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"Spiral shaped" is an adjective, and "whorl" is a noun.
A valid clue might be "liquid spiral" or even "spiraling liquid," because these are noun phrases. Even "spiral shape," without the final "d," would be acceptable.
This happens again and again. "Bachelor party" is the clue leading to "stag." No. Wrong. "Kind of party" might work as a category clue. "______ party" would work, because "stag" is a word that commonly fills that blank.
But in reference to a kind of party, "stag" is an adjective. Nobody goes to a "stag," they go to a "stag party." "Stag," by itself, does not mean or imply a party of any kind.
Another from the same puzzle: "Call forth emotions" is the clue for "elicit." No, dear puzzlewright: The clue should have been "Call forth, e.g. emotions."
The word "elicit," by itself, does not imply "emotions" at all – you can as easily elicit a comment or an action. So the clue is neither definition nor synonym. It's simply wrong.
"Be annoying" is the clue for "irking." Why? "Annoying" by itself is a fine clue; what is the "be" there for, when it then requires the answer "irk" – the present singular instead of the present participle?
The problem goes on and on. In puzzle 18, "global warming result (glacier related)" is the clue for "calve." No. Wrong. "Result" is a noun; "calve" is a verb. A valid answer to that clue would be "iceberg" or "calving" – both nouns. A valid clue for "calve" could be "split from a glacier" or "give birth to an iceberg" – both verb phrases.
The clincher was when the clue "liveliness of mood" led to the grid word "gay." That's a noun clue leading to an adjective! "Liveliness of mood" would be "gaiety." "Gay" could be defined as "lively of mood."
Then there are the clues that are not just grammatically inapt, they're flat wrong. "Fluff and Folds" is the clue for the grid word "laundromats." But laundromats are specifically self-serve coin-op establishments. Nobody gives you your clothes back, fluffed and folded. "Fluff and Folds" would be "laundries" or "dry cleaners."
"Toss" is the clue for "stir." What? If they're thinking of salads, then a tossed salad is not stirred, just as a broiled fish is not fried.
In puzzle 19, "wind direction" is supposedly "lee shore." Is this person even an English speaker? "Lee shore" is a place defined by wind, but it is not a direction of wind.
"Garden chore" is supposed to get us to write "hoe" into the grid. But "hoe" is a garden tool, or, as a verb, could be clued with "do a garden chore"; the chore itself would be "hoeing."
But the stupid clue of all stupid clues is "Our universe" – with the answer being "solar system."
What fourth grader doesn't know that this is hopelessly wrong?
Crossword puzzles are language games. Research shows that working crossword puzzles really does enhance and preserve mental acuity. It's a pastime that doesn't waste time.
But a crossword puzzle must be created by someone who actually understands English, so that clues are accurate in every way.
One might say that these errors make the puzzle even more challenging.
But that's like saying that a baseball game played in two feet of standing water is even more challenging. True enough – but it's not baseball.
Without boring you with even more examples, let me just say that the other books in the series share the same cluing problems. Combined with the poor paper choice, the unreliable cluing, and various typos, the result is that a very promising idea for a crossword puzzle series goes into the trash.
Meanwhile, we crosswights who like to cross wits with crosswords are all the more grateful for the master crosswrights who write their clues aright. The other sort makes us cross.
I'm happy to tell you that the funny-sad book All My Friends Are Dead has a sequel, All My Friends Are Still Dead, which is every bit as funny. Whomever you gave the first book to, you might follow up with the sequel on their next birthday.
But since this book is only appropriately given to an old person by an even older person, chances are you have no memory of who received the first one.
That's OK. They won't remember whether they read the first one or not. And this new book stands alone just fine.
Good middle-grade books are hard to find. Chapter books that fourth- and fifth-graders will happily read alone, which are good enough that families, including parents, will enjoy reading aloud, are rare.
I'm happy to tell you that Janitors, by Tyler Whitesides, is such a book.
Spencer Zumbro's family has been in chaos since their father disappeared on a business trip to Mexico. Mrs. Zumbro does her best, but their lives are barely controlled chaos. Now they've moved into a house owned by some relatives and Spencer is stuck in a new school.
Spencer is in sixth grade at Welcher Elementary School (in some states, junior high schools [grades 7-8] are used instead of middle schools [grades 6-8], so sixth grade is still in elementary school.) His only friend is a girl who believes every lie she's told, but sometimes has a hard time swallowing the truth.
When Spencer is unknowingly exposed to a magic potion, he starts to see three different kinds of invisible monsters that infest the school – and his friend, who believes everything, doesn't believe this.
However, Spencer soon learns that the school janitors do see the creatures. And thus he gets caught up in a struggle against a sinister conspiracy to make schoolchildren stupid.
Not only is this a much more pleasant explanation for our collapsed education system (which is really caused by incompetent educational theorists, absurdly inappropriate mission-creep and insane bureaucratic rules), it's also an enormously entertaining book.
Because it's part of a series, the ending leaves us set up for an even more perilous sequel – but this first volume has perils enough, and the ending is quite satisfying.
It's also funny – especially when read aloud to a group of elementary schoolchildren. Yet Tyler always keeps the action within fairly plausible limits. That is, the invisible monsters are obviously not real, but what the children do about them is within the reach of children in the real world.
Speaking of middle-grade books, when I was 8 years old in 1959, having exhausted all the books that were remotely interesting in my official age-group section at the Santa Clara Public Library, I discovered a group of nice thick books at the fifth-grade level that became my obsession until at last I exhausted the supply.
I started with a book from Joseph Altsheler's French and Indian War series. These books were clearly imitative of James Fenimore Cooper's Natty Bumppo books, like Deerslayer, but with the youthful heroes required in young-adult fiction.
I quickly moved on to Altsheler's Civil War series. I read them out of order, starting with The Rock of Chickamauga, the sixth book in an eight-book series, but it didn't matter. It was a terrific adventure from the point of view of a young Union officer from Kentucky who served as aide and occasional spy for some of the leading figures in the western Union army....continued on page 3