WSJ Contest — Friday, May 17, 2024

Grid: untimed; Meta 25 minutes 


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

This week we’re looking for a six-letter adjective that does not apply to most crosswords. There were long horizontal grid entries that were (partially) non-thematic. I spotted the odd clue for DEMOCRATIC (clued as Shri Thanedar, congressman from Michigan, is a member of this party), thinking that was an unusual name. Why him? I spun my wheels for a bit and spotted DDAY, UHAUL, and four other entries with a “one letter, followed by a word” pattern. I also noticed the trailing word contained the initial letter:

WSJ Contest Solution – 05.19.24

WSJ Contest Solution – 05.19.24

  • 8d: [D](D)AY: June invasion
  • 29a [U]HA(U)L: Penske rival
  • 42a [X]A(X)IS: Left-to-right line
  • 45a [C](C)LAMP: Shop class tool
  • 48d [A]G(A)ME: Peak athletic performance
  • 65a [T]SHIR(T): Sleeved souvenir

The doubled letters spelled DUXCAT, so I went in search of step two. I found it fairly quickly thanks to Shri Thanedar. I noticed the non-doubled letters in [T]SHIR(T) anagrammed to Shri and I was off to the races. There were six clues that began with a word comprised of the non-doubled letters of the step one theme entries:

  • 10a: (R)YAN: Meg in “When Harry Met Sally…” -> A[G]A[ME]
  • 14a: (R)ESORT: Palm Springs business, often -> CC[LAMP]
  • 17a: (A)USTRALIAN: Sia, who sings “Chandelier,” for one -> X[A]X[IS]
  • 39a: (T)HEFIRM: Hal Holbrook film adapted from a John Grisham book -> U[HA]U[L]
  • 40a: (E)VIDENTLY: “Ya think?” -> DD[AY]
  • 58a: (D)EMOCRATIC: Shri Thanedar, congressman from Michigan, is a member of this party) -> T[SHIR]T

The first letters of the mapped entries spell R-RATED, our contest solution. Solvers, please share your thoughts.



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14 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, May 17, 2024

  1. Mister G. says:

    The answer at 22 down, DYSLEXIA, is, I think, supposed to be a hint to look for anagrams of the words sans the occurrence of the leading letter. “Hal” is obviously an exception to that rule. At least that’s what led me to the solution.

  2. Bob H says:

    Well, that was tough, but you have to admit that DUXCAT “does not apply to most crosswords.”

  3. Robin McEnerney says:

    I spent too much time looking at all the grid answers that started with “A” (14!), hinted at by the grid answer “A-GAME”. My husband pointed out, “Of all the Democrats in Congress, why pick Shri Thanedar?” And, of course, that set me on the correct path to the answer. It was helpful to write out the important grid answers with a hyphen (U-Haul, D-Day, etc), as the meta answer also followed that pattern. Fun puzzle!

  4. Barry Miller says:

    I solved the puzzle but didn’t find time to seek the contest answer, though had I the time, I never would have solved this one. But I was riding my bike a few minutes before the deadline and, realizing the deadline was near, went through the alphabet twice, trying to conjure a letter that might start a six letter adjective that would both conform to the established pattern and answer the contest question. Voila! R and R-rated! Should I win the mug, as now seems plausible, I will donate it to my much more deserving, brighter, younger cousin, who would normally not tolerate this kind of behavior, except she recently dropped and shattered her favorite coffee mug and now finds herself in need.

  5. mtjb says:

    Got the first step but not the next.

  6. Simon says:

    Never even saw that second step. I was deadset on another one. The last across answer was STATES and we had MAILMAN too, so I was sure we were looking for STATE abbreviations by adding a letter to the OPENERS. For example I to DDAY for IDaho. TX to XAXIS. SC to CLAMP, etc. The big problem was the U. Since the added letter would come second in UTah. (Although non-state GUAM is GU.) Somehow I was convinced we were using Greek letters so the U became a Y. The C became a K. haha. I got six letters out of it but it did not make a word.

    Very clever puzzle MATT.

  7. Robin says:

    This is beyond my grade level.

  8. Garrett says:

    Not for me, this one.

  9. Bob says:

    I got the letter openers and knew there must be a step two. I also saw “STATES” as the last across entry, and thought that might have something to do with it. But it was the last down entry “Q-U links” that I thought for sure was a hint, and I focused on that the most. I’m still not sure it wasn’t meant to be a hint. In any case, I never did get the solution, and I’m pretty sure I could have spent hours and never found it. In the end, I’m glad I did more productive things with my weekend than stare at this puzzle for the time that would have been required to find the solution.

    • CrossRhodes says:

      Usually it’s Mike Shenk who will put a hint in the final across entry/clue, not Matt Gaffney. Although Mike hasn’t been as consistent with this lately.

  10. Eric H says:

    I found the Across answers like U-HAUL and C-CLAMP but (1) missed the two Down answers that fit the pattern and (2) never noticed the repeated letters in the ones I did find.

    I was also briefly distracted by the two initialisms (MDS and DHS) being the possible fifth and sixth entries to go with U-HAUL and the others.

    I’m not sure it would ever have occurred to me to disregard the doubled letters and anagram what was left. I have learned to try mapping answers back onto the grid if the first step (or in this case, the first two or three steps) don’t produce anything useful. So I tried finding entries for which answers like U-HAUL and C-CLAMP would have worked, but of course, there weren’t any.

    Pretty clever and complex. Too much for me, though, at least this weekend.

  11. Seattle DB says:

    I thought the puzzle was okay, but as for the meta — fuggedaboudit. Even the explanation didn’t make sense. So this was not a fun puzzle for me. 2 stars.

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