Nuevo Laredo store / SUN 7-18-10 / Explorer who claimed Louisiana for France / Novy Russian literary magazine / Sharpie alternatives

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Constructor: Robert W. Harris

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "CRITICAL PERIODS" — common two-word phrases are clued as if the first two letters of the second word were initials

Word of the Day: TIENDA (100A: Nuevo Laredo store) —

n.1.In Cuba, Mexico, etc., a booth, stall, or shop where merchandise is sold. (
• • •

Not much to say about this one. Pretty cute idea. Some of the theme answers work quite well. EXCESSIVE T.A. RIFFS is the most inventive, and STRANGE O.R. DEAL is the funniest, by far. The others—they're fine. Otherwise, the grid is a cinch. Good fill, but perhaps a little too easy to get through today. TIENDA is a first, for me anyway. Luckily, I *never even saw it* since, as I said, the grid was so easy; lots of stuff just fell into place via crosses that were never in doubt. It is worth saying, though, that the grid is really very clean and pretty overall, even with ad hoc inventions like PRE-SPLIT (86A: Like some English muffins). I'll take that over something ugly and arcane, or a rarely used abbrev., any day.

Here's something to mull over—the good taste (or "JEWFRO") question arises again today (see this puzzle for the recent occurrence of JEWFRO in the NYT puzzle). I bring this up not to claim offendedness, or to stir up controversy, but to ask a sincere question about when and how to refer to (allegedly or manifestly) bad things in a puzzle. Sometimes people (including myself) talk as if the line between good and bad taste were crystal clear, yet the more I think about it, the fuzzier it gets. I mean, JEWFRO simply isn't pejorative, but it's obvious how someone who had never heard it before would assume it was. Honestly, it *sounds* pejorative. Naming a physical trait after an ethnicity—dicey. Since "JEW" has certainly been used as a pejorative epithet, it's an understandably loaded word. Now, in today's puzzle, much less opportunity for being put off, but I was curious about the clues on both DER (13D: ___ Fuehrer's Face" (1942 Disney short)) and TREATABLE (80D: Like diabetes). Apparently, Hitler and diabetes *can* be in the puzzle *if* they are being made fun of or their potency is being undermined. You may be interested to know that neither HITLER (or FUEHRER) nor DIABETES has ever (in database memory) appeared in an NYT grid. [correction: two FUHRERs (without first "E"), from 2001 and 1997]. In fact, the words aren't in's database either (and it covers a lot more regularly published puzzles than just the NYT). So we live in this odd situation where we are happy (apparently) to be reminded of the existence of murderous tyrants and widespread, increasing, potentially lethal diseases ... just don't put them in the grid, please. That would be ... what? Too much? But ... they're in the clues. So they're there. Right in front of us. If the point is not to disturb the fragile populace with unpleasantness, then I have to ask what "Hitler" and "diabetes" are doing in the clues. "It's OK, they splat Hitler's face with a tomato! It's OK, it's TREATABLE! Yay." There's something schizophrenic / childish about this attitude. And yet ... tone does matter, and the puzzle is a diversion / entertainment, so why not keep things light? I think I'm just struck by the double standard. In the clues, OK, but in the grid, no. If you're making fun / being hopeful, OK, but if you're serious (or, in the case of diabetes, somewhat more realistic about its impact on public health and the costs thereof), no no no. Discuss. Or don't.

I remember the first time I heard the word "KITING" (113A: Using fraudulently altered checks). I thought it was an ethnic slur ("Jewish people write bad checks?!?!?!"). Then I realized that the ethnic slur has two "K"s, not one. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, "KITING," "meaning 'write a fictitious check' (1839, Amer.Eng.) is from 1805 phrase fly a kite "raise money by issuing commercial paper on nonexistent funds."

Theme answers:
  • 23A: 234, as of July 4, 2010? (ACCEPTED U.S. AGE)
  • 32A: Workers in a global peace organization? (THE U.N. EMPLOYED)
  • 47A: What gumshoes charge in the City of Bridges? (PITTSBURGH P.I. RATE)
  • 62A: Symmetrical power conductor for appliances? (BILATERAL A.C. CORD)
  • 83A: Too much guitar work by a professor's helper? (EXCESSIVE T.A. RIFFS)
  • 94A: "Pay in cash and your second surgery is half-price"? (STRANGE O.R. DEAL)
  • 108A: Typical termite in a California city? (COMMON L.A. BORER)

  • 1A: Ready for publication (EDITED) — This NW area was the only part of the puzzle that gave me any trouble. This word ... I just couldn't read "Ready" as anything but a verb, so even when I had EDIT-, I couldn't see how EDITED could be right. Then I unpacked my adjectives.

[Blossom Dearie rules!]
  • 26A: 1950 noir film ("D.O.A.") — noir film in three letters pretty much Has to be this.
  • 41A: Remove from a talent show, maybe (GONG) — THE talent show ... of my youth.

  • 42A: Come under criticism (TAKE FLAK) — wonderful, colorful phrase; perhaps my favorite non-theme answer of the day.
  • 59A: Drinker's problem (DTs) — Everything I know about SOTS I learned from crosswords, including the DTs.
  • 60A: Word that comes from the Greek for "indivisible" (ATOM) — I did not know that.
  • 77A: Any singer of "Hotel California" (EAGLE) — I was thinking DRUNK. Have I ever told you how mysteriously popular this song was on jukeboxes in Edinburgh circa 1989?
  • 114A: Sharpie alternatives (FLAIRS) — Does FLAIR make the fat permanent markers too. I thought they just made smaller pens. Anyway, I got this almost instantly, so the clue worked.
  • 15D: Explorer who claimed Louisiana for France (LASALLE) — I know him only as the eponym of a university. At least I assume that's whom the university's named after.
  • 24D: General dir. of Sal Paradise's return trip on "On the Road" (ENE) — possibly the most elaborate dir. clue ever. If you've gotta have SSE or NNW, or the like, why not liven it up?
  • 73D: 1967 Dionne Warwick hit ("ALFIE") — What's it all about ...? Dionne singing Burt is something close to pop perfection.

  • 94A: Steps that a farmer might take (STILE) — another word I'm pretty sure I learned from crosswords. Rural life was far from my childhood experience. Or vice versa.
  • 109D: Novy ___, Russian literary magazine (MIR) — this clue suggests an awareness that the puzzle was too easy and needed toughening up. Strangely, I saw right through this one. There's no way they're gonna expect me to know a Russian literary magazine (!?), so it must be a familiar Russian word ... in three letters ... MIR (like the space station). Bingo.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


George NYC 12:40 AM  

Liked this. Had trouble in the SW with PRESPLIT, STRANGEORDEAL and TIENDA. Oh, and TINAS, PENDANTS and ELEGANCE. In other words, I was cruising along and fell off a cliff.
But a fun Sunday.

George NYC 12:42 AM  

PS: Pittsburgh = City of Bridges? Who knew?

TerenceS 1:18 AM  

Now it's my turn to get all Parkeresque! I'm amazed that Rex didn't unload on "TYE", "ERSE", or "AITS." Puh-leeze. It's painful to fill in a puzzle, and feel like I need to press-fit some set of letters that could plausibly be a word into place.

D_Blackwell 1:29 AM  

I had many of the same thoughts and took similar logical side-paths and detours while thinking. I was surprised, though pleased, to see the DER and TREATABLE clues. I would be okay with putting the inferred words in the grid however, and don't know how solvers that don't want the words in the grid would fare at justifying that they would be okay in the clues. In a debate, I'd want to be on the other side:)) - though I would enjoy seeing the progression of logic in the argument.

When discussing specific entries or clues, I tend to talk as if there should be NO "line between good and bad taste", which does not accurately reflect my complete view and opinion, the lens at that moment being too closely focused for that to be seen. I would be okay with a bit of bad taste in a crossword, sometimes more than a bit, but I mostly want the puzzle to be interesting and fun, which would not allow for gratuitously combative or negative constructions. For me, the number of such entries and clues would maintain the balance of the puzzle. Because so many of the independent weekly crosswords are so fresh, and blindingly vibrant, the syndicated daily crosswords are in a tough spot, needing to the hold hands of cranky, conservative subscribers, but all too aware of the glorious crossword era that technology is making possible, including such things as this blog.

I think it an astute observation regarding how some of these entry/clue pairings are handled; ".....*if* they are being made fun of or their potency is being undermined....." I think that 'stepping stone' would be a fair description and assessment, continuing to gently see what solvers can handle. There have even been some surprising entries getting in crosswords, albeit clued chaste and conservative (for now).

Regarding today's entries/clues, I have a blood/sugar kidney related problem that is 'sort of' treatable, but not, so to speak; not something that I dwell on, passing references are allowed to pass. If solvers are open to it, everyone is going to see their ox gored. It won't be with malicious or deliberate negative intent, but everyone will simply get their turn to not take unintended slights. It's not personal, it's a love of words and language. They aren't all pretty and flowering year round; the manure's got to be tilled in too you know. Breath deep.

Robin 2:12 AM  

Mixed emotions here. Do I want to see Hitler in the puzzle? No. Do I want us to forget who he was and what he did? Also, no. Do I want to see Hitler in the puzzle clued as light and fluffy Disney stuff? I didn't even Get the "Der" answer, but when I read Rex's write-up, I got chill bumps. The creepy kind, not the good kind. Sobering.

Robin 2:14 AM  

I forgot to say that other than the Hitler thing, I enjoyed the puzzle, and Rex's write-up freaked me out.

chefwen 3:02 AM  

@D_Blackwell - HUH? You are making my head hurt. The puzzle, however, did not. Easy, and enjoyable, favorite answer was 64A BARHOP, something I am too old to do now, but it sure was fun back in "the days".

Jamie 3:15 AM  

Definitely easy. Hey, I had 90% of it filled in before I did the down clues. And I am not good at crosswords.

@Rex - I'm not touching the Hitler bit (there must be other ways to clue "Der"), but alcoholism is a medically-recognized "treatable" disease, affecting an estimated 10% of the adult population. So why are SOTS and DTs acceptable, even so common as to be crosswordese, but the mention of diabetes offensive? L-Dopa, a drug for Parkinson's, also appears with some frequency in crosswords.

Just saying...

CoolPapaD 4:00 AM  

SW clearly the toughest, but in the end, I agree that it was pretty straight-forward. Maybe I'm just exhausted, but I didn't quite get the thrill I usually get upon completion. Cute theme answers, for sure.

As a MOT, I didn't mind JEWFRO one bit; Hitler is +/_, but if Disney can make a cartoon about him, I suppose it's OK to have him in the puzzle.

Not only is diabetes treatable, but the majority (~90%) of type II DM is preventable, at least in women, so sayeth the New England Journal of Medicine ( and many others. A plant-based diet and moderate exercise (ie, the time it takes to do a NYT puzzle) would go a long way in eradicating this condition.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:26 AM  

Another beach day puzzle for me; this one was easy and fun.

No write-overs, but did spend some time considering BODEGA for 100 A: Same number of letters, essentially same meaning as TIENDA, just didn't agree with crosses.

If we are looking for words at which to take offense, how about 42 A, TAKEFLAK? Nowadays it may mean to endure a bit of criticism, but originally it referred to an aircraft coming under fire from the ground, and many air crews died from its effect.

Parshutr 6:38 AM  

Oh please...I'm reminded of Mort Sahl's signature exit line after his standup routines..."Are there any groups I haven't offended?"
I was born and raised in a nominally (nonbelieving, but traditional) Jewish home. The other word for JEWFRO is HEBRO. The Disney movie was a sendup of Hitler.
It's a crossword puzzle, and the fun is in solving it, not evaluating it. Certainly not something to be censored.
And here's something from Wikipedia for the I Did Not Know That (looked it up while keying in this comment)
"Der Fuehrer's Face is a 1943 animated cartoon by the Walt Disney Studios, starring Donald Duck. It was directed by Jack Kinney and released on January 1, 1943 as an anti-Nazi propaganda movie for the American war effort. The film won the 1943 Academy Award for Animated Short Film, and was the only Donald Duck cartoon to win an Oscar. In 1994, it was voted #22 of "the 50 Greatest Cartoons" of all time by members of the animation field."
That said, if one is looking to be offended, read the 'news' section of the newspapers.
And Lady Gaga makes me GAG.

Parshutr 6:51 AM  

@Jamie...according to the U.S. Supreme Court, alcoholism is not a disease There is no valid diagnostic that correctly labels a person as an alcoholic. Calling a person who abuses any drug a victim of a disease is an insult to cancer patients who can't 'just say no' or stop some willful behavior.
Of course, if someone clued 'alcoholism' as drinker's disease, I wouldn't take offense; it's just a crossword puzzle.

Dan 8:23 AM  

I found the combination of Disney and Hitler wacky but didn't realize Hitler was taboo. TREATABLE bugged me; there are so many other diseases they could have picked... "[Like scurvy]"?

Solving-wise, my big problem today was spending way too much time trying to squeeze PAELLAS into P_L__S for [Rice dishes].

T-No-Money 8:27 AM  

@ Parshutr, Wow, when did the legal experts on the Supreme Court become medical experts, too? I totally missed that news.

From Wikipedia (3rd sentence):

"Like other drug addictions, alcoholism is medically defined as a treatable disease.[3]"

As for the crux of the debate, I get offended by practically nothing (being a straight white American male), and the day a crossword puzzle offends me will be an interesting day indeed.

Mr. Galoot 8:56 AM  

I was offended by 103a.

Hitlerite clued Nazi on 12/14/95. Nazi used 17 times in modern NYT puzzles. The first Times puzzle ,Feb. 15, 1942, available from Wordplay on Saturday featured many War related items :Symbol of appeasement -Umbrella, Zuider Zee port occupied by Nazis -Amsterdam, Nazi submarine base in Belgium -Ostend, and suggested Nazi name - Germs.

Hobbyist 9:17 AM  

The culinary world has become so affected in using such "elite" words as potage, haricots verts and ragout to name simple soups, stews and green beans.
Just a beef of mine!!

dk 9:22 AM  

Well Al CAPP is rightwing, CADS break hearts, ODORS are offensive, a BARHOP may lead to death and DTS are not funny. So where do you start and stop.

LASALLE is also a COOL car.

Oh the puzzle: Most Sunday's are to long and this one was no exception. The them is fine -- just went on and on... like my posts.

** (2 Stars) I think Jimmy Carter in addition to lusting in his whatever admitting to KITTING a check.

joho 9:26 AM  

I had ceASe before AVAST and agrESSIVE before EXCESSIVE. Other than that easy, breezy Sunday with a cute theme. I've had many critical periods in my life but none as fun as these answers.

As far as being offended by answers such as JEWFRO, Hitler and diabetes, I can only speak for myself and will always understand why somebody could take it in a totally opposite way from me. I find JEWFRO really funny, Hitler and diabetes not so much, but not to the point of being offended.

dk 9:29 AM  

@Parshuter, I agree with you and I think you will find a powerful set of lobbyists behind not categorizing alcoholism and nicotine addiction a disease. Not of course that politics could ever influence a hanging chad... err Supreme Court decsion.

@chefwen, I am making my own head feel BADLY...

"Whatever it is - I'M against it!" Marx

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

Interesting comments, Rex, and worth thinking about. But the most remarkable thing is that Disney cartoon.

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

Before everybody invests a lot of time and emotion in arguing whether alcoholism is a disease, it might be edifying if you first agree on a definition of "disease."

retired_chemist 9:47 AM  

@ Hobbyist 9:17 - I presume you mean "just a boeuf of mine."

Easy indeed. It actually felt Mondayish in most parts.

No problem with 13D and 80D, even though I am one. (a diabetic, not a Führer.) I think The Producers is arguably the funniest (dark) comedy ever made.

Did not slow down to make sense of the theme until the end - didn't need to, as the crosses just kept coming. Eventually there was only one plausible phrase and I filled it in.

There is a taco shop named Mi Tienda a few miles from us.

Gave a seminar at ORU (8D) many years ago - would not have been allowed on campus had I been a student, since I had a beard. They were very nice, but there was a weird feeling to the whole day.

Any place with Three Rivers Stadium ought to be called the City of Bridges IMO. The three rivers are the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio (resulting from the confluence of the first two).

All in all, a nice Sunday treat.

ArtLvr 10:06 AM  

Excellent puzzle, IMHO. I agreed with Rex that it was easy... but clever. I remember blinking at the unfamiliar JEWFRO, which might have been two ethnic slurs in one, but learned something new. All the xword FARE can't be white bread these days. I even recognized TIENDA this time around.

DER usually shows up with Alte, or Rosenkavalier, but today we learned a bit of WW2 history in that a cartoon won an award for supporting the war effort, so I applaud the cluing there. And medical clues can be instructive too: personally, I usually enjoy those more than straight physics or math.

Granted, TAKE FLAK has lost its original force, but can't be faulted for that. Even an EXILE in the grid might bring sad memories for some. And after the dire scams of late, I especially liked the terms KITING and FOIST, neat words with a bite even if we all are suffering real consequences in that area.

So thanks to Mr. Harris for a puzzle well done!


redhed 10:21 AM  

I am with Jamie: if diabetes as a clue is offensive, then so are those that suggest DTs and SOTS. My husband is a Type 1 diabetic, an autoimmune disorder very different from the much more common Type 2. Thank goodness it is indeed treatable. I was not offended by either of the mentioned clues.

Re: the puzzle: I did finish on my own but really struggled in the southwest. But the theme is clever enough to be entertaining so I had satisfaction and a smile after finishing. That is what I look for on Sundays.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

Rex -

If Der Fuehrer is boycotted, why not also eliminate Pol Pot and Idi Amin from the crossword vernaculum?

Genocidal dictator? check
Millions slaughterd? check

Maybe they're just too nice for fill.



jesser 10:35 AM  

It's a busy weekend at Casa Jess, what with out-of-town guests in the spare bedroom and on the fold-out couch in the living room. THey remain abed, but this will be brief.

Loved the shout out at 9D to lovely LAS Cruces, my home town! Loved 98D, as well. May as well be an homage to my Kyther 8-footer!

Writeovers were at 42A, where I initially entered TAKE heAt, and at 38A where I first wanted FOrge. They both disabused themselves of my solving experience quickly.

Loved the theme, but had to suppress all chuckling due to the plethora of sleeping humans in my usually quiet home.

If you're ever in this area, you owe it to yourself to dine at La Posta in historic Mesilla. My grandfather lent Katy Griggs $500 to start the place way back when. She paid it back, and she created an institution. It's now owned and run by Tom and Jereane Hutchison, and they've really turned it up a notch from he state to which it had fallen in the years since Katy's death. Why is this in my commentary? Because just across the street from La Posta is a neat little store: La TIENDA!

Mated! (what my appetite is to La Posta's menu) -- jesser

Rex Parker 10:45 AM  

Hmmm, I *thought* it was clear that I'm not advocating the boycott of any particular word or phrase. Merely posing a question about the issue of propriety/good taste.

I think that anybody suggesting that "anything goes" clearly hasn't thought the issue through.

Toby 11:33 AM  

Wasn't offended by the clues today. Was stunned with Jewfro as I grew up with many who had one. Didn't seem right as a cross word clue.

Today's puzzle had many witty clues but the lower left section killed me as I was hung up on what is "presplit" as I thought of every other word for English muffins. maybe I should have had one for breakfast and it would have been easier.

T-No-Money 11:38 AM  

@Rex, while I don't think your "anything goes" comment was directed my way, I hasten to add that my previous comment was not an endorsement of an "anything goes" attitude. More of a joke about how white, male, straight Americans really shouldn't take offense to too, too much given the enormous social advantages conferred upon us by virtue of genetic happenstance.

Maybe it didn't land right.

That said, empathizing with people who are routinely disparaged on the basis of genetic happenstance is an important ethical duty. And being aware of other people's sensitivities is just part of being an adult.

So the crossword-worthy-controversy continues...without me adding much of merit, but doing my very best to cover my own bottom.

chefbea 11:43 AM  

Didn't get the theme at first but common L.A. borer did it.

What a great meal we can have after our bar hopping:
Roma tomatoes
Sesame seed english muffins

What's for dessert??

Rex Parker 12:16 PM  


You're right, my comment wasn't directed to you at all. And you're right about sensitivity being part of being a decent adult. Accusations of political correctness / censorship are really missing the point. That said, the good taste/bad taste line remains, in many cases, blurrrry; I tend to want more and more and more words/terms *in* the puzzle rather than *out*. But there are limits. I just couldn't codify them for you if I tried. Which, in the end, is probably a good thing; better a little controversy now and again than a lot of ho-hum and snoozing.


Anonymous 12:27 PM  

It is clear you’re advocating critical thinking, and there is nothing you wrote to suggest you’re advocating the boycott of certain words or phrases. Not in my opinion.

And like @T-no-Money, I believe it is a matter of ethics. While I think your question encompasses the realm of propriety/good taste, for me, the question raises more than that.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

P.S. @ Rex at 12:16


Zeke 12:29 PM  

@Parshutr - You have grossly, probably deliberately, misquoted and misinterpreted the Supreme Court decision to the point of nonsense. The decision was based on reconciling two statutes governing the VA, and the legislative intent of same. One of the statutes clearly, i.e. with legilsative intent, states that primary alchoholism is partially a result of willful intent. This statement, whether accurate or not, directly effected the application of the second statute, the one under consideration before the court. It is the specifics of the statute, not the accuracy of the underlying medical assumptions of the statute, that was the issue before the court. The court made a legal, not medical or moral, decision based on the law as written.
As to propriety question, I've lived my life in two societies, one the liberal northeast, the other the (??WTF) Ozarks. In one JEWFRO is completely innocuous, in the other 90% of the time pejorative. In this case, I vote for erring on the side of those without bigotry, and educating the yokels. Otherwise, you're lost.
Captch: rearm - See, I told you it was just 5 random letters.

Jamie 12:34 PM  

@Rex - it's an interesting point. Personally, I think the NYT puzzle is too staid and the solving public would have more fun if the fill was fresher.

I also echo Anonymous's comment above: Why are Idi Amin and Pol Pot acceptable fill, but not Hitler? If the first two are considered proper and in good taste, how come Hitler is Voldemort?

While I admire the standards the Times maintains in terms of construction and editing, I wish they would loosen the corset stays a little. I simply have more fun doing the Onion, or BEQ on his own site, etc.

Even you get excited when you see new fill and exasperated by stale, dated crosswordese.

Nhart1954 1:01 PM  

Mostly lurker here ramping up my crossword skills. I find Thursday and Sunday just about right and I enjoy themes--they mostly make me chuckle.

Learned a lot here about good construction. As for today's puzzle--I too had TAKE HEAT. Tienda was a gimme..I live in Texas. Thought we might be going baseball (PITTSBURGH PI RATE) first and then maybe cities (COMMON LABORER). Took me longer than I would have thought to catch on.

LowRider 1:02 PM  

I don't understand the issue. Crosswords are clues and words, not moral or political statements. Is the objection that the objectionable word exists? True the constructor's choice to use a derogatory or obscene word probably says something about the constructor's taste and maybe moral compass--and while we might not agree that a finite list of those words could be made, we could probably get pretty close to all of the words (the "seven words you can't say on television" and racial epithets cover most of them). But neutral words that refer to real but maybe odious events in history? What's the objection? That one would rather not recall the Holocaust or Pol Pot?

Jamie 1:06 PM  

Well, I see @Zeke has set you straight on the Scotus decision.

Do you feel the same "they deserve it" policy towards people who willingly eat too much junk food and wind up with diabetes II? To people who willingly don't exercise and wind up with heart disease? To people who willingly have sex and wind up with AIDS or cervical cancer?


Jamie 1:12 PM  

@everybody - sorry for taking so much time.

@redhead - so sorry about your husband. Type I is tough going.

Now I am off to watch the last few minutes of the golf. I'm hoping Rory can hold on to his T3 position!

Jo 1:13 PM  

Well, well; I swore I must stop putting time into the crossword and the blog but can't seem to help myself and today both were pretty interesting. In the circles I frequent alcoholism is referred to as a disease, incurable but treatable. Which brings up the issue around diabetes. Are not all diseases in principle treatable? Or most of them? It's the curable that is an issue, no? So that would have made the Diabetes clue pretty hard, except it wasn't. On the good taste/bad taste question I am not sure.Taste is such a trickly question and as the Romans said "De gustibus..." Wish that got into the crossword sometime! As long as things don't get scatological or blasphemous and are fun there should be a good degree of freedom to my lights. Also,as time goes on the sting of a name like that of the Fuehrer will inevitably disappear. At the time, I thought Jewfro pretty hilarious and the resulting Goydome even more so. But perhaps it skirted the abyss of ethnic slur. DER in 13D was mostly meant to fool us wanting to put in THE I assume.

I thought the puzzle was easy and went along fine to get completely bogged down in the SE, partly because I did not really "get" the theme. So I did not have the C in RACKS nor the L in LA.; know next to nothing about pool and always have to guess at the terms but RANKS seemed to fit so I came up with NOMMON.A BORER. Dang!, Well that was that. I did look up TIENDA in my Spanish dictionary.

Clark 1:44 PM  

Good discussion today; wish I had more time to reflect.

I find myself agreeing with @Rex today. Wanting some freedom about what goes in the puzzle, but recognizing that we wouldn’t want anything goes.

Anonymous 12:27 says that for him/her the DER question is a matter of ethics, which he/she distinguishes from questions of taste. This reminds me of a sentence from Kant that I was reading last night, from the Critique of the Power of Judgment -- a sentence that suggests one kind of connection between morality/ethics and aesthetics/taste: “Now I say that the beautiful is the symbol of the morally good, and also that only in this respect (that of a relation that is natural to everyone, and that is also expected of everyone else as a duty) does it please with a claim to the assent of everyone else, in which the mind is at the same time aware of a certain ennoblement and elevation above the mere receptivity for a pleasure from sensible impressions, and also esteems the value of others in accordance with a similar maxim of their power of judgment.” (§59)

And to @Jamie I want to say, How come Voldemort is Voldemort? I would be interested in knowing how people feel when Harry Potter says the name Voldemort out loud. Is there anyone here who feels that (within the flow of the imagined story) Harry does wrong to say the name of Voldemort out loud? (I know that my feeling that Harry does right is bound up with the certainty that there is no anything goes about it.)

Stan 2:03 PM  

Really enjoyable puzzle with a trickier-than-usual theme. Thanks for the fun, Robert Harris.

Best clue ever for ENE!

"These Roads Don't Move" (lyrics by Jack Kerouac)
--These Roads Don't Move

Van55 2:03 PM  

As "good taste" is a matter of individual subjective judgment, I don't think a bright line can be drawn regarding what clues and answers are permissible and what are not in crosswords.

It does seem to me that when a constructor has a choice of possible clues, one of which might offend and the other of which would not, the constructor should opt for the latter. Take RP's examples for today. DER is ordinarly clued differently -- most often it seems to me as "___ Alte" for example. Or "German article". Those are pretty stale, so it appears that today's clue writer made a different choice. Personally, I didn't find it either offensive or bothersome (actually I didn't see it until I came here, since I filled it in entirely with the crosses).

TREATABLE could easily have been clued "Like non-fatal diseases." I don't understand why specific reference to diabetes was made, but again, I didn't personally the clue offensive.

Earlier in the week the controversy was over NIGHT RIDER, clued as "Certain vigilante." RP didn't know the term [phrase} and looked it up --finding a dictionary definition of a late 19th Century group of KKK terrorists. RP therefore found the answer virtually obscenely offensive, despite the fact that NIGHT RIDER has taken on many non-KKK meanings over the years. Interestingly the very day that the puzzle was published there was a headline referrring to "NIGHT RIDERS" on the front page of the Washington Post Style section -- relating to a certain group of skateboarders. As I pointed out on the blog, the entire controversy that day would have been avoided had the clue been "One who takes the redeye."

Do I think there should be an anything goes rule? No. I would hope that we can expect good judgment by the constructors/editors. But when there is a lapse of good judgment in my opinion, I'm not going to let it get my knickers in a knot. and spoil my entire solving experience. Rather, I'll take another listen to George Carlin's routine on the 7 words you can't say on TV and laugh it off.

I enjoyed todays easy solve.

KenInBoston 2:07 PM  

The impact of clues on the solver is an interesting subject. I go through many emotions as I solve a puzzle: amusement, frustration, impatience, surprise, confusion, dismay, etc., etc.

I must admit that 32A (THEUNEMPLOYED) gave me a moment of discomfort, since that describes my current state. Should the author (or Will) have refrained from including it due to the economic times we are living in? I think not.

I enjoyed the puzzle and soon forgot my momentary discomfort (until I read these comments which brought it back). I thought it was a cute theme.

PIX 2:10 PM  

Rex...with all due respect, the question you pose seems absurd to me...diabetes is a in the world is having a disease as an answer in a crossword puzzle offensive???...not all words are going to be acceptable to the Times, but the idea that a disease cannot be used is simply ridiculous...I dare any diabetic to tell me how 80D is even remotely offensive...

Thanks for the Gong Show it's own absurd way it was a very creative,funny show...

Sparky 2:29 PM  

@Robin. Watch the cartoon. It's not fluffy. When I was a kid (yawn) and we sang that song we inserted a Bronx Cheer after the Heil! I think maybe Spike Jones had a version with the Bronx Cheer too. Interesting discussions today. Thanks Rex and all the commentators. A lot is nuance. Have a goood remaining day.

Jamie 2:53 PM  

@pix: The clue was diabetes. The answer was "treatable."

I don't understand how the mere mention of diabetes is beyond the bounds of good taste.

It's like the Jewfrow answer. Rex says that "Since "JEW" has certainly been used as a pejorative epithet, it's an understandably loaded word."

Why? I do not get this. If you are Jewish, you are a Jew. It's only a pejorative epithet/loaded word if you consider it to be so, as Rex apparently does. Are there any Jews on this blog who would like to weigh in? I mean, do you use another word to describe your religion/yourself? What word?

It's interesting that in the same post, @Rex jests about confusing kiting checks with the kike word, which is definitely offensive. There was no reason for him to mention his little slip.

And that little slip was much more offensive than anything in the puzzle today.

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

Please excuse my ignorance , but what the Hell does Paris/disembark/Ararat have to do with each other?

Is there a metro stop called Ararat in Paris? Did Paris of mythology disembark at Ararat? I thought Noah disembarked there...

Otherwise the puzzle was pretty easy for a Sundayand I have no problem at all with distasteful people or references to diseases or human conditions being used. and it would be a lot more fun if a bit of mild scatology, cursing, or blasthemy (whatever that is now-a-days) were to be used.

This seems to be one very prudish crew that make up my fellow crossworders.

Cheers, Seafarer John

Anonymous 3:42 PM  

@Seafarer, "Pairs", not Paris.

Jamie 3:47 PM  


I think you are referring to pairs, not Paris. Read it again. The animals went in two by two, etc.

Agreed - I'm tired of the prudish NYT when there are genius constructors writing fresh and daring puzzles.

SethG 4:16 PM  

Jew, when used as a verb meaning to haggle or bargain unfairly, is certainly pejorative. I don't see how Rex pointing out that "Jew" has been used pejoratively implies anything about his attitude towards Jews or Judaism. I also think you have to go out of your way to find offense to make up a way to find it in his statement.

And given the pejorative definition of Jew as a verb, is it really that hard to imagine someone hearing about check kiting and thinking at first that it might be related?

Let's say instead that the example had been GYP. This probably comes from an offensive stereotype for a Gypsy, and it has appeared in the puzzle several times. I guess it's one question to ask whether it should be in the puzzle in the first place, and another to say that if it is there should it be clued with [Con] or would it be better with something like [Con, pejoratively]. Is there a difference between the clue [Despot ___ Amin] and the clue [Uganda's ___ Amin]? Given the number of ways to clue POT, is it reasonable to expect [Pol ___] to be avoided?

CANCER clued zodiacally or as a constellation is different than [Word with lung or liver]. I'm generally not offended by almost any words that are in the puzzle, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't be offended by stuff that hasn't been there for good reason. Pushing the edge to make the puzzle more interesting would be good. Pushing it because PEDERAST is the only word that fits, I'd say it's better to throw it away and rework the section.

Rex Parker 4:29 PM  

Thank god for SethG. I just deleted a comment wherein I was compelled to point out commenter idiocy. Now, no need!

One thing, though: When I say the word "Jew" is "loaded" (which is what I said), I mean that some people are offended when they see it at all in their puzzle (I would not have thought this, but ... I get Mail), and then some other people get offended when I *say* that some people find it offensive. So it's a vicious, stupid, cycle. A no-win. And so I stand, strongly, by "loaded."

And I don't have a problem with Jew (as a noun) in the slightest. Though I've been lectured (lectured!) by at least one reader about how the proper term is "Jewish person." Lectured!

And what SethG said about PEDERAST.

Imagine a Sunday puzzle with the answer PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION. You can't. For good reason.

And if you think great independent constructors out there don't have limits, you are Dead Wrong.


foodie 5:25 PM  

Fun puzzle and interesting discussion today.

I think Rex's point for discussion is the view that stressful topics need to be sidestepped or mentioned in a certain way to minimize unpleasantness while we solve the puzzle. And related to that is the distinction between what can go in the clues and what can go in the grid itself. He's asking us to consider these issues-- he's not suggesting that diabetes per se is offensive to anyone.

This reminds me of the olden days when some hostesses forbade people from discussing politics at dinner because it leads to unpleasantness. At least for me, a successful dinner party strikes a balance, with some fun, some substantive conversations but not all out debate, no mater the topic. A good host or hostess lets the conversation flow but steers it away from getting overly tense.

Similarly, a puzzle needs to have a balance. Clearly, it should not be offensive or mocking. But it's the gestalt that matters along with the challenge of the solving process. By definition a puzzle is something that confuses us but is amenable to clarification. That's the essence that we enjoy. It can trigger many emotions along the way, but the end should be a sense of satisfaction.

A perfect example is @KenInBoston experience as he saw THE UNEMPLOYED-- how he felt it, then got past it.

For both the puzzle and the dinner party-- it's the taste it leaves in your mouth.

syndy 5:32 PM  

okay; jewfro set me on my heels originally, I had never seen it before and gut reaction was a cringe,but hey if it's okay with them what sport one then fine,my heels need a little polishing anyway.I would like to point out to T-No-Money that I don't think that it is genetics that has conffered his place in the social-political hierarchy-just sayin'

Parshutr 5:39 PM  

@Jamie...whatever you say, drinking to excess is a volitional act. One needs to obtain alcohol and then voluntarily consume it.
No one is labelled an alcoholic the first time one drinks to excess. Repeating the act, despite dire consequences, gets one to be labelled.
You cited several behaviors that could lead to dire consequences. All of them are choices we make.
If one chooses to drive 100 mph on the expressway, do we excuse such behavior because the driver is addicted to speeding, and is therefore diseased?
How does the medical profession get away with 'treating' alcoholism? There are many cases of 'alcoholics' who learn to drink without getting intoxicated (golfer John Daly would be a prime example).
But cancer patients can't choose to be undiseased.
Anyway, I'll never convince anyone who believes in the disease concept of alcoholism, any more than I can convince them that Santa Claus, or God, doesn't exist.
Peace be upon you.

Jamie 5:41 PM  

@Rex: Were you talking to me? (If not, apologies for my vanity).

Because I do think great independent constructors don't have limits. I just did an old BEQ (I think) in which there were two side-by-side downs clued as private parts. I'm not going to spell out the answers here but they were explicit references to male and female genitalia in slang.

BEQ doesn't seem to have limits on his site, and he certainly has no problems publishing here on the NYT. The NYT archives have tons and tons of his puzzles.

So I am dead right (note lack of caps) that a constructor can be imaginative, hip, and sometimes make me grin with an "I can't believe he went there" gasp.

I can't imagine completing a crossword where I discovered the answers were pedarest or partial-birth abortion; for that reason alone, I'm still not sure you were addressing your idiocy comment at me. Why did you two come up with such words? There's certainly a line.

Rex, you're just mad because I called you out on your mental substitution of kiking (as in kike - wait, Jewish people write bad checks?!). But all it tells me is that the word kike was in your vocabulary and when it came to something to do with money, you thought Jews. Or Jewish people, since you. get. mail.

I've never used the word jew as a verb. It's offensive and loaded. The noun is not.

I imagine as a lecturer yourself, you find it difficult to be lectured (lectured!)to by your posters on how they are Jewish persons and not Jews. Perhaps you should stand up for yourself to them, instead of launching this pretty weak apology-explanation.

It seems to me that "Jewish persons" scare you and/or are a bit alien to you.

Martin 5:44 PM  

My wife tells me that there are wide swaths of the country where people are taught that "Jew" is impolite, and "Jewish person" is the proper term. These are the folks that lecture Rex, although to Jews the notion that "Jew" is offensive is offensive.

What can one do? These people are misguided and are propagating an absurd notion that is ultimately demeaning, but they're well-meaning. Most of these areas of country have no Jews to set these folks straight, I'm afraid.

My all-time favorite clue for JEWISH in a Times puzzle was "Like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy."

Jamie 6:01 PM  

@parshutr: You and I must have read different versions of JD's autbio, because I assure you that he admits he got intoxicated many times, after the treatment you don't think he needed in the first place, because he wasn't having problems with booze.

I don't believe in Santa or G_D either, so we at least agree on two things. Peace to you, too.

Shamik 6:02 PM  


Anonymous 6:25 PM  

@Parshutr, the flaw in your argument is that there's a correlation between the consumption of alcohol and alcoholism. The disease "concept," as you put, holds that the disease exists regardless of whether one drinks (and you could be an alcoholic without ever having drunk alcohol.) And if John Daly can drink moderately, he is by definition not an alcoholic.

foodie 6:32 PM  

@parshutr, I appreciate the clarity of your position, and while I don't fully agree with you, I think you make an important distinction.

Brain disorders can be viewed as being on a continuum from appearing very biologically driven to being behaviorally (willfully) driven. So, I imagine you would not blame anyone for having seizures or developing Alzheimer, but you feel that an alcoholic is to blame for his/her condition. I think this is part of the reality of how we perceive each other-- behavior that is costly to the individual or to the group makes us feel uncomfortable at the very least. And if it is generally reasonable to hold people responsible for their behavior.

But as we learn about the way our brains function and dysfunction, these distinctions become less sharp. It used to be that people were blamed for their seizures. And how about depression, or bipolar (manic-depressive) behavior? After all, the depressed person is choosing to stay in bed, forget obligations, avoid social contact. And people in the throes of a manic attack can do a great deal of damage through their behavior. They are often told to stop wallowing and pull themselves together, but it seems to fall on deaf ears. However, over the last few decades, our views have changed as treatments (though imperfect) have emerged for these conditions, which have shifted from being seen as willful to being TREATABLE disorders. For some people, the effect is amazing.

The tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol has genetic causes, although the behavior is not entirely determined by genes. It has environmental causes but those don't determine it either. And since the problem involves using something outside of one's body, I understand why one would expect people to control that behavior. Many people struggle mightily to do so, and some succeed, but many fail. Because once the drug takes a hold of the brain of the truly vulnerable individuals, the impact is very powerful, the brain is dramatically altered, and what seems easy to most of us is truly a huge challenge for them.

In the end, I think it's a fine line. We can medicalize substance abuse to the point of removing responsibility from people- the abuser, the parents, the educators, society at large. That would be unfortunate. But sadly, those people who have fallen into this trap, be it through bad biology, bad judgment or bad sociology, are sick and we need to help them. So, I hope that we can find better ways to treat them, or better yet, detect the vulnerability early and nip the problem in the bud.

Anonymous 6:42 PM  

@foodie, nice, tactful way of a neuroscientist telling parshutr he doesn't know his butt from a hole in the ground.

joho 7:00 PM  

@parshutr ... Obviously you haven't seen "Miracle on 34th Street" and haven't had any of your prayers answered.

Anonymous 7:06 PM  

I haven't practiced medicine in a while, but we referred to chronic but controllable-with-medication diseases (like diabetes mellitus) "TREATABLE," while diseases that you could treat and they'd go away completely (like a some bladder infections) were "CURABLE," and the untreatable, terminal diseases (like rabies) were "FATAL."

Not sure how "diabetes" could be taken as offensive.

Parshutr 7:07 PM  

@foodie et al. For decades medical researchers looked for 'factor x', some tangible physical thing that could explain why some people were more susceptible to alcohol than others.
Eventually they gave up, and no one is looking for factor x anymore. People will believe what they want.
I've done my time dealing with alcohol abusers, heroin addicts, etc., and come to my own...
And how exactly is 'developing Alzheimer's' volitional? What should a person choose NOT to do to avoid Alzheimer's? Seriously, at this time in my life, I need an answer.
Compared to voluntary consumption of alcohol (or any other substance) the development of Alzheimers is like a butt, the other a hole in the ground.
Good night and good luck.

Rex Parker 7:15 PM  

Do not appreciate the name-calling; I understand the urge, but I generally expect this crowd to refrain.

For the record, literally no one said Alzheimer's was volitional. If I read @foodie right, she said *exactly* the opposite—that Alz. is on the *opp.* end of the continuum from "behaviorally (willfully) driven" brain disorders.

You have no idea how much I appreciate that @foodie is both a careful and a sympathetic / understanding reader. More than I can say for myself most of the time, frankly.


Jamie 7:33 PM  

@foodie: Good for you. Well-reasoned and polite and thoughtful.

When it comes to any mental disorder, we're sort of at the stage where the doctors might think sticking leeches on our scalps to drain the bad "humors" will cure us.

(I think @Rex would recommend that for me today)!

But seriously, medical science cannot tell or cure problems that occur in the brain. They can do scans and tell you that one part of the brain is sending abnormal signals, but they can't tell why. Sometimes they can't even do that; the scans show nothing, but the disease manifests in other ways and can be confirmed by, for instance, a muscle biopsy.

They know that the brains of people with some autoimmune diseases, Alzheimers, and addiction scan atypically, but they can't tell you why.

There is so much medical science needs to learn, and every time I meet a medical student at the teaching hospital where I get my care, every one of them is applying for a dermatology residency.

oveneq - liberation for foodie and Mr. F?

Foster 7:35 PM  

Heroin and other drugs are different from alcohol in that they have inherently addictive properties. Alcohol is not inherently addictive. Plenty of people--most people--can drink every now and then. There aren't too many casual heroin, crack, cocaine users, etc. So anon above is correct that the disease, or malady, or condition, or whatever you want to call it, of alcoholism is divorced from the substance of alcohol. Alcohol is just the agent that triggers, at some point, the disease. Those people find that alcohol affects them differently from other people and they are unable to use moderately. Yes, it can be treated, and it is treated, with great success. That somebody is able to give up alcohol with that treatment doesn't mean the disease, or whatever you wish to call it, never existed.

chefbea 7:59 PM  

After all this banter all day long... no one has come up with the dessert for our dinner!!!!!

Jamie 8:18 PM  

@Rex - Oh Boy. This was an interesting day. Far more interesting than the crossword. Well, you asked for discussion! You certainly got it.

I hope I haven't offended anyone here unwittingly.

@chefbea: Baba rum?

Zeke 8:20 PM  

@Parshutr - John Daly? Seriously, he's your example of a problem drinker subsequently drinking responsbly? Multiple arrests for public intoxication, return trips to rehab, Hooters explosions? All his attempts at drinking moderately work up until the point that they don't. He's kind of reminiscent of the founder of Moderation Management, the program that taught problem drinkers to drink moderately. Worked really well for her, up until the point she got drunk and killed two people in an auto accident, blowing a BAH of 3 times the legal limit.
You seem to think that the disease model has anything at all to do with personal responsibility. (Absurdly) Excessive alcohol consumption rewired my brain to the point that your understanding of "volitional" made no sense in my consumption of alcohol. That's the disease. I did it all myself, that's my responsibility. The "It's not my fault, it's a disease" line exists only on TV Sitcoms, not in any alcoholic's understanding of their condition.

Howard B 9:42 PM  

I can say that the TREATABLE clue was not in any way offensive. I encountered it, thought "Hmm, where are they going with this... PANCREATIC? Nah, that doesn't fit". Moved on, came back to it later, and eventually the light bulb came on. Thought it was an accurate, fair clue.

Type I diabetic for many years, so the personal aspect of the clue didn't really raise so much as an eyebrow.

foodie 9:57 PM  

@Zeke, I've talked too much today, but I popped in to say that your distinction between the disease and the responsibility was the most eloquent I've read. My hat's off to you.

@Parshutr, Rex's response reflected correctly what I had intended. Thank you Rex for that and for the kind words. But @Parshutr, your broader question- can I do something to prevent Alzheimer's Disease, is legitimate. I do hope that some day we will understand enough about these diseases so we can truly prevent them. There is actual hope. But meanwhile, this is not a bad start:

Falconer 11:09 PM  

DER and TREATABLE are non-issues in my opinion. Totally within the bounds of culture and taste.

However ... the one weirdness that I noticed was the lack of a question mark on the "Ararat" clue. I mean, it's not like it's an established historic truth that Noah's Ark a) existed; or b) actually landed there. Yet the clue treats it as a fact.

Someone please explain to me how the pairs that supposedly alit on Mt Ararat can be treated as if they were historical facts.

Otherwise: Fun theme and my fastest Sunday ever. Possibly a record low number of people names in this puzzle (Rosanne and Tina); and no obscure places or rivers.

heath_griffin 12:42 AM  

As a relative novice to crossword puzzles, I'm always looking for help with clue explanations. Regarding clues 115a and 116a, are these typical clues? Is there something I could use to help me determine that 'ess' and 'tee' are proper answers? I appreciate it and I enjoy reading how you solve each puzzle!

Falconer 1:02 AM  

@heathgriffin -- the letter T (tee) follows S (ess) in the alphabet. also, S precedes T. it's a pretty cheap pair of clues but not untypical for a Sunday.

Charlotte Brontë 7:01 AM  

@Falconer: If you want a question mark regarding the sevens of animals loaded on the Ark (not all pairs, as we have learned on this blog), would you also want a question mark on every reference to Jane Eyre (my favorite crosswordese!), or for that matter every fictional character or tale from Gilgamesh to Harry Potter?

Hollis Rose 8:38 AM  

MY Cherie Amour? I always heard it as MA Cherie Amour, which is, indeed, French.

heath_griffin 6:10 PM  

@Falconer - Thanks for explaining those clues. I would have never thought of looking at them that way.

Vinrn 9:52 AM  

This won't be read since it's near the end of all the diatribe, but due to our love of animation, my 14 year old instantly knew the Disney cartoon clue, which proves knowledge is in the mind of the beholder.

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