“Marie Kelly”‘s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Play It Cool”—”Raul Ellaray”‘s review
Before I get to the write-up, I want to inform listeners who may not know: “Marie Kelly” is a pseudonym of Wall Street Journal crossword editor Mike Shenk (it’s an anagram for REALLY MIKE). In past posts, I’ve strikethrough-formatted “Marie Kelly,” and added Mike Shenk’s byline. But people have told me they didn’t know why I was doing this, and I’d like to clear that up. Mr Shenk, like several other editors, regularly publishes under (
predominantly) female pseudonyms; the Fiend’s Jim P. and Nate, who cover most of the weekly WSJ puzzles, make sure to note these, and a blogger unrelated to the Fiend has cataloged most of them. I’ve been told that — since Mr Shenk constructs many of the puzzles that the WSJ publishes — the pseudonyms are a way of introducing variety into the byline. But why? Why not just claim authorship? Plenty of constructors write most of the puzzles for certain venues.
My perspective: When male constructors publish under female pseudonyms — no matter how clever the anagram, no matter how nice and kind a person might be otherwise, no matter if zero harm was intended — it compromises the integrity of the constructor community, deceives solvers (
some of whom are angry when they learn of the deception), and may undermine efforts by people who are doing the hard work to make this community more diverse and more welcoming. I see an unfamiliar female-sounding byline in the WSJ — and I’m immediately suspicious. Should I be amplifying a new woman constructor and celebrating her achievement? Or is it just another pseudonym? Using female bylines might make the community seem more inclusive, but it does nothing to welcome (and may even discourage) new talent. I bring this up not as a personal attack, nor to cast aspersions on anyone’s motives, but in hope that the crossword world — constructors, editors, solvers, bloggers, commenters, podcasters, tweeters — is strong enough that we can have civil, public conversations about what we value, about how to welcome diverse voices and perspectives, and about how to make ourselves a better and more inclusive community.
Oh right, the puzzle! That’s why you’re here.
We have a winter holiday — ok, Christmas, let’s not mince
meat words — -themed puzzle, what with ELF and TOYS and Maureen O’HARA of Miracle on 34th Street. And this, here:
[44a: Seasonal song (and a hint to finding the contest answer): NOEL
If you take this as a direction, you can go through the grid, eliminating the letters EL from entries that have them:
ELF RELOST ELY TEL HEELS NOEL WEL ELMAN — and there we have our “seasonal song.”
As someone who feels rather alienated by the overwhelming cataclysm that is mainstream American Christmas culture, I try hard to achieve that seasonal spirit of tolerance, just like [20a: “Keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine” speaker]: SCROOGE. I have to admit, though, that the seasonal songs I tend to like are somewhat more emotionally complicated.