"Starting Positions" - August 20, 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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Gman
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#321

Post by Gman »

Wicked rabbit holes this week:

GUAM as where America's day starts next to the DATELINE and lots of place names and the clue saying this is the story starter

Five first names

Several potential word ladders (FIAT, FEAT, SEAT, SLAT, SLAB)

Rhyming words

Several nautical and space references

Lots of double letters (these have NEVER given me the right answer, but every week I am strangely drawn to them)

Several types of firsts (NFL player to come out, pilot to break Mach 1, PRE-K, Dateline to start the new YEAR)

A strange reference to the letter ZEE

A clue to put in alphabetical order (SORT), the word FILE, an arbitrary order (FIAT)

Alas, most of these grid rabbit trails kept me bouncing for ages without looking at the particulars of the clues. And it didn't help that ATELIERS and DATELINE were longer than COCONUT and ROMULAN, where the clues were hiding the mechanism in plain site.

Alas, I was rescued by a fellow muggle.

This one was downright meant to mess with our minds!
michaelm
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#322

Post by michaelm »

zach wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 8:35 am I’ll share what led me fairly quickly to the correct answer, and I hope this can help to guide others in the future.

I found the clue for “FARGO” (36-across) to be very oddly worded. For Mike to write “Significant eastern city of North Dakota” instead of “Most populous city in North Dakota” was a dead giveaway to me that something was intentionally unusual about this clue and answer. It took me just a second (pun intended) to incorporate “Starting Positions” into the clue to work my way toward the mechanism. Always look for strange clues! You never know where the mechanism is hiding.
I know that! I know that! I know that!
It still didn't help.
From Thursday at 4:10 I knew the FARGO clue was key but never for a second in hours of staring saw second.
Sometimes the brain just won't cooperate.
Way to go solvers!
Commiseration to muggles who lost streaks.
We're off to the RACES again Thursday.
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TeaJenny
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#323

Post by TeaJenny »

TeaJenny wrote: Sun Aug 22, 2021 11:38 pm
Scott M wrote: Sun Aug 22, 2021 9:36 pm Pulling the plug on this one. My 34 week streak is at an end. Here's to starting a new one next week.
34 weeks?! Wow. This is what I aspire to. My longest streak so far has been 5.
Correction. After consulting my records, it turns out my longest streak is 9. More impressive than 5, but way behind @Scott M and @billkatz.
You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. ~C.S. Lewis
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Dplass
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#324

Post by Dplass »

Bird Lives wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 8:30 am I think — and I’m sure the people who went with SCARE will agree— that this is a pretty good example of a PAGEANT.

1. Complete the grid
2. Use standard methods that fit with the title (first letter of theme clues)
3. Use the standard method of reading these letters (top to bottom)
4. See that this answer relates to the title (SCARE = START)
5. Send in this answer
6. On Monday find out that a further step led to a better answer (less obvious and a closer fit with the title).
7. Smash the paper with the puzzle on it into a little ball and throw it across the room.
Yup. Except I somehow am OK with my (wrong) answer (i.e., no step 7 for me). The extra nudge was right in the clues again - "PUT IN ORDER"...
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Doug C
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#325

Post by Doug C »

Great puzzle! I solved on Sunday evening and neglected to post. As others have mentioned - so many great rabbit holes!
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mheberlingx100
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#326

Post by mheberlingx100 »

mntlblok wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 7:59 am
JennyByrd wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 7:40 am
mntlblok wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 7:37 am

Ahhh. *That's* how one acquires the "E". . .
I was in the same rabbit hole. Congrats to those who solved - it was a clever puzzle that I feel like I should have solved.
So, then why is it a rabbit hole and not a legitimate answer? I had thought that "pools" might have been the secondary answer about which folks might be speaking as there were (convoluted) means for arriving at an additional "O". Yes, pitiful on my part. Had been considering things like "lanes" and "gates" and pools might have lanes. Never mind. :-)
I thought the two clues that referenced the alphabet might mean that the clues or answers might have to be alphabetized to get the right order. But of course, I couldn’t make that work no matter what I looked at.
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Scott M
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#327

Post by Scott M »

M and M wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 8:30 am The classic meta path that went nowhere -

There were five sets of rhyming answers THAT CROSSED EACH OTHER.

Cargo Fargo
Feat Seat
Carts Darts
Sport Sort
and Carl Arles (I promise that's how you pronounce Arles)

Now, five (note that? five?) sets of accidental rhyming words would be... possible in a crossword, but five that cross each other? Nope, that's gotta be important. However, the letters yielded by that path were TAGLT. Well, they anagram to GLATT, which is a real, though obscure word, and while its primary meaning is pretty far off the title, the secondary meaning of consistency, smooth, etc. could be tortured into an answer.

This had two problems. MIke doesn't usually require anagramming, as his solutions are elegant and orderly. And he would rarely pick such an obscure word.

So... we went looking and found the definitions and submitted RACES on time and so this is not sour grapes, BUT... I just want to say,

Really Mike? Five sets of rhyming words that CROSS EACH OTHER?? And mean NOTHING??????
That's the rabbit hole I couldn't get out of.
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
Mark Twain
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SReh26
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#328

Post by SReh26 »

mheberlingx100 wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 9:58 am
mntlblok wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 7:59 am
JennyByrd wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 7:40 am
I was in the same rabbit hole. Congrats to those who solved - it was a clever puzzle that I feel like I should have solved.
So, then why is it a rabbit hole and not a legitimate answer? I had thought that "pools" might have been the secondary answer about which folks might be speaking as there were (convoluted) means for arriving at an additional "O". Yes, pitiful on my part. Had been considering things like "lanes" and "gates" and pools might have lanes. Never mind. :-)
I thought the two clues that referenced the alphabet might mean that the clues or answers might have to be alphabetized to get the right order. But of course, I couldn’t make that work no matter what I looked at.
I too keyed in on alpha end, alpha order and arbitrary order. Those led me to cargo/fargo, cart/dart and many others in that vein. I dismissed the theme answers at first. I did look at the clues but never would have thought to spell out a word with the first letter of each clue word in the TAs, had I not received a nudge.

As many have said - it’s so obvious!....... once you see it.

Aye, there’s the rub!
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mntlblok
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#329

Post by mntlblok »

Flying_Burrito wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 9:14 am I n

Warned my date for that movie that, as we'd heard that folks screamed in the theatre during that show, that she was not to do that. I *stood up* and screamed to try to warn him. Still hear Jaws music during every solo scuba dive. . .
Susan Goldberg
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#330

Post by Susan Goldberg »

lacangah wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 12:10 am Wow - congratulations to all who solved this!

I ended up fixated on 'darts' (which was dead center). Looking at the letters in cells 1-20, I convinced myself that 'alarm' was hidden in there.

See you all in a few days - have a great week,
I fixated on the number of starts. And then turned to darts. And then tried to isolate a dart board somehow.
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mntlblok
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#331

Post by mntlblok »

I watched that ZOOM meeting with Matt. Kept an eye on Mike, who said very little. Matt seemed to imply that red herrings are rarely (never?) intentional. I now see that the pleasant countenance that Mike maintained was actually an evil grin, preparing for this day. . .
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sharkicicles
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#332

Post by sharkicicles »

Didn't submit, but I did get it due to a helpful nudge from @darth! Thanks!

One rabbit hole I went down was the Star Trek clue for ROMULAN directly below PREK- one letter off TREK. Hmm, different "starting position"-- are there any more entries like that? sadly, no.
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Bill_Swerski_13
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#333

Post by Bill_Swerski_13 »

Similarly to lots of people, I was getting distracted by all the crossing/rhyming answers, but then I noticed I could spell out the word "START" (as in STARTing Positions) by connecting adjacent squares in the grid (basically in snaking across/down paths). Surprisingly, I was able to do this a number of times in 3 different parts of the grid. Well, darned if the various shapes created by these traces didn't look just like Tetris blocks... and whaddya know but the starting BLOCKs are the "Starting Positions" for a track and field race, so... I dunno, I went ahead and submitted "BLOCK" as my answer. Not a very confident submission because it was a weird mechanism, but I was too beaten down by the difficulty and couldn't unstick my brain from the rhymes and repeating strings, and the ARGO/ARTS/ARL business. Pretty amazed and humbled to see what the actual mechanism and answer was... wow.
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C=64
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#334

Post by C=64 »

zach wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 8:35 am I’ll share what led me fairly quickly to the correct answer, and I hope this can help to guide others in the future.

I found the clue for “FARGO” (36-across) to be very oddly worded. For Mike to write “Significant eastern city of North Dakota” instead of “Most populous city in North Dakota” was a dead giveaway to me that something was intentionally unusual about this clue and answer. It took me just a second (pun intended) to incorporate “Starting Positions” into the clue to work my way toward the mechanism. Always look for strange clues! You never know where the mechanism is hiding.
Same for me, except I spent a few hours staring at the grid first. 😑 My first rabbit hole, which I don't believe anyone else has mentioned, was based on CORGI/CARGO/FARGO: the American football position right guard is abbreviated RG, so I looked for other positions and found right tackle (RT), then found tight end (TE) all over the place and decided to punt on that method.

With FARGO being dead center, I decided that it had to be significant, and then when I saw that the clue began with "Significant" I kept digging and eventually realized how strange the wording was. I don't remember whether I consciously looked at the first letter of each word, but all of a sudden I saw it. It was surprisingly difficult to post about it without using the word "significant" so I kept my post short.

So my takeaway, which a couple of folks have already said, is If you are finding lots of wacky stuff in the grid that doesn't add up, stop looking at the grid and look at the clues instead.
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Joepickett
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#335

Post by Joepickett »

sharkicicles wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:07 am Didn't submit, but I did get it due to a helpful nudge from @darth! Thanks!

One rabbit hole I went down was the Star Trek clue for ROMULAN directly below PREK- one letter off TREK. Hmm, different "starting position"-- are there any more entries like that? sadly, no.
I actually replaced the P with START to get STAR TREK early on and thought I had latched on to something. No, just another Tribble....they are worse than rabbits.
hoover
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#336

Post by hoover »

Man, have I got a monster hangover after spending almost four full days on the boat with Isaac.

I never got anywhere. I used the Excel sheet and while I did look at the clues themselves, I didn't see what I was supposed to see. My Excel sheet highlights:
- the five CARs
- CARGO/FARGO, CARTS/DARTS, FEAT/FIAT
- DATELINE (story *starter*), STEP (flight *part*), CAB (pickup *part*), ZEE (alphabet *ender*)
- FOOTSTOOLS, ROOM, ITSCOOL, LOOP (all those OOs)
pjc
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#337

Post by pjc »

Not even close to solving it this week!

I went down many of the rabbit holes mentioned here. Besides those, I also noticed a strange coincidence of four L shapes with each leg being the same word:

- - C
- -A
CAR

ART
R
T

- - E
- - A
EAT

OUT
U
T


The letters nesting in those L's were DGES; that got me nowhere :-D

On a different tact, I stared at "Story starter" for the longest time because of the 'Starting' in the puzzle name. Nothing...

Congrats to those that got it! That's two weeks in a row that I've been beaten. On to Thursday!
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Dplass
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#338

Post by Dplass »

My favorite red herring:

DATELINE and ATELIER (a new word for me) both had "ATELI" in it. Five letters? Coincidence?!

Also there were 5 5-letter clues.
jrdad
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#339

Post by jrdad »

My way in, like others, was the Fargo clue. Significant eastern city? As opposed to the western cities in ND? That seemed too forced not to be important. (I'm from Minnesota and have been through western ND many times, so it stood out.)
MikeMillerwsj
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#340

Post by MikeMillerwsj »

An unusually tricky one this week. (Those five crucial clues were so well camouflaged....). We had 630 entries (smaller than our usual 1000+ entries), with about 52% correct (well below our usual level around 75%).

We had a particularly large turnout for an alternative answer: SCARE, with 52 (or about 8%). The intended answer placed the 5 key letters in the order suggested by their clues' initials (the clue spelling FIRST came first, etc.) but if you circle the 5 letters, they spell SCARE in grid order from top to bottom. Which is reasonable, if slightly less elegant, and our puzzle team agrees we would have considered SCARE a correct answer had we randomly selected it.

As it happens, our random selection was one of the RACES entries. So -- congrats to Suzanna Sherry of Nashville, Tenn. This is Suzanna's second mug! (she told us she's graciously giving it to her husband who also solves these puzzles).
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