Table Scraps

Crossword fans: bid a ferocious and furious good-bye to “ORT” and “ORTS”

Orts are table scraps. Or at least they were a few hundred years ago in England. “Ort” has also appeared in The New York Times crossword puzzle 82 times under the tutelage of Will Shortz since the early 1990s, so if you do the puzzle regularly you’ve seen it already – and know what it means (or meant). But I can pretty much guarantee you you will never have to suffer its ugly presence again. July 8, 2016 was its last appearance. It should have died ten years before that. Do any of us say, “Oh look, ort on the floor! Five second rule – grab it!” or “Give the dog some orts, will ya? He’s drooling!”

I’ve had about 20 puzzles in the Times, and have never used it. It’s stupid, cheap, annoying, and worst of all, archaic as bloody hell.

But I talk about it here because this post really is table scraps. A couple of things I’ve been meaning to clear off the table for the last few months…


Hey Seniors! Spending too much on drugs through your PDP? Just call!

Without getting too detailed, I take some meds that have run $45 or more per month through my Medicare Part D PDP (Prescription Drug Plan), administered by an insurer called Silver Script. They are “Tier 3” meds (there are 4 drug tiers, Tier 1 being the cheapest – about $2 per script). Another one came in at $175 – it was a brand name not on the insurer’s formulary. Still a third one cost $85.

So I called Silver Script – great people! – and asked if I could apply for a Tier Reduction for these three meds. They said, “sure, no problem!” And sure enough, all three meds dropped down one tier, and each one now costs between $17 and $29 a month.  Do the math, and the monthly savings are enormous.

Insurers rely on most people not doing something so radical as calling them and asking for a lower tier – and hence a lower price. Handy group of words that can save you lots when you call: “I’m wondering if I might apply for a tier reduction for some of my meds?”

One more tip: every fall, seniors on Medicare are bombarded with mail from insurers – PDP people, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplemental plans. How do you choose? First, find the insurer with the lowest premiums for the same plan – that’s a no-brainer. Second, pay close attention to the company that sends you the least amount of mail. For me, in spite of endless begging jamming my mailbox from United Health Care (AARP), I went with Silver Script: $34/month applied against my Social Security benefit payment – because they sent me just one mailing!  They save money, I save money. Good outfit, great customer service.


Wanna make this? Feta Cienze! (fat chance)

The following is from a Facebook post by Martin Herbach, a fellow crossword constructor associate and gourmet kitchen adventurer, a guy who’s much more advanced with exotic culinary forays than I. Bold type is used for words/foods that got me laughing… and underscores my total ignorance of cuisine from certain parts of the world. Here he goes – hang on!

Indian/Iranian dinner tonight. Why that combination? Both North Indian/Pakistani and Iranian cuisines use basmati rice. Today’s was made in the Iranian style, with tahdig, the crusted rice on the bottom. In this case, the tahdig was encouraged with a little yogurt and saffron. The Indian dishes are saag paneer, fresh cheese with spinach, mustard and fenugreek greens; and Elaine’s wonderful channa masala, spiced garbanzos. The Iranian contribution is koubideh joojeh (or koubideh morgh), kebabs of ground chicken with grated onion, garlic, saffron, turmeric, sumac and a half-dozen other spices. It’s served with mast-o-khiar, a yogurt and cucumber dish that many will recognize from its Indian descendant, raita. The original, brought to India by the Mughals, is flavored with mint and rose petals, and is a natural accompaniment for Iranian grilled meats.

(Martin Herbach photo)

Actually, you can make all these things, but you’ll have to hunt down your own recipes. Main lesson learned here: Some of my associates in the crossword puzzle universe are infinitely more “foodie” than I am. I’m more of a semi-foodie, focusing on ingredients I can actually pronounce, from countries I’m more familiar with than Mr. Herbach. I probably should have heard of fenugreek greens, but I haven’t. It’s okay now and then to be humbled…


There it is for now, a few light thoughts to brighten your day (or not). And, as usual, my book website below.

Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.