"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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technohumanistteach
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Aug 16, 2021 1:26 pm

#341

Post by technohumanistteach »

I came so close! I recognized the unnecessary wordiness of the five clues, and theorized that the first letter of the clue words could be key to the solution, but then I somehow came up with "Firth" for "Furniture items For the house" and then gave up on that avenue to the solution.
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billkatz
Posts: 184
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2019 6:46 pm

#342

Post by billkatz »

MikeMillerwsj wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:32 pm 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).
Thank you to the puzzle team! It would have killed me to have something this close (SCARE) rejected, but alas, still no mug for me...
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mntlblok
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#343

Post by mntlblok »

MikeMillerwsj wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:32 pm 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).
And POLES?
clueless_solver
Posts: 11
Joined: Fri Oct 02, 2020 6:49 pm

#344

Post by clueless_solver »

Gman wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 9:18 am
Lots of double letters (these have NEVER given me the right answer, but every week I am strangely drawn to them)
I'm glad someone else can relate :lol: every week I do the same thing, it's now a joke in my group that I will invariably say something like "okay so I know I always say this, but there are a lot of double letters".
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whimsy
Posts: 595
Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2020 9:51 am
Location: Hopkinton MA

#345

Post by whimsy »

clueless_solver wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 2:17 pm
Gman wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 9:18 am
Lots of double letters (these have NEVER given me the right answer, but every week I am strangely drawn to them)
I'm glad someone else can relate :lol: every week I do the same thing, it's now a joke in my group that I will invariably say something like "okay so I know I always say this, but there are a lot of double letters".
Try this one! :)

Here
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Richard
Posts: 197
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2019 7:06 pm

#346

Post by Richard »

I got this with a nudge. I must learn when getting nowhere looking at the grid to consider the definitions. I think this was a great meta and congrats to anyone who got it without any help.
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mikeB
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2021 1:50 pm

#347

Post by mikeB »

Finding that a meta’s solution is so far out of reach for me adds to my admiration of those who solved it. Kudos to them and to Mike. Moreover, this meta brought a new experience for me: discovering that many people’s rabbit holes were so superior to my own. Further evidence that this is a journey of discovery . . .
P1h3r1e3d13
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Joined: Thu Jun 03, 2021 5:53 pm

#348

Post by P1h3r1e3d13 »

Whoa! I was down three rabbitholes and none of them was anywhere close!
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HunterX
Posts: 363
Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2020 9:17 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

#349

Post by HunterX »

MikeMillerwsj wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:32 pm 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).
Alas... My hopes were high of winning the mug given the expected low level of correct answers. But.... (sigh)... next week is another chance to try. At least my streak is unbroken!

Wait... Can't drink coffee out of a spreadsheet. :cry:
Ben B
Posts: 44
Joined: Sun Apr 25, 2021 11:50 pm
Location: Houston

#350

Post by Ben B »

Just wondering about the mug selection process. It seems from Mike’s post that they select a random entry then verify it has the correct answer? And if not then they pick another random entry until they pick one that does have the correct answer? I guess I thought that they somehow collected all the correct entries first then picked a random one from those. It of course doesn’t matter in the end but I just like knowing the ins and outs of this puzzle contest we love so much. And any idea how many are submitted by email vs online? We always submit by email and work the puzzle old school with the physical paper.
boharr
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Joined: Fri Sep 06, 2019 8:57 am
Location: Westchester, NY

#351

Post by boharr »

How they pick a winner seems pretty clear. The part that confuses me is that they don't seem to stop there. If they say, "We had 630 entries (smaller than our usual 1000+ entries), with about 52% correct (well below our usual level around 75%)," then somebody must sort through all the submissions. Or am I missing something?
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RPardoe
Posts: 634
Joined: Tue Jul 23, 2019 4:09 pm
Location: Houston, TX

#352

Post by RPardoe »

Pure speculation follows -

The online form just generates an e-mail that is sent to the same inbox as the e-mail entries.

For e-mail entries (and for the online entries) - the subject line is the entry itself. So a quick sort of all the e-mails received by the subject line should yield the basic stats on number of entries, how many were correct, and popular incorrect entries.

No need to read individual e-mails - the information is in the subject line. This might miss a few folks who put ANSWER: RACES as the subject line instead of just RACES....but those would be near the top and easy to parse to a rough approximation.
Meta Nudges - If you need some help, please feel free to PM me with what you have tried and where you are stuck.
Cryptic Puzzles - If you are stuck or want to understand how to parse a clue, please feel free to PM me.
FKelly
Posts: 174
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2019 9:09 pm

#353

Post by FKelly »

Thanks to a nudge from boharr to re-examine my observation that "Some of the clues seem unusual: A 36 Significant eastern city of North Dakota."
Then I saw that the initial letters in that clue spelt SECOND. So that selected the SECOND letter of FARGO. The others quickly followed.
I used the same mechanism to place the letters into the meta answer and got RACES. But after I highlighted those letters in the grid, I saw SCARE.
That SCARE did give me a bit of a START, but didn't match the context of title 'STARTING POSITIONS' quite as well as RACES.

So, it was a bit of a circuitous RACE for me.
I learned about Liz and her Pembroke Welsh Corgis and some of the Foe in Roddenberry's "Star Trek" among the detours I took.
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Bob cruise director
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#354

Post by Bob cruise director »

MikeMillerwsj wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:32 pm 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).
Fewest submissions since November 6, 2020 MG's Fresh State at 523
Lowest percentage correct since October 23, 2020 MG's Just A Step More at 40%
Fewest Correct answers since Just A Step More at 241
Bob Stevens
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Bonnibel
Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Mar 27, 2021 10:40 pm

#355

Post by Bonnibel »

I thought this was difficult. In my view, the theme bore little relationship to the meta, but would help you choose the answer between RACES & SCARE. With many one-offs in the grid such as FARGO/CARGO and DARTS/CARTS I was looking for starting letters, positions of letters in the grid, and plays on the many definitions of "starting" and "positions" from sports team strategies to apprenticeships. I may have been overthinking...even so I don't think I would have found the meta, ever. I'm hoping to become more familiar with formats & mechanisms used by Matt & Mike, in order to become astute enough to find my way through the tricker puzzles.
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SReh26
Posts: 648
Joined: Thu Apr 01, 2021 10:48 pm

#356

Post by SReh26 »

Any names for the state of mind that keeps us coming back to this every week?

Metaphilia?
Metaphrenia?
Metadepression?
Metachism?
Cruciverbitis?
Cruciverbmetadosis?
Metamorphosis?
Obsessive Griditude?
Repetitive Grid Focused Masochism?

I know someone else will find the right word.
Last edited by SReh26 on Mon Aug 23, 2021 8:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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TheCatt
Posts: 60
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2021 9:53 pm

#357

Post by TheCatt »

Colin wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 12:05 am That is just beautiful! My hat is off to all solvers. There is not enough space here to describe my path to failure, but let’s just say it had a lot of ZEEs in it!
We went down the ZEE route, the CAR route, the order route, the alphabet route, the dateline route... probably a few others.

When first looking at this puzzle I said my spouse " I feel like first, second, third should be hidden in here or something" and never saw it until we got a nudge. Ugh.
boharr
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Joined: Fri Sep 06, 2019 8:57 am
Location: Westchester, NY

#358

Post by boharr »

Bob cruise director wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 8:00 pm
MikeMillerwsj wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:32 pm
Fewest submissions since November 6, 2020 MG's Fresh State at 523
Lowest percentage correct since October 23, 2020 MG's Just A Step More at 40%
Fewest Correct answers since Just A Step More at 241
Just went back and looked at those two puzzles. They were tough.

But here's a question for the pros and vets: What has been the hardest (or trickiest) WSJ meta since the start?
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LadyBird
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#359

Post by LadyBird »

whimsy wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 8:51 am Yes, I sensed something strange about some of the clues mentioned but did not look closely enough at them for a couple of reasons, "Firstly", I was confidently using DATELINE and ATELIERS instead of COCONUT and ROMULAN,
I know...I know...I know...there are "no rules" in metas. But now we can't even trust that the longest across answers are the theme answers--instead it is some shorter (not even in the exact middle) answers. What is this world coming to?
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escapeartist
Posts: 171
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2020 12:24 am

#360

Post by escapeartist »

SReh26 wrote: Mon Aug 23, 2021 8:09 pm Any names for the state of mind that keeps us coming back to this every week?

Metaphilia?
Metaphrenia?
Metadepression?
Metachism?
Cruciverbitis?
Cruciverbmetadosis?
Metamorphosis?
Obsessive Griditude?
Repetitive Grid Focused Masochism?

I know someone else will find the right word.
Mugglemania?
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