A Few Cross Words
But it gets even worse. The house style of the publishing company is based on the American Heritage Dictionary. So what if you get a word or a spelling that isn’t in the dictionary of record? (I caught several today, most notably LAH-DI-DAH, which is apparently a variant spelling of LA-DI-DA that American Heritage doesn’t recognize.) I assume they’ll go ahead anyway, but I feel obliged to note each variant anyway, because that’s the kind of tireless obsessive I am. Besides, they’re not paying me to ignore stuff.
The worst thing is that I saw HMO clued as “Hospital care grp.” and I was about to nod and move on, when I suddenly thought, “I’d better check to make sure “grp.” is a recognized abbreviation for “group.” Turns out it’s not. Not in American Heritage, not in Webster’s New International Third, not in any dictionary the library had available! And you know what they all agree on? “gr.” I’m sure they’ll go with “grp.” anyway—it’s the New York Times style, which makes me all the more baffled that it’s not in the dictionary—but I made a note of it. Several times in several puzzles.
One more interesting thing: the guy whose puzzles I'm editing for makes some really lousy themes. One of them, whose theme was "Um . . .", had the theme entries of KETTLE DRUM, RULE OF THUMB, VENTURESOME, and . . . PALINDROME. And skeptical editor that I am, I actually had to check ("Is there a variant pronunciation where that rhymes with the others?") , but I was right. I made a note of it. In one puzzle that I won't even go into, the guy actually used the same word twice! That's a no-no! I noted it.
Anyway, in scouring dictionaries all day, I keep running across interesting new words, and so I thought I’d share a few of my new finds.
Squeateague is a term for a weakfish. Pronounced “skwee-TEEG.” It is both singular and plural. What’s a weakfish? I don’t know; today I never had occasion to look up anything in the W’s.
Spillikin is another word for the game of jackstraws, which is also sold under the name Pick-Up Sticks.
A regulus is a mythical Dravidian snake so poisonous that it can kill with its hiss. (a subnote tells you to “see also basilisk; cockatrice.”) It’s also a term for a petty king or a ruler of absurdly little significance; a kinglet. On that basis, I’m surprised it’s not also a slang term for “penis.” It’d be perfect.
And my favorite find of the day: suctorial. Adjective. “Adapted to or designed for sucking.” How about a sample sentence? “American Idol is suctorial entertainment.”
[LATER:] Speaking of suctorial entertainment, on CSI:Miami (which I turned to by accident), a character—a scientist, no less!—just squinted at a computer printout and said, with the timbre of actual discovery, “Mitch. That’s short for Mitchell!” And the screenwriter got paid thousands of dollars.