Sunday, August 4, 2013

Deadline Pressures...

In Crossword Puzzle setting. Such puzzles aren’t written; they are set. I know this because I know the rather rich Morse series of detective shows, based on the novels of Colin Dexter. What with Morse a crossword puzzle lover, sooner or later we were bound to learn (1) that his first name was Endeavor (witness the latest in the derivative series based on those novels) and (2) something about the craft of puzzle making.

Setters have deadlines too—and what with the mass of puzzles to be made owing to the number of still surviving dailies and the number of days in the year—the pressure must be on. We noticed its presence in working (actually trying to work) the Saturday puzzle of August 3 in USA Today. Irritating puzzles for us are those with sports, pop culture, and celebrity names. In this particular puzzle nine such clues—and eight other name-clues—stopped us dead at last.

What struck us in this puzzle was the nature of first names we encountered as answers, including Sal, Ara, Lil, Les, Sol, Clu, and Tug. Tug? It is supposed be the first name relief pitcher McGraw. Only, of course, McGraw’s name was (he died in 2004) Frank Edwin, not Tug at all. When time pressures are great and the puzzle will not be finished unless odd words that “happen” are very tough to match with a clue, celebrity tags are very handy. The setter of this puzzle had problems. One place he ended up with the word RIV (53 down) for which, evidently he could not find a matching celebrity. So what clue did he provide? “Miss., e.g.” Oh, I get it. The answer sort of flashes instantly into the mind—five days too late. That Old Man Riv, isn’t it. He just keeps flowing along.

Another that pleased us mightily was the clue: “What the looker is next, presumably.” A clue like that, also presumably, would have sent crossword shivers of delight down Endeavor’s spine, but as for Brigitte and me, it produced that stare associated with bovines before a barn door. The answer is LEAPER. Get it? Look before you leap. Live and learn. When I see a future clue like “Ancient Chinese emperor, familiarly,” I’ll know that the answer is KUB. And when I see “What the fetcher is next, presumably,” I’ll know that it will be CARRIER.

And oh, by the way, and in parting. If you’re ever at an art exhibition and you see a sign next to a picture that merely says NFS, you will also know, after working this puzzle, that it means Not for sale.


  1. "Leaper" was great, "Kub" was dubious - since "Tug" is familiar for Frank Edwin, why "Kub"? Why not "Rider" or some such thing?
    But it sounds like a good puzz.

    1. It was an irritation. Our favorite is the crossword in USA Today. Never easy, never ridiculous. The "Ancient Chinese emperor, familiarly" was a wry joke by me after we looked up "Tug." I had Kublai Khan in mind...

  2. ... and a very good slice of "rye" it was.