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August 22, 2005 | 28. CLUELESS?

A morass

I think that one of the odd effects of modern technologies is that everybody can develop their own personal sets of ethics on various topics like, for example, file sharing and downloading music. Gamers can choose to look up various spoilers and cheat codes, or not. For crossword puzzle fans, there is the possibility of finding out all kinds of obscure facts and words from the internet.

This dilemma is not really new; there have always been dictionaries and atlases abounding with clues. But today, on the occasion of the first puzzle in a week or so that I haven’t completed, I will develop some “house rules” on cheating and determining that I have finished a puzzle:

  • Looking up anything in a reference text or on the internet is clearly cheating.
  • On the other hand, asking for help from anybody around, like the cute young professional sitting next to you on the bus or the friendly bartender pouring $2 happy hour drafts, is a-okay. Nobody said you have to do the whole thing alone.
  • If there are some clues that you will never be able to figure out, you can just consider the puzzle effectively finished. For example, if you have some obscure person whose last name is something like “S_NA” and it is crossing with some Russian town named “VORG_R”, you need not feel bad at all about not filling in that mystery vowel.
  • On the other hand, if you have a clue that is very enigmatic but can’t figure it out, then quitting is a sign of surrender — the puzzle has bested you today. Losing honorably this way is actually rather enjoyable, and if you can remember, it is good to check the answers the next day.

Now take a look at today’s crossword:

'I Broke My Nose' / R.J. Hartman

I would consider this to be finished. The ones I’ve left incomplete are in the lower right corner: 49 across (Morays), 62 across (French president René), 50 down (Hold still, nautically), and 51 down (Destroys). For 65 down I have only a vague guess: Enos for “Adam and Eve’s grandson.” So this whole section might be messed up.

I could make a reasonable guess here as follows: 51 down might be “slays” for “destroys”, so 50 down might be “lie to” for “hold still nautically.” That would make the French president “Coty” and “yels” for “morays.” A reasonable guess, but not strong enough to bother filling it in — I can’t really believe that “yels” is a word. None of these are interesting enough to really make me feel bad for not figuring them out, though I am slightly curious about what “morays” are; it seems like maybe I should know this word. I am drawing a total blank, I just think of “morass.”

In all, this was a bit challenging, maybe the hardest I’ve judged so far. I will call it 5 out of 10 . “Nero” (64 across) and “omen” (53 down) were both in puzzles last week; “inane” (47 down) was in the last daily on Saturday. “Seer” (23 across) is also an overused word, but somehow I never get it too quickly. I had my doubts about “tach” for a while (1 across) which maybe made the whole thing seem harder from the get-go.