WSJ Contest — Friday, March 31, 2023

Grid: 20 minutes; meta: an hour 


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

This week we’re looking for something that doesn’t match what’s printed. There were five theme entries:

  • [Glove material]: KIDLEATHER
  • [ Target of Goldfinger’s raid ]: FORTKNOX
  • [Valkyrie’s portrayer in the Thor films]: TESSATHOMPSON
  • [It’s due for a change]: FLATTIRE
  • [Person who’s good at picking things up]: QUICKSTUDY

I liked this meta by Mike. It was sneaky, in a good way. The kind of meta you could spot in 10 seconds, or one you could miss entirely. I got it in an hour.  I spotted TESSA and thought “TESLA.” Then I spotted KIDLE and thought KINDLE (which I later realized was inconsistent because I added a letter), and I was down the wrong “famous technologies” rabbit hole. I pondered “something that doesn’t match what’s printed” until my brain hurt. I solved the meta, and that clue still makes my brain hurt. But it works 100%.

WSJ Contest – 03.31.23 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 03.31.23 – Solution

I used the time-honored method of putting the meta down for a while, picked it up again, and realized I had been ignoring Mike’s blatant “Auto” hint in the title. I saw FORT/FORD, and was off the the races. The first word of each themer became a car brand once you swapped one letter:

  • KID/KI(A): A
  • FORT/FOR(D): D
  • FLAT/F(I)AT: I

The swapped letters spell ADLIB, our contest solution. Solvers: let me know how you made out, and please share how long it took you to spot the rabbit. I’ll end with Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, recorded in 1974.

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

12 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, March 31, 2023

  1. Baroness Thatcher says:

    After finishing the grid and finding no hints, I concluded the title to be the hint. Having been fooled by Mike’s previous contest puzzle, Shamrocks (3/17), I decided I would not be fooled again. From there it was a quick trip from sea to shore. I was surprised he would use a similar mechanism to his previous puzzle which made me question my answer. I do appreciate the occasional [redacted] puzzles. Thanks Mike, solving these puzzles is always fun.

    • EP says:

      ‘In conversation, she spoke just like a Ms. Thatcher’
      It took me a while to reach that same conclusion about the title, but once you get it, the rest comes pretty quickly.

    • damefox says:

      This honestly floored me — the mechanism is not similar to the one used for “Shamrocks,” which appeared all of two weeks ago, it is *identical*. Cars instead of rocks, but other than that, identical. Newspapers generally don’t publish themed crosswords that are too similar to recently appearing themes (I’ve had an NYT submission rejected because it was “too similar” to a theme that appeared *four years ago*), so I would think a similar standard applied to meta mechanisms. I haven’t been solving the WSJ Contest regularly for a couple years, but if I remember right, there is usually much more variation in the meta mechanisms week-to-week.

  2. jefe says:

    About 17 minutes, puzzle plus meta. The title was a huge clue. I think TESSA -> TESLA was the first one I saw.

  3. Simon says:

    Either these contest puzzles are getting easier, or I am getting better at them. I figured out the meta pretty QUICKly because of RIO in the grid. That is a frequent crossword answer for a KIA car, isn’t it? Then I spotted KID nearby. And vroom!

  4. Eric H says:

    I solved the grid in what’s for me a typical NYT Monday time, stared at the grid for 10 minutes looking for something that needed to be “corrected,” and more or less decided that this was another one I wasn’t going to get. Time to start fixing dinner.

    Five minutes later, I was standing at the kitchen sink when I thought about the title and TESLA THOMPSON hit me. Finding the other cars was pretty easy, except for the BUICK (even though I knew at that point what the meta answer was).

    The bottom of the puzzle reminded me of my father, who would have turned 100 this year. When I was a preschooler, he had a Fiat that was a piece of junk and soured him on “foreign” cars for years. When I was a tween, he drove a Buick that was a piece of junk of a different sort.

    Fun puzzle. I was happy to get the meta so quickly.

  5. Seth Cohen says:

    I’m in the 10 seconds camp. Even before I filled in a single answer, I was thinking that this might be the mechanism, based on the title. Sometimes I just get lucky! Plenty of other puzzles where others get it immediately and I have no clue.

  6. Garrett says:

    MONTE at 45A made me think of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

  7. Brian says:

    Fun, straight-forward meta to drive home!

Comments are closed.