Goodness of Wit Test #20: Uncertainty

Wordplay has infiltrated almost every part of my life, including the classroom. Cross-cultural barriers posed by international students can be crossed easily by humor based on letter patterns in the English language. And for North-American audiences, wordplay provides a new and refreshing look at the world. Here are three examples from my classroom collection.

Why can you add co- to variance to get covariance, but you can’t add it to median? Because the result would be funny (i.e., comedian).


Goodness of Wit Test #19: No Real Opposition, Vol. 26., No. 1

Gremlins removed the last two words of the clue for 8Down, leaving the clue in ruins. The full clue should read:
8 Having abnormal reaction left glacier in ruins

Why is it appropriate that W. Gosset of Student’s t fame worked at Guinness Brewery? Guinness can be parsed as “gu-inn-ess.” Beer is drunk at an “inn.” Around it is “guess” or estimate, which is appropriate, since the t-distribution arose to account for estimating the population standard deviation.

We explain the difference between “statistically significant” and “practically significant,” but I go further and point out that “significant” also means “power of attorney,” if you read it correctly: sign if I can’t!

If you have other suggestions or examples that you have used successfully, I’d love to hear about them.

Goodness of Wit Test #20, titled “Uncertainty,” is another variety cryptic in which theme words require alteration for entry in the grid. The theme is based on a well-known short saying. I’m sure you’ll be able to ascertain what it is, and that you won’t experience any uncertainty. I certainly hope you enjoy it.

An ASA T-shirt will be awarded for each of two correct solutions chosen at random from among those received by me by June 1. A picture and short biography of each winner will be published in a subsequent issue. Mail your completed diagram to Jonathan Berkowitz, CHANCE Goodness of Wit Test Column Editor, #502 – 181 Athletes Way, Vancouver, BC, Canada V5Y 0E5, or email a list of the answers to Please note that winners to the puzzle contest in any of the three previous issues will not be eligible to win this issue’s contest.

No winner from Goodness of Wit Test #18: Plus or Minus (25.4)

Solution to Goodness of Wit Test #18: Plus or Minus

This puzzle appeared in CHANCE, Vol. 25, No. 4. Letters added to or subtracted from a clue answer for grid entry are in brackets {}. Letters excluded from the wordplay of a clue are in parentheses (). The excluded letters, when placed in the correct spaces, spell CONFIDENCE INTERVAL.


Across: 1 PAPA{+L} [rebus: p + AP + a] 5 FROLI(C)S [anagram + deletion: floris(-t)] 10 {-B}LESS [container: B(+l)ess] 11 S{+L}EW [initial letters: s(everal) e(mergency) w(ards)] 13 C{-}EMENT [rebus: c + (-e)lement] 14 (D)OLLOP [reversal + rebus: poll + o] 15 BEE(F)Y [odd letters: B(r)e(w)e(r)y] 16 GAMU(T) [hidden word: (Ra)ga mu(sic)] 18 SPO(N)SOR [anagram: poor SS] 19 PERS(E)US [anagram: purses] 20 (E)DIFIED [rebus: d(+if)ied] 26 {-P}AIRINGS [anagram: praising] 28 EL(I)DE [deletion: elde(-r)] 29 ST{-R}ING [rebus: s +t + ring] 30 F{+R}IEND [container: fi(+e)nd] 32 TISA(N)E [anagram: Satie] 33 {-B}USED [rebus: b((-d)us(-t))ed] 34 AC{+N}E [even letters: (M)a(r)c(i)e(’s)] 35 RE(V)ERSE [rebus: re(ER)se(-t)] 36 CHE{-W}ER [rebus: c + hewer]

Down: 1 MO(MU)SES [rebus: MOMA – A +uses] 2 ANI(1 {+P}LEDGE [rebus + reversal: led + eg] 2 AER(O) [anagram: era] 3 P{+S}ALMS [rebus + reversal: lap + MS] 4 (A)SYLUM [rebus: s(y + l)um] 5 F(L)AP [initial letters: f(oment) a(nother) p(ublic)] 6 RE(C)IPE [rebus + anagram: re + pie] 7 LUME(N) [deletion: Lume(–t)] 8 CO{+N}FOUND [co + f(+o)und] 9 SATY(R)S [container: sa(+t)ys] 11 S{-M}OOTHING [anagram: might soon] 12 G(E)ESE [rebus: ge(-t) se(-t)] 15 {+B}ORDERED [charade + container: or de(+r)ed] 17 ADDI{-C}TIVE [anagram + deletion: act divide(-s)] 20 {-F}EASTER [hidden word:(lif)e as ter(rorist)] 21 IRIS{+H} [container: IR(+i)S] 22 {-R}EGRESS [rebus: reg + (-P)ress] 23 EL(I)JAH [reversal + container: ha(+J)le] 24 PIE{+R}CE [homophone: peace] 25 {+L}EDGER [hidden word: (preferr)ed Ger(man)] 27 IN{-S}ANE [container: in(+s)ane] 30 FLEE{-T} [container: f(+l)eet] 31 {+N}ONE [deletion: (-d)one]

Goodness of Wit Text #20: Uncertainty

Instructions: Nine theme words require alteration before entry into the grid. The letters forming the unclued entry at 20 Across indicate what is missing from the entered theme words. Enumerations are withheld.



1 Developed trait into sorrow for sins
10 Confirm five fiery crashes
11 Organ observed covering plate
12 Most desert-like section of safari destination
13 More masculine back up at first with tense feminine singer
14 “Apply mediation,” upset teen cried
16 Speech problem exists during recording
17 Harry bringing Sarah back to the South
21 Fancy address, normal on the inside
23 I say, “Preserve side of door”
26 Musical instrument carried shortened piece of music and struck a chord
28 Marked support ceased after commencement
29 Important person willingly getting me bit of exposure
31 Check essential to popular restaurant
32 Idle British head
33 Bizarre style fest a cause of sleeping sickness (2 words)


1 Leaders of all varieties actually incur little gain
2 Canine class admitting mistake
3 Roman officials with time for new citations
4 Cairene’s heart is filled with anger
5 Witness robust team returning to club
6 Possible to use island repurchase agreement in recession
7 Poor spell of weather after the first warm up
8 “Bad debt due” made public for the first time
9 Turmoil excited nurse at start of treatment
15 New senate’s developed elegance
18 Perhaps mine fails next to last stage
19 Outlawed style going around globe
20 Being idle, getting start of search put in place
22 Oliver’s partner with uncertainty lacking before project
24 Kid getting up after a cold
25 Substantial gathering with family at yard
27 Dr. Asner arranged missions
30 Dams odd parts of moats

Reminder: A guide to solving cryptic clues appeared in CHANCE Vol. 21, No. 3. The use of solving aids—electronic dictionaries, the Internet, etc.—is encouraged.

jonathan berkowitz
Goodness of Wit Test column editor, Jonathan Berkowitz, provides cryptic clues for a variety of puzzles, challenging readers to look at data in a fresh way.

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