Yes, newsprint is easier to tear vertically

I am a crossword puzzle freak, and your Sunday New York Times puzzle is the highlight of my day. When I try to tear out the answer square, the vertical rip goes easily, but tearing horizontally is a mess. Why? 

 — Bob S.

Be right back, Bob. We just want to test your claim. Won't take long.

Well, what do you know? Newsprint really does tear easier vertically than horizontally. Top to bottom was a thing of beauty. Right to left looked more like we were trying to do it during an earthquake.

We reached out to our pressroom for answers as to why this happens. Matthew Locke, a journeyman pressman, had the long and the short of it. He tells us that we use recycled newsprint. When the paper is manufactured, the fibers run vertically.

But take heart, Bob. Locke has a pretty simple solution to your plight. Just make a hard crease on the horizontal side, and tear it slowly.

"That’s one of the things we do when we make up the paper rolls," Locke says.

We gave it a try, and it worked pretty well. We suppose scissors might also be an option.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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