WSJ Contest — Friday, February 9, 2024

Grid: untimed; Meta: 20 minutes  


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Which Way Did He Go?” — Conrad’s writeup.

Hey everyone, abbreviated writeup this week because I’m in Europe. This week we’re looking for something an honest politician doesn’t do. There were seven US presidents in the grid. The final horizontal entry provided a strong nudge: CENTER, clued as What Democrats are said to be left of, and Republicans right of. I found the rabbit quickly after that: identify the center character of each president’s name, and highlight the left of center letter for democrats, and right for republicans:

WSJ Contest Solution – 02.11.24

WSJ Contest Solution – 02.11.24

  • GRA(N)T
  • HAY(E)S

The left/right letters spell CONNIVE, our contest solution. I had to Google a few of the older presidents, but it all came together. Solvers: please share your thoughts.

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18 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, February 9, 2024

  1. Eric H. says:

    Based on the title, I initially looked for HE in the grid, but there weren’t many. Then the obvious presidential names popped out at me.

    But that’s as far as I got. The only thing I could think of to do with the “left of/right of” CENTER was look at words to the left and right of the center of the grid.

    Other rabbit holes: The named presidents’ political parties (based on the 66A clue) and their home states (based on the title).

    Nice mechanism, though. But I wish I had noticed that all the names were an odd number of letters.

    • Eric H. says:

      Just re-read Conrad’s write-up. I see that the presidents’ parties was part of the meta. Nice!

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Thanks, Eric! Appreciate the comment. It was a very limited set I was working with (presidents with odd # of letters in last name) so I was happy to be able to get a fitting word and then be able to make it all work in the grid.

        • Eric H. says:

          You’re welcome.

          I knew there had to be a reason you used those particular names. I just didn’t figure out what it was.

  2. Martin says:

    It bothered me a bit that our notion of left and right wrt Democrat and Republican breaks down when you go back to Lincoln. I realize the hint asserts that Republican = right, but calling Lincoln right-of-center didn’t make me happy. It is a good reminder of how the parties have traded positions since those days.

  3. Neal says:

    I thought this puzzle had a certain elegance to it. I initially tried to incorporate the eight letters funning vertically in the center and realized I was unnecessarily complicating things. Huzzah for simplicity. Huzzah for the honest politicians. I mean, there must be a few, right?

  4. Simon says:

    I filled out the puzzle in just a few minutes and didn’t even notice all the presidential names. Perhaps because I got distracted by GRANT, something I am hoping to get one day soon. But once I went back and re-read the last across clue the solution dawned on me and I was done lickety-split. Impressive construction!

  5. Todd Dashoff says:

    I missed the “Honest” in the descriptor the first time I read it, so I got the meta and said to my self, “Well he _shouldn’t_, but how would we be sure?” There have certainly been enough that have, in the past. Lead me not into temptation…

  6. Jon says:

    I first circled the letters based on how today left means Democrat and right means Republican. Got gibberish. And then remembered, “oh yeah” the parties switched sometime during the Industrial Revolution as the Republicans of Lincoln held power for so long that they got in bed with the establishment and the rich. Lincoln today would not fit in with Republicans of today just as Jackson today would not fit in with Democrats of today. Pretty wild.

  7. Allie S says:

    I got all the presidents and the Center clue and took the letter in the center of each name and got KCANNEY. And that’s as far as I got.

  8. Zazoo says:

    I loved this CCW; I always love them more when I solve them 😁 Nice work, Mr. G!

    Sometimes we hear from the puzzle constructor who tells us the total number of entries, total number of correct solves, some of the incorrect answers, and the name of the lucky mug winner. It’s fun to see this! Is there a specific place we should look every week to get this info?

  9. David Hanson says:

    I loved it. Amazing that you were able to find an actual usable word with a thematic connection. I’m seeing my sister this weekend. She is interested in crosswords, but doesn’t feel she is good enough to do the meta puzzles. I’m going to sit down with her and go through this one with her. This is clean and clever.

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