Ackbar's rank in Star Wars / SUN 6-4-17 / Cylinder-shaped pasta / It knits up the ravell'd sleave of care per macbeth

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Dunno—group-solved it as Doug Peterson read clues to us in the restaurant earlier this evening... Medium?

See, here's the screenshot of Doug's phone:

THEME: "Advice to Writers" — themers are ironic "rules"—ironic because they violate themselves

Word of the Day: John NANCE Garner (28D: Vice President John ___ Garner) —
John Nance Garner IV (November 22, 1868 – November 7, 1967), known among his contemporaries as "Cactus Jack", was an American Democratic politician and lawyer from Texas. He was a Texas state representative from 1898 to 1902, and U.S. Representative from 1903 to 1933. He was the 39th Speaker of the House from 1931 to 1933. In 1932 and 1936 he was elected the 32nd Vice President of the United States, serving from 1933 to 1941. A conservative Southerner, Garner opposed the sit-down strikes of the labor unions and the New Deal's deficit spending. He broke with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in early 1937 over the issue of enlarging the Supreme Court, and helped defeat it on the grounds that it centralized too much power in the President's hands. (wikipedia)
• • •

I have serious qualms about this theme, mainly because nearly every themer is lifted (with small changes for the purposes of answer-length/grid symmetry) from this list of "The Fumblerules" by William Safire. (Here's the direct link to the "On Language" column in question, from 1979). There are a couple of changes that are original and cute—most notably the repeated final themer (AVOID REDUNDANCY)—but even POOFREAD CARFULY, which is original in its misspelling conceit, plays off a base phrase that was lifted verbatim from Safire's list. I'm trying really hard to understand how this kind of appropriation without attribution is *not* a form of plagiarism. When you take someone else's ideas, their original work, and pass it off as your own ... yeah, that's what plagiarism is. I'm just ... trying to find a way around this. "It's just a crossword" is the only defense I can imagine, and as you can imagine, I find that defense fantastically pathetic. NEVER GENERALIZE is the only one here that seems entirely original, and (perhaps not surprisingly) it's also the weakest. I've seen puzzles that were obviously just "stuff from a list I found on the web" before, but I've never seen anything that seemed to be taking the work of one specific person before. It's disturbing.

Theme answers (Writing tips #1-7):
  • POOFREAD CARFULY (Safire: Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.)
  • NO SENTENCE FRAGMENTS (Safire: No sentence fragments.)
  • PASSIVES MUST BE SHUNNED (Safire: “The passive voice should never be used.”)
  • DON'T USE CONTRACTIONS (Safire: Don't use contractions in formal writing.”)
  • AVOID REDUNDANCIES (Safire: Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.”)
I don't really care to comment more on this puzzle. Except OVERGO, which is hilarious in its non-wordness.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 1:43 AM  

Unfamiliar as I was, before reading today's post, with Safire's "Fumblerules," I enjoyed the theme answers and the puzzle in general...until OVERGO, at which point I wanted to punch someone.

George Barany 2:17 AM  

I did enjoy @Tom McCoy's puzzle, despite the concerns raised by @Rex. Right now, I'm more focused on who will debut @Albert Pujols in a crossword (tonight, against the Twins, he hit his 600th career homer, a grand slam no less!) I am reminded, though, of the aphorism that if one "borrows" from a single source, it's called plagiarism, but if one takes from numerous sources, it's called research.

Right after solving much earlier this evening, I entered several of the theme answers into GOOGLE and found a different humorous compilation (the experiment cannot be repeated, because @Rex's review has already established itself, within minutes of posting, as the number one hit). Kudos for the scholarship to identify @William Safire, who also coined "nattering nabobs of negativism."

Mixing up ANIMA with ANIME, I messed up on POOFREEDING (which the spellchecker on Blogger desperately wants to fix). The word "proof" also appeared in the clue for SOUND (53-Down). I was glad to see a scientifically accurate clue for AMINO (94-Across), and amused by the clue for GOOGLE (17-Across) which refers not to a webpage but to @Larry Page, the company's cofounder. I learned a new quote about SLEEP, and found out that @Bill Clinton and @Barack Obama have more in common than their (informal) party.

phil phil 2:48 AM  

Safire's redundancy is redundant.
TM's puzzle is just a repetition.
He could have done a speech fumbles like, hmm you know, uh,

Yep as per Rex he ciukd have titled it Safirisms or some acknowledgement.

chefwen 2:50 AM  

Had never seen the William Safire On Language so this was all brand new to me and I loved it. I enjoyed all the theme answer especially POOF READ CARFULY.

Had a couple of missteps, never played PAC MAN so I didn't know he went WAKA WAKA WAKA, I put in sax MAN thinking of the instrument, guess don't know musical instruments either. VANCE before NANCE at 28D didn't help my cause. Finally corrected my mistakes. Like I said, loved it.

phil phil 2:55 AM  

Have to say excpt for non acknowledgement, i thought the puzzle was nice. Fill I thought rather well done. A stray MMV isn't a groaner.

Carol King 3:11 AM  

I remember handing in my first graduate level paper (which I thought was genius) to my professor who truly was (and still is) a genius of her subject and a multilingual model for clean, clear, precise language whether spoken or written. My paper came back covered in delicate blue penciled questions, comments, circled errors and little question marks standing alone in the margins. Attached (and properly cited) was a copy of Safire's article which lives to this day posted on the wall in front of my desk. I refer to it often as I slog through the land of PhD dissertation writing. I would have called the creator of this puzzle for plagiarism. A clever clue or an anagram hidden in other clues would have served to acknowledge that the quotations were Safire's, not the puzzle creator's. In the world in which we live today, it's more important than ever to acknowledge that words matter, work matters and integrity matters. When we let the so-called little stuff proliferate, we are cultivating the field where the big stuff grows wild and impenetrable. No doubt this sounds like ivory tower elitism but it's something I believe strongly and have always tried to instill in my students. Clean, precise, lucid text, whether spoken or written should not only be a personal given, it should be acknowledged wherever it is promoted and exemplified. I know complaints about the lost, halcyon days of yore have always been thus but these days it seems they are thusser than ever. BTW I'm not certain Safire would have used OVERGO. Made me grind my teeth something fierce.

jae 4:07 AM  

Easy for me. Amusing and fun however Tom never mentioned Safire in his comments on Xwordinfo. Liked it but....

....and OVERGO was definitely cringe provoking.

Brett 4:09 AM  

Maybe "DONTPLAGIARIZE" is some kind of meta-answer lurking behind the puzzle in some ironic way.

I had "fozzie", as in Fozzie Bear from the Muppets, for the "waka, waka, waka" clue for quite a while.

Lewis 6:15 AM  

Maybe Tom can chime in and say if he came up with this idea without knowing about Safire's piece -- it is certainly possible. It's not a difficult idea to come up with independently. And may I add to Safire's list:

Vary. Sentence. Length. Always.

Loren Muse Smith 6:57 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Muse Smith 7:02 AM  

@George B – me, too, for “anime/poof reeding” first.

The biggest rabbit hole I fell into was first “flew” and then “sped” for 41A AGED.

Totally agree on the OVERGO gripe. Seems it could have been “adeno” or the partial “a dent.”

I loved POOF READ. Sitting Bull, run fetch Dances With Wolves to help us figure out those smoke signals.

I dunno, Rex – I do see your point about copying. But like @Lewis says, these seem obvious enough to be up for grabs. I had sentences similar to these professionally printed and put on mini signs for the walls of a little sewing room-turned-study room for the kids that they never used even once and certainly never saw just how funny I was with these signs. Big waste of money. They were too young and too uninterested. But I, too, was unaware of the Safire article. So when I saw the first themer here, NO SENTENCE FRAGMENTS, I was looking for some of the ones I had come up with back then:

It’s important to never split infinitives.
Avoid run-on sentences they’re confusing.
You should always write in third person.
A big problem for writers are all the subject/verb agreement mistakes.
Always check your work for mispelled words. (Ok – Tom/Safire covered this one.)
Don’t use apostrophes to make plural’s.
There is never a good time to begin a sentence with there.
Don’t use like as a conjunction like so many writers do.
A preposition isn’t a good thing to end a sentence with.

I’m always afraid that I’m gonna come across here like Kristin Wiig’s Penelope. I wrestle with what to write, ask myself if this paragraph screams LOOK AT ME AND HOW CLEVER I AM AND I HAD THE SAME IDEA TEN YEARS AGO AND SPENT ALL THIS MONEY AND I KNOW GRAMMAR AND WE WERE RICH ENOUGH AND LEARNED ENOUGH TO HAVE A ROOM CONVERTED TO A STUDY SPACE AND YOU SHOULD ALL REALLY ADMIRE ME. Not my intent even if you think it is. My intent here is just to point out that I came up with a similar idea without having been aware of the Safire article. (But seriously, if you saw all the stuff I leave on the cutting room floor, you’d really be impressed with me and just how great and smart and superior I am.)

I once played around with doing a puzzle using a Sandra Boynton Christmas card:

We fish ewe a mare egrets moose panda hippo gnu deer.

But that really would be stealing. And there’s no way to make it symmetrical.

Anyway, back to grammar, fwiw, after I read several in The Economist, I’ve revisited the sentence fragment and have decided that a well-placed one is brilliant.

I’ll join those here who liked this puzzle despite the Safire question.

chefbea 7:04 AM  

Never heard of Safire's piece on language. Loved the puzzle. Favorite was poofread...and laughed when avoid redundancy came up twice...Great Sunday puzzle for once!!!

evil doug 7:13 AM  

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules for Good Writing:

Never open a book with weather.
Avoid prologues.
Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said"…he admonished gravely.
Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10:

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Aketi 7:46 AM  

@anoymous 1:43am, I'd be happy to hold mitts for you so you can get the atrocity of OVERGO out of your system without damaging ANYONES.

I like the TETRA swimming through the REEF and LEAKIER running through the UBOAT as it descends.

I liked the clue for KNEE, at least my patellas are intact.

A couple of the instructions would be perfect for those who REDUNDANTly GENERALIZE about political parties or groups to gaslight conversations about issues. These aggressors that disrupt meaningful conversations SHOULD BE SHUNNED, not the PASSIVES who understand the futility of continuing a conversation that has been lit by gas. I wish I had more of their self control.

@leapfinger, enjoyed your post the day before yesterday, Glad to see you back.

Aketi 8:03 AM  

If you apply the DONT USE CONTRACTIONS rule when someone is in labor, then all babies would be born via surgical delivery.

Pennywise the Dancing Clown 8:05 AM  

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story."

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.”

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”

6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”

7. Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway."

9. Turn off the TV. “TV---while working out or anywhere else---really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book---even a long one---should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

11. There are two secrets to success. “I stayed physical healthy, and I stayed married.”

12. Write one word at a time. “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

13. Eliminate distraction. “There’s should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with.”

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”

15. Dig. “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”

16. Take a break. “You’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.”

17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “(kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”

18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”

19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

Aketi 8:10 AM  

I liked that the PIERCED EARS included a bit of the NOSE.

Geometricus 8:11 AM  

Changing OVERdO to OVERGO was the last thing I put in the grid, and I was astonished when the NYT app said I was done.

@LMS, you do sound smart (always) but in that clever teacher kind of way. I didn't know you were rich though (I'm rich.. now....too...just got rich...5 minutes ago ...just converted my entire house to a school...for my 14 children...)

Glimmerglass 8:12 AM  

I don't get the clue for CANON. Of course fan fiction isn't canon. It isn't much of anything. I agree that OVERGO is ridiculous. "Never OVERGO ordinary educated diction." It should have been possible to put SAFIRE in the grid somewhere.

Anonymous 8:17 AM  

In other news, I am shocked...shocked! To find that Shakespeare lifted many of his plots from other writers. I have nothing more to say about this writer, except to note that he also sometimes just made up words.

Lars 8:18 AM  

Liked it a lot. Several little aha moments in cluing and answers, so functioned well as a distraction from other thoughts, which is mostly why I do crosswords. But was dnf because of the ANIMA vs ANIMe choice others have also pointed to. But it wasn't a miss for me but thought about it and settled on that all the syllables in POOFREeDCARFULY should have a misspelling. But maybe it was meant to be REED but was missed in proofreading. Anyway still liked it despite that dnf. Also learnt that there is an anime series called Anima.

Kevin 8:37 AM  

Before faulting the creator of this puzzle for copying Safire's work, let's take a second of consider what Safire himself had to say about his creativity:"The notion of making a mistake while laying down rules ('Thimk,' 'We Never Make Misteaks') is highly unoriginal, and it turns out that English teachers have been circulating lists of fumblerules for years."

The joke is as old a grammar with Safire's version being a popular one, but hardly the first or only one. His is not even the first one cited in Wikipedia's article about the subject.

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

I suppose it might even be surprising if the original publication using the concept was Safire's. It does seem obvious.

Evidently CANON is geek-speak (speaking of those geeks who compose fanfic) for the original works.

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

Thanks, @Kevin. My (Anon 8:37) point made excellently.

Bill Feeney 8:46 AM  

@LMS are you sure you're not Carol King and Pennywise the Dancing Clown?

Winston Smith 8:48 AM  

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

What am I trying to say?
What words will express it?
What image or idiom will make it clearer?
Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

Could I put it more shortly?
Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
Never use a long word where a short one will do.
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

kitshef 8:53 AM  

Oof. Very hard for a Sunday, but hard to pinpoint why.
- DADS day, of course, is not a thing at all and another clue, any other clue should have been found for that.
- OCA was a complete WoE
- ----RTV seemed like an impossible word ending.
- Knowing that ‘proofread carefully’ would have typos meant no letters could be filled in with any confidence. The effect was a complete uncrossed row.

But that doesn’t add up to enough to account for it. Some days you just don’t have it, I guess.

QuasiMojo 8:57 AM  

After spending a large part of my morning filling in this grid, I was dismayed to find that "overdo" was incorrect. When a puzzle is undermined by an idiotic answer, it makes one want to cancel one's subscription.

As for William Safire's advice, and all those other people who know how to write correctly (correct?) yes, it is excellent for dissertation writers, annual report compilers, teachers, reporters, and the like. But if you are a serious writer of literary prose, whether fan "fiction" or CANON fodder, you will break those rules often. I'd like to see what Safire or E. B. White's edit job on a Faulkner novel would look like.

Irregardless, todays puzzle, penultimately, was a waist of thyme.

Two Ponies 9:07 AM  

Oh joy, my day is complete.
Star Wars AND D&D both in one puzzle.
No really, I just solved this so I could
Find out what Brian's Song and Sharknado
had in common.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

If you want to get more geeky, CANON isn't just "the original works", it's what is considered the official story. With some of these comic book franchises, or Star Wars, or anything that's been around a long time with a lot of different authors, you're bound to get contradictions popping up. Also, like the Simpoms Halloween episodes, creators will sometimes have stories that are fun riffs on characters they don't want to count as "real" within the series. If you're a nerd, sorting out what is canon and what is not can be deeply important.

Wm. C. 9:20 AM  

John Nance ("Cactus Jack") Garner was likely the most colorful VP we had (and that's saying something).

Probably his best-known aphorism is "The Vice Presidency isn't worth a warm bucket of spit." Although some attributions of this quote campares it to some other warm bodily fluid, and also to "a hill of beans."

One of the most apt, IMO, was to refer to the office as "a spare tire on the automobile of government." Staying with metaphor, he also regretted leaving the Speakership of the House just to "serve eight long years as Roosevelt's spare tire."

Sadly for Garner, FDR surprisingly chose to run for a third term in 1940, depriving him of what he assumed would be a shoo-in presidential race for himself.

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

In my decades of solving, I've never seen an answer repeated.

So, that's a milestone, unless (Don't Use Cliches) memory fails me.

HobbesEsq 9:29 AM  

My apologies for not using this forum for it's real intent, but I want to share a fix for the recently-broken crossword app "crossword plus" (aka the best app for crosswords) that I know many of us enjoy using when solving the NYTimes. Use the shortyz app to download the puzzle, then cut and paste the file into the crossword plus folder. Not ideal fix, but an easy work around.

Maruchka 9:33 AM  

As per usual (don't lead with passive voice), @Rex and @GeorgeB expand my take-away on the puzz (avoid contractions). Now to gamely look for some Safire buried within (don't overuse adverbs).

I liked it, sort of (avoid ending sentences with prepositions). No AHAs! but steady, clean and no Googles.

There is much good in learning grammar rigor. My daughter taught her first university course last fall. Come the papers, she was shocked by the lack of writing skills. I reminded her that she wasn't so hot, until an eagle-eyed and loving editor reviewed, identified and explained her own errors. So, she did the same for her class. The next papers showed much improvement, happy to say.

BTW - Is @Pennywise a relative of the very scary "It" guy? Brr. I actually jumped.

Anonymous 9:39 AM  

Coach's challenge: Is it really a mistake to misspell ANIMe, when the cross itself is deliberately misspelled?

Anyway, I flew through this one and am giving myself a gold star because I don't think I made any mistakes. :)

Glenn Patton 9:42 AM  

Apologies for asking a technical question. I’ve used the Crosswords Android app for years to download, with the appropriate subscription and user name/password, the New York Times crossword. Suddenly, yesterday, that stopped working. I get an “error downloading puzzle” message.

Is anyone else having similar problems? I’ve sent a message to the NYT support and got a response that could be interpreted as saying that one can only use the NYT app. I’ve tried the Android version of that and it is so slow and cumbersome to use that it takes most of the fun out of doing the puzzle.

Mohair Sam 9:45 AM  

Don't like the word plagiarism, it's a nasty assumption. Hell I've been using "repetitive redundancies" since high school - long before Safire's column. And the POOFREADCARFULY joke probably goes back to Gutenberg. @Kevin (8:37) makes sense. On the other hand, Will works with words at the Times and should know that Safire set the standard here - a simple tip of the cap to Mr. Safire would have been a smart thing to do.

The puzzle. Liked it a lot. Very easy, but we have a busy day planned so that's good. Got a nice chuckle as the DANCY filled in the second REDUNDANCY and we knew then what the other ten letters would be. No complaints at all except for the horrid OVERGO - my goodness.

@Evil Doug - I read writing tips from Hemingway (via his son) many years ago that actually contradicted Elmore Leonard's quite a bit. Oddly, I'm a huge fan of both writers. Go figure. btw - If you haven't binge watched "Justified" originally based on Leonard's novella "Fire in the Hole" you're in for a treat.

Anonymous 9:50 AM  

I disagree that a solid case for plagiarism exists. Writer's tips (especially these) are as generic as the day is long. Ask any lawyer who stumbles into the incessant ranting by one Bryan would swear they keep reading the same column, over and over. Not because of his style, mind you, but because of the fact he has made a storied career of regurgitating trite maxims in new and entertaining ways. I can't say I've seen one "new" pointer. It is the idea-expression dichotomy...only the latter is eligible for copyright protection.

mathgent 9:51 AM  

Wonderful comments today. Congratulations to you all!

Frank LaPosta Visco 10:09 AM  

As the originator of "How To Write Good," I have to protect my reputation, as sullied as that may be, and correct the mistaken impression as to the ultimate source of today's horrific puzzle.
Please see
Enough said.

Knitwit 10:32 AM  

I thought the page looked beautiful!! I tried to fill in my best penmanship! Enjoyed it!

Tom McCoy 10:37 AM  

Hi all,

I had not read the William Safire article until I came to Rex's blog this morning. I came up with these theme entries by thinking of common writing tips and how they could be stated in a self-violating way. If I had been aware that Safire had already thought of most of these jokes, I would not have submitted the puzzle.

Whenever I create a crossword, I check to see if the theme entries have appeared in a previously published puzzle to guard against plagiarizing another crossword. In the future I will also search for the theme in non-crossword sources to avoid future cases like this one.

I apologize sincerely for this mistake.
Tom McCoy

ultra PC 10:41 AM  

Our citizens cannot walk the streets without being run over by vehicles or stabbed with machetes
but at least you cannot call us racists.
That is what is most important.

RooMonster 10:43 AM  

Hey All !
I don't follow no rules for correctly writing. And where's that come from? Dunno. Been in school, lernin, so ain't no fly's on me. Must be edumacational system.
(With apologies to @LMS on that in case it hurt your brain!)

As you all know by now, I'm not all that into books, so the puzs Tips were new to me. I also realize I don't write (or speak) as well as English rules purists. But I do enough to be understood. :-)

Liked this puz, the NE corner was last to fall, I blame OCA. Funny thing, I almost Googled for GOOGLE. Bit then word recognition kicked in, and let out a little Heh. Should've stuck with @M&A's When-in-doubt-use-U rule as I had to change 3 of them from another letter. Had sTAr for UTAH, SOliD-SOUND, aBOmb-UBOAT. Other wtiteover was egad-OHNO, and dEm-LEO before discovering other DEM.

Whether this is plagiarized or not doesn't seem to be that big a deal. At least to me. It's not word for word (except NO SENTENCE FRAGMENTS), but you get ideas from everywhere, really. ANYONES work is fair game, unless they sue, of course. :-P

If you're on vacation and discovering a bunch of new stuff for a period, are they HEYDAYS? I AD-MIRAL that joke! Or have I LOST IT?

Interesting M_M_M part in SW. Filled nicely by MRMOM.

*POOF POOF POOF* (Long distance smoke signal to @LMS)


Bill Feeney 10:53 AM  

.....and Winston Smith?

QuasiMojo 11:00 AM  

@Tom McCoy, I suspect that fellow Times contributor William Safire would not have frowned upon your use of similar phrases today. It was gracious of you to apologize here but I don't think it was necessary.

Mohair Sam 11:00 AM  

@Tom McCoy - Thanks for stopping by and clearing things up.

I think you're the one who deserves an apology, btw.

Beaglelover 11:04 AM  

@Kevin: exactly what I was thinking after reading Rex's opinion! Well said!

Norm 11:06 AM  

I actually wondered [legal alert!] who held the copyright on the Safire columns -- him or the NYT -- but I guess that largely irrelevant. From the constructor's post above, we can see that OFL's implicit charge of plagiarism was incorrect, and per @Kevin 8:37, we see that the concept of demonstrating a rule by violating it was not even original with Safire. Oh, and the NYT itself violated another prime directive: do not capitalize prepositions in titles. :)

Peter 11:15 AM  

Thanks for reminding us of Bill Safire -- how dearly we loved his column and how much we miss him!

Nancy 11:15 AM  

Easy yes, but how could I not love this? It's so witty and fun. Like others, I fell into the ANIMe/POOFREeD trap, thinking that if I wasn't going to POOFREED CARFULY, I might as well go all-out and do it to the max. That was the only remotely challenging section for me, but it was also the funniest. I also chuckled at the double AVOID REDUNDANCY answers.

So both Bill Clinton and Obama are LEOs. I didn't know that. It reminds me of a friend I had growing up who used to brag obnoxiously about being a LEO -- saying that they were natural leaders and had great charisma. I, unhappily, am not a Leo. She inspired me to write this poem a long time ago, apologies to William Blake:

Leo, Leo, strutting proud,
Several heads above the crowd,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy haughty symmetry?

Every Leo that I've known,
Woman, man or child half-grown
Just can't wait to say with glee:
I'm a Leo; lucky me!

Each reveals with glowing face
Date of birth! And time! And place!
And when you reveal your own,
Each reacts with stifled groan,

As if to say: Alas, alack --
A stepchild of the Zodiac.

What makes yours the greatest Sign?
What the hell is wrong with mine?

(it goes on for a few more stanzas that I've since forgotten)

noreen 11:16 AM  

I agree that there is no case for plagiarism here. As any English teacher (high school or college), will know, FRAG, SP?, REP, or RED, VOICE?, GEN, are the most common corrections needed on student essays. William Safire may have published his list, but they are not original to him.

Randy 11:19 AM  

On the change in Crosswords, see this

It appears, as we would put it in the antitrust world, that the NYT is tying its app to the puzzle.

On the plagiarism, this sounds like independent creation, not copying. Awkward for the constructor given the questions that will be raised, as they have been here, but straightforwardly explained after the fact, as occurred here.

Two Ponies 11:21 AM  

Wonderful thoughtful comments today (my own being an exception)
that make me appreciate this smart group.
Thanks Tom McCoy for stopping by

GILL I. 11:33 AM  

Like @mathgent, I'm loving the comments. Like @evil, I really try to stick to the "if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it" rule. I can picture @Loren and several other bloggers, speaking their written words and that's exactly what I try to do. As I write, I'm actually having a conversation with myself and I hope I don't come out sounding like a Neanderthal.
I wasn't aware of Safire and his Fumblerules. I've come across many because I'm a classic when it comes to using them. My favorite "Avoid commas, that are not necessary." I overuse them and the semicolon. I love the semicolon. It's cool to look at but I understand it's also useless.....
I loved your puzzle Tom McCoy. As a rule, I don't like "follow the bouncing ball" type crosswords nor quotes. This, however was fun. Like @two Ponies, I wanted to find out what "Brian's Song and "Sharknado" had in common, how to spell MEIN and that UTAH is a hexagonal state. Good cluing and not too difficult. Clinton and Obama are both DEM LEO and I got them both in the wrong slot.
OVERGO is exactly the type of word I'd use without blinking and eyeball.!!!!!

Virginia Lady 11:41 AM  

I agree with Knitwit, the puzzle was beautiful today! For those of you who didn't see the print version, in keeping with the Magazine's theme, the Puzzle & clues appeared to be handwritten.

I didn't know Sharknado was made for television, but those of us of a certain age remember Brian's song as one of the first made for TV movies. Starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams it was a real tearjerker. Going to go see if I can find it on Netflix...

Anonymous 11:49 AM  

Thank you, Eric Blair.

Nancy 11:53 AM  

It's such a delightful puzzle, Tom McCoy, and even if I'd been familiar with the similarity to Safire's list, I never in a million years would have thought plagiarism. Let me add my voice to Mohair's, Lewis's, Loren's, Kevin's and others: It was gracious of you to come here and apologize, but no apology is called for. As everyone knows: There's nothing new under the sun. Jokes about literary rules? I'm sure Safire wasn't the first or only person to crack them. And the bottom line: Safire certainly wouldn't have been able to embed them in a crossword puzzle.

Mohair Sam 11:53 AM  

@Nancy - This Virgo, with an insufferable LEO cousin who lords the fact over me, thanks you deeply for the Blake poem.

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

Tom - Apology not necessary. Pay no attention to the nattering nabobs of negativism (aka Sharp and his wannabes).

Carola 12:01 PM  

I was feeling a little resentful of the theme, as in "How am I supposed to guess what rule you're going to sPOOF next?" when I got to AVOID REDUNDANCY. Wait, what? Then the other shoe dropped - very cute.

Fun to read all of the writing recommendations. The ones advising "cut, cut, cut" reminded me of the novelist Penelope Fitzgerald, whom I highly recommend. She said she didn't want to insult her readers by telling them too much.

More Whit 12:04 PM  

I can't avoid the redundancy: overgo is nonsensical gibberish. The puzzle was fine, although the theme belies the fact that most great writing, with the exception of careful proofreading, violates every one of those rules at some point in the creative process. Much like the masters of Impressionism, jazz, physics, golf, teaching, etc...the creative process involves a synergy of imagination, innovation, talent, knowledge, and soul that often demands established norms be stretched into new territory or that a given "rule" be broken momentarily. That being said, a fair amount of writing these days breaks every rule far too often! On a much more somber note, I hope people in England know that many thoughts of good will and support are being sent their way from those of us across the pond. Evil rears its ugly head every day, but I am heartened by so many examples of courage, love, and heroism that will one day overcome the hatred.

Amy 12:09 PM  

Overgo is so upsetting to me I cannot appreciate anything else in the puzzle.

RAD2626 12:11 PM  

@Tom McCoy. Thank you. I always like seeing your byline knowing I will like the puzzle. Now I like you even more. That was very gracious albeit in my opinion unnecessary.

I think those who put in ANIMe should get a DNF exemption.

RooMonster 12:23 PM  

REDUNDANCY, courtesy of Monty Python
Add this to your collection!


relicofthe60s 12:27 PM  

As Mr. McCoy says, he did not plagiarize. In fact, none of those rules are original to Safire. Once again Rex assumes that his knowledge is the be all and end all: He knows Safire's list. Safire's list contains some of the puzzle answers. Therefore the puzzle must be plagiarized. Baloney!

Stanley Hudson 12:31 PM  

@Tom McCoy, excellent puzzle. You're owed an apology though (a) I doubt it will be forthcoming; (b) an aggressive, self-defensive rationalization for why an apology isn't necessary will not surprise.

QuasiMojo 12:33 PM  

@Nancy, I guess I'm just one of the "others" now. :( lol. Loved your Leo poem. Or it's snippet. I roared with laughter. I know a couple just like that.

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

It was nice of Mr. McCoy to comment on this, but as many comments point out, the idea of "multiple discovery", or "simultaneous invention", is/are widely accepted and doesn't mean someone stole an idea or plagiarized.

I don't think Safire would have claimed that his examples were original, or that he was the first person to demonstrate writing rules in that fashion.

jau 12:51 PM  

Whether the composer is being []coy or false about knowing Safire's list, ultimately the editor and/or publisher would be responsible especially given the decades of Safire's tenure which both had to have known. My near-disbelief stems from the fact that the answers are in the same order... although of course we shouldn't forget that roomful of monkeys who eventually typed a book (was it the Bible?).

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

Can there be any reason to read Rex after this column? Safire's own column credits crowd-sourcing - this is the accumulated wisdom of English teacher, he says - he doesn't name them - it wasn't plagiarism for Safire but it is for Tom McCoy? Is there anything to Rex except moaning and groaning and h8ing and dissing? Not on view, anyway. H8rs gonna.

GHarris 1:07 PM  

Not clear how one can rate a puzzle solved by a group.For me, working alone, it was medium/challenging.

Aketi 1:13 PM  

Hahaha Nancy, I enjoyed the poem. I'm going over the limit to say "no one's business, morning, San Francisco" just because you said we Leos always do.

@Tom McCoy, I just figured those rules predated Safire.

Professor Poopypants 1:18 PM  

Plagiarism...there are many different examples and definitions, but I guess I never thought of reimagining and rephrasing wackified writing rules for a crossword puzzle as one of them. Clearly appropriating exact phrases without attribution in a book or article would be plagiarism. A more slippery and difficult to judge form is the appropriation of ideas. If it is an unusual idea that is very specific, the charge may stick. If it is a more general idea and more often met, the charge of plagiarism is much less warranted. Writing rules, are pretty general, even when wackily phrased. Tom did not overtly appropriate either. Plus, it is adapting wacky writing rules to a totally different genre of thing...a crossword puzzle. This is not plagiarism. Now if one were to copy clues and entries and configurations verbatim from other crosswords, that would be an entirely different thing....not sure if the right word for that is plagiarism. Maybe appropriation of intellectual property is more appropriate, as I think of plagiarism as something that pertains to academic or professional writing.

tarheeled 1:26 PM  

Danced through this one and enjoyed it immensely. I read Safire for many, many years - his columns and maybe one or two books. Never related this puzzle to Safire, so didnt have the plagiarism hangup you writers have. Also, only three write-overs which must be a record for me! One other comment. What is with this sticking an ampersand in from of everyone's handle? @Rex, @Nancy, etc. Please, if I am ever cognizant in this blog, Tarheel Ed (tarheeled) is sufficient. I lived in Wilmington, NC (the real Wilmington) for 10 years and should never have left, ergo the web name.

Anoa Bob 1:29 PM  

Use adverbs sparingly.

I think the high point of English language usage, in terms of beauty, elegance, sophistication, etc., was sometime in the late 19th century. After that it went into a slow but steady decline until just recently, with the advent of social media, when it went into a death spiral tail spin. Soon, I believe, we will be back to communicating with short series of grunts, snorts, clicks and whistles. Well, maybe an emoji or two, too.

Malsdemare 1:31 PM  

I enjoyed the puzzle immensely and was shattered to read Rex's comments. I decided to withhold judgement until I came here, knowing others would have arguments both pro and con, and I could make my decision with more information. And I'm glad I waited, even though no one would have known had I rushed to judgement.

Oddly, my trouble was in the SW. I simply did not see NODES until the puzzle sat up and yelled at me to engage my brain. But so much was just tough enough to suss out that I spent a good long time completing the grid. That's all I ask on a Sunday.

So are Clinton and Obama Leos in the Tropical of Sidereal zodiac? I was shattered when I learned that I was not an Aries when somewhere I read that the Sidereal zodiac was the "correct" zodiac (though I have no idea why). I decided to pay no attention. For absolutely no earthly reason I prefer being a ram to a bull.

Someone once asked me how I wrote. I told her that I take dictation. That may be why my good writing is "read aloud" and the stuff I wince at doesn't lend itself to orallity.

I might also add that, as far as I can tell, all those rules apply to prose such as serious media, dissertations, reports, etc. Fiction and Gail Collins get a pass.

Mr. McCoy, thanks for showing up. Your explanation absolves you of the need to apologize.

Masked and Anonymo11Us 1:42 PM  

BACKOFFAUSINTHEMDIALECTS. (Stolen from Elmore Leonard).

Quadfecta example:
Sure do luv them lil darlin 11U's thoroughly!


Is repurposin all cool advice like this for a fun crossword plagiarism? Was Safire the first dude to recommend poofreadin?

In any case, thanx for a welldone puz, Mr. McCoy.

M&A on the road

Glenn Patton 1:52 PM  

@Randy, thanks for pointing me to I see now that there is a similar statement in the Android FAQ. Tying their app and their content together would be a different matter if their app were a model of perfection ... but it's not. That makes it seem more like King Canute trying to hold back the waves. It's my observation as a retired librarian that publishers lost the battle to control their content at least 10 years ago.

jberg 2:02 PM  

@Virginia Lady, it's not just the puzzle in that funny font -- the whole NYT Magazine is devoted to cartoons, and all the non-cartoone elements (pretty much the puzzles and the TOC) are in that font. The ads are the only exceptions.

Like most others, I appreciate Tom McCoy's coming by to explain, and don't think an apology is needed. But then, I apologize for things constantly, so why shouldn't he? It was a fun puzzle, once I figured out the theme. A bit more challenging for me because of the theme density -- whenever I got going, I would have a down that crossed a couple of themers, and have no idea how to proceed.

Malapop at 76A, SASE, when I wrote in Stet, then found it later at 92D.

I always thought that PENAL and PUNITIVE are different forms of the same Latin/Greek word, but I'm not absolutely sure of that. And, yeah, OVERGO.

CFXK 2:07 PM  

It's seeming more and more as if Mr. Sharp looks for ways to tear down the constructor, never giving him/her the benefit of the doubt, never raising issues as questions but passing summary judgment instead, never considering that a constructor may be something more than a lazy sleezeball. How sad.

There are legitimate ways to raise questions, objections, challenges and critiques without smearing the reputation of another, without resorting to ad hominem attacks, without assuming the worst about a person from the outset.

Mr. Sharp is a brilliant guy and I love his insights - I have learned a lot from him, and I enjoy his analysis. But the venom and personal attacks are getting harder and harder to take.

M and A Themer Tips 2:10 PM  

ooooh ... ooooh ...
Writin tip No. 8: DONTCOPYOFFASAFIRE. har Now, that woulda been a primo one, for the plagiarism-theory JUSTBURYEMALIVE crowd.


Anonymous 2:25 PM  

I've prosecuted plagiarism often in academia, and I think I know what it is. (My guidelines to students: No, you will not get an "F" on the paper: you will get an "F" on the course, and the case will be referred to the the ethics board, which can result in additional penalties, including expulsion from the university.) This isn't plagiarism. Most of these examples in circulation. I've used "Don't use of contractions," in study guidelines, and I have never heard of Safire's rules. Some of his rules, no doubt, lifted from somewhere.

My favorite guides for writing: Fowler, Strunk and White, and S. I. Hayakawa (“How Judgments Stop Thought”). Hayakawa, to my horror, later became a prominent reactionary (like Safire).

By the way, what’s with the font of this puzzle? With the layout of the KenKen puzzles, I wondered if some disgruntled NY Times employee made off with a bunch of software (weren’t many people fired last week?). And speaking of failure to proofread, the KenKen in my version (Midwest, hard copy) had an error, dreadful for a number-puzzle.

[Anon. i.e. Poggius]

Anonymous 2:31 PM  

Macedonia's Men's Handball team just won the EHF Handball Championship. Coincidence?

Nancy 2:37 PM  

It was gratifying to see how many of the writers whom I most enjoy reading on this blog talk about hearing the words that they write in their heads. About re-writing any sentences that sound too "written." This is how I attempt to write too, and how I prefer that all writers write. It's the main reason that I didn't become an English major. There were simply too many "Great Writers" I was supposed to admire but couldn't. The reason: I could hear the wheels spinning in their heads as they painstakingly concocted one exquisitely-wrought sentence after another. And the more I was aware of those spinning wheels, the more the immediacy and spontaneity of their prose all but disappeared. It's wonderful that so many on this blog know that writing is -- or should be -- primarily an aural experience. It's why so much of the writing on this blog is so good.

Trombone Tom 2:42 PM  

Hand up for thinking Tom McCoy is owed an apology and kudos to him for nevertheless making one. I've seen lists like this presented numerous times over the years, some before that of William Safire. Today's blog review was unjustifiably harsh.

This was a fun puzzle except for the egregious OVERGO.

Took me a long time to get from turn on to POWER UP.

CDilly52 3:05 PM  

Because my grammarian-English teacher-mother introduced me to Safire's writing wisdom, and I found it both entertaining and useful, I view this puzzle more homage than plagiarism. Hand up for "approve and like it."

In the late '80s when my daughter should have been learning grammar and usage, her language arts teachers seemed more concerned that the students write anything than that they write correctly. They had to write "something" in a journal that only the teacher saw every school day. The teacher read but did not correct the journals and I could not understand the purpose of the exercise (other than the possible wanting to know how the kids were doing emotionally). This seeming neglect of a wonderful teaching opportunity drove me over the edge.

Enter Mom the Mean! @LMS, I didn't just put clever signs up at the house, I put my child in writing jail! She had a choice, let me read and correct the school journal or write something of equal length every school day for me to see. She has always been a smartie, so chose the school journal and wrote about her mean mother making her do extra homework because Mom thinks the teacher isn't doing a good job of teaching English. Ouch! The authorities probably should have intervened, right?

At the time, I was teaching legal writing, and using the Safire article every semester. Why not give it to a 9 year old? Fortunately, my daughter loved books from birth, and didn't put up too much fuss, because she also adored being included in anything her parents were doing. I told her she was having to learn the very same thing I was teaching at "big school" (her early term for where Mom taught), and showed her examples of my students' mistakes that were just like the ones she was making.

Today, at the ripe old age of 37, she recently called to ask me for "that writing thing you made me do in 4th grade" because she is working on a journal article and wanted to "brush up." I also got a "thanks for teaching me something that important." We parents get SO much smarter as our kids get older...if we are lucky.

Other than OVERGO, I have no complaints.

rorosen 3:06 PM  

Hands up! Apologize,..

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

Will Shortz still waiting for apology. Don't hold your breath. Dude's a classless twit.

Cass Garnet 3:59 PM  

I'd better get to my Balneotherapy to get my THATCH under control.

Joe Dipinto 4:06 PM  

@Anonymous 2:25 -- yes, the KenKen has a misplaced vertical line in the top row right. I think I literally did a double-take.

Joe Dipinto 4:18 PM  

@Tom McCoy -- this was a fun puzzle and you have absolutely nothing to apologize for. As others have pointed out, it is almost certain that Safire didn't come up with ANY of those on his own. And I always found his On Language column to be hopelessly behind the times - by about 20 years - regarding au courant usage.

Tom4 4:25 PM  

A lot of writer advice lists contain archaic items - not ending a sentence with a preposition, not splitting infinitives, avoiding adverbs - and, more annoyingly, seem to select their items arbitrarily (unless part of a truly exhaustive list). This puzzle seems to gently mock the pedantry, so I'll take it.

On the flip side, I recommend Vonnegut's writing advice/rules. Sage and silly.

Anonymous 4:48 PM  

I thought you did a good job of it, none of the entries are so specific that they couldn't have been thought of indepentantly. Crosswords are a very different medium too, even if entries are sourced from elsewhere. Your labor in putting it into a puzzle makes it original. Keep up the fun puzzles, I always enjoy your work!

Susie 4:50 PM  

Thank you Tom. I thought the puzzle was terrific and yes these are very common "rules."

Anonymous 4:51 PM  

"All my grandparents immigrated to the United States."

Joe Bleaux 5:01 PM  

@Tom McCoy, I, too, think your apology is gracious, but it's unneeded (by me, anyway). I believe a wordplay devotee of your stature wouldn't knowingly plagiarize. And even if you *were* ethically impoverished, I doubt that you'd stupidly rip off anyone whose work is as widely recognized as Safire's. So your chagrin clearly is deserved, but to hold you *guilty* of anything would be OVERGOing it.

GILL I. 5:14 PM  

@CDilly 52...Ah yes - the mean mom!.
My grandmother and my mother were both English teachers. Nana was a Smith graduate at a time when most women didn't go to college - but at every turn, she'd drop that little tidbit.
I learned Spanish before wanting to even care about English. I thought it an ugly language and I couldn't understand why it wasn't the least bit phonetic as God intended.
My mom was patient with me but she was a true grammarian. My grandmother thought I was a little heathen.
Nana would always say "You always have a story to tell, so just write it the way you want to." I did. I'd write all kinds of nonsense. Mom was intent on getting me to use the correct commas, periods, capitals, and to never end a sentence with a preposition. Nana, on the other hand, cared more for the distinction between there/their, lay/lie, your/you're etc.. She was the one that I felt actually read what I said rather than looking for errors that I commit to this day.
In time, and through painful schooling, I learned a few distinctions.
They both taught me a lot but I truly believe that you have to first start with the nonsense and not get criticised for it. The damn comma here and the damn capital there eventually come with practice, lots of reading and maybe a lollypop!
Try reading Cervantes in Spanish!'s glorious.

Larry Gilstrap 5:45 PM  

I taught English for many years, and as a result composition. Developing and maintaining proficiency in written communication cannot be accomplished in a vacuum. Writers need intellect, life experience, critical thinking skills, and the self-confidence to believe that their opinions matter in the first place. In other words, a daunting task involving a great deal more than having a teacher with a red pen bleed all over a kid's paper, one the student probably was not that keen on writing in the first place. On the other hand, knowing the rules is essential. Sure artists write, and draw, and play outside the lines, but they do it knowingly. Exhibit A: "The Red Wheelbarrow."

I agree with OFL's questioning the originality of the themers in this puzzle and also believe that Mr. McCoy came by them through convergent evolution. Unfortunate, that this had to become a thing.

Does anybody read signs posted on the wall? When I was trying to get to Grand Central from JFK on the subway, you can bet I was looking for signs. But, on occasion I have trouble with Push/Pull.

I wonder what first went through the head of @LMS when she saw that clue "Much of W. Va."

Anonymous 5:54 PM  

Tarheel: "@" is not an ampersand. "&" is an ampersand.

Dick Swart 6:25 PM  

I enjoyed the puzzle. particularly 'avoid redundancty'.

A tip of the hat was in order to Safire. If the constructor was not aware, certainly the editor was.

Z 6:25 PM  

If I were Mr. McCoy and this had been pointed out to me I would have been mortified and apologized. Candidly, all the "none needed," while meant graciously I am sure, is a little condescending. If it were me I would want an "apology accepted."

Most telling from the author was this, "If I had been aware that Safire had already thought of most of these jokes, I would not have submitted the puzzle." Exactly. It takes 10 seconds to enter "NEVER GENERALIZE" into a search bar and see ~10 million hits and pause to reconsider one's creativity. Even if this is not plagiarism, I would take care to not invite the slightest question for public discussion about my work.

@Bret4:09am - Hand up for wanting Fozzie.

Regarding non-NYT crossword Apps - Puzzazz updated their app so I don't need to download the puzzle separately. Not sure what the difference is between Puzzazz or Standalone, but you can download the NYTX from the Standalone app, at least on an iPad:
1. Start on the screen with puzzles.
2. Click on "More..." on the bottom left of the screen
3. Select "Browse the Web"
4. Enter "" in the url bar (no quotation marks)
5. Log In (check the "remember me" box)
6. Click on the download icon (next to the printer icon, a downward pointed arrow through a line)
7. Select NOW or LATER.

If you click "remember me" you shouldn't need to log in every time.
The puzzle will be identified as an "imported puzzle" instead of as a "NY Times" puzzle.

Hartley70 6:46 PM  

This had a clever theme, well and humorously executed. The fill was straightforwardly clued which made this too easy for a Sunday IMHO. I don't consider this plagiarism, but it was fun to hear the constructor's voice in Rexville.

I enjoyed your poem, Nancy. Things were getting way too serious here.

Mr. Grumpypants 6:47 PM  

@Z : What? if you get ~10 million hits for NEVER GENERALIZE, then it is plainly a phrase in the public domain and you can do whatever you want with it. Your comment made even less sense than Rex's rant -- which was dumb enough to begin with.

Robert Young 6:51 PM  

Come on Rex. You will find these, even verbatim, in any Frosh Englih Comp class. How long have you been out of colleg?

Anonymous 6:57 PM  

OFL did not question the constructor @Larry Gilstrap. That would have been polite and grounded in the understanding that he did not know exactly what occurred. This was not questioning, it was asserting: "is lifted," "appropriation," "lifted verbatim" [even though the item was not verbatim], "plagiarism." These are the words of one who (thinks he) knows what happened. So I ask you, what's worse, inadvertent and well intentioned convergent evolution, or negatively predisposed holier-than-thou know-it-all-ism?

ultramet 7:29 PM  

This puzzle was so "meh". I've been a doctor for over 30 years, and not once have I used the term "aortal"... "aortic" yes, but "aortal" never.

JC66 7:31 PM  


Wrong again. What a surprise.

Leapfinger 7:35 PM  

@Larry Gil's Trap, I know! Those Push/Pull moments can really force things. As they say, to the vector the spoils, eh? My bigger problem lies elsewhere, however. I've gone through countless doors that said Entrance and never once did I come out entranced.

Safire was a gem of the first water in the realm of language, but I think making him the focus of this xwp's critique is specious or factitious, perhaps both. If nothing else, we're better off for being reminded that it's always beneficial to have POO FREED.

It was a dark and stormy knight

Mohair Sam 7:39 PM  

@Leapfinger - Clearly you've never tried the entrance at The House of the Rising Sun.

Anonymous 7:46 PM  

I did not like the puzzle because I've heard all those expressions before and done more cleverly. I am surprised so many teachers and others here have not seen something similar. However, I don't see it as plagiarism---that is a different ball of wax.

Aketi 7:58 PM  

@leapfinger and mohair Sam, now I have POOF that's it's worth my time to return to read evening comments.

BarbieBarbie 8:44 PM  

@Tom McCoy, don't apologize. @Rex owes you one.
OK @Rex. It's one thing to look for something to complain about in every puzzle published by some guy with whom you've had some kind of long-standing feud. It's quite another to fling professional mud, especially unjustified mud, at an innocent bystander. And still another for a professor of literature to assume that the newspaper clipping he has found is an original souce, and to look no further. That's flat-out sloppy research, Michael. Does the tenure committee know? Maybe you're too young to have clear memories of adults educated in the 40s, standing around drinking cocktails and coming up with these self-contradictory phrases, one after another. (It's the kind of word game people used to play. Safire just wrote a bunch of them down.) But even for a blog, a little background work is in order before you make accusations.

Anonymous 9:13 PM  

Reading these comments is seriously frustrating since the pros and the cons are all basing their ideas on what they already thought instead of what IS:

Read the introductory matter. Safire himself said these were not his own work, but gave "thanks to scores of readers..." who submitted them.
This little echo chamber gets so sad sometimes.

Anonymous 10:36 PM  

As editor of Physical Review Letters, George Trigg published a list of grammar rules/examples in March 1979. These can be found at This was about 8 months before Safire published his list. See Trigg points out that his list was not original.
I especially liked #25: "To ignorantly split an infinitive...". so, yes, you can do it. Just be aware of what you are doing.
Trigg's audience was composed of physicists, not English lit majors, and many manuscripts came from places where English was not the main language. Try to imagine the challenges he faced.

skua76 10:38 PM  

When I looked at the puzzle title before starting it, I assumed it was a further extension of "John Grisham's Suggestions for Writing Popular Fiction" which was in the Book Review (I liked). But when I started seeing the theme answers I knew I'd seen them before but had to come here for the source. Like others have said, I think there should have been a hat tip to William Safire, perhaps by cluing him in an obscure corner of the puzzle. Usually I download the puzzle, but today due to other things I did it in the magazine. And yes, I did wonder about the extra vertical line in the Kenken (which of course is only in the magazine.

Joe Dipinto 11:11 PM  

@Z -- your comments, while meant graciously, I am not-so-sure, are a lot condescending.

Teedmn 11:39 PM  

I'm posting super late even though I solved the puzzle this morning. But after reading @Rex, I was disheartened to think that a puzzle I so enjoyed was now tainted with the "plagiarized" label. Now that I've read the comments and after @Tom McCoy's visit here, I feel so much better.

The NE was definitely challenging due to the POOFREADing answer. I liked the sly insertion of the oft reviled ONE'S at 41A's ANYONE'S guess/game. And I join the legions who smiled at the REDUNDANCY redundancy.

@Nancy, I'm so impressed at your recalling the LEO poem. And based on this article, your friend may well have not had a claim to LEO greatness. I am chagrined to find that my 8/6 birthday relegates me to the LEO wannabes.

Tom McCoy, thank you for the clever Sunday puzzle.

CDilly52 12:48 AM  

And from spamish ee learned to understand the subjunctive, si?

Roy Leban 1:01 AM  

I am late and I'll be brief:

1) I liked the puzzle. Reminded me of the intentionally error-filled puzzle of a number of years ago, much more than Safire's writing..

2) It isn't plagiarism. Safire made a list of 33 humorous "fumblerules," many of which did not originate with him, and even thanks readers who sent them in. Tom McCoy made a list of 7 well-honed and symmetrically matching rules. One and only one matches exactly, which is just a coincidence. Tom, it's gracious of you to apologize, but not necessary.

2A) There's real plagiarism in the crossword world, sadly. Let's not invent it where it doesn't exist.

3) Yes, the print edition in this week's beautiful New York Times Magazine has the entire puzzle handwritten. Guess what? Since Puzzazz always presents the Print Edition, it's also handwritten in Puzzazz (though we did provide an option to use the "Digital" Edition instead).

Holy Mackerel, Safire 3:38 AM  

Seems rather that apologies are in order from Prof. Sharp, for going off half-cocked with some half-baked ideas.

Put half-bake and half-cock together and you get back coke.

Passing Shot 11:49 AM  

What'd I miss? :-) Was only able to skim the comments today but I see that Tom McCoy responded to the charge of potential plagiarism. This was a fantastic and fun puzzle, Mr. McCoy, and your response, like your puzzles, was pure class. Thank you.

Fred 2:23 PM  

I agree with almost everyone: This one was fun!

A minor point: The Italian flag was in Sbarro's logo up to early 2015, but no longer. It has been replaced by a pizza slice.

Salty 4:22 PM  

My paper gets the NYT puzzle weeks late so this is unlikely to be seen, but...did no one else think "Fozzie" when they read "character who goes "waka, waka, waka"?

Burma Shave 10:18 AM  


NEVERGENERALIZE ABOUT docile women, OHNO, ORE you’ll be stunned,


rondo 11:33 AM  

I break most or all of those “rules” most every post. In general, don’t much care and won’t be going on ABOUT who came up with them first or last or next. Better than a rebus. Better than a rebus.

I’ve actually had the stroke of luck in making a HOLEINONE, on league night with at least 8 witnesses. It got spendy back at the clubhouse.

I don’t suppose MEIN is ever SEEN clued with Kampf. Let’s not get into that further than UBOAT.

OH,NO doubt ABOUT it, NIA Peeples is the YEAH baby in today’s puz.

This was a good warm-up, it’s ABOUT time to head to the MN Xword Tourney. Need to GOOGLE the radar to see if there’ll be more storms. I think this puz was fairly SOUND.

spacecraft 11:42 AM  

And one more: To carelessly split infinitives is reprehensible.

YEAH, lotsa fun. A strange puzzle to get through; no real starting place for any of the themers, but enough gimmes sprinkled throughout to get the job done. I wish the fill had been tighter; I'd have enjoyed it more. But a RRN right out of the gate, followed by STA and RESEED...Okay, RESEED is a real, USED word; I gotta RESEED the lawn this year. But it's still on the "Re-verb" list, and automatically draws the wince. Also, what is a "NOTICEBOARD?" Sorry if "bulletin" doesn't fit, Tom, but that's what it is.

104- and 116-across are not only writing tips (har har!) but also crossword construction tips. However, you can't make the point without making the point again. If you get my point.

OVERGO is so outrageous it's funny. Oh YEAH: "Bring in" is not a great clue for ARREST. First you ARREST the perp, THEN you "bring him in." Had to scan all the way down into the SE corner to come up with DOD NIA Peeples. Fill defects aside, I enjoyed this. Certainly far from a HOLEINONE, but score it a par.

rain forest 2:05 PM  

A very enjoyable easy/medium puzzle. Everyone has seen various "rules" for good writing, and the ones in the puzzle are ubiquitous, but I liked how they played out.

I'm not going to OVERGO my normal comment length - I merely want to say that this was a nice diversion today. Just what a Sunday should be. Oops. Sentence fragments.

Nice cluing, if easy for much of it, and decent fill. My only slow area was the SE, just like yesterday, except today CERN came to the rescue, and I had to accept OVERGO. Small price to pay.

AnonymousPVX 2:44 PM  

To the anonymous (cowardly) troll with all the political comments, I think I met you a while ago, but then I flushed the toilet.

This is a crossword blog, go out to some fake news site and have fun with your "kind" and please leave the puzzle blog out of it. Most of us come here to get away from your type.

Now - I groaned at "overgo" but then I looked it up - from Merriam-Webster - Definition of overgo. 1 dialectal, chiefly British : to cross over or through. 2 : to get the better of : excel, exceed; specifically, dialectal, chiefly England : overpower, overbear.

Which immediately reminded me of a line in "Sense and Sensibility" - "I must away".

wcutler 3:31 AM  

In a crossword puzzle, there are words and phrases. Constructors do not claim to have made up the phrases. They just use them in the puzzle. The "advice to writers" were old phrases, used in a puzzle. I'm surprised that there was any assumption of a claim to originality.

I liked that it was easy to figure out the advice, so it gave me lots of crosses, but then I finished it way too quickly and have no puzzle to do in bed until next Saturday.

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