INDIGNITY VOL. 3, NO. 21: Hiatus Interruptus.


INDIGNITY VOL. 3, NO. 21: Hiatus Interruptus.

EVERY NOW AND then, there is a event in the world of newspaper comics, or in the world of comics-adjacent newspaper attractions, that is so powerful it generates a temporary counter-hiatus in the ongoing hiatus of the ancient and legendary FUNNY PAPER column, causing Funny Paper to temporarily reappear.

This month, there have been two such events, leaving Funny Paper no choice but to manifest itself here within your Indignity newsletter. Baltimore's City Paper—Funny Paper's original home and the no-longer-intelligible inspiration for the Funny Paper name—may be long gone, but Funny Paper endures.


FAITHFUL READER JOSH Levin directed our attention to an interview in the New Yorker with the New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz, in which Liz Maynes-Aminzade got Shortz to reflect on his decades in the job. Funny Paper had pointedly passed up at least two opportunities to click on the Shortz story, but Levin helpfully picked out the part that mattered:

You mentioned that, when you first got to the Times, the crossword felt stuffy. What was stuffy about it, and what kinds of changes did you make to try to modernize it?

The crosswords that were being published by the Times just before I took over were mostly made by older people. So they’re going to reflect older people’s vocabulary, knowledge, and culture. I wanted to keep the older generation of constructors, but I wanted to bring in new ones as well. I think the crossword should reflect the life, language, and culture of everybody who reads the Times, and that’s everybody from smart teens up to the oldest people...

One thing that got a lot of notice, which I’ve considered pretty insignificant, was the introduction of commercial names in the puzzle. Before me, if “Oreo” ever appeared in the puzzle, the clue was always “Mountain: combining form,” which is preposterous.

“Oreo-” is some sort of Greek prefix meaning “mountain,” right?

Yes. I introduced commercial names, and there was resistance to that. But again, commercial names are part of life, and, if they appear in the news articles in the paper, then they should appear in the crosswords as well.

So, thanks to you, Oreo got a huge promotional bump from crosswords. I hope you’re getting a piece of that.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Funny Paper was delighted to read this, combining as it does three of our key interests: the ubiquity of SANDWICH COOKIE clues in the crossword realm; the general unbelievable backwardness of our shallow past, especially within the fin of Funny Paper's own native siècle; and the particular pomposity and absurdity of the disposable daily newspapers.

There is, speaking of the 1990s, an imaginable and maybe appealing Adbusters-type case to be made for keeping commercial brand names out of the crossword puzzle. But the pre-Shortz Times' excuse for using OREO, pretending OREO- was any sort of valid prefix in English, was hilarious nonsense. Funny Paper could not think of a single word about mountains that begins with OREO-, so we hauled down our 1981 copy of the American Heritage Dictionary from the shelf to check.

The result? Pacific warplane: _ _ _ _ .


The dictionary had OREAD (a mountain nymph) and then a plain ORO- prefix, leading to a handful of other mountain-themed words: OROGENY (making mountains), OROGRAPHY (mapping mountains), or OROLOGY (studying mountains). The old New York Times Mount OREO was a big pile of hooey. Peddling falsehoods in the name of integrity! Funny Paper shudders to think of what they did for HYDROX.


SUN CROSSWORD PUZZLE OREO WATCH: Tuesday, 57 Across, "Black and white treat."

NEW YORK TIMES OREO WATCH: Wednesday, 45 across, "Snack favorite."

SUN CROSSWORD PUZZLE ORIOLE WATCH DEP’T.: Friday, 46 Down, “St. Louis Brown, since 1954.”



NEW YORK TIMES OREO WATCH: Tuesday, 15 across: "Nabisco cookie."

SUN CROSSWORD OREO WATCH: Tuesday, 58 across; "Two-tone cookie."


FIFTY YEARS AGO this month, Dik Browne's Hägar the Horrible made its debut, using a wide-format single panel in the daily-strip box to show Hägar's Viking horde being met at the foot of a castle's drawbridge by someone telling Hägar they have the wrong address. Not long after the anniversary, Dik Browne's son Chris Browne, who had taken over the strip in 1988, died.

Chris Browne's older brother, Chance, still draws Hi & Lois, the other legacy strip in the Dik Browne family cartoon workshop, in collaboration with the Mort Walker family. Genealogically, Funny Paper believes this made Sgt. Snorkel and Hägar cousins.

Chris Browne's local paper, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, wrote that the sword-slinging, gløg-guzzling gag-a-day strip could be read as autobiography:

While Dik started the comic strip in 1973, it was always a family project, Sally Browne, Chris' sister said. Dik would base the characters on the family members' personalities. Dik would take on the role of Hägar, the protagonist of the comic strip.

Chris was portrayed as Hamlet, Sally was portrayed as Honi, Dik was portrayed as Hägar and Chance was portrayed as Lute.

But where Hamlet caused his father anguish by reading books rather than going along with the pillaging business (in the very second strip, Hägar complains that his son is "a Danish pastry"), Chris Browne grew out his beard and went around wearing a horned helmet. He wrote the strip for more than twice as many years as his dad had, faithfully keeping the characters right where they belonged.


ANDY CAPP: Andy Capp, his sense of honor offended by hearing two men in the pub talking about his brawling, storms over to fight them.

THE WIZARD OF ID: The King, on advice of his Magic 8-Ball, appears to murder a diplomatic emissary.

MARMADUKE: The sleeping Great Dane's subconscious spreads terror to those around him.

HERMAN: An audacious smuggling plan tries to get contraband through customs.

SHOE: A GPS falsely dangles the possibility of escape through death in front of Biz.

ZIGGY: Ziggy chastises his pets for having invidious opinions about other cartoon animals.

THE FAMILY CIRCUS: Billy looks at his money and declares (correctly!) that George Washington must be unhappy.

INDIGNITY is a general-interest publication for a discerning and self-selected audience. Is it for you? It could be!