The crossword editor at work

Long-time readers of this blog might remember that years ago, I received an actual Letter of Lawyerly Legalness from the attorneys representing Timothy Parker, editor of the USA Today crossword puzzle. A number of issues arose on a cruciverbalists’ mailing list, regarding some discrepancies in Parker’s bio and the general inconsistency of his editing. I hashed them out here as well. He didn’t like it much.

(You’re now tempted to go searching for those posts. Alas, they all went kablooey during a software upgrade, back when blogging wasn’t the push-button operation it is today. I’ve been blogging since 2000 or so; my current archives start in 2004. I am occasionally re-aggravated about this. Like now.)

ANYWAY, I haven’t bothered much with Mr. Parker lately. There are so many good puzzles out there now, USA Today’s poor quality doesn’t really matter anymore. Sometimes I’ll check out the #badpuzzles hashtag on Twitter, which documents the various atrocities that Parker commits against crosswords — that’s always good for a chuckle. In the not-so-distant past, I believe it was Parker who gave us a grid that had been divided into thirds by the black squares. (Update: Ah yes, here it is.) And I’m quite sure it was he who accepted a puzzle with the theme entry NICKELS AND DIMES… except with nickels spelled wrong.

But the most recent error is so headshakingly good, I had to share it. Let us now admire the clue and answer to 29-Across in today’s puzzle.

Update: It looks like Parker slips at least partway off the hook on this one — according to two commenters, the error was only in the online version. The clue in the newspaper was “Some office notes,” which is not nearly as amusing.

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  1. Dan F
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Not too long ago, I actually did go searching for your Parker posts, after I heard about that kerfuffle and read the relevant Cruciverb-L archives (June 2003 and thereabouts). I found them by putting “” into


  2. Kevin
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    What a lovely tie-in with your “quantity/quant/quantum” LL post earlier today. How ever did he pull THAT off?


  3. Eric Berlin
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Holy moley, Dan. Thanks for that. {grabbing everything right now}


  4. Posted September 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    I feel we’d be remiss not to mention the theme of this puzzle: Two words starting with PRO and two words starting with CON. Because, you know, there are so few of those.


  5. anon
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Just another pseudonym as well? It seems like only unknowns are published in his puzzles.


  6. Neville
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    You’re sounding a little CONdescending there, Tyler :)

    I’m curious – what are the office memos that aren’t MEMOS?


  7. Posted September 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    When they’re ajar. Wait, do I have that right?


  8. Posted September 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    I would be remiss if I did not link to this classic puzzle.


  9. Todd
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    This one, too!


  10. Jeff Chen
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    Hilarious! The only way it could be better is if the clue had been “The answer to this clue is MEMO.”


  11. Bookkeeper
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 5:03 am | Permalink

    Parker’s pseudonyms are ridiculous. He takes 5 minutes coming up with a non-theme like this, hits autofill, and it gets published in the 2nd-largest newspaper in the country.


  12. Carol
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    It’s a mistake, but he uses real constructors. I know one of them and she does five puzzles a month.


  13. Posted September 15, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the big laugh.


  14. Howard B
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Don’t you see? This is brilliant! It is a masterpiece of crossword deconstruction, breaking down the artificial walls between clues and their answers; of words and their very definitions.
    It is an anti-puzzle, designed not to provide challenge and satisfaction, but to provoke thought and debate on the nature and purpose of solving.
    I tell you, Ms. Park… Walker is an edi… er… constructor ahead of his… um… her time; an avant-garde artist!

    We just didn’t get the memo yet.


  15. Kappy
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Hmmm, the mistake wasn’t in the print version. This could have been a transcription error for the online one.


  16. Eric Berlin
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Really? What was the clue in the newspaper?


  17. Posted September 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Don’t know what happened when, but the online clue has changed. It’s not “Some office notes.”


  18. Posted September 15, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink



  19. Elizabeth
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    It was “Some office notes” in the print paper. Someone probably screwed it up while typing it up for the online edition, I imagine. Probably not the Editor’s fault after all.


  20. Eric Berlin
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Aw. I almost feel bad for bringing it up.


  21. Bookkeeper
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Carol — he uses a few real constructors, but suspicion is that he “writes” most of the rest himself. Alice Walker and several others have suspiciously never written for any other market, all have the exact same “style,” no one’s ever seen a picture of them or met them, etc.


  22. Elizabeth
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Don’t they have the same style because of the editor? And I have seen Alice Walker puzzles before in other publications. I think your suspicions may be just that, suspicions.


  23. Posted September 15, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    The Universal Crossword from this past Tuesday (9/13) had two words right above each other at 42A and 45A clued as “Climb up on a soapbox” and “Made a declaration”. When I had ORATE above –ATE-, I was seriously worried that I was going to see ORATE and ORATED. Thankfully though, 45A turned out to be STATED instead.


  24. Posted September 16, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Eric, once you’ve grabbed the posts from, could you please re-post the Parker/USAToday posts for the amusement of all who missed them on the first go-round? :-D


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