WSJ Contest — Friday, May 10, 2024

Grid: untimed; Meta 20 minutes 


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

This week we’re looking for a six-letter word. I noted the four long horizontal entries and didn’t find a signal. Mike often stashes a hint in the last horizontal entry and there it was: SET, clued as Group of pieces, with “pieces” matching the title. But… there were two other piece-clued entries: BRA (Support piece) and REPRO (Paste-up piece). That threw me off the trail. The two long downs entries (SUMOMATCH and TAKENAMES) looked enticing but were a dead end.

WSJ Contest Solution – 05.12.24

WSJ Contest Solution – 05.12.24

I accidentally stumbled into the solution pretty quickly: SET and pieces reminded me of chess, and HOBBYSHOPS made me think of hobbyhorse. A knight looks like a horse’s head. I looked for other similar entries and found none. Right idea, wrong execution. Then spotted DU(QUESN)E, which contained QUEEN, off by one letter. I had the rabbit: the six longest horizontal entries all contained a chess piece, off by one letter:

  • DU(QUE[S]N)E -> Queen
  • HOB(B[Y]SHOP)S -> Bishop
  • AT(KIN[S])DIET -> King
  • STIC(K[T]IGHT) -> Knight
  • S(PAW[E])EKEND -> Pawn
  • P(RO[M]K)IDS -> Rook

The “off by” letters spell SYSTEM, our contest solution. Fun meta. I’m surprised Mike put piece in two other clues, seems like an easy issue to avoid. Solvers: please share your thoughts.


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11 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, May 10, 2024

  1. jefe says:

    seems gettable in retrospect, but never got there.

    the grid was super hard! lots of bizarrely-clued entries.

  2. Eric H says:

    I never saw the chess pieces. Maybe DUQUESNE or STICKTIGHT should have jumped out as unusual, but the first was a gimme for me, so it didn’t seem too weird.

    I’d have done better with a less generic title. I knew there was more to it than the play on “Peace Process,” but it didn’t point me in the direction of a chess set. I see how “Process” relates to the answer SYSTEM, but that’s only useful for confirming that you have the right answer. (And isn’t that what the prompt is for?)

    I did notice the “piece” in the BRA clue, but missed it in the REPRO clue.

    Unlike jefe, I didn’t think the grid was particularly hard. I can’t really trust the clock on my AcrossLite app, but it looks like I finished the grid in under six minutes, which is NYT Monday territory for me.

    Another WSJ meta for the “might have, could have maybe” pile.

  3. GTIJohnny says:

    I couldn’t get past the two other clues (other than 69A, which I knew to be valid) that purposely had the word “piece” planted in them. I know metas “have no rules”, but c’mon.

  4. Simon says:

    I had almost the same experience as Conrad at first. For me the coin dropped with PROMKIDS. That seemed like it had to be a themer, (slightly odd terminology answers usually are) but that meant that DUQUESNE was probably one too. I wrote down the six across entries (hoping the two long downs were not themers) and scratched my head for a long time. I put the puzzle down and went to get a cup of coffee, then the word CHESS PIECE popped into my head and I went back and saw QUE in DUQUESNE and the rest fell right into place providing SYSTEM. This must have been a difficult puzzle to construct. Kudos Mike!

  5. meaningless nobody says:

    grid: 18 minutes, meta: 3 minutes

    i struggled mightily and arduously with the grid, especially in the northeast corner… but once i saw the shenk corner revealer ™, i found the rabbit right away

  6. Matt says:

    Strict chess enthusiasts might tell you that pawns are not pieces.

    • David Benbow says:

      I’ll take the controversial stance that a pawn is a piece, a thumb is a finger, and a hotdog is a sandwich. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

  7. Garrett says:

    For me it fell with


    Then it was easy to see the rest.

  8. Dean S. says:

    As far as Christmas movies, “Bad Santa” is an annual favorite in our house. I feel it truly brings out the Christmas feeling. As far as its sequel, meh! “Die Hard”. Good one as well.

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