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Author Topic: The cutting-edge July 3 crossword  (Read 2138 times)


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The cutting-edge July 3 crossword
« on: July 03, 2016, 05:56:34 PM »
Today's crossword by Mark McClain is titled "First Cuts" and each of the seven longest answers begins with the name of a type of saw:

Mouse feature: SCROLLWHEEL
Music in a shell: BANDCONCERT
Domino effect: CHAINREACTION
More than an idea: CONCRETEOBJECT
Begging the question: CIRCULARLOGIC
Olympic sport since 1988: TABLETENNIS
Something to deal with? COPINGSTRATEGY

For an Olympic sport, the name "table tennis" sounds much more impressive than the more common name of "ping pong."

The coping saw -- the name comes from the French couper, "to cut" --  was invented in the mid-1500s. It is a variant of the "frame saws" used by the Romans. It consists of a thin steel blade attached to a wide U-shaped frame and a handle. A carpenter can drill a hole into a narrow piece of wood, then put the detached blade into the hole and re-attach it to the frame and be able to cut curved shapes into the wood. Think of the ƒ-shaped holes in violins which, through the passage of air, increase the volume of the music played.

"French school" is ECOLE , which is not used in English. "Nashville-to-Louisville dir." is NNE -- and could crossword creators please put a halt to the use of NNE and SSW in puzzles? Thank you. "Rudely sarcastic" is SNARKY, which derives from the mid-19th century dialect word "snark." meaning "snore; snort; find fault." The Hunting Of The Snark, an 1876 poem by Lewis Carroll, turned the snark into an imaginary beast -- which can be considered a predecessor of the Lorax, the Sneetches, Zizzle-Zazzle-Zuzz and other Dr. Seuss characters.

"Sonoran flora" is CACTI -- but "cactus" comes from the Greek kaktos and the preferred plural is cactuses. However, most botanists and horticulturists prefer Latin names and therefore use the plural "cacti."  "Yeah," you say, "but what about the plural of 'octopus'?" Well, "octopi" is commonly used -- but it's wrong. As explains:

"Octopi, the supposed plural of octopus, is a favorite among fans of quirky words but it has no etymological basis. The form was created by English speakers out of a mistaken belief that octopus is Latin and hence pluralized with an -i ending. But octopus comes from ancient Greek, where its plural is octopodes. The word octopus did not exist in Latin until scientists borrowed it from Greek in the 18th century. And if it were a Latin word, the plural would take a different form and would not have the -i ending)."

Hank, a character in the Finding Dory movie, is an octopus but he has seven tentacles, not eight. Technically, he's a septapus -- and the plural of septapus is.....umm.....let me get back to you on that.


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Re: The cutting-edge July 3 crossword
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2016, 07:28:37 AM »
Well, on that plural question, we (constructors and editors) rely heavily on Random House Unabridged Dictionary to determine what is "right" or "wrong", and CACTI and OCTOPI are acceptable plurals. Like it or not, usage often determines linguistic evolution sometimes (as you correctly pointed out) trumping etymology or logic. Surprised you'd quibble about SSW et al. (valid abbreviations for directions that are well-known), and not ALER - which is pure crosswordese IMO, not in any dictionary that I'm aware of, and seldom used in sports headlines or slang.
Mark McClain
Salem, Virginia, USA


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Re: The cutting-edge July 3 crossword
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2016, 05:01:13 PM »
Mark, I appreciate your response. I tend to quibble about any word or abbreviation which is overused in crosswords: ALE, ALP, AGUA, ERA, IRA, IRE, ISLE, NNE, SSW, SRTA, UKE, LEI, ALOHA, ARENA, OGLE, ORCA, OREO, et al. As for CACTI and OCTOPI, those plurals are now in common usage, which is why they're included in dictionaries. To me, CACTUSES and OCTOPUSES are the plurals. (Do any Americans use OCTOPODES?) Many dictionaries also say, based on popular usage, that "temp-ə-chər" is now the preferred pronunciation of "temperature" and "kumf-tər-bəl" is the preferred pronunciation of "comfortable." If "comfortable" is pronounced "kumf-tər-bəl," then why is "comfort" never pronounced "kumf-tər"? I am a language purist -- I will always say "com-fort-ə-bəl" and "tem-pər-ə-ture" and pronounce "harass" with the accent on the first syllable.

I'm still, however, trying to figure out why we never say "I aren't" but yet we ask "Aren't I?" The word should be "amn't." It looks strange and it's seldom used -- but it's grammatically correct.


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