"Under the Table" - July 9, 2021

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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Joe
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#381

Post by Joe »

I figured from the beginning that the periodic table must be involved, but then could find no way to use it. And I, of course, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS make these things more complicated than they are. So, I resized an image of the periodic table and printed it out. Then I placed it over my computer screen to see if things lined up. Get it? The puzzle was UNDER THE TABLE! A-ha!! Obviously this led nowhere. Then I picked up the puzzle the next day, saw the AU in leprechaun, and remembered that "pot of gold" was in its clue. Meta solved in 5 seconds.
Franklin.Bluth
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#382

Post by Franklin.Bluth »

*nitpicking hat on*

"Lead" was a bit of a cheat for me in the TOP BANANA clue. It was used in the clue in the sense of a leader or head guy, and thus was pronounced LEED, not LED like the element. In all the other theme clues, the element itself, not a homonym, was used.

That said, I don't really have an alternate suggestion for the clue. Maybe something like "A burlesque dancer going from lead-footed understudy to ________".

*Nitpicking hat off*

And yet it was a delightful puzzle with a great "Aha!" moment and the Mike Shenk trademark of integrating the clues into the meta. I had a lot to do this weekend, so I'm glad I solved it Thursday, but it was a great meta.
michaelm
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#383

Post by michaelm »

MarkWoychick wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 11:08 am I was thinking payments and drinking: “cash under the table” and “drink [someone] under the table.” All of the theme answers are names of cocktails, so I convinced myself that was the right path. I tried to connect the ingredients of the cocktails and all other sorts of nonsense that led to jumbles of letters.

A few lessons here (we’ll see if they are lessons learned in the coming weeks): 1) when you’ve dug yourself into a hole, put down the shovel! 2) look for precision/elegance in the answers. For example, there are many leprechaun variations (fuzzy, drunk, etc.) and different liquors used for top banana. This and the jumbles of letters I wrung from this process should have clued me in that this was wrong path.

I was able to get the answer with a nudge, but before asking for help, I should have stepped back and tried to look at it with fresh eyes.
All of the theme answers are names of cocktails...
Wow!
Had never heard of any of those four cocktails.
What a double entendre from Mike Shenk.
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Kas
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#384

Post by Kas »

Wow, what an elegant puzzle...I sniffed around the Element Table rabbit hole, but alas, failed to connect the "metal named in the clue" part, so--CLOSE, BUT NO BANANA!!! Guess I'll just have to console myself with banana daiquiris at Ye Olde Cruise Ship Bar, sigh.
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TheCatt
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#385

Post by TheCatt »

I might have needed a NEON sign to get that puzzle...
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KayW
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#386

Post by KayW »

Leprechaun was my first toehold on this one. As I was entering 33 across into the grid, I thought to myself 'howza bout that? The symbol for gold is right there in the word "leprechAUn".' :bulb: enlightenment ensued.
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DannyWalter
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#387

Post by DannyWalter »

This is my favorite meta puzzle to date. I probably put 3 hours into it, the first 2:58 of which was just dumb staring. Under what table? CASH threw me off, gold and silver being forms of cash, i.e. coins. A GRID could be a table. But this forum eventually got me there. I saw two posts mentioning "back to basics". Hmm. Ok. So I went to the hints for solvers page and started going through the lists. Look at the CLUES. So I looked at the clues, again, more closely. Gold, silver, iron, banana. Banana? No, lead! And, done.

From now on, I plan to look at the clues first, before starting the grid.

Rating the difficulty of this one is hard :) It was difficult for me, but now I see it "should" have been easy. Of course, it's always easy once you know it, as I have learned from my many years in IT.

I was once on what we call a "Crit Sit", for "Critical Situation" when we had an outage of a vendor product (the one that makes itty bitty machines) that hit us at peak volume, costing the company significant revenue. Five weeks(!) of around the clock debugging by a lot of very smart people turned out to have been caused by a configuration change that had been made 2 years earlier. Head slapping all around. A few of us wound up under the table after it was over.

Anyway, thanks Muggles! Couldn't have done it without you!
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Abide
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#388

Post by Abide »

hoover wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 12:30 am

Maybe @Al Sisti or moderator could edit the image Al posted to make it a little more DISCREET, i.e. by obscuring his email address so he doesn't get even more spam than he probably already does? It's visible even if you're not logged in.
I'm just glad he cropped his tabs ;)
The site is just a web page, a meeting place, a clubhouse - it's the group that's special.
—Brian MacDonald
MikeMillerwsj
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#389

Post by MikeMillerwsj »

A tough puzzle, with a turnout slightly below the blockbuster level, but also an above-average rate of correct responses. We had 1172 entries, about 83% correct (75% is closer to typical). Incorrect answers seemed to be inspired by the title, with a few sniffing around the trail of elements: ILLEGAL (30), METALLIC (9), ICONIC (8), PERIODIC (7) and many others.

Congrats to this week's winner: Donald Sebo of Pocatello, Idaho!
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femullen
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#390

Post by femullen »

DannyWalter wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 1:42 pm CASH threw me off...

Rating the difficulty of this one is hard :) It was difficult for me, but now I see it "should" have been easy. Of course, it's always easy once you know it, as I have learned from my many years in IT.
Me too: CASH down the rabbit hole.

I discount the difficulty ratings almost entirely. (For Al Sisti, they must all be 1s, he figures these things out so fast.) I'd guess there's a great deal of self-selection bias in the results, as those most likely to provide ratings are people who solve the metas. As you point out, once you understand the mechanisms, they're all easy.

There's a story told of Charles Steinmetz, GE's electrical wizard a century or so ago. Called to diagnose a malfunctioning piece of equipment, he arrived at the client's site, fiddled around briefly, then chalked a big letter X on the machine. That's where the problem is, he asserted, and handed the client a bill for $1000.

"A thousand dollars!" the client gasped. "How can you charge a thousand dollars for making an X?"

"Only one dollar for making the X," Steinmetz replied, "the rest for knowing where to make it."
For nudges, feel free to PM me. I won't have a clue how to help you, but you just might shove me ashore.
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HunterX
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#391

Post by HunterX »

DannyWalter wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 1:42 pm I was once on what we call a "Crit Sit", for "Critical Situation" when we had an outage of a vendor product (the one that makes itty bitty machines) that hit us at peak volume, costing the company significant revenue. Five weeks(!) of around the clock debugging by a lot of very smart people turned out to have been caused by a configuration change that had been made 2 years earlier. Head slapping all around. A few of us wound up under the table after it was over.
Well, after 5 weeks of lost revenue, you were lucky to wind up under the table instead of under the bus for that one!
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HunterX
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#392

Post by HunterX »

femullen wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 2:19 pm
DannyWalter wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 1:42 pm CASH threw me off...

Rating the difficulty of this one is hard :) It was difficult for me, but now I see it "should" have been easy. Of course, it's always easy once you know it, as I have learned from my many years in IT.
There's a story told of Charles Steinmetz, GE's electrical wizard a century or so ago. Called to diagnose a malfunctioning piece of equipment, he arrived at the client's site, fiddled around briefly, then chalked a big letter X on the machine. That's where the problem is, he asserted, and handed the client a bill for $1000.

"A thousand dollars!" the client gasped. "How can you charge a thousand dollars for making an X?"

"Only one dollar for making the X," Steinmetz replied, "the rest for knowing where to make it."
I love the story Richard Feynman told in his first autobiography about problem solving. Once, while on the Los Alamos project, he was sent to a uranium enriching facility they were building to check it out how it was progressing. They showed him schematics of the plant. He missed the explanation of one symbol on the blueprints, but didn't interrupt to ask about it. As time went on, he realized it would be really embarrassing to ask what it was after so much time and explanation had gone by. Why hadn't he asked before, they might think, since they had referred to it a few times. So he had to think up a way to find out what it was without directly asking. He asked something along the lines of, "What happens if this (pointing to the symbol in question) fails?" The engineers looked at each other and had hushed discussions, after which they said, "You're a genius Mr. Feynman! You found an incredible weakness in our design!" As I recall, he played along and let them think he was a genius.

But he STILL hadn't found out what the symbol on the schematic was!
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mntlblok
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#393

Post by mntlblok »

Turkish rabbits got holt of me for a while. Can't remember precisely "why" I looked it up, but "Engel" is a word in Turkish. Another hole kept pushing me towards the letters in "legal". . .

Probably a better way for adding images in the forum, but this'll have to do for now.

Last edited by mntlblok on Mon Jul 12, 2021 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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LadyBird
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#394

Post by LadyBird »

woozy wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 2:42 am
If one's goal is to directly get to solving the meta and solving it as quickly as possible, then its conceivable that one might immediately start on the longest across clues. Those frequently are the "theme answers" and so going immediately to them is plausible and conceivable.

If you look at those clues together but in isolation to the rest of the grid it's easy to note they all have a metal specifically mentioned in the clues. This could very easily be done in 45 seconds (okay... it took me 4 hours but we aren't talking about me).

And metals + "TABLE" = periodic table => chemical symbols

So without having any of the grid filled in a very clever and very determined person could have figured out in one minute: The theme answer involves the letters AG, AU, FE, PB and something to do with looking "UNDER" things.

So is it that astonishing that in the remaining seven minutes such a person would have filled in the four longest across answers and the required down clues (less than 20% of the total grid) to reveal DI, SC, RE, ET under the AG, AU, FE, PB? And conclude that DISCREET=under the table is simply too coincidental to not be the final answer?

Okay.... yes, that is utterly astonishing!

But plausible.


(And I have no idea if that is what Al did.... but I can [barely, just barely] conceive someone doing it.)
That is a brilliant strategy, but I don't think that I could do it. I'm too OCD--I need to fill out the whole grid. So I may get the occasional page 1, but that will prevent me getting the #1 spot.
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mntlblok
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#395

Post by mntlblok »

LadyBird wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 2:58 pm
woozy wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 2:42 am
If one's goal is to directly get to solving the meta and solving it as quickly as possible, then its conceivable that one might immediately start on the longest across clues. Those frequently are the "theme answers" and so going immediately to them is plausible and conceivable.

If you look at those clues together but in isolation to the rest of the grid it's easy to note they all have a metal specifically mentioned in the clues. This could very easily be done in 45 seconds (okay... it took me 4 hours but we aren't talking about me).

And metals + "TABLE" = periodic table => chemical symbols

So without having any of the grid filled in a very clever and very determined person could have figured out in one minute: The theme answer involves the letters AG, AU, FE, PB and something to do with looking "UNDER" things.

So is it that astonishing that in the remaining seven minutes such a person would have filled in the four longest across answers and the required down clues (less than 20% of the total grid) to reveal DI, SC, RE, ET under the AG, AU, FE, PB? And conclude that DISCREET=under the table is simply too coincidental to not be the final answer?

Okay.... yes, that is utterly astonishing!

But plausible.


(And I have no idea if that is what Al did.... but I can [barely, just barely] conceive someone doing it.)
That is a brilliant strategy, but I don't think that I could do it. I'm too OCD--I need to fill out the whole grid. So I may get the occasional page 1, but that will prevent me getting the #1 spot.
Was completely blown away by a video I watched a while back about a crossword tournament. Found it!

This week's "crossword" portion was easy. The video's tournament final's apparently *wasn't*. The big boys are from a different planet. If that tournament puzzle can be completed in under five minutes, then "special strategies" would seem completely unnecessary for these obvious "Triple Nine" types on here that are performing at Olympian levels. Am a huge fanboy of this separate species of human. :-)

BTW, anybody else keeping up with the goings on this time of year up in Katmai? https://explore.org/livecams/three-bear ... ooks-falls
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ajk
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#396

Post by ajk »

mntlblok wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 3:14 pm BTW, anybody else keeping up with the goings on this time of year up in Katmai? https://explore.org/livecams/three-bear ... ooks-falls
Checked them out in person a few years ago:
katmai small.png
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Jeremy Smith
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#397

Post by Jeremy Smith »

ajk wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 12:26 am lol given that I teach chemistry this seems like one I should have gotten quicker than I did. My first thought was indeed the periodic table but just quickly scanning the entries I missed the symbols (though I did notice barium a few times :lol: :lol:).

It was only glancing back at the clues that I noticed the metals and then it fell quickly.

My excuse for not getting it faster is that I teach organic and we don't mess with metals that much. :lol:
Alan, you posted that you were onshore 25 minutes after the puzzle was published. That’s pretty dang fast. I suppose that if you taught general chem, your effort would have turned out to be truly SISTIAN. :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Scott M
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#398

Post by Scott M »

michaelm wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 1:11 pm
MarkWoychick wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 11:08 am I was thinking payments and drinking: “cash under the table” and “drink [someone] under the table.” All of the theme answers are names of cocktails, so I convinced myself that was the right path. I tried to connect the ingredients of the cocktails and all other sorts of nonsense that led to jumbles of letters.

A few lessons here (we’ll see if they are lessons learned in the coming weeks): 1) when you’ve dug yourself into a hole, put down the shovel! 2) look for precision/elegance in the answers. For example, there are many leprechaun variations (fuzzy, drunk, etc.) and different liquors used for top banana. This and the jumbles of letters I wrung from this process should have clued me in that this was wrong path.

I was able to get the answer with a nudge, but before asking for help, I should have stepped back and tried to look at it with fresh eyes.
All of the theme answers are names of cocktails...
Wow!
Had never heard of any of those four cocktails.
What a double entendre from Mike Shenk.
Makes me feel like a slacker for just drinking Manhattans after solving. I'm gonna have to up my game next week...
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
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Jeremy Smith
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#399

Post by Jeremy Smith »

hcbirker wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 11:47 am
BrianMac wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 10:34 am I'm blown away that anyone solved this without noticing the elements in the clues.
That would be me.
That’s impressive, Heidi! I don’t know how you did it. Without the elements in the clues, the puzzle would have been a KAS5 for me.
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DannyWalter
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#400

Post by DannyWalter »

HunterX wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 2:40 pm
DannyWalter wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 1:42 pm I was once on what we call a "Crit Sit", for "Critical Situation" when we had an outage of a vendor product (the one that makes itty bitty machines) that hit us at peak volume, costing the company significant revenue. Five weeks(!) of around the clock debugging by a lot of very smart people turned out to have been caused by a configuration change that had been made 2 years earlier. Head slapping all around. A few of us wound up under the table after it was over.
Well, after 5 weeks of lost revenue, you were lucky to wind up under the table instead of under the bus for that one!
5 weeks of lost revenue woud have put us out of business. We were only down a couple of hours. But we were living in fear that it might happen again. Turns out it was an issue with application cache, of which there is a famous quote from Phil Karlton, one of the original Netscape guys, that I have found to be very true. "There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things."
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