Thursday, September 1, 2016

Foreset* (for Forest*)

Albany's long-running and award-winning alternative newsweekly, Metroland, sadly bit the dust last fall and ever since we've been forced to settle for an ersatz substitute. The other day I grabbed a copy of this new and unimproved rag and decided to check out the crossword puzzle. And let me just say this: I've seen some pretty weird things, and even an outright error or two, in crossword puzzles before, but this one really takes the ____! Because, while there might not be any official standards in this regard, clearly there are some unwritten rules. (Basically, if the answer is an abbreviation, a foreign word, a slang term, or a quote, that fact needs to be somehow signaled by the wording of the clue. Other than that, though, pretty much all is fair in love and ___. And therein lies the fun!) But Rule #1 has got to be this: The clue and the answer can not contain the same word. Nor (one would have to assume, and by extension) any other "form" of the word. Yet here we have a puzzle that appears to violate that sacrosanct rule (see 9c)—really a sacred trust with the reader—not just once, or even twice, but four separate times! So let's review them, shall we? "High acidity" (HYPERACIDITY); "Creating of forests" (AFFORESTATION); "Lands filled with pine trees" (PINERA); and, last but not least, "Child's name for a cow" (MOOCOW). (I was about fixing to have one myself, at that point, as childish as it sounds.) The creator of this puzzle was well-acquainted with the dictionary, but impervious, it seems, to the charms of a thesaurus. Crossword puzzles use up a lot of paper, so how about planting a "fir tree" next Arbor Day, in a "wooded area" (a "grove" or a "thicket," let's say) with soil of "low alkalinity." And with "what a baby might call Borden's Elsie" standing by. This crossword puzzle was not all pointless and annoying redundancy (Boo, for example, was cleverly clued "You stink!"), but I had to boo it anyway. Three strikes and you're out. Or maybe that's an F—for too many forests. There were two cases of Foreset* (for forest*) in OhioLINK today, and 304 in WorldCat.

(A Cow in the Meadow, by Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, 1919, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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