Monday, December 7, 2020

BEQ 4:50 (Jenni) 


LAT 2:23 (Stella) 


NYT 2:45(Jenni) 


The New Yorker 18:58 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


WSJ 3:29 (Jim P) 


Barbara Lin’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s review

I enjoyed this theme! It’s fresh and fun and still Monday-accessible. All the theme answers play on differences between American English and British English. I’m sure the Brits would say theirs is simply “English.”

New York Times, December 7, 2020, #1207, Barbara Lin, solution grid

  • 17a [Traveled by subway?] WENT DOWN THE TUBE.
  • 27a [“Would you call the elevator for me?”] is CAN I GET A LIFT?
  • 48a [“Hand me the flashlight?”] is PASS THE TORCH.
  • 63a [Use French fries as legal tender?] is CASH IN ONES CHIPS. That one made me giggle.

All the phrases are solidly in the (American) language and all the clues are amusing. Nice!

A few other things:

  • 3d [Amish cousin] is MENNONITE, which is a slam-dunk gimme for anyone who lives within 100 miles of me. We’re not in what is usually called “Amish country,” but there are lots of Mennonites here and when I make home visits in the western part of my territory, I pass Amish farms and have to follow Amish buggys down the road. WAZE does not account for horse-drawn conveyances when it calculates arrival times.
  • 26d [Ending of seven Asian countries’ names] is STAN. Let’s retire that definition in favor of the current one referencing maniacal fans.
  • I can’t be the only one who dropped in COIN for 27d [Item in a purse]. Turns out it’s COMB.
  • I guess people move to the Caymans for TAX RELIEF. I think of it more as a DODGE, myself.
  • I just looked at the keypad on my phone, and the 0 button doesn’t say OPER. It has a + sign under the number. Speaking of definitions that should be retired….

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that XIS follow nus. Hey, I took Latin.

Matt McKinley’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 12/7/20 by Matt McKinley

Los Angeles Times 12/7/20 by Matt McKinley

Oh boy. I don’t even know where to start about this puzzle. I can tell you right now I’m not going to say anything about the quality of the fill or how well executed the theme is, because the theme is, as 37A [What the answers to starred clues are (their creator turned 85 this month)] states, WOODY ALLEN FILMS.

We’re cool with Woody Allen now? I’m not. “Innocent until proven guilty” applies in a court of law, not to how individuals deal with each other. Thus, it’s on you and me, and the constructor and the editors, to decide whether someone accused of sexually abusing a child, and who most definitely had an affair with his less-than-half-his-age stepdaughter back in the day, is worthy not only of mention in a crossword puzzle, but of centering an entire theme around. And then everyone should act accordingly.

I, for one, think the allegations are credible enough that I found it incredibly distasteful to solve this puzzle.

Maybe you still like his movies. (I’m not much of a movie nerd; I’ve seen two or three of them and wasn’t a fan.) I can understand that; watch them at home if you like. But pay him tribute in a major newspaper puzzle? WHY?

The theme of this puzzle is so easy to understand that I’m not even going to bother to explain the themers like I usually do. What is not easy to understand is why this puzzle ran. Not my favorite. At all.

Chris Gross & Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Shake It Up”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Synonyms of TWIST AND SHOUT are found in pairs of well-known phrases. The revealer at 35a is clued [1964 Beatles hit, and a hint to the circled letters in this puzzle].

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Shake It Up” · Chris Gross & Zhouqin Burnikel · Mon., 12.7.20

  • 17a. [Laundry room fastener] CLOTHESPIN. SPIN can be a synonym of TWIST.
  • 25a. [City and its surrounding region] METRO AREA. ROAR can be a synonym of SHOUT.
  • 51a. [Bombers and fighters] WAR PLANES. WARP = TWIST.
  • 61a. [American fashion designer] PERRY ELLIS. YELL = SHOUT.

Nothing too fancy, but it works. However, it would be more elegant if there was some ostensible reason that synonyms of TWIST and SHOUT should be hiding in other phrases.

Solid long fill in FRONT ROW, UMBRELLA, MARTINI, and SAFE BET. And the grid is loaded with nice 6s like EAT OUT, PANERA, “YES I AM,” and DWARFS, etc.

It being Monday, cluing was very straightforward, allowing me to clock in at what is a pretty speedy time for me. I did like [Chain that makes a lot of bread] for PANERA and [It goes up when it comes down] for UMBRELLA.

A decent Monday theme and a quick solve. 3.5 stars.

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

The New Yorker crossword solution • Natan Last • Monday, December 7, 2020

This was a tough one! Possibly my slowest New Yorker ever? The long entries took me *forever*, so it was hard to gain a foothold anywhere. I’m not sure if this is a reflection of the puzzle, or my undercaffeination when solving, or a general decline in my solving skills (aging!), but the challenge was mostly enjoyable regardless. I like hard puzzles, even when I’m bad at them (which I why I played in the Stormy division of Boswords despite DNFing several puzzles this season). I think there were a couple of crosses that I’d call less-than-fair that elevated the difficulty today, and the cluing was often quite tricky, but the mental exercise of finally cracking this puzzle was still darn satisfying.

The long entries today were SAN LUIS OBISPO, RENT CONTROLLED, EVANGELICALISM, and GENDER STUDIES. Of these, the clue on RENT CONTROLLED was very clever and very hard for me [Resistant to hiking, in a way], and I’m not a huge fan of EVANGELICALISM as a word. I think I want it to be “EVANGEL…ISM”, although I gather they have different meanings, in that one is a “movement.” ABOLISH ICE (which I *know* I have seen as a revealer recently and cannot remember where) and HATEMONGER are also solid entries.

A few more things:

  • The tricky crosses for me today were HEINE/EVA, EVA/CHICANED, and RETRORSE/PEN. I’m glad to have learned these things, but the E was 100% a guess for me at the intersection of HEINE/EVA.
  • Favorite clues:
    • [Property takers, usually] for ONELS
    • [Resistant to hiking, in a way] for RENT CONTROLLED (once it finally clicked, that is)
  • Fill I could live without: TBAR, PHAT

Overall, several stars for a satisfying solve! See you Wednesday for a (hopefully) somewhat easier puzzle.

Gary Larson’s Universal crossword, “Football Action” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/7/20 • Mon • Larson • “Football Action” • solution • 20201207

Formula is: plural noun phrases RECAST (18d) as American football position + present indicative verb.

  • 17a. [Football player gets ahead in line?] CENTER CUTS.
  • 28a. [Football player sings loudly?] SAFETY BELTS.
  • 44a. [Football player fights in a ring?] TACKLE BOXES.
  • 59a. [Football player complains bitterly?] GUARD RAILS.

Okay, theme works.

  • 5d [Villainous looks] SNEERS, 16a [Look at creepily] OGLE, 51d [Rude look] STARE.
  • 38d [Kind of fork] SALAD. A salad is a kind of fork? News to me.
  • 45d [2006 film about a dragon rider] ERAGON. I presume the sequels are called Fragon and Gragon.
  • 47d [Look for a body part in this clue’s answer, say] SEARCH. Sort of a weird hybrid meta clue. There’s an ARCH in there.
  • 10a [Breakfast place’s meat and potatoes] HASH. More literally than figuratively, I’d say. But who knows.
  • 21a [Caught on a nail, say] SNAGGED. ouch
  • 62a [It may be 0.7 millimeters wide] LEAD. I believe this is the preferred mechanical pencil thickness for some competitive crossword solvers?
  • 63a [Largest member of the dolphin family] ORCA. I’ve seen some sources use the caveat ‘extant’ but I’m not (casually) aware of any larger prehistoric species. Did find some interesting information on a newly-described organism, Ankylorhiza tiedmani, so there’s that.

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1320), Themeless Monday — Jenni’s review

We know some of you have missed the reviews of Brendan’s puzzles. Thanks for the push. I’m serious – I’d stopped doing Brendan’s Monday puzzles and they are so good. I’m glad I did this one. I make no promises about the future, but I have time today, so here we go.

There was a lot I liked in this puzzle! A few of the entries I enjoyed:

Brendan Emmett Quigley, #1320, “Themeless Monday #599,” December 7, 2020, solution grid

  • ONE CAN ASSUME for [“In all likelihood”].
  • I WANT OUT for [Quitter’s phrase].
  • The amazing Cannonball ADDERLEY.
  • OKAY GUY for [“Sure thing there, pal”].
  • One of my favorite figure skaters ever, KATARINA Witt.

I also loved 35a [Author of a best-seller that used only 50 different words]. I was expecting some odd Modernist writer I’d never heard of. Nope. It’s SEUSS. Hah.

I’m not sure about ELIST, defined as [Tool for some Patreon users]. I subscribe to several Patreons and haven’t heard the term. Maybe it’s something the creators use?

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle and was absolutely delighted to learn: that the FBI spent over two years studying the lyrics to “Louie, Louie.” I hope they moved on to “Wooly Bully.”

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77 Responses to Monday, December 7, 2020

  1. Silverskiesdean says:

    Your critique of Monday’s puzzle is extremely distasteful and this is probably not the proper venue for you to vent your feelings about Mr. Allen’s sexual proclivities which is what you did. Most of the write-up was about his life life, a small percentage was about the fact that you only saw about 2-3 of his 80 or so writing credits and pretty much nothing about the writer of the puzzle itself. Yes, Mr. Allen is enough of a public figure to merit being a figure in a “major newspaper”.
    Possibly, next time recuse yourself from doing the write-up because we read these to see what other people think of the puzzles authorship, and not to hear you vent your spleen.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      This is my site and I read Stella’s write-up prior to its publication. What do you know? Turns out this IS the venue for Stella’s comments. Heck, the first themer is about a 42-year-old man with a 17-year-old girlfriend, so mention of the director’s real-life inappropriate relationship with his wife’s teenage daughter is right on topic. It’s gross and we’re tired of a deeply problematic man being lionized because some people like his movies.

    • Ethan says:

      Even if you put aside all personal feelings about the man, it’s hard to see why this theme got published in a venue like the LAT. The guy has cranked out like *five dozen* movies. Golly, at least four of them have one-word titles that can be clued as common English words. So what?

    • Get out of here with this.

    • JohnH says:

      I don’t work this paper’s puzzles, and I frankly don’t know what to think. I loved those early Woody Allen movies, before his got so darned routine, we can’t know what really happened, I understand that his marriage has gone well, I do believe strongly in a presumption of innocence as an American value, and I’m aware from the personal experience of others around me as well as from reading that false memories do exist, sometimes precipitated by clashes between separating parents. Yet I also want to stick up for #MeToo values and women’s rights every chance I get.

      So why then am I commenting at all? Bottom line is that I think Stella is thoroughly entitled to review as she pleases. Sure, if you like, it’s not strictly about the puzzle, but we had that discussion of how politics enters the reviews last week.

  2. Harry says:

    Stella, before you judge him, read his book. It presents a very different and very credible account that may challenge your preconceptions. Sometimes people really are innocent of these kinds of charges. And the affair you criticize has led to a 30-year-long marriage that by all accounts is a happy one. Not saying that he is, because I just don’t know, but he makes a very plausible case — backed by evidence. And people closer to the evidence have agreed.

    • austin says:

      Wow, I expected some version of “It’s just a crossword, who cares?”

      I did not expect full on apologia. Shameful.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I once read an interview with Allen, in which he discussed his marriage to Soon-Yi largely in terms of how he can “teach” her and what she does for him. I, for one, find a relationship based on “I’m the mature and knowledgeable one, you can learn so much from me” to be gross.

  3. Matt M. says:

    I strongly agree with Stella and find the decision to publish this puzzle incomprehensible.

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    Woody Allen married Soon-Yi Previn. Soon-Yi is his child’s sister. Now, watch it: if you tell me that’s not true, you are saying my daughter is not actually my daughter and adoptive relationships aren’t real families. And Soon-Yi was a teenager when their sexual relationship started. So even if you don’t believe the other allegations (which I do), we know he is a predator who places his desires above the well-being of his own child. That’s more than enough for me to be appalled at that puzzle.

  5. Ethan says:

    Wait, why do we have to “retire” -stan as a country suffix, or at least avoid it in cluing? I’m not a Persian scholar, but I’ve never heard anything about this suffix being problematic. At least it’s no more problematic than the figure of Eminem, who originated the obsessive stalker Stan that was suggested as a replacement clue.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Because it’s a partial, which is at best inelegant and at worst just plain annoying.

      Agree that Eminem is problematic, but the word itself now has a life totally separate from him. It’s a word, full stop, not a partial, and that’s always better.

      • Ethan says:

        I respectfully disagree with the hard line you’re drawing. Prefixes and suffixes are not the same things as partials, for one thing. More importantly, if you’re submitting a puzzle to the NYT today, there’s a good chance that by the time your puzzle is published, STAN as a slang word will be as dated as PHAT or RAD. However, I would be willing to wager that Pakistan will still be called Pakistan.

        • austin says:

          lol the nyt has never shied away from using dated slang

          • Ethan says:

            And that’s good?

            I’m not saying *not* to clue STAN as “obsessive fan,” just pushing back against the narrative presented in the review that “the old -STAN is dead, long live the new STAN!”

            • Jenni Levy says:

              Prefixes and suffixes are not words. They are parts of words – or partials. You are not going to convince me that part of a word is a better entry than an actual word, especially when it can also be clued as a name.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              I actually rate prefixes and suffixes as worse than multi-word partials on the Scowl-o-Meter.

              Raise your hand if you’ve tried playing NEATO in a Scrabble-type game and had it rejected as not a word. And yet it’s been used in no fewer than 16 newspaper crosswords in the past year!

              PHAT and RAD are both decades old, while slang STAN has been used heavily for maybe 5 years at this point. A puzzle being submitted now will *not* be published so many years from now that slang STAN will feel dated. (It will, however, feel too newfangled for many older/less online solvers.)

      • marciem says:

        yet we still get “ssr” or “ssrs” frequently with no complaints that I’ve seen. Maybe I missed that.

    • pannonica says:

      I think it should be clued more often as tennis pro Wawrinka, purely because I like seeing that oddly-lettered name.

    • Zulema says:

      I would just like to throw in to the STAN discussion that some years ago I took an introductory Polish class at Hunter and found out that the name for the USA in Polish ended in STAN. Its meaning is something like “state” or “country,” obviously. I wish I could remember what it was, but even my notes have been lost while moving house.

      • pannonica says:

        Google translate says Stany Zjednoczone.

      • JohnH says:

        Fascinating, thanks. (I had an Uncle Stan.) FWIW, the suffix doesn’t bother me in a puzzle, and I just put PHAT down to one of those expressions no one I know would ever have used, but maybe someone else might. ECO- as prefix is starting to grate on me, but not because it’s a prefix. It’s just become so common in puzzles as to be crosswordese. Maybe someone should do a puzzle entirely of ECO, ENO, ELO, ONO, and the like.

  6. Jenni Levy says:

    I love TNY puzzles and I love Natan’s puzzles anywhere. Most of today’s was a delight to solve – except for RETROSE. I’m a doctor. I examine spines on a regular basis and write descriptions of what I see. I have never seen that word before; had to get it from crossings. A Google search tells me it’s applied more often to plants than to people. SERIOUSLY obscure.

  7. Trent Evans says:

    The back and forth comments here in the discussion are proof enough that Stella is absolutely correct. Crosswords are supposed to be a respite from the ugly realities of our world. This is not even a close call. I wouldn’t post a puzzle like this on my silly little blog much less put it in a major newspaper where it will be syndicated around the country and the world. I have never posted a negative comment about a puzzle on this site. But this was such a breathtaking exercise of poor judgment that I had to add my voice. Thank you Stella.

  8. Cynthia says:

    Note to Pannonica re: the Universal 47d – also EAR.

  9. marciem says:

    I had a difficult time even finishing LAT, I’m that disgusted with that man. I won’t watch his movies, I won’t read his self-promoting book. I’m glad he has made one of his victims happy (Soon-Yi), someone deserves some good… but it isn’t HIM. Read Ronan Farrow’s (his son’s) 2016 article in Hollywood Reporter. (it explains why he was never “convicted of a crime”.)

    Even many his movie-star apologists can only say “I won’t get into what is basically a family matter” or “None of my business” … wha???

  10. Brian says:

    One more person 100% in favor of Stella’s remarks.

  11. Stella captured my distaste for this puzzle perfectly. No matter one’s personal view on a public figure accused of some heinous act, I will never understand the decision to publish such a person’s name in a crossword puzzle knowing fully well the pain it will evoke in many solvers. And, yes, the LAT editor did know about that in advance of running this puzzle, because the *assistant editor* said so:

    When a solver picks up a crossword puzzle, they are entrusting the constructor and editor to provide them with, at the very least, a nonnegative experience. There is little to no context offered to the solver beforehand — maybe just a title — so the burden of empathy rests on the creators of the puzzle, to think carefully about how the entries and clues will resonate with all members of the solvership as they uncover words in the grid. It is patently unempathetic to glorify or celebrate a person whose name will elicit pain and/or discomfort in a large contingent of solvers. And it is especially indefensible to do so when the assistant editor says she voiced such concerns “strenuously.”

    If the goal of empathetic editing is not motivation enough to keep problematic names and references out of crossword puzzles (and it damn well should be), what about this: I’m a constructor who has previously published with the LA Times, and I’m now distrusting of the editorial judgment at the LAT to the extent that I’ll refrain from engaging with the venue for the foreseeable future. I’d personally find it unconscientious to submit work to a venue whose publishing principles are fundamentally at odds with mine. Besides, the crossword industry is rapidly growing and there are many other publications with more socially conscious editorial standards.

  12. JohnH says:

    I always dread Natan Last puzzles in TNY, and I expected the worst when this one fell on a Monday. But I have to say this was a clever one, tough as can be for more than the usual run of proper names. Since I have little in common with his and Rachel’s usual interests, this one even went faster than usual for me.

    PEN / Faulkner was actually a gimme for me, and the hard part of the cross with the obscure RETRORSE was rather with IRA and OTTO, but the word looked ever so plausible. Similarly, coming up with PALLS at top took worth but felt like a nice solve, enough to allow me to get PANKO and LUO, both kinda out there (and I started with a different alternative to “Inc.”). Interesting deceptive cluing along the bottom, like “Property takers” as students taking a course in property. (I first tried fitting in “women’s” rather than GENDER STUDIES.) So while I circled an awful lot of clues, as usual with him, as things I wasn’t sure I needed to know, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

  13. Chris says:

    Is the issue here that Woody Allen was mentioned at all, or that he was featured so prominently? In other words, would using ALLEN as fill (clued as [Director Woody]) also be distasteful to a large section of the crossword community, or is the fact that this puzzle is a tribute to Woody Allen the main issue?

    If any mention of Woody Allen is problematic, then should we also get rid of references to Dr. Dre as well for his history of domestic abuse?

    I realize this may sound like I’m trolling, but I swear I’m being sincere. I myself think it’s perfectly reasonable to say, “well, we can live with a stray mention of Woody Allen, but for crying out loud, don’t dedicate a puzzle to him.” I also think it’s reasonable to say, “we can’t live with any reference to Woody Allen or Dr. Dre in a puzzle.” I think it’s less reasonable to say, “I’m fine with references to Dr. Dre but I don’t want references to Woody Allen.” (But maybe there’s something about the allegations that make DRE palatable but ALLEN distasteful?)

    Those are just my opinions and I’d love to hear what others think, especially those who’ve already commented above.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I didn’t know about Dre and I don’t have time to look it up now. I do know that Black men are more likely to be charged and that famous Black men are more likely to have that information made public than white men and famous white men, so I don’t know that there’s really an equivalent standard to apply. And as I said above, even if you discount Ronan Farrow’s allegations (which I don’t), Allen’s conduct with Soon-Yi is horrifying. I’ve also never seen a tribute crossword to Dr. Dre (which doesn’t mean there hasn’t been one). This isn’t just a passing mention – it’s a love letter to the man in a major publication.

      If I ruled the world, we’d never see Roman Polanski or Mel Gibson in a puzzle again. And I do object to the presence of Michael Jackson when I’m reviewing.

      • Chris says:

        Thanks for the response, Jenni. I made that post mostly because I’m an amateur constructor myself and was hoping to take the temperature of the crossworld on whether using ALLEN (or DRE or any of a number of famous people with serious allegations against them) in a puzzle is taboo. Where I disagree with you is making a distinction based on the race of the alleged bad actor, but I’d rather focus on where we agree.

        I will admit that I personally am not sensitive to the concerns Stella and others have raised here, but that’s partly why I chimed in and followed the comments with interest today. You, Sid, and others have made good points. In the future, I think I will try to construct puzzles that steer clear of ALLEN, DRE, et al. (at least, when clued to mean the offending parties) – not out of a desire to keep my puzzle bland and controversy-free, but because I want to be sensitive to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and the like.

        I’d still love to hear what anyone else thinks of the questions raised in my first post. Thanks again for responding.

        • Matthew says:

          Several puzzle editors do not accept DRE clued in relation to Dr. Dre, though editors at other outlets seem to have no problem with it.

      • Harry says:

        wow, so better not have any references to Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump, or Biden, since a sizable part of the U.S. population finds one or another of them “distasteful.”

        • Are you doing basically the crossword equivalent of the Mister Gotcha guy?

          • Harry says:

            No but I am saying that if puzzle constructors have to avoid anything that a group of people will find distasteful, you can forget about having proper nouns in puzzles. War is distasteful, and much more so than Woody Allen or Dr. Dre, and many of us have lost relatives in wars. So should there never be any mention of a war from the last century or 2?

            • I mean, at least WAR can get clues about the card game or the band or the Edwin Starr song if one really needs it, but even so, I’ve rarely if ever seen objections to a whole puzzle just for including the word WAR by itself. If I’d heard a bunch of complaints from solvers for that, though, then I’d absolutely take it seriously to avoid it later. And if a puzzle made references to specific war criminals who committed egregious crimes, like Nazis or leaders who tried to commit genocide, then yeah, it’s a good idea to avoid those.

              I find a lot of these “but if we can’t have Woody Allen in puzzles what about references to Bad Person X or Y or war huh???”-style takes to be pointless sophistry. Stella said very well why Woody Allen shouldn’t be the basis for an entire puzzle; neither she nor anyone else has to answer for every other potential Bad Guy for her complaint to be valid. You can either accept that and be sensitive to her concerns, or not. You ignore it at your own peril and at the expense of hurting others.

            • Chris says:

              This is in response to Evan’s comment from 5:28 pm:

              Evan, I found the second half of your comment very frustrating. I don’t think it’s “pointless sophistry” to ask where to draw the line. How do you expect constructors to avoid situations like this in the future? Isn’t it better to ask the community where to draw the line than to just guess and risk offending a big swath of solvers?

              Everyone talks about the crossword community being very welcoming and accepting, but that hasn’t been my experience (mostly on Twitter and Rex Parker). I realize no one cares but it’s just been disappointing for me.

            • Chris:

              I wasn’t including your initial comment as part of my criticism. I took yours as a question asked in good faith — I too have asked similar questions about polarizing figures to others and of myself when building puzzles, and yes, I’d rather that constructors who are genuinely concerned about trying to make a puzzle uplifting rather than depressing to ask rather than not if they aren’t sure.

              That wasn’t how I read Harry’s comment at all, though. His comment struck me as a flippant way of dismissing Jenni’s and Stella’s points about avoiding references to sexual predators in puzzles because, oh well, there are other bad guys who show up in puzzles all the time, therefore they should just shut up about it. That’s a point made in bad faith and *that* is what I characterize as pointless sophistry. In fact that’s a rather generous interpretation, since guys telling women not to complain about sexual predators in puzzles is a much worse look than that.

            • J says:

              Chris: Your comment resonated with me. As someone who has also heard about how “welcoming” the “crossword community” is, I’ve felt this kind of frustration many times. Seems like this group can be awfully nasty for how “welcoming” they claim to be. Particularly on Twitter, which is a tool for bringing out the worst in people (this is certainly not exclusive to crossword people). In general I’ve found that communities which advertise “warmness” are exactly the opposite, and crossword people are especially prone to partisan politics/worldviews. If you’re a super-liberal/progressive/communist, you’ll probably feel welcome. If you’re anything to the right of a socialist, however, you’ll feel the iciness quickly.

    • Ethan says:

      I’ve never been behind that idea that using a name in a puzzle is equivalent to “honoring” them. That said, there’s no reason to use a name that is viscerally upsetting to many solvers if you can help it. And there are just not many situations where a constructor would need to mention Woody Allen or his movies in a crossword puzzle. There are dozens of other famous people with either the given name or surname ALLEN. The actors he’s worked with are usually recognizable from non-Allen films. Occasionally you’ll see ZELIG in a grid, and I guess it’s hard to clue that without referring to Allen, but an obscurish 1983 movie is pretty crusty fill, anyway.

      Going out and making (and publishing) an entire puzzle about Woody Allen is just another level of insensitivity and foolhardiness. Plus, as I’ve said above, it would be a weak theme even if Woody Allen were a saint.

      DRE shows up a lot because it’s a handy bit of crossword glue and until recently there was almost no other way to clue it. Fortunately, DRE is the protagonist of the sitcom Black-ish, which will surely live on in syndication. Problem solved.

      • marciem says:

        I was thinking of that (Black-ish), but Dre’s portrayer (Anthony Anderson) also has a problematic history of allegations of violence and rape :( , so does that count? Again, no charges filed, “innocent until proven guilty”. Michael Jackson DID have charges filed, and was acquitted.. Just sayin’ . Then again, so was OJ (acquitted).

        I do think there is a difference between dedicating a whole puzzle theme to a “problematic” person, and occasional dropping in of names to make puzzle-fill work.

        It isn’t a simple issue, obviously.

        Hope we don’t see a puzzle dedicated to Miramax Movies/Weinstein ugh.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          MarcieM, did you notice that every man you mentioned in paragraph 1 is Black? Something to be mindful of. Louis C.K. was never on trial but there’s no question he’s done very gross things. Jeffrey Epstein and all his buddies. Kevin Spacey. Various other white men in film, TV, music, and the public eye have also transgressed in various ways.

          I blame the media and the overarching structure of white supremacy for making it so easy to think of men of color who have done bad things. It’s much easier to skate through life without consequences for your wrongdoing if you’re wealthy and white.

  14. CFXK says:

    On to a sightly less controversial matter….

    WSJ 8D: a RUPEE is a paper note; an Indian coin is a PAISA

  15. CFXK says:

    I’d love to hear a similar degree of outrage rage whenever Michael Jackson shows up in a crossword. His name and his songs appear not infrequently in various puzzles, yet I hear nary a peep when they do so (except from me!).

  16. Juliana says:

    I wish I could go through and <3 all the thoughtful critiques of and responses to the Woody Allen puzzle from Stella and others in the community. This thoughtfulness is exactly what was lacking from the decision to run this puzzle. Why is someone who doesn’t want to think critically about puzzles in charge of publishing them?

  17. Karen says:

    BEQ: Thank you Jenni!! All the discussion above and not one word of thanks and appreciation to you for reviewing BEQ’s Monday. Why a delight to see it blogged. I agree with you about today’s puzzle. It was excellent and refreshing clues as always. Hoping for a repeat performance from you! (although I don’t know how you have the time to do all you do here and work)!

    • marciem says:

      Let me loudly second that emotion!! I’ve missed reviews of some of the BEQ’s, and really appreciate Jenni for doing this.

      Who knew that Green Eggs only used 50 words? NOT I! as many times as I read it to my children. I was guessing my kids favorite first books, either Hop on Pop or Red Fish/Blue Fish until I looked it up.. :) .

    • Kelly Clark says:

      Let me third it! I always enjoy BEQ’s work but today’s is fantastic! That clue for FBI was amazing — who knew? But it did bring back memories of my Mom telling my older sister she couldn’t play her “Louie, Louie” record in the house…it wasn’t until years later that I realized why. LOL, and the lyrics are completely benign! (Aren’t they?)

      • marciem says:

        I remember Louie Louie at it’s hottest, and I remember the FBI investigating it… LOL. I do believe that most teenagers buying the record thought it was filthy and that was the appeal. Now why the FBI was interested, I don’t know. Why they didn’t ask the song-writer, I don’t know.

        Yes, it is very benign.

  18. Jenni Levy says:

    Once again I notice that the people criticizing Stella’s review are suggesting that she ruined their fun by inappropriately publishing her sociopolitical views in a discussion of crosswords. You all repeatedly whine about that apparently without irony. Do you not realize that Stella is concerned about precisely the same thing – that her enjoyment of a crossword was ruined by the content? Do you realize it and just not care because your entertainment is sacrosanct and hers is irrelevant? Far be it from me to suggest that you don’t see the equivalence because you think women should shut up and stay in our place. You’d *never* do that, would you? Boys? Anyone? Bueller?

  19. pseudonym says:

    ‘This was a tough one!”

    A trivia quiz in a box will do that to you. And Last is apparently incapable of fashioning a difficult puzzle otherwise.

  20. PJ says:

    I hope Joan Macon has checked the site today.

  21. R says:

    Weird day here. On the NYT, Amy prefers cluing STAN with a reference to a violently abusive man as opposed to places where brown people live, but Stella’s against building a theme around a credibly accused child abuser. I’m on board with the latter, but I still don’t get the former.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      STAN as slang has a life beyond Eminem. He’s just the etymology.

      One notes that Chris Brown gets a lot more flak for being abusive than Eminem has. Whiteness has its privileges.

  22. Gerard says:

    Jenni, I enjoyed the NYT theme today too – and your review (and other contributions).

    As an EXPAT in Europe for most of the past two decades, I particularly enjoyed the Easter Egg in 16A. :)

    Happy Monday

  23. Roy Leban says:

    I am generally not a big fan of attacking themes. I really didn’t like it when my Triple Crown theme (2015) was attacked. If you don’t like a theme no matter the puzzle, move on.

    But this isn’t that case. There are some subjects so distasteful that they shouldn’t be used in puzzles. Our job as constructors is to entertain. Yes, I’m aware that one could argue that the subject’s job is also to entertain. That’s irrelevant. It’s also irrelevant whether he is legally guilty or not — his proclivities are clear and they should not be encouraged or accepted. Highlighting (honoring) him in a puzzle effectively does that. And that’s not entertainment.

    I do understand the constructor not seeing the problem and even Rich not seeing the problem. But when Patti objected, why wasn’t she listened to? I hope Rich learns from this.

    The whole thing makes me sad.

  24. Zulema says:

    I know it’s very late but the NYT crossword was particularly well done, as I think Jenni already said, but I would point out one aspect of the Britishisms in the puzzle. They were not only put in as substitutes for Americanisms, but the phrases they were in turned out to have completely different meanings in American usage. It was truly well done!

  25. Joan Macon says:

    Oh, PJ, have I ever! It’s the most reaction to a LAT that I can remember! I read ever word but I’m not a fan of Woody Allen’s and I have never seen one of his movies, so I can’t join in on that section, but I am really pleased with this proof that the LAT is being read regularly! I hope you don’t think I am impatient: I try not to be and I’m a big fan of Amy’s.

    • PJ says:

      I don’t think you’re impatient. When I saw the space devoted to the LAT you immediately came to mind. I was a fan of Allen’s in the 70s and 80s. Manhattan did creep me out but he followed it with some nice films. Now I can’t watch any of his films.

  26. I sent Rich Norris an email earlier this week voicing my objections to the Dec. 7 LAT puzzle. I’ve gotten his permission to post his response.

    Thanks for your feedback on our Woody Allen films theme. I’m very sorry to hear that this puzzle affected you the way it did. I’ve heard from a few other people who share your feelings, and I expressed the same sentiment to them.

    Our puzzles go through multiple levels of review, testing, revision, and fact-checking before they are finalized for print. In the case of this puzzle, those steps were all taken with little incident–although there was one person who mentioned the allegations against Mr. Allen. Another said that those allegations were unproven, and no one else raised the issue after that. I admit that if I had this to do over again, I would probably not use the puzzle, especially in view of how polarizing Mr. Allen and his films have evidently become. I can also assure you that in the future, I and the people I work with will be more mindful of such information should it arise when a puzzle is being vetted.

    Thanks again for your sensitive and helpful letter.


    • Charles Montpetit says:

      Belated thanks for letting us in on this, Evan. If that’s not too indiscreet, I’d be curious to read YOUR message to Rich Norris, since he refers to it as sensitive and helpful.

      On another note, I’m surprised that no one has referenced Caleb Madison’s own tribute puzzle about Woody Allen movies, which was published in the NYT and reviewed here on December 1st, 2010 (, with Amy admonishing us “Let’s not get into the ‘Do we think Woody Allen is icky personally’”. Can’t help but wonder if all the people who now criticize the LAT editor feel about Will Shortz for doing THE EXACT SAME THING, 18 years after Dylan Farrow’s accusation.

      • Charles Montpetit says:

        Oops: I meant “wonder how”, not “wonder if”. Sorry about that.

        • jj says:

          Thanks for sharing this. I teared up a little bit reading the 2010 post and the comments. It was a glimpse into a better time, when discourse was at a much more palatable, sane level. Re-reading the 2020 blog post about the same puzzle is a snap back into the harsh reality of today.

          So what’s changed? Weirdly, nothing about the Allen story has changed over the last ten years. Sure, there have been re-assertions of the same claims as well as re-assertions from the same people that defend Allen. But no new evidence has come to light. Certainly no new charges. The legal case against Allen – which was deemed too weak in 1992 by multiple legal authorities – has not changed one iota in the years since 2010 and now, much less 1992 and now.

          So it’s the culture at large that’s changed, some for the good, some for the bad. The idea that a tribute puzzle about a famous person can’t be published is ludicrous, in my opinion, but I can’t say the kind of reaction stated many times by many people at varied levels of furor surprises me either. We live in a time of authoritarianism, from both the right and the left. Of the two flavors it’s the liberal-left authoritarianism that truly shocks me, as it seems more novel and antithetical to that side’s nature, at least in the US. I for one wouldn’t be sad to return to the liberalism of 2010, where people are treated as individuals and are encouraged to come up with their own individual opinions rather than the forcible Manichean herding into groups, the heavy-handed approach fraught with a rather puritanic moralistic worldview that purposefully divides people. But I can’t say that I’m optimistic that that kind of liberalism will return any time soon. So I shed a tear about that, wipe it off my face, and move on, hopefully better steeled to react to the next hour’s outrage.

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