November 14, 2008

Fill-in-the-blank partials: How long?

The specifications for many of the leading crossword venues say that fill-in-the-blank (FITB) partial entries—answers that consist of two or more words that can't stand alone—are acceptable fill, but only if they don't exceed 5 letters. Merl Reagle syndicates his own Sunday puzzles, so he's not subject to any crossword editor's policy on FITB partials. Here are some 6- and 7-letter FITB partials from the last couple months' worth of Merl's puzzles:

  1. ASK AND ["___ ye shall receive"]
  2. AND ABEL ["___ was a keeper of sheep"]
  3. ["That ain't the way ___ it"] I HEARD
  4. [On ___ (under tight control)] A LEASH
  5. ["Now I'm not ___"] SO SURE
  6. [1783's Treaty ___] OF PARIS
  7. A GHOST [___ of a chance]
  8. ["I'd like to buy ___"] A VOWEL
My opinion? These entries aren't eyesores, and they don't at all interfere with the solver's progress through the puzzle. If you were in charge of the Empire of Crossword Puzzles, what would you decree:
  • No FITB partials at all; they shouldn't appear in crosswords.
  • FITB partials are OK so long as they don't exceed 5 letters.
  • Occasional 6- and 7-letter FITB partials are fine.
  • Why stop there? There should be no size limit on FITBs partials.
Cast your vote in the poll or leave a comment and let us know what you think.