Staffers in the Washington office of Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) called their Bronx counterparts to have someone fax over a copy of an article he wanted. Foreign embassy officials asked reporter friends to brief them on the news of the day. And hundreds of customers complained to their newsstand dealers.

An electrical problem at the Springfield presses where the regional edition of the New York Times is printed delayed publication of the newspaper for several hours yesterday morning, meaning that none of the Washington-Baltimore area's subscribers--including President Clinton--received the paper in time for morning coffee.

"They expect it and when they don't get it, it's just a problem," sighed a salesman at the News World kiosk on Connecticut Avenue and K Street NW.

Times spokeswoman Lisa Carparelli said the lateness of the papers was unusual: "Most of the delays are minor and have minimal impact. That's why we are looking into the problems to make sure it doesn't happen again."

The New York Times would not say how many customers had been affected. The paper's total circulation in the District, Virginia and Maryland is about 45,000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

By 11 a.m., trucks had started dropping off the paper at stores and homes. While Carparelli said the company expected to be able to deliver most of the newspapers yesterday, a few customers will receive Tuesday's edition today, along with the current paper.

Nevertheless, some Washingtonians found even a slight delay to be more than a minor inconvenience.

At the Dupont Circle Newsroom store, which usually sells 60 to 70 copies a day, assistant manager Saliha Bak said men and women in power suits began complaining promptly at 7 a.m., when the store opened.

"Everybody was asking, 'What's going on with the New York Times?' " Bak said.

Michael Waterman, press secretary for Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), said he was surprised to find the Times missing from the stack of six papers usually on his desk.

"When you have a press office and don't have the newspapers, you are in dire straits," said Waterman, who quickly solved the problem by firing up his computer and logging on to the Times Web site at www.nytimes.com.

Indeed, White House spokesman Barry Toiv said staffers hardly noticed the absence of the newspaper because they had become accustomed to reading the Times online.

"Before the Internet," he said, "it would have been a problem."