May I have a word, please?

Most days I do the word puzzles in the local paper — the jumble, the cryptoquip, and the crossword. The crossword is the easiest. To make it more of a challenge sometimes I time myself. I don’t know where puzzle maker Eugene Sheffer gets his info about the average completion time, but it’s always listed as 20+ minutes. Maybe that makes less committed puzzlers feel better. My time is usually around 7-8 minutes, with my best being just under 5. It would have been even less, but I couldn’t write any faster.

I can complete Eugene’s puzzles quickly because over the years I’ve developed a relationship of sorts with him. I know his vocabulary and am familiar with his twists and turns. But every once in a while, ol’ Gene will throw in a surprise. Then I have to learn a new word, which makes me happy! The problem is if that word shows up again, I can’t remember what it means. So to help me cement this new knowledge in my brain, I draw my vocabulary words.




noun (pl. pollices ) Anatomy & Zoology a person’s big toe; Zoology the innermost digit of a forelimb, especially the thumb in primates. Origin: mid 19th cent.: from Latin, literally ‘thumb or big toe.’






fanfaron Trump



n. A bully; a hector; a swaggerer; an empty boaster; a vain pretender.

I sketched the first thing I thought of.


word of the day scutscut

noun: 1. the short tail of a hare, rabbit, or deer. Origin: 1400-50; late Middle English: hare; Old Norse skater stern

noun: 2. a person perceived as foolish, contemptible, or objectionable. Origin: 1870-75; Scottish, Middle English: origin uncertain

The clue was ‘rabbit’s tale,’ but the second definition explains the name of the bully in A Christmas Story (who stuck his tongue on the frozen pole). There are also some crass definitions from the Urban Dictionary, but you can read those for yourself.






noun. either of two South American ratite birds, Rhea americana or Pterocnemia pennata, that resemble but are smaller than the African ostrich and that have three toes, a fully feathered head and neck, an undeveloped tail, and pale gray to brownish feathers that droop over the rump and back

Not a very exotic word (and not a very good drawing), but I didn’t know what a rhea was, so it qualifies for the crossword puzzle section. The clue was ‘tall bird.’

More interestingly, Rhea is one of the Titans in Greek mythology. She is the wife of Cronus and mother of Zeus, Demeter, Poseidon, Hera, and Hades. Cronus ate all their children except Zeus, whom Rhea rescued. She gave Cronus a stone wrapped in blankets instead.

Rhea is also one of Saturn’s many moons, Carla on Cheers, and Kim Weller (Slippin’ Jimmy’s girlfriend) on Better Call Saul.




noun (pl. halluces ) Anatomy a person’s big toe; Zoology the innermost digit of the hind foot of vertebrates. Origin: mid 19th cent. modern Latin alteration of medieval Latin allex (pickle), Latin hallus (big toe).

P.S. I love that one of the Latin roots of ‘hallux’ means ‘pickle’!