One of my daily diversions is the Washington Post Crossword. It’s a pretty good puzzle, often quite witty, and most importantly, it’s free. But one thing about the puzzle has always bothered me: The descriptive text. Here it is.
It’s all the fun of crosswords without needing a pen and eraser. Our game has great features such as: easy navigation, game pause, show or hide clue bubbles and online help, which are not available in your traditional print crossword puzzles. Each right letter is worth 10 points. Each wrong letter is worth 0 points. So sit back, put on your thinking cap and enjoy our online crossword game.
This text, ostensibly written for people who like words, causes me no end of consternation, especially because I often end up staring at it for 30 seconds or more while waiting for the puzzle to load. Let’s see if we can parse this correctly.
“It’s all the fun of crosswords without needing a pen and eraser.” Right. Because no self-respecting crossword fan would start a puzzle without both a pen and eraser. It’s the ultimate in self-flagellation, the confidence to complete a puzzle in ink, but hedged with a completely useless backup plan.
“Our game has great features such as: easy navigation, game pause, show or hide clue bubbles and online help, which are not available in your traditional print crossword puzzles.” Here in a single sentence we have an illustration of not one but two principles of mechanics. First, it’s a horrendous abuse of the colon. Next, we have a series that cries for an Oxford comma. It’s all capped off with a wonderfully colloquial use of a possessive that seems to be trying just bit too hard to be friendly.
“Each right letter is worth 10 points. Each wrong letter is worth 0 points.” It is true, some letters are just wrong. Like most of the ones used in this short, short paragraph. Fortunately we now know how to score them.
“So sit back, put on your thinking cap and enjoy our online crossword game.” Make sure you use plenty of cliches, and you too can write descriptive text worthy of the finickiest wordsmiths!
In the spirit of William Strunk, Jr., I humbly offer this revision of the instructions. I hereby offer the Washington Post the unrestricted use of the following words, if only to make my moments waiting for the puzzle slightly less annoying:
Please enjoy today’s crossword puzzle. Unlike printed puzzles, this puzzle allows you to easily navigate, pause, show and hide clues, and get online help. Each correct letter is worth 10 points.
Or even better:
Crossword puzzle. Go!