Saturday, June 29, 2013

Metaleska Is Live!

Metaleska, the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project's First Anniversary Metapuzzle Contest, is now live!  To download this free puzzle and its instructions on XWord Info, click here.  Have fun and good luck, everyone!

Friday, June 28, 2013

PSPP's First Anniversary, Metapuzzle Contest, Bernice Gordon Collaboration, and Project Updates

Tomorrow, June 29, will be the first anniversary of the official start of the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project!  I can hardly believe that this all began just twelve months ago when I wrote the first post and we were litzing puzzles from 1992.  Now I'm writing the 70th post and we're in 1966—and at 10,237 puzzles litzed, we're nearly two-thirds of the way done!  Awesome job, everybody—at this rate, there's an excellent chance that by next year at this time, all the litzing will be complete!

In celebration, I've created the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project's First Anniversary Metapuzzle Contest—Metaleska!  You'll be able to access this free 23 x 23 cranium crusher tomorrow at 12 noon Pacific Time on XWord Info, thanks to Jim Horne!  In a special minipost tomorrow, I'll link to the exact page; you'll also be able to link to the puzzle from XWord Info's home page.  There will be a file of detailed instructions and two different formats of the puzzle:  Across Lite, for those of you who prefer to solve that way, and PDF, if you'd rather print out the puzzle.  Metaleska is offered without charge to everyone—litzers, solvers, and fans of the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project (though contributions to the project are always welcome!).  There will be crossword-friendly prizes for the first correct entry and for two random correct entries as follows:

First Prize:  Splickety Lit, a spoonerism-based trivia game from the Marbles brain store

Random Prize #1:  Word.: 144 Crosswords That Prove It's Hip to be Square, by Natan Last—a compendium of crosswords written by talented young constructors

Random Prize #2:  The New York Times Little Black (and White) Book of Crosswords, by Will Shortz—a lovely spiral-bound ana of Shortz-era New York Times crosswords

So sharpen your pencils (or limber up your typing fingers) and see if you can conquer Metaleska!  All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. (one minute before midnight) Pacific Time on Saturday, July 6.

In other news, some time ago I contacted pre-Shortzian and Shortz-era crossword legend Bernice Gordon about doing an interview for this blog.   Bernice is 99 and has been an active New York Times constructor since the Margaret Farrar days!  I published that interview on April 19, and you can read it by clicking here or on the Pre-Shortzian Constructor Interviews tab above and then scrolling down.

While I was corresponding with her about the interview, it occurred to me that a collaboration between us might be not only fun but historic.  At 99, Bernice is the oldest New York Times constructor; at 16, I am currently the youngest (though I wasn't the youngest ever to publish a crossword in the Times—pre-Shortzian constructors Artie Bennett and Mike Miller were both younger than I was—14 1/2—when my first puzzle was published, as was Shortz-era constructor Ben Pall).  Bernice was excited about the idea, so we began constructing the puzzle that appeared on June 26 in the Times.

Because of the 83-year age difference, our collaboration was very interesting.  Bernice knew many older things that I didn't, and she wasn't familiar with some modern terms I used.  Deb Amlen wrote up the puzzle and interviewed us about the collaboration for Wordplay; to read her piece, click here.  In addition, a reporter from The Philadelphia Inquirer contacted me and Bernice about the collaboration and wrote about it in an article, which you can read here.  I was very honored to collaborate with such a crossword legend, and getting to know Bernice has been delightful!  I'm hoping we'll be able to meet each other in person in the not too distant future.

Back to the project:  We've made a lot of progress this week!  On Tuesday, Martin Herbach sent in 35 puzzles, putting us over 10,200!  Then Wednesday, Denny Baker sent in 7, and a few hours later, Howard Barkin sent in 21.  Todd Gross finished proofreading another month of 1982 puzzles and sent in 10 more proofread puzzles from his final month of that year.  Thanks so much, everyone!  Although the 1982 puzzles will likely be completely proofread by the end of this month, I'm going to hold off on having them posted on XWord Info until Metaleska is over, just so no one gets confused (you'll see why when you read the instructions tomorrow!).

Today's featured pre-Shortzian puzzle, "For the Distaff Side," was constructed by Sidney Lambert.  It was originally published on March 26, 1967, and was recently litzed by Denny Baker.  This Margaret Farrar–edited puzzle doesn't have a particularly gimmicky theme, though it does contain nine solid theme entries and the reveal WOMAN'S WORK (cleverly clued as "It's never done").  Each theme entry, such as SCRUB TEAM, starts with a stereotypical chore women did during the time period in which this puzzle was published.  The puzzle struck me as being particularly sexist.  There were plenty of women, such as Margaret Farrar herself, who achieved great things back in the 60s—I don't see the entry CROSSWORD EDITOR anywhere in the grid!  Nevertheless, this puzzle is very interesting historically in that it shows how society viewed women.  The nonthematic fill looks nice on the whole.  On the positive side, the puzzle contains SWORDS crossing SHEARS, TEAR GAS, HORNET, and TWINGE.  Also, the clue "Pieces of music." (SONGS) is reused for GLEE, ALTOS, and NOELS, which I thought was a nice touch.  I do have a few BEEFS ("Complaints: Slang."), though.  The puzzle contains ANDIRON (the IRON part of which is distracting), the partial ARM IN ("___ arm") that repeats part of the answer in its clue, and the lesser-known goddesses SPES and HESPER (the latter of which is also a less-common poetic form).  In sum, this is a historically significant Sunday puzzle that feels like an accurate representation of the average Sunday puzzle from its time period.  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

I've been on the lookout for clever pre-Shortzian clues from the early Weng era.  In most puzzles, they're few and far between, but I noticed that Weng always managed to throw in at least one thought-provoking clue per puzzle.  Here are some of my favorites:
  • 5/20/69 (constructor unknown, litzed by Martin Herbach)
    • Places of no return (ONE-WAY STREETS)
  • 7/7/69 (constructor unknown, litzed by Jeffrey Krasnick)
    • Elevator of a sort (THE COST OF LIVING)
  • 1/17/71 (constructed by Herb L. Risteen, litzed by Tom Pepper)
    • His living depends on net income (MAN SHOT FROM A CANNON)
  • 3/2/71 (constructor unknown, litzed by Barry Haldiman)
    • They keep falling on heads (RAINDROPS)
  • 3/3/71 (constructor unknown, litzed by Barry Haldiman)
    • Story unsuitable for a bald man (HAIR-RAISING TALE)
    • Opposite of summer in the country (SIMMER IN THE CITY)
The 1/17/71 clue is, in my opinion, the coolest clue/answer pair of the bunch!  Below is a picture of a person whose living would definitely depend on net income:

Image courtesy of the Daily Mail.

Friday, June 21, 2013

In 1966, An Interesting Crossword History Article, More William Lutwiniak Links, and Metapuzzle Reminder

I'm pleased to announce that the litzing has continued to progress steadily over this past week.  Late Friday night, Mark Diehl sent in 35 puzzles, putting us over 10,100!  While preparing a new batch for Mark the next morning, I sent out the first puzzles from 1966!  Unfortunately, nearly all the daily puzzle authors are missing from 1966; with a few exceptions here and there, they won't appear again until February 1964.  The missing daily puzzle authors didn't slow down our "litzing juggernaut" in the least—Sunday night, Mark sent in another 14 puzzles!  On Tuesday, I litzed a reassigned batch from 1982, and on Wednesday, Denny Baker sent in 7 puzzles, which were followed by 6 more from Mike Buckley.  On Thursday, Martin Herbach sent in 34 more puzzles, putting his litzed total at more than 500—congratulations again, Martin!  And Todd Gross proofread nearly two more months of puzzles—awesome progress!  Thanks so much again, everyone!

In other news, recently Miriam Raphael's sister Laura Bobrow discovered a very interesting article about crossword history, which she kindly sent my way.  The first page of the article focuses on Arthur Wynne and the very early crossword years; the second page (which can be accessed via a tiny link at the bottom of the page reading "History of the Crossword Puzzle Part 2") goes into detail about crosswords from the 1920s and contains some information that I haven't seen elsewhere; and the third page (accessible via a similar link on the second page) lists popular crossword publications at the time the article was published back in the early 1980s.  All in all, this article was a fun, informative read.  Thanks, Laura and Miriam!

On a related historical front, Martin Herbach noticed that many of the puzzles he was litzing were constructed by William Lutwiniak, so he did a little Googling and found some very interesting links.  I've added them to the ones that were already on the Pre-Shortzian Constructors page, so if you'd like to read more about this fascinating NSA cryptanalyst who was on an NSA bowling team and who is now buried in Arlington National Cemetery, click on the tab above or here and scroll down to the links.  Thanks so much again, Martin!

Just a reminder:  Only eight more days till the first Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project metapuzzle is released!  I'll be writing about it more next Friday, and the metapuzzle itself will be released on Saturday, June 29, so mark your calendar if you want to give it a try!

Now that we're litzing puzzles from 1966, I searched for a good graphical representation of that year.  As with other years during the 1960s, 1966 was in many ways a dark time.  Rather than focus on the Vietnam War, race riots, or other major political events from that year, I thought many crossword fans might appreciate a photo of the science fiction television series Star Trek, whose very first episode aired in 1966:

Today's featured puzzle, "Rhymes from Way Out," was constructed by Edward J. O'Brien.  I've come across several groundbreaking Will Weng–era Sunday puzzles by this constructor—he was a master at getting theme entries to interlock!  (Reverend O'Brien also compiled the 1975 Compendium of Constructors, which has been—and will continue to be—very useful in determining the full names of Weng- and Maleska-era constructors.)  This featured opus was published on September 28, 1969; it was edited by Will Weng during his first year as editor and was recently litzed by Mark Diehl.  The brilliant construction features 16 symmetrically interlocking nonsensical rhymes, many of which are quite amusing (much like entries in Trip Payne's Something Different puzzles).  But what truly makes this puzzle stand out is the tri-stack of 23-letter theme entries at the center of the puzzle—I've seen very few puzzles with tri-stacks of thematic 21-letter entries, and I believe this is the only New York Times crossword, Shortz or pre-Shortz, to accomplish this feat.  (There was a 1974 23-letter triple-stack, but it was themeless.)  My favorite rhymes in terms of humor are WHITE COLLAR DOLLAR HOLLER (clued as "Clerical union's demand for a raise"), A COBBLE JOB'LL HOBBLE ("Forecast for a poor shoe repair"), and NO ROE ALSO ("Out of fish eggs, too").  And who doesn't love HEMISEMIDEMIQUAVER SAVER ("One who keeps 64th notes")?

Outside of the theme, the fill is an OMNIUM gatherum of liveliness, crazy partials, and esoterica.  Some of my favorite nonthematic entries include REACH FOR, SANTA FE, ECONOMICAL, SENSIBLE, and TEE-VEES (cleverly clued as "Living-room eyes").  Among the entries that made me say OH MY were EMAN ("Relative of a Cockney 'ero"), ANY SUIT ("Hearts, clubs, whatever"), BARRETTS OF ("___ Wimpole Street"), ELSENE ("Flemish name of Ixelles"), and SPLADS ("Chair backs: Var.").  Do you think entries like EMAN justify the addition of all "Cockneyisms" to constructors' word lists?  I'd personally be against adding arbitrary Cockneyisms to my word list, though I'm sure they could come in handy in quad- and quint-stacks—please feel free to comment if you have an opinion on this matter.

Even with these entries (and plenty of others that would make Amy Reynaldo's Scowl-o-Meter go through the roof!), this is a remarkable pre-Shortzian puzzle that I'm guessing would only have been published under Will Weng!  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

If you thought the two recently posted typographical entries ETAOIN SHRDLU and HELLBOX were unusual, buckle your seat belts—I've now assembled three pages of cool-sounding-but-unusual pre-Shortzian entries!  Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is SJAMBOKS, which, according to the Ginsberg clue database, has never been reused in the Shortz era (SJAMBOK, however, did appear later on in a Maleska-edited puzzle from 1990).  SJAMBOKS originally appeared in the August 14, 1970, puzzle (constructor unknown), which was edited by Will Weng and recently litzed by Nancy Kavanaugh.  SJAMBOKS was clued as "African hide whips"; Webster defines a sjambok as "a heavy leather whip often of rhinoceros hide."  It goes on to mention that sjambok comes from the Afrikaans sambok, which comes from the Malay cambok (large whip), which comes from the Hindu cābuk, which ultimately comes from the Persian chābuk.  Webster notes that a sjambok is comparable to a chawbuck.  I'm impressed by how rich an etymology the word sjambok has!  Below is a picture of a sjambok:

Image courtesy of Museum Box.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Progress Update, Metapuzzle Announcement, Fireball Newsweekly Crosswords Nears Its Goal, and Funny Typos

We may be entering the lazy days of summer, but our litzers and proofreaders are certainly as active as ever!  On Sunday, Mark Diehl sent in 21 puzzles, putting his personal total at more than 2,800 litzed puzzles!  Then on Monday, Martin Herbach sent in five batches totaling 35 puzzles; later on, Mike Buckley sent in 7 more, and on Tuesday, Denny Baker sent in another 7.  On top of all this, Todd Gross proofread an entire month of 1982 puzzles and just sent 10 more a few minutes ago!  Way to go, everyone—before you know it, we'll be litzing from 1966 and proofreading from 1981!

In other news, I finished cluing the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project metapuzzle late last week.  I sent the puzzle off for test-solving to steel-trap litzer/proofreader Todd Gross, who called it "an awesome piece of construction."  Based on Todd's excellent suggestions, I tweaked a few clues and the instructions yesterday—the puzzle is now completely ready for mainstream solving!

The metapuzzle, which will be available for download on XWord Info, will be released on June 29, the official one-year anniversary of the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project!  There will be no charge for entering the metapuzzle contest—if you really enjoy it, though, a contribution to the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project would be much appreciated!  And there will, of course, be crossword-friendly prizes!  In the meantime, the most important thing to do is spread the word about this metapuzzle to other crossword fans—the more solvers we have, the merrier!

Also, Peter Gordon's Kickstarter campaign for Fireball Newsweekly Crosswords has almost reached its $10,000 goal!  There were three awesome new awards offered earlier this week for pledges of $450 or more, and many additional awards at the other levels have been added.  So if you were thinking of pledging, say, $20 but were kind of bummed that all the book awards were gone, now you can get one!  I'm stoked about the Fireball Crosswords baseball cap I'll be getting, and there are still a bunch of those left.  The campaign ends Sunday, though, so if you'd like to see this very worthwhile project happen, click here to make a pledge or add to the one you already made!

As the proofreading continues, many more funny typos have surfaced and been corrected.  Here are several gems from the project's "collection," courtesy of Todd Gross:
  • Entry:  PANEL
    • Wrong:  Kind of trick
    • Right:  Kind of truck
  • Entry:  STRAP
    • Wrong:  Brand of leather 
    • Right:  Band of leather
  • Entry:  PANNE
    • Wrong:  Kind of valet
    • Right:  Kind of velvet
  • Entry:  UTES
    • Wrong:  Slat Lake City team
    • Right:  Salt Lake City team
  • Entry:  SEVEN
    • Wrong:  Numbeers of wonders
    • Right:  Number of wonders

Today's featured puzzle, by an unknown constructor, was originally published on December 13, 1969.  It was edited by Will Weng and was recently litzed by Martin Herbach.  When I featured a 23-block crossword back in March, I never imagined I would discover another one from significantly earlier on.  But once again, the Will Weng puzzles offered a pleasant surprise:  another ingenious 23-block puzzle with an actual theme in the four intersecting 15-letter entries!  The theme is accounting, and our mystery constructor managed to come up with a tetrad of in-the-language entries that fit beautifully into the grid.  ARITHMETICAL AID is probably the iffiest of the bunch, but it's certainly inferable from the clue "Adding machine, for example."  The nonthematic fill is remarkable given all the grid constraints—who doesn't love entries like HOME RUN, MEANDER, and DELICATE?  There are a few enigmatic entries, though they aren't the usual sort of three- and four-letter dreck that snuck into many pre-Shortzian grids.  (In fact, a grand total of only 20 three- and four-letter entries, the vast majority of which are quite well-known, appear in the grid.)  These select few "meh"-inducers include PLANATE (clued as "Flattened."), SERENES ("Tranquil expanses."), and AUTOMEN ("U.A.W. members.").  I could add PICTISH ("Of an old British people."), SNUFFER ("Candle device"), and BELDAM ("Hag") to this list, but they're so much fun to say that I'm having a hard time objecting to them.  The clue for TUNE OUT ("Give up on, as a TV program.") is particularly amusing as well.  All in all, this is certainly one of the best pre-Shortzian puzzles I've seen—I don't think Weng will run out of surprises until I look at his very last (or very first, depending on your point of view) edited puzzle!  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

Since we had five funny typos this week, I thought I'd feature five amusing clues (whose constructors are unknown) from the early Weng era as well.  Coincidentally, all five of these clues come from the same batch of Martin Herbach puzzles, which contained five weeks.  In the December 24, 1969, puzzle, the entry HAS-BEEN was clued as "One whose future is past."  The day before, the entry SNACK was evocatively clued as "Dieters, avoid this!"  I haven't come across any other pre-Shortzian clues that are such arrant commands!  The December 6 puzzle contained a cornucopia of clever clues, my favorite of which was "Marriage counselor's concern." for STATE OF THE UNION.  On December 4, the entry TAXIDERMY was brilliantly clued as "Stuffy business."  Finally, on a more historically interesting front, the entry PROGRAMMED was clued as "Fed the computer." in the December 3 puzzle.  Remember the good old days when computers were operated with punch cards?  Well, thank goodness I don't—Java is much, much more convenient!  Nevertheless, here is a picture of a computer punch card:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Over 10,000 Puzzles, Metapuzzle Update, and Will Weng Crossword Trends

I'm thrilled to announce that we passed the major milestone of 10,000 litzed puzzles this week!  Friday night after the last blog post went up, Todd Gross sent in 7 puzzles; late the next day, Mike Buckley sent in another 7.  On Sunday, Denny Baker and Todd McClary each sent in 7 puzzles, and Mark Diehl sent in 28.  Yesterday Alex Vratsanos sent in 10, and Mark sent in another 14.  Just a few hours ago, Denny sent in 7 more puzzles (putting himself over the 500 mark!); shortly thereafter, Alex sent in 6 more, putting himself over 100 and us over 10,000!  Congratulations, Alex, on being the one to get us past this major milestone!  And thanks so much, everybody, for all the awesome litzing—we're definitely on the downhill stretch now, and I'm looking forward to seeing how much terrific progress we make over the summer!

On the proofreading front, Todd Gross finished a month of 1982 puzzles this week and is busy on another—I'm hoping to have 1982 completed by the end of this month, if not before.

At the end of last year, I dropped a hint about a forthcoming 23x Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project metapuzzle.  Over the past few weeks, I've finalized the concept and found all the theme entries (which involved writing a specialized Java program); I also designed and filled the grid.  I'm currently working on writing the 172 (!) clues, which will definitely keep me busy for the next few days!  The metapuzzle should be ready in time for the project's first official anniversary on June 29.  I'll post more details on the blog next week, so be sure to check in!

Now that I've reviewed almost all the Will Weng–era puzzles and we've started litzing into the Farrar era, I figured it would be a good time to elaborate on trends I've noticed in Weng's editorial style.  First and foremost, Weng was willing to take risks as an editor.  He published the whole gamut of gimmicks, ranging from nudist-camp puns to extra squares outside of grids to thematic images formed by block arrangements.  Weng was willing to bend the rules slightly for innovative gimmicks and to publish clever themes that had slight inconsistencies.  I've encountered several 15x puzzles with 50+ blocks and handfuls of others that have asymmetric theme-entry arrangements and/or grids.  Nevertheless, almost all thematic Weng puzzles boasted incredible theme density and interlock.  Jordan S. Lasher was one of the many Weng-era constructors whose puzzles were exceptionally theme-dense—one of his masterpieces contained bi-stacks of 15-letter theme entries!  And A. J. Santora constructed some puzzles with phenomenal theme-entry interlock—some of his dailies contained more than 12 theme entries!

Themeless Weng puzzles often dipped below the 70-word mark, an incredible feat for the time period!  They frequently included Scrabbly letters (particularly in puzzles constructed by William Lutwiniak and Arthur Schulman) and multiple-word phrases.  Weng even published a few themeless Sundays (mostly 21x), which featured shockingly low word counts (often in the 120s) and wide-open grids.  Constructors Jack Luzzatto and Diana Sessions specialized in these themeless Sundays—Diana Sessions did several puzzles with staircases of 9-letter entries in the center, while Jack Luzzatto preferred stacking lengthy entries!

The thing that really differentiates Will Weng from Eugene T. Maleska, however, is that the puzzles Weng edited reflected the time period in which they were published.  Weng published puzzles about man landing on the moon, national concerns in the 1970s, the 1972 chess championship, the 1972 election, and, of course, hippies!  One current (but somewhat bizarre) 1971 daily included the theme entries THIS YEAR (clued as "1971"), LAST YEAR ("1970"), and LEAP YEAR ("1968").  Weng revolutionized crossword clues as well.  He not only published puzzles without periods after each clue but also started to mix clever, punny clues in with the vast sea of straight-definition clues, such as "His contracts had escape clauses" for HARRY HOUDINI and "Visitor from outer space" for METEORITE.  This new style of cluing flourished throughout the Maleska era and is still in use today.

Weng's willingness to publish unusual themes with such incredibly high theme densities did have a drawback, though.  The nonthematic fills of themed Weng puzzles tended to be significantly iffier than those of both the small selection of Margaret Farrar–edited puzzles I've seen and the Maleska puzzles.  Weng's puzzles were riddled with pre-Shortzian crosswordese, flat-out obscurities, lengthy partials, awkward word forms (such as OUTMIME), and contrived multiword phrases.  One multiword nonthematic phrase, MORE LARKS AROUND ("What a birdwatcher might want"), is so implausible that it's almost "risible"!  I can't image this entry appearing anywhere other than Trip Payne's Something Different puzzles these days!

Even though Weng puzzles frequently had fill problems, I've had a blast looking through them over the past few months and have learned a lot about how crossword puzzles evolved during his groundbreaking editorship.  I love how unpredictable looking through Weng puzzles is—I never know what unusual gimmick will crop up next (unless, of course, a litzer has mentioned a certain puzzle in his or her e-mail!).  I'll miss Weng's sense of humor as we continue into the Farrar era, but I'm also really looking forward to seeing how the Farrar-edited puzzles compare.

Today's featured puzzle, titled "Heritage," was constructed by Sylvia Baumgarten.  According to my incomplete records, this is the only puzzle she published in The New York Times, which is a shame, since it's certainly one of the best Will Weng–edited Sundays I've seen to date.  This 23x puzzle was originally published on July 4, 1971, and was recently litzed by Howard Barkin.  It features ten symmetrically interlocking theme entries related to American history (mostly to Paul Revere), two of which contain rebuses of numbers in the grid.  But what really makes this puzzle stand out is its ultrasmooth nonthematic fill and wide-open grid, both of which are amazingly clean considering the lack of computer software and that this appears to be the constructor's debut!  Some of my favorite entries are THE 8 BALL, CHEETAH, HANDBAG, SHOOT UP, SEA FOAM, ANAHEIM, BEET RED, EYELASH, and TORPEDO.  Also, both the upper center and lower center feel particularly elegant in that they flawlessly fill around three theme entries each.  I'm not as fond of 5OTHS, the partials A DOUBT and END OF IT, the Nazi camp DACHAU, OUTMIME (which I mentioned above), RERAMS, the variant spelling ABISS, or the theme entries BOSTON TEA and CONCORD MASS.  I'm partial to the 1-Across entry QUINQUE because I take Latin, though I have to admit, it wouldn't be my first choice for that position, despite its 2 Q's.  Notwithstanding these small flaws, this is a revolutionary pre-Shortzian Sunday (pun intended)—I'm sure it lit up many a solver's Independence Day!  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

If you thought HELLBOX was an unusual-sounding typographical entry last week, you'll get a kick out of this one:  ETAOIN SHRDLU (and no, this isn't misspelled).  ETAOIN SHRDLU originally appeared in the June 6, 1971, puzzle by Fay L. Gieschi (another constructor with only one puzzle on record) entitled "Type Casting," which was edited by Will Weng and recently litzed by Denny Baker.  It was clued as "Popular line for printers"; Webster gives a much more detailed description of this unusual term, however:
a combination of letters set by running a finger down the first and then the second left-hand vertical banks of six keys of a Linotype machine to produce a temporary marking slug not intended to appear in the final printing
This devious constructor decided to cross ETAOIN SHRDLU with OELLA, a Maryland town that is also a very challenging entry.  What a printer's devil!

Not surprisingly, I wasn't able to find a good graphical representation for etaoin shrdlu, so below is a picture of a general linotype slug:

Image courtesy of Codes that Don't Count.