Tag Archives: WSJ

WSJ Crossword 12-28-20 Complete

It is coming down in LA. Wow! I haven’t seen rain like this since last year, I think. And it’s almost next year already.

I pulled out 32A How a baseball game starts: TIED because it reminds me of a story from when I was a sportscaster in college. UCSB women’s basketball was playing a game against I think Cal State Monterey Bay, but I’m not entirely certain right now if that was the opponent this story relates to. The game was to be played at the Events Center or ECen, but what we all knew as the Thunderdome. I’ll have to fact check this part, too, but I believe that Mitchell Clements was my broadcast partner for that game, and he and I did our pregame show leading up to tipoff. But there was a problem: The scoreboard was not functioning. They tried to fix it before the game was set to start, but that didn’t happen. So the refs assessed a technical foul to the team, and Cal State Monterey Bay(?) was allowed two free throws. They made one of the the two. The game started with UCSB down 1-0. I hadn’t seen that before or since. But not all game start tied.

The title of this puzzle is Are Too! Unfortunately, there is nothing Star Wars about this one.

Sorry, fella. Jeremy R. Capp says there’s no place for you here. https://www.digitalspy.com/movies/a32343238/star-wars-r2-d2-name-george-lucas-thx-1138/

16A Luxury SUV from England: RANGEROVER. I’ve been in some. They are luxurious.
28A “The Princess Bride” director: ROBREINER. That was a good movie. “The Jerk” was directed by his father, Carl Reiner, who passed away in June of this year.
44A Wear out: RUNRAGGED.
27D Pan’s opposite: RAVEREVIEW. Speaking of panning compared to raving, I’m halfway through the final season of Breaking Bad, and it’s been tough for me to want to watch it. No average episode rating on IMDb dips below 8.9/10, but I find it to be almost unwatchable. To me, the characters have lost all relatability. I’m not rooting for anything other than for the end of the series. But it’s a long goodbye.
10D Tournament style: ROUNDROBIN. Yum!

58A Quaint vacay, and a hint to five long answers in this puzzle: ALITTLERNR.

Yeah, not you, either. https://www.twinpeaksblog.com/2020/06/27/twin-peaks-x-society6-double-r/

Finished this one in 19:39.

WSJ Crossword 12-24-20 Complete

About an hour ago I posted the WSJ Crossword Contest blog post. This is the one for the crossword itself.

I pulled out 40D Drunkenly debauched: BACCHIC because this is a new thing to me. Turns out that Bacchus is the Roman name for the Greek Dionysus. Dionysus/Bacchus is the god of of the vine, grape-harvest, wine-making, wine, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, theatre.

Title of the puzzle is Past and Present, and of course this had a Christmas theme.

1A Present: GIFT. This is a little on the nose for the puzzle title.
10A Sax great Stan: GETZ. Like everyone getz a present.
25A With 45-Across, where you might find a present: BENEATH/THETREE.
35A Altar exchange: IDOS. You present rings under the chuppah.
36A Many a Christmas present: TOY.
41A Lift, so to speak: THIEVE. It’s a present to yourself. Or like Secret Santa because the store/Santa doesn’t know that you got the present until they take inventory.
61A Player’s payment: ANTE. Past and present, but this is before.

In an update from the earlier post, I totally got the crossword contest right. Hooray!

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.

WSJ Crossword 12-23-20 Complete

This was a shockingly tough puzzle for a Wednesday, but maybe I’m just a little off my game today? I did find yet another WSJ/NYT duplicate, and there has to be collusion in some way. How can it be so frequent that the same day has some shared answers?

That’s what 19A Goes ballistic: RANTS is. And it’s an apt answer for what I’m writing right now. I don’t know that I particularly care for the clue, but we’re set on the rant part. In the today’s NYTXW, there was 70A Speeches that go off the rails: RANTS. Now, the WSJXW comes out at 1pm, and the NYTXW comes out at 7pm. From personal experience, I do not think it’s beneath Will Shortz to throw in others’ work uncredited. Doesn’t make me very happy to come to that conclusion, but what am I supposed to do?

The title of today’s puzzle is Flow Profile. It wasn’t exactly what I’d expected it to be, but I caught on partway through: just get rid of the F’s.

20A The chicken dance as a touchdown celebration?: VICTORYFLAPS – F = VICTORYLAPS. I had interpreted the Flow part of the puzzle title as the puzzle having to do with flows. I filled out VECTORY because vector flow pun. But no.
34A Pairs-driving practice?: FLIPSYNCING – F = LYPSINCING.
41A Plane trip whose carbon emissions are offset?: GREENFLIGHT – F = GREENLIGHT.
51A Evolution gone wrong?: FLAWOFNATURE – F = LAWOFNATURE.

I wish it had been a real flow thing rather than the removal of an F.

I finished this long Wednesday in 58:52.

WSJ Crossword 12-22-20 Complete

A strange slog of a puzzle today. Could be the Tuesday blues. One day closer to the end of the short week. But it feels a lot like Monday night. Hooray for scheduled posts!

I pulled out 49A Cheering loudly: AROAR because this word’s absence from the NYT Spelling Bee word list is the subject of repeated complaints of mine.

It won’t be long till I find this in an NYTXW.

The title of this puzzle is Family Holiday, and when I solved the first themed clue, I figured it was about different members of a family. Turns out that it was about a single member of the family. It’s like what I imagine would happen if Denny Doherty, John Phillips, Peter Yarrow, and Paul Stookey got together to form a quartet.

4A With 13-Across, holiday greeting in Havana: FELIZ + NAVI(DAD). I couldn’t think of a cleaner way to merge this into a single clue. Something to note is that José Feliciano, singer known for that song, is Puerto Rican. This clue made me wonder if he’s Cuban. He’s not. Now I know.
28A Seasonal decoration for (54D Target of seasonal decorations: TREE): (POP)CORNSTRING. I had thought that 13D Racist or sexist, say: NOTPC was NOTOK, so this originally was (POP)KORNSTRING. Unfortunately, the WSJ editorial board seems to limit their classification of racism and sexism to political correctness, so shrug emoji. OK, kiddo?
44A Gift packaging need: WRAPPING(PA)PER. To have just two letters from this seems sloppy.
28D Oblong yellow fruit: [(P)APA]W. Talked about a missed opportunity. It was right there. But this is a fruit that normal people call the papaya. I guess others just give up early.
59A Britain’s equivalent of Santa, and a hint to the circled letters: FATHERCHRISTMAS. This is from a country whose Mother’s Day is called Mothering Sunday and is a religious holiday.

If those four guys had gotten together, they would have been Papa and Papa and Peter and Paul, and maybe they’d just agree to The Papas.

Finished this one in 16:46.

WSJ Crossword 12-21-20 Complete

An update on Friday’s contest: My answer was incorrect. Surprise. But there were good signs! I accurately identified that the Z’s had something to do with it.

It turns out that the Z’s were a pattern that highlights the letters of CATNAP when shifted to the other side of the puzzle. Cool.

I pulled out 58A Carrier to Israel: ELAL because, according to sources familiar with the situation, Israel is closing its skies within the next 48 hours due to dangers related to the new strain of the coronavirus. Good times.

The puzzle title is Cold Cuts. I grew up calling cold cuts by their real name. But there are people I know who refer to the meats simply as “deli.” Those people tend to be from the midwest and east coast, so I don’t know if it’s the WSJ folks are using a term they don’t normally use for this to make the theme apply or if they prefer that term. Also I figured out the theme after the fourth circle.

16A Sleight of hand, maybe: SW(I)T(C)H(E)ROO. Got me with the ol’ switcheroo!
20A “All I Want for Christmas Is You” singer: MAR(I)AH(C)AR(E)Y. If I listened to the radio, I’d be hearing this a lot now.
35A One might make a B-9 announcement: B(I)NGO(C)ALL(E)R. I miss regular bingo. But we can make our 2021 bingo cards soon. Who has “PRO GAMES CANCELED/DELAYED DUE TO ILLNESS CONCERNS” on next year’s card?
50A Group of close associates: (I)NNER(C)IRCL(E). If I didn’t have Fave Five from T-Mobile, I’d be out of minutes on the second day of the billing month.

56A Get-to-know-you game, and a description of this puzzle’s theme: ICEBREAKER. Because the letters of ICE keep drifting away.

Finished this one on my phone in 9:39.

WSJ Crossword 12-18-20 including contest guess

I didn’t realize until this week that I hadn’t attempted the WSJ Friday puzzle. The extra step of the contest was brought to my attention by Kate, so thanks for that! I feel like my contest submission was pretty solid, and I’ve scheduled this post to publish at 9pm on Sunday, which is right after the submission window closes.

I’d finished this puzzle in less time than the 25:35 shown in the screenshot. But I don’t even know if my puzzle answer is correct, as WSJ doesn’t congratulate for Fridays.

I pulled out 66A Divided Peninsula: KOREA because I’ve gotten on the K-Drama train. I’ve watched Crash Landing on You in its entirety. I’m now through 11 of the 16 episodes of Start-Up. I tried Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol, and I got through two episodes and change, but I couldn’t do more than that. The gateway show to the K-Dramas was Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience. Then it was on to the aforementioned shows my mom had recommended.

The puzzle’s title was In Bed by 9.

This seems like taking yarn to link newspaper clippings on a bulletin board.

Now for the likely incorrect contest answer: ZEROES.

Just as conspiracy theory-ey!

I saw that there were an unlikely number of Z’s in the grid. There seem to be a lot of O’s and a lot of letters of ZERO (as if there are so many words with Z’s), so with a six-letter word as the answer to the contest, I went with ZEROES.

What’s better than being wrong? Being wrong in public!

WSJ Crossword 12-17-20 Complete

Probably my least-favorite of this week’s WSJ puzzles this week. But an answer in this puzzle gave me reason to write a lot, so hooray!

I pulled out 39D Entertainer born Erik Weisz: HOUDINI. I got this answer immediately because I knew that one, but why did he choose Houdini as a name? It was after the French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. We all know that Houdini wasn’t a magician but rather an escape artist. Robert-Houdin was a magician and a great one in the 19th century. But he did something unforgiveable that is part of his legacy and a good reminder as to the purposes of magic.

Some people think of magic as a trickery and things that are obvious if you just know how they’re done. As Penn & Teller’s Fool Us winner Seigfried Tieber said, “There are some people that when they know how something is done, the magic is lost. There are some people that when they know how something is done, the magic grows.” The idea here is that magic isn’t just mechanics but entertainment. Some people see the techniques as tools to create something new or entertain others.

Some people see a trick as a self-contained experience, and once you know that the magician found the card you picked because each card in every–and I mean every–standard deck of Bicycle cards actually has a little RFID chip in it and they sell the RFID readers only all the magic shops and the cheap ones cost $799 and the corresponding contact lenses that serve as the display only the magician can see are even more expensive, (go tear some cards up, and you’ll see the RFID chips I’m talking about) it’s no longer impressive.

The real thing is about the experience. How was the presentation? To many, knowing the secrets irreparably adds a disappointment to experiencing a trick. Magician Nick Dopuch related that magicians don’t keep secrets from the public but rather on behalf of the public. The key in it all that makes magic entertainment is the agreement the public has with the magician. In a magic show, the public dares the magician to deceive them. The audience is willing to be fooled. This is the same as watching anyone act.

Daniel Day-Lewis has won numerous awards for being the best at being people other than Daniel Day-Lewis. How many people are saying: “I know how he does it! He just pretends that he is from a place that he’s not from and uses an accent that isn’t the one he was born with or uses normally.”? We agree to watch someone pretend do something or have capabilities that we also know aren’t real or that they don’t possess. But Elizabeth Holmes told us that Theranos would be able to do all kinds of testing with very little blood drawn. A lot of people believed her. The results did not support her claims. She’s been indicted for many different types of fraud. Fraud is trickery but without the consent of the people who were tricked.

We rejoin the topic of Robert-Houdin in Algeria in the 1850s. Robert-Houdin had been sent there to stop a revolt against the French by the people in Algeria. A local tribe had been encouraging revolt and performed miracles to demonstrate the divine approval of their cause. Rather than deal with the revolt in a military effort, the French sent Robert-Houdin to out-miracle them. He did so by, among other things, demonstrating that he could make the strongest local there the weakest man there with an incantation. He instructed the local strongman to lift a small metal box. He did so without issue. After reciting something, Robert-Houdin asked the local strongman to lift the box again. No dice. As hard as the local strongman tried, the box could not be lifted. And when he tried again, he got an electric shock. This was because Robert-Houdin had built and buried an electromagnet that he activated on the second lift attempt. On the third attempt, he electrocuted the guy. Not to death, but still. With its leaders out-miractled, pushes for revolt lost steam.

The people of Algeria were not willing participants in this trickery. Robert-Houdin used magic in the wrong way.

This puzzle’s title is Got a Light?

1A Calcium Light Night” composer: IVES. Charles Ives (1874-1954) was an American composer who lived through WWI and WWII. He was also an insurance agent. A native of Danbury, CT, Charles Ives would have been eligible for a thrashing by John Oliver if Ives were alive(s?) today.
36A With 37-Across, fall of Rome aftermath, and a hit to the puzzle theme: DARK AGES. I’m actually not sure what else has to do with light in this one.

Finished this puzzle in 30:44.

WSJ Crossword 12-16-20 Complete

In contrast with the fast NYTXW today, the WSJ puzzle was a slow one for me. I tried to use the title from the beginning to help me solve the long answers, but my guess was wrong, so that ate up some time.

I pulled out 64A Treat for chickadees: SUET because my dad showed me a small, flat cage he’d hung up in one of the citrus trees that was clearly meant for use in feeding birds. Not with birdseed but exactly with suet. That it appears in today’s puzzle when that conversation happened a few days ago is pretty cool.

My interpretation of the Offenders title was partially right. My guess was that the long clues ended in OFF (correct) but that those three letters were omitted from the grid (incorrect).

The actual answers leave a lot to be desired, and me saying that about puns is meaningful.

17A Make a big deal out of a political tiebreaker?: MILKRUNOFF. Milk runoff like it’s going all over the place. Don’t cry over spilled milk. Runoff election when no candidate gets at least 50% of the vote at an earlier stage. I think that’s how runoff elections work. There are a lot of steps here.
25A Come to grips with idleness?: FACETIMEOFF. I’m struggling with extra steps in this one. Not doing work is time off, and you gotta face that. But I can’t stand to be idle, so I’ve got different things I like to do. Like write these blogs and make stuff happen worth blog posts. The other step is faceoff? But a better clue would be Confronting otherwise idleness? Alternatively, this is for the facetime app or the need to be in front of something. I can’t get it to work more than the straightforward answer. I’d appreciate help.
36 Disparage a counterfeit product?: KNOCKKNOCKOFF. Is this a knock knock joke? Is this rapping at a door, and if someone is wearing a CHANNEL T-shirt, do you insult them? Or is it just that you knock a knockoff like a straightforward reading of the answer suggests?

Crash Landing on You is a great show.

50A Finance a pilot derived from a popular TV series? BACKSPINOFF. I guess we’re going with unrelated words. Bankroll the pilot of a spinoff series. Why am I not getting more out of this answer?
59A Broadcast clips of a grandstanding exhibitionist?: AIRSHOWOFF. You’re broadcasting (airing) a showoff, and an airshow is a thing? I like airshows as much as the next guy, but it seems like there could be a better clue to merge airshow and showoff. On the topic of airshows, my dad took me to Edwards AFB in 1997 for a public celebration of the 50th anniversary of the only recently deceased Chuck Yeager’s breaking of the sound barrier. As part of the events, Chuck Yeager was supposed to break the sound barrier again. For whatever reason, we were running a little late. As we neared the air force base, we heard a loud BOOM. Forlornly, my dad said, “That was probably it.” It was. We were close to being able to expect it but were taken by surprise and the initial uncertainty of if we’d heard what we thought we’d heard.

Finished this one in 26:26.

WSJ Crossword 12-15-20 Complete

This puzzle was OK. This took me less time to complete than the NYTXW did. Not by much, but still. And writing this post far eclipses the completion time.

I pulled out 29A Uncommon banknotes: TWOS because it doesn’t have to be that way. I went to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing a few years ago, and they mentioned how the $2 bill is seen by the public as having more value than two $1 bills or 40% of a $5 bill. (Of course it has more value than 40% of a $5 bill because that’s worth nothing; however, 60% of a $5 bill is worth $5.) The BEP claimed during that tour that if more people spent $2 bills, they’d start making more.

Before the Covid shutdown, I was doing my part either to help get put more into circulation or to exacerbate the problem. I would tip valets at the Magic Castle with $2 bills. I asked a magician-bartender friend of mine what he thought of this approach. He gave it a mixed review. Getting a tip is a good thing, he said. Getting a $2 bill as a tip is frustrating because “it looks like money, but it’s something I can’t spend.” I protested that it absolutely can be spent–and I’d know! But that we’re conditioned to think that they shouldn’t be spent is too hard a barrier to overcome. “Where do you get them, anyway? Do you just go to a bank?” he asked. “Yup!”

Today’s title is A Reflection.

17A Demographic shorthand for a middle-aged, working-class man: N(A)SC(A)RD(A)D. I had never heard this as a classification before.
24A “I had such a great time!”: TH(A)TW(A)S(A)BL(A)ST. Even more than typing that out, I’d bet!
38A State capital that began as a railway terminus: (A)TL(A)NT(A). Ever since I found out how far from the ocean Atlanta is, I’d wondered why anyone would make such a big city there. Of course, I did no investigation over the past couple decades to actually find out. Until tonight. Atlanta was chosen as the right spot topographically as a terminus to link the west (i.e. Tennessee) to the ocean (i.e. the port at Savannah). That was in the late 1830s. The decision to make Atlanta–which itself had been renamed from–Marthasville (how lame would rooting for the Marthasville Likely-Soon-To-Be-Renameds sound?) turned out to be a popular one. The town quickly expanded around the accepted invaluableness of its existence for rail purposes. It became a major hub from that.
51A Product with OdorShield and LeakGuard protection: GL(A)DTR(A)SHB(A)GS. I thought this had to do with diapers. My trash bags are Kirkland brand. Good to know that WSJ is buzz marketing these.

62A Imbalance, or, parsed differently, kind of balance shown by the circles: ASYMMETRY. The A’s in the theme answers are symmetrically distributed in the grid.

Finished this one in 11:01.