His was the first name I thought of when I read the note. It’d be a drag to get the answer with no understanding of why it was correct.

    • Eric H says:

      I should also say that part of my problem in solving the meta on this puzzle (and the movie puzzle from a few weeks ago) is that absolutely nothing in the grid or the clues looked unusual. Maybe that’s a hint to focus on the longest across answers and play letter games with what’s there.

  5. Garrett says:

    There were four clues with Irish as part of the clue, and three other clues that were Irish in nature (or the answer was:

    3D ERIN
    5D ___ Lingus: AER
    54D [Banshee]

    I spent a lot of time trying to make some sense of those.

  6. Bob LaBla says:

    I’d like to know the number who actually solved it versus guessed it.

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