Friday, March 21, 2014

Arco Polo?

Occasionally I note here particularly irritating or amusing crossword puzzle clues. Doing a puzzle yesterday, from USA Today, dated March 14, 2014, and composed by Henry Quarters, we saw the following 12 Down: “Bowed, in music.” This one resisted us to the bitter end although the other words in the grid did produce an answer, as shown below:

M
A
C
A
U
E
W
E
R
S
E
V
I
D
E
N
C
E
R
E
S
I
S
T
O
R

All we could do was to accept that. And while an “arc” has some linkage to bowing, as in “the arc of a circle,” and the terminal O does suggest something Italian, somehow the clue suggested a past tense whereas the Italian form of the word, per one of our endless dictionaries (even for languages we do not speak) defines arco as “bow,” not as “bowed.” Our regular Webster’s Collegiate does have the word and defines it as follows: “With the bow — usu. used as a direction in music for players of stringed instruments.” Thus the bow referenced is not a verb but a noun. “With the bow—sheet music instruction” would have been a proper clue. The actual clue was very deceptive.

I make note of this because Mr. Quarters, if encouraged, might someday come up with the following clue for a longer, eight-letter answer. That clue would be “Famous Italian Fiddler and Explorer?” That question mark, of course, would be a way of saying that “I’m asking tongue in cheek.” Which is what we do when the damn puzzle just won’t, won’t let its author come to closure—despite the looming deadline…

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