The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Scrabble’

Netanyahu’s Ready for More Puzzling?: The Answers

September 30, 2016 | by


Ed. Note: This week’s puzzle contest is officially over—thanks to all who entered. Our winner is Mark Clemens. He gets a free subscription to the Review. Congratulations, Mark! Below, the solutions. Read More »

Netanyahu’s Ready for More Puzzling?

September 26, 2016 | by


Every month, the Daily features a puzzle by Dylan Hicks. The first list of correct answers wins a year’s subscription to The Paris Review. (In the event that no one can get every answer, the list with the most correct responses will win.) Send an e-mail with your answers to The deadline is Thursday, September 29, when we’ll post the answers. Good luck!  

Early last year, the novelist, editor, and wordplay master Ed Park energized and distracted his Facebook circle with the post “Hall and Joyce Carol Oates,” which as of this writing has prodded 5,853 comments. The responses imagined other incongruous supergroups and amalgams—Umberto Eco and the Bunnymen, Howlin’ Virginia Woolf—and ventured into kindred puns and portmanteaus such as the answers to this month’s puzzle. Aside from recycling or reformulating a few of my own contributions, I haven’t knowingly plagiarized from Park’s thread, but neither have I reviewed more than a fraction of its comments, so quite likely there’s some overlap. (Great minds and so on.) Though there are several musical-literary pairings here, I’ve rarely mingled writers with musical acts on Park’s precise model. Most frequently, the title of a movie, book, album, song, TV show, or poem has been joined with a celebrated figure from any field, but you might run into a tagline or some other familiar phrase instead of a title, or the answer might blend two titles. Homophones are welcome. The clues try to provide some context, often anachronistic or absurd, for the pun. A few examples:

  1. Popeye Doyle chases Irish suspense novelist.
  2. Kiss Me Kate, staged as will and representation, kicks off with a twist.

The answers would be (1) The Tana French Connection (though I’m sure French is as law-abiding as her books are addictive); and (2) Another Op’nin’, Another Schopenhauer (which would present singers with phrasing hurdles). As must be clear, answers lean heavily on given names and surnames that are also everyday English words (Moscow on the Hudson Yang) and names that include meaningful syllables (as in our groaner headline, or The Danny McBride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even).

Okay, that should be enough explanation; I’ll let you John Kerry on. Read More »

What’s the Takeaway?

August 29, 2016 | by


Every month, the Daily features a puzzle by Dylan Hicks. The first list of correct answers wins a year’s subscription to The Paris Review. (In the event that no one can get every answer, the list with the most correct responses will win.) Send an e-mail with your answers to The deadline is Thursday, September 1, when we’ll post the answers. Good luck!  

This month’s puzzle is composed of twenty three-part questions whose one-word answers get shorter by subtraction. A riddle by Roget provides a model for our answers, though not our questions:

What is that which is under you?
Take one letter from it and it is over you?
Take two letters from it and it is round you?

The answers are chair, hair, and air. Our answers rarely rhyme, but the form is pretty much in line with Roget’s. Letters are taken away—from any part of the word, not just the beginning—but never jumbled; left-to-right order is diminished but maintained. Croton could become croon but not Orton. As those examples illustrate, we’ve imposed no Scrabbly prohibitions on proper nouns. Abbreviations are welcome, too. Note also that letters, as they travel from word to word, might take on diacritical marks, be capitalized, or otherwise undergo modest transformation. Très, for example, might follow trees. In most cases, the answer words shrink by ones (bread leads to bead before heading to bed) but in some cases they decrease by twos (bonobo to Bono to no) threes, or fours. Tailgate wags discovered this classic of quadrimedial reduction (above). Read More »

Got Those Travel-writing Blues, and Other News

July 23, 2015 | by


From a poster for the 1913 World Esperanto Congress.

  • Explaining the Internet’s Joan Didion obsession is a tricky thing: “In the crossover of feminism, fashion, and literary interests, there is a whole swathe of the internet where Didion is a staple reference. Her borscht recipe can be found on the website Brain Pickings, and her list of items to pack for reporting trips periodically crops up on style blogs … In 1989, she appeared in GAP ads with her twenty-three-year-old daughter, wearing black turtlenecks, and staring defiantly into the camera with only the barest suggestion of a smile. Last year, she wore huge black shades in ads for the French luxury goods brand Céline, which inspired devotion in unexpected places and in-depth analysis from the already devoted.” And yet this obsession seldom seems to extend to her political writing, which accounts for the bulk of her output—they only want her to write about herself. And what of that self? “To be so glamorously sensitive and beautiful that you have to be taken care of,” Pauline Kael once wrote, was the “ultimate princess fantasy.”
  • This is peak road-trip season. If you’re not in a car right now, lighting out for the territories and exuding manifest destiny—well, it’s not too late. But don’t be all Fleetwood Mac about it. You cannot, in fact, go your own way. You can instead follow in the footsteps (tire tracks?) of writers past: Kerouac, Twain, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Wolfe …
  • On second thought, stay home. It’s more or less impossible to be a good travel writer anyway. You risk falling into two camps: the Elizabeth Gilbert, interior psychodrama, “obnoxious white lady in brown places” camp, or the Bruce Chatwin, indomitable male, “colonialist’s baggage stuffed full with preconceived assumptions” camp. If you’re looking for role models, try Freya Stark and Dervla Murphy: “Stark was in the world with her writing, not above it, not in herself … Her writing restores humanity to people who have otherwise been stripped down to news reports, reduced to death tolls and photos of open-mouthed weeping. The secret to her success was listening to the people she visited and letting them tell the story. This shouldn’t be any secret. It should be what every travel writer does.”
  • A man who speaks hardly a lick of French has triumphed in the Francophone Scrabble Championship having apparently memorized the entire French Scrabble Dictionary in just a few days. Nigel Richards, “the Tiger Woods of Scrabble,” regards words as “just combinations of letters,” like numbers: “He has learned no language logic, just a succession of letter sequences giving rise to words. In his head it’s binary: what draw (of letters) can make a scrabble, what draw can’t.”
  • On James Purdy, who wanted to write stories that “bristled with impossibilities”: “In his novels and short fiction, possibility and potential are always compromised. There is neither transcendence nor transformation. His characters do not grow or develop; they dwindle and unravel … It’s hard to think of a contemporary writer whose work shares this sensibility, a cool elegance laid over extreme emotion. The most apt comparison may be Wes Anderson, whose films similarly feature casts of eccentrics, dialogue full of non sequiturs, deadpan humor, and unabashed farce.”


I Swear

January 30, 2015 | by

In 1904, Roland D. Sawyer launched a crusade against obscenity.

In 1904, Roland D. Sawyer launched a crusade against obscenity.

No one ever heard my grandmother, in all her eighty-three years, utter a bad word. I can only once remember her even raising her voice. “It’s all fouled up!” she cried then, shaking a broken TV set. She said it with such frustration and despair that it expressed at least as much as any curse word might have. In fact, besides the time I heard a four-year-old in my brother’s playgroup call his sister Mary-Ellen a “fuckindamnshit,” it was the most shocking thing I’d ever heard.

Her husband, my grandfather, was considered foul-mouthed in the family; his language was a constant cause of distress to her. But in fact, he didn’t use real swear words either—certainly not compared to that little boy. It was usually a savage Goddammit! Or Hell’s Bell’s! His worst outbursts were reserved for his weekly gin game. It was then that he’d reach for the worst epithet of all: “I’ll be dipped.” Read More »

Still Flying High, and Other News

October 22, 2014 | by


Detail from the cover of the first issue of High Times, 1974.

  • Ben Bradlee has died at ninety-three: “In his personal vernacular—a vivid, blasphemous argot that combined the swear words he mastered in the Navy during World War II with the impeccable enunciation of a blue-blooded Bostonian—a great story was ‘a real tube-ripper.’ This meant a story was so hot that [Washington] Post readers would rip the paper out of the tubes into which the paperboy delivered it.”
  • High Times turns forty: “It’s easy to forget how radical an outrider of the counterculture this magazine was. Its editors were (and are) brave, subversive and funny. They’ve tended to take nothing seriously except for one crucial thing: the way so many lives have been destroyed by an inept and misguided war on drugs.”
  • A well intentioned, poorly executed update to the Scrabble dictionary has turned into “a clusterfuck,” reliable sources indicate. “There are typos, valid words which have been excluded, and invalid words which have been included … The biggest issue among competitive players is the lack of a publicly available electronic version of the new list … Because of Hasbro’s copyright, and the absence of a public electronic list, errors have been tedious to identify.”
  • Tolstoy’s 1889 novella The Kreutzer Sonata was a famously caustic attack on his wife, Sofiya. She struck back with “Whose Fault?”, a rebuttal in the form of a short story: “Like Tolstoy, Sofiya criticizes the sexual double standard, but she’s far more sympathetic to women, who are kept in ignorance until marriage, then expected to satisfy their husbands and remain beautiful and docile through a long series of pregnancies and betrayals.”
  • “There was a long period when an outhouse was a perfect convenience, and a well-built one could be a luxury good. The Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum in Wethersfield, Connecticut, is trying to recapture their golden age with an unusual kind of restoration project: The refurbishment of three high-end outhouses—or privies—from the late eighteenth century.”