WSJ Contest — Friday, March 22, 2024

Grid: untimed; Meta: slept on it 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Never Forget” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking for an eight-letter word that would complete the theme pattern. I struggled to locate the theme entries at first. The grid contained four ten-letter entries, two horizontal and two vertical. I listed DWELLINGON, DAYSTOCOME, etc, in my notes as potential themers. It turns out one was thematic and the rest weren’t. Then I spun my wheels for a while and went to bed.

Woke up the next morning and started at the gird some more. One of my challenges is solving metas is learning to let go of (doomed) rabbit holes after I spot them. In this case: the four long mostly non-theme entries. I tried to back up a bit, and used the time-honored meta solving method of just staring at the grid. I had focused on the DW in DWELLINGON earlier (in a doomed effort to match the other long grid entries), when I spotted AZUL, BYNAME, and CXI. I spotted the rabbit: there were a dozen theme entries beginning with two letters that followed this pattern: AZ, BY, CX, DW, etc.:

WSJ Contest Solution – 03.24.24

WSJ Contest Solution – 03.24.24

  • (AZ)UL
  • (BY)NAME
  • (CX)I
  • (EV)IL
  • (GT)E
  • (HS)N
  • (IR)ON
  • (JQ)A
  • (KP)UTY
  • (LO)OT

The first letters of each themer increased from A to L, and the second letters decreased from Z to O. Noticeably missing were MN, leading to our contest solution MNEMONIC, an eight letter word that completes the theme pattern and matches the title Never Forget. Fun puzzle: bit of a curveball for me, but it all fell into place. Solvers: please share your thoughts.

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12 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, March 22, 2024

  1. Baroness Thatcher says:

    This puzzle was a WOW for me.

    After chasing a couple of rabbits I did a reset and noticed the pattern in the first 3 across answers. I then wrote out two columns:
    1 listing out letters from A to M
    2. listing out letters Z to N.
    I was amazed how Matt incorporated this pattern in alphabetical order, 12 thematic answers in 39 across answers. When I realized MN were not included I knew the answer.

    Thanks Matt, this was incredibly fun!

  2. Barry Miller says:


  3. Kevin Bryant says:

    Brings to mind Gauss’s shortcut for adding all the numbers from 1 to 100.

  4. Simon says:

    Good lord, I didn’t see any of that. I was convinced that the James Brown ON UP answer was the key because we had Dwelling ON and Clogging UP and lots of variations of that. ONO INON and Piping UP etc. Could not make it work.

    Eventually noticed that we had all these latin words ending in UM and also UMM and got hooked. I saw EM in Emma IM in Sashimi and OM in Come By and Um in Lyceums. But no AM word. I sent in MEMORIAM because of the Never Forget theme. As well as all the Funeral hints. Elegy, etc. pardon the pun but it was a dead end.

    Great job Matt and Conrad.

  5. Neal says:

    Often when trying to solve a meta, I’m thinking that there is one tiny thing somewhere that I need to find, like a needle in a haystack. This puzzle was a good reminder that sometimes the haystack is packed with needles and the meta is EVERYWHERE.
    Like others I was drawn to some odd letter combinations like CXI, JQA, and KPDUTY and I couldn’t put my finger on it… until I did. Great puzzle!

    • Eric H says:

      I guess it’s a good reminder that junky fill like CXI and JQA is sometimes more than just junk.

      Maybe I just do too many crossword puzzles, but I often hardly notice answers like that. Though now that I think about it, CXI bugged me because the “111” clue had me trying to imagine what you would get if you dialed those numbers: Would it be like dialing 311, 411, or 911? (The initial 1 would probably just get you the operator.)

  6. Eric H says:

    When I read the prompt, I was hopeful that this would be the puzzle to end my WSJ meta slump — I’ve done relatively well on other “find another theme answer” metas.

    But after I finished, I looked only at the four longest answers and never got close to spotting the theme.

    I see how the title relates to the answer, but it wasn’t at all helpful in trying to find the theme. I even googled “Never Forget,” but all I found was a reference to some boy band song from the 1990s and a lot of stuff related to 9/11.

    AZUL should have been more of a tip-off for me. I don’t consider it that unusual of a word because living in Texas, you hear (and pick up) a lot of Spanish. And one of my favorite bands is Aterciopelados, from Colombia. One of the first songs of theirs that I heard was “Luz AZUL.”

    It’s a very clever meta, especially the way the answers are arranged in alphabetical order. But it was miles over my head.

    And I can’t help noticing now that part of the theme involves FU. :-)

  7. Dean S. says:

    Would Mniaceae have been accepted?

  8. Garrett says:

    I thought that TONE at 14A was there as a hint, because the first two letters of it and 1A formed:

    Checking the grid, realized this was, in fact, an A-to-Z grid — a pangram.

  9. Robin McEnerney says:

    Happy to say that I figured out the meta, after ‘sleeping on it’ But I spent way too much time on this rabbit hole: BLUE…Bluebonnets…Texas….”Remember the Alamo”!! Alas, a pattern with ALAMO was nowhere to be found. Thanks for a beautifully constructed meta.

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