Thursday, March 5, 2020

Thursday, March 5, 2020, Zhouqin Burnikel


As I look at my completed puzzle grid just now, 36-Down is highlighted - (MA)LICE (Evil intent), which seems perfectly appropriate for Ms. Burnikel's assault on solvers' minds today.


Everything started simply enough, with a straightforward "MAD" rebus at 1A, making "made faces" and "Madonna," but then in the very next Across, things got messy. "Web master" seemed perfect for "Site administrator," but the "MAS" rebus was slightly different from the first one, and it didn't work well with 12-Down, "Food cooked in a cornhusk," which just had to be "tamale." And below that, the crossing answers "maladies" and "remain" each needed something... but again, they didn't work together...

I think it was the intersecting theme answers that made this so difficult for me, because it focussed my efforts on finding a single rebus that would work for both at the same time, or at least something that would unify the different rebi. Slowly, I started to notice that although my rebuses were slightly different - mad, mas, mal, man, mai - they all contained the same first two letters. And then, suddenly, NOMAS made sense. The trick is to remove all the MAs! The theme answers intersect, but that is not relevant to the final solution. Whew!

And the beautiful thing is that without the MAs, the puzzle is still filled with valid words (or names). Very nice.

And on top of that APLUS theme, we get a couple lovely Non-QMCs at 28D: Dancer's horn (ANTLER) (Think Christmas.) and 15A: Preceder of many N.H.L. games (OCANADA). And I found it kind of amusing that PANGRAM was in the grid, even though the puzzle itself is seven letters short.

I enjoyed the mind-bending challenge today.

- Horace


  1. Wonderful puzzle! I would've aced it, had I not spelled GIGOLOS wrong, duh. With all the themers being actual words, this puzzle was a joy to solve...and to appreciate.

  2. 11:43 but I didn't figure it out so it's a DNF. I had put very odd rebuses in each square. I was, like Horace, very confused by the fact that the words crossed each other but didn't share the spot where the letters were missing. So much that I didn't realize [MA]LICE was the 11th word. It's a beautiful concept and an odd way of carrying it out.

  3. 15:14
    I, too, thought that the affected squares would be filled with some sort of a rebus, but once I got the NOMAS answer, it all made sense and I was able to fill in the grid in pretty short order (for me, for a Thursday). Everyone loves a CLARET on occasion, and that was a welcome entry. Did anyone else try stretch where TOWNCAR goes? It fit, but the crosses obviously wouldn't work. I was part of the USAF, but I was never on a bomber (thankfully) since I was a radio and satellite communications expert. Originally, I was thinking of a jacket, so the clue was nice misdirection. I thought this puzzle theme was a great idea and well executed.

  4. I did not enjoy this one too much. I guess it all works OK, and I appreciate the construction--sort of. I just don't like the gimmick; I do not like having the answer in the grid be something other than what is clued. Too annoying while you are solving. This was easy, really, but I spent way too much time looking for M-A-random letter squares. Two thumbs way down.