WSJ Contest — Friday, September 1, 2023

Grid: untimed; Meta: ten minutes 


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

This week we’re looking for a five-letter adjective. There were five theme entries:

  • [The greatest slugger in the Negro leagues, according to his Hall of Fame plaque]: JOSHGIBSON
  • [Emmy winner for “Maude” and “The Golden Girls”]: BEAARTHUR
  • [Loser in the 1936 presidential election]: ALFLANDON
  • [Creator of Albert Alligator and Howland Owl]: WALTKELLY
  • [Golf great nicknamed “The Shark”]: GREGNORMAN
WSJ Contest – 09.03.23 – Solution

WSJ Contest – 09.03.23 – Solution

I spotted the mechanism fairly quickly: each first name was short for the person’s longer name, for example: BEA(TRICE). I spotted THRICE in the grid and had the rabbit. The additional letters from each longer name mapped to a grid entry with one letter added:

  • JOSH(UA) -> U(S)A
  • ALF(RED)-> RED(O)
  • WALT(ER) -> ER(R)
  • GREG(ORY) -> (T)ORY

The additional letters spell SHORT, our contest solution. A solving pal mentioned that Bea Arthur was born Bernice Frankel but went by Bea and later added the “trice:”

Familiarly known as Bea, Ms. Arthur was billed in the theater and on television as Beatrice, but the name was one she made up. She was born Bernice Frankel in New York City on May 13, 1922, according to Mr. Watt. But she preferred to be called B — “I changed the Bernice almost as soon as I heard it,”’ she said — and later expanded it to Beatrice because, she said, she imagined it would look lovely on a theater marquee. The name Arthur is a modified version of the name of her first husband, the screenwriter and producer Robert Alan Aurthur.

No impact on the meta, just thought I’d share that fun fact. Solvers, please share your thoughts.




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13 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, September 1, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    I got the first step right, but never saw the TRICE/THRICE type of connections.

    The first letters of the extended names are U T R E O, which can be anagrammed to either OUTRÉ or OUTER. I submitted OUTER as my answer, but had little confidence it was correct.

    I’m not particularly bothered by not getting this one. I rarely do well with Mike Shenk’s metas (though some of them are damned brilliant). And I have spent the last two days in the car, with little time to look at the puzzle.

  2. Scott says:

    Instead of USA, I used EAU. That gave me the letters for OTHER which is an adjective. It didn’t “click” for me but that’s where I stopped.

    • Seth Cohen says:

      I didn’t get this meta, and I think it’s great, but having EAU and USA was definitely a mistake. Choosing EAU instead of USA is perfectly reasonable, so OTHER should be accepted as an answer. Though I guess, if you choose USA, the new letters spell something in order, whereas with EAU, you have to anagram. I suppose that “in order” should tip the scales in favor of USA.

      • Scott says:

        Seth, thanks! And you are right, it didn’t click for me.

      • BarbaraK says:

        But … it’s josh + UA, not AU. Having the dropped letters in order in all but one of the entries – that would have been inelegant

        • Conrad says:

          I agree with BarbaraK. I missed EAU when I solved, but it’s out of order and requires arbitrary anagramming to make work (meaning it’s guaranteed to be wrong).

        • Seth Cohen says:

          Ohhh, it didn’t even occur to me that the other entries had the extra name letters in order! That’s an extra level of slickness.

  3. Simon says:

    I had Outre first too but decided that the puzzle answer usually is not anagrammed. And it didn’t match the theme. So I tried again and looked up the names to double check if Josh was Joshua and Greg actually Gregory etc. and checked Beatrice on Wikipedia and Thrice popped right into my head. Got Short easily after that. Nicely done smooth fun meta.

  4. Neal says:

    SHORT and sweet.
    I was lucky to have the meta jump out at me fairly quickly. I did consider the idea of dropping letters from names to make new names, NORMAN becomes NORMA, LANDON becomes LANDO (Calrissian of course), but that fell apart quickly.
    Felt good to get the ‘click’ and aha moment I’ve been missing. Thanks for the great puzzle, Mike!

    (and thanks for the Cake video. I always loved that song and video)

  5. David Hanson says:

    I noticed that if you dropped the letters from the name (Claudio) ARRAU from BEA ARTHUR you were left with BETH, and although nothing else in the puzzle was even close to name dropping like that, I was obsessed with that coincidence and never came close to the real answer.

  6. Garrett says:

    The thing that first caught my attention happened as I was completing the grid in the SE: the word AARE. I had an instant flashback to 24A

    __ AARE

    And so, I spent a lot of time looking for things in the grid that matched a substring in the theme answers with a one letter change.

    I eventually dropped this line of thinking and went after name completion. After submitting OUTER, I moved onto MGWCC, completely unsatisfied.

  7. Bill Katz says:

    I also got EAU/other first, and one of my correspondents pointed out that there was also USA in the grid. I submitted SHORT, but will be interested to see if the alternate was accepted.

  8. John Beck says:

    This went nowhere but…

    Drop GIBSON and leave JOSH (which means either KID or RIB).

    Never got past that dead-end.

Comments are closed.