"Less and Less" - August 21, 2020

A place to discuss the weekly Wall Street Journal Crossword Puzzle Contest, starting every Thursday around 4:00 p.m. Eastern time. Please do not post any answers or hints before the contest deadline which is midnight Sunday Eastern time.
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spotter
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Re: "Less and Less" - August 21, 2020

#241

Post by spotter » Mon Aug 24, 2020 12:05 am

I knew the answer was with those long answers and I was looking up synonyms and antonyms and dropped letters all weekend. Just could never figure out how to work the title into it. Well played Mike Shenk

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DBMiller
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#242

Post by DBMiller » Mon Aug 24, 2020 12:09 am

My inroad was DRECK. An odd word, but one I have used and heard used. I thought of wreck and my brain first said wreckless, and I didn't correct myself right away. But it was enough to get the rest and figure out my mental misspelling of RECKless.

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Hector
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#243

Post by Hector » Mon Aug 24, 2020 12:16 am

RUTH came after MERCI and PITI.

And thank you all for your lesser heron knowledge! Yes, we're in way too many big fires in the Bay Area.

VanVeen
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#244

Post by VanVeen » Mon Aug 24, 2020 12:21 am

This was one of the toughest ones in a while because the title was, I feel, not very helpful in figuring out step 1.

It spelled out step 2 and 3 clearly, but puzzlers were basically left in the dark as to how to get there, especially since the long "theme" answers were actually only half of the theme answers.

I only solved this by back-solving what a possible answer night be, starting with 'reduce' and then 'deduct.' I saw the 'C' and 'T' in CREST and TRUTH and finally deduced what the title meant for us to do.

I'd be curious to know how many solved this one in the manner implied by the title.

JeanneC
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#245

Post by JeanneC » Mon Aug 24, 2020 12:21 am

Wow. Elegant! I had the right path in my analysis but faltered on seeing the second aspect of solution (caDre, etc). But I’m learning!!

Can’t wait for Thursday afternoon!

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Hector
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#246

Post by Hector » Mon Aug 24, 2020 12:57 am

Well I started by noticing that the themers were all kind of negative things, and so I thought that that commonality couldn't be a coincidence. So I looked for antonyms ("less") and synonyms, and luckily something popped up with -less at the end. This like most metas seems so easy after (and only after) you get it.

Homer Buckle
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#247

Post by Homer Buckle » Mon Aug 24, 2020 1:06 am

I spent way too much time on the rabbit hole of observing 2 places in the grid where you could see the word "LESS" and DNA backwards spells "AND." It took me forever to look away from that. Finally took a long walk and let my mind refresh to see it.

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#248

Post by woozy » Mon Aug 24, 2020 1:07 am

For what it's worth I noticed a lot of irrelevant answers that became other words when you you remove the first letter; such as TWILL and WILL, SMUG, and MUG, so I thought I'd note those (some were iffy CHOSE and HOSE?) and when I go to TRUTH and RUTH, I can *never* hear the name "Ruth" without thinking of the Firesign Theater joke ("I wonder where Ruth is tonight") and I thought it was odd coincidence that RUTHLESS was a synonym for CUTTHROAT but then the title Less and Less snapped right it to place. cREST+LESS confirmed and then I could find the other four although they were nowhere so apparent.

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#249

Post by tonyrobots » Mon Aug 24, 2020 1:46 am

Yeah, I was never going to get this.

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yourpalsal
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#250

Post by yourpalsal » Mon Aug 24, 2020 1:49 am

I gave it a solid effort. This was not happening for me. Lots of rabbit holes focused on verbs. Couldn’t find the less-less key. Very impressed with those who got it!

steveb
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#251

Post by steveb » Mon Aug 24, 2020 1:58 am

Excellent puzzle - much better than my feeble and unsuccessful attempts at solving it.

Jeff S
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#252

Post by Jeff S » Mon Aug 24, 2020 2:40 am

VanVeen wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 12:21 am
This was one of the toughest ones in a while because the title was, I feel, not very helpful in figuring out step 1.

It spelled out step 2 and 3 clearly, but puzzlers were basically left in the dark as to how to get there, especially since the long "theme" answers were actually only half of the theme answers.

I only solved this by back-solving what a possible answer night be, starting with 'reduce' and then 'deduct.' I saw the 'C' and 'T' in CREST and TRUTH and finally deduced what the title meant for us to do.

I'd be curious to know how many solved this one in the manner implied by the title.
For whatever reason, this one came very easily to me (two minutes to get it after completing the grid), and I got it in exactly the manner suggested by the title.

I looked at the theme answers and thought, ok, those may have synonyms ending in -less, but my original thought was that the synonyms wouldn't be on the grid itself. As I looked at each one, the first one where a "-less" synonym popped into my mind was "restless" for IMPATIENT, and lo and behold, I spied REST right next to it! Next one right below, CUTTHROAT with RUTH right next to it!

It wasn't until I looked at the theme answers further up - where the "-less" words were broken up by an intervening letter - that I focused on the fact that all of them were four letter words inside five letter grid entries, meaning that the letters forming the solution were likely going to be the leftover letters rather than (as I first thought) the initial letters of the "-less" synonyms. When I saw that the extra letters formed DEDUCT - which more or less means LESS - it became a 100%er.

As with most of these, if you happen to "see" the mechanism (the tree in the forest), the puzzle is easy, and if you don't, it's terribly frustrating. It's often the "seeing" rather than the inherent difficulty of the puzzle that determines whether you solve it, and how long it takes you to do so.

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#253

Post by TPS » Mon Aug 24, 2020 2:46 am

This ended up being a remarkably easy meta solve for me both personally and I guess relative to many other muggles. I think at least part of it came down to me being an attorney.

Following the “Basics” method laid out by Joe Ross, I first identified the 6 theme answers. I looked at the final across and down answers to see if there was a clue to solving the meta but there did not appear to be one. So then the next step was to look for things in common among the theme answers and clues and the thing that immediately jumped out at me was they were adjectives.

Also, (and here is where being a lawyer sorta played into it) many of the clues seemed to be mental states - like intent. It reminded me of the states of intent for the Model Penal Code - Purposefully, Knowingly, Recklessly, and Negligently. So first I tried to put them order by which is the LESSer level of intent but that didn’t really yield anything.

I realized this was probably too esoteric to be the basis for a WSJ meta but that all those words ended in -ly and were adverbs jumped out at me. That clicked with the title and that maybe I was looking for synonyms for those adjectives that ended in -less. This seemed especially plausible since when I was solving the grid my original answer for “CUTTHROAT” was RUTHLESS but it was 8 letters stead of 9. (I thought that was something elegant about this puzzle the 6 theme answers had 9 letters and if you added -less to the root part to form the synonym it was also 9 letters until you DEDUCT the letter you need to get to the meta answer then the synonym was one letter LESS than the theme answers).

So then I started listing all the theme clues and synonyms that ended with -less. I found all six but their first letters didn’t spell anything - at that point I was like it’s time to hit the craps table. But right as I was about to take a break - I noticed RUTH next to CUTTHROAT and then REST - and I was able to deduce the remainder of the answer.

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#254

Post by Bob cruise director » Mon Aug 24, 2020 6:04 am

Hector wrote:
Sun Aug 23, 2020 10:32 pm
Hey LadyBird or other aviaphiles, what is this? (Today in SF, maybe fleeing from the ash all about.)
Untitled.jpg
Black Crowned Night Heron
Bob Stevens
Cruise Director

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LittleGood
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#255

Post by LittleGood » Mon Aug 24, 2020 6:55 am

Should have gotten this one.

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Wendy Walker
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#256

Post by Wendy Walker » Mon Aug 24, 2020 7:52 am

This one was challenging indeed! Usually the meta involves looking at either (1) the meaning of words or (2) the letters they contain; this one required both. Fortunately, after staring at the grid for hours, I was so familiar with the answers that when I finally hit upon the synonym concept, I knew right where to look (FORM -- FORUM was my first).
Good luck, fellow Muggles!

MaineMarge
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#257

Post by MaineMarge » Mon Aug 24, 2020 8:00 am

Wow, Mike...Priceless!
Bet he has a big grin on his face, but all you see on mine is chagrin, as Joe Ross aptly put it.
Talk about clueless! I never came close to this one, but not for lack of fruitless digging among the long eared set.
I spent a lot of time with the clues and thought I was really on to something by finding several second clues that were good answers for another clue (Topic for analyst =Rorschach creations;
Fresh quality=Lip). That left me mugless.
Thanks Mike- this was a master class for us all. 🙋‍♀️

zacmoretz
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#258

Post by zacmoretz » Mon Aug 24, 2020 8:10 am

We were clueless. Spent way too much time trying to fry up Ore Ida potatoes in Wesson oil.

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tim1217
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#259

Post by tim1217 » Mon Aug 24, 2020 8:19 am

tim1217 wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 12:00 pm
Al Sisti wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 11:56 am
Well, I finally got it, and as others have noted, great construction. I need to keep in mind a) haste makes waste, and b) a bridge 90% across the river is not a bridge at all. So in summary, I am not on the boat and since I submitted an incorrect answer, I am not on (the right) shore. On a side note: "glub glub glub gurgle!"
Yeah, I had part of the answer and then immediately thought; "Oh, it must be BLANK". But then shortly realized' "Wait a minute, it could also be BLANK". Both of which I would have counted as 100%'ers. Ultimately that's why I'm not a fan of the mech. Won't say more until Monday, but I am definitely on the right shore.
Saw hint was a 6-letter word and there were 6 long across answers, so each answer represents one letter.
No clear first step, so because it's a Mike Shenk, looked at the clues.
Immediately noticed all clues for the themers were one word...couldn't be a coincidence.
'Luckily' connected title to 'other words that could also answer the clue' (this is the part of the mechanism I referred to above as 'not a fan'...way too VAGUE).
Had the obvious first 3 letters (Dreck, Crest and Truth...because the extra letter came at the beginning of the other grid answer).
Because 99+% of the time, contest answer reads from Top to Bottom, I had the partial solution of _ _ D _ C T.
Immediately though, must be DEDUCT, but then also thought, wait, it could be REDACT (which I think would also fit LESS and LESS (although not as elegantly as deduct).
So I was not only looking for the missing DEU but also REA. Finally saw forUm and realized formless fit as a possible alternative to vague and that the extra letter was not necessarily at the beginning and went sailing from there.
"GET OFF MY LAWN!".
Walt Kowalski, Gran Torino

zacmoretz
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#260

Post by zacmoretz » Mon Aug 24, 2020 8:36 am

If this week’s was a 2 1/2, and last week’s was a 2 1/2, I’m not sure the difficulty-o-meter is working properly...

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