WSJ Contest — Friday, September 22, 2023

Grid: untimed; Meta: 3 minutes 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “In A Comprehensive Manner” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking for a classic brand. There were two long theme entries with the same “comprehen-sive” clue, mirroring the title.

WSJ Contest – 09.24.23 – Solution

WSJ Contest – 09.24.23 – Solution

  • [In a comprehensive manner]: COMPLETELY
  • [In a comprehensive manner]: THOROUGHLY

I spotted eight Z’s while completing the grid. Matt wouldn’t put ABZUG and KUVASZ in a grid unless it was relevant, so I zeroed in on the mechanism quickly. The eight Z’s were preceded by an A, with one letter in between:

  • PA(W)Z
  • BA(E)Z
  • A(B)ZUG
  • KUVA(S)Z
  • KA(T)Z
  • PA(E)Z
  • MA(R)Z
  • LA(S)ZLO

The letters between A to Z spell WEBSTERS, our contest solution. Nice easy-breezy meta by Matt this week. Comprehensive gave a direct nod to Webster’s Dictionary. Solvers: please share your thoughts.

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28 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, September 22, 2023

  1. ant says:

    I assume the “certain four-word phrase” referred to at 74a is FROM A TO Z?

  2. Eric H says:

    I noticed BAEZ and PAEZ while solving, plus a few other unusual Z words like PAWZ and MARZ.

    But when it came time to solve the meta, I wasted a minute looking at the longest answers. It was quickly apparent that that was not going anywhere, so I highlighted the Z words. The A _Z pattern was obvious.

    “Nice easy-breezy.” Yep, that pretty much sums it up. I’m on two-week streak. I’ll probably get over-confident and blow it next week.

    (Conrad, there’s a typo in the write-up; 22A is ABZUG. (That didn’t strike me as a particularly odd entry, but I’m old enough to remember when Bella ABZUG was one of the few women in Congress.))

  3. melt says:

    Any reason for the hyphen in comprehen-sive?

    • green eggs and spam says:

      From the PDF it seems ‘comprehensive’ was too wide to fit the print version and was hyphenated. The web version then preserved the hyphens despite not having the same space constraints, so I can see how Conrad would interpret the unusual formatting as a nudge from the constructor.

    • RoLev says:

      I don’t think the hyphen had any significance to the meta. I think it was there only because “comprehensive” was too long a word to fit on one line in the clues (I am looking at the PDF version of the puzzle).

      (Edit: green eggs and spam beat me to it)

    • JD Hultgren says:

      I believe the hyphen is a nod to the newer version of Websters: Merriam-Webster.
      Merriam-Webster definitely has “-” in the title.

  4. Ellen+Nichols says:

    I came so close. I counted the O in ZOA as one of the letters to solve with and thought it was pointing me to WEB STORES. I thought about “from A to Z” and the Amazon logo, and submitted AMAZON. From A to Z is not from Z to A.

    • Baroness Thatcher says:

      I got hung up on that also ending up with web stoers. As much as I wanted to go with web stores (and thus Amazon) I found no reason to move the r before the e. Once I dropped that, Websters made perfect sense, though I wasn’t confident until discussing with some fellow puzzlers.

    • EP says:

      I noted the same thing, that ‘ZOA’ O. It can logically be somewhat excluded, no other vehicle reads bottom – to – top…but I still consider it a minor nit.

    • haari meech says:

      i also took the “o” from 37D instead of the “s” from 35A… had no idea what WEBOTERS could be, but it did anagram nicely to TWO BEERS… that was comprehensive enough for me!

    • DB says:

      I didn’t even count the down answers the first time and got garbage. Then I wanted to use the letter UNDER the letter between A and Z because of the arrow in the Amazon logo that drops down from the A and then back up to the Z. More garbage.

      Finally looked at the downs, and included the O from ZOA to get WEB STORES. Of which Amazon is one. I then removed the O, and got WEBSTERS, and still wasn’t sure as you could buy a Webster’s from Amazon.

      When I finally realized WEBSTERS was in grid order, I submitted that.

  5. Seth Cohen says:

    I got this right away, but I wasn’t sure what counted as the brand. Webster’s? Webster’s Dictionary? Merriam-Webster? I submitted Webster’s Dictionary.

  6. Simon says:

    I dug this one even if it was on the easier side. So many unusual words. My first thought was “From A to Z “ so I expected a pangram theme. But pretty soon I realized it was the three-letter combos. I must admit that I did not know the breed of dog nor the singer Demi (I only know the demi-monde…) so I left that one-letter crossing blank. It did not affect my ability to solve the meta however and I submitted WEBSTER’S.

  7. cyco says:

    Agree with others that ZOA was a little confusing. And I don’t think I’ve ever thought of WEBSTER’S as a “brand,” though I suppose that’s technically true. Minor quibbles aside, definitely enjoyed the puzzle.

  8. Mister G says:

    While the phrase “From A to Z” referred to at 74 across wasn’t strictly necessary to solve the meta, it did give the solver a big clue as to the formula to use, plus it provided the rationale for the puzzle title. The two surrounding letters weren’t randomly chosen, in other words.

    • Eric H says:

      I never thought of the phrase “From A to Z” as the one the clue referred to, but the answer EIGHT helped me know how many answers the meta involved. That probably wasn’t necessary; once you spot a word with the A_Z letter combination, it’s easy to find the others. But it is a nice grace note.

  9. Neal says:

    I love a puzzle that teaches me words I don’t know, so this was a fun one. And yes, the plethora of words with A and Z with a letter in between made it clear early on how it would be solved. An elegant puzzle, a nifty meta: amAZing.

  10. Dave H says:

    I caught on to the “From A to Z” bit fairly early in the solve, and circled the correct letters as I solved…Except in MARZ, where I circled the A rather than the R, and didn’t catch my mistake right away. So I would up with “WEB’S TEAS”. Now I’d never heard of a tea company called WEB’S, but maybe it is big in NYC although not necessarily quite as national a chain as the author thought. And 36D certainly seemed to be an extraneous clue that I was on the right track. Still, I didn’t completely like WEB’S. Oh, then it struck me that maybe the author was telling me to check the web, and find the correct answer there. So I Googled “List of tea companies”, and found something that jumped out at me as the most obvious, has-to-be-right, no-doubt-about-it answer ever: TAZO. The fact that each pair of letters when flipped, turns (AT)(OZ) into (TA)(ZO) couldn’t be a coincidence, could it? This had to be the answer.

    I filled out my email to send in, and decided to take one last look at the grid before hitting the “Send” button. I’m glad I did, because that was when I noticed my error. Ah…WEBSTER’S. Certainly a brand any crossword person should know. And it doesn’t rely on using 7 out of 8 correct letters and 1 incorrect. Reluctantly, I set 36D and TAZO aside, and sent in the correct
    answer. Tip to self–even when the answer you have cannot possibly be a coincidence, check everything to see if it’s just a coincidence.

  11. Bill Katz says:

    It’s always nice to see my name in a puzzle, and a bonus that it was meta content!

  12. Garrett says:

    I think the From A to Z thing and the meta answer are a reference to Matt’s new “Missing Letter game, which has 25 answers starting with all the letters From A-Z except one.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Coincidence, in fact! And not even my subconscious working on it, just pure chance.

      I came up with the A-to-Z idea, found it was feasible, then went searching for a meta answer. WEBSTER’S was the third or fourth thing I tried; the other tries were ALCATRAZ or something but then there were issues with the A/Z in the meta answer itself getting in the way.

      But then WEBSTER’S was perfect: contains neither an A nor a Z, is a brand everyone knows and fits the theme to a T (er, to a Z), is eight letters (short enough to be doable but long enough to be a 100% lock when you get the meta) and, most importantly, all of its letters fit (at least semi-)plausibly between an A and a Z. Many conditions to be met but WEBSTER’S fit them all.

  13. Barry Miller says:

    Was the apostrophe required for a correct answer? On a grid, there wouldn’t be one.

    • BarbaraK says:

      Since the randomly selected answer is checked by a real live person, it would almost certainly be accepted either way.

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