WSJ Contest — Friday, May 24, 2024

Grid: untimed; Meta two hours 


Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Left Up in the Air” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking for a four-letter word. There were four long horizontal grid entries. It took me a while to find step one of the meta. Patrick tends to be direct with his titles (treating them as literal instructions), so I knew “left” and “up” were important. I kept trying to apply both simultaneously, looking for a square one row up, and one column to the left of each theme entry. This was clearly a doomed idea, since two of the theme entries started on the left-hand side of the grid (there was nothing to the left of those). I eventually separated the two and started with “left”. I thought of backwards entries (reading right to left) and spotted CROW in SNOWORCHID. The rest of the birds fell quickly.

  • [White flower of western America]: SNO(WORC)HID -> CROW
  • [“Flat feet” by another name]: FALL(ENARC)HES -> CRANE
  • [Best Supporting Actor nominee for “The Departed”]: MAR(KWAH)LBERG -> HAWK
  • [Invitation to enter]: ST(EPINS)IDE -> SNIPE
WSJ Contest Solution – 05.26.24

WSJ Contest Solution – 05.26.24

The birds (who fly “up in the air”) were homonyms of verbs, with synonyms appearing in the grid:

  • CROW -> TRIUMPH: [Boastfully celebrate]
  • CRANE -> EXTEND: [Stretch, as one’s neck]
  • HAWK -> RETAIL: [Sell]
  • SNIPE -> NITPICK: [Criticize]

The first letters of the mapped synonyms spell TERN (a homophone for turn), our contest solution. Another fun meta by Patrick. Solvers: please share your thoughts. I’ll leave you with a song from the Up in the Air soundtrack: This Land is your Land by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings.



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15 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, May 24, 2024

  1. Luther says:

    Geez. Where did the #$%^& BIRDS come from?
    I couldn’t unsee AIRedale and fastenUP.
    Got stuck on the title and froze.

  2. Barry Miller says:

    Up and to the left of the words AIR and Up I could rationalize seeing the letters SMOG, so I just guessed that, because I had a hectic though rewarding weekend, and i loved that answer. While this basic strategy worked wonders last week, it failed this time. Next time, I’ll make a greater effort, in the hope of attaining a mug in this lifetime, though I only drink water.

  3. Conrad says:

    Just a quick note that I meant to mention (AIR)EDALES and FASTEN(UP) in my writeup, but forgot to as the deadline approached. I also found those highly distracting, and wonder why Patrick included them. I can’t see how that was an accident.

  4. Simon says:

    Was traveling yesterday and that made it difficult to focus fully on the meta. I got stuck on ORC ARC and ARK in first three and SID in the fourth. And tried to fit Oracle and Kcar into the theme. Elegant construction by Mr Berry. As usual.

  5. Jonesy says:

    Did the wsj accept TURN as an alternate? I submitted TERN but feared taking another step to the homophone (given the birds are turned in the themers) was required. I could see it go either way.

  6. Derryl York says:

    I saw CNN (See N) and seleccted CNN, Tin, Inn, and Sin and their first clue words to spell CART. I know to use the long clues, but couldn’t make anything out of it this week.

  7. CrossRhodes says:

    The clue that helped me to solve this was 3D [looking backward]. We haven’t had a homonym mapping solution in a while, this was a nice change of pace!

  8. Eric H says:

    Initially, I got distracted by a bunch of INs in the grid, and looked at letters to the left or up from there.

    After looking at it on and off on Saturday, I picked it up Sunday and the backwards CROW or HAWK jumped out at me. I should’ve seen the birds sooner, but I just don’t read well right to left.

    Once I had all four birds, I quickly realized they were also verbs, (When solving the grid, I had thought it a little odd that the answer to 69A “Stretch, as one’s neck,” wasn’t CRANE.)

    So I found T, N, R and E. I know anagramming is usually part of a meta solution, but most people can anagram four letters in their head, right?

    Thus, without a lot of confidence, I submitted my answer, RENT.

    The correct answer hit me around 5 this morning.

    Nice meta.

    I was happy to be reminded of “The Departed,” which may be my second favorite Scorsese movie. They could have filled the Best Supporting Actor category just from that movie; in addition to WAHLBERG, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin are all great in that.

  9. Dougo says:

    Do you know if they’ll notify the winner today or tomorrow? I haven’t gotten the congratulatory email yet.

  10. Garrett says:

    Meh, from me. Patrick is an incredible constructor, and I usually grok his rare meta puzzles. Of course, now I see the mechanism. Alas.

  11. Margaret Beahrs says:

    I am a beginner here. Just happy if I can solve the grid, much less figure out the puzzle. What is a meta, anyway and how do you construct one?

  12. DBMiller says:

    Song of the week should have been “Turn, Turn, Turn” from The Byrds :)

    • Conrad says:

      Great song, but too obvious. If you know my song choices: I rarely go for the obvious choice. Where’s the sport in that?

Comments are closed.