Crunch Time

Merl Reagle, Dec. 19

Yesterday was the 97th anniversary of the day the first crossword puzzle was published. It appeared in the New York World, though it looked much different than today’s puzzles.

Last Sunday, Merl Reagle constructed an homage to the puzzle — a birthday present to solvers, if you will. I thought it was pretty clever and something fun to share. (Though I apologize for being a day late!) It started with a pretty lengthy editor’s note:

“NOTE: December 21 marks the crossword puzzle’s 97th birthday, so in keeping with my perennial idea that a certain item should be the Official Snack of Crosswords — because of its black and white look, its common occurrence in crosswords, and its popularity as a bribe — I mean, as a treat — for a certain overnight visitor, here’s a puzzle devoted exclusively to it (sort of). There are 11 in all (but eat just one).”

The treat? An OREO. To wit:

FOR EONS (“Since time immemorial,” 17 Across); THE LORE OF THE WEST (“Subject for Louis L’Amour,” 23 Across); RESTORE ORDER (“A militia might do it,” 28 Across); WORE OXFORDS (“Sported certain shoes,” 37 Across); MORE OF THE SAME (“Kin of ‘ditto’,” 54 Across); PORE OVER (“Study closely,” 57 Across); TORE OPEN (“Attacked, as an envelope,” 85 Across); CHOREOGRAPHER (“Gene Kelly was one,” 88 Across); OFFSHORE OIL (“Focus of a ‘drill, baby, drill,'” 105 Across); FOREORDAINED (“Predestined,” 114 Across); BORE ONE SENSELESS (“What endless hours of data entry may do,” 124 Across).

To be fair, he even included the cookie’s competitor in 72 Across, “Part of NaOH (just to give The Snack’s old rival a smidgen of equal time): HYDROXIDE. I first learned about Hydrox cookies as a kid; our Jewish neighbors kept Kosher and they would only stock Hydrox, not Oreos, because Hydrox were made with vegetable shortening (as opposed to animal shortening.) At least I think that was the reason.

And to wash it all down? 132 Across is an “Apt query for the of this puzzle”: GOT MILK?

Postscript Dept.: When I first launched this blog a couple of years ago, I rushed to solve both the NYT and Merl Reagle puzzles each Sunday so I could blog both of them. Then I realized I was getting zero feedback on the Reagle puzzles (which appear in my local Philadelphia Inquirer), so I decided to save them for my own enjoyment later in the week. If any of you feel differently, let me know and I can put Merl back into my repertoire.

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