WSJ Contest — Friday, November 3, 2023

Grid: Untimed; Meta: slept on it 


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

This week we’re looking for a three-letter animal. There were three-letter animals throughout the grid: some symmetric and some not:

  • 6a: S(ASS) -> ASS
  • 12d: KA(YAK)S -> YAK
  • 29a: (CAT)HER -> CAT
  • 49d: U(BOA)TS -> BOA
  • 72a: S(COW) -> COW
  • 64a: BOON(DOG)GLE -> DOG

The lack of step one symmetry threw me a bit and delayed my solve. I kept looking for a three-letter animal in INTIMIDATE. It was symmetric with BOON(DOG)GLE and theme entry length. It turns out INTIMIDATE was important, but part of step two. The lack of symmetry made me unsure if I’d found all of the small animals. I wrote ROO? and NIT?? in my notes. Both admittedly weaker than CAT or DOG: ROO is short for kangaroo (the other entries were the actual name of the animal) and NIT is a bug.

WSJ Contest – 11.05.23 - Solution

WSJ Contest – 11.05.23 – Solution

I finally spotted SCARF (clued as “Long neckwear”) and realized it served as an alternate clue for BOA. I had the rabbit: each short animal name mapped to another entry’s clue:

  • [1a: Long neckwear]: SCARF -> BOA
  • [11d: Pinhead]: NITWIT -> ASS
  • [17a: Push around]: INTIMIDATE -> COW
  • [26d: Cause persistent stress to]: TORMENT -> DOG
  • [47a: Shoot the breeze]: CHAT -> YAK
  • [57a:Dude]: HOMBRE -> CAT

The mapped entries spell SNITCH, leading to RAT, our contest solution. I backsolved CAT/HOMBRE after seeing “SNITC.” in my notes. This meta felt rough around the edges to me, but it all lined up in the end. Solvers: please share your thoughts.

This entry was posted in Contests and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, November 3, 2023

  1. Pomona47 says:

    I was almost there but got trapped with COW also fitting the clue for 45D (though this clue would refer to the animal and not the verb).

  2. Seth Cohen says:

    I loved this one! Not rough at all in my opinion. Found all the animals, tried various things before I saw step 2, which I thought was really cool — who knew so many 3-letter animal names have alternate meanings!

    ROO threw me for a bit, but when I realized there was no alternate definition for ROO, I tossed it.

  3. Baroness Thatcher says:

    Clever puzzle, way beyond my pay grade. I would have never linked boa and scarf nor intimidate and cow. I did find all the 3-letter animals, but could not figure out whst to do with them.

    Well done Matt!

  4. Barry Miller says:

    There are a number of rats climbing the grid. Did anyone notice? And what would you scream if you found your place inundated with rats? OMG! (Check the center of the puzzle!)

    • Barry Miller says:

      There are a number of rats climbing the grid. Did anyone notice? And what would you scream if you found your place inundated with rats? OMG! (Check the center of the puzzle!). And upend helped that process.

  5. Ellen+Nichols says:

    Well, I submitted RAT, but not by following this process. After finding the same list of 3 letter animals as Conrad, I set the grid down. When I picked it up Sunday afternoon, I thought to look at the bottom right answer in the grid (UPEND) which is sometimes a clue. So I laboriously went through the grid upside down and found two instances of Rat (tar), so that’s what I submitted. I guess there is more than one way to skin a cat, er, rat.

  6. clonefitz says:

    I was doomed from the start on this one. Once I saw “Prefix with path” as the needed clue for COW, I could not unsee it. And of course that was the only intended clue that would end up providing a vowel for SNITCH. So while I’d considered the correct mechanism, I immediately wrote it off because I came up with six consonants. Then I was stuck with finding a mechanism that did work. My thought was that there must be a seventh three-letter animal that could also be clued with one of the clues in the grid. The only one I could come up with was, ironically, “Push around” which I could build a case for RAM. As a confirmation, the clue “No. four of a dozen” (which yielded APR) could have been a hint to the zodiac sign which starts in April, which is Aries the RAM. (Even though the clue hints at an abbreviation and also the fourth zodiac sign is technically Cancer the Crab.) I could argue my case, but was smart enough to sense that this wasn’t the intended answer.

    I also thought it was cute that in the grid there was scARF (DOG), homBRE (ASS), and hoMEO (CAT). Originally thought that was going to be the path.

  7. Simon says:

    I noticed YAK for CHAT right off the BAT. Seeing SEAL in the clues slowed me down since that was the only animal mentioned and I thought it must be significant. It wasn’t. Then I got messed up including ROO (which is ridiculously ubiquitous in crosswords these days) and didn’t end up getting the correct response. I submitted CUB as I was expecting the three-letter solution to be part of the final theme word rather than a synonym for it and I used the first letters of the themers. My hail Mary was gonna be MAN because there were three MEN so close together and HOMBRE seemed like a hint rather than part of the solution. Very well done meta but my gears weren’t n’sync for this one.

  8. Laura E-D says:

    BOA/SCARF was also the one that made it click for me.

  9. Henry T says:

    I got stuck on Dog, Cat, and Cow, which are yoga poses, as is Owl.

  10. Eric H says:

    All I saw was the DOG in BOONDOGGLE. I knew that was too simple to be the meta answer.

    The title told me I should be able to find more animals in the grid, but I didn’t think to look for them in asymmetrically-placed answers.

  11. Bob says:

    Just as the small animals and their double meanings eluded me, I’m not getting the connection between the puzzle and the music video here. Good song, but the connection is……?

    • Conrad says:

      There is usually a meta connection, but sometimes it’s just a great song (IMO).

      This one has a connection (and is also a great song):

      From an uptown apartment
      To a knife on the A train
      It’s not that far
      From the sharks in the penthouse
      To the rats in the basement
      It’s not that far
      To the bag lady frozen asleep in the park
      Oh no, it’s not that far
      Would you like to see some more?
      I can show you if you’d like to

  12. Frank DeSimone says:

    In the center of the puzzle the word “men” crosses down and across. The letters around the two men spell rats. Since we were looking for a singular three letter animal, I submitted RAT.

  13. Garrett says:

    All the animals were quadrupeds except the snake, so I submitted BOA.

  14. HoldThatThought says:

    To be pedantic about it, a nit is not a bug, but, rather, the egg of a louse.

  15. Mike says:

    Got the right answer the lazy man’s way, or, at least, the literal-minded way. Immediately seized upon UPEND as a possible clue, reasoning, therefore, that a D answer must be at issue (i.e. you cannot “upend” horizontal answers–only vertical ones); then, isolated all the 3-letter D answers to find that only one (42D), in inverted form, is an animal. Feel a bit guilty but the logic, I think, is irrefutable.

Comments are closed.