Thursday, December 24, 2009

NPR Puzzle 12/20/09 The Clean Plate Club

Here's this week's puzzle:
Think of a familiar two-word phrase, five letters in each word. The second word starts with P. The phrase names something that is nice to have after dinner. Change the P to an S, and you'll get another familiar phrase that names something that's nice to have before you start a job. What phrases are these?
The answers are CLEAN PLATE and CLEAN SLATE.  We solved it with the prototype of some software Ross is developing that allows you to specific "change the first letter from an S to a P" and get all the five letter words that qualify.  He's calling it "Word Botcher" because according to Chambers, a "botcher" is both a bungler and a repairer.  I dunno -- it makes sense to Ross, and it's only a prototype.  But it's coming in handy with the NPR puzzles.

I have a couple problems with this puzzle, but they say far more about me than about the puzzle.  Let's start with a clean slate.  Why's that important before you start a job?  Because it means you have a fresh surface to work on (the slate, presumably, refers to the writing surface used by students back in my childhood the olden days), so "job" is synonymous with "assignment."  But I took it to mean job qua employment, and in that context, a clean slate suggests one was in trouble with one's former employer and needed to get all that squared away before starting with the new employer.  (Yeah, I'm over-thinking this, I know.)

But my difficulty with the phrase "clean plate" is entirely based on my own life.  My dad (born in 1914, so raised during the depression) subscribed to the "clean plate club" mentality of children's eating habits.  Plus, he would dish up the food for us.  I am the youngest, so my dad would give me almost as much food as my brothers, 3 & 6 years older than me respectively.  And then I was expected to clean my plate!  A perfect recipe for an eating disorder, although I will admit I added a few "feeding the hungry heart" components of my own.

So now I'm thinking about having to eat too much food and appease an angry employer: Thanks, Will, for giving me bad dreams this week!

I hope everyone is having a very happy holiday season.  If you're off work already (as we are), enjoy yourselves.  If you're just heading out, have a great weekend.  And if you haven't finished your shopping yet, HURRY UP.  (This is anecdotal, but I'm pretty sure there were 150% more men shopping yesterday at our local supermarket than one normally gets on a Wednesday afternoon.  I saw one guy on the phone, saying "The list says brown sugar.  Which type?")  And no matter where you are, or who you're with, please have a very happy Christmas weekend.

See you Sunday!

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