It's actually been a challenge keeping up with all the proofread puzzles that have come in this week! Saturday night, Mark Diehl sent 28, then another 30 Sunday afternoon, which were followed by 31 more from Tracy Bennett, then another 30 from Mark late that night, then 31 more from Mark Monday morning and another 31 from Mark that afternoon! Early Wednesday morning, Todd Gross sent 10 proofread puzzles, which were followed by 26 more from Mark a few hours later; that night, Todd sent 10 more puzzles, and then early Thursday, 8 more, which were followed by 31 more from Mark that night. Early Friday morning, new litzer Finn Vigeland sent in 1 litzed puzzle, and then Friday afternoon, Todd sent in 14 more proofread puzzles. And this week Howard Barkin sent 31 proofread puzzles too—whew! Great job, everyone—thanks so much again!
In his down time from proofreading this week, Todd did some more research on pre-Shortzian constructors and discovered an interesting article about the extremely prolific A. J. Santora, who passed away in 2005. Todd also discovered that James Barrick, who constructed numerous puzzles in the Weng and Maleska eras, often in collaboration with his wife, Phyllis, is still building crosswords! I plan to try to contact him soon. Finally, in his quest for more information about constructor Cyrus McCormick, Todd came across a humorous article (see below) about how crossword puzzles can benefit anesthetists. Thanks for all this fascinating biographical research, Todd!
Today's featured puzzle, "Mixed Doubles," was constructed by Edward J. O'Brien; published January 13, 1974; edited by Will Weng; and recently litzed by Barry Haldiman. This puzzle features eight pairs of theme entries that consist of a base phrase and its wacky spoonerism—this makes a total of 16 theme entries, which is truly amazing! Even more impressive, the constructor placed each base phrase adjacent to its spoonerism in the grid—wow! SECOND FIGHTS seems a bit iffy to me, but all the other base phrases feel strong and in-the-language; also, most of the spoonerisms are legitimately funny. My favorites of the spoonerisms are WORD BOTCHER (clued meta-style as "Spooner, e.g."), SPATE OF AIDES ("Too many cooks") and SHUNS THE ROE ("Refuses a fish delicacy"), though at least two others made me chuckle! The puzzle's high theme density did force a lot of iffy entries, which include the lengthy partials THE LAST ONE, AS FATE, PRIMES THE, LAP WAS, IT THIS, and TRIED A; the contrived phrases DEM DOSE ("Words after dese") and PERSIAN GOD ("Ahura-Mazda, for one"); and a smattering of not-so-great abbreviations like WTRS ("Restaurant workers: Abbr.") and variants/old-style entries like PAPAIAS SNEWS ("Winter falls, old style"), and TWEESE ("Instrument case, old style"). Nevertheless, the puzzle is largely free of flat-out obscurities, and entries like SWISS WATCH, EXTENUATED, and HIGH-HAT give the grid a nice bit of zip. Overall, this is an ambitious and amusing pre-Shortzian puzzle that is extremely well-executed for its presoftware time! The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:
This past Thursday's New York Times puzzle, constructed by Anna Shechtman, featured the entry SHTUP, which caused quite a stir among crossword solvers! In that vein, here are some Farrar- and Weng-era clues/entries that caused me to raise an eyebrow. These clues/entries don't quite measure up to SHTUP, but they were certainly edgy for their time!
- February 16, 1959 (constructed by Edward Canstein, litzed by Brian Kulman)
- Clue: Storage place for family skeletons.
- Answer: CLOSET
- October 14, 1963 (constructed by Leonard Sussman, litzed by Mark Diehl)
- Clue: Little woman.
- Answer: WIFE (I'm pretty sure Mr. Sussman slept on the sofa on October 14 . . . that is, if he didn't end up in the closet!)
- January 31, 1966 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
- Clue: Wetback, perhaps.
- Answer: PEON
- December 14, 1966 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
- Clue: Like sweet sixteen?
- Answer: UNKISSED (one look around my high school at lunch shows that the question mark is definitely justified!)
- March 10, 1967 (constructed by Louis Sabin, litzed by Alex Vratsanos)
- Clue: Popular kind of girl.
- Answer: PIN-UP
- October 30, 1967 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
- Clue: Womankind, so Webster says.
- Answer: WEAKER SEX
- August 16, 1969 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
- Clue: Words for a sweet 16 girl
- Answer: NOT KISSED (no question mark this time)
- February 19, 1970 (litzed by Martin Herbach)
- Clue: Ivy and some girls
- Answer: CLINGING VINES
- August 2, 1974 (constructed by Jordan S. Lasher, litzed by Todd Gross)
- Clue: Words after book or playmate
- Answer: OF THE MONTH (does this entry win partial of the month?)
- October 8, 1974 (constructed by Harriet Gilson Rosenberg, litzed by Howard Barkin)
- Clue: Building
- Answer: ERECTION
- December 12, 1974 (constructed by Miller [first name unknown], litzed by Mark Diehl)
- Clue: Mental defectives
- Answer: MORONS
- September 14, 1976 (constructed by Louis Baron, litzed by Peter Broda)
- Clue: Kind of night stand
- Answer: ONE (because some people have a single nightstand next to their beds, of course!)
I think I'll forgo posting an image to go along with this group of clues. I will say that I look forward to seeing what other surprising clues and entries show up in puzzles from the earlier part of Farrar's editorship!