WSJ Contest — Friday, September 15, 2023

Grid: untimed; Meta: 10 minutes 


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

This week we’re looking for a five-letter word. There were five globally-themed entries with a date in each clue:

  • [Star of the 1936 Summer Olympics]: JESSEOWENS
  • [Member of a monastic order founded in 529]: BENEDICTINE
  • [Site of a devastating 1849 fire]: STLOUIS
  • [1521 Holy Roman Empire assembly]: DIETOFWORMS
  • [Host city for Expo 2025]: OSAKAJAPAN
WSJ Contest – 09.17.23 – Solution

WSJ Contest – 09.17.23 – Solution

Mike often stashes an extra clue in the final horizontal entry as he did this week: ROOT, clued as “What the radical symbolized in math.” The math radical symbol is , so we were looking for square roots. The rest of meta fell quickly for me: the square root of each clue year mapped to a grid entry:

  • √1936 = 44: W
  • √529 = 23: O
  • √1849 = 43: R
  • √1521 = 39: L
  • √2025 = 45: D

The roots spell WORLD, our contest solution. Another great meta by Mike: I throughly enjoyed it. Solvers: please share your thoughts.

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21 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, September 15, 2023

  1. Bill in SoCal says:

    The first horizontal clue is another hint: YEAR

    • Conrad says:

      Great catch, thanks! Makes the puzzle even more elegant.

      I sometimes miss extra clues like that when I find the rabbit and start chasing it.

  2. Baroness Thatcher says:

    I chased one false rabbit before picking up the years in the clues. Not being a math guy I had to get technical help to get the square root of the given years. After last week I really appreciate Mike giving us a straight forward meta.

    • Eric H says:

      I found an online “square root calculator.” Even easier than digging a real calculator out! (Yes, we still have one. Or two. Possibly three.)

    • Bill in SoCal says:

      The iPhone simple calculator becomes a scientific calculator when you turn your phone sideways. Square root and all kinds of things you learned in High School and then never used.

  3. GTIJohnny says:

    I liked how, elegantly, 43 across OR down was R for a generic “43”.

  4. Mister G. says:

    @Conrad – the very first across clue, YEAR, also appears to be a hint to solving the meta. While in retrospect it is obvious that all the theme clues have years in them, the combination of YEAR and ROOT reinforced for me the fact that I needed to focus on transforming each year.

    Edit: looks like someone beat me to noting this.

  5. Bob LaBlah says:

    Are you kidding me? I like math puzzles more than crossword puzzles. How did I now see this?!?! I am so mad!

  6. carolynchey says:

    We spotted YEAR and saw that the five long answers had the only clues containing years. We set about trying to apply the numbers in various ways, such as adding the digits and checking the resulting squares, with no luck. I noticed the word POWERS in the title and it occurred to me that the dates might be some numbers’ “powers of two”. I checked the square roots and there was the answer – WORLD. It wasn’t until after we got the solution that we saw ROOT!

  7. Eric H says:

    It was obvious which answers were theme answers (which hasn’t been the case in some recent WSJ contest puzzles). That helped a lot.

    I missed the YEAR of 1A, but I did notice 67A ROOT. When I realized that 1936 was a perfect square, I thought I was onto something. When 529 turned out to also be a perfect square, I knew I had the first step.

    A few missteps before reaching the solution: I first figured out who the 44th, 23rd, etc. presidents were, but OHBCT doesn’t make any sense. I tried again with atomic numbers, which got me RVTYR.

    I’d been playing with it for about 10 minutes when it occurred to me to look at the grid numbers.

    It felt nice to get one right for once.

    And it always cracks me up a little to see DIET OF WORMS. Yum, yum.

  8. EP says:

    It is metas like this that I can really appreciate and enjoy, even though I never come close to solving. Well done, Mike.

  9. MichelleQ+(onaquest) says:

    We were grateful for a doable (for us) one this week which we approached exactly as you described Conrad. Thank you to Mike.

  10. Simon says:

    This was a fun meta. My first guess was to look for O’s — I noticed a lot of them in the theme answers, and thought ZERO was a hint and I also found 5 across words that started with O. But maybe Mike put in OVAL for “Zero, basically” to remind me that they aren’t exactly round. So I concentrated on ROOT instead and had the answer in a flash. A perfect diversion from the Sunday doldrums of my WORLD.

  11. Dave Andre says:

    I think you mean sqrt(2025)= 45-D not 46 as in the answer graphic above.

  12. Pavel says:

    After solving this on Saturday, and enjoying its cleverness (and the effort that must’ve been required to get those letters at those positions in the grid: it’s totally disruptive if you need to add/move a black square during construction), I found Evan’s Sunday WaPo meta kinda funny. I could just hear Evan saying, “Nice one, Mike. Now, hold my beer…” :-)

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