Sunday, December 27, 2009

Order on the Court

It was bound to happen sooner or later. The oft-used tennis-related clue for ACER has driven world-class tennis players to game-ending distraction. After spotting a puzzlemaker at courtside during this year's U.S. Open, Serena Williams interrupted play to give him an earful about crossword cluing:



According to CBS Sports' "sensitive microphones," Serena is fed up with seeing ACER clued as: "Serena, at times" or "Serena, often." Can you blame her? Tennis players don't say "acer." I played varsity tennis in high school and college . . . I never heard of an ACER in tennis. Please trust Serena and me on this one. Our combined on-court experience--my 8 years as an adolescent tennis bum, and Serena's 23 Grand Slam titles-- speaks for itself.

ACER, a handy crossword fill term, is legit: there's the computer brand or the maple tree genus   Now that the ACER corporation has become the world's second-largest computer manufacturer, it's okay to let go of the iffy tennis connotation. Let's send it off into the sky in Richard Heene's Jiffy Pop balloon.

Strategic Takeaway: Take note of evolving cluing angles for crossword "regulars" like ACER, now a major brand. Brand names (especially short ones) are valuable:  DELL, AIWA, BOSE, SONY, etc.


[Full Disclosure].  In a weak moment, I may have used the iffy tennis clue prior to the Acer Corporation becoming a household name . . . but let's keep that between the two of us. Please don't tell Serena!

9 comments:

Joe Krozel said...

Prominent events like the Serena outburst tend to drag minor details into the mainstream: Kim CLIJSTERS won the match (by default?) because of the vulgarity involved. I'm not sure Ms. Clijsters is a household name otherwise, but what a deliciously scrabbly name (J and all). All told, I suppose solvers would hate a proper name with such an odd spelling.

Elizabeth said...

Yeah, in one surreal moment, the match ended. The sad thing is that CLIJSTERS had been outplaying Serena Williams and probably would have won the match outright, not by default. CLIJSTERS is perfect for the puzzle grid, I think, having the major tournaments (U.S. Open twice). . .. Joe, I hope we'll see Kim in one of your grids; the solver in me would cheer.

Anonymous said...

As a wannabe constructor who threw the full name VERAZVONAREVA at an editor (who didn't think a lot of the idea) all I can say is go for it! The proportion of male to female sports stars in crossword is naturally skewed as it is...

Joe Krozel said...

I actually like the notion of throwing in the full name of a celeb ... as long as it's recognizable and the first name is a standard one. I see this as an growing trend in puzzles because it bucks the old convention of having only the last name, so it spices things up. I'm definitely adding CLIJSTERS and ZVONAREVA to my wordlist as well as KIMCLIJSTERS. VERAZVONAREVA is going in with a much lower rank since it looks more like a random collection of letters that was hard for me to parse on first reading. By the way... I hope solvers are reading this blog too so they can stop us in our tracks if we're way off base!

Elizabeth said...

@anon, wow, thanks for reminding me of Vera. Her middle name, Igorevna, is fantastic too (but probably not usable).

Joe, these names seem normal to me, but I come from a slavic family where 13-letter surnames start with four consonants (two of which are Z's). I come to the table already off-base. ;) Go for it ....!

Joe Krozel said...

There's a Saint Stanislaw SZCZEPANOWSKI that fits that description; It would certainly raise a few eyebrows!

Dan said...

This solver is certainly reading - glad to hear any insights from a constructing superstar (or two, hi Joe).

I hope you'll mention ALER and NLER in a future post - I think they're as bad as ACER, but don't have alternate clues available...

Elizabeth said...

Dan, thank you so much! The ALER/NLER is a good topic; it's on the TODO list. Welcome!

Hee-hee, Joe, you're playing my song. Having grown up in a Polish household, SZCZEPANOWSKI looks so . . . normal.

oday, we say "Szczesliwego Nowego Roku" . . . Happy New Year (in Polish)

Joe Krozel said...

I've used Spanish, German, and French words in my puzzles before. So... shall we have a contest to see who can get the longest Polish word into a published crossword? SZCZESLIWEGO is perfect! You even suggested the clue! :-)