Thursday, July 6, 2017

BEQ 12:11 (Adesina) 


Fireball 6:53 (Jenni) 


LAT 4:32 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:45 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 7.6.17 by Erik Agard

I didn’t see the theme of this puzzle until after I finished solving, even though it’s explained at 35a/37a:

  • 35a, BIRDS [There are two, as the expression goes, in each of 16- and 55-Across]. Well, I guess we should look at 16a and 55a:
    • 16a, MARTIN LAWRENCE [Will Smith’s co-star in 1995’s “Bad Boys”]. Indeed, MARTIN LAWRENCE contains the names of two birds: MARTIN and WREN.
    • 55a, STEPHEN HAWKING [Physicist who won a 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom]. STEPHEN HAWKING contains HEN and HAWK.
  • 37a, STONE [There’s one, as the expression goes, in 5- and 27-Down]. Let’s look at 5d and 27d:
    • 5d, SONY XPERIA [Line of Japanese smartphones]. SONY XPERIA contains the stone ONYX.
    • 27d, BAMBOO PALM [Tropical houseplant]. BAMBOO PALM contains OPAL. 

“The expression” referenced in 35a/37a is “killing two birds with one stone.” It’s a bit of a stretch to apply the verb “killing” here, but indeed, each of the entries containing one STONE intersects one of the entries containing two BIRDS: SONYXPERIA crosses MARTINLAWRENCE, and BAMBOOPALM crosses STEPHENHAWKING.

I tore through this one at the beginning, but then I stumbled at the finish. My guesses started off good: I plunked down RUM RAISIN for [Popular ice cream flavor] at 1d off of just the R, avoiding the equally plausible ROCKY ROAD. Conversely, at the end of my solve, with ?IB at 31d, I went with RIB for [Chest protector], which cleverly turned out to be BIB. I also struggled a bit in the SW, where Stumperish clues like [Stripe] for SORT and [Nursery item] for TREE abounded.

There were some real gems in the clues, a signature of Erik’s puzzles: I particularly liked [[Ask me what’s wrong]] for SIGH, [Figure whose wings melt in the sun] is a great misdirecting clue for SNOW ANGEL (not Icarus), and [Performance that requires a lot of upper body strength] for POLE DANCE. Plenty of really pretty long fill in this one too, especially for a 76-worder: besides the aforementioned SNOW ANGEL, RUM RAISIN, and POLE DANCE, there’s also ADOPT-A-PET and BEEF PATTY. KORN, UNTAG, and the conversational ARGH also make their NYT debuts today. I also see that Erik is, to no one’s surprise, experimenting with grid design, placing a triple-stack of black squares at the top of the first column. This is an interesting way to deal with the challenge of having 14-letter theme entries: the other option, which constrains the center of the grid much more, is to place them in the 4th and 12th rows rather than the 3rd and 13th rows.

An unusual and challenging Thursday offering. Until next week!

P.S. I have tomorrow’s (Friday’s) NYT puzzle, so be gentle, dear readers!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 108”  – Jenni’s writeup

Today’s puzzle is not particularly fiery. It does have some lively fill; I enjoyed it. I like this grid design. There’s one 13-letter entry crossing two 9-letter entries. Not too wide-open and not too closed-off. It was just right, Goldilocks. I also appreciated that most of the difficulty came from clever cluing rather than obscure answers.

The misdirection at 1a got me, even with the question mark. [Sites for log entries?] are not referring to sea captains or Starfleet captains. The answer is SAWMILLS.

I noticed that ALTER EGO showed up as [Trusted friend]. Didn’t we just have this recently? That’s not the meaning I think of – ALTER EGO is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, not Calvin and Hobbes.

Speaking of clever cluing:

FB 7/6, solution grid

  • 17a is the self-referential [Fireball]. Answer: LIVE WIRE.
  • 20a [One who isn’t a party person] is INDEPENDENT. Where I went to college, that also meant you didn’t purchase a meal plan or join an eating club. Independents did go to fewer parties – or maybe just smaller parties.
  • 34a [Writer with a poem that inspired an NFL team’s name] is trivia. I guess if I know it, I don’t consider it obscure. EDGAR ALLAN POE wrote the source material for the Baltimore Ravens. More football with 19a [Super Bowl MVP between Peyton and Santonio], and that’s ELI. Manning, of course.
  • Double Bob Hoskins! 8d [Bob Hoskins role of 1991] and 55a [1986 Bob Hoskins film] are SMEE and MONA LISA, respectively.
  • 44d is [“A tip that can take five strokes off anyone’s game,” according to Arnold Palmer]. The answer is ERASER, and I did not do the research to see if Arnie actually said that. I’ll take Peter’s word for it.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that an ARM WRESTLER may sometimes be called a “puller.”

David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Arriving” — Jim’s review

Fun re-parsing theme today. Instructions are at 62a: [Boundaries, and a hint to the puzzle’s starred answers], that is, DIVIDERS, or re-parsed as the imperative DIVIDE R’S.

Theme entries are standard words which feature a double-R. The word is split between the Rs and given a wacky clue.

WSJ – Thu, 7.6.17 – “Arriving” by David Alfred Bywaters

  • 17a [*Chair or stool, say?] REAR REST. Re-arrest. Cute answer, but really, how hard does your rear work that it needs a rest?
  • 26a [*Bellicose speech?] WAR RANT. Warrant. “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room!”
  • 28a [*Undercarriage rust?] CAR ROT. Carrot. I’ve seen many instances of CAR ROT over the years.
  • 39a [*Cause of some drunken brawls?] BAR RAGE. Barrage. Better than road rage, I suppose.
  • 48a [*Coat closet array?] FUR ROW. Furrow. I’m guessing this is not the closet of a PETA member.
  • 50a [*Bill from a kennel?] CUR RENT. Current. If the kennel considers your dog a cur, perhaps it’s time for some obedience training.

Cute, eh? I love a good re-parsing theme, and all of these seemed natural and humorous—a good selection of entries implemented well.

Our long fill consists of LEAKPROOF and HAIRPIECE. Or is that a LEAKPROOF HAIRPIECE? It’s joined by an ADVERSE ISRAELI.

Unfortunately, for the second day in a row, I’m going to have to award the Phelps DEATH STARE (see yesterday’s review) to an entry. Today’s recipient is GOOK (55a, [Viscous stuff]). I wanted GOOP, but that gave me SPIRT at 53d. I have only ever heard the word GOOK as an ethnic slur, so I was quite surprised to see it. When I google the word, the first page and half of hits are all with respect to this disparaging definition.

And I counted three verb/preposition entries in the grid (PRAY TO, LIVE TO, SWAT AT) plus an AS DEEP which all bring down the fun quotient a bit.

Mostly, the clues felt straightforward, more so than usual for a Thursday, perhaps because of the wacky theme clues. A couple clues rubbed me the wrong way though:

  • 4a [Domestic disturbance]. TIFF. To me, this felt like it was making light of domestic abuse.
  • 6d [Punch ingredients?]. FISTS. Cute clue, but I don’t think you can have more than one fist in a punch. Technically, I think it’s one first per punch.

Really though, those are mostly nits. I quite enjoyed the puzzle and its wordplay.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Backup Singers”—Ade’s write-up

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword, “Backup Singers,” 07.06.17

Good day, crossword lovers! Ben is off doing some neato things in Boston for the National Puzzlers League convention, so I hope you don’t mind me (Ade) filling in this week in talking about BEQ’s puzzle. It’s always a great feeling when you take a stab at what you might think the theme/gimmick of the grid will be before putting in a letter and then finding out that you’re exactly on-point. That’s what happened with this puzzle today, as all of the theme entries contained a string of letters which, when read backwards, constitutes the name of a famous singer. The circles in each theme entry highlighted those letters/musicians.

  • PICKING NITS (18A: [Criticizing trivial faults]) – Sting.
  • MANELESS ZEBRA (24A: [Black-and-white equine lacking some hair]) – Selena. Jennifer Lopez’s portrayal of Selena in the eponymous movie might still be my favorite role that J-Lo has played in a movie.
  • KHLOÉ KARDASHIAN (39A: [Socialite dating Tristan Thompson]) – Drake. Who in the heck is Tristan Thompson, you ask? He’s a professional basketball player, currently a teammate of LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
  • POPPYSEED ROLL (48A: [Kaiser’s alternative]) – Lorde. From the “Sports also inspires great music” category: Did you know that Lorde’s biggest musical hit to date, “Royals,” was titled as such in part because the singer once saw a photo in National Geographic of Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame infielder George Brett and was fascinated by the “Royals” cursive font across the uniform?! It’s a true story! Look it up!
  • CHISELED ABS (58A: [Some six packs]) – Adele.

Not only did the theme have a musical connection, a couple non-theme entries also had a musical flavor, with CARLY (36D: [Singer _____ Rae Jepsen]) and ELLA both intersecting with the 15-word theme entry across the middle of the grid (27D: [First lady of scat]). There’s also ERMA as well (43A: [Singing sister of Aretha Franklin]). I once covered a kids’ day event before the start of the US Open tennis tournament, and the featured musical act was Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City, and when Jepsen sang her hit single, “Call Me Maybe,” I swear that I couldn’t get that song out of my head for about three months afterward. Yes, that was a nightmare! I’m much more disciplined now, so I can talk about this without having a earworm relapse.

As per usual with BEQ grids, the longer entries that did not pertain to the theme were high quality, especially the cluing and entry of SLEEP WITH (35D: [Make a personal connection?]). The only real hangup I had when solving was putting in “slew” for SCAD, as the theme that entry crossed, Poppyseed Roll, took a longer for me to get than it should have (41D: [Large amount]). As a kid, I definitely played a lot of Nintendo, but I did not play The Legend of ZELDA at all (26D: [Nintendo princess]). Was too busy with the sports games, Super Mario Bros. and Contra. Here’s hoping you all know by now that YOLO stands for “You only live once,” an acronym and expression that caught fire about a couple of years back (57A: [Daredevil’s initialism]). “YO-LO!!!” was something I heard way too many times, especially since I work with teenagers on a regular basis. But it’s cute as well, so let the young lads have it!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ANTS (12D: [Line at a picnic, maybe]) – What was one of the biggest storylines that emerged at Wimbledon yesterday? Flying ANTS! Yes, flying ants. I won’t be mixed up for an entomologist any time soon, and I hope one who is better at talking about this can clear up any confusion or mislabeling, but a number of these flying ants, as described by the BBC, made its way onto the many courts during the third day of Wimbledon, disrupting many matches. According to the report, this phenomenon occurs when the queen leaves her nest and starts a new colony. Hmm! Here’s a short video of the disruption at the All England Club.

Thank you so much once again for the time, and I hope to see you all again on here sometime soon!

Take care!


Pawel Fludzinski’s Los Anageles Times crossword—Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I had a rather ambivalent up-and-down solving experience. I liked the intrigue created by the vague theme clues. When I realised it was “just” states overlapping by two letters I was a touch disappointed. The extra wrinkle that they are bordering in reality too is nice, but using up one of your four theme slots to explain that is less than elegant…

Stop reinforcing the pseudoscientific marketing of ACAIBERRY‘s as a “superfood” based on antioxidant properties that are biologically inconsequential. I feel like I’ve said this before…

Anyone forget ANTA and RYA were still used in crosswords? Given they’re in areas already replete with wonky stuff, that’s kind of pushing things!

2.5 Stars

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46 Responses to Thursday, July 6, 2017

  1. e.a. says:

    GOOP, SPIRO, VIN, SONG. took me 5 seconds to edit out the slur in the WSJ.

    • pannonica says:


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I wish every constructor and every editor shared our stance that derogatory words should be removed from the grid (regardless of whether there is a non-slur clue that can be used). They are very seldom the only possible choice for filling a particular grid.

      • Sarah says:

        7-year olds use the word, and I never knew it had an offensive meaning until now. SPIRO/VIN is not an improvement, in my eyes.

        OREO is also a slur, but I don’t see that answer leaving crosswords anytime soon.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Ask anyone of Asian or Pacific islander descent if they find the word jarring. (The answer will be yes.) Ask even a white person if they know the word better as a slur or as “goop,” and the answer will probably also be yes. Or, like Jim did, Google it. (You’re Canadian. Guess what? Even a search at says you are wildly out of step here. The slur predominates.

          Now go Google Oreo, and see what meaning predominates. Because I am helpful, I did that for you: It’s the cookie. And the racially tinged “oreo” isn’t a slur that applies to every single member of multiple ethnic groups, so it’s a bad analogy here.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Part of a whopper: instead of BEEFPATTY, I plunked down BigFatlie…

    Too bad MARTIN isn’t part of a word or doesn’t span two words as the other hidden words do.

    Juxtapositions I really liked: RUM RAISIN/SPARE TIRE (yeah…) and POLE DANCE/SNOW ANGEL

  3. Howard B says:

    Dont quite understand the EBAY clue in the Times. That crossing the Sony brand really crushed me. Very original theme!

    • sps says:

      You raise a paddle with a number on it when you’re bidding at an auction, something eBay replaced with CLICKS.

  4. RAD2626 says:

    WSJ. I was just oblivious and left GOOp in. Really liked the wordplay and given the theme, . the clue, Begin, e.g., was worth the price of admission. Really nice puzzle.

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    LAT – I enjoyed the theme, and most of the execution, but I found BASSI crossing SOPRANOS a bit inconsistent. Question to our opera buffs: I realize the lengths would no longer work, but shouldn’t it be either bassi/soprani or basses/sopranos?

  6. Laura B says:

    Very very refreshing and a relief (and I hope the beginning of a new paradigm? can one only hope?) to see POLE DANCE clued as “Performance that requires a lot of upper body strength” — ie from the subjective point of view of the dancer, rather than from the objectifying point of view of the male gaze.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      YES. And exactly what I would expect from e a. I’m very glad the PTB at the NYT didn’t change it to something vile.

  7. Ishmael says:

    Reading Jim’s review just led to an “aha!” moment for me regarding the title.

    Arriving = Ar / riving = “r” – splitting

    Very nice!

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I’m glad it helped you, because writing the review didn’t help me to see that. I meant to mention my befuddlement, but forgot to. Thanks for pointing it out.

  8. Ethan says:

    I had the same experience as a lot of people, having never heard of the XPERIA, and having _RAY because of the RIB/BIB thing. I still don’t think “chest protector” is a very good clue for BIB, because a bib doesn’t protect your chest, it protects your shirt. I don’t know of anyone who talks about the “chest” of their shirt. Also I’ve only ever seen auctions in TV and movies and didn’t know those things were called paddles. I assumed that the answer was going to be something like PONG.

    I also didn’t know what the “expression” was supposed to be until I came here, so unfortunately the puzzle sailed over my head today.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I had RIB and never heard of XPERIA, but eventually changed to BIB after pondering all the options for the crossings there. Oof.

  9. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Trying to implement “Killing two birds with one stone” may be a stretch, but BOY, is that a beautiful grid. Especially with six kickass non-theme long entries.

    And the theme! First you have to find two phrases that contain two birds each (no small feat, that), and of course they have to be symmetrical. Then you have to find two crossing “stone” phrases that cross the first themers in exactly the right place, AND are symmetrical with each other! (And are interesting on top of that!) Wow!

    Then, we get the gorgeous long fill, which is just gravy. All in all, a beautiful bit of construction.

    As I write this, there are six 1- and 1.5-star ratings. Seriously? A toddler makes a 1-star puzzle. This is not that. And if you can’t see the merits of a grid just because you’re mad at it, then I would suggest taking a breather before submitting your rating.

    • David L says:

      Jim, I saw your comment only after I posted mine, below. Raving about the clever construction is fine, but most solvers, I guess, don’t care much how ingenious the puzzle is. We care about whether it’s a good and satisfying puzzle to solve. This one wasn’t, IMO, mainly because of what I say below.

      I don’t give star ratings to puzzles but I can why some people might rate this WTF, so to speak.

      • e.a. says:

        yeah it seems like a lot of people had 1-star experiences so the ratings are justified imo

        (thank you for the kind words, JP)

  10. David L says:

    I was stuck in the middle for a long time with RIB until it occurred to me that it could be BIB, and then I figured out the EBAY clue.

    I really don’t understand the theme idea here. The long answers have one STONE and two BIRDS in them respectively, which is all very nice, but “as the expression goes” in the clues makes no sense to me. Even if the stone intersecting a bird is meant to invoke ‘killing’ in some cryptic way, then each stone only kills one bird and the other is unharmed.

    In short, I don’t get it.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Yes, I too was a big befuddled as to how that worked. Also had “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” circling around in my head, what with the two birds in each of those long Acrosses.

  11. JohnH says:

    I liked the WSJ theme and was impressed that it had so many smooth theme entries.

    I’ve been working Club72 puzzles since Amy pointed them out. I believe I’m on my seventh (this Tuesday’s). I figured I’d get into the groove, but still so far they’re incredibly hard for me, both in getting a foothold and in completing. It’s almost like we’re speaking a different language. For now, on this one I’m stuck on the top of the large SW corner (except for the French word, which was a gimme).

  12. CD says:

    I don’t expect everyone to agree with this, but I wish there were fewer meat-as-food entries in crosswords. Truthfully, an entry like BEEFPATTY feels insensitive to me as a vegan solver. I don’t mind sports clues, or poetry clues, or other topics in which I don’t have expertise or particular interest. I understand that some people enjoy those things. But meat consumption is in a different category. It’s physically repulsive for me to think about, and there is all kinds of evidence in support of avoiding meat as a humane and ecological decision. Moreover, meat-as-food references (and particularly the constructor’s use of BEEFPATTY) is potentially offensive to Hindus and others for whom cows are not to be eaten.

    I guess I don’t see why it’s important that meat-as-food references remain fair game in the crossword. This puzzle was spoiled for me by that entry. Your mileage may vary but that is my reaction.

  13. Ethan says:

    One thing I was wondering about: why were ESP and ATOM clued the way they were? Both of those words are perfectly good common nouns with lots of room for clever cluing, yet ESP is clued as the foreign-language abbreviation of a country and ATOM as a pretty contrived phrase. I thought maybe ATOMIC or EXTRA appeared somewhere else in the grid and it was necessary to avoid a dupe, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. (“Extra” does appear in the clue for SPARE TIRE but it could easily be edited out.)

  14. Lise says:

    I had BRA for “chest protector”; all kinds of wrong. ;) Then I thought no, BIB couldn’t be right, had to be RIB, but then ErAY appeared so I fixed it, but I didn’t understand about the paddles, not having been to an auction and seeing ones on TV where people just touched their nose or something.

    But EBAY it was, and the puzzle was a thing of beauty. Thanks, e.a.!

  15. Nene says:

    Polite objections;
    –POLEDANCE objectifies women and is a darker side of society.

    –Though it is a common phrase, “killing” two birds with one stone is not a pleasant thought exacerbated by the cross with BEEF PATTY.

    –SONYXPERIA is too obscure for such a long answer.

    –There are four acronyms all crossing in the northwest!

  16. Martin says:

    I’m sure we’ve had it out here over gook before.

    In conversation, it is not offensive at all because it’s pronounced differently than the slur. It rhymes with “book.” It’s a cross between “goo” (or “goop”) and “guck,” and I use it for the stuff that collects on my stove’s grease trap, or the worse stuff that has to be cleaned off engine parts. In fact, I’m pretty sure the gearheads I’ve hung out with use it by preference. For those of us who’ve always used the word, and said it a lot more than read it, it’s a little odd to see people offended by it based on a mispronunciation.

    Amy (and others) dislike “chink in the armor,” but this one seems one step removed because you have to say it wrong to be bothered.

    • Ben Tausig says:

      Western civilization must be defended

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      DUDE: THE CROSSWORD ISN’T OUT LOUD. And if you fill in a word by the crossings and then see GOOK glaring at you from the grid, the clue is rather beside the point.

      I really, really wish you weren’t so invested in sticking up for this word, Martin. It’s unbecoming.

      • Ben Tausig says:

        If people find a word offensive (in print or in speech), then it’s offensive. That’s, plainly and descriptively, how language works. The usage distinction that you make isn’t substantive; offense crosses those boundaries. See, e.g., the marketing of rapeseed oil as CANOLA, and many comparable examples.

        OF COURSE, if people find a word offensive, others may continue using it. There aren’t laws here. Gearheads aren’t beholden to Southeast Asian people, nor to those sensitive to the term’s valences. They can ignore them and remain unaffected.

        However, at this point, you really can’t separate language from power. (You’re a smart guy; I’ll assume you’ve read Foucault, Stuart Hall, Judith Butler, et al. — college humanities 101 stuff). Gearheads don’t get to use the words they want to use because language is a wide-open, ungoverned field. They get to use it because they’re mostly white men, because no one tells them they can’t.

        There’s a great scene in the first season of Atlanta where the Keith Stanfield character is at a shooting range. Next to him are a couple of white guys shooting at the silhouette of a person (either a “thug” or a terrorist). Stanfield’s character confronts them about this, expressing discomfort that they would shoot at a human target. Instead of listening to him, the men in turn confront Stanfield, who himself is shooting at a silhouette of a dog. They win the argument, and continue shooting at the human target, while Stanfield is forced to stop shooting at the dog.

        Dogs are not inherently more valuable than people, and in the scene, the men don’t protect the representation of dogs because of the immanent value of dogs. They defend their representation because, in fact, they value dogs more than they value black and brown people. That valuation is made clear in this (quite realistic) representational encounter.

        Language works the same way. Power and fairness/sensitivity are on totally separate planes. Your post defends power, not fairness or sensitivity.

        • Martin says:

          Once again, gearheads (and I), don’t say the offensive word. They say a word that rhymes with “book” (not “duke”) that I doubt would offend anyone within earshot. I think that’s somewhat significant.

          If I thought this were not about fairness, I’d feel very differently. It’s only a game, so if an editor wants to ban words that also mean (or spell) slurs, I’m not going to shed any tears. But when good words get censored from the language because somebody decides to use it as a slur, I see it as a win for the offenders. And yes, granting them power.

          Single-purpose offensive words are easy to deal with. Good words with bad senses are a slippery slope.

          But again, I’m not defending anyone’s right to call our wives gooks — permission for “wide-open” vocabulary. This is NOT about condoning offensive speech. It’s a plea for considering context. And yes, banning “rapeseed” but not “rapini” or “broccoli di rabe” is an illustration of the slippery slope. But “Canola” is not only a bowdlerization; it describes a strain of the plant that has been bred for a better edible-oil profile. I would hope that, “Canola is a type of rape” wouldn’t be seen as being accepting of the crime that is rape.

          I get Amy’s argument that there’s no context in a grid. The clue defines the context but the filled grid by itself loses that information. We can assume the worst when we view that fill, or we can “see” each word within the context of its clue. Our disagreement comes down to this. On everything else, we’re in accord.

          • Ben Tausig says:

            We may agree to disagree, but bear in mind that in practice, you win. There is no mechanism for what you call censorship, and what I call decency.

            The “thug” stays up, the dog comes down.

          • e.a. says:

            i see it as a win for the offenders when you treat being offended as a choice, and when you treat the offensiveness of a word as an objective quantity that you get to decide over the objections of others. it’s great that you can hold out for the context of the clue before passing judgment, but not everyone has that luxury.

            and again, GOOP is right there, one letter away, both as a fill option and as a situational descriptor. what is so “good” about this cosmically infintesimal unit of language, what is so dire about its hypothetical extinction, that you see its censorship as a worse outcome than actual people being aggressed by it?

          • Martin says:


            I’m not sure if you’re asking my objection to the extinction of “gook” in fill, or in English. In fill, I’ve already said that if an editor wants to avoid it, even with a benign clue, I’m okay with that. That’s very different than saying the word clued — gook rhymes with book — should be avoided in conversation because when spelled it looks like a slur. That strikes me as silly. Avoid using it in print? Fine.

            But if we’re talking about expunging gook-rhymes-with-book from the language, along with gook-rhymes-with-duke, my answer is, “what about chink, slit, ape, colored, crow, coon, nip, spade, spook, monkey, yellow, red, flip?” Expunge all of those, in any context? And these are only (a few) ethnic slurs. Words that can sting when so intended are a huge set, a set that is expanding every day. Avoiding “SNOWFLAKE” in fill is one thing, but are we suggesting we always use “ice crystal” from here on?

            So my tl;dr answer is, “do with the fill as you wish, but hacking away at the language is anathema.”

          • e.a. says:

            martin, you seem determined to slippery-slope me to death while slipping right past answering my actual question. fine. we don’t have to have an honest conversation about what’s at stake here if you’re not ready to.

            meanwhile, do not fix your fingers to type “coon” to me ever again, in any context. thanks in advance for your understanding.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Martin, you are either obtuse or willfully disingenuous. Surely you realize that “spade” is used much more often in non-slur contexts—the shovel, symbol on a playing card, Kate Spade, David Spade, Sam Spade. GOOK is not like that. Nor is the C-word you offended Erik (and me, and others) with—just Google it and the offensive meaning appears in at least 4 of the first 10 search results.

            Quit pretending that language exists on some higher plane where it doesn’t assault people. It does. And if the K-word picks up some other innocuous meaning, I wager that you would still find it jarring to encounter in a crossword.

  17. Martin says:

    I see it as defending the falsely accused. I dislike the slur that looks the same. My wife really hates it, having been called it. (When I mentioned this discussion about G-O-O-K, she asked, “Us or crud?” She’s fine with crud.)

    I find it offensive to ban a word that is perfectly fine except for an unrelated meaning that’s offensive. It’s nuts that the Wordplay comment system bars words that appear in the day’s grid, like TITS or DICK. It’s puerile to make a scene about some songbirds or someone’s name. It’s the same concept, even when applied to words that can be hateful. This is an important principle for me. I hate ostracizing anyone or anything unfairly.

    The different pronunciations just make this even more unfair in my opinion.

    I’m trying to understand “unbecoming” as anything but ad hominem. But that’s certainly not your style, Amy, so I apologize for not getting that part of your argument.

  18. Matthew G. says:

    I agree re: ALTER EGO. I’ve seen it clued with reference to friendship several times, and that just does not fit any real-word usage I’ve ever seen for the term.

    Otherwise I liked the Fireball, although it was noticeably easier than most of Peter’s puzzles.

    • pannonica says:

      alter ego
      noun al·ter ego ˌȯl-tər-ˈē-(ˌ)gō also -ˈe-(ˌ)gō

      : a second self or different version of oneself: such as
      a : a trusted friend
      b : the opposite side of a personality Clark Kent and his alter ego Superman
      c : counterpart (3) a fictional character that is the author’s alter ego

      I believe the original sense has been eclipsed by the post-comic-book notion (as well as the earlier Jekyll/Hyde).

      • Matthew G. says:

        Interesting. If it’s in the dictionary, it’s legit, although I still don’t ever recall seeing that usage outside of crosswords.

        • pannonica says:

          Some notable alter egos of this variety:

          • Prince Hal / Falstaff
          • Gilgamesh / Enkidu
          • Achilles / Patroklos

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