WSJ Contest — Friday, June 16, 2023

Meta: 8 minutes 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Accentuate the Negative” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking for something that a celebrity or a crossword writer might want. There were six long horizontal theme entries, each starting with UN… I quickly realized that each “UN” word is normally followed by another: UNLEAVENED BREAD, UNFORCED ERROR, etc. I searched for those words in the grid and they weren’t there. I checked the clues, and there they were. There were six clues that began with matching words:

WSJ Contest – 06.16.23 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 06.16.23 – Solution

  • UNLEAVENED -> [Bread unit]: LOAF
  • UNFORCED -> [Error made by a Flyer or Islander]: ICING
  • UNABRIDGED -> [Dictionary phrase “___ also”]: SEE
  • UNFINISHED -> [Business sector for Meta]: TECH
  • UNLEADED -> [Gas station in Canada]: ESSO
  • UNREQUITED -> [Love may be found on it] DATE

The first letter of the grid entries of the matching clues spelled LISTED. I added UN to that, making it UNLISTED, which would normally be followed by NUMBER. Once again: it was the first word of a clue for the final horizontal entry ZERO, which Matt helpfully clued as “Number of incorrect entries I hope we’ll receive for this crossword contest (this clue should help with that).” That makes UNLISTED NUMBER our contest solution. Fun meta! Multiple steps, but they flowed logically. The only real leap required was adding UN to LISTED, but that occurred to me right away. Solvers: please share your thoughts.


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17 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, June 16, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    Just from looking at the grid, I matched UNLEAVENED to LOAF and UNLEADED to ESSO. But that was as far as I got. I looked at the clues, but never thought to see if they completed the theme answers.

    The ZERO clue was absolutely no help. The title was no help.

    Really discouraging.

    • Conrad says:

      > The ZERO clue was absolutely no help. The title was no help.
      > Really discouraging.

      I disagree. This is a clean meta. And I’ve missed plenty over the years.

      You can chose to apply lessons learned (and learn), or you can chose to vent your spleen.

      Read any of my 100+ Fiend writeups: you will see that I have said you need to pivot to the clues if you don’t find a signal in the grid. Numerous times.

      • Eric H says:

        Let me rephrase: The ZERO clue and the title were of no help to *me*.

        I freely admit that I missed the link with the clues. My bad.

        What’s discouraging is that a few weeks ago, I felt like I was finally getting a handle on these things. But lately, I’ve not solved any of them.

        • Conrad says:

          > What’s discouraging is that a few weeks ago, I felt like I was finally getting a handle on these things. But lately, I’ve not solved any of them.

          Welcome the the club. We all go through that.

        • BarbaraK says:

          Ah, that was a mistake, thinking you’ve got a handle on these:) The meta gods have a way of punishing that hubris. I’ve been doing these for years, but from previous experience I’ve learned to never ever let myself think I’ve got the hang of them.

          The good news is that now that you’ve shown them some public humility, they should be appeased and let up and let you start solving again ;)

          • Eric H says:

            Thanks. We’ll see how the next one goes.

            I need to further amend what I said about the unhelpfulness of the title and the clue for ZERO. Having slept on the solution, I see now that if you get the LISTED part of the meta, the title points you to UNLISTED and ZERO points you to NUMBER.

            • Garrett says:

              I don’t like the title, and I don’t think it led me anywhere. The six theme fills fit a pattern of UN…ED, and that pattern need ls to prevail in step 3.

              1. Associate each theme entry with the first word of a clue, noting the number.
              2. Using that list, look-up and write down the first letter of each fill associated with that clue number.
              3. What word is formed? LISTED. Add UN to it.
              4. Find a clue whose first word goes with UNLISTED

              Herd’s the thing: adding a prefix of UN does not make a negative. The prefix un- usually means NOT, so the new word means the opposite of the original. For example: unkind means ‘not kind’ unhappy means ‘not happy’, and UNLISTED means ‘not listed.’

              A title somehow associated with NOT would have been cool, but I can’t think of anything I like.

          • Tom C says:

            Hubris? How about a crossword constructor that “might”want an unlisted number (like a celebrity)? You’re a celebrity to us, Matt, but ya gotta admit we’re a niche market!

  2. Bob H says:

    Enjoyed the puzzle. Figured out the meta and submitted the correct answer. The UNLISTED NUMBER made sense as something a celebrity would want, but I don’t understand what this has to do with a crossword writer.

    Any enlightenment from Matt or anyone else would be most welcome.

    • Seth Cohen says:

      I think it was just a cute joke, that crossword writers are also so famous that they’d want unlisted numbers. Or maybe so people wouldn’t call them complaining about their puzzles :-D

  3. Derryl York says:

    I’ve been on to the WSJ Metas for a couple of years and still haven’t quite got the hang of them. I think that I’m not a good “lateral” thinker. But at about a 25% solving rate, I might be slowly getting the hang of some of them. Still look forward to them every week.

  4. Simon says:

    People still have unlisted numbers? Or need them? They were a thing back in the 60s and 70s when you couldn’t block people from calling.

    The title Accentuate the Negative seemed to imply that the UN was the key (and seeing MINUS in the grid led me to believe that we were supposed to accentuate it, or subtract it or something else.)

    How is an unlisted number a negative? Or is that some weird mathematical term? And wouldn’t the logical conclusion be UNLISTEDN?

    Also “Love may be found” on a date? Unrealistic.

  5. Simon says:

    Pardon the mistakes in my last entry. I probably meant UNLISTED Z, not N. But I was in the midst of a battle royal with a gigantic cockroach, one of those dive-bomber ones, and didn’t have time to re-edit my comment. And thanks Conrad for deconstructing the meta for us.

  6. Garrett says:

    I’m surprised that no one made the easy mistake that I did. Like Conrad, I connected the theme fill answers with the first word of matching clues. But, my next step was to write down this second set of entries in their grid order:


    Which spells DTISEL, which led me nowhere.

    I pinged a friend with my list of associations (themers and clues) and my second list (that leads to DTISEL), asking what I did wrong. He said to order them per the grid order oh the UN…ED themers. Of course, that worked perfectly.

    You could get there by anagramming…

    1. delist 2. idlest 3. listed 4. silted 5. stiled 6. tildes

    After all, if you were shrewd enough to see the need to add UN to the front, you’d have to go with listed, silted, or stiled, because they are the only ones ending in ED, but UNLISTED is the only one that makes sense.

    So, my takeaway from this is to make the order match the original themers if their grid order doesn’t make sense.

  7. River Sol says:

    When one fails to finish a grid with too many unknown celebrities. Unsatisfying.

    When one pursues the meta anyway. Undeterred.

    Having applied successfully the answer/clue mechanism. Unraveled.

    😊. Un😡.

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