Monday, January 11, 2016

DC Gets Whippy

In a "New York Times crossword" published last week in The Chicago Sun-Times, I noticed that one clue asked for a "DC Comics character with a whip." Catwoman, right? That's what came to my mind immediately, but it didn't fit. Only seven spaces were allowed but "Catwoman" clicks in at eight letters.

That odor you smelled that day was the rusty wheels turning in my head. What other DC character has a whip and can be named in seven letters? Of course "The Whip" would fit but, honestly, nobody knows or remembers him. The Jack Kirby character Lashina (pictured above) actually uses lashes/belts and not whips so that couldn't be it either. I strongly anticipated the solution printed in the next-day paper and what I saw there was thoroughly unexpected.

Such a letdown!

The printed solution indicated that the eight spaces should be filled with "CAIIMAN." Huh? I neglected to mention that the third and fourth of the eight allowed spaces in the original puzzle were gray-highlighted. I thought nothing of that when I was working on the puzzle because the gray-shade had no meaning to me. CATWOMAN was the correct response to the clue but three of its letters were replaced by "II." Somewhere among the other clues of this puzzle it was indicated that the gray spaces were to be filled with Roman numerals in some way. Again I say: huh?

I had made no attempt to complete the puzzle so there were many clues I never read, including whichever ones explained the Roman numeral artifice. I had merely wanted to pass a little time with a crossword puzzle and instead I stumbled into a vortex of gimmickry and unclear expectations. (I likewise disapprove of Alex Trebek saying "You know what that means" without explanation when a Jeopardy! category consists of letters in quotation marks.)

There is a silver lining to this murky cloud. The debacle presented me with the opportunity to display a Bruce Timm-inspired drawing of  a Jack Kirby character!


At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Bob Buethe said...

Being married to a crossword puzzle aficionado, I know that this is the kind of challenge that true puzzle lovers revel in. I recall a similar one which used color names instead of Roman numerals, and Patty dug into my art supplies to get the colored pencils that she needed for filling in the squares.

The Roman numeral puzzle was constructed by Patrick Merrell, whom I've met while attending the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament with Patty. Patrick is also a cartoonist, and managed to combine his two passions in a fun book called "Punchline Puzzles," in which you must solve the crossword puzzles in order to discover the captions for the accompanying gag panels.


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