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Puzzles, Poetry, and Pooflapoo

Hi, all --

In this week's archive edition, we talked about "pooflapoo pie" vs. "Watergate salad," "more" vs. "most," "stalactite" vs. "stalagmite," weather proverbs, and tricks for spelling difficult words. Listen:


Many of you reminded us afterward of a handy mnemonic for those cave formations: "StalaCtite" is from the "Ceiling" and "stalaGmite" is from the "Ground."

Thanks to Suzanne in Michigan, Keith from Valley Center, Calif., and all the other spelunkers who sent that in.

An odd literary coincidence yesterday: It was both World Poetry Day, and the fifth anniversary of the first tweet on what is now Twitter. In Saturday's New York Times, Randy Kennedy ponders connections between the two.


Also over the weekend, "Steely" Dan Feyer won the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in New York. Visual Thesaurus rounds up the action, including some of the diabolical clues: "Listing on paper?" (ITALIC) and "Place for singles to gather"(TILL):


We're proud that our Quiz Guys, Greg Pliska and John Chaneski, posted strong showings as well.


Another date of note this week: March 23. That's the anniversary of the first recorded appearance of America's greatest linguistic export, "OK."

You can find out more and join the first-ever "OK Day" celebration on Facebook:


Writing a novel? When it comes to scenery, "less is more," says Salon's literary critic Laura Miller. "When it comes to more than two or three sentences of description at a go, a novelist is always somewhat on sufferance with contemporary readers."

Exceptional writers can get away with more elaborate descriptions, she says. Take Margaret Atwood on a suffocating Victorian parlor, in which "all possible surfaces of it are upholstered; the colors are those of the inside of the body -- the maroon of kidneys, the reddish purple of hearts, the opaque blue of veins, the ivory of teeth and bones."

Miller's essay is here, plus helpful writing advice from Elmore Leonard:


Atwood, by the way, gave a lively interview last week to Toronto's Globe and Mail. She mused about how e-books, hypertext, and paywalls affect how we think and read. "Do you know what the very oldest non-linear reading experience is?" she asked her interviewer. The answer may surprise you.


BEHIND THE SCENES: Martha enjoyed meeting some of you while emceeing the San Diego Women's Hall of Fame induction ceremony. A big welcome to all there who signed up for this newsletter!

We'd also like to wave to our new listeners on Geneva Community Radio in Geneva, New York. Welcome!


Martha and Grant

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