WSJ Contest — Friday, February 23, 2024

Grid: untimed; Meta: slept on it 


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

This week we’re looking for a sport you’ll see at the Olympics this summer. There were five horizontal theme entries:

WSJ Contest – 02.25.24

WSJ Contest – 02.25.24

  • [Picnic item (largest)]: PAPERPLATE
  • [Lightning and Flames shoot it]: HOCKEYPUCK
  • [On of fifteen on a table]: TWOBALL
  • [One of our neighbors]: PLANETMARS
  • [Vodka sour garnish (smallest)]: LEMONSLICE

I noticed that the themers were all round, but so were the longest down entries PEPPERONI (when placed on “some pies”) and PERCA(PITA). I decided to abandon the down entries since PITA was a substring, and the across themers were all (fully) round things.

Then what? I thought I had the rabbit when I noticed that the round entries matched 5 of the six colors of the olympic flag (with its round rings), but PAPERPLATES are white, and that’s the background color of the flag. The green ring was noticeably missing (and the rings on an olympic flag are all the same size). I tried to find a missing round green thing in the grid and came up empty.

I slept on it and returned to it a few times the next day. I doubled down on the colors, googling summer Olympic sports, looking for a matching color connection. I thought of colored belts for Judo and Taekwondo, but they didn’t match the grid colors (and belts aren’t round). I thought about the colors and sizes of basketballs, volleyballs, golf balls, etc: no signal.

I clicked on the Wikipedia entry for archery and I had the rabbit: the grid colors and sizes matched an olympic archery target:

WA 80 cm archery target

  • PAPERPLATE: white (largest rings)
  • HOCKEYPUCK: black
  • TWOBALL: blue
  • LEMONSLICE: yellow (smallest rings)

That makes archery our contest solution. This meta required a bit of lateral thinking, and I enjoyed it. Solvers: please share your thoughts.

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16 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, February 23, 2024

  1. Baroness Thatcher says:

    I started with the olympic rings, then tried sharpshooting before landing on archery. It took me longer than it should to figure out that the extra info at 17A – largest – and 65A – smallest- was intended to be taken as a theme answer progression from largest to smallest.

    Good puzzle Matt!

  2. BethA says:

    It took me two days to even notice the color theme! Lying awake early Saturday morning, I thought I’d better look up the color of the two ball! Definitely onto something now, but all kinds of flailing around. I’m sure anyone looking at my search history would think that I was mentally disturbed! Every time I’d be ready to put it down, a new idea would occur to me! Better check it out!

    • David Benbow says:

      I’m colorblind and someone had to practically throw it in my face because I never even think about what color things are.

      Is it a solo solve if you need a seeing-eye dog?

  3. Simon says:

    Well done! I had guessed the answer would be Archery without knowing exactly why. But I didn’t send it in. I thought of the Olympic flag too, but couldn’t figure out what to do with WHITE (and wasn’t sure hockey pucks are BLACK.) I also was too distracted by the presence of ORANGE, GREEN and PURPLE in the across clues. So I was looking for combinations of RED and YELLOW; BLUE and YELLOW; and BLUE and RED. To no avail, alas.

    I also went down a major rabbit hole of trying to match the second words in the theme answers with a letter change. SEPAL and PLATE; LARS and MARS; PLUCK and PUCK, etc. I thought that was the key but it didn’t come together. I also noticed OPAH and OPRAH.

    Anyway, great job in figuring it out. PS. I looked up the new events at the Olympics, and saw that Break Dancing is now a sport.

  4. David Benbow says:

    Did anyone else go down the rabbit hole of seeing ROLL OVER in row 6 of the grid? With all the round objects, I thought that must be relevant.

  5. Zazoo says:

    I’ve learned to look in the bottom right of the grid for a “clincher clue.” 59D was it. I Googled “Myers Olympics” and found Linda Myers. Ms. Meyers represented Team USA in archery in 1972 (Munich, 5th position) and 1976 (Montreal, 7th position). She won Worlds in 1973. As soon as I saw “archery” in the piece about her, the five-colored concentric circle target clues laid themselves on the table! I didn’t think “largest” and “smallest” were necessary clues; the theme answers were in the correct order without the extra size hints.
    What fun to learn about interesting people, especially inspiring women. Congratulations, Linda Myers!

    • Eric H says:

      That seems pretty obscure to be a hint. Maybe Mat Gaffney will clarify whether it was a hint or coincidence.

      • Zazoo says:

        I think it’d be more obscure as a coincidence, especially since that’s how I was clued in to the answer. He’s a clever and kind fella!

  6. Zazoo says:

    Regarding “Round Five”:
    There are 5 archery events in the Olympics.
    In a match, the first team to win 5 set points (5 rounds) wins the match.
    I knew none of this before this past weekend. Now I must work on getting my taxes done.

  7. CFXK says:

    May want to correct an inadvertent error in the write-up. The blue circle is the twoball, not a second hockey puck.

    Nice meta. Nice solve

  8. Burak says:

    It’s amazing how everyone seems to have followed the same path. First the flag (I also threw in continents and their sizes and the corresponding rings in there), then the other colors in the clues before finally landing on archery.

  9. Iggy says:

    This one jumped out at me in just a few minutes after completing the grid. It’s weird how that happens sometimes. And other times, I can’t see it for the life of me.

  10. Eric H says:

    “Round” in the title made me think of boxing. If I had submitted an answer, that would’ve been it. (I don’t bother unless I am pretty sure I have the right answer.)

    The parenthetical “largest” and “smallest” were obviously significant, especially since the PLANET MARS is by far the largest round thing in the puzzle. But I never figured out what the significance was.

    I looked up the events that comprise the pentathlon, but that went nowhere.

    Sometime on Saturday or Sunday, I thought to check what color the TWO BALL is. But the list of colors didn’t suggest an archery target to me. (Even when I watched the Summer Olympics — and it’s been decades since I have — I don’t think I ever watched any archery events.)

    It’s a nice meta. I could’ve used a bigger hint somewhere — arrow, maybe, or bow? Target clued as the discount store?

    My success with the WSJ metas has dropped to about one a month. Maybe the 29th will be my lucky day?

  11. Dusty Gunning says:

    I noticed that four entries were of the form 2-syllables+round thing. “Twoball” describes but doesn’t fit that! So just go look for a 5th sport.

    Volleyball, basketball,..but since “ball” already used used in a clued answer, find another round thing.

    And the rabbit hole collapses.

  12. jbeck says:

    A full moon is round (like a paper plate) and a crescent moon is smaller (like a lemon slice). In between there are phases but I didn’t know how those other three phases might have a lunar connection, nor could I crack what that had to do with the olympics.

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