Vic is a legal resident of Little Rock, Ark. He’s a judge, author, law professor, songwriter, crossword puzzle constructor, and haiku poet. A legal humor columnist from 1985-2016, he’s the author of Real Lawyers Do Change Their Briefs (1989) and Perry’s Dead (And the ‘Juice’ is Loose) (1995). He has edited two books of nonfiction, and co-edited two volumes of Random House Casual Crosswords (2009-2010). He appeared in the 2006 documentary Wordplay, performing an original song, “If You Don’t Come Across (I’m Gonna Be Down).” He is married to Steamboat Springs artist Marion Kahn. In 2007, he was inducted into the Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame.
© 2004 Vic Fleming
“I’m uphauled!” read the note. “Anyone with a social conscious would be ashamed. People are always ready to blame things on an escape goat, but for all intensive purposes, it’s a doggy-dog world out there. The underline meaning is clear, but don’t take a fence; this is just my too cents worth. Anyway it’s a mute point.”
Mute indeed! And yet it speaks volumes.
The word “malaprop” became accepted as a noun around 1823. It derives from a 1775 play, “The Rivals,” by R. B. Sheridan, which featured a character called Mrs. Malaprop. The word has come to mean misapplication of a word for one with similar sound or meaning. In Sheridan’s play, Mrs. Malaprop says of her daughter:
“I would have her instructed in geometry, that she might know something of the contagious countries …. Our retrospection will now be all to the future…. [There is] suicide, paracide and simulation going on in the fields! And Sir Anthony not to be found to prevent the antistrophe.”
Memorable malaprops from people in public life include “polo bears,” “Remember Pearl Island,” “neon stockings,” “vertizontal hold,” “desecrating on the American flag,” and “a vast suppository of information.” The guy who said that last one malapropped his retraction, confessing to a “Miss-Marpleism.”
In the late ‘70s, a lawyer sent me his resume, referring to it as his “biological information.” But, and you can trust me on this, he was being intentionally wry; thus, was his way, may he rest in peace.
In her essay “We Have Burned Our Britches Behind Us,” Patricia McRaven tells of a memo that read, “You shouldn’t drink alcohol because … it gives you psoriasis of the liver.” And of a public transportation customer who “likes to stay on the bus until I reach my destiny.” She tells of a friend who’d “read all of Shakespeare’s books” and liked “the poetry of Edgar Allen Pope.” …
RANDOM QUOTATION (from World Haiku Review (2020 issue):
By Vic Fleming
Crossword clue-writing may be the most demanding genre in all of literature. Consider the requisites: brevity, parallelism, nuanced consistency, indisputable accuracy. And more.
Twenty-three rules govern this discipline. Like is clued by like—adjectives by adjectives, transitive verbs by transitive verbs, exclamations by exclamations. An abbreviation or foreign word in a clue signals that some of the same is in the answer.
A clue generally must be substitutable for its answer—in a sentence, with no loss of meaning. A slangy clue indicates slang in the answer, from the same era in which the clue’s slang was commonplace.
A friend once approached me, convinced the published solution to his daily crossword contained an error. Presenting me with what he’d clipped from the paper, he argued that CRAFT should be where the solution showed GRAFT. The clue was “Plant union.”
My friend said he had worked at a plant. And that the union there was always concerned about its … craft. “The craft is what held union members together,” he said.
I smiled. “Fusing two parts of a flower, or plant, is called grafting,” I said. “The result is called a graft.” Then I asked if he had noticed the puzzle’s hidden theme, wherein the author—in symmetrically placed answers that were clued independently—had wished himself a happy sixtieth birthday.
My friend looked at me blankly, exuding a sense of puzzlement. “There’s more going on in this puzzle than I thought there was.”
they’re just puzzles, right?
words in grids with clues and stuff?
yes, that’s what they are