WSJ Contest — Friday, March 29, 2024

Grid: untimed; Meta: slept on it 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Factored Out” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking for certain property. The long center across entry served as the theme entry: PRIMEREALESTATE, clued as “Valuable property (so maybe eliminate everything else)”.

I had the right idea almost immediately: look for prime-numbered grid entries and eliminate any entry that wasn’t prime. I dutifully highlighted the “F” in 2d (FLEX), the “R” in 3d (ROTE), the “A” in 5a/5d (APPT/ARENA), etc. I got nowhere.

WSJ Contest Solution – 03.31.24

WSJ Contest Solution – 03.31.24

I looked at it the next day, wandered in the wilderness a bit, and doubled down on the same idea. I ended up highlighting the entire word in the prime-numbered across and down entries (as opposed to just the first letter) and started to see the signal. I got lost at the top, so I ended up solving the puzzle from the bottom, seeing …INGS. I worked my way back to the top, and eventually worked out our contest solution APARTMENTBUILDINGS.

The meta required you to highlight the prime-numbered across/down entries and focus on the places where they crossed. Frustratingly (for me): there were three unconnected down entries: FLEX (2d), ROTE (3d), and EDAM (53d). I thought this meta was a bit of a shaggy dog: great idea, but a bit rough in execution. But it all worked in the end. Solvers: please share your thoughts. I’ll leave you with my favorite song written about a prime number.

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9 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, March 29, 2024

  1. Bob says:

    As the 34 Across clue said, “eliminate everything else.” Draw lines through every answer that starts on a non-prime square. Then, the only unmarked letters spell out the answer.

  2. Seth Cohen says:

    It’s not where the prime entries cross. You erase every letter that’s part of a clue number that’s not prime. In other words, you eliminate every cell that’s not completely made of prime entries.

    • jefe says:

      …leaving the squares where the prime-numbered entries cross.

      • Seth Cohen says:

        Ha, I suppose you’re right. I guess I was just trying to re-interpret it in a way that didn’t leave those four uncrossed prime entries. And my interpretation uses the “eliminate everything else” clue very directly.

  3. Eric H says:

    I got as far as identifying the entries that started in squares with prime numbers. But I never looked at where those entries intersected. I guess it didn’t take “eliminate everything else” far enough.

  4. Simon says:

    Well I battled all the prime numbers (or NUMEROs) and looked up how to factor things mathematically or ARITHly. Got nowhere except thinking DONA TAUT sounded like a pun on DONNA TARTT. I even wondered if we were supposed to add something to NO MAN’S (an IS) LAND etc. Gave up too easily, I guess. Was expecting the solution to be a type of Prime Real Estate. LUXURY PENTHOUSE or SOHO LOFT or RIVER VIEW or some such.

    Well done Conrad!

  5. Bob LaBlah says:

    Compare this mechanism to Matt Gaffney’s described the next day on this site. I read that write up about six times so far and still don’t get it. Mike Shenk’s is clear and clever and I don’t know how he managed to out those letters in this exact spots but that is some voodoo construction going on there.

    • PJ says:

      It’s not an apples to apples comparison. The Gaffney puzzle was a Week 5 puzzle. Matt targets his metas to be very easy in Week 1 and get progressively more difficult each week. Week 5 is a rare occurrence and the puzzles are known for their difficulty.

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