Thursday, January 30, 2014
Constructor: Dan Schoenholz
Relative difficulty: Medium-difficult
THEME: — "The Riddler" -- an old riddle gets a Schroedinger twist
Word of the Day: ANKARA — [Site of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations]
Turkey's 'other' city may not have any showy Ottoman palaces or regal facades but Ankara thrums to a vivacious, youthful beat unmarred by the tug of history. Drawing comparisons with İstanbul is pointless – the flat, modest surroundings are hardly the stuff of national poetry – but the civic success of this dynamic and intellectual city is assured thanks to student panache and foreign-embassy intrigue. The country's capital has made remarkable progress from a dusty Anatolian backwater to today's sophisticated arena for international affairs.
[Lonely Planet Guide to Turkey]
|Kocatepe Mosque, Ankara|
• • •
17-Across [With 27-Across, an old riddle] = WHAT'S BLACK WHITE
27-Across [See 17-Across] = AND RE(A)D ALL OVER
49-Across [Answer to one spelling of the riddle] = THIS NEWSPAPER
63-Across [Answer to another spelling of the riddle] = A SUNBURNED PANDA
Just one curiously circled square in the grid, intriguing. Turns out you can put either E or EA in that circle to get "red" or "read," which answer different versions of that old riddle: "read" for "this newspaper" and "red" for "a sunburned panda." The versions of the second one I heard as a kid had a skunk, panda, penguin or zebra in a blender, which shows you what awful people I had as childhood friends. Note that either the E or EA works on the down entry too, with either SET or SEAT working for [Box ___].
So that's an OK theme, not thrilling but if you hadn't heard the "sunburned panda" one I guess it's good for a laugh. Minor dings for rephrasing the original joke and punchline to fit the grid -- it's really "What's black and white and red all over" and "a newspaper," not "What's black, white and red all over" and "this newspaper." But the idea of a one-letter Schroedinger puzzle (those puzzles where certain squares work with either of two letters in them) is novel to my knowledge, as is the idea of a Schroedinger square where you can use either one or two letters. So points for that.
I also liked the cluing style of this one. I enjoy solving (and writing) clues that reveal just enough history/geography/politics to make getting the answer a challenge, like [U.S. city known to some locals as Siqnazuaq] for NOME -- looks like an Inuit placename, but you've got to puzzle that out -- or [Capital in 2004-05's Orange Revolution] for KIEV, or [Site of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations] for ANKARA. Clues like that are like solving a mini-Sporcle quiz.
The fill is fine. Four long theme entries are pretty constraining, plus the Schroedinger square, so it'd probably be tough to knock the fill out of the park. I liked EPHEMERA, JOHANNES, METEOR, IMHO and NO LOSS. On the downside, I've never head a baseball field/stadium called a BALLYARD as it is at 6-Down [Home is one corner in it].
My favorite puzzle of the week so far.
Check out yesterday's comments section for a contest (with prizes)! There are lots of entries there already, but we'll give one more day in case anyone missed it. Leave your entries in comments there (not under today's comments, under yesterday's) and I'll announce the winners tomorrow.
Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent for four more days of CrossWorld