Screwball crossword clue
Published in L.A. Times Crossword.
Something described as zany is clownish and bizarre. “Zany” can also be a noun, a term used for a clown or a buffoon. The original noun was “Zanni”, a Venetian dialect variant of Gianni, short for Giovanni (John). Zanni was a character who appeared in comedy plays of the day, and was someone who aped the principal actors.
The original screwball was a delivery in the sport of cricket. That term was imported into baseball in the 1920s, and applied to an erratic baseball pitch. By the 1930s, a screwball was an eccentric and erratic person.