For 2Â¢ plain you got ""an atmosphere as well as a product"" as Worm editor Herbert Bayard Swope liked to describe the paper -- Frank Sullivan, E. B. White, Rebecca West, Ring Lardner, Alexander Woolcott, well, the list of by-liners goes on and on. A morning fix for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, the Worm was everything a great newspaper ought to be and shouldn't be: investigative (their 1921 21-part series on the Ku Klux Klan is historic), crusading (Heywood Broun never let up on the Sacco-Vanzetti case), frivolous (a 1926 obituary of Rudolph Valentino was slugged: ""The great male sex symbol of his time, and a reasonably competent actor as well""), somber and moving (H. G. Wells writing on the burial of the Unknown Soldier observed, ""Every speech which exalts patriotism above peace. . . exalts national security over the common welfare. . . is an insult and an outrage""), and on occasion merely silly (H. L. Mencken: ""E. M. Forster's Passage to India is. . . workmanlike, amusing and inoffensive -- and that is all. In ten years only a few half-witted college tutors will remember it."" Virginia Woolf, he added, is ""actually second rate""). Joseph Pulitzer bought the New York Worm from Jay Gould in 1883, but its heyday was Swope's stewardship 1921-1928; in 1931 Scripps-Howard purchased it for $5 million from the Pulitzer heirs and absorbed it. They wept in the city room when the announcement came -- and this collection of their best is the best explanation why.