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I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Spam Maps

We held a poll last week, asking readers if they wanted us to stick with songs only for the Friday theme puzzle, or to broaden the game to other kinds of themes, or to kill the bit entirely. The results were plain: 58.3% of readers prefer broadening, another 29.4% like the songs, while only 11.3% want to kill the bit. So, a broader game it will be, though we will certainly return to songs on regular occasions.

This change in course creates a small issue to be resolved, however. The standing headline for the songs was "My Gift Is My Song." Can't use that anymore so, as you can see, we switched to "I Read the News Today, Oh Boy." That said, we also considered the line from Russell Banks "Every good title is a short story," and the quote from Bill Clinton "Follow the trend lines, not the headlines." We think they all work, in various ways, though we're open to other ideas, or to being told we picked the wrong one. If you have thoughts, let us know.

Similarly, we've been giving two bits of information on Fridays. The first is a hint as to the theme. The second is a rating as to how difficult the theme is to discern. But we have to concede, it's not so easy to judge how difficult the theme is. So, we've been considering changing the rating, in view of the adjustment to this feature, to a note as to which classic Trivial Pursuit category the theme fits best in. The hint for this week (there will be a second one tomorrow, of course), is that if we had done schadenfreude this week, the headline would have been "To Tweet, or to Twit?" Meanwhile, we'd guess this theme is about a 4, difficulty wise. Is it more useful to be told that, or to be told that the theme fits within the general category of Entertainment? Again, we welcome comments.

One other note. When we choose the headline for this item each week, we have to come up with something that refers both to the theme that we are revealing, but also the one that will be revealed next Friday. For example, "spam maps" is something we stumbled across while working on last week's theme. We are not sure if that term refers to the anti-spam Mail Abuse Prevention System, or it refers to the art of Michael Arcega, who says his work highlights that "Spam's diasporic nature is symbolic of America's ongoing influence on many nations":

A world map carved from spam

They say you haven't truly eaten until you've eaten a map of Canada made from spam. In any event, the point is that "spam maps" works for both last week's theme and this week's. We don't need feedback on this, we just wanted to be sure people understood what was going on.

And as to last week's theme, we sometimes get e-mails that lay things out for us, with some comments added, so we don't have to type up an answer key ourselves. Reader F.Y. in Ann Arbor, MI, has shown a particular talent for this, and so we'll hand the stage over:

Each headline contains a word that's a palindrome:

  1. Scalise Needed to be REDDER
  2. Biden Keeps his EYE on the ball...
  3. ...while Trump Pokes Himself in the EYE
  4. BOB Menendez is in Deep Trouble (I'll give a special nod to Weird Al here)
  5. My Gift is My Song: The Great GIG in the Sky
  6. This Week in Freudenfreude: Soldiers, Churches Show their CIVIC Spirit

I was completely despairing here, until I happened to be driving home from the dentist, turning over your two clue keywords in my mind ("dud" and "aha"), and realizing that they had a commonality.

AHA indeed, and YAY, great puzzle.

Of course it might have been my car—a Toyota—telegraphing the hint my way, probably by sending out an SOS.

I'm now glad I voted "expand the scope" in the survey. I hope you'll do more like this, where a Google search doesn't really do much good. We just have to figure it out—or get lucky—on our own.

Thanks, F.Y.!

Here are the first ten readers to get it right:

  1. J.N. in Zionsville, IN
  2. R.R. in Lancaster, PA
  3. D.D. in Carversville, PA
  4. E.M. in Jersey City, NJ
  5. F.H. in Klamath Falls, OR
  6. J.N. in Las Vegas, NV
  7. A.J. in Baltimore, MD
  8. D.C. in South Elgin, IL
  9. I.R. in Zurich, Switzerland
  10. F.Y. in Ann Arbor

If you have a guess as to this week's theme, send it here.

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