Sunday, February 22, 2009

NPR Sunday Puzzle 2/22/09 - Desk Job

The NPR Sunday Puzzle introduced me to another word game today: Tom Swifties. I gather they originated in a series of books for children. The author(s) used a stylized writing form, and in their effort to avoid repetition exploited every adverb in the book.

Presumably they one day found themselves writing:
"We must hurry," said Tom swiftly
and a new word game was born. There's a nice collection of Tom Swifties on the Thinks.com web site.

I'm a little uncertain how Tom Swifties were popularized: some web sites suggest that the author(s) of the Tom Swift books also had a strip cartoon, each of which started with a deliberate pun, but I've yet to see such a strip cartoon. This illustration from Tom Swift and His Giant Telescope is the closest I've got to a Tom Swiftie in the original works:

"I Know Mr. Stern," Grinned Tom

The challenge for the listeners this week is:
Name an item often found on a desk. It's a hyphenated word. Add an S to the beginning of each part, and you'll get two synonyms. What's the item?
This one was fairly tough and I went down a couple of blind alleys in pursuit of the answer. One of these resulted in antonyms rather than synonyms - could it be that there was a mistake in the puzzle? I should have known better, for further chewing on the problem yielded two definitely synonymous words. I'll reveal them after the closing date.

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