WSJ Contest — Friday, May 12, 2023

Grid: 10 minutes; meta: 5 more 


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

This week we’re looking for a four-letter plural noun. There were four long theme entries:

  • [Allegro]: BRISKTEMPO 
  • [Leader of deliberations]: FOREWOMAN
  • [Simple accounting method]: CASHBASIS
  • [One of 43,560 in an acre]: SQUAREFOOT
WSJ Contest – 05.12.23 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 05.12.23 – Solution

The key to the meta was pluralizing the themers, which formed new down entries:


I Googled TEMPI and BASES to make sure I had the correct pluralizations, but the crossing down entries removed any ambiguity. The new down words mapped to five other entries,

  • [Hit the sauce]: TIPPLED -> DRANK
  • [Trees with serrated leaves]: ELMS -> ASPENS 
  • [Makes yawn, perhaps]: BORES -> TIRES
  • [___ place (one of the positions to the left of the decimal point)]: TENS -> UNITS
  • [Team in the 1973 National League Championship Series]: REDS -> METS

The mapped letters spell DATUM, which is the singular form of DATA, our contest solution. I’ve used “data” as a singular noun for my entire information security career, but remembered that datum is actually the singular form. “The data are…” always sounded stuffy and wrong to me.

Another impressive feat of construction by Mike. There are fourteen(!) thematic entries: looking at my graphic above: a significant portion of the grid is thematic, but the fill didn’t seem forced to me. I may have been fortunate in catching the theme quickly, but for me: one step flowed logically to the next, and I didn’t notice any ambiguity. Solvers: please share your thoughts.

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11 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, May 12, 2023

  1. jefe says:

    ohh that’s clever but argh it never occurred to me to pluralize the words in the grid itself and take their crossings! I did notice the bizarre clue for METS – I even considered REDS to go there before I had the crossings!

  2. Barry says:

    My simpleminded thinking:

    That could be construed as ayes, as in the ayes have it, relating to voting a plurality. If this resonates, send me a mug. Mr. Murdoch can presumably afford two.

    • Eric Hu. says:

      That’s as far as I got. I pluralized the themers, but never thought to break the second parts off and try to map them back onto the grid.

      I was a bit frustrated. I had solved four or five metas in a row before this, and felt like I was *finally* getting the hang of these things — and this slapped me down and made me feel like a complete noob again.

      • Eric H. says:

        Just re-read Conrad’s review and saw that it’s the new Down words (e.g. TiPPLED) that got mapped back onto the grid. Wow. I never thought to look at what the changed letters did to the Down answers. I’m impressed (but still disappointed that I didn’t get it).

  3. melt says:

    Forced the last letter using reds->army

  4. Neal says:

    I didn’t get to the puzzle until last night and perhaps my brain new I didn’t have time to chase rabbit holes. I saw that the theme answers had words that were pluralized by changing a letter and figured it had to be the hook. Very clever and beautifully constructed.

  5. EP says:

    “Never in a hundred, never in a thousand,
    never in a million years”

    Jimmy Rogers, 1958

  6. Simon says:

    This was a lot of fun. Great puzzle. It really made me think. But honestly if it hadn’t been for the title and shaded hint I never would have looked for the plurals. But once I sought them out, it was pretty simple to see that none of the themers, if pluralized, would use an S (a complaint of mine in countless crosswords these days since so many of them add pointless ESSes to their entries thereby making them easier to compose.) My first thought was it might be DEER since that is one of the few nouns I know of that is both singular and plural. But there were 5 letters we needed to seek out and that made me look harder. Then I spotted TIPPLED matching DRANK and it was smooth sailing after that.

  7. john beck says:

    Late to the party, but down the rabbit hole.

    13A – Braying beast (BURRO)
    14A – Court command (WRIT)
    25A – Lotion letters (SPF)
    26A – Hog home (STY)
    3D – Bath bloke (BRIT)
    11D – Small sound, say? (INLET)
    25D – Paddock parents (SIRES)

    Of course, BWSSBIS ain’t nuthin’, but those alliterative clues have gotta be pointing me in the right direction for “Plurality”…kinda? right?? RIGHT?? (Ugh)

  8. River Sol says:

    Yes! I finally snagged one of the clue indexed metas. Might be that I get good practice from monthly challenges and in my recent acquisition of Selinker’s The Maze of Games. (Certainly also influenced by the great walkthroughs here!)

    Grid 60 min
    Meta 10 min
    Singular moment RISK army memories…now I enjoy Wingspan more!

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