Monday, January 18, 2010

Cut To Order

There's a lot of buzz around Denzel Washington's new film, The Book of Eli -- mainly from chainsaw-packing puzzlemakers who've blithely lopped off the film title's last word, ELI, for later use. A much-needed new fill-in-the-blank clue for ELI (The Book of ___ ) is in the can.

But the added value of The Book of Eli is its "partial" potential. With a new gas-powered Husqvarna chainsaw, I've hacked off the last two words -- OF ELI -- (to be clued as "The Book ___") and saved them for a rainy day. The OFELI-ectomy is done. I came, I saw, I conquered.

OFELI is one of those gobbledygook non-words that drive solvers nuts when they see them in answer grids, away from the clues. OFELI? I'm kidding, right?

No. It's part of a "partial" clue, different from "fill-in-the-blank" in that it contains word fragments with no standalone option. Partials add interest to a puzzle, but to be honest -- they save constructors' butts. I wouldn't go out of my way to use OFELI, but some day it'll come in handy, probably in that pesky lower right part of the puzzle grid.

Puzzlemakers have been harvesting film title fragments for years, slicing and dicing in ways that would make Hannibal Lecter wince:

~ ITON ("Blame ___ Rio")
~ INLA ("To Live and Die ___")
~ DIALM ("___ for Murder")
~ OFTHE ("The Silence ___ Lambs") [Sorry, Hannibal . . .]

Because these fragments don't occur in nature, they're used sparingly and (mercifully) limited to five letters.

The Book of Eli also gives constructors some straightforward grid words:  SOLARA is played by MILA KUNIS. Denzel plays ELI. Jennifer BEALS is in it too . . but to me, she'll always be the female Rocky in Flashdance, one of my all-time favorite kitchy flicks.

Puzzlemakers are happy to hack into song titles to find clues for I SAW, as in "The First Time Ever __ Your Face." Bad puns, mostly around graphic NIP/TUCK-style facial surgery scenes, are totally uncalled-for when describing this song title. It's hardly an invasive facial procedure with a plastic surgeon's saw . . . only a good old-fashioned love song performed to perfection by Roberta Flack.


    Orange said...

    Liz, you got a laugh out of me with that terrible face-sawing joke!

    I bet we're in for some more NAVI appearances thanks to Avatar, too.

    Elizabeth said...

    Amy, you're a good sport for putting up with my dreadful puns. And thanks for the NAVI tip -- what a fantastic word. Excellent addition to the word list!

    Crossword Man said...

    Hope you enjoy the new saw ... we have a couple of Huskys (I need a second one to get out of trouble when the first one gets trapped).

    What's your take on on a log? Is it a six-letter partial that's somehow able to squeeze under the barrier, or can it be justified as a regularly formed answer?

    Elizabeth said...

    Ross, I wasn't aware of the Husqvarna diminutive. Cute! (Love the SQV center ...)

    I'm not a fan of 6-letter partials, especially in contemporary puzzles. Longer partials were appropriate in older puzzles, in pre-software days. I have enormous respect for constructors who made puzzles "by hand." They needed longer partials simply to get the job done.

    I don't like solving puzzles with long partials (over five-letters); that's why I don't use them in my own work. They give away too much.

    To avoid using ON A LOG might require a rewrite of a corner, or an entire puzzle. (Sounds like fun, right?) ;)

    Joon said...

    all this talk of cutting... were you trying to give an advance hint about today's puzzle?

    Elizabeth said...

    . . . oh, Joon, whatever do you mean? I know nothing!


    Bruce S. said...

    I liked your puzzle today very much. Very clever theme. Thanks.

    Elizabeth said...

    Bruce, I very much appreciate your feedback . . . you made my day! Thanks so much.