Phil Lewis: Cruciverbalists spelled it out for us

Phil Lewis
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What’s an eight-letter word for “not happy?” Fourth letter is an “m,” Starts and ends with a “d.”

Pencil in “dismayed.”

That’s what many of our local crossword-puzzle fans have been since Wayne Williams retired.

Williams, a native of Scranton, Pa., but a Florida resident the past 20 years, used to edit the daily crossword puzzle syndicated by the Chicago Tribune.

For the past 15 years, the Daily News and dozens of other papers have purchased the puzzle from the Tribune and published it six days a week. That is until two weeks ago when Williams and the Tribune ended their agreement.

The Tribune replaced the Williams-edited puzzles with a puzzle from the Los Angeles Times, a newspaper owned by the Tribune company.

After two weeks, this is what our readers have been telling us:

“The clues have a lot of local information in them that those of us who live in Southwest Florida, who are from the Northeast and the Midwest, just don’t get. I’m a good puzzler and even do the Saturday New York Times puzzle. These puzzles from California are very frustrating. Just my thoughts, considering that you asked.” — Betty Honeycomb, Marco Island

“I’ve been buying your newspaper almost every day since I moved here, 30 years ago. Sorry, but I absolutely hate the L.A. Times crossword puzzle. I used to look forward to getting my Naples Daily News every day and doing the puzzle while having my coffee. I probably won’t buy your newspaper any more unless the original puzzle returns as that was the reason I bought your paper in the first place.” — Alice Lack, Naples

“We do not like the L.A. Times daily crossword puzzle that you’ve started to use. We find it to be very ‘gimmicky’ and difficult to solve as many of the answers aren’t logical or able to be found through a reference manual. We would strongly suggest that you switch to something else like the Wayne Williams puzzle that you had. (That) was an enjoyable puzzle.” — Bob and Pat Ballou, Naples

“The new daily crossword puzzle gives vague clues with heavy emphasis on directors and dramatists of entertainment. It turns off non-movie buffs like me even though I can find them with some reference work. As a crossword fanatic, I have to forgo them by Friday. I enjoyed the Wayne Williams puzzles and found them much easier. I vote to go back to them. As a graduate from Harvard Medical School and a retired SUNY and MSU surgery professor I hope I am not more ignorant than the average newspaper reader.” — Duane Freier, M.D., Bonita Springs

Others were more brief. Here are a quick four:

* “I hate the new puzzle, please go back to Wayne Williams.”

* “I hate the L.A. (Times) crossword and I am an avid puzzler.”

* “I absolutely hate the new puzzle. We are not in L.A.”

* “I am not pleased with the new crossword format. It seems to be more a trivia puzzle than word-knowledge endeavor.”

The new puzzle does have its fans, but even they are not totally sold:

“The L.A. Times puzzle is better than Williams, but why didn’t you just gut up and get the N.Y. Times syndicated puzzle?” asked reader Anita Johnson. “For puzzle lovers, it’s the best. Any chance?”

“The LA Times puzzle is better than the puzzle that it replaced. But my favorite is the daily N.Y. Times puzzles. They are the creme de la creme. The puzzles are easy on Monday and get harder as the week goes by. The Saturday hard puzzle is a work of art.” — Dave Bennie, Naples

Finally, we received this from George S. Kouri of Naples:

“In answer to your question at the bottom of today’s crossword puzzle, ‘Do you like it?’ My answer is a big ‘no.’ For 10 years the first section of the newspaper I pulled out was the crossword puzzle in the Neapolitan section, which I thoroughly enjoyed and had somewhat of a challenge to complete. Now I don’t have a chance. Why can’t you run two puzzles as you do in the Sunday paper, one for the average person and the other for the remaining 1 percent of your readership?”

Perhaps we can, Mr. Kouri.

Starting Monday, we will run a second crossword for two weeks and gauge reader response. Depending on the results we might test another for a few weeks and again gauge reader response.

In the meantime, I’ve put got a call into a certain crossword puzzle editor up in Dade City, Fla. Just want to ask him how his retirement is going.

Phil Lewis is editor of the Daily News. His e-mail address is plewis@naplesnews.com

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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