Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Wednesday, April 1, 2020, John Ficarra and Patrick Merrell


Three clues in today's puzzle appear to call for some very specific geographic knowledge including an historic town in Hungary noted for its baroque architecture, the left tributary of the Vitim River in Irkutsk Oblast, Russia, and the village between Kruszyna and Jacków in Silesian Voivodeship, Poland. In place of the geographic names, the answers are, from top to bottom, AREYOUKIDDINGME, WHOTHEHELLKNOWS, and IHAVENTGOTACLUE - answers I've thought in my head a hundred times, but they've never been correct before now. Ha!

I didn't clap on to the alternative answers right off the BAT. When I read the first clue, I found myself hoping that the down answers would reveal the name of a place that I didn't know I knew, if you see what I mean. When I got to the second clue, though, I thought, uh oh, I'm never going to get this one. When I got to the third clue, I thought I had figured out the trick - the answers were going to be a place or river name but they were going to sound like a recognizable phrase. Wrong. After filling in a bunch of the downs in the bottom third of the grid, the correct answer became clear, and then the other two answers came in pretty quickly.

I was curious about what the correct geographic answers to the clues might be, so I did a little research. The location referred to in the first clue appears to be a city called Pàpa. The left tributary of the Vitim River (if I understand what left means in this context?) appears to be Mama, and the village in Poland (pop. 305) seems to be called Baby.  April Fool's joke, or Easter egg? You be the judge. However it was intended, I loved it. Highly entertaining!


The theme is not all there is to like in this puzzle. The term WIDOW for "Short line at the top of a column, in typesetting" was interesting and NEWTO me. I liked HOPON for "Board a moving vehicle. "Doozy" and LULU are both fun. And who doesn't enjoy a reference to "Scotty's domain on the U.S.S. Enterprise" (ENGINEROOM)?

Other clue answer pairs that get a BIGA from me are:
"One thing ... or a twosome" (ITEM)
"Like Gruyère or Grandpa" (AGED)
"Idiots" (YOYOS)
"What the Lord sometimes does, in a classical expression" (TAKETH)
"Where fruit picking originated" (EDEN) - some creative cluing for an old chestnut. Speaking of old chestnuts, EELS shows up today, too ("Serpentine swimmers"). I wonder what the total number of clue variants for these two crossword darlings is.

On the BLIP side, I'll admit I have a thing against AGIN and the plural IRES gives me fits, but these complaints are trifles because this puzzle is a real LOL. Can I get some AMENS?



  1. 3:59
    April Fool's, for the win! So much fun. I was laughing out loud all the way through. And that extra layer of Papa, Mama, and Baby is too much. I admit that I double checked your work, Frannie, because I thought you might be pulling your own prank on our readership.

  2. You got that AMEN, Frannie o' mine! And like Colum, I burst into much needed laughter...what an absolute gem. And I didn't need the Easter egg, but I'll bet the constructors and editors did...if nothing else but to maintain a straight face! :-)

    P.S. A "widow" in typography is pretty much any "lonely" word at the end of any often happens is is hard to fix in justified type, but easy in ragged left or right.

  3. Back in the early days of word processing, it was a big deal if your software was sophisticated enough to detect and prevent a WIDOW (or an orphan, which is similar).

    As for the theme, quite delightful. I had much of IHAVENTGOTACLUE from crosses and then looked at the clue and was kinda scratching my head briefly but then started looking at the other long acrosses. As Frannie says, things we've often thought but only now got to write into the grid.

  4. 11:34 (FWOE)
    Great puzzle! And thanks for all for the explanations of WIDOW, which I'd never heard used in that way. My error came at the KONICA/BOGOTA cross. I knew both of them, but misspelled BOGOTA at first with an "a" and didn't check the cross. Nice to have a reference to things TUSCAN, and to MOE.

  5. 6:28

    I'm several days late commenting, and probably no one will ever read this, but I just had to add to the praise heaped upon this puzzle. I loved it! :)

  6. I read your comment, Horace o' mine! :-)