WSJ Contest — Friday, April 5, 2024

Grid: untimed; Meta: 10 minutes 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “A Matter of Course” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking for a well-known children’s song. There were four long theme entries with (somewhat) mismatched  clues:

  • 17a: [Highly solitary people]: WEREWOLVES
  • 29a:[Sugary spherical treats]: SPOUTHOLES
  • 49a: [Fort Knox items]: GOLDILOCKS
  • 63a: [Scout’s honor?]: MERITBASED
WSJ Contest Solution – 04.07.24

WSJ Contest Solution – 04.07.24

It took me a while to complete the grid because I didn’t spot the full the mechanism right away. I filled LONEWOLVES for 17a, MERITBADGE for 63a, etc. Then I went back and figured out the correct entry: each themer was off by three characters. I figured out the contest solution LONDON BRIDGE by substituting the correct letters in each themer. I knew I had the answer but didn’t feel a full “click,” and I wondered what I was missing. The “aha” moment hit when I saw LON directly above the WER in werewolves. LON DON BRI DGE literally falls down into the themers:


This confirms LONDON BRIDGE as our contest solution. Also known as London Bridge Is Falling Down (I’m confident both answers will be accepted). I thought the falling mechanism was beautiful: I literally said “Oh, wow” when I spotted it (my wife noticed my reaction). I didn’t get a strong click from the title: I’m guessing “course” refers to the course of a river. I certainly may be missing something on that front. But even if I’m not: that is a minor nit. Great meta. Solvers please share your thoughts.

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10 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, April 5, 2024

  1. Seth Cohen says:

    The title actually helped me. My first thought was that the themers had to take a different course (i.e. path) through the grid for them to match their clues. And sure enough, that was right.

    • Cindy N says:

      I’m curious about the title as well. I thought of a course of bricks,with the replacement letters (bricks) laid on top. It did give me pause and make me wonder if there was another step.

      I was slowed completing the grid because I was using the “correct” letters and my cross didn’t work. I’m looking at you, donutholes.

  2. Eric H says:

    Right answer, wrong mechanism: I noticed filling in WEREWOLVES that it didn’t quite fit the clue. But it wasn’t until GOLDIngots didn’t work with the crosses that I realized what was going on with the theme answers.

    After filling in the grid, I just overwrote the theme answers with the letters that made them fit the clues. I never noticed the correct letters were on the lines above the theme answers. Wow!

    Impressive construction, as always. And it was made more fun by finally breaking my WSJ meta slump, which goes back to January. (I got close a few times, but mostly have had no idea of how to proceed.)

    • Simon says:

      I had the same experience as Eric. Never noticed the letters above the answers. But still got the tricky falling theme. A very fun meta. Although I was left with an earworm of the song for the rest of the day. :)

  3. EP says:

    My experience was also similar to Eric’s, but I did notice that the needed ‘BRI’ was directly above and in the right place for 49A, so the rest fell into place pretty quickly. I thought that this rated as a ‘tough week 1’ MGWCC, and the actual week 1, #827, MUCH tougher…which the number of correct submissions through yesterday confirms. I again suspect that Matt might have mixed them up when submitting them for publication / distribution.

  4. Linda says:

    What does Red Rose, 16A, have to do with Pete?

  5. jefe says:

    I really liked this one!

Comments are closed.