WSJ Contest — Friday, July 14, 2023

Grid: untimed; Meta: 5 minutes 


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

This week we’re looking for the entry that’s a hidden sixth theme answer. There were five starred theme entries:

  • 17A [*Runner’s lunch, maybe]: STEAKSALAD
  • 24A [*”Frozen II” song performed by Josh Gad]: WHENIAMOLDER
  • 36A [*Critic known for her 1932 Mozart biography]: MARCIADAVENPORT
  • 47A [*Question while searching for a lost item]: WHOHADITLAST
  • 57A [*”That was the plan, anyway”]: ORSOIHOPED
WSJ Contest – 07.16.23 – Solution

WSJ Contest – 07.16.23 – Solution

I thought about the title and applied east->west (or right -> left) in the grid. I spotted a backwards ALASKA and I had the rabbit:


I scanned the grid and found our contest solution at 44d: CHATUP, containing a backwards UTAH. I thought Matt gave us a fun summertime puzzle. Solvers: please share your thoughts.


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31 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, July 14, 2023

  1. Nick says:

    I got it, but it seemed odd that the meta answer was on a down entry, so you solved it by going north instead of west like the other theme answers.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I thought the “up” part of CHAT UP made it amusing. OR SO I HOPED (57-A).

      • Zach says:

        It was a great meta. I just wasn’t a huge fan of “Go West” as the title. “Reverse Direction” or something like that may have been a better fit for both the meta (due to the “North/South” issue) and the grid (since a few of the states are not out West).

      • Garrett says:

        I like it.

  2. Homer says:

    Maine was the first for me. I really wanted the hidden answer to be in the go west format, but when I couldn’t find one in the across answers I settled for Utah.

  3. Baroness Thatcher says:

    I’ll go first. I was fooled Matt! I had a hard time deciding between submitting chatup or Utah. I submitted Utah because it was hidden. Chatup was not really hidden. Fun puzzle but annoyed at the semantics. Maybe had Matt worded the solution, “the entry that has (or conceals) a sixth the me answer. Regardless, no mug for me Still, a solid, fun META. For now, crying in my wine. Oh what a fool am I!

    • Eric H says:

      I read the prompt a couple of times before I decided that CHAT UP fit it better than UTAH. It’s the whole word that’s the “theme answer,” not the hidden state name.

      I don’t know about you, but I have plenty of coffee mugs already. (Still, it would be fun to win the contest at least once.)

      • Baroness Thatcher says:

        “It’s the whole word that’s the “theme answer,” not the hidden state name.” Sounds reasonable except for the fact that Matt specified “The answer to this week’s contest crossword is the entry that’s a “hidden” sixth theme answer. It was an intentional misdirect on Matt’s part, and I’m laughing with him. Had he left out the word hidden, I would have submitted chatup. Let’s have a beer, Eric, on me!

        • Eric H says:

          I see your point, but I eventually interpreted “hidden” as something along the lines of “not marked by a starred clue.” (Which perhaps answers my question about the starred clues.)

          In any case, we agree it was a solid, fun meta.

          I’m always up for a beer.

          • Garrett says:

            I’m with you, Eric, that CHATUP would be what the meta directive is telling us the answer is. I bet that Matt would have accepted that or Utah, but it would be nice if he’d tell us which one he was expecting.

    • Bill in SoCal says:

      I agree. Will be interesting to see if both are accepted. UTAH was hidden, and in my thinking, the “theme” is backwards states. Also weird that the work UTAH runs north instead of west, as specified in the crossword title.

  4. Eric H says:

    I owe my success on this one to MARCIA DAVENPORT. I haven’t checked, but I’d be willing to bet a small sum (or a WSJ mug) that she’s never been an answer in a crossword puzzle before. Whatever the meta trick was, it was going to include that answer.

    I looked at the filled-in grid for a minute or two before I realized what the title was telling me to do. “Nevada” popped out almost immediately. With a meta trick like this, if you can get one, you can get them all.

    Are the stars on the clues for the theme answers overkill? I’ve noticed them before on Matt Gafney’s contest puzzles, but in the other cases, one theme answer was much shorter than the others (and thus likely to be overlooked as a theme answer). In any case, I’m pretty sure I’d have gotten this one without the starred clues.

    • billkatz says:

      Eric, I thought that too – that the 5 obvious long answers didn’t need stars, but then I thought more about the answer being a “sixth theme answer”. What if that was among the first you found? I guess it is somewhat obvious that the vertical answer is the odd man out, but the stars prevent the problem of submitting one of those as “sixth”.

      • Eric H says:

        I’ve given this a little more thought, and I think the stars are intended to hide CHAT UP,

    • Garrett says:

      Yeah, well, I just worked a Peter Gordon Fireball constructed by Alex Eaton-Salners this weekend that had what looked like four obvious themers: two 10-wide and two 11-wide (the grid was 11×18).

      Guess what? Two of those were not themers at all, and in fact there were three other themers (for a total of five) and the length of those three were 3, 5, and 6.

      No, they were not starred, and no, I did not get it. It turns out you were looking for a component of a set of things (like DAY), then you take the fifth element (Thursday), then the fifth letter of that (S). Do this for each set, and it spells the meta answer.

  5. Conrad says:

    FYI: The official contest answer is CHATUP:

    I pondered both UTAH and CHATUP and submitted the latter. I agree to prompt isn’t crystal-clear. I’m confident they’ll accept either answer.

  6. Otto says:

    I quickly found the five states and then looked on the horizontals for a sixth state. Nothing. So then looked vertically and found Utah (chatup). But finding this bugged me: Too easy? The vertical answer is found heading North unlike the five horizontals? Neither Maine nor Ohio are in the west?

    So, rather than simply stopping at Utah, I pressed on and realized that the five states are the names of US Navy submarines. I looked at the horizontal entries, headed west for each, and found Ray (as part of YARD). Got it, I thought – the USS Ray was a fairly well known submarine in naval history! This answer is consistent with the five clues – horizontal, found heading west, and the only other horizontal that’s the name of a submarine. Utah/Chatup, I figured was thrown in by the creator to mislead us.

    As in previous puzzles, I was wrong. It seems that these creators either make things too easy and obvious, or they come up with some convoluted way to arrive at the answer which requires some googling and completely twisted ways of defining words/phrases/themes or puzzle titles. Frustrating.

    • Eri says:

      Wow! I’m impressed by the thought you put into your answer. But don’t USN submarines seem a bit niche for a puzzle like this? I’d expect that to the extent people who aren’t naval history buffs associate the name “Maine” with the US Navy, they think of the battleship sunk in Havana harbor.

      Sorry you feel frustrated. I’ve had my share of meta frustration.

  7. Neal says:

    I enjoyed the puzzle and delighted in not losing hours of my Sunday wrestling with a tricksy meta. Clear, clever, entertaining. No notes.

  8. Simon says:

    I submitted CHAT UP (two words) so I hope that doesn’t disqualify me! :)

    Seeing Marcia Davenport in the puzzle made me chuckle. I knew the name immediately but couldn’t remember why. I’ve never read her Mozart bio. But then I googled her and found she had written “My Brother’s Keeper” about the ill-fated hoarders, the Collyer Brothers. I read that ages ago and loved it.

  9. Dusty Gunning says:

    A few points-
    “Chatup” is not a hidden answer. It CONTAINS a hidden answer.
    So Utah is it.

    Also, Utah is a “WESTern” state.
    As are Alaska, Nevada, Idaho.

    Maine and Ohio confuse things slightly.

    I personally like the submarine theme, but that’s a bit arcane for most of us mortals.

    And I tend to dislike solves which almost require a google search.

    • damefox says:

      The prompt was asking for “the entry that’s a hidden sixth theme answer,” so CHATUP is it. CHATUP is the full entry, not UTAH.

  10. Seth Cohen says:

    One small rabbit I chased briefly: the first letters of the five hidden states spell AMNIO. I quickly checked if there was a state hidden backwards in AMNIOCENTESIS.

    • Eric H says:

      I first spotted AMNIO, too. But it was such an unlikely answer that I was almost certain that it wasn’t right, so. I went back to the grid and found CHAT UP.

  11. AmyL says:

    Since 49D ORONO is in Maine, I thought this might be a multi-step meta where you first had to find cities in each of the backwards states. I couldn’t find any other cities so I eventually found UTAH.

  12. Barry Miller says:

    Additional rabbit hole: IHOP, CIA, and TEA are embedded and separate answers. That obviously went nowhere. I submitted UTAH as the hidden answer.

  13. EP says:

    I thought that Matt may have mixed up his submissions for MGWCC and the WSJ…this was a solid week #2 level meta, the MGWCC is more like a week 3. It is interesting to see the long and winding roads that some solvers pursued on this, but if they knew that it was of only moderate difficulty I think that would have been avoided.

    • Garrett says:

      I am getting nowhere with the MGWCC. I keep looking at the 114 clue which adds (4 squares, four meanings) which seems key, but I can’t figure out where to go with CXIV

      • EP says:

        Me too. With the ‘Solve for X’ title, and ‘4 meanings’ I thought I had it with ‘X can be 10, or Greek letter chi, or math operation ‘times’, or ‘delete’…and then I saw 5A and…nothing else.

  14. John B says:

    I briefly got “down the rabbit hole” that LISA/OWIE almost spells IOWA if you “go west” across entries in the second row (even though the instructions clearly said “an entry” instead of “entries”).

    Then, figuring it was most likely to be a shorter state, I found CHATUP pretty easily.

    • Susan Hoffman says:

      I also thought IOWA had to be the answer because it was the only backwards horizontal state. Somehow, I missed UTAH in Chatup.

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