24 November 2021

For cruciverbalists

For the past five years I've been solving the crossword puzzles in the Los Angeles Times (and the New York Times) every day as a sort of mental exercise to keep my brain in shape.  This morning I was stunned to encounter an absolutely remarkable construction.  This is not a particularly difficult puzzle (Wednesday-level) and it can be completed by experienced crossword enthusiasts in 5-10 minutes.  But when you get to the final Down clue, a truly remarkable feature about the construction is revealed.

You can try it first (at the link), or read on below the fold for a minor spoiler/reveal about why this particular puzzle is so awesome...
The clue at 64-Down reads "Watcher... and homophone of a letter that appears exactly once in every clue and all but two answers."

Got that?  The letter "I" appears once and only once in every clue.

And... the letter "I" appears once and only once in every clue answer.

Except for two:  40-across and 64-down don't have one "I."  But of course 40-across does have one eye.

What fun to discover this at the very end.  And what skill it must have taken to assemble the words in the grid and devise clues with the appropriate restriction.


  1. Very satisfying, for setter and doer.
    If you're stuck for reading matter (Hah!), I'd recommend "Pretty Girl In Crimson Rose" by Sandy Balfour. One man's growing enjoyment of (British) Cryptic Crossword clues.

    1. Requested from our library, and I'm #1 on the waitlist. Tx, Slide Guy.

    2. Got the book today and speed-read it tonight by skipping the parts about the author's biography. Some interesting constructions - but I have difficulty with British cryptics and prefer to do just American (Harper's Magazine) ones.

      Here are some clever clues I've run across there:
      "Love-less, without love" (7) = o(min)o(us)
      "Discovered 7-5" (4) = se(V)en
      "99/99 of a figure" (6) = IC(on)IC
      "number that is 2/3 six" (4) = nine [the ix part of "six"]
      "Sainthood is in her - it edifies to some extent, but is cut off" (12) [hidden]

  2. Nice one. Thanks for this (and to the LA Times for making the puzzle available for free).

    On June 15, 1977, the NY Times ran a puzzle where almost every clue started with the letter M. Yeah, I saved it.

    1. Found it. (solved at the link)


  3. The last down clue revealed the remarkable feature about the construction.
    I'm curious how it revealed it. Reading that clue it suddenly sunk in? Or reading that clue confirmed a building suspicion? I'm not being a smartass, I'm really curious how you discovered this. You said a seasoned puzzler could do it in 5 to 10 minutes. Would said same just be done and run or go back and study the puzzle for a bit?

    1. Greetings, Bruce. I filled in the puzzle without realizing the uniqueness of the construction until I got to the final down clue. The way I do puzzles like this is to fill in all the across clues I can and then go to the down clues and do as many of those as possible. Sometimes by then the puzzle is done; otherwise I just repeat the process until it is done.

      When I got to the final down clue it read "Watcher... and a homophone of a letter that appears once in every clue and in all but two answers." The answer was "eye" and NOT UNTIL THEN did I realize that the letter "I" was in every clue and every answer.

      Finished the puzzle in 5.8 minutes. I think most crossword enthusiasts could do the same.


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