Thursday, 2/16/12

NYT 8:21 
Fireball 5:28 
LAT 6:58 (Neville) 
CS 5:06 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed (Matt) 
Celebrity untimed 

Jim Page’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution 2 16 12 0216

Well, the crossword was the last thing I wanted to do at 9:00, but I persevered. And then I had a mistake, aptly, making 13a: LIVE ART instead of LIVE ACT. Never even saw that it made 14d RRUD instead of CRUD—I was just so relieved when 24a turned out to be TO-DO rather than POKY, because [Gunk] cluing ***K had a high risk of evoking great offense. And then! The offense revealed itself down at 54a, where [One caught by border patrol] clues ILLEGAL as a noun. Oh. My. Word. The Times is going to get letters on that one, isn’t it? The newspaper and its crossword don’t usually come off as if Rush Limbaugh writes them.

So. The theme is MARGIN FOR ERROR, with those three words in a rather scattershot placement of three separate entries. The answers around the grid’s margin are all synonyms for “error”: SLIP-UP, FLUFF (which is most correct when it is a marshmallow product in a jar), TYPO, MISCUE, HOWLER (much beloved as a monkey), BONER (I still don’t know anyone who currently uses this word to mean “mistake” rather than “erection”), TRIP (Payne! Trip Payne has an upcoming puzzle extravaganza for a few bucks—check out his website and see if this is something you want in on), and FUMBLE.

Now, this ERROR puzzle is FLAWED because 7d is FLAWED, and isn’t that mighty close in semantics?

It’s also flawed because of the insane words in the fill. FETTLED means [Lined, as a furnace hearth]?? AGENTRY is a [Representative’s work]?? I have vaguely heard of this [1960s title sitcom character] FENSTER, but it’s only slightly more familiar than 55a: [Market town that’s a suburb of London], REIGATE, which I Googled to double-check while I was looking for my RRUD error, so unfamiliar was REIGATE. Some Susan EGAN I never heard of. The word form RESPECTER, not heretofore encountered. And LIGHT PENS are also news to me. I am a mighty adept solver, and for me to run into this many unknowns in anything that’s supposed to be easier than a Saturday NYT or Newsday “Saturday Stumper” is surprising.

In the plus column are LATE RISER, WHASSUP, OHIO STATE, and MUD PIE.

2.5 stars. (Or maybe just a straight 2.)

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Scrabble Breadth”

Fireball answers, 2/16

I don’t even know the full theme because that 17a clue is too long. Why is Across Lite too stupid to wrap the text when the clue is long? The “also appears above the grid” kludge is useless when the clue is this long because the font goes microscopic. Lessee (which I’d like to be clued as a slangy “let’s see” sometime instead of a boring lease-related noun): Both STRAIGHTFORWARD and PLAINCLOTHESMEN are kosher-for Scrabble 15s, and both are UNINFLECTED (no tacked-on word endings here) and TRISYLLABIC (hey! the word is a lie, self-referentially). I have not had the opportunity to play one of these 15s in Lexulous.

As for the rest of the puzzle. it’s fine. Not much jumped out at me as memorable or problematic. I don’t know this old “IT’S TOO LATE” song but guess what? It’s too late. I need to close up shop for the night. 3.75 stars. No, make it 4.0. I’m fond of CARR’S Table Water Crackers and am within three feet of a mostly empty box of those crackers right now.

Updated Thursday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Time Frames” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, February 16

54-Across tells us that SEC is a [Brief time] (it’s short for a “second,” itself a short duration) and also a letter sequence [(found in all four theme answers)]. As he did in his most recent CrosSynergy puzzle, Ashwood-Smith manages to place the S-E-C sequence in the exact center of each 15-letter theme entry. (This time I noticed that extra touch!) Here are the theme answers:

  • 17-Across: [Sushi, e.g.] clues JAPANESE CUISINE. Throw in some gyoza and miso soup and you’ve nearly got a meal.
  • 25-Across: To be ON CRUISE CONTROL is to be [Driving at a fixed speed, maybe]. Normally a blogger might comment on the extraneous ON found at the start, noting it has nothing to do with the theme. But for reasons that will be clear sometime next week, I’m not going to complain about it. Hey, sometimes the symmetry requirements don’t break as nicely as you would like, so you just have to adapt.
  • 43-Across: To [Proceed carefully] is to EXERCISE CAUTION. There’s an “Exercise Caution” sign at my gym, and I’ve long thought there should be a colon between those words.
  • 57-Across: One [Statement of frustration] is WHAT ELSE CAN I SAY. Another is I’M MAD AS HELL, but that’s for a “DASH”-themed puzzle.

Did you notice the foreign invasion in the fill?  SOU, ETES, HAJI, EAU, SRIS, AGRA, and CHOU. If you wanted to cast a broader net and include words that have become American-ized, there’s also PRIMA donna, ETUI, and BRIE, though the last one sounds substantially less foreign to my ear.

The one that’s bugging me the most, though, is RAT-TAT, the [Drum sounds]. Isn’t it RAT-A-TAT? I see there’s rap song called “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat,” but that’s about it. But even if RAT-TAT is okay, it seems to me like the answer should be RAT-TATS if the clue refers to more than one drum. (In case you’re wondering, these sour grapes are all I have in the fridge right now.)

My favorite part is stacking BLAH atop SO-SO and giving them the same clue, [Far from exciting]. That also summarizes my view on the fill, though I concede it’s not easy to get sparkly fill with 60 theme squares. I did like [Stand-up type?] for COMIC, and I think SINUOUS is a lovely word.

Barbara and Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 2 16 12

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 2 16 12

Looks to me like there’s something missing from this puzzle, but I’ve been advised to keep it G-rated.

  • 35a. [Massachusetts school … and a description of the two-word meeting that occurs at each circled letter] – HOLY CROSS

And the six HOLY crossings are:

  • SEE/WATER (heh… say that aloud)
  • SPIRIT/CATS (I’ve never heard “holy cats!” before)

I enjoyed that this theme was spread out all over the grid and had a bit of a visual element.  Great execution of this idea, in my opinion. A tough foothold in the lower right – SO SORRY and PUT IT ON could both begin with different words (I’M, TRY); this was second only to the obvious misstep at 1a. with SSGT for TSGT for me. Seriously: in crosswords it’s always SSGT. Who changed the rules today?

LET LOOSE looks great – but does it match with the overall tone of the puzzle? (BTW – Doesn’t matter.) The symmetric pairing of HORROR and PSYCHO is awesome/eerie; so is the presence of ATOM ANT. I didn’t know TONE ROW, and I nearly had a music minor, so this ranks up there in the “trickiest but legitimate” fill I think I’ve seen in the LAT puzzle. On the other hand, DEAR ANN just doesn’t feel right to me the same way DEAR ABBY would. Does this feel contrived to you like it does to me? Overall, though, high marks from me.

Tony Orbach’s Celebrity crossword, “Top 40 Thursday”

Celebrity crossword solution, 2 16 12 Orbach "Top 40 Thursday"

When something notable happens in the world of pop culture, you should wonder when a Celebrity crossword will focus on it. Last weekend’s untimely death of golden-voiced Whitney Houston may have been bigger news than the entirety of the Grammys, so here we are five days later to honor her memory.

  • 15a/49a. [With 49-Across, singing superstar who left us last Saturday] is WHITNEY HOUSTON.
  • 27a. [1992 movie starring Kevin Costner and 15-/49-Across: 2 wds.] is THE BODYGUARD. The soundtrack featured Whitney’s massive hit song, “I Will Always Love You.”
  • 33a. “HOW WILL I KNOW” is a [Song by 15-/49-Across that hit #1 in February 1986: 4 wds.]. If you were never a big fan of Whitney’s music, do go listen to the isolated vocal track for this song. Without music, without Auto-Tune, just that crystalline voice.

The typical New York Times tribute puzzle packs in a ton of thematic answers, but the Celebrity crossword mode is to keep the theme compact so as not to force tougher fill. These puzzles are intended to hook newcomers into the crossword habit millions of us already love, and a grid with things like ERSE, ERNE, and THEDA can serve to alienate new solvers by making them think there’s something wrong with them for not knowing those words—when hardly anybody other than longtime crossworders knows them.

Lively fill in this puzzle includes PBJ, KAHUNA, Randy Jackson’s “What up, DAWG?,” the Nissan XTERRA, and DEJA VU.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Can You Rephrase That?”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 411 solution

This theme is slightly cheesy, but I liked it. BEQ gives us six familiar idiomatic phrases and redefines them literally.  Hilarity naturally flows:

  • 16a. [“Pour pets from the skies”] = RAIN CATS AND DOGS. It’s raining cats and dogs as I type this.
  • 27a. [“Use a mirror to practice puckering”] = WATCH YOUR MOUTH.
  • 32a. [“Beside zero”] = NEXT TO NOTHING. This one could’ve used a snappier clue, maybe [“Where Zippo and Nada sit, at the Zero Convention?] Well, something like that.
  • 42a. [“Stop reading ‘Casper’ comics”] = GIVE UP THE GHOST.
  • 54a. [“J.K. Rowling buddy novel about a cat detective”] = TOM, DICK AND HARRY.
  • And last, but not least — spanning all five theme entries: 64d. [“Like the loser of a who’s-thinnest competition”] is LAST BUT NOT LEAST.

Five observations:

  1. I had HERPES (in the grid, I mean) at 45-d for [You might get this after picking someone up]. Excellent answer-specific trap, which kept me messed up down there for a long time (the trap, not the herpes! Which I never even had in the first place).
  2. It’s not easy to get a clean grid with six long theme entries, but Brendan did it. The fill weaves effortlessly through narrow spaces, like Jeremy Lin driving through the paint to draw three defenders before dishing it over to Fields or Chandler. BEQ-Sanity!
  3. The upper-middle and lower-middle of the grid are good examples of this — three long theme entries zipping thru those regions, but not a cringeworthy entry in sight.
  4. Good fill roundup: I’M A MAC, OH GOSH, NOOB, FTW, BTW. You won’t be surprised to find out that there aren’t any fill words longer than 6 letters — again, all those themers.
  5. I thought we were getting an ARA Parseghian reference at 18-d, but no.

Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ. This was a puzzle to beat the band, as my grandmother used to say.

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49 Responses to Thursday, 2/16/12

  1. Karen says:

    I missed the crossing of FENSTER and WHASSUP, thinking the latter would have been spelled wazzup or wassup (both of which got more urbandictionary votes).
    ILLEGAL seemed okay to me, isn’t that the function of the border patrol? It’s not a slur.
    FETTLED deserves some scowls though.

  2. Dave G. says:

    I would add SCENARIST to the obscure word list for the NYT. When I googled SCENARIST it failed my personal “is it a word” test. The entire first page of search results was either dictionary definitions or misuses of the word (e.g. product names). PLICATE comes close, but has one real usage on the first page (the PLICATE ROCKSNAIL).

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Karen, “illegal” is an adjective. It’s dehumanizing to call a person an “illegal” as a noun. See here for more on terminology and Associated Press style. In fact, the New York Times itself disdains the use of “illegal” as a noun:

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    “Illegal” as a noun is just shorthand for (in this case) “illegal border-crosser”. On the merits, I don’t think it’s any more “dehumanizing” to call someone an illegal (alien) than it is to call someone a comic (actor), a veggie (eater), a petite (dress size wearer), or any other adjective-as-noun, when used in that specific context.

    Though I’d agree that it’s in very bad form to use the term “illegal” as a noun in any formal setting (AP, NYT) because it’s such slangy, sloppy usage of the term, and may cause offense in people who are wary (justifiably or not) of a word turning into a narrow, all-encompassing discriptor. (e.g. “I may be an ‘illegal’, but I’m also a ‘carpenter'”.)

    The NYT crossword puzzle, of course, is not a formal part of the paper. But it’s still a little surprising that ILLEGAL would be clued in a way that may cause offense when it could have been clued in a Brazilian different ways.

    The OTERO / REIGATE crossing was just mean, by the way.

    And I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that Jim Page stole that theme from Will Dixon.

  5. Grant says:

    I don’t know, calling someone who knowingly commits an act that is in violation of US Federal law an illegal doesn’t seem dehumanizing to me.

    If someone has property and they let everyone know that no one is allowed on the premises from 10 PM to 6 AM because there is no security present and someone goes onto the property at 2 AM, whether they are trying to steal equipment (a bad thing) or paint the exterior because the outer coat is peeling (a good thing) is irrelevant. They are committing acts on the property against the rules set up by the property owner. They could be arrested and would be labelled with terms such as “intruder” or “trespasser.”

    Using the shorthand “illegal” to denote someone flaunting section 8 of the US Code may not be the best grammar but it is a commonly used phrase among those outside the “Rush Limbaugh crowd.” Seems like a far better clue-answer combo than much of the rest of the puzzle according to the review (in full disclosure, I don’t solve the NYT except on Sundays because that is the only day it comes in the local paper).

  6. joon says:

    you really don’t see the difference between calling an act illegal and calling a person illegal? that’s what you’re doing when you turn ILLEGAL into a noun. it is much more dehumanizing than referring to them as “someone who did something illegal”, which is what “trespasser” or “intruder” accurately does. “illegal alien” or “illegal immigrant” is better. (there are those who don’t like those terms either; i’m not going there.)

    i did not like seeing that in my puzzle one bit, although it was maybe only my 10th-least favorite thing about this puzzle. i’ll add FULMINATE to the list of positives, though. fun word.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    MARGIN FOR ERROR is a good theme, with traps to TRIP one up all over, especially in the wee hours! 6D was Bungle and then Bumble before FUMBLE, the Blue-roofed dinig spots were HOJOS before IHOPS, and the Chocolate dessert was Mousse before MUD PIE — but I ended up in fine fettle. I even managed to finish the Fireball for a change, though I agree that the miniature print was impossible to enlarge. Never heard of CATS’ EARS or ballerina SALLIE — isn’t that a nautical rope? Never mind, it was doable…

  8. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. Sallie Mae would have been preferable to the ballerina, but I admit that the bell rope and a nautical method for getting a ship afloat after going aground are both Sally in the singular, as is a military sortie or an attempt at humor!

  9. john farmer says:

    Guess who wrote this:

    “The rise in illegal border-crossing by Mexican ‘wetbacks’ to a current rate of more than 1,000,000 cases a year has been accompanied by a curious relaxation in ethical standards extending all the way from the farmer-exploiters of this contraband labor to the highest levels of the Federal Government”

    Time’s up. That was Eisenhower. I suppose you can excuse his choice of language. He was quoting the New York Times.

    Some things have changed — nobody calls them wetbacks anymore — but the attitude is the same for anybody using “illegal” as a noun. It’s not a neutral word. It’s almost exclusively used in reference to people of a certain color and a certain accent. I can think of people I know from Canada, Romania, England, and South Africa who all got here or stayed here by bending a few rules. They’re usually called immigrants, not illegals. Legal immigration is somewhere between very hard and virtually impossible for most people. Not to mention, expensive. One reason we have a lot of illegal immigration today is because people who arrived years ago changed the laws to stop others from getting in. I think we’d be smarter and better off if we made it a lot easier for people to come to this country. We could stop calling them illegals then. But we should do that anyway.

  10. Gareth says:

    Great idea… Five star idea in fact! But just too many obscure and/or awkward words, long ones too. FETTLED/AGENTRY/PLICATE (even if I’ve encountered that in studying anatomy)/REIGATE/SCENARIST/RESPECTER. There should at most be two words that cruddy that long.

  11. Julian says:

    I once tried to make a puzzle of this sort — the revealer was LIVING ON THE EDGE, with TENANT, ROOMIE etc. on the borders. I abandoned it because it was one of the few grids I’ve made that I just couldn’t fill without a ton of clunkers. Seeing today’s NYT, it makes me think it might just be a feature of this particular theme arrangement.

  12. Howard B says:

    My typo was at WHASSUP / FENSTER. I still have no idea what FENSTER is in reference to, but it is true I don’t feel like looking it up either right now. Curiosity will win out when I get a free moment ;).
    I’ll just say I would have really, really preferred a different clue for ILLEGAL. And I don’t really moan about clues in that way, and it’s not an issue thing one way or the other. It was just painfully dehumanizing. Like the caste in India whose people were referred to as ‘untouchables’. Just struck me not as edgy or current, but simply as wrong. That’s all.

  13. Matt says:

    For the NYT I ended up with BUMBLE/FUMBLE at 16D since BETTLED looked fine to me– never heard of FETTLED, but I’ve never owned a furnace either. FB was relatively easy– first time I did the FB faster than the NYT.

  14. Matt M. says:

    I want to join the chorus and say that seeing ILLEGAL clued like that was really upsetting.

  15. Matt says:

    And… Re: the clue for ILLEGAL… struck me as unnecessary. It’s not as though there isn’t any other clue for the word. I’m generally sympathetic towards ‘edgier’ clues that lean more towards the way language is actually used, but as was seen with the recent MIDASSTOUCH entry, sex is ‘way more entertaining than violence.

  16. loren smith says:

    All this talk of using one part of speech as another reminds of a guy I met once who had turned a preposition into a proper noun – his name – and I’m not making this up. His last name was von Brandt or von Braun or something, and he went by “Von.”

    “Hello, my name is Of, but sometimes people mistake me for From. Nice to meet you.”

  17. Grant says:


    My point was that if you are on private property in a manner that is inconsistent with how the owner of the property wishes then it does not matter what you are doing, good or bad, you are defined by the act of trespassing.

    For an immigrant not playing by the rules, this can be very detrimental to the person. If you pay a coyote to transport you across the Arizona desert they will use out of the way routes that are dangerous. You may be loaded into the back of an unairconditioned truck like cattle, experiencing a full days ride under a tarp baking in 110 degree heat without water or food leading to death for some of the passengers. We hear all the time about rapes of women and children just trying to join their husbands who came over earlier and now have enough to pay to bring their families to them. So many of these crimes go unreported because reporting a crime would bring up citizenship and visa questions. That seems far more dehumanizing than a term.

    This avoids the questions of does he pay taxes or does he have a right to health care even though he has no insurance. This avoids the questions of him taking jobs from those who are here legally, whether natural born or naturalized. Or whether forging a fake identity, even if that brings him onto the grid, is behavior we wish to condone. Illegal, in a short hand colloquial speech kind of way, begins to apply to much more than just immigration status. I think the term is defensible on those grounds.

  18. HH says:

    This would be a much happier world if people would just stop being offended by things.

  19. Gareth says:

    @Matt: I went with Hotsex off the H… Of the 3 options…

  20. Daniel Myers says:

    My, such gloom and contention today! One COULDN’T cut it with the clichéd kitchen utensil. Mayhap this silly old (80’s) song will help lift some spirits:

  21. Jamie says:

    “Illegal” as a definition of a person is offensive. But, if you add all the other offenses – agentry, Fenster (according to Google, this was a one-season show fifty years ago), fettled, Riegate, Otero, respecter (I imagine Sarah Palin using this), plicate, – AARGH.

    (Aargh was not in the grid. But it was definitely in the air along with a generous dose of WTF.)

    The whole thing looks like a disaster auto-compiled by a software program written c. 1965.

  22. Bruce N. Morton says:

    There *is* a lot of excessive offense taking in the modern world. I’m surprised nobody has called out 11d. (I started with “misdo” and “obese.” But, upon reflection, I would have to agree that it was unnecessary to use that clue for “illegal.” The word is undoubtedly in the common parlance in that sense, and the use of the clue by the constructor and editor does not necessarily imply sympathy with the political attitudes implicit in that usage. Still, those attitudes *are* implicit, and the puzzle would have been better off not triggering them.

    Still, I was surprised that the overall reaction to this puz. was as negative as it was. I thought it was pretty amusing. I wasn’t crazy about scenearist and agentry, (sounds like a British crime like “champerty” and “barratry”); but “fettled”and “plicate” are perfectly good words, and to me the objections amount to being annoyed at a word because one doesn’t happen to know it. Believe me, I’m sometimes guilty of the same thing–I’m not putting myself above it. Some of my teaching colleagues used light pens in classes, so even given my disastrous computer ignorance, that was not a problem. Reigate is a historic town south of London, not far from Epsom, if I recall correctly. A perfectly good 3 – 4 * puz., as far as I’m concerned.

    Re being annoyed at words I don’t know–I was recently in a conversation where they were tossing around the word “chyron” or “chryon” (I forget which) as if everyone should be familiar with it. So I will assume I am the only one who isn’t. They were ESPN sports producers, it that’s a hint.


  23. James says:

    And it would be happier still if people tried to avoid being offensive. I give you, for example our current crop of GOP candidates

  24. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Bruce: Oh, yes. I also that FATSO/[Tubby] was mean. If FATSO must be in a grid (…), clue it as the Dom DeLuise movie rather than as a hurtful slur.

    A chyron is a crawl of text on the screen. Or maybe a nonmoving chunk of text on the screen, I don’t know. No idea why an insider term for TV professionals has recently leapt out into broader usage.

  25. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Amy–yes, I did look it up–didn’t mean to imply otherwise. But I was previously unfamiliar with it.


  26. Tommy H says:

    Funny seeing all you Libs getting upset by Illegal. No problem insulting Limbaugh and Palin, though. That’s not offensive because they have different views than you, I guess.

  27. Tuning Spork says:

    I wonder if Will Shortz will accept LARDASS in my grid.

    Nah, better change that to BAREASS.

  28. Lois says:

    Note for Amy regarding, I think, Sunday’s NYT puzzle. You asked readers for enlightenment regarding the movie The Last of Sheila (movie for people who like puzzles), and someone may have written something to you already, but I didn’t see any response. I liked the movie (my husband didn’t), but haven’t seen it in years, so I had to look it up on IMDb to have anything to tell you. There is a get-together for a mystery game, and actual murders occur. The writers of the film were Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim (the director was Herbert Ross). The Sondheim name is the most striking lately, but cast members included James Coburn, James Mason, Richard Benjamin, Joan Hackett (she was great in it), Ian McShane, Dyan Cannon and Raquel Welch.

    Regarding today’s NYT puzzle, which was too hard for me, I did enjoy the word scenarist, though I didn’t get it right away.

  29. Howard B says:

    It’s not a matter of political sides re:”All you libs”, etc. or people’s tolerance for offense. Let’s stay out of the politics, good people, and leave that to the blogs and discussions that deal in that.

    The point is that Illegal is reserved and used in the current language as a noun for a specific purpose: to refer to illegal immigrants of specific ethnicities. Remember, we don’t call murderers, car thieves, shoplifters, etc. by the moniker ‘illegals’, although they are by definition people performing various acts against U.S. law.

    So no matter what your stance on immigration, all I’m saying is that there’s just untold better ways to clue the word than one with a strictly pejorative and ethnic sense.

    Now go play (and solve) nice :).

  30. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Howard, you’re the best! You are always so incredibly fair and thoughtful, and you elevate the discourse.

  31. HH says:

    “@HH — And it would be happier still if people tried to avoid being offensive.”

    @James — Oh, sure, Just put a bullet in my head, why don’tcha?

  32. Tommy H says:

    Ooops, sorry for not being PC, Howard. Forgot it’s always OK to slam the Conservatives, they’re dumb and evil and we’re smart and good.

  33. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Tommy H: I’m having a hard time seeing where anyone has “slammed the Conservatives” or cast labels like “dumb and evil.” I wrote that ILLEGAL as a noun was more in line with Rush Limbaugh than the NYT (it is! can anyone honestly dispute that?) and James said something vague about offensiveness and the GOP candidates. You seem to be fighting a battle with someone else, Tommy. Nobody was slamming conservatives. We were slamming the usage choice of “illegal” as a noun. Strawman much?

  34. HH says:

    On second thought, I take that back. If I didn’t offend anybody, I wouldn’t have any fun at all.

  35. Howard B says:

    Well this is lively :). Always fun, HH. Wouldn’t be the same without ya.

  36. Lois says:

    I’m in the embarrassing position of having to correct my previous e-mail in the middle of a hot discussion on another topic when no one is interested in mine anyway. But I wrote about The Last of Sheila, the film, and said it was in a puzzle that it wasn’t in. It was in Merl Reagle’s Sunday puzzle of February 12, and Amy’s question was in the pertinent discussion. I only did the puzzle last night, and already I’m mixed up. Sorry.

  37. Tony O. says:

    A little late to the mincing of words and phrases party, but I would like to add another component to the discussion: RH2 def. of “illegal” :

    -n. Informal. See illegal alien.

    illegal alien 1. a foreigner who has entered or resides in a country unlawfully or without the country’s authorization. 2. a foreigner who enters the U.S. without an entry or immigrant visa, esp. a person who crosses the border by avoiding inspection or who overstays the period of time allowed as a visitor, tourist, or businessperson.

    So, according to an oft-cited arbiter in such disputes, it is merely “informal” not “derogatory” nor “vulgar.” Let the subjectivity persist but perhaps the next group to take to task could be Random House/Webster’s.

  38. arthur118 says:

    Further to Tony’s entry, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate,11th Edition has the following entry, with no qualifications-

    “illegal n (1939): an illegal immigrant”

  39. Martin says:

    Re “Illegal”:

    I think the point is that no matter what the dictionary says… the noun (as used) has become a right-wing buzzword over the last several years.


  40. larry says:

    I forgot that the 2011 Rose Bowl was the one a year ago rather than the recently passed New Years Day — so, I was trying tof force Univ. of Oregon into 53A.

  41. Tony O. says:

    Fwiw, I agree with Martin – my citing of the definition was just to show that perhaps the NYT should not be taken to task for having inadvertently used something that could be construed in a derogatory way. At any rate, I think we shouldn’t be ILLIN’ over this … or should we? :-)

  42. Martin says:

    While some immigration violations are criminal, most immigration infractions, like overstaying a tourist visa, are civil and not criminal offenses. In general, immigration laws are civil statutes.

    The right likes the noun “illegal” because it de facto criminalizes all undocumented aliens. State laws, like Arizona’s and Alabama’s, are controversial partially because they make some undocumented aliens criminals at the state level where they are not violating federal criminal statutes.

    Nonetheless, the dictionary entry makes this crossword entry completely acceptable in my view. Of course, I don’t think “chink in the armor” is racially offensive in a crossword, as some do.

  43. Howard B says:

    Thanks for the lookup, Tony. That validates the definition and usage, and the dates of the entries are interesting as well. So from an editorial point of view, it’s of course valid. Doesn’t take away that ‘squirm’ factor, and doesn’t make the current usage any easier to digest, but there you go.

  44. Cyrano says:

    I think that Will purposefully left the ILLEGAL clue in to (successfully) distract everyone from a crappy puzzle that he found in his desk when he took over the job. Regardless of dictionary definitions, he should have known it would cause a firestorm. And I think the main argument for changing it should have been that it was so childishly simple to write a different/better clue. I really don’t think anyone paid any attention to this puzzle.

  45. granbaer says:

    Well, who the heck ever heard of the word FETTLED? And FENSTER is almost as bad. I did not enjoy this puzzle at all. As Rex said, it was FLAWED!

  46. Loren Smith says:

    Just DNF BEQ’s. Loved the puzzle, the clues (especially for HERNIA), but the wishbone of 37D, 50A, and 41D – impossible crosses for someone in her 50s. I hate getting old. OH GOSH EGADS! Aging. . .you’re a 10A!

  47. Jeff Chen says:

    @HH: I’m offended that you didn’t offend me.

  48. Karen says:

    I’ll amend my previous comment, I didn’t realize ILLEGAL is a slur. Thanks for raising my consciousness.

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