REMEDIABLENESSES, written in a spiral, produces a 4 × 4 word square all of whose entries appear in the Oxford English Dictionary.

IREN is a variant of iron, a DEME is an arbiter or ruler, a SESS is an assessment, the BREE is the eyelid, LEMS are lunar excursion modules, and ENES is an archaic form of once.

(Jeff Grant, “Some of My Favorite Squares,” Word Ways 40:2 [May 2007], 96-102.)

In a Word

n. the recalling of things past; recollection, reminiscence

n. an illogical or irrational statement or notion

n. good order or management

n. saying enough

In “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons,” a hotel manager successfully finds a man’s name in his ledger at Sherlock Holmes’ request even though he knows only the first name.

“I should like to have seen the index to that pay-list,” remarked the Holmes commentator James Edward Holroyd. “How do you enter the name of a man who has no surname? As Beppo ‘X’?”

Possibly the manager used the same indexing system as Holmes himself, who in “The Sussex Vampire” looks up the forger Victor Lynch under V in his record of old cases. “Good old index,” he tells Watson. “You can’t beat it.”

Feet Foremost

“Beheaded limericks” by Arthur Shaw:

A nice pot of gold that was mari,
Belonged to a dan that was harri,
When some cals who were ras
Filled their kets which were bas
She put up a cade which was barri.

A certain young pate who was addle
Rode a horse he alleged to be saddle,
But his gust which was dis,
For his haps, which were mis,
Sent him back to his lac which was Cadil.

In gonia once which was Pata,
A clysm occurred which was cata.
A gineer that was en
Lost his ture that was den,
In a torium there that was nata.

A chap was so pose that was adi
And the butt of such nage that was badi,
He solved that was re
Not to lay that was de
In taking steps cal that were radi.

In a Word

adj. long-lived; living or having lived to a great age

n. rambling talk

n. feasting, banqueting

adj. suspending judgment

The Scythians always ate their grandfathers; they behaved very respectfully to them for a long time, but as soon as their grandfathers became old and troublesome, and began to tell long stories, they immediately ate them. Nothing could be more improper, and even disrespectful, than dining off such near and venerable relations; yet we could not with any propriety accuse them of bad taste in morals.

— Sydney Smith, “On Taste,” 1805

In a Word

n. respects or compliments

adj. appropriate; suitable; proper; fit

n. thorough care or attention

adj. royal

At the Athens Olympics of 1896, American runner Thomas Curtis asked his French competitor Albin Lermusiaux why he was putting on white gloves before the start of the 100-meter race.

Lermusiaux said, “Because I am running in front of the king.”

The Name-Letter Effect

Driving on a highway in 1977, Belgian experimental psychologist Jozef Nuttin noticed that he preferred license plates containing letters from his own name. In testing this idea, he found that it’s generally so: People prefer letters belonging to their own first and last names over other letters, and this seems to be true across letters and languages.

Nuttin found this so surprising that he withheld his results for seven years before going public. (A colleague at his own university called it “so strange that a down-to-earth researcher will spontaneously think of an artifact.”) But it’s since been replicated in dozens of studies in 15 countries and using four different alphabets. When subjects are asked to name a preference among letters, on average they consistently like the letters in their own name best.

(The reason seems to be related to self-esteem. People prefer things associated with the self — for example, they tend to favor the number reflecting the day of the month on which they were born. People who don’t like themselves tend not to exhibit the name-letter effect.)

(Jozef M. Nuttin Jr., “Narcissism Beyond Gestalt and Awareness: The Name Letter Effect,” European Journal of Social Psychology 15:3 [September 1985], 353-361. See Initial Velocity.)

In a Word

adj. odd; not matched

n. an anonymous person

n. one who speaks for another

adj. not knowable for certain

Ostensibly the adventures of Sherlock Holmes were recorded by his friend John Watson. But of the 60 canonical tales, two (“The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone” and “His Last Bow”) are told in the third person. Who wrote these? Sherlock’s brother Mycroft? One of Watson’s wives? Watson himself, strangely? Arthur Conan Doyle?

In The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, William Stuart Baring-Gould writes only, “There has been much controversy as to the authorship of these two adventures.”