Tag Archives: WSJ Contest

WSJ Crossword Contest 4-9-21 Answer

I initially had some struggles with this one, but it all worked out in the end. And I got to do the same pen-on-paper thing I like doing. Only a couple overwrites this time, which is better than other times. But the main thing is getting the answer and the hope at that coffee mug. It’s something that eludes me, and I never have my hopes up anymore.

As is always the case, I had to make it legible and highlightable.

With the title THE PLAY’S THE THING and a clue of “word from Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy.

My knowledge of Shakespeare is complete. I am fully aware of Bill Shakespeare. Dude is so famous that he was among the first to get the covid vaccine in England.

But my knowledge in Shakespeare appears to be shakier.

That is so say there was no way to do this from my memory. Which meant: To the googles!

I found the soliloquy on Wikipedia, but there are many versions, so that was a dead end. I only learned it was doomed a little while into it, but I’ll save you that experience.

I shifted to the approach I use for the puzzles when I don’t know the subject matter. It’s definitely a good idea because, you know, I don’t know the subject matter.

I began with highlighting the answers to the clues that used quotation marks. It wasn’t working out.

I followed that up with the standard: going off the longest answers.

With those identified, I saw some characters I recognized from Bill’s plays. I fumbled around and found others.

But it’s not the characters–THE PLAY’S THE THING. So it’s about which play the characters are in.

DUNCAN: Macbeth
IAGO: Othello
ROMEO: Romeo and Juliet
VIOLA: Twelfth Night
PUCK: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
BEROWNE: Love’s Labour’s Lost

MORTAL is the answer. No way I get there just from the soliloquy.

WSJ Crossword Contest 3-12-21 Answer

Whoo! This was one that took many steps for me to get.

The title of the puzzle is Pre-Order Your Copy Now, and the clue is classic American company.

Really, always fun to make the crossouts in a crossword by pen.

Clearer is better for analysis.

I highlighted the long answers that I was sure would play into the contest.

Then I noticed that the letter H started the second words.

I started looking at the Pre-Order part of the clue and thought that it had something to do with E-O.

I realized it did not, but maybe it had something to do with a SHOE?

But then there was the U.

HOUSE! In random order!

WSJ Crossword Contest 3-5-21 Answer

This puzzle wasn’t too bad, and the theme was easy to follow.

When I started with the WSJ Crossword Contest, I thought the way to solve the puzzles was absurd. But I’ve learned that they follow a logic that repeats. I don’t think I’m robbing myself of a mug by pointing out that the answers generally have to do with the longest answers, themed answers, starred clues, or weird patterns.

I’m used to not winning contests anyway or having my name in print in association with puzzles from when I got snubbed by Will Shortz.

That’s not to say that that formula will give the answer always, and sometimes it’s just an early step in getting to the answer, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not as scary.

The title of this one is Overlaps, and the theme clues were repeats. They overlapped that way.

And the answer to this week’s contest crossword is an eight-letter word.

Easier to read now.

As usual I highlighted the answers I thought were applicable to the meta puzzle.

And very quickly I saw the shingles as the overlaps of the theme answers.

WSJ Contest Crossword 2-19-21 Answer

This is the fastest I’ve ever gotten the meta puzzle answer. Also likely the fastest I’ve ever gotten the Friday crossword completed. That is to say that I sent in the answer at 3:02pm on Thursday, and I didn’t even print out the puzzle as soon as it was released.

I’ve said this before, but there’s something that’s just fun about doing the crossword with pen and paper that isn’t there on the screen. I don’t know if it’s the risk of crossouts or the illegibility or sometimes misread of which clue goes with which box, but I’m going to keep on doing this for the WSJ crossword contest.

The title of this puzzle is IN CHARACTER.

The answer to this week’s contest crossword is a famous novel.

For my analysis, I still have to put it into a different format, so there’s no real time saving to do it all onscreen.

I’ve learned from the past that the starred clues are important for the meta puzzle answer.

17A *Lightly fruity wine: BEAUJOLAIS.
25A *Faultfinding situation: BLAMEGAME.
50A *Meditation-while-asleep practice: DREAMYOGA.
58A *1970 chart-topping hit for the Jackson 5: ILLBETHERE.

Then there was the hint clue:

36A George Eliot novel that’s not the contest answer, but provides a hint to it: MIDDLEMARCH.

BTW, What’s that comma doing in the clue?

Whatever this thing is must be in the middle of these long answers!

As to what links JO, MEG, AMY, and BETH, Calah immediately blurted, “Little Women!” And there you have it.

WSJ Crossword Contest 2-12-21 Answer

I definitely made tons of assumptions on this one but can’t imagine I’m wrong.

Always fun to do the printed crossword in pen!
It’s unlikely that the it’s actually the reason that that’s how you get FIRE, but I don’t know!

I took the long answers and reverse-engineered the 39A FIRE. I haven’t figured out how it’s supposed to work.

I thought there was a chance that there was a Double R concept somehow.

Then I reconsidered and saw that there was Harry Belafonte and Sally Struthers.

Additionally Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom.

I couldn’t find a second Sally.

I submitted When Harry Met Sally.

WSJ Contest 1-23-21

This puzzle was easy to get to but hard to solve.

With six word and a six-letter meta puzzle, I had to be on the right track.

That the puzzle is in the key of C gave me more confidence. And that it was a C meant it was probably a DO RE MI type of thing.

I looked for things at the end. HEEL probably went with SOL because heel and sole. That became obviously wrong the more I went along.

What if I tried to find notes everywhere? Would that help?


Back to the original.

OK way more sense. The letters at the end of each long word.


CMaj scale:

DO – C
RE – D
MI – E
FA – F
LA – A
TI – B



There you have it! DEGBAC

I submitted CHORDS, but I know that’s not right.

WSJ Crossword Contest 1-17-21 Answer

This puzzle started off with a busted WSJ puzzles site. I couldn’t do the crossword puzzle on my screen no matter which computer or browser I used. So I printed it out. I did the puzzle in pen, and that got Calah to call me a lunatic or something to that effect.

As I went through, I did have some errors, so I had to overwrite some of my answers. It’s not the prettiest of grids, but it’s honest.

It was a lot of fun, but I knew I couldn’t get the meta puzzle answer from this nonsense.

So it was off to Excel!

Way easier to read and to highlight!

The clues fell into place, as did the highlighting.

And, of course, the missing word of the movie titles.


A BUG’S with the missing LIFE because I WON’T SPOIL THE ENDING.

So the answer: A Bug’s Life.

WSJ Contest 1-8-21 Answer

It’s all but guaranteed that my answer is wrong, but damned if I didn’t put effort into it.

The answer I was going to submit is ESSAY. I decided against that while writing this.

This can’t possibly be the answer because there’s nothing supporting it, but it’s the only thing that I can come up with that has to do with English class.

The AP part of AP English was–and still is–bothering me.

I had gone down that route.

Any AP together might have indicated something I could use. Perhaps letters in between A and P could tell me something. It did not.

I looked to see if SA could get me anywhere for ESSAY.

No dice there, either.

Maybe the longest answers would help?

Didn’t seem like it.

Then I realized something that was sure to break this wide open!

The A and the P were right there! That just had to be something. It couldn’t not be!

After staring at it longer, I decided that I’d go with ADJECTIVE.

All the letters are there! Who knows!

WSJ Crossword 12-31-20 Contest Answer

I tried and lost with this one. The title of the puzzle is The Party Starts at 10. That was supposed to help me, I thought. It hasn’t as of writing this, but that could change partway through. Who knows!

My first instinct was that the answers would start with IO. Because IO looks like 10.

That didn’t go very far because it was immediately and very obviously wrong.

Then I started looking a a phrase that started with the answer to 10D. Nope.

Then I started noticing a trend. TEN was written out in the grid!

There’s no way that’s a coincidence.

I looked for COUNTDOWN because DOWN was under the TEN in the SE corner. No dice. I stared at this for way too long. I also thought of RING IN THE NEW YEAR, but that’s five words, so nope!

Got up. Did other stuff. Came back. Nothing.

Then I realized it’s AT 10.

This, too, provided no help.

I went back into the archives of the puzzle to see if there was a trend I was missing.

Shifting these repeating words to reveal new words did nil.

I remembered that the longest clues were each 10 letters long, so I highlighted those and overlaid the TENs I’d found.


So it was back to AT 10!

Maybe the words were missing a T? Or were in some pattern?

Frustrated, I then went back to the long answers, and after much staring and looking for things, I came up with something stupid.


But where’s the year?

Submitted it because why not.

WSJ Crossword 12-24-20 Contest Answer

Longtime listeners of NPR’s Car Talk remember a puzzler and subsequent references to Ray saying something to the effect of, “I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that there’s only one answer.” That there wasn’t only one answer was a source of taunting and replays of that statement in other episodes.

But that’s what I’m going to do here.

I am so confident that my answer to the Crossword Contest is right that I’m starting out with it and dedicating this entire post to it. The post about the puzzle will drop in about an hour.


The path to getting there was absolutely crazy.

Since last week was the first time I had ever tried the Crossword Contest, I thought the solution may follow the same approach of a shifted template. So I tried to find links there.

The first attempt started with noticing a lot of doubled letters.

There weren’t nearly enough or in any shape to give me a clue, but maybe there was more I could do with doubled letters.

That led to trying to find if all the doubled letters made a shape.

It did not.

However, I found that there were 12 letters in the puzzle that were doubled: A, C, E, F, H, I, L, N, O, R, S, T. The clue said a 12-letter word. Maybe it’s a word that uses only those 12 letters?

I rejected that pretty quickly because that’s too much.

I decided to black out the doubled letters to see if that revealed a word.

The revealed word was obvious: NO.

Back to the drawing board.

I looked at old puzzle answers. They had to do with the main clue or linked clues or gaps or really anything. But I looked hard at the only linked clue: 25A With 45-Across, where you might find a present: BENEATH / THETREE.

OK! So I see the word TREE all around. I also see the word THE in many places. That’s gotta be it.

Here’s where Ron Howard says: “But, it wasn’t.”

It was back to looking inside my brain. The word is just so long, and it can’t possibly be all in a row. But there’s something to do with trees and under them. So I started looking for trees.

And I found FIR. Fir is used as a Christmas tree, so that sounds good. What about pine? No dice. But FIR was a good start. And it had to be under, so if this is the way, the letters have to be across.

Then I found ELM. Elm gave me NSE. I typed FRANKENSENSE into S7 in Excel, and =len(S7) gave me 12. OK! It’s gotta be that word? Maybe? Sounds like it’s an on-theme answer.

I looked for the middle parts of that word and realized my spelling was off when I found ASH and OAK.

That it could be anything but FRANKINSCENSE, to me, is an impossibility.