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VOL. 129 | NO. 114 | Thursday, June 12, 2014

Vic Fleming

OneLook at Family

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Dear Judge Vic, Enjoyed your column about stenosing tenosynovitis. I once felt your pain. Who did your surgery? /s/ Curious

Dear Curious, Since I’m now on the road to recovery, I’ll reveal that my surgeon was Dr. Jeanine Andersson of Little Rock. Dr. A. has also treated one or two folks in my extended family, although when I asked her about that, she replied, “Under HIPAA, I can’t confirm that.”

Dear Judge Vic, What is your site of choice for helping to make crosswords and why? /s/ Cruciverbalist Wannabe.

Dear C.W., OneLook Dictionary Search (onelook.com) is hard to beat. For several reasons.

A lot of what I do involves searching for phrases. I just used the phrase “extended family.” That gives me an idea that might help to illustrate.

What standalone phrases start with the word family? Rather than answer this by thinking real hard, at OneLook, I enter “family *.” In a split-second, I see 2,000 combinations of varying lengths, starting with “friends & family party” and ending with “family voices.” Plus a note that reads, “There are more matches of your pattern, but we can only show you the first 2,000. Try a more restrictive pattern.”

The site has delivered virtually all multiword patterns starting with family that appear even once in any of hundreds of dictionaries. By clicking on “Common words and phrases,” I narrow this to items that appear in five or more dictionaries: family Bible, family circle, family court, family doctor, family history, family jewels, family man, family medicine, family name, family planning, family practice, family room, family therapy and family tree.

I can work with that. I could make a crossword with phrases using the second words in the list, e.g., MEDICINE MAN, HISTORY BOOK, TREE SURGEON, etc. Then I could put FAMILY in another part of the puzzle as a reveal, clued, say, as “Word that can precede the first word in this puzzle’s four longest answers.”

Looking at the list, though, I think of a couple of phrases that I’m surprised are not there. Like family matters and family affair. I check and see that they are on the longer list, so they’re not-so-common.

“Family Matters” was, of course, the sitcom that gave us Urkel. Also a sitcom, “Family Affair” gave us Mr. French. A number of sitcoms have had the word family in them: “All in the Family,” “The Addams Family,” “Family Ties,” “Mama’s Family” and “My Family,” to name a few.

This is a convoluted way to suggest that you try out today’s I Swear Crossword. Originally titled “Family Affair,” it’s now called “Family Matters.” The latter title can be either an adjective-noun phrase or a noun-verb independent clause. I like that. It’s one of the forces that through the green stem drives the flower that is a crossword puzzle (apologies to Dylan Thomas).

See if you can guess why the title is apt. Hint: Perhaps there is an honoree in this puzzle.

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

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