Thursday, July 10, 2014

NYT 5:10 (Amy) 
Fireball 4:56 (Amy) 
LAT 3:30 (Gareth) 
BEQ untimed (pannonica) 
CS tk (Ade) 

John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 10 14, no. 0710

NY Times crossword solution, 7 10 14, no. 0710

Okay, so yesterday’s puzzle had that awkward “extra” theme answer that lacked any symmetry, so we suspected it was an accidental coincidence that was added to the theme rather than removed by reworking a little of the fill. And then! Today’s theme lacks any pretense of symmetry (unless you count “half are in the top half of the puzzle and half are in the bottom half”). We have six words that, as clued, must follow the word “silent”:

  • 5a. [Hit 2006 horror film based on a video game series], HILL. I have never, ever heard of Silent Hill.
  • 54a. [Seminal 1962 book on the environment], SPRING. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.
  • 63a. [Some passive-aggressive behavior], TREATMENT. The ol’ silent treatment.
  • 4d. [Business associate uninvolved in management], silent PARTNER.
  • 12d. [Popular Christmas carol], “Silent NIGHT.”
  • 50d. [Almost any pre-1927 Hollywood production], silent MOVIE.

I can’t help wondering if I am missing some other layer to the puzzle. A 76-worder without theme symmetry, with a fair amount of ungainly fill … there’s got to be something else to make up for the shortcomings, no? —Yep, a friend points out that the first letter of each of the “silent” answers is a silent letter in its crossing. Thus, the first M in MNEMONIC, the T in LISTEN, and so on. I’m glad there is more to it, but I suspect a massive swath of solvers will miss that aspect entirely and just feel disappointed.

Seven more things:

  • 17a. [Brains], SMARTNESS. It’s a legit word, sure, but an awkward one that doesn’t get that much use. When you Google a word and the top search results are dictionary definitions, you’re looking at an uncommon word.
  • 23a. [Probes], SEES INTO. I think of “looking into” as probing. “Seeing into” is more like “looking through a window at the contents therein.”
  • 3d. [Decree], UKASE. Students of Russian history may have come by this word honestly. Many of us know it only from crosswords.
  • 5d. [What a girl becomes after marriage, in an old expression], HONEST WOMAN. I don’t know what the hell “girl” is doing in this clue. When there are so many female children in this world who are forced into marriage with older men, good lord, you don’t want “girl” in this clue. “Bride” would have eliminated the distaste.
  • 11d. [Jules Massenet opéra comique], MANON. I know this from crosswords alone.
  • 24d. [Great Hall locale], ELLIS ISLAND. Perhaps better known among New Yorkers? There are plenty of other rooms called Great Hall out there.
  • 29d. [What there may be a lot of interest in, for short?], CDS. I’ve got money in a CD that’s accruing 1.09% interest, and I’m pretty sure that isn’t “a lot of interest” at all. More than a passbook savings account these days, but still paltry.

Now, let’s look at 43d. [Lord’s estate], DEMESNE. Guess what? This very uncommon word … has a silent S. (Pronounced “di-main.”) I would like the puzzle a lot better if it didn’t have this word, because of the word itself and because of the silent letter. And 29a: CZAR has a silent C, but is not part of the theme crossings either. This gives the theme a slapdash mishmash quality.

2.9 stars from me. Not a satisfying solve overall, unfortunately.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 75”

Fireball crossword solution, 7 10 14 "Themeless 75"

Fireball crossword solution, 7 10 14 “Themeless 75”

Lots of unusual fill in here, plus a sort of mini-theme involving leap day:

  • 35a. [Leap Day William’s home], MARIANA TRENCH. This … is weird. It’s a joke from an episode of 30 Rock. Kenneth the NBC Page dressed up as Leap Day William here.
  • 56a. [Italian composer born on leap day in 1792], ROSSINI.
  • 60a. [Cleveland Indians third baseman born on leap day in 1924], AL ROSEN.

Today … is not leap day. That would be February 29.

Bulleted list of observations and whatnot:

  • 1a. [Russian peasants (and the highest-scoring opening word in Scrabble–it’s worth 128 points)], MUZJIKS. I learned that when Googling to make sense of the theme in the 6/18/14 NYT puzzle (which did not include this word).
  • 15a. [City in Connecticut’s New Haven County], ANSONIA. Obscure.
  • 27a. [Dodeca- quartered], TRI-. Had to untangle the Greek (and see the do = 2, deca = 10 that tells me this isn’t the icosahedron with 20 sides) and divide by four.
  • 41a. [Secret place?], PIT. Secret brand antiperspirant, armpit.
  • 62a. [If you go out drinking with them, say “Cheers!” instead of “Bottoms up!”], MOONERS. Meh. “Mooners”?
  • 13d. [Lottery winners’ shout], “WE’RE RICH!” Fun.
  • 33d. [Shot at, as a line of troops], ENFILADED. Not a word I’d seen before. Tried FUSILADED first.
  • 36d. [“Fiddler on the Roof” setting that answers the question “Where else could Sabbath be so sweet?”], ANATEVKA. All crossings all the way for me.


Four stars for this 70-worder.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Writers Blocks” — pannonica’s write-up

BEQ • 7/10/14 • Thu • "Writers Blocks" • Quigley • solution

BEQ • 7/10/14 • Thu • “Writers Blocks” • Quigley • solution

Don’t want to sound dismissive, but this may be the sort of crossword BEQ knocks out when he himself has constructor’s block. You know, when a really innovative idea for a theme escapes him, maybe he pulls out a list of fallback themes. There isn’t anything wrong with it per se—no, not at all—it just seems mild, not quite unambitious, for someone of his caliber.

Anyway, what we get are four symmetrically located 2×3 blocks spelling out the surnames of authors. Women on the left, men on the right: Charlotte/Emily/Anne BRONTË, Joan DIDION, George ORWELL ( Eric Arthur Blair); Joseph CONRAD ( Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski).

Interesting that the changed names belong exclusively to the men. Didion kept her name after marrying Gregory Dunne; Emily and Anne Brontë never married, and Charlotte likewise kept her name, at least professionally (though all three sisters wrote under the pseudonymous surname ‘Bell’, the middle name of Charlotte’s eventual spouse (Arthur Bell Nichols). This segues moderately smoothly to 11d [One who recently changed his or her name, perhaps] NEWLYWED; good gender equality in the clue. And that one leads to 42d [Jumped the broom] SAID I DO.

One of the reasons I suggested that this puzzle may have been banged out is that I detected some dupeyness while solving. 44a [Wet body] SEA / 27d [Seafood fishes] CODS. The very similar BESETS and RESETS converging in the bottom right (even though the -SETS aren’t explicitly analogous). I may be wrong. The explanation may be that BEQ doesn’t deem these mild duplications to be undesirable, or perhaps that it’s a common liability in self-edited crosswords.

Another notable feature is alternative clues for crossword regulars. 7-across is [Big name in synthesizers] for ARP, rather than pioneering Dada artist Jean aka Hans. The colloquial ¡ESO es mio! [ … (“That’s mine!” in Spanish)] instead of the Paul Anka song “Eso Beso”. The comedian Steve AGEE, not writer James. Perhaps that last was avoided because it could be seen to infringe on the theme, but that’s contradicted by 66a [“Where’s Daddy?” playwright] William INGE, as opposed to, say, ancient Norwegian and Swedish kings or Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann. Or might this be further evidence of hasty construction? Dunno.

Favorite clue: 18a [Glowing application] FLOOR WAX. Biggest mis-fill: 64a [Scratch covers] BANDAGES before BAND-AIDS.

The northwest and southeast corners are isolated, each connected the rest of the grid via a single entry spot, but this is minimized by the added dimension of the presence of a writer block in each; this helps the solver who has learned the theme’s gimmick. Oh, that reminds me—wanted to point out that the title lacks an apostrophe because these blocks are constitutive, not possessive.

A very good puzzle, difficulty set at “medium” as advertised.

Steve Blais’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140710

LA Times

It took a while for me to fully get how WEARINGTHIN translates to words using THIN as a container: think of wearing a coat! [Like him or her], THIRDPERSON is solid if a bit bland, but the two 15’s are both nice: [Reagan/Carter debate catchphrase], THEREYOUGOAGAIN (wasn’t that just in a NYT puzzle ;)) and TAKEITONTHECHIN. The latter’s clue strikes me as a bit off though: compare [Fail Completely] to the dictionary definition “to accept unpleasant events bravely and without complaining”. Is there another meaning I’m unaware of?

There is some interesting non-theme fill included too:

    • Using [Super Mario World dinosaur], YOSHI is brave – video games knowledge is rarely required in puzzles! Nice one!
    • [Steed’s partner], MRSPEEL begins with a daunting-to-fit-in four consonants!
    • [“Light in My Darkness” author], HELENKELLER is a nice full name to have worked into the grid!
    • [Illuminate, with “on”], SHINEALIGHT is awkward as is, but it’s also a classic Rolling Stones song – an album track though, so probably why it isn’t clued as such!
    • [Certs ingredient], RETSYN is only vaguely familiar: Wikipedia. It seems it’s not a single ingredient but a trademarked cocktail.

It would remiss of me to point out that again Canuck Steve has worked in some local stuff: [Edmonton skater], OILER; [Canadian gas brand], ESSO;[Singer Carly __ Jepsen], RAE – is 3 Canadian answers more than usual?

3.5 Stars

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83 Responses to Thursday, July 10, 2014

  1. Eliza Doolittle says:

    Finally, attestation that I spoke correctly, not as some gutter-snipe who ignorantly elided my H’s

  2. Avg Solvr says:

    Had no idea what the theme was and with demense, pym, soie, ukase, olmec, manon, dpt, porkpie, etc. didn’t care.

    (Sent from my illiterpad.)

  3. Martin says:

    I think Amy is being way too easy on HONEST WOMAN. “Girl” in the clue is not the worst aspect, as far as I’m concerned. “Pure” girls or brides or women can’t be made honest by their pitying husbands, only fallen women. It’s as if somehow the man, who is in no danger of being tarred with any disparaging descriptor, decides to sacrifice his freedom to bail out this woman who was foolish enough to get into this unfortunate situation. “Bride” would not have helped for me. Icky, icky, icky.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      If only you had been able to ward this one off before publication! Either you missed a day of test-solving or you were overruled. Thanks for your remarks, though.

    • Tuning Spork says:

      Martin, the jokey phrase that a bride has become an “HONEST WOMAN” is just a knowing wink to the fact that she and her beau have, of course, been intimate before.

      What are “pitying husbands”? Is this a Chicago thing?

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    The SOIE/ELON crossing was not fair. *frowny face*

    Other than that, wonderful workout.

    • Matt says:

      Actually I object more to MUZJIK– it’s an obscure variant of MUZHIK. The high scrabble value is the clue that something is awry, but still kind of problematic, IMO. Very nice puzzle, otherwise.

  5. Richard Mahoney says:

    I also think there may also be a strong theme of Buster Keaton. Wit, inane, scenes, movie, and set. But maybe not.

  6. Tuning Spork says:

    I’m not a Fireball subscriber this year, but I couldn’t help but notice the review:

    15a. [City in Connecticut’s New Haven County], ANSONIA. Obscure.

    No kidding. Yes, I know exactly where Ansonia is. Occasionally, I drive through it. My ex- lived there for about a year. But, Jeez. ANSONIA?

    • pannonica says:

      I know ANSONIA as the name of a famous Beaux Arts building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It attracted, among others, as tenants opera singers and musicians owing to its soundproof apartments. Also, the roof had a lawn and goats were raised there.

      As for Amy’s question regarding Ellis Island’s GREAT HALL (in the NYT), it doesn’t strike me as a prominent example of a place so named.

  7. Martin says:

    I think ELON (Musk) is fair game now, no matter what the crossers are. He’s in the news almost every week. He’s easily one of the most famous inventors/entrepreneurs in the US today. His Tesla car (regardless of its pros and cons) has gotten huge publicity.


    • Martin says:

      In her column on Silicon Valley trends this week Maureen Dowd asks, “How has Elon Musk not invented his own fragrance?”

  8. ArtLvr says:

    re NYT — Enjoyed the mixture of (silent) altogether missing from a phrase plus the single words with a silent letter included by rights… Never heard of Silent Hill, though.

    • Huda says:

      Let’s not forget the shout out to our own AESTHETE…

      I remember hearing the HONEST WOMAN expression for the first time and being shocked by the fact that this is a way to refer to marriage. So condescending! But I’m not sure whether that’s reason enough to avoid using it in a puzzle. The cluing, however, would need something to indicate that it’s an unfortunate way to describe marriage.
      I liked the theme, it was fun to discover, but the rest was rather rough.

      • HH says:

        Not sure HONEST WOMAN is sexist — I’ve heard “honest man” in the same context.

        • Huda says:

          I too have heard it for men, albeit less frequently. Which is why I said it’s an unfortunate descriptor of marriage. I understand there is a historical context and the clue tries to hint at that with “old expression”.

  9. Tracy B says:

    I really liked the layers in the NYT today. Ambitious grid, and I’m one who appreciates finding out the thing I didn’t see while solving, that silent letter crossing the theme entries—beautiful. I, too, winced at “girl” (a term I myself have misused in a clue), and knew Amy would address it. After reading the constructor notes at XWord Info, I’m surprised by the editorial choice of an opera clue for MANON over the especially-relevant-this-week soccer clue the constructor submitted for MAN ON!, I phrase I’ve yelled and heard a million times these last five years. Kids where I live don’t go out and play pick-up baseball anymore, not at all. They don’t know the baseball players very well, they don’t buy the baseball cards, nothing. It’s been this way for many years, but baseball terminology is fair game in grids. Why not soccer too, at this point? Soccer is what’s happening in every household I know of. The soccer ball is what kids are carrying outside for pickup games with friends and neighbors; the names of soccer players are what they’re wearing on the expensive jerseys they beg their parents to buy. It’s time to let some of this into the grid, beyond PELE and LALAS I mean.

    • sbmanion says:

      When my son (now 20) was young, he played organized football and baseball. He ultimately played varsity football and wrestling, but was too small to ever excel at football. I wish he had played soccer. He had a best friend who at the age of 9 was already faster than most 12-year-old kids. The boy played organized soccer and tried to get my son interested, so once in a while we would go out to watch him play. The boy was so much faster than kids in his age group that it was almost unfair. In one game, we saw him get ahead of the field so to speak and score 5 consecutive goals before the coach took him out. I got the sense that the parents of the other kids did not really want him there. We need to embrace a culture of excellence in soccer, not an everybody gets a trophy mentality and we need to encourage the kids who are a little smaller but could be an NBA point guard or NFL cornerback to play soccer. When we do, we will begin to develop the number 10s that we need. White kids have gravitated to soccer, baseball and lacrosse and in my actual experience, I have gotten the impression that (more athletic) blacks need not apply in these sports even though the greatest lacrosse player of all time (the great football player Jim Brown), the greatest soccer player (Pele) and possibly the greatest baseball player (Willie Mays) are all black. This is not to suggest that you need to be black to be great. The greatest hockey player (Gretzky) and arguably the greatest soccer player (Messi) are magical white players independent of any question of size or speed.

      Kids in Brazil (perhaps a bad example today) play organized soccer from age 5 and are booed when they screw up. That would never happen in the U.S. Soccer is everything in poor countries, it is a fun pastime here.


  10. janie says:

    and … LISTEN is an anagram for SILENT. for a while thought the first six letters of (what turned out to be) ELLIS ISLAND were going to comply as well. but no…

    and … add me to the list of those who never hearda SILENT HILL. ah, well. working off of the central PORK PIE hat, do like all that buster keaton/silent movie sub-theme-type fill richard mahoney notes.

    ditto pannonica and the ANSONIA hotel (now condos). serious piece of (non-tiered, but) ornate-wedding-cake-architecture!


  11. Gary R says:

    Picked up on the missing “silent” pretty quickly, but didn’t see the silent letter aspect of the theme at all.

    Amy, I didn’t care for DEMESNE either, but given the nature of English, it would be quite a challenge to avoid any silent letters that are not part of the theme. In addition to the ones you mention, there is also SCENES, NIGHT, LIGHTS and AESTHETES – and a bunch with silent final E.

  12. CY Hollander says:

    I, too, winced at “girl” (a term I myself have misused in a clue)

    I don’t know what your clue was, and I’ll agree that it’s not used very well here, but cut the guy a bit of slack, since he couldn’t use “woman” in the clue, and “bride” has the connotation of “about to be married”, whereas the contrast here is with a possibly-extended period before marriage.

    Speaking more generally, though, I have no patience for feminist carping about the use of “girl” to refer to a young, unmarried woman. It’s as venerable a usage as any, it’s still widely used today, including among young women, and there are similar categories for men (in my circles, “guy” is generally the term that’s acquired the parallel connotation; one occasionally hears “boy”).

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Using a phrase like “no patience for feminist carping” will not endear you to me.

      Yes, “girl” is widely used. We live in a culture in which women systematically get infantilized and men don’t. It doesn’t make it a good or “venerable” usage. “Chairman” is always a man and “strumpet” is always a woman. So venerable! Not.

      • CY Hollander says:

        And attempted hostile takeovers of my language don’t endear anyone to me, either.

        That doesn’t apply to you, Amy, because I appreciate you in general and I have a lot of respect for the things you do (including, but not limited to this blog), and you’re entitled to your opinions like the next man (or woman). I’m sorry if the forcefulness of my language, makes you dislike me, but you have to understand, it aggravates me when people make claims like these and vigorously campaign to reshape my language, probably in much the same way that these perceived slights to women aggravate you.

        As I see it, these are all non-issues that have been made into issues by people trying hard to find areas of “discrimination” against women. Let me address your points, please. Advance apologies for the wall of text.

        We live in a culture in which women systematically get infantilized and men don’t.

        I won’t speak to the culture, but when it comes to the language, it’s taking a giant leap to say that because the same term is used for an infant female and a young woman, you’re infantilizing the latter. If I call my homeboys “dawg”, am I bestializing them? Words have more than one sense. In fact, if I were referring to an infant or child, I’d be likely to call her a ‘baby girl” or “little girl” (showing that unqualified “girl” does not carry an inherent connotation of infancy to me).

        I will agree that “girl” does carry the connotation of not-full-maturity (not the same as infantilization), but as I said, in today’s world, I see much the same attitude towards young, unmarried women and young, unmarried men. Both are frequently not considered fully grown up, and therefore not referred to as “men”/”women”. Does it really matter whether the alternative used is “girl” or “guy”? In either case, the avoidance of the “fully-adult” term is the main thing.

        It doesn’t make it a … “venerable” usage.

        “Venerable” means respectable by virtue of age or long use. “girl” has been applied to young, unmarried women since the mid-15th century, which is nearly as long as the word’s been around at all. That was my point, though presumably you disagree with me on how respectable that makes it.

        “Chairman” is always a man

        The contrast with “strumpet” makes your point confusing (a strumpet is a woman by definition, but a chairman can be male or female), but I believe you’re taking issue with the default term for an occupation implying a presupposition of maleness. But this is a willful misunderstanding of the suffix “-man”, which does NOT mean “male” here, but simply “person”. If you deny that, then you’re going to have problems when your crusade gets to “human”, let alone “woman” itself. (Wowoman? Wowowoman? Wait a second…)

        “strumpet” is always a woman

        This reflects the reality that far more women than men sell their bodies (and that in the sex trade, unlike almost any other, the sex of a person is directly relevant to occupation). By the same token, a “pimp” is always a man.

        • pannonica says:

          Small interpolation: it’s girl/boy, not girl/guy. That pairing is gal/guy. Extrapolate if you care.

          • CY Hollander says:

            I can only attest to how most people pair the terms terms in the circles that I’ve grown up in. “Girl/boy” below puberty, but “girl/guy” for adolescence (which nowadays tends to stretch into the 20s). The somewhat dated “gal” would feel a bit more tongue-in-cheek.

            This is the sort of thing I’d expect to vary somewhat by region or social circle. I’ve got no problem with “gal/guy” or “girl/boy” or any other pair of terms that people may use to denote young, unmarried individuals. My gripe is with people insisting that once-unexceptionable words carry hidden agendas and generally trying to dictate language to their political prescriptions.

            It’s, er…a bit of a hot-button topic for me, as you can see. What can I say? I’m a reactionary. No offense meant to any person who thinks differently from me on these points, except to the extent that they are offended by my position itself. “Feminist carping” was overheated.

          • pannonica says:

            So in those pairings, if ‘boy’ matures to ‘guy’ yet ‘girl’ remains ‘girl’, what does that say about the analogies? Is it infantilizing or is it intended as a compliment to keeping one’s youthful appearance? I kind of think it’s the former.

          • CY Hollander says:

            In my opinion, it says something about the historical evolution of the language, but nothing about infantilization unless you’re looking for it. “Boy” matures to “guy”. “Girl [sense 1]” matures to “girl [sense 2]”. The fact that I use the same word for two stages of womanhood does not mean that I can’t tell them apart.

            A female pig is a “sow”, whereas there’s no single word (that I know of) for a female cat. By your logic, isn’t this rather “masculinizing” to cats? Fortunately, nobody complains about that one, or any of the myriad similar examples I might give, because no one has made it their business to look for ways to take offense on behalf of female cats.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Curious that you seem to have so much invested in continuing to use certain language regardless of how negatively it may affect other people, CY.

          • pannonica says:

            ‘Queen’ or ‘grimalkin’ are used.

            Citing that a dictionary lists several senses of a word doesn’t exonerate the word from connotations. That’s a bit backwards.

          • CY Hollander says:

            @Amy: Curious that you seem to have so much invested in continuing to use certain language regardless of how negatively it may affect other people, CY.

            Oh, I never denied that I have something invested in it—I said it was a hot-button topic for me, didn’t I? But are we really so different, you and I? Let me turn your words around at you: Curious that you’re so invested in how other people use language, regardless of how negatively it may affect them.

            Naturally, you don’t see this as a valid analogy, because you (like all of us) have certain starting assumptions that you never question. It’s ipso facto legitimate to be offended by someone’s language, right? Which means that all the weight of morality is on the side of taking offense, which means that it’s illegitimate (not to say tiresome) to defend using language that one could so easily avoid.

            Of course, if you start with the assumption that it’s legitimate to use the words you’ve always used to mean the things you’ve always meant, everything looks reversed. It becomes offensive when people insist that you must change your language, especially when they could so easily…not insist on it.

            Yes, from a certain standpoint, both of us are illogically passionate. How much do words really matter, in either direction? But they do matter, and I think this topic is all the more sensitive because communication is a two-way endeavor. What does a word really mean?—what I say or what you hear? There’s no good way to answer that question, unless we agree.

            @Pannonica, a “queen cat” the OED tells me, is “a female cat capable of or used for breeding“, so not quite the same. “Grimalkin” also is a bit different (for one thing, it’s hardly ever used), but at any rate, these details are probably beside the point.

            Citing that a dictionary lists several senses of a word doesn’t exonerate the word from connotations. That’s a bit backwards.

            Not as backwards as manufacturing connotations to suit an ideological crusade. I’ve already given you one example exactly the same sort of reasoning you employ to demonstrate the “infantilizing” connotation of “girl” would likewise demonstrate the “masculinizing” connotation of “cat”. And I mean exactly the same—stripped of semantics, the logical structure is identical: boy/guy::sow/boar; girl::cat; sex::species; age::sex.

          • pannonica says:

            In other words, a queen is an intact adult female cat, one not artificially altered, one not too old or young. That seems fairly expansive to me, unless you’re focussing unnaturally on capacity for breeding.

            I fail to discern a logical consistency across your listed relationships.

            (*I’ve restricted my comments mostly to the periphery because others have adequately addressed the larger issue.)

        • Huda says:

          In another (well earlier) life, I got myself a degree in psycholinguistics and became very interested in the way language shapes thought and vice versa. I studied connotations of abstract words across languages and how they interface with cultural values. It’s fair to say that the evidence for these interactions is pretty clear, and that images that words evoke can shape our thoughts, associations and expectations. So, if a culture is intent on evolving its social values in any arena, thinking about the language it uses is a reasonable endeavor.
          By the same token, I understand that language is the framework of our thoughts and when people ask you to monitor your language, it feels very intrusive, controlling and aggravating. The self-editing, since it’s not spontaneous, needs some buy-in, and the whole process goes better if it’s not confrontational.
          When I came to this country in my early 20’s, I thought of myself as a “girl” (in English) because I was young and unmarried. The first time my American boyfriend (now my husband) referred to me as a woman, I was surprised and mildly offended. He had to explain to me some of the connotations that Amy refers to. And it still took a lot of doing for me to adjust my own self-reference to the term. So, I understand the struggle. But I also admire this culture for constantly striving to enhance the respect accorded to people in many ways, including through language.

          • janie says:

            >The first time my American boyfriend (now my husband) referred to me as a woman, I was surprised and mildly offended.

            hah! this reminded me that when i went to england in 1978 (age 30), i once referred to the person behind the sales counter at stratford-on-avon as “the woman who helped me.” this was within earshot of her and she threw me a look that coulda killed. at that time (and in that place) in england, “woman” apparently still had the “strumpet” connotation. oops. so much for my early attempts at being pc… i was, instead, another culturally tone-deaf colonist!


          • CY Hollander says:

            Good post.

            Language evolves naturally, as each of us adjusts his perception of words and connotations to the perceptions of those around him. I have no problem with this sort of internal change; I even think it’s kind of a beautiful thing. It’s the (dare-I-say Orwellian?) attempts to force these changes externally that feel, as you say, intrusive, controlling, and aggravating.

            I see what you admire about “a culture intent on evolving its social values”, and I agree that liberalism has accomplished a lot of really valuable social change in the area of enhancing respect accorded to people. I won’t dismiss the possibility that language crusading is one front of a broad war that needs to be fought on many fronts in order to advance in all of them. On the other hand, there’s the countervailing notion that one has to pick his battles. In my humble opinion, the gains to be had by fighting this sort of fight are trivial at best, and far outweighed by the loss of bringing dissension and polemics into a place that had no real need for those.

  13. CY Hollander says:

    I finished with DArNS instead of DAMNS, and since I didn’t know the play MANON, I was ready to declare that crossing close to a Natick—but I hadn’t spotted the silent-letter element of the theme. That changes everything and makes me retrospectively much more pleased with this one.

  14. john farmer says:

    Grace Faraday: What’s your racket, handsome?
    Sgt. Jerry Wooters: I’m a bible salesman.
    Grace Faraday: Want to take me away from all this and make an honest woman out of me?
    Sgt. Jerry Wooters: No ma’am, I was just hoping to take you to bed.

    That exchange comes from last year’s Gangster Squad, with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as Faraday and Wooters. It’s a period film, set in 1949, and use of a term like “honest woman” is the kind of detail that reminds you of what life was like in the past. No one would accuse the filmmakers of endorsing the term as a way to think about women or marriage. Context matters.

    Same for crosswords. Use of the term in the puzzle doesn’t imply an endorsement. The “in an old expression” tag in the clue makes that clear. I don’t see the offense.

    Crosswords are about language, and language evolves. Sometimes use of a colorful term can remind us of how much language, and we, have changed.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      My primary objection was to the use of the word “girl” in the clue, John. Female children should not be getting married.

      • john farmer says:

        The objection wasn’t yours, Amy. It seemed to be Martin’s, so maybe I should have nested the comment in reply to his. (Deb had a bigger beef and maybe I could have posted it at Wordplay.)

        Re other discussions: I tend to use “girl” through high school age and “woman” for college age and beyond. But that doesn’t work for all contexts. We do need a better female equivalent for “guy” since “gal” seems a bit old-fashioned, and terms like “the boys” and “the girls” are not always referring to young folk. As I said, context matters.

        • Deb Amlen says:

          I naturally have a bigger beef than Amy, John, because as far as I know, she doesn’t eat any red meat at all.

          As far as the clue goes, I would have accepted “lady,” which implies adulthood and would not have repeated “woman.” But yes, this one did not hit my ears well.

          • CY Hollander says:

            “Lady” would have been a better choice, I agree.

          • john farmer says:

            Thanks for the reply, Deb. Just want to clarify one point: I was not defending use of “girl” in the clue (“lady” would have been better). I did defend “honest woman” as an answer. It doesn’t score high in entertainment value (as a comic’s joke should, to your point at Wordplay), but as an artifact of language and culture I think it’s a legit entry (with the clue tag it had) and worthy of interest to lovers of words.

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Personally, I find it incredibly tiresome when people defend their right to use language that demeans other people. I strive to have this site be a place where people are not besieged by the various forms of bias that hurt, minimize, or alienate them.

    People who say “I like to use language that offends some people” are not a protected class, mind you.

    • CY Hollander says:

      You’re begging the question here, Amy, that question being whether certain language “demeans other people”. It’s also hardly fair to attack a position but find it tiresome when someone defends it. However, in deference to you, I won’t pursue a debate. Can we still be friends? Non-enemies?

      People who say “I like to use language that offends some people” are not a protected class, mind you.

      Yes, everyone needs at least one class that isn’t protected, don’t they? How else does one carve out a positive self-identity? Respect everyone in your camp: it’s the one rule that nearly everyone can agree on, from Brahmins to Liberals. The more things change…

      • bananarchy says:

        If someone says that certain language demeans them, then that language demeans them. Nobody else gets to decide. That’s my rule, fwiw.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Thank you for that, bananarchy. Offline, someone complained to me about CY’s use of “perceived slights,” which suggests that he doesn’t believe the offenses actually exist. I am in your camp and try to avoid using problematic language once I learn that some people find it hurtful. Why go out of one’s way to be disrespectful to others?

          • CY Hollander says:

            I don’t mean that the slights don’t exist. They exist insofar as they’re perceived as slights—but at the same time I wanted to stress that they are not necessarily intended as such, which is also important. Communication is a two-way street, isn’t it? That’s what’s at the heart of this.

            It’s perfectly possible for me to use a word which, I see as entirely neutral, but you see as slighting. The message you received may have been a slight, while the message I shaped was not.

            Now, you might well turn around and be upset by, let’s call it the “second-level slight” of my disregarding your feelings about the language I use, regardless of what I mean by it, but that’s a separate matter. The original slight (the suggestion of infantilization that you—but not I—associate with “girl”) is, for want of a better way to put it, a matter of perception. That’s what I meant.

          • bananarchy says:

            Of course everyone is still free to choose what language they use, regardless of whether someone has stated that it offends them. One’s choice will depend on a lot of factors: their sense of whether the offended party is being over-sensitive, how much they care about hurting the offended party, etc. And it may still be interesting to debate the history, connotations, and potential for offense of said language. The entitlement thing is another issue altogether though. You are free to do and say as you please, but nobody is entitled to dictate how others ought to feel about or respond to things you do and say. It’s frustrating how often potentially interesting and enlightening discussions about language, meaning, etc. get derailed by entitled individuals who feel the need to defend their right to certain language and behaviour.

          • CY Hollander says:

            It’s frustrating how often potentially interesting and enlightening discussions about language, meaning, etc. get derailed

            I honestly do find this discussion potentially interesting and enlightening, the more so, the more emotion is drained out of it. Of course, the delicately circular problem is that we can’t talk about language without using language. In this case, I think the roadblock has been the talk of “entitlement”—as long as we share different views of the rights people are entitled to and the rights they ought to respect, it’s hard to productively use these words in a discussion.

            In fact, to generalize, now that I think about it more, I’d submit that in any discussion, the parts that are founded on mutually shared assumptions are “signal” whereas the parts based on contradictory—but unstated—assumptions are just noise.

            I would therefore propose that we table, for the moment, the question of entitlement, except to agree that everyone has the right to feel however he likes about anything, no one has the right to tell others how to feel, and this is all dandy until we are thrown into mutual interaction, at which point, we either have to agree on the rules, or just make the simplifying assumption that we do (and fume when the other fellow breaks them). Fair?

        • CY Hollander says:

          But what if I say (and I do—I’m not just being argumentative, I actually feel this way) that if someone says that prescribing the language that I have to use demeans me? Why does anyone else get to decide that?

          You probably see this as sophistry, but it’s not. You just have a certain system of—let’s call it “etiquette”—that, like any other system, has certain axioms (when two people disagree on a word’s meaning, the listener’s opinion prevails). It follows from your system that people should adapt the language they use to the sensibilities of others; it follows from mine that people should adapt their sensibilities to the language others use, and we can’t really debate our conclusions until we step outside the frameworks of both our systems.

          • bananarchy says:

            That would be a fair point were censorship the issue here. No one is prescribing or proscribing the language you can use. They’re telling you that they find it hurtful. You are free to say whatever you like, regardless of whether someone has stated that it upsets them. Entitlement is the issue here, not word choice. You are not entitled to dictate how others ought to feel about or respond to things you do and say.

          • CY Hollander says:

            As I said just now in a reply to you above, I think entitlement is the issue here, and word choice; specifically, the word choice of “entitlement”. I believe we have fundamentally different concepts of the rights people are entitled to expect/should respect, so we ought to set that word aside—or at least use it carefully—until we can agree on its meaning.

            For now, I can agree with this: You are not entitled to dictate how others ought to feel about or respond to things you do and say.

            In other words, it’s all right for you to take offense at the things I do and say and it’s all right for me to take offense at the things you do and say as long as we don’t take offense at each other’s taking offense. Make sense?

    • ahimsa says:

      Amy, I applaud your efforts. Thank you for speaking up on these topics. I would run out of both energy and patience long before you do.

      I completely agree with you on the issue of girl vs. woman.

      Also, regarding the phrase HONEST WOMAN, it may seem like a harmless, old-fashioned joke to many. But just read a little bit about the history of rape penalties (e.g., the woman had to be a virgin or “honest” for the act to even be considered rape, the rape of a married woman was punished more severely because she was seen as her husband’s property, rape by the husband was not even considered rape, etc.) and the humor will quickly die out.

      Sorry to be a downer, folks, but that’s what a little knowledge about rape culture will do. I could not enjoy the rest of the NYT puzzle very much after filling in that answer.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Thanks for your comments, ahimsa.

        HONORS CLASS would have fit that spot in the grid just fine. And plenty of other phrases with HONOR/HONEST exist with different letter counts. Surely there are other ISLAND possibilities besides ELLIS that would have allowed the silent-H answer to be a different length too. So the puzzle’s existence did not hinge on the availability of HONEST WOMAN at all.

    • Sarah says:

      I find this word “the” offensive! Everyone stop using it!

      In other words…SOMEONE is going to get offended by stuff no matter what. Some words will offend more people than others. What you want to do is use the words that provide a best possible outcome for yourself.

  16. Bencoe says:

    I find the assumption at the bottom of this discussion–girl is used where boy is not–to be doubtful at best. Boy is still used for young men, all the time–frat boy, rude boy, bad boy, fat boy, the boys are back in town. I don’t think it’s limited to women. Young women talk about cute boys, not men.

    • sbmanion says:

      I do not know if this is demeaning or appropriate–I have frankly not thought about it, but with the benefit of hindsight, I realize I rarely use “girls” when I tutor a group that contains mostly or even all girls. I refer to the group as “guys” as in “how are you guys doing today?”


      • Bencoe says:

        I think that’s a regional dialect thing. Some people use “you guys” the way southerners use “y’all”.

      • Gary R says:


        I teach at a midwestern university, and it seems to be common for the young women in my classes to refer to a group of women or a group of women and men as “guys.” When they speak about an individual young woman, they will most often use the term “girl” – I almost never hear them refer to a “woman” in the class.

        As others have noted, the language is constantly evolving. Maybe the college-age women of today have gotten past being demeaned (at least at this stage of their lives) by “girl.”

        As a white male in his late fifties, I’ve lived through enough versions of how I should describe Negroes, Afro-Americans, Blacks, African-Americans and now, more broadly “persons of color” (which has shocked me because I knew at a fairly early age that “colored” was demeaning) that it makes my head hurt to figure out what term(s) I can use to offend the minimum number of people!

  17. lemonade714 says:

    If one is aware that a part of the viewing audience will likely take offense at the use of a word or phrase, then it seems logical t to use such phrase perforce requires an intent to demean. It is not not enough to say, I do not intend to hurt you, if you know it likely will.

    • CY Hollander says:

      And if I tell you that I take offense at the words of one who says, “You are acting wrongly; please use another word”? Must it follow then that that person said it with intent to upset me? Surely not; you will say rather that this person feels that I ought not to be upset by his words; if I nonetheless am, he considers it his problem rather than mine. “Change your views and do not be upset”, he tells me, “or if you will not, then be upset, but I absolve my conscience of it.”

      Mutatis mutandis, the same train of thought can be followed from any other word or phrase.

      • CY Hollander says:

        *considers it my problem rather than his

      • Davis says:

        And if I tell you that I take offense at the words of one who says, “You are acting wrongly; please use another word”?

        You realize this is a silly false equivalence, right? “I don’t like being demeaned” is not at all the same as “I don’t like being called out for the language I used.”

        It’s really a question of whether you treat other people with respect. When someone tells me “I don’t like being called X–I find it demeaning and offensive,” I can either (a) avoid using the term X out of respect for this person’s feelings, because I understand that my use of language might be hurtful to another (even if I don’t consider it hurtful!), or (b) blithely continue to use term X, because taking someone else’s feelings into account takes effort.

        I try to choose (a) where I can–not just because (b) means I’ll stop getting invited to parties, but because I have some basic amount of empathy.

        • CY Hollander says:

          It’s not a false equivalence at all. Firstly, what difference does it make why someone is upset by the words you use? If you believe that you shouldn’t take care not to say anything that will upset someone, then you should take care not to say anything that will upset someone. Why does your version of “treating someone with respect” extend to what you call someone but not what you tell him to do?

          Secondly, the reason that it upsets me to be told “You can’t use this word” is that I do find it disrespectful and demeaning to be told that I should subordinate my language to the judgments of others. You think I oughtn’t find this disrespectful; I nonetheless do: how is this different from any other case where one person finds your words disrespectful or demeaning, though you don’t think he should?

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            I can’t help being reminded of the way racists insist that being called out as a racist is somehow a worse offense than being subjected to racism.

            You are finding it “demeaning” to be expected to not blithely offend people en masse? Tough crap. Civilized people who actually want to be respectful to other people do care about giving offense more than they care about their right to continue offending people.


          • CY Hollander says:

            You’re entirely missing my point, Amy. You’re welcome to say anything at all to me whether or not it makes me uncomfortable. That’s what I believe, after all: if the things you say bother me, it’s my problem to deal with.

            My point is that you’re the inconsistent one—you care how your words make others feel right up to the point where you don’t believe they have a legitimate reason to feel offended. Then you couldn’t care less. That’s just the approach you criticize when I espouse it.

            If you’d like me to stop responding, then stop responding first. It’s hardly fair to have the last word, then bar me from saying anything further. If you want to end a conversation, you end it by walking away.

            Or you can ban me from your blog, I suppose. That’s certainly your prerogative. I’m disappointed that this seems to have become so personal, though. I really have nothing against you, Amy; in fact, I like you and I like your blog. I have an opinion you don’t share and I’m willing to defend it as strongly as you’re willing to attack it. That doesn’t mean I’m a horrible person. Most people aren’t, really.

            Calling someone out as a racist is not a worse offense than racism, but the sheer intolerance that many liberals have for dissenting views has more in common with racism than they’d like to acknowledge. White supremacists are perfectly brotherly to their fellow whites, and liberals are all about respecting people who buy into their worldview—but when it comes to someone who’s not part of the group, suddenly respect goes out the window. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I usually end up feeling when I engage in a discussion like this.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Walk away *from my own blog*? Ha!

          • CY Hollander says:

            No, just from the conversation that you started on your own blog. If you want to end it.

            Look, it is your blog and your comment section, and if you want to use that power to stop me from replying, I can’t do anything about that, of course. So use it if you like. Otherwise, you’re not the only person who likes to respond when addressed.

          • Davis says:

            Firstly, what difference does it make why someone is upset by the words you use?

            Because sometimes when your words upset someone else, it’s a social signal that should warn you that you’re being a jerk if you persist. And other times, it means something else.

            If you believe that you shouldn’t take care not to say anything that will upset someone, then you should take care not to say anything that will upset someone.

            This is what we call a “straw man.” No one ever said “you shouldn’t [sic] take care not to say anything that will upset someone.” I suggested that you shouldn’t disrespect someone unnecessarily, particularly when it requires so little effort to be respectful.

            I do find it disrespectful and demeaning to be told that I should subordinate my language to the judgments of others.

            The problem with this attitude is that that, to some extent, you have to subordinate your behavior to certain socially expected rules if you want to participate in society. Ignore those rules too much, and you earn the label “asshole.” (Ignore them extensively, and you earn the label “sociopath.”)

  18. Steve Blais says:

    Thanks for the write-up Gareth!

    Keep your eyes peeled for my next puzzle. It contains no less than five inside jokes that only Canadians would understand (Martin Ashwood-Smith will get them), and a reference to Don Cherry ;)


  19. Martin says:

    As a constructor, I’d probably try to avoid phrases like “HONEST WOMAN” regardless of how it’s clued.


  20. Martin says:

    Why, because it sounds very odd (and vaguely sexist) to my ears. Anyway, just my opinion. Feel free to disagree. I was just saying whether I’d use it or not, nothing else.


  21. Gary R says:

    “I can’t help being reminded of the way racists insist that being called out as a racist is somehow a worse offense than being subjected to racism.

    You are finding it “demeaning” to be expected to not blithely offend people en masse? Tough crap. Civilized people who actually want to be respectful to other people do care about giving offense more than they care about their right to continue offending people.


    Amy – what a disappointing and intolerant response. CY has already acknowledged that his(or her) original “feminist carping” comment was “overheated.” Since then, all of his/her comments have been polite and fairly reasonable. But he/she continues to challenge your proclamations of what is acceptable language – and so you’ve concluded that she/he is happy to “offend people en masse?” Just who is it that has decided that “girl” or “honest woman” offends people en masse?

    And putting CY into the “racist” category based on this exchange strikes me as WAY out of line.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The “racist” thing is an analogy, not a name-calling.

    • CY Hollander says:

      Thanks for the support, Gary. I wish I knew a way to raise my views without raising hackles, but it’s difficult and I’m no good at it. Really, I’m consistent with my own views: I’m much better at not taking offense than at not giving it.

      • Bencoe says:

        Having the last word in an argument isn’t the same as winning it, you know. After the longest and most numerous posts ever on this blog, it might be wise to shut up when the moderator tells you to.

        • CY Hollander says:

          Having the last word in an argument isn’t the same as winning it, you know.

          Yet people always want it anyway. Why else do you feel the need to tell me to shut up, a day later?

  22. Kim McW says:

    Thank you, Amy, for all that you do on this blog, each and every day, and for going the extra mile today. Can’t quite believe that on a wordplay blog we’re having to explain that words have power, context, and consequences, independent of intent. #yesallwomen

  23. Judge Vic says:

    Uh, excuse me. I was looking for the hockey game …

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