A Grat Étude

A Grat Étude


A couple of years ago, we put up a thankful post, expressing our deep appreciation for the test-solvers who go over our puzzle before it sees print. Our gratitude hasn’t diminished in the slightest since then—if anything, it’s become even more heartfelt—so with Thanksgiving upon us, it seemed like a good time to thank them all over again.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that without these attentive and exacting collaborators, the Nation puzzle would not be possible. Every week, without fail, they save us from inadvertent errors and lapses of diction, suggest improvements both large and small, and generally add an inviting gloss to our efforts—and they do it without recompense or hesitation. We are indebted to them beyond measure.

Since our last thank-you note, we’ve added a couple of new helpers to the roster. Katherine Bryant, an editor of science books in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is well-known to us through the National Puzzlers’ League, where she was a longtime editor of the monthly puzzle magazine, The Enigma; she can always be counted on to correct any scientific misapprehensions on our part.

Bart Laws, a professor at the Brown University School of Public Health, came to our attention because he was already checking for our errors—only after the fact, when it was too late to save us from embarrassment. After the second time Prof. Laws sent us a correction e-mail, we decided it was time to get him on our team. Happily for us, he accepted.

The other testers, who have remained with us from the beginning of this enterprise are:

Mark Halpin, the theater designer and puzzlesmith whom we interviewed on the subject of Stephen Sondheim; his own remarkable puzzles can be found here
Sally Picciotto (Henri’s daughter), a dancer and public health researcher
Greg Pliska, a film and TV composer/orchestrator, Broadway music director (War Horse), and puzzlesmith who appears occasionally as puzzle guru on NPR’s Ask Me Another
• a group of solvers that meets over breakfast in Berkeley, including Ann Daniels, Jutta Degener, Joe Fendel, Erica Klarreich, Dunn Miller, Barbara Selfridge and Jon Zingman.

And as always, our tireless editors at The Nation, Judith Long and Sandy McCroskey, are an invaluable source of advice and wisdom.

Here are a few examples of how these folks have improved the puzzle just over the past few weeks:

• In Puzzle 3345 we originally clued NYMPH as
   Goddess seen in New York unit (5)
There was universal pushback on that definition, so “goddess” became “spirit.”

Puzzle 3343—which, incidentally, was written in direct response to Ms. Long’s plea for a knitting-themed puzzle—included the entry PURLOINED LETTER, which led to a long discussion of whether “letter” in the sense of “one who lets [an apartment]” was better clued by “landlord” or “tenant.” The consensus pointed to “landlord.”

• In Puzzle 3339, we had clued ODIN simply as
   God of noise (4)
relying on the Irish O’ for “of” (which is attested by Webster’s). The testers unanimously agreed that that was too cute, which is why the clue wound up as
God of boundless joy and noise (4)

Naturally, any mistakes that remain in the puzzle are entirely our own. But because of these folks, there are fewer than there would have been otherwise. So: Thank you. (And thanks also to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll, from whom we borrowed the title of this post.)

This week’s clueing challenge: GRATEFUL. To comment (and see other readers’ comments), please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen. And now, four links:
• The current puzzle
• Our puzzle-solving guidelines | PDF
• Our e-books (solve past puzzles on your iOS device—many hints provided by the software!
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog where every one of our clues is explained in detail. This is also where you can post quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle, as well as ask for hints.

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