Oct 31, 2020

Saturday, October 31, 2020, Jeffrey Wechsler

 Themeless Saturday by Jeffrey Wechsler 

Jeffrey is second from the left in this picture

Today we have a Jeffrey Wechsler puzzle that is a Halloween treat but not devoid of tricks.

Here are Jeffrey's very interesting and generous comments in answer to my inquiry about this puzzle:



It’s very nice to hear from you. 

Puzzle editors have a free hand in rewriting clues, and sometimes might change up to half of them in a puzzle.  I see the changes as not only a matter of trying to improve clarity and accuracy, and a way to modify the overall difficulty of a puzzle, but also an occasion for puzzle editors to exercise their own creativity.  Sometimes I appreciate the changes, sometimes not.  In this puzzle, several clue changes can demonstrate the range of alterations.

 6-Down is an interesting place to start.  Husker Gary wrote to me that it took a long time for him to figure it out.  My clue was certainly “meta (Husker - self-referential)”, but remarkably, Rich substituted [Number before Number], a different “meta” clue!  Mine was [Number to the left], meaning that SIX was to the left of the clue.  Both clues are fine, in my opinion.  Elsewhere, Rich left in one “meta” clue, and removed another.  Rich used 62-Across: [With “fix”, it describes itself] for PRE.  He changed the clue at 1-Across, which was [Its symbol is described by 2-Down’s answer].  2-Down is ONE K, and a single letter K is the chemical symbol for POTASSIUM.  Perhaps that was too much “meta” for one puzzle, especially at 1-Across.


Clue changes can make answers easier or harder to discover.  Changing the clue at 41-Across to [Pram occupant’s diaper], from the original [Apparel for a pram occupant], made NAPPY much more obvious.  On the other hand, I think that 61-Across’s [1963 Johnny Thunder hit] is much harder than the original [Example of aerial derring-do] for LOOP DE LOOP.  


It’s always gratifying when a clue that one considers rather clever is maintained, such as [Request before reaching 21?] for HIT ME AGAIN at 11-Down.  Alternatively, an editor may consider a clue too cutesy, which I think happened at 49-Across, when Rich used a straightforward clue defining TITANIA, when I had offered [One whose emotions hit Bottom?].  In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Titania is affected by a love potion, causing her to fall in love with the character Nick Bottom.  Now, I like this clue very much, but I can understand that Rich might have thought “Enough!”.  As many LA Times regular solvers might have noticed, I try to insert a Shakespeare quote (usually as a fill-in-the-blank) or reference into each puzzle I submit.  Sometimes they are used, sometimes they are not.  In this puzzle, I received a double whammy.  Besides the loss of the Bottom clue, I had a Shakespeare quote clue at 18-Down: [The air bites shrewdly; __ very cold”: Hamlet], for IT IS.  Rich changed that to the suffix ITIS.





Now let's look for the other treats Jeffrey has put into our literary bag:


1. One of the alkali metals: POTASSIUM - Like all the alkali metals, POTASSIUM is very reactive and is usually stored in mineral oil or an inert atmosphere. It does this when it is dropped into water.

10. Enjoy a meal, with "down": CHOW.

14. Lacking taste, say: UNARTISTIC - I had to replace INARTISTIC

16. Yul's "Solomon and Sheba" co-star: GINA - Rotten Tomatoes indicated it lacked 
19. Ability: SKILL and 30. Skills: COMPETENCE.

17. Where fajitas may be seen: TEX-MEX MENU.

18. Senior suffix: ITIS - Prospective graduates last spring did not get to experience SENIORITIS in person

20. Breaks down: SOBS.

22. Big extinct bird: MOA.

23. "Frozen" snowman: OLAF.

26. Chem lab substance: REAGENT.

28. Casino option: BACCARAT - James Bond playing BACCARAT against Emilio Largo in Thunderball. The dealer holds a card on the palette.

32. Exercise apparel: SWEATS - My standard outfit these days

33. Out of control: AMOK.

34. Increase: GROW.

36. Fungal rye disease: ERGOT.
37. Wheel part: RIM.

38. Attack, as with questions: BOMBARD.

40. Org. monitoring gas prices: AAA.

41. Pram occupant's diaper: NAPPY.

43. __ lily: Utah state flower: SEGO.

44. W.E.B. Du Bois' Tennessee alma mater: FISK.

45. Looks of contempt: SNEERS.

47. Maker of Contadina products: DEL MONTE - DEL MONTE acquired the brand in 1997

49. Shakespeare's fairy queen: TITANIA - From A Midsumer Night's Dream

51. Evening in Paris: SOIR - Ce SOIR, nous distribuerons 250 sacs de bonbons (Tonight we will hand out 250 bags of candy)

53. Wings with rooms: ELLS - My old school is building one on the last piece of ground they can use

55. __ fog: DENSE.

59. Outer layer: RIND.

61. 1963 Johnny Thunder hit: LOOP DE LOOP - Ah, a classic of my misspent yute! YouTube if you must.

64. Footwear for the stealthy, maybe: MOCS.

65. "Where's everyone else?": YOU'RE ALONE

66. Originate: STEM - We are all trying to STEM the tide of the Corona virus

67. Like some eggs: FREE RANGE - Free at last!


1. With 31-Down, finalizes, in publishing: PUTS and 31. See 1-Down: TO BED.

2. Short race: ONE-K - .67 mile

3. Approach the gate, perhaps: TAXI.

4. Wrestling maneuver: ARM LOCK.

5. Blanche's sister, in a Williams play: STELLA 

6. Number before Number?: SIX - 6. Number before Number?: SIX - SIX is the Number before the word Number in this "meta" clue. Wow, getting the fill here was pretty easy but making the connection took me a while!

7. Belief suffix: ISM.

8. Pickup cousins, briefly: UTES - A UTE  being loaded into a pickup

9. Inconsequential: MINOR.

10. Movie SFX: CGI.

11. Request before reaching 21?: HIT ME AGAIN - This chart tells you

12. Savory baked bread: ONION TOAST.

13. Hung in the balance: WAS AT STAKE - The game WAS AT STAKE when this smallest guy on the team walked onto the field 

15. Dice, e.g.: CUBES.

21. Shortened a log: SAWED.

24. Ship that encountered Sirens: ARGO - Here the Sirens are calling to Jason

25. Rural spreads: FARMS - Here are some here in Dodge County Nebraska from the air

27. Switz. neighbor: GER - On our German tour, a cousin of mine met us in Kißlegg, GERmany and drove us to his (and my grandfather's) hometown of Heiden, Switzerland at 125 mph in a European Ford Escort

28. Campaigns rurally: BARNSTORMS - Before he landed in Paris in 1927, Charles Lindberg did this kind of BARNSTORMING

29. "That was so stupid of me!": AM I AN IDIOT.
35. Pay: WAGES.

38. Talking Heads lead singer David: BYRNE Why he left the group

39. Cone-like candy: ROLO.

42. Little veggie: PEA.

44. Patti Austin album dedicated to a legendary jazz vocalist: FOR ELLA - Her musical 
52. Dedicatory lines: ODE to Ella

46. Frivolous: SILLY.

48. Piercing locale, perhaps: MIDEAR.

50. Disinterested: ALOOF.

54. Whiskey __: SOUR.

56. Palindromic time: NOON - You movie buffs will know this is the time Will Kane had to meet Frank Miller and his gang. Frankie Laine's fabulous theme song

57. Grammy honoree: SONG - The High Noon theme song was a 1952 Oscar awardee. The Grammy's started in 1958

58. Duel tool: EPEE.

60. Mil. decoration: DSM - Eddie Rickenbacker won 8 Distinguished Service Medals

62. With "fix," it describes itself: PRE - Another fun clue. PRE is a PREFIX for the word PREFIX

63. Land's end?: DEE - The end of the word LAND not terra incognita