Saturday, January 23, 2010

151 French Holywomen Don't Lie

Meryl Streep should win an Oscar for the Best Actor to Deliver An Acceptance Speech at an Awards Ceremony. At this year's Golden Globes, her acceptance speech was so moving that I couldn't figure out whether she was acting or sincere, or both. You'd think that nominated actors would memorize a short speech (after all, they're actors), just in case they win. That's not always the case.

But Streep takes the GG stage and, in 30 seconds, she has me laughing, crying, and reaching for a second Kleenex with one hand, while Netflixing her old films with the other.

This week I watched The Deer Hunter, an early Streep film. Made 30 years ago, it features young superstars-to-be, practically in utero: Meryl Streep, Robert Deniro, Christopher Walken. Wow! Streep has been famous for decades; I therefore assumed that her crossword-y surname had appeared often in crosswords.

I was wrong! Jim Horne's excellent database of New York Times puzzles shows that STREEP appears only 17 times (as an answer) since 1993. Though the numbers apply to NYT puzzles only, it's an interesting slice of the crossword market pie. Now, let's take it a step further:
  • STREEP minus "R" (STEEP) appears 37 times 
  • STREEP minus "RE" (STEP) appears 117 times
  • STREEP minus "REP" (STE) appears 151 times . . . that's a lot of Fr. holywomen!
Solver's Takeaway:  In crosswords, the four- and three-letter words continue to be the percentage play. Puzzle architecture demands that constructors reach for the 3- and 4-letter words more often than not. In a cut-throat crossword world, a big star like STREEP gets trampled by 151 French holywomen running up a STEEP flight of STEPs.

With 159 hits in Jim's database, ANA is right up there with STE, and worthy of a solver's attention. Constructors gleefully hide the ANA with any number of cluing angles. There's tennis star ANA Ivanovic political columnist/Wonkette blogger ANA Marie Cox . . .

. . . and a very crossword-worthy virtuoso guitarist named ANA Vidovic. YouTube won't let me embed, so please click HERE for her exquisite performance of the Cavatina, the theme from The Deer Hunter. 


Bruce S. said...

Thanks for the lesson. I am learning and taking all the pointers you care to give. Have a nice Sunday.

Elizabeth said...

Bruce, thank you so much. It's always good to hear from you!