Some crossword puzzles need special notice—and a listing in Public Language Abusers International. The one that had us twisting into pretzels was Jolene Andrews’ puzzle (2/5/2015) called “Hail Mary,” its thematic being football, in which 43 Down was “Continent-spanning landmass.”
The thoughts that run in naïve minds (we’re gradually becoming crossword wise—but we’ve only been doing these for about two decades, hence we’re not yet taken for locals yet) is something like the following: The continents are landmasses. So what in the hell can a continent-spanning landmass be? Is there something beneath the continents that some kind of curved bridge of land, a kind of flattened St. Louis arch, actually links? Is there such a thing? Why haven’t we heard of it before?
Well, it turns out that there is something above the continents, and sometimes more than one. They are the names attached to continents. And, indeed, if we look carefully at maps of the world, we only find the names of seven continents but, visually, there are only six (including Antarctica)—or five if we count the two Americas, North and South, as one; and we may as well. They are not separated by any water. But, instead, we have seven! One modestly sized one is called Europe, which isn’t a continent at all! Therefore the answer to the puzzle, which was EURASIA, is not, technically correct, not in a question which talks about “landmass.”
Every puzzle has at least some clues we mark in blood red—and try to remember for use in the future. But occasionally one really wants them to grant us a fracture.