"Just A Step More" - October 23, 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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Re: "Just A Step More" - October 23, 2020


Post by tigerfly222 » Mon Oct 26, 2020 9:18 am

Meg wrote:
Mon Oct 26, 2020 8:25 am
I thought the title was odd. Now I see why. Totally missed TASTE.
Me too. If/when I solve a meta, I like that moment of realizing how brilliantly the puzzle title complements the solution. This time, after solving the meta I didn't see the connection with the title at all, until I read the official solution this morning.

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Post by michaelm » Mon Oct 26, 2020 9:25 am

In the final excitement of finding the hidden set members late on Sunday, and without the organizational skills of our cruise director shown above, originally made a couple of transcription errors and almost submitted HEELS (part of a set of shoes) and something usable to move Just a Step More.

Good thing Matt and Mike are such nice guys.
If they ever turn on us, dry land will be but a fond memory!

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Post by 802puzzler » Mon Oct 26, 2020 9:26 am

That solution was intense! I am gobsmacked! Just glad I didn't spend more time going down rabbit holes on this one! Wow!

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Post by EdStrong » Mon Oct 26, 2020 9:27 am

I went down the set theme. Multiple clue instances of France, Italy, Australia, Middle East, US states, only to find a whole lot of rabbit poop. Also spent some time with the steps in the grid. Saw Eerie, lust, and heart (doh!), but moved on. Congrats to the solvers - Kas 4 for this muggle.

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Post by 802puzzler » Mon Oct 26, 2020 9:31 am

ImOnToo wrote:
Mon Oct 26, 2020 12:20 am
I was so fixated on the clue for 52 Down followed by 60 Down. You Castle in chess before you "do anything else" with the king and castle in chess.
Then saw "Rois" (Kings?) at 5 Down.
I tried SO may iterations of moving either two to the right or three to the left of the (x) letters in each clue. I was WAY down a rabbit hole that my mind wouldn't release me from!
I was right there with you. Even the arrangement of black spaces was speaking to me of chess moves!

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Post by Gman » Mon Oct 26, 2020 9:32 am

Super grateful I was traveling this weekend and so devoted only a small effort to this one. This one should have come with a KAS warning label. When the mechanism requires a paragraph to explain, it begins to border on evil genius in a lair with a laser.

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Post by Commodore » Mon Oct 26, 2020 9:47 am

HeadinHome wrote:
Mon Oct 26, 2020 8:53 am
Never ever would have gotten this one, I’m afraid. I was completely fixated on the idea of stairs. I first circled the indicated letter of each theme answer (5th letter of CHEERIEST, etc) and got RIHER. Surely we are just one step away from that being RISER, as in a set of stairs. How can I get from H to S? And look at the black spaces .. 6 sets of diagonals that look like stair steps. And SS pairs all around them that look like those diagonals or like treads.. a word which also has 5 letters and is part of a set of stairs. But what about that stupid H??
Could not extract my lazy brain from precisely the same rabbit hole. "stupid H" was polite version of language used on our boat.
Submitted RISER.
Enjoying coffee from a non-WSJ mug for another week.

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Post by Dennis » Mon Oct 26, 2020 9:50 am

I offer my rabbit chase only as a potential mechanism for some future Mike or Matt puzzle: I had no idea if 22D (DONBASS) was correct, so when I searched for it I found that it was a "portmanteau." The combination of a difficult answer (for me!) and it's definition had to mean something! I spent untold hours searching for portmanteaus that would be at least one step.

Congrats to the solvers!

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Post by TPS » Mon Oct 26, 2020 10:01 am

So someone asked me for tips on solving this puzzle so I thought I'd repost it here in case anyone else cares.

Now I didn't solve this in the traditional way I would but maybe some of these things have just become so ingrained over the past few months I just did them unconsciously.

1. The first thing I do before solving any theme puzzle or meta puzzle is read the title. Then if there is a prompt I read the prompt. Then I look at the clues for any asterisks, parenthesis, or other markings. Next I look at the last Across & Down clues. In this case when I saw the prompt said the answer was "part of a certain set" and then saw the parenthesis in the clues - I figured that somewhere in the theme clues there were probably items that would be part of lists/sets. From the title I figured there would probably be multiple steps (One of the reasons why I was especially not enthusiastic about trying to solve this meta because I am not great at puzzles with several steps). Joe Ross taught me this.

2. On one of the WSJ puzzle webcasts w/ Mike & Matt one of them mentioned that in theme puzzles (Not metas exclusively) that when a theme answer has multiple words it is good to focus on the letters near where they intersect. I do the WSJ & LAT daily puzzles which are often theme puzzles so I started doing this on those puzzles and found it very helpful in identifying the theme and helping solve the grid. In this case, I got lucky as I saw HEART/EARTH and ERIE right off the bat and then had completed the 4 Down clues for LUST before any other part of FLUSTERED so LUST jumped off the page at me. So once I had those the rest were relatively easy for me to see without even looking.

3. I was content with just having completed the grid and having "accidentally" found the first step but when I saw everyone else was having a hard time finding the first step I thought I'd offer to help others see it. In doing that I noticed REAMS was MARS+E and having seen the "anagram + a letter" as a step twice recently I thought this was probably the answer. But somehow while doing it in my head I mixed up the letters and thought it was HURON+E instead of HURON+S so I ended up with EMELL and figured there was another step. Then about 10 minutes later when helping someone else I looked at ONRUSH again and realized my error.

4. One other thing that helped me finish the 2nd step was using logic to eliminate some of the things from the set. I recognized the limits of the constructor. As good as Matt is it would be very difficult to build a puzzle with 5 theme answers but then also hide 5 long anagrammed words in the puzzle as well so in my mind it eliminated Princeton, Michigan, Superior, Jupiter, Bashful, Gluttony - Matt did somehow manage to sneak SNEEZY in (which was the most impressive thing in a pretty impressive puzzle IMO).

So my four take aways would be: always look at the 2-3 spots where "directions" tend to be placed, for theme answer puzzles always look for words hidden in them especially if they are multiword, look for methods that have been used before as steps, and use logic when looking for things in the grid.
Last edited by TPS on Tue Oct 27, 2020 10:05 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Post by HeadinHome » Mon Oct 26, 2020 10:01 am

Giggled at imagining Pluto getting “defrocked”. Somebody needs to do a Disney spoof cartoon with Mickey telling Pluto he can no longer be a bona fide ‘toon.

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Post by HeadinHome » Mon Oct 26, 2020 10:12 am

“ "stupid H" was polite version of language used on our boat. “
Yeah, I was being polite in typing that. 😊

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Post by Nlobb » Mon Oct 26, 2020 10:16 am

Well, I got 95 percent of the way there but couldn't find the last piece.
But I did spend most of the weekend teaching my 6 year old granddaughter to do crossword puzzles. Then she made one for me by herself!! I was able to solve that but still needed her to give me a nudge on one of her clues!!
So lots of crossword fun was had by all!!

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Post by spotter » Mon Oct 26, 2020 10:25 am

I never solved and didn't put too much time into trying this week. After seeing the solution, I'm glad I didn't. I had seen ERIE, HEART (not earth) and LUST pretty early, but never associated them with the numbers, which I should've done. The next step was hard to see even when you knew the solution.

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Post by Notbitter » Mon Oct 26, 2020 10:38 am

A bit of a whine (and sorry if someone already posted this, I did not read all sixteen pages of comments here). I did the puzzle on the WSJ app on my iPad. Unless I am missing something, the app version did not include a clue for 59 across or list the number 59 in the puzzle (per my attached screenshot). Since the answer was “nil,” to me it was OBVIOUSLY important to the meta. It had me looking for empty sets, etc. I chase enough rabbits on my own without help from the app.

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Post by Janet P » Mon Oct 26, 2020 11:00 am

KAS 5 here.
Pluto is still considered a dwarf planet, so that 8 eluded me.
The other 8... Grew up in Wisconsin and moved here to Ohio about 30 years ago so Big Ten all the way! I would never have made the association to 8 Ivy league schools.
Also, the refrain of "if you are trying to anagram, you're probably on the wrong track" always echoes in my mind and makes that a last resort in my toolbox.
Here's to starting a new streak next week!
“For myself, I am an optimist. It does not seem much use being anything else...”
― Winston Churchill, The Lord Mayor's Banquet, 9 November 1954

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Post by KayW » Mon Oct 26, 2020 11:05 am

I saw the first step to this Thursday evening. inDOChine jumped out at me, I think in part because not too long ago another muggle commented that Matt had used DOC in at least 3 recent puzzles.

The second step didn't come until Sunday, and I must thank TPS and Bird Lives posts for this. They both commented that Matt/Mike used the mechanism fairly recently, so I went to the list of past puzzles and starting with the most recent, I looked carefully at each one to see if I could apply the mechanism. Struck paydirt with COCO (We're in this together).

A few of my notable rabbit holes:
- LAGOS -> lakes -> Erie, ETUDE -> study/schools -> Penn, PETRI- -> rock -> Earth and tried to find foreign language groupings for the five.
- 36D clue "the PENNy dropped!" contained one of the step 1 theme entries, was in the center of the grid and AHA to boot. But no other clues seemed to include the step 1 results.
- I also noticed that if you ignore the theme clue at 38A, there are a total of 5 clues that are quoted exclamations (e.g "The guy over there!"). Nada
- There are six sets of two black squares in the middle of the grid that look like steps. I tried every possibility using the letters around those.

I never did see TASTE in jusT A STEp more, nor SMELL hidden in MILLES. But such a relief to solve at all. I'm not sure why this one was so difficult for me and others, especially since it is a mechanism that was used before. Perhaps because there were so many choices of other set members to hunt for? (Tho let's be honest, it's got to be much easier to hide YALE in the grid than DARTMOUTH)

Beautiful puzzle!

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Post by EVJ » Mon Oct 26, 2020 11:12 am

JAQT wrote:
Mon Oct 26, 2020 12:40 am
I just want to acknowledge TPS, publicly, for gentle, patient and encouraging nudges, with exactly the right amount of tiny details to get you going.

IMO, as a learning experience, expertly given nudges are better than waiting for the full answer, since at least you learn how to work out some part of the puzzle.
My sentiment exactly.
Thank you TPS aka Todd!
I learned so much given the nudges. Yes, I needed two nudges. Couldn’t get hold of anything on my own.
This is a great forum due to people like Todd and Bob and all the other positive and helpful, fun, clever people on here.

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Post by TPS » Mon Oct 26, 2020 11:20 am

KayW wrote:
Mon Oct 26, 2020 11:05 am
(Tho let's be honest, it's got to be much easier to hide YALE in the grid than DARTMOUTH)
Exactly! I figured it probably had to be YALE or BROWN because Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Columbia would all be hard to effectively hide!

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Post by mheberlingx100 » Mon Oct 26, 2020 11:25 am

Uh, yeah ... I wasn't going to get this one. I did see and mull over Erie and earth in there, but the others didn't click, even though I am a proud Penn alum.

Nothing to do but anxiously await the next contest puzzle at 4pm EDT on Thursday.

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Post by TPS » Mon Oct 26, 2020 11:26 am

Janet P wrote:
Mon Oct 26, 2020 11:00 am
Also, the refrain of "if you are trying to anagram, you're probably on the wrong track" always echoes in my mind and makes that a last resort in my toolbox.
I agree with this refrain but it might need to be amended to something more like, "If you need to anagram to get the answer itself then you are probably on the wrong track." Because in the past 8-10 puzzles searching anagrams to find excess letters that will ultimately spell out the answer in sequence has occurred 3 times.