WSJ Contest — Friday, January 5, 2024

Grid: untimed; Meta: 15 minutes  


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Hitting the High Notes” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking for a music venue. There were no obvious potential theme entries (beyond the two long across entries), so I checked the last horizontal entry, where Mike often stashes an extra meta hint. And there was 68 across: PIANO, clued as ‘Instrument that’s also a musical term for “soft,” abbreviated by its first letter.’

WSJ Contest Solution – 01.07.24

WSJ Contest Solution – 01.07.24

The clue emphasized the P in PIANO, so I checked the grid for P’s and found nine. I still wasn’t sure what to do, so I looked for other piano or music-related entries. I spotted the central down entry: UPRIGHT, clued as “Type of 68-across” (PIANO). I looked above the nine P’s and found nothing. I spun my wheels for a bit when UP(RIGHT) struck me: look above and to the right of the nine P’s. I had the rabbit: the nine letters one UP and to the RIGHT of the nine P’s spell our contest solution HONKYTONK.

Fun puzzle! Solvers: please share your thoughts.

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9 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, January 5, 2024

  1. Baroness Thatcher says:

    I circled all the p’s as suggested by 68A, but had no idea what to do with them. The puzzle title did nothing for me and nothing doing with long themers. Before throwing in the towel I went back to the meta basics and checked the center entries. 39A gave me nothing so I checked the center vertical entry 25D, and thought, can it be? Yes it can! Very enjoyable puzzle. Thanks Mike!

  2. Eric H. says:

    I got nowhere with this one. Not seeing anything in the grid, I looked at the clues. I’ve never heard of “isoretinoin” and thought it an unusual way to clue ACNE. I also noted that the clue includes two musical notes (re and ti), so I highlighted every clue that contained a note. Suffice it to say that there are a lot of such clues, and they got me nowhere.

    I should have noticed the verbose clue for PIANO, but it didn’t strike me as odd.

  3. Barry Miller says:

    Should I feel ashamed? I finished the puzzle and thought, where might one hear music on an upright piano, and honky-tonk bar- though I’ve never been in one- immediately came to mind. As I’m far from home this week with many responsibilities, I just sent in that wild guess. Next time I encounter a honky-tonk, I’ll be sure to step inside, and let everyone know why I’m there.

    • Eric H. says:

      I’m sure you subconsciously processed the designated route to the meta answer. If you win the mug, enjoy it!

  4. jefe says:

    I got there eventually (after 2.5 days). Really thrown off by the irrelevant classical music long acrosses and the unhelpful title.

  5. Simon says:

    I saw the piano clue and circled all the p’s and got the Upright hint as well. But the double p in APPS threw me and didn’t get the HO to start things off. I started with HA. Went nowhere. I originally thought the answer was going to be Met Opera due to the High Notes clue and high tone of the fill, musically speaking. I never would have thought of HonkyTonk. Uprights make me think of Tin Pan Alley anyway. Guess I have been watching too many old musicals.

  6. Riddler says:

    Eventually got to the P’s and Upright after first going just to the right. But not before getting thrown off track by the various Greek references LEDA , SWAN, OVID. Then noticed and unusual amount of O’s and ON’s and NO’s, plus NoNo’ s (No O’s?) relating to ERRS, OOPS maybe OONA. And also the various musical instruments, works and performers mentioned provided misdirection. So I dashed down a few dust bunny holes before sweeping them into the Dustpan. Even after I solved, I thought maybe there was another step because Honky Tonk is a TYPE of musical venue and the way the question is posed seem to demand the proper name of a specific venue (like The Met, or Grand Old Opry, etc). I had an easier time solving last weeks puzzle but never the less did solve.

  7. Zazoo says:

    Ugh. Total miss for me. “Violin solo” threw me, as was likely the intention, so I made the wild guess of Carnegie Hall. Fun puzzle, clues, and answer!

  8. FanClub says:

    This is another fine example of the type of meta which I like to share with friends. A great demonstration of how an otherwise seemingly ordinary crossword can hold another puzzle entirely. And no Internet searching required. Bravo.

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