Two brief announcements:

1. Huge, huge congrats to my puzzle buddy Sam Ezersky, who will soon be joining the New York Times as a full-time assistant editor to Will Shortz. Sam tested a bunch of puzzles for me last year and he’s got a very sharp eye for what works and what doesn’t. I think this means he won’t be able to compete at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in the future …. but maybe he’ll get one more crack at it in a few weeks. Best of luck, Sam!

2. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the publication of this piece, which exposed to the world the crossword plagiarism scandal known as Gridgate. I still can’t thank FiveThirtyEight’s Oliver Roeder enough for his hard work in uncovering the information.

I played with language in this puzzle — well, four languages. GERMAN at 36A, FRENCH at 107A, RUSSIAN at 48D and ENGLISH at 60D all have the same clue: [Language of two of this puzzle’s attached strings]. With a cue from the title, you’ll noticed that I added the German, French, Russian and English word for “no” into a set of phrases to create wacky answers, with each language represented in two entries:

  • The German nein is found in RENE INSULT at 125A: [“You don’t think, therefore you’re stupid, Descartes,” for one?] and WAYNE INSIDE at 15D: [Sign on the Batcave entrance that says Batman’s there?]. The base phrases are result and wayside.
  • The French non is found in BEER CANNON at 23A: [Powerful weapon for firing bock at people?] and COMMON NONSENSE at 83A: [“The moon is made of green cheese,” for example?]. Beer can and common sense.
  • The Russian nyet is found in “DON’T TELL MEN YET” at 58A: [“Avoid letting guys know that for now”?] and BENNY ETCHING at 114A: [Engraved artwork depicting comedian Hill?]. “Don’t tell me” and benching.
  • The English no is found in NOTABLE SPOON at 28A: [Famous setting piece?] and “SCRAM, NOBLES” at 71D: [“Get lost, lords and ladies”?]. Tablespoon and scrambles.

I think the clue for RENE INSULT is my favorite, if only because it makes me laugh to think of some college student in a Philosophy 101 course being sassy while reading a Descartes essay.

I have to give a tip of the hat to Gail Grabowski for her identically-titled CrosSynergy puzzle from November 2012 which had the same idea, albeit with only one language at play. She even had NOTABLE KNIFE as an answer. Some answers that I left out of this one include PAINE IN RED, SPIDEY NONSENSE, BILL NYE TIE (though he does famously wear a bow tie), “NOBODY SHOP,” and ….. um, PORNO TRAIT. Don’t let anyone say I didn’t think of the children on this one.

Other NOtable answers and clues:

  • 9A: [Workplace danger whose homonym is a workplace asset] is STAPH, short for Staphylococcus aureus. I thought it was neat how STAPH and STAFF could be interpreted as opposites in that way.
  • 127A: [Master of allusion?] is a POET. More homonym action there.
  • 130A: [Muse of music, e.g.] has nothing to do with the nine Greek muses, but rather the rock TRIO Muse. I dig their sound. They’re going on tour this summer.
  • 133A: [Popeye’s ___’Pea] is SWEE‘Pea. Okay, so, about this answer: I thought for the longest time that the SWEE’ and PEA were two words, but one of my test-solvers told me that it’s all one word, separated by the apostrophe. It’s inelegant to just chop part of the name off, in the same way that I don’t care for NIRO as a singular answer (because nobody says that — it’s Robert De Niro). Still, I found it remarkably difficult to change SWEE out without resorting to fill that I considered worse. All of this is to say, I’m probably going to to try my hardest to avoid this answer going forward, but if I absolutely needed it, I’d probably clue it in reference to the Chin Swee Caves Temple in Malaysia.
  • 13D: [Silent film star of talkies] is HARPO Marx. The word “silent” just means he didn’t talk, not that it was a silent film.
  • 39D: [Cruciverbalist Reagle] is MERL. I remember once seeing in a book of his a clue like [Puzzling bird] or [Crossword bird], and I couldn’t help but think that was just Merl winking at the solver. He was a rare bird, no question.
  • 53D: [Painter Modigliani or physicist Avogadro] is AMEDEO. Admittedly, this wasn’t exactly my first choice of word here. I believe the name means “lover of God.”

See you next week!