1. Once upon a time pI (pre-Internet), one had to guess at the clues one didn’t know. The final results certainly could appear to be gibberish. Hawaiian goose – “nene”? Sure, why not?!

    Bonus – love Kliban! He had a great (and weird) sense of humor

  2. Kliban was wonderful and much-missed. But a lot of his cartoons are simply absurd. “People humiliating a salami” is just strange without any underlying “joke” but it’s still funny. This one is the same.

  3. In the spirit of, “there, that oughtta hold them bastards off for another week” — note especially the numeral 3, crossed out at the last moment and replaced with the barely more credible “Q”. It’s not quite parody, not quite satire, more like a caricature, with key features exaggerated, of the ever looming deadline, gotta keep those presses rolling, and who the hell is even reading this crap, anyway?

  4. Not so much a deadline, but the solution presented later. The original puzzle contained the 3 (and not crossed out, and no Q). Kind of like a “What’s wrong with this picture?” puzzle.

    Here is the solution: “For you puzzle fans, the wrong entry was the 3, it should have been a Q.” Again, there is no logical path to any of this. It’s just absurdity for the sake of absurdity.

  5. I always took the gag of this strip to be that the previous week’s puzzle solution was so challenging and arcane that even the publisher initially got it wrong and had to issue a sloppy correction just before going to print. That’s the great thing about a lot of Kliban’s work, though, the gag can often be interpreted multiple ways and still be funny.

    Take “It Was Hell, Recalls Former Child” for example, which is, for my money, one of the greatest comic strips of all time. He flips the well-worn “old curmudgeon blabs about his outlandishly tough childhood” gag around by leaving not only the comically exaggerated hardship but also the entire context for the conversation entirely to the reader’s imagination… and our minds make it funny pretty much however we fill the gaps.

    Kliban’s estate allowed the creation of a children’s book featuring his beloved Cat artwork a few years back, which is far and away my young daughter’s favorite picture book. Normally I’d find this kind of posthumous product to be a weak cash-in effort, but it really is delightful.

  6. First, it being a word square, it is invalid if the first entry isn’t SATOR. (See Terry Pratchett’s Sator Square).
    But I think the joke is that the puzzle is so impossible that no one solves it, and therefore no one even bothers to look at the answers. (Which come from the constructor, not the publisher.)
    It reminds me of the story of one of the Algonquin Round Table people who was know for doing the New York Times crossword in pen every day. Very impressive. Until someone fished the paper out of the trash and found that he was just filling in random letters.

  7. “It reminds me of the story of one of the Algonquin Round Table people who was know for doing the New York Times crossword in pen every day. Very impressive. ”

    Er, I do the NYT crossword in pen every day (well, I don’t usually bother with Monday or Tuesday as those are too easy). And admittedly it often takes me a long time, and I sometimes fail to finish or get a couple of words wrong. But I still wouldn’t claim it was “very impressive.” Mildly show-offish, maybe. . . .

  8. I think the joke is that the puzzle, as created, was utter nonsense. Not that it was too hard, or that they misprinted it, or anything — just that the puzzle itself was a random clump of letters with no rhyme or reason, including changing your mind in the middle of one of them. That’s the correct answer: garbage.

    I am vaguely reminded of the time the absurdist superhero THE TICK got a secret identity job as the puzzle editor at the paper. But he got fired:
    “To top it off, your crosswords don’t make any sense. I mean, I’m pretty sure ‘Fhrblig’ isn’t a seven letter word for ‘flume’. And besides, there’s only 2 words here. ‘Fhrblig’ and ‘Pabst’.”

    “Yeah, but they cross!”

  9. I think Ian Osmond’s take on this is probably correct. This would be the entirely fictive “solution” to an also fictive (and probably nonexistent) “puzzle”.

    Thanks Scott for bringing up the SATOR square. Sorry to say, but I haven’t read enough of Terry Pratchett to know what uses he makes of it. It’s within the realm of possibility that Kliban was thinking about that or other magic squares when he wrote (drew?) this square, but I don’t see much forcing us to think that.

  10. I figured the crossed-out item was another “S”, not a digit “3”. The upper left portion descends too far for the latter.
    Such doesn’t make the cartoon any more or less….

  11. The magazine “Annals of Improbable Research” had a running gag which was “Solution to Last Month’s Puzzle.” There never was a this month’s puzzle, only a solution to a puzzle that supposedly had appeared last month but had never actually appeared at all. For instance:

    “Question 124.
    Yes, it’s reversed, but no, they are neither wombats nor koalas.”

  12. I think ianosmond’s take is 3/4 of the way there….

    To bring it home… If we see a person filling in a puzzle this way we figure “whoa… he is way off!”. Wouldn’t it be nice if somewhere in some universe this person is can be vindicated in that that is actually the answer.

  13. I couldn’t understand why there was a smudge on the “N” on the last row of the puzzle. Then I scrolled the page and realized that the smudge was actually on my monitor screen.

    Time to clean the screen…


    (Oh, would I love a good SNOYGL. ..I think?)

  15. Yeah, it is kind of inviting to take it as a “word find” game. But then this would be the given or puzzle part, and the solution would be tracking where to find these.

  16. In normal times I do the Sudoku in our local paper – which now has a second one that I do instead – Sudoku X – in this version the numbers from top corner to opposite bottom corner also have to follow the rule of one of each number from 1 through 9 – and strangely it actually seems easier.

    Since the pandemic I have also been doing the daily crossword puzzle to keep my mind from turning to mush. I like the Sudokus better – I know the answers, just have to figure out where to put them.

    I designed and stitched (embroidered) some years ago a piece called Sudoku Sampler. Instead of numbers embroidery stitches are used. There are nine of the same stitch in each of what would be the number boxes and the boxes of stitches follow the same rules as the Sudoku numbers. So, for example, there is a box of 9 cross stitches as what would be a number box and a box of 9 French knots instead of a different number. You know sometimes one starts something which seems simple, but when being executed… Originally I was going to have the nine thread colors rotate in a separate pattern – but decided that would be too hard so each stitch is in the same color in each box it is in.

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