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BORED? Play our free word gamesINTERACTIVE HANGMAN

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Jay the Horologist Becomes Jay the Neologist

by Bob Levey

Honestly, now, how many politicians do you think would act more quickly than the average person?

Jay DeBoer would. Maybe it was the chance for fame and glory, or the chance to be bored to death by Levey during a free lunch. Regardless, Jay was an early enough bird to capture first prize in the September installment of our monthly neologism contest.

The challenge, which he and about 3,000 fellow word maker-uppers faced, was:

A four-letter word for "aid." A five-letter word for "dwelling." You had picked up this crossword puzzle with high hopes. But after about 15 seconds, you began to realize that it's easy – far too easy. This kind of no-challenge crossword is called a...

Jay's winning coinage:


"I had to look it up, too," said Jay, when I phoned him with the news of his victory. To save the rest of you the trouble:

Dross means "something that is base, trivial or inferior," according to that famous neologist, Mr. Webster. Doesn't that describe a too-easy crossword puzzle perfectly?

It was a good thing that Jay hopped into action as quickly as he did. The same entry was submitted by Gloria Parloff, of Bethesda; Brad McKay, of Arlington; Matt Doster; Sidney Secular, of Silver Spring, and the team of Alexandra Petri, of Northwest Washington, and former winner Lynda Gattozzi, of Bethesda.

(By the way, Brad said his all-time favorite too-easy crossword clue appeared in TV Guide magazine. It asked for an eight-letter word to identify the star of "Seinfeld.")

Our winner has represented the 63rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates for the last 18 years. He will leave at the end of the current term to return to the full-time practice of law.

"I'm frankly burned out," Jay said. In August, he told a Richmond newspaper that the current legislature is "surly, [given] to partisan skulduggery and gotcha games." Jay didn't bother to mention that he is a Democrat and the leadership is Republican. As we Washingtonians could have told him, that explains a lot – maybe darn near everything.

Jay said he has "been a crossword fan since I understood the concept." In his hometown Petersburg, Va., newspaper, he does the crossword "in ink, to annoy people."

Our winner is also a horologist. Don't rush for the dictionary on this one, either. Jay rebuilds and repairs antique American-made pocket watches as a hobby. He once appeared on the TV quiz show "Jeopardy" as an expert on American pop music.

I was about to book Jay for his victory lunch, but he requested that the cost of it be donated to my annual Children's Hospital fundraising campaign. As we say up north, the check is in the mail. Thanks, Jay, for that generous gesture, and for a great neologism.

Almosts and Nearlies for September were:

Cream Puffzle: Former champ Hank Wallace, of Northwest Washington.

Breezzle: Former champ Jayne Townend, Clarence M. Johnson, of Beltsville, Dawn E. Nakroshis, of Laurel, and Betty Ford.

Enigduh: Former champ Tom Witte, of Gaithersburg.

Mot-poori: Stephanie Sullivan, of Silver Spring.

Conhohumdrum: Marc LeGoff, of Washington.

Simplexicon: Curtis Asbury, of Durham, N.C., and Theresa Root.

Duhzzle: Sam Mecum, of Lancaster, Pa., Yuki Henninger, of Vienna, Sandra Lee, Sidney Secular again, Kathy Henderson, Jan Verrey, Cynthia Coe and Barbara Moreland.

Banalgram: Wendy Jordan.

Puzzzzzzzzzzle: Laura S. Baker, of Jefferson, Md.

Laxicon: Lynn Roussey, of Silver Spring, Lomy Oyzon, of Stafford, and Theresa Root again.

Puzzlepooper: Peggy Ward, of Haymarket.

Wussword Fizzle: Jane Snyder, of Chantilly.

Lingweenie: Susan Miller, of New York City.

Ennuigma: Sarah Gaymon.

Puzzilch: Karen Kenworthy.

One Downer: Andrea Cohen.

Dudzle: Sandy Paternotte and the team of Edith and Alan Stein, of Silver Spring.

Boreazontal: Lorian Bristow.

Lowbrainer: Katherine Lavery, of Vienna.

Drowzle: Greg Coxson, of Moorestown, N.J.

And The No-York Times: Sylvia Harris and Bob Moss.

Let's hope crosswords soon improve, gang. Your submissions hardly could. Well done!

Ready for the October challenge? It's ready for you...

Richard Armour, a poet, wrote this in 1949:

Shake, shake, the ketchup bottle,
First none'll come and then
A lot'll.

Truer words were never written. But what do you call the fact that ketchup is slow, slow, slow to emerge? (Click to see winning entries)

First prize will make your pulse go fast, fast, fast: a free lunch, at a restaurant of the winner's choice, with Levey along for the ride. Yes, you may smear your entree with ketchup, no matter how long that takes.

Contest rules: You may enter as often as you like, on one piece of paper or several. Joint entries are welcome. So are entries submitted by fax (202-334-5150) and e-mail ( Entries must bear day and evening phone numbers, including area code(s). All entries become my property. Entries will not be accepted by phone or returned. In case of duplicate winning entries, I'll choose the one I receive first.

Please mail entries to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071. Entries for the October contest must be received by Oct. 31.

© 2001 Bob Levey (
This article is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

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