Scratch a Washington office worker -- which is most of us, brothers and sisters -- and you'll find a gross prejudice against secretaries.

The Secretarial Set has it pretty soft, think most of us who don't make our livings that way. No judgment required. Just type, file, smile, keep the coffee coming and answer the phone before the second ring.

In fact, a good secretary is very often the person who holds an entire office together. Not only is a secretary often the only one who knows how to get something done, but the good ones have the critical ability to help keep the boss happy and productive.

Communicating with the boss openly and fully is the best way to accomplish that, of course. But that can be much easier said than done.

Maybe the boss is a growler and a snarler. Maybe the secretary is the kind of person whose instinct is to avoid conflict, or the possibility of it, at any cost. Maybe there's just lousy "chemistry" between boss and secretary.

The Research Institute of America, a New York-based information tank, has recently published the following survey for secretaries who are worried about how well they're communicating with their bosses.

The institute stresses that there are no "right answers" that will work for every secretary in every office. But the RIA has found that its survey separates the good secretarial communicators from the average and the poor. It goes without saying that bosses as well as secretaries are welcome to test themselves.

1) When things go wrong or a crisis develops, do you try to "do it yourself" past the reasonable point, instead of consulting your boss?

2) Have you told your boss what your career goals and aspirations are?

3) Do you keep your boss abreast of any below-surface information that is circulating -- rumors, gossip and the like?

4) Do you generally settle for harmony rather than voice your complaints?

5) Do you approach your boss with new ideas or new ways to tackle old jobs?

6) Do you hesitate to express opinions about things that concern your work?

7) Do you usually share your feelings with your boss -- for example, disappointment over not getting that raise?

8) When you don't understand your boss' instructions or explanations, do you frequently muddle your way through rather than asking questions?

9) Do you ever offer praise when you feel your boss has done something that deserves it?

10) Do you keep your boss posted on your activities and problems without waiting to be asked?

11) Have you ever expressed your opinion when you felt that your boss might have handled a situation, a person or a procedure differently?

12) Have you ever alerted your boss to problems someone in your operation is having -- either personal or work-related?

13) When asked to do something, do you ever reply: "Can it wait until I finish what I'm doing now?"

14) Have you ever let your boss know that something he or she unknowingly said or did upset someone else in the department?

According to the institute, if you answered "no" to questions 1, 4, 6 and 8, and "yes" to the others, "you are doing a great job of communicating with your boss."

Lord, the consternation in the land of crossword puzzles. It seems that the Aug. 27 puzzle in The Post contained two "creative" solutions.

For 36 across, the clue was: "Home of the Longhorns." The answer given the next day: "SANANTONIOTEXAS." Of course, the University of Texas is in Austin.

Similarly, for 56 across, the clue was: "Home of the Scarlet Knights." The answer given: "NEWARKNEWJERSEY." If any Rutgers grad who thinks he went to college in New Brunswick is shocked, he's forgiven.

Please don't ask me how this kind of thing happens. It just does. But Mitzi Roman of Woodbridge may have summarized the situation best.

"No wonder I have a difficult time with the puzzles," she wrote. "I've been concentrating on the correct answer instead of the one which best fills up the spaces!"