Friday, January 23, 2015

CROSSW RD Magazine, Funny Litzing Mistake, and Wacky Words from 1957 Puzzles

Project Update

Last week the 1965 puzzles went up on XWord Info, and I'm almost finished preparing the 1964 puzzles!  This week Todd Gross has been especially busy:  Early Tuesday morning he sent in 18 puzzles with 28 mistakes.  Then early Thursday morning he sent 10 more with 16 mistakes, which were followed by 10 more with 20 mistakes Friday morning and another 10 with 18 mistakes Friday afternoon!  Thanks so much again, Todd!  For those of you currently proofreading puzzles from 1963, I'm hoping to have all of those back within the next couple of weeks.  It won't be long now before we're done with the 1960s!

Blast! Goes Unsolved

No one solved last week's Blast! challenge correctly, though there were some incorrect guesses early in the week.  The clue, from the July 23, 1958, puzzle, was, "One hazard of space travel."  The answer:  MICROMETEORITE.  The most common incorrect answer was WEIGHTLESSNESS, which, amazingly enough, is another 14-letter single word that fits the clue.

It occurred to me that people may want to know whether or not the Blast! challenge has already been solved by someone.  So from now on, I'll indicate that in the sidebar.  If no one has sent in the correct answer, you'll see STILL UNSOLVED! in green; if someone has, you'll see ALREADY SOLVED! in red.  Good luck with this week's challenge!

Funny Litzing Mistake

As I was looking through packets of litzed puzzles from early 1958, I discovered a rather amusing grid mistake that may have been influenced by the litzing contests.  In the January 5, 1958, crossword, instead of keying in BARKIS IS WILLIN ("Message the carrier sent to Peggotty."), the litzer entered BARKIN IS WILLIN (as in litzer extraordinaire Howard Barkin!)!

CROSSW RD Magazine

Today I'm delighted to roll out the first of what will be a series of constructor profiles and other articles originally published in CROSSW RD Magazine.  A donor who wishes to remain anonymous sent me a big box of this amazing publication a couple of months ago—they're truly a treasure trove from the pre-Shortzian and early Shortz eras (1991–1996)!  I've been immersing myself in them as time permits, and when Jim Horne recently mentioned his interest in learning more about legendary constructor William Lutwiniak—who published at least 297 puzzles in The New York Times during the pre-Shortz era—I remembered having read Helene Hovanec's wonderful profile of him in CROSSW RD.  I contacted the owner of CROSSW RD, Stan Chess, who has generously granted me permission to post material from the magazine online.  Today I've uploaded two pieces to Scribd:  "And the Wynner Is . . . William Lutwiniak," by Helene Hovanec, which appeared in the January/February 1992 issue and can be seen by clicking here; and a short letter from William Lutwiniak that was published a few months later in the May/June 1992 issue, together with brief notice of William Lutwiniak's subsequent death, written by J. Baxter Newgate, which you can read by clicking here.

William Lutwiniak.  Photo copyright 1992, 
2015, Megalo Media, Inc. Reprinted by 
permission of Stan Chess and CROSSW-RD 

Featured Puzzle

Today's featured puzzle is another gem by Jack Luzzatto, one of the few constructors who published almost as many crosswords in the Times as Lutwiniak.  The puzzle was published April 17, 1959; edited by Margaret Farrar; and litzed by Mark Diehl.  In this tour-de-force construction, Luzzatto not only filled a wide-open 66-word grid but also included a theme consisting of three 15-letter entries!  The theme is signs, which evokes fond memories of playing a bingo-like sign game during long road trips when I was little.

Photo courtesy of

I probably still have that game, along with my Etch A Sketch and Wooly Willy, somewhere in a bin of childhood memorabilia I'll have to sort through before going to college!  In any case, I was pleased with the signs Luzzatto chose—DANGEROUS CURVES and SLIPPERY WHEN WET are both in-the-language signs and fun entries in and of themselves!  CROSS AT THE GREEN (clued as "Admonition to Gotham pedestrians.") seemed a bit stretchy to me, though—I've never seen such a sign anywhere, which made me wonder whether CROSS AT THE GREEN signs have simply become less common over time.  To test this hypothesis, I typed CROSS AT THE GREEN into Google Ngram, which shows linguistic trends.  Sure enough, the term seems to have spiked in popularity circa 1970.  To my surprise, the sign doesn't seem to have existed before 1954, which means that Luzzatto must have acted quickly upon learning of this then-fresh entry.  Speaking of Luzzatto's observational skills and talent as a constructor, the nonthematic fill is remarkably clean given the constraints posed by the theme and wide-open grid pattern.  I especially like the entries CHARADE, DECOMPOSE, PINHOLE, AIR TIME, FLAGELLUM, and TRIBUTARY—that's a whole lot of goodness for a 66-worder, let alone a thematic, hand-filled one!  On the minus side, the grid contains an odd pair of un- entries (UNHEROIC and UNLURED—the latter feels especially weak), the plural ISOLDES, RASSE (hardcore pre-Shortzian crosswordese clued as "Tree-climbing civet."), the uncommon abbreviation RMC ("Sandhurst military institution: Abbr."), and INTR ("Not transitive: Abbr.").  As is typical with Luzzatto puzzles, though, the list of "meh" entries is inconsequential compared to the "wow!"s.  I was a little disappointed not to see any standout clues in this puzzle, though I appreciate Luzzatto's effort to sway a bit from straight definitions through clues like "Hours in the sky." for AIR TIME.  I did notice that SEATO was clued as "NATO's Oriental counterpart," which is interesting in that such a clue would no longer be politically correct.  In sum, this is yet another wonderfully ambitious Luzzatto puzzle!  As usual, the answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

Wacky Words from 1957 Puzzles

Now that first semester is finally over, I've had some time to look through earlier packets of pre-Shortzian puzzles, albeit at a much slower rate than our indefatigable proofreaders!  Here are some of the most bizarre entries I've encountered in the selection of 1957 puzzles I've had a chance to examine, along with their original clues and, where known, constructors.
  • 7/9/57 (constructed by Madeline Corse, litzed by Ralph Bunker)
    • Entry:  FALANGIST
    • Clue:  Member of a certain political party.
  • 7/21/57 (constructed by Herbert Ettenson, litzed by Ralph Bunker)
    • Entry:  BUNDESRAT
    • Clue:  Federal Council of Switzerland.
    • Entry:  FLANNELMOUTH
    • Clue:  Catfish of the Great Lakes.
  • 9/25/57 (constructed by Helen Fasulo, litzed by Jeffrey Krasnick)
    • Entry:  JALOUSIES
    • Clue:  Tropical window shades.
  • 9/29/57 (constructed by Eugene T. Maleska, litzed by Jeffrey Krasnick)
    • Entry:  TELEDUS
    • Clue:  Animals of Java, Borneo, etc.
  • 10/5/57 (litzed by C. G. Rishikesh)
    • Entry:  BANYAI
    • Clue:  Bantu tribe.
  • 10/7/57 (litzed by C. G. Rishikesh)
    • Entry:  PHALAROPE
    • Clue:  Bird in Alan Paton title.
  • 10/13/57 (constructed by Hume R. Craft, litzed by C. G. Rishikesh)
    • Entry:  ALOIDAE
    • Clue:  Mythical giants of Ossa-Pelion tale: Var.
  • 10/14/57 (constructed by Mel Taub, litzed by Todd McClary)
    • Entry:  PELTATE
    • Clue:  Shield-shaped, as nasturtium leaves.
  • 10/24/57 (litzed by Brian Kulman)
    • Entry:  CAPONIERE
    • Clue:  In fortification, part of a ravelin.
Below is a picture of the teledu, which somewhat resembles a skunk:

Image courtesy of The Honey Badger.


  1. Doug Peterson and I co-authored a themeless puzzle where DANGEROUS CURVES was the "star" entry in a grid full of dangerous curves:

    Also, TOO LATE THE PHALAROPE was a theme entry in a Tap Osborn Sunday special: