I’ve got a five-letter word for you…

Last week, Eric posted a link to an article chronicling the top ten works of fiction to prominently feature crossword puzzles.

While the Guardian’s countdown included some choice entries — mentioning not only The West Wing but another show near and dear to the heart of yours truly — there’s one glaring omission from their otherwise impressive listing.

M*A*S*H. More specifically, the season 5 episode entitled “38 Across,” which aired on January 11, 1977.

Now, for those of you who’ve never known a world without the Internet, I’ll explain. 

(*gasp* I know! A world without the Internet! Think of it! Heaven is chock full of people who’ve never known Facebook!)

M*A*S*H centered around a mobile army surgical hospital (mad acronym skills at work here) and the trials and tribulations endured by those stationed in Korea during the war.

Some of M*A*S*H’s best episodes came from the medical staff’s desperate need to alleviate boredom at all costs during their downtime, and in “38 Across,” Hawkeye becomes fixated on completing the New York Times Crossword.

Stymied by a single clue — the Yiddish word for bedbug — he goes as far as to contact an old naval buddy, Lt. Tippy Brooks. In his fervor to solve the puzzle, he says it’s an emergency.

This comes back to bite Hawkeye and his chums when Tippy arrives, with his commanding officer Admiral Cox in tow, expecting a medical emergency, not a linguistic one.

(Click here for a terrific plot synopsis of the episode.)

It’s a very funny episode that plays nicely with a classic sitcom trope — the big misunderstanding. (The title is also a clever inside reference to the 38th Parallel, the line crossed by invading Communist forces, igniting the Korean War.)

Considering how beloved M*A*S*H was, and still is, I was surprised this episode didn’t make The Guardian’s cut.

Alas, no top ten list is perfect. (Just ask David Letterman.)

Oh! For the curious readers, the answer was “vantz.” (The fact that Hawkeye never once mentions the Down words crossing the entry makes me think puzzles aren’t exactly his forte. *laughs*)

And there you have it! All is well with the puzzle world once more. Hope you enjoyed this post, and as always, keep calm, puzzle on, and I’ll catch you next time.

6 thoughts on “I’ve got a five-letter word for you…

  1. Pingback: Puzzles in Pop Culture: MacGyver | PuzzleNation.com Blog

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