Wall Street Journal Crossword Review : “A Higher Power” (2017-09-08)

WSJ-20170908-A Higher Power
Constructed By:
Marie Kelly (Mike Shenk)
Edited By: Mike Shenk
Source: Play Online. PUZ File here.
Theme: This is a meta puzzle, so none…Mostly.
For this meta puzzle, we are given the task of coming up with a school subject. Given the title, “A Higher Power”, we can guess that maybe arithmetic powers have something to do with this. 34-A & 37-A jump out at us indicating a parallel plan: Perfect Squares, which are integers squared. We start with 1 and look at the positions throughout the grid and get ALGEBRA as our answer.

Glenn’s Time: 44 minutes (paper). About 2-3 minutes on the meta.
Glenn’s Errors: 0.

(Quality) Rating: 3.5 stars/5 stars.
The Wall Street Journal has offered puzzles six days a week since late 2015, progressing in difficulty from Monday to Thursday, a meta puzzle on Friday, and then a 21×21 on Saturday. There is a typically level degree of difficulty for each day, with a few occasional interesting surprises. This makes it an excellent puzzle set to consider doing if you are looking for something that will occasionally get beyond the typical USA Today or Los Angeles Times puzzle.

This provides a good typical example of a Friday puzzle. On Fridays, the WSJ runs meta puzzles, which has a item that is requested. The solver then uses some property of either the puzzle or the clues in order to come up with the answer. Usually, determining any theme can be useful to solve the meta.

Otherwise, this puzzle functions as a themeless grid. While it has a few interesting entries, a few others are on the dishwater dull side, especially from the cluing perspective. While I appreciate that meta grids have a certain number of constraints, there really aren’t too many here where some more interesting entries could have been used. Overall, this was a relatively decent solve, but not an overly entertaining one.

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:

22-A. [Funny fellow] – WIT. It turns out it can describe the person with such qualities. So, “the wit has wit” seems to be a perfectly good sentence. Ah, the vagaries of English.

38-A. [Stage direction] – EXEUNT. This is a word that is used in written plays to indicate the exit of multiple characters off of stage.

39-A. [Dutch town known for its pottery] – DELFT. Delft is a town known for many things, including pottery. The pottery produced in Delft is known as Delftware or Delft Blue. While I’m sure there’s imitations, chances are anything you see that is white/ceramic with blue inscriptions or patterns, it probably has some origin in Delft.

3-D. [Sixth in line of succession to the British throne] – ANDREW. This would be Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. An example of a throw-away clue to a dishwater dull answer with no constraint, and a pure guess for most of us.

11-D. [“City juice,” in diner lingo] – TAP WATER. Another one that struck me as odd. A fill-in and “well okay?”.

28-D. [49ers wide receiver Taylor] – TRENT. Another throw-away clue that could have been much more interesting than this, and again a pure guess for the most of us I’m sure (I never heard of him). Beyond the wide receiver and some rivers and place names, we could have stuck to football and went with Trent Dilfer, or Trent Green (both far more known). Or go with Trent Lott the politician. Or Trent Reznor the musician. Or the Council of Trent.

33-D. [Database programming lang.] – SQL. Good technical clue, though I’m a bit surprised something like this would show up in a mainstream crossword in most cases. A bit forgiven though for the constraint of the Q in the meta reveal, though I wonder how many would know of this?

34-D. [Pakistani city near the end of the Khyber Pass] – PESHAWAR. This is Peshawar, which came into consciousness with all the conflicts in Afghanistan as it is a border town.

Until next time, whenever that happens!


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