Monday, 2 September 2019

What is a DOOK?

On 16 December 2014, the New York Times puzzle grid carried this answer which led to much bafflement in the solving community:

DOOK in NYT Crossword
Source: © 2014, The New York Times

The clue (33a) was "Scrape by" – but why was its solution DOOK? Solvers checked standard dictionaries and found the word unlisted; they combed through online sources and discovered the word could mean bathe or plunge, a Scottish variant of duck, a misspelling of the University in Durham, a plug, a clucking sound made by a ferret. There was nothing to support "DOOK = Scrape by" as defined in the puzzle.

Comments on NYT crossword blogs were abuzz with conversation around this mysterious word…

…till someone pointed out that DOOK is not "dook", DOOK is "do OK".

No Enumeration, Cause of Confusion

In the New York Times crossword, solution lengths are not stated. The total count of cells to be filled for each clue is evident from the grid, but the clue does not tell you if its answer is a (4) or a (1-3) or a (2,2). This property was used to fantastic effect in the 1996 NYT Election Day crossword; this property also led to the DOOK confusion.

DOOK as Crossword Jargon

Since the time it was first noticed, DOOK has become a blog shorthand for words placed together in the grid (typically parts of a multi-word answer) that can be misinterpreted.

DOOKS do not normally affect British cryptics except in the rare case of enumeration errors: Guardian 24032 – what does doordie mean?

Usage examples:
"I'm nominating DOOORDIE for DOOK of the year." [source]
Comment on puzzle Give Me Some Space, in which one had to insert spaces in themed clues (GOON –> GO ON, NOTABLE –> NOT ABLE, etc.) to arrive at their answers: "IT'S A DOOK PUZZLE!" [source]

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3 comments

raju umamaheswar said...

Welcome back, Suchi. So nice to see your unusual post.

Dook takes me to AOK. My son always replies AOK,when asked 'how are you doing?'

I do the Indian Express, Coimbatore edition, for the sheer of exploration of new phrases. It may be from the US. Like you have said, there are no numbers given for the answers. One has to do guesswork and fill. There are some portmanteau words that are very unusual that may not be found even in the dictionaries. They then gain currency and find their way into one's glossary and eventually get admitted in the OED or the Chambers. Evolutionary process of words over generations. For me the more the merrier! We need more Anu Gargs!

raju umamaheswar said...

Correction please. . Sheer joy of.Sunday Indian Express. Daily Express publishes cryptic ones which also I do regularly.

vasant said...

The Indian Express crosswords are outsourced from Gemini crosswords. The daily 13x13 and the Sunday 15x15 were set by Roger Squires. They still are.