WSJ Contest — Friday, April 6, 2023

Grid: 15 minutes; meta: 3 more 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Hiding Places” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking for a body of water. There were five long theme entries. I initially spotted CAVE in WITHACAVEAT, and was (briefly) in the wrong rabbit hole. Then I spotted CRETE and I had the rabbit. Each themer contained a hidden island:

WSJ Contest – 04.06.23 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 04.06.23 – Solution

  • [Conditionally]: W(ITHACA)VEAT
  • [Olympic duo]: PARALL(ELBA)RS
  • [Features of tree forts and castles]: SE(CRETE)NTRANCES
  • [Place mentioned in some “Law & Order” scripts]: ATTI(CAPRI)SON
  • [Diplomatic gatherings]: FOR(MALTA)LKS

The hidden islands are all located in the Mediterranean Sea, our contest solution.

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18 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, April 6, 2023

  1. carolynchey says:

    We started in the same incorrect rabbit hole but quickly spotted the hidden islands and knew we were headed in the right direction. I saw that they all were in the Mediterranean Sea, but since Matt always seems to make the answer unequivocal, I thought there had to be more and we weren’t seeing the next step that would confirm it. I never submitted my answer. 😣

  2. Bob H says:

    Hiding Places? How about CAVE, BARS, TENT, and ATTIC? That worked (sort of) for the first 4 themes, but not for number 5. I also thought Matt might be doing something with MCRIB since a crib is a hiding place. Nothing there. So it was back to the islands and the solution. Before submitting the correct answer, I tried to figure out who (from history) might be on each island. That didn’t work either leading to the conclusion that MEDITERRANEAN SEA was my best bet.

    Fun puzzle. Thanks!

  3. Simon says:

    Did I err when I saw ELBA?? No, I was indeed able. I saw ITHACA too while filling in the answer and then found the rest once I was done. My first guess for the meta was the obvious one, The Mediterranean, but I wasn’t sure Ithaca was an island like the others, and thought maybe there was a trick hidden there. (The city in NY is more of a cultural island…) That led to a wrong turn because google told me Ithaca is in the Ionian Sea, Elba in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Crete on the edges of the Aegean Sea, Capri in the Bay of Naples, and Malta, well Malta is an outlier too since it is a country all its own, but is definitely in the Mediterranean Sea. I thought those letters might add up to a meta (BALTIC looked promising) but nothing came of it and I half-heartedly sent in Mediterranean.

    • Garrett says:

      These seas are all part of or arms of the Med. sea, so getting that was a second step and what tied the islands and their seas together.

  4. Bob Moniot says:

    I agree this lacked the usual second step that confirms the answer. I think the clue for 10D was meant as a hint.

  5. Seth Cohen says:

    I disagree with this answer. On a map and on Wikipedia, ELBA is in the Tyrrhenian Sea. So, because of SECRET ENTRANCES in the center, I submitted the waterway that’s the entrance to this part of the water world: STRAIT OF GIBRALTAR. I think that’s a much better answer.

  6. Eric H says:

    As I usually do, I made a list of the answers I thought were involved in the meta. I had barely finished typing it when CAPRI or ITHACA jumped out at.

    I did question whether ITHACA is really in the Mediterranean, but Wikipedia assured me that the Ionian Sea is considered a part of the Mediterranean.

  7. Katie+M. says:

    I found Tyrhennian, Ionian, etc. But I was satisfied with Mediterranean after seeing this List of Islands in the Mediterranean.

  8. Silverskiesdean says:

    I too was really perplexed by this. However, I gave up on winning a mug months ago anyway. I found out that:
    Ithaca – Ionian Sea
    Elba – Tyrrhenian Sea
    Crete – between Aegean and Libyan Seas
    Capri – Tyrrhenian Sea
    Malta – Mediterranean Sea
    anyway, no clicks to be found for me but lately, my brain is not doing much clicking anyway. I guess if they are all in the Mediterranean, we could also say they are all in this island Earth. It’s all a matter of perception.

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    Hmm, surprised by this. I thought it was well-known that everything beyond the Strait of Gibraltar to Turkey is the Mediterranean. Which is also called other things in some parts, but it’s all the Mediterranean. I figured the lock was that the odds of five islands all being located in the same body of water was astronomical enough.

    Anyway, sorry to those for whom this was confusing, did not intend it to be so.

    • Jon says:

      Geography tends to be a weak point for the general public. And I’ve found in pub quizzes, geography also seems to be a weak point for trivia buffs. This has always baffled me but I’m a geography buff. So it makes sense to me that those not familiar with geography might be confused on where exactly seas start and end & if certain seas are subsets of other seas. So some might see the Ionian, Tyrrhenian, Aegean, and Adriatic Seas as being separate entities while those are actually considered inside the Mediterranean Sea. But you cannot use the same logic when it comes to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. Neither is a subset of the other.

  10. JohnH says:

    The first one I got in months. (I’m awful at metas.) A device as reliable as hidden words in the longer entries was a relief for me.

    I can’t agree with the quibbles either. Seems like everyone’s taught that Napoleon was exiled to Elba, which we’re then told is an island near Italy in the Mediterranean, which elsewhere we’ve been taught is that big body of water between Europe and Africa (and yes, stretching east from Gilbraltar ). Conversely, I’d never even head of the Tyrrhenian until just now. I’ll go look it up. And sure enough RHUD defines it as a part of the Mediterranean.

    • Eric H says:

      Congratulations on getting the meta!

      I have probably failed to get more metas than I have solved, so I sort of know how you feel.

      • JohnH says:

        Thanks so much! I’m just so bad at getting into the thought process. I wish I could do better.

        • Eric H says:

          I wish I could do better myself. When I don’t get one, I read the write-up and usually understand how the writer figured it out — I just don’t know that I would ever have gotten it on my own.

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