September 17, 2005

Fly me

Anyone know if the United Airlines magazine Hemispheres is distributed on United's Ted flights? I've got a trip coming up in November.

My mother and her sisters just flew on United and discovered that John Samson's September crossword, entitled "Ships," was missing the Down clues (the magazine staff plunked the wrong set of Down clues into the layout). Can you imagine the air rage that could result from that?

I found the puzzle here, complete with all the correct clues, and printed it out. If you're interested in doing the puzzle, I'd advise trying the applet—the grid was so blurry, the printed numbers were practically obliterated. Anyway, I'm always vexed by Samson's United puzzles. On one flight, I cursed the inclusion of ski area OKEMO, which I'd never heard of before. Wouldn't you know it? Eventually it showed up in another puzzle. A few months ago, Samson's theme was notable lighthouses, which I cursed as too obscure. So far, the lighthouse names haven't appeared elsewhere.

In "Ships," though, there were five entries that might have nudged me toward air rage. One pair of obscurities actually crossed each other, which I think makes for an unfair puzzle. How many of these words do you know?

"Napping" = ADOZE (found in very few dictionaries)
"One of the Spice Islands" = ARU (Mr. Maleska? Is that you??)
"Delicacies" = CATES (it's labeled as archaic in the few dictionaries that include it, but the clue didn't signal obs. or arch.; I think Phoebe Cates is just a tad better known than this word)
"Slippery as an eel" = ELUSORY (this gets a whopping 856 Google hits—make that 857 after this post goes up! Compare elusive's 19.1 million hits.)
"Flock of mallards" = SUTE (according to lists of collective nouns, the also-obscure SORD would work here too)

CATES and ARU were stacked together, and the U in SUTE crossed ELUSORY.

What do you think? Am I just whining, or was this puzzle beyond the boundaries of a fair challenge?