Crosswords and Other Words

Published2002-02-27 by

Subject: #11: Using reference works: fair or foul?

Crosswords and Other Words  (C-WOW)

by Barry Tunick



	Before I tell you how I feel about using reference works to 
solve puzzles, how do *you* feel about it?

	Do you feel it's kind of cheating, like looking at the answers 
in the back of the book?  Would you rather leave a puzzle (gulp!) 
unfinished rather than go to a dictionary?

	Or do you feel that all's fair in love, war and crosswords, 
and that if God didn't want us to use references he would've had Noah 
Webster become a blacksmith?

	If you're in the second group, I'm with you.  References were 
made to be referred to, and in doing so you might learn some things.  
One of these things is how to use reference works--a valuable skill 
in itself that could help in other areas of your life.  The other 
things are unpredictable, as your eye might come across an 
interesting word that could lead your mind onto new paths.

	Does the name Margaret Farrar ring a bell?  The first famous 
crossword editor from the '20s through the '80s, she developed many 
of the rules and conventions we follow today.  She said "Solvers may 
learn something in the process of looking something up."  If it was 
good enough for Margaret, it's good enough for me.

	And besides, we constructors use reference works when we make 
up the puzzles, so why shouldn't the solvers have the same advantage?

	Next time I'll tell about the references I use, listing a few 
of the most important. I'll also provide some suggestions about a 
basic reference library that could help solvers.  See you then?

        Oh, here's one more response to the "when did you start to 
solve?" query: "I watched my parents solve (my dad would pick up my 
mom's unfinished puzzle, complain about & correct her errors & 
finish)," writes Larry Wasser.  "I started in earnest when i was in 
college - had the NYT delivered & worked on the puzzle before 
breakfast. I've been hooked since."


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