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VOL. 128 | NO. 144 | Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vic Fleming

‘Unleashed’ Delivers

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I’ve written before of David Rosenfelt, whose 10th Andy Carpenter novel, “Unleashed,” has just been unleashed – uh, released. Andy Carpenter is a fictional solo-practitioner in Paterson, N.J. He’s independently wealthy, via inheritance and an early-career jackpot judgment in a civil case.

Practicing criminal law, he purports to take only clients whom he believes to be not guilty. His live-in lover, the beautiful Laurie, a former police officer who lectures on criminal justice at the local community college, is also his investigator. His buddies are Pete and Vince, a police captain and newspaper editor.

Andy’s bodyguard is Marcus. His computer hacker is Sam. His associate, when he has a client, is Hike. His office manager and administrative assistant is the crossword-addicted Edna.

Unleashed finds Edna “in tournament mode” – practicing her skills with a view toward entering “a national crossword puzzle tournament, held once a year in Brooklyn.” It finds Sam telling Andy that a friend of his needs a criminal lawyer.

Sam then hits a golden retriever on a dark and stormy night. This saves Sam’s life by delaying him just enough to miss a planned flight to Maine in the friend’s private plane, which goes down an hour after take-off. That kills Sam’s friend, but luckily Sam didn’t kill the golden, whom he nurses back to health, dubbing him Crash.

On the above facts, Sam’s friend’s widow gets charged with murder. The theory is she poisoned him with botulism, timing it so that he’d pass out while piloting his plane to Maine. It’s a fun read. Andy is still a joke-a-page lawyer. The book, like the others, has about 300 pages and about 40 scenes. You need not be a lawyer to enjoy it.

And ... yes, it was I who informed the author about the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. In one of the early books, Andy mentioned that there ought to be some kind of competition for Edna to test her crossword solving skills in. So, was I not duty-bound to send the author a copy of Wordplay?

Speaking of puzzles, there’s a nationally syndicated puzzle out there whose quality has gone down of late. I don’t recognize any of the names of the puzzle constructors. The puzzles contain errors no puzzle editor should make. Most recently, the clue “Last Supper participant” was used for the answer PAUL.

Solving this puzzle and then solving a New York Times early-week puzzle is like eating a one-dollar hamburger and then eating an Old Fashioned from French Fryz (see last week’s column). The latter is a third pound of lean juicy meat, cooked to order, with tasty chili, slaw, mustard and lots of onions. The former ... is not.

Anyhow, we’re going to run a trial and see who responds. I don’t want to limit this to crosswords. Any game or puzzle where a puzzle-maker or editor is writing clues that lead to answers will qualify. Send me the worst, the saddest, the most pathetic pairs of clues and answers you can find. I want editors who are skating by on their duties to know Edna is watching.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law.

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