28 Across, 47 Down

What’s a three-letter word for “pigeon”?  What’s an eight-letter word for “square figure”?

Over the years I’ve become a real Will Shortz fan.  He adds amazing wit to the New York Times crossword puzzle and as the NPR Puzzle Master provides other types of word entertainment on those rare occasions when I actually catch him on the radio.  Even as a little kid I was good with logic puzzles, and crosswords are merely an extension of puzzle-solving logic – mixed in with the subtleties of the English language.  New York Times puzzles are especially punny, and give you that “aha” feeling of satisfaction when you “get it”.

It also appears that doing mentally challenging things forestalls the onset of Alzheimers disease.  By the time I retire I intend to do nothing but mentally challenging stuff, unlike today where breathing is about as challenging as it gets.

Wife, 2025:  “What’s a three-letter word for “pigeon”?

Me:  “Ehhhhhh?”

Wife:  “What’s a three-letter word for “pigeon”?

Me:  “Yes-ss-ss-ss, it’s a beautiful day-yy-yy outside, dearest.”

Unfortunately, I’m slowly becoming hard of hearing so it won’t help me have a conversation with my wife.  But my brain will still be working even if my ears aren’t.

I wish I had more time to do crossword puzzles but as it turns out I’m usually limited to doing them at bedtime as a method of relaxation prior to turning off my table lamp.  I started a project over 20 years ago to write a crossword-puzzle creation program, first in Fortran, then Pascal, then Visual Basic and C++.  It is not a simple problem to solve, as there are very few rules you can apply to eliminating possible orthogonal words based on other trial words the program has already selected.  If you have an understanding of programming you can appreciate that without some way to trim back the list of possible words to test, the very best that you can do is to perform a binary search of your dictionary for anything that fits.  Laying down the possible words – and unwinding every time you hit a dead end – is at least an N2 problem.  The computational burden is not intractable but it might take considerable time to solve.  I’m still working on it and hope to complete it before I die.  That and learning how to play the piano are two challenging things I want to do yet in my lifetime.

By the way, the answers are “rat” and “exponent”.


3 Responses to 28 Across, 47 Down

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