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Puzzle Solution #11: Contrariwise

 Madagascar day gecko - from Wikimedia Commons It has been one week since the publication here of my eleventh crossword puzzle. The reviews are in. Four of these five are actual quotes from real people:

“I love it. It’s a way fun theme …” — J., author

“I enjoyed this, Steve.” — C., composer

“Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.” — T., wag

“I liked the theme, cleverly silly …” — S., director

“Super fun theme. I giggled when I saw it.” — C., savant

Don’t cheat yourself! If you have not had a chance to solve it yourself, point your browser to Sometimes Wise and give it a go.

Spoiler space

Here is a music video, “Live and Die,” by a band that according to Wikipedia combines “bluegrass, country, punk, pop melodies, folk, rock and roll, indie rock, honky tonk, and ragtime to produce a novel sound described by the San Francisco Chronicle as having the `heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt, the light pop concision of Buddy Holly, the tuneful jangle of the Beatles, [and] the raw energy of the Ramones.’ ” Now that is an intriguing description. I love their sound. Give a listen to this tune, you won’t be sorry.

You will want to hear more from the Avett Brothers.

The solution

I hope you enjoyed this puzzle. It features a lower word count (72) than most of my efforts. This is a number fitting the profile of a late-week (Thursday or Friday) puzzle, though I aimed at an early-to-mid-week (Tuesday or Wednesday) level. If it seems more difficult than that, my clues are to blame. There is only one answer that may be unfamiliar to many (AVETT) and one dodgy initialism (CRS).

The puzzle includes more “partials” than I like to see: RISESAT, HASIN and ALLOWTO are not my favorite answers in the puzzle. I had to resort to quotations to clue two of them and I hope they work.

Puzzle solution.

The theme is intended to be a playful one. An earlier iteration of the puzzle was named “Misheard?” I imagined someone mishearing–for an example–Cheerios and thinking, “happy O’s?” Plausible? Not really, but I liked it well enough and it seems to have been well-received. Your enjoyment may depend upon your pronunciation of Fridays and cashews.

   Vowels prepared on a skillet? = FRIDAYS = “fried A’s”
   Vowels hard to chew? = TOUGHIES = “tough E’s”
   Vowels easy to chew? = TENDERIZE = “tender I’s”
   Vowels with sunny dispositions? = CHEERIOS = “cheery O’s”
   Vowels tucked in a wallet? = CASHEWS = “cash U’s”

The title “Sometimes Wise” alludes to the old “AEIOU and sometimes Y” adage. Props to my friend Carl for the suggestion!

Cheerios boxThe fact that two of the theme answers are foods and the other three are clued as if they are foods is a coincidence. I’m not sure if it is a happy one or not.

Friends who gave me feedback on an earlier version of this puzzle convinced me to rework what was a difficult and ugly southeast corner. These same friends and others offered their opinions on clues that were unclear or less than ideal. The finished puzzle is much better for their input. All in all, I am very happy with the finished product and I am grateful for their valuable advice.

Breaking Conventions

Some of those who looked at this puzzle before I put it up on my website are talented crossword constructors and solvers who, to varying degrees, adhere more strictly to certain conventions than do I. While they were quite complimentary and encouraging, at least two expressed valid criticisms along these lines.

Two criticisms concerned the grid. As I already mentioned, its low word count is out-of-sync with its difficulty. Slightly more concerning: my theme entries are not the longest answers in the puzzle. Two are seven-letter answers and there are a total of 22 seven-letter answers in the puzzle. The only two eight-letter answers are part of my theme, but only one of the two nine-letter answers is. I understand the conventions here, but I did not feel the need to accommodate them.

NYT puzzle solution, March 4, 2015The other criticism was more strongly expressed. By convention–and for good reasons–constructors avoid duplicate and near-duplicate answers. One reviewer noted that OLDE duplicates OLDHAND. Another opined that “it’s really important to fix the [duplication].”

Rules are made to be broken. In this case, I cannot be persuaded that having OLDE and OLDHAND as answers in the same puzzle is a problem. I do not feel that RARA, LURE, ALDA and AILED is an improvement over RAKE, LUKE, OLDE and OILED even if the near duplication is thereby avoided. As it happens, I saw the New York Times puzzle on the day I received this advice. It featured UPEND, DEEPEND and the etymologically distant AMEND (click on the image at right to view). I happily consider this a validation of my preference, even if I am out-of-step with much of orthodox opinion.


I have not done enough to call attention to the wonderful crossword resource that is XwordInfo.com. This site is the creation of Seattle software engineer Jim Horne. If you are a big fan of crosswords, you should check it out.

For those who may be interested in such things, I include some of the analysis of my puzzle provided by the XwordInfo.com website. Click on images to enlarge.
Graphic from XwordInfo.comGraphic from XwordInfo.comGraphic from XwordInfo.com

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