Chaiken who co-created L Word / WED 11-12-14 / Mexican cigar brand / Baseball hall of famer mistakenly listed in chanukah song as Jewish / Slangy commercial suffix / Playwright who wrote what is originality undetected plagiarism /

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Constructor: Daniel Landman

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: BROKEN / RECORD (37A: With 40-Across, repeat offender? … or something found, literally, in four rows in this puzzle) — letter string "RECORD" is "BROKEN" (by black squares on four different lines:

Theme answers:

Word of the Day: HORSE CAR (11D: Transportation in Disneyland's Main Street, U.S.A.) —
1. a streetcar drawn by a horse or horses.
2. a railroad car or a truck for transporting horses.
[1825–35, Amer.] (
• • •

This would be a great idea if you could pull it off. But this puzzle decided Does Not pull it off. The resulting fill, in theme rows and just All Over, is a disaster. From the crosswordesey to the outright, unequivocally bad (IAL, PSSTS, ORAMA), the damage done to this grid is really inexcusable. If you need a nine-letter word ending in "RE-" how in the world do you end up with French "GRANDMÈRE"? I want to say there are roughly a jillion English words / phrases that would've fit the bill. That's just the first of many odd choices. I call this kind of theme a "canshould," i.e. just because it *can* be done, doesn't mean it *should*. Again, I can imagine this theme concept in different, more experienced hands being pulled off nicely. But in the theme rows alone you've got EIRE, COR, RDAS, and PEREC (?!). And then, hoo boy, the rest of the grid is just drowning in suboptimal stuff. I knew before I got out of the NW that this puzzle was gonna be trouble. Fill problems are probably most intense in the N, with PSSTS PPD SPEE and COR all falling under the to-be-avoided category, but DECI EDUCED ESOS AER ADV GAI ABONE and the aforementioned IAL and ORAMA, not to mention ECO TEAMO INGE ULNA SRS and other ultra-common dull stuff. The grid simply isn't worth the theme concept. Are the long Downs OK? The long Downs are OK. But they are nowhere near justifying this grid. Should've been sent back with a note: "Good idea—send it back with a Much cleaner grid, and I will happily reconsider it." But instead: Good Enough! Run it! A friend of mine just wrote me a message with virtually the identical observation: the proper response to this was, "Good idea, but as is, no."

I just can't get over PSSTS and IAL. It's not like I haven't seen them before, but in a grid already hamstrung by subpar fill … more than one PSST? That just strains credulity. And the only time I wanna see freestanding "IAL" is if Gore ever writes an autobiography with that title.

  • 62A: Georges who wrote "Life: A User's Manual" (PEREC) — I have only ever seen this name in crosswords, and Only Ever With This Clue. It's klassic krosswordese. See also SPEE. Old-timey non-fun.
  • 63D: No great catch (CAD) — this clue struck me as very odd. I don't think of a CAD as someone you catch at all. A schlub is no great catch.
  • 67A: Name hollered in the "Flintstones" theme song (WILMA) — I actually wrote in YABBA. As I drifted off to other parts of the grid, a little part of my brain was going, "You know YABBA's not a 'name,' right?"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:08 AM  

Medium-tough Wed. for me with most of the resistance in the SW.  I was iffy about ILENE, PEREC, and spelling CAREW but the theme told me I got it right. 

Liked the theme idea and the long downs,  but I have to agree with Rex on this one. 

Count me befuddled 12:18 AM  

This puzzle inspired me to look up as best I could exactly how Will does his first scan through the puzzle, i.e. does he actually do the puzzle? I can't imagine that, having done a puzzle as this one stands, that it would have been accepted. Then I saw that the first page(s) are a listing of the clues/answers in a column. How could one look at the answer column and not see the all the drek?

Steve J 12:20 AM  

I so wanted to like this one. The theme concept is great, and the revealer clue was excellent as well. But, as Rex said, the fill is really quite tortured in far too many spots. One can overlook an occasional abbreviation, partial or forced plural, but not the plethora we have here. And I don't think one can ever overlook IAL. Really wish this didn't sag under the weight of its dreck, because the theme idea is really very good.

mathguy 12:32 AM  

I liked it. The theme was clever (and it gave me PEREC, which I didn't know), the entries were fresh, and it had some satisfying crunch.

Unknown 12:44 AM  

Challenging here. Friday hard. 50 min. 7 errors, mostly in Great Lakes. I ended with cheats at ANNE_/_DU_E/DE_I. Lots to complain about today, but there was a lot to learn, too. ELICIT and EDUCE are true synonyms. I usually recall one or the other, so nice to have them forced to mind at once. Too bad I couldn't do it during solve time.

Things I didn't know we're things:
GRANDMERE (@leapy, do you think they know this in Grand Marais?)
Bonne ANNEE. I had soirE. (ANNEE is nearly impossible from Bonne_____. SUMAC is equally hard from Poison_____. And they cross.)
SEWing Bee?
BROKEN RECORD as criminology as opposed to sports, where it has unambiguous meaning.
MOHEL as spelled. (Moile?)
TEAMO Cigars?
ORDAINING remains in-language. Wasn't it thrown over for PRIESTIFY last week?
A CAD is a bad catch? Odd, as Rex points out n
Funny about CAREW. @Z is that even true?
THEIR as a singular genderless pronoun screams ignorance and is offensive to my denotative sensibilities.

This puzzle is noteworthy because every clue-soln pair is grousable.

ZenMonkey 12:50 AM  

Enjoyed the theme and its execution. Agree about the fill, although it didn't ruin the puzzle for me.

PSSTS is beyond bad. And I'm much more generous about fill than Rex. If it makes me say "No" out loud, it's pretty atrocious.

I liked ILENE because it's my middle name and rather rare to see spelled that way. As a kid I thought it was weird and ugly, but by the time I was in my 20s I'd done a 180 and have loved it ever since. Why am I telling you all this.

Whirred Whacks 12:52 AM  

So-so puzzle (the reveal helped me with two lines of answers).

Fun answers with RACIER and ANAL next to each other.

When I got the clue for 6A "Erect", I already had --TUP filled in, and I figured the answer had to be SHTUP (just like 3 months ago), but alas the crosses led me to PUTUP.

As Bart Simpson (and Hayley Gold) say: "Eat my Shortz."

retired_chemist 12:57 AM  

Medium. I think. Having been otherwise occupied for about ten days, I have not had time to read this blog.

I would appreciate some help with the following: Across Lite now indicates with an X through the square any errors I make. This bothers me since it provides unwanted help. When I put rabbi for 9A today, for example, I knew it was wrong instantly. I cannot see how to turn this off and leave myself the pleasure of figuring out my errors myself. Using Mac OS 10.5.7 - anybody?

Oh, the puzzle. Can't argue with what Rex said but I had fun with it anyway. Spelt @ 69A - different kind of bee. DECa instead of DECI - knew it was wrong instantly (see above) and changed the a TO I.

Thanks, Mr. Landman.

Clark 1:13 AM  

@retired_chemist: I think you need to click on the "Across Lite" menu (at the very top of your screen (next to the apple), click on "Preferences," and then check the "Off" box after "Automatic solution checking." I have actually never had automatic solution checking turned on, so I am not sure that's what's going on, but it sure sounds like it.

Nyer 1:26 AM  

@retired chemist: if you are using an iPad, click on the pencil in the lower right corner, click on "select skill presets", then select "intermediate" or "expert".

John Child 1:28 AM  

I finished with an error at PEREs / sAD and was immediately embarrassed to realize that the C was double-checked by the theme. Doh!

Anonymous 1:31 AM  

We've got VIAGRA, MOHEL, "Erect" (as a clue), A-BONE.... then down at the bottom, he went another way.

Maybe it all has to do with WILMA somehow.

Elle54 2:22 AM  

My husband says Rod Carew converted to Judaism. So not an error in the song?

Charles Flaster 5:16 AM  

EZ but liked it more than Rex. I do not mind some crosswordese. You still need to know it.ULNA and SUMAC are some examples.
As far as I recall Carew married a Jewish woman but never converted and that might not count.(Wonder if Adam Sandler agrees?)
Carew was only one of four players to make the All Star game as a starting infielder at two different positions. Excluding pitchers and catchers .
In 9D I think buddy should be in quotes for MAC.
Thanks DL.

GILL I. 6:29 AM  

@Rex. He did. It's called I Ain't Lying.
@Anony 1:31. My first HOWL of the day. You made me spill my Ovaltine.
MOHEL and SEWED in the same puzzle just looks so wrong. OK, toss in ANAL and ULNA.
Has any one ever eaten Moo goo GAI pan?
GRAND MERE? OR A MA? Claro, it's TEA MO dummy.
Right, I've had my fun....I did not INGE because I actually enjoyed this puzzle. We are spoiled with perfect PBs but this one felt just fine for a hump on a Wed.

John Child 6:49 AM  

@Gill Moo goo GAI pan was Mary Tyler Moore's favorite Chinese dish on The Dick Van Dyke Show. I have a vague recollection of ordering it when I was in college and first learning about Chinese food. (My parents took me to Trader Vic's, but that's emphatically doesn't count because I was too young to have the cocktails.) I think once was enough.

dk 7:24 AM  

🌜🌜(2 mOOnettes)

No records broken here. Perhaps just a "cereal" killer.

Ludyjynn 7:29 AM  

I'm calling this one Writeover Wednesday: rabbi before MOHEL;
built before PUTUP;
Peres before PEREC;
sad before CAD (hi, @John Child);
spelt before SEWED.

Phew... barely got over this hump. Rex nailed his commentary, IMO. I still don't understand what ADV means; help, please.

Wikipedia does a nice job fully explaining the Rod Carew religious confusion issue.

@Whirred Whacks, your 'shtup' writeover made my day, what with VIAGRA next door to it. (Like Hef's 'girls').

For me, overall, a medium, meh mid-week solve.

George Barany 7:40 AM  

Stopping by quickly to confirm that, Adam Sandler's Chanukah song notwithstanding, Rod Carew was not a Jew (see 2:40 in the link). He married a Jewish woman and they raised their children as Jews, but he himself never converted. Of the many ways that this can be confirmed on the internet, my favorite is this site. Of course, rhyming "Carew" and "Jew" -- pretty good!

AliasZ 7:42 AM  

When I saw Erect, VIAGRA and A BONE to start, I thought I came across one of the RACIER NYT puzzles in recent memory, almost causing my face to TURN RED. Then the MOHEL cut short any such line of thinking, in a MANNER of speaking. Ouch!

Not a bad puzzle today, with BROKEN RECORD broken in three different ways: RE-CORD, RE-COR-D and R-ECO-RD. Unfortunately, the last one gives rise to a cringe-worthy POC in RDAS, arguably worse than PSSTS. But there were plenty of nice entries to make me forget the clunkers. I liked HORSE CAR, BAT AN EYE, SERAPHS, the Peruvian princess, Yma SUMAC and a few others.

I liked Georges PEREC too, who is famous for having written an entire novel without using the letter E titled La Disparition, and a book of poetry La Clôture et autres poèmes which contains a palindrome of 1,247 words. He was also a regular crossword constructor for the weekly news magazine "Le Point." The quintessential wordplay guy.

TAKE ME out to a ballgame to watch ROD CAREW play and steal home for a ONE-RUN win. He was born on a train in the Panama Canal Zone, and was delivered with the help of a doctor by the name of Rodney Cline, after whom his mother named him Rodney Cline Carew. He never converted to Judaism, although his three daughters from the first marriage (to Marilynn Levy) were brought up in the Jewish faith.

Amazing what a quick perusal of Wikipedia can do for you.

To close, let me offer a piece from Années de pèlerinage: Troisième ANNÉE, titled Les jeux d'eaux à la Villa d'Este by Franz Liszt, played here by György Cziffra. You can see the water droplets glisten and water nymphs dance on the surface of the water wearing tiny silver spurs near the end (6:15). But enough for now.

Dorothy Biggs 7:49 AM  

Apropos of nothing, Rex's "canshould" reminds me of a meme I saw the other day: "Just because you can pay for something doesn't mean you can afford it." Good advice.

I've read Rex's blog now for quite a while and even though he gets criticized for sometimes being a bit, um, critical, he has helped me identify the personalities of different puzzles. I think I do puzzles better now because I can see more quickly now isms of a puzzle and adapt accordingly. Rex may call those isms "dreck" or "klassic krosswordese" or whatever, but each puzzle has a certain personality that's defined by that stuff.

For instance, in a puzzle where PSSTS is okay, you're going to see that ADV, AER, SAO, and the like are okay too. This puzzle had a bunch of languages thrown in too: GAI, MOHEL, SPEE, AER, STADT, TEAMO, GRANDMERE, and SAO, not to mention COR, SEOUL, PEREC, and EIRE. Again, personality.

I would love to meet a stenographer who does the NYT xword puzzles. I bet they're a proud bunch.

I didn't take Spanish, but I know enough (from xwords) to be dangerous, and the ESOS/esas/esto/esta stuff always gets me. I know they are words but I don't know the rules, maybe I should sign on to Duolingo and get some basic Spanish in...?

dreck abounds 7:50 AM  

This puzzle is easily one of the worst ever published by the Times. Just dreck fill followed by more dreck fill. Foreign languges. PSSTS.
I'm going to take some fen-phen and do the ken-ken.

Mohair Sam 7:52 AM  

@ludyjinn - They're ADVerbs.

JohnV 7:58 AM  

Liked it, was a bit crunchy. Got Naticked in the SW, as I suspect will happend a lot today. Crossing ILENE, PEREC and CAD seems off the mark, to me.

Mohair Sam 8:11 AM  

Very clever theme that crashes on the rocks described by @Rex. Really hate it when I agree with a negative Rex rant, but I do today.

Hand up for Spelt before SEWED, and rabbi before MOHEL. Also for PEREs before PEREC - but saved by the theme.

With all the racy cluing pointed out by @Alias Z maybe I'll spend a little time thinking of a different clue for TAKEME.

Every time a constructor resurrects the Graf SPEE I promise myself I'll Netflix "Pursuit of the Graf Spee" which I've seen only once - but I never do.

I could eat moo goo GAI pan every day and not tire of it. Favorite Chinese food by a mile.

Didn't know CAREW story and not a Sandler fan so 38d clue was essentially "Hall of Famer not named Greenberg or Koufax." But ROD was enough.

Hartley70 8:16 AM  

Except for PEREC, SPEE, and the spelling of MOHEL, which were new to me, everything else was on the easy side. Not enough clever here, although I thought the theme was very good, especially for a Wednesday. It was a serviceable little workhorse but it didn't jump any fences for me.

Glimmerglass 8:17 AM  

I'm with the Casco Kid. THEIR is absolutely NOT an alternative to his/her. The clue should read "a substandard alternative to his/her." In an attempt to be gender neutral, English speakers (and, even worse, writers) have lapsed into the moronic. As an English teacher I spent almost 40 years trying to train this out of lazy students; now as an editor, I'm still correcting lazy writers.

Z 8:20 AM  

The Fifty Shades meta continues.

Glimmerglass 8:22 AM  

@Daniel Landman. Don't feel too bad about Rex's review. Your puzzle is not nearly as bad as this rant says it is. You just happened to be in the line of fire. Rex's rant is actually aimed at Will Shortz. TYou are just collateral damage. The theme bailed me out of the SW corner, where I knew neither PEREC nor how to spell ILENE and was not sure whether 63D should be CAD or not.

joho 8:25 AM  

@Alias Z, what about REC-ORD?

I got a kick out of the clever clues like "Car starter?" and "Ones who are so last year?: Abbr. Also loved "repeat offender" for BROKEN RECORD.

In fact, I loved the whole BROKEN RECORD concept and really enjoyed finding all the smashed vinyl.

I enjoyed it, thank you, Daniel Landman!

Dorothy Biggs 8:31 AM  

I'd like to step in for a second on the "THEIR" debate.

As a parent of a transgendered person, I've learned a lot recently about the binary of gender prevalent in our language and the inability of our language to conceive of anything else.

"Their/they" is currently the pronoun of choice among transgendered individuals who are born one way (male/female genitalia) but who identify with the other way.

So, for what it's worth, in the trans world "their/they" are acceptable pronouns for a singular person of non-binary identification.

BTW, it is also a heated debate now to add in new pronouns much like when "Ms" was added into the language in the 1970s. Evidently, and others can speak more expertly about this, the word we know as "you" and use in the singular was once the plural form of "thou."

So language changes, and while we may feel weird using it in new ways, the times they are a-changin', and we'll be seeing some further evolution of the language soon. I don't think "their/they" will win out, but they are now placeholders for a third pronoun.

Granted "their," in this case, translates better to "he/she," but the point stands. Our language is going to need to evolve to embrace new, more nuanced, understandings.

Bird 8:39 AM  

To quote Jimmy Fallon, "Ew!"

Nice idea for a theme, but the subpar fill and awkward cluing made this not fun

Horace S. Patoot 8:44 AM  

Regarding the "their" vs "his" debate ("his/her" is appalling), my opinion was changed when I saw a video from Merriam Webster, and after a bit further research I'm as ANAL as ever, but comfortable with genderless singular "their". I can't be bothered to look up the html code, so excuse this ugly link.

I actually enjoyed the puzzle quite a bit BTW.

Horace S. Patoot 8:48 AM  

Oh, very well. Here's a prettier link To the M-W video I mentioned.

Unknown 8:51 AM  

Easy Med Wednesday for me. I will only pick one nit. What is with the use of ECO in front of, seemingly, every word in the dictionary? Does anyone actually call a Prius an ECOCAR? No. If ECO is going to continue to appear in the puzzle (and we know it will) I would like to request that it not be clued in such a random manner. Thank you for reading. Have a nice day.

Leapfinger 8:54 AM  

@CascoK, like M&A says, MERE'd if I know! Maybe I otter, but till you brought it up, I hadn't heard of Grand Marais. Sorry, @Michiganders! Moi, I was thinking of Petit Rouge Radain Houde...But thanks for reminder of 'priestify'.

Moi, I amo'd this, from the EIRE/ERIE start right down to the baseball corner where BAT AN EYE lines up next to ROD CAREW, even though there's no EYE in TEAMO.

The grid also hada couple of nice pairs: HOWL/HYENA and LOYAL/MOHEL brought a giggle. Although I think MOyEL cuts it closer.

3D reminded me of someone who claimed to have a couple of pet iguanas, Camille and Leon; no resulting baby iguanas, as Leon had a reptile dysfunction. That isn't my story -- I just RECORD it.

How about SEOUL, CORea?
SAO DIN, Arabia or SEWED DIN, Arabia?
Sir INGE and/or Little Sir ECO?
Dav doo ONE RUN?
I know, I know: GAI avec, Meshooganer!

Have a great Wednesday, y'all, whether Swede-INGE, Nord-INGE OR DAIN-INGE

7d5a9b1 9:05 AM  

Think about it--what's really wrong with PSSTS? It's perfectly understandable, even kind of cute the way its clued (the test cheaters aren't hard to imagine), but, "Rex" says, it "strains credulity." Credulity? Is belief in anything involved here? "Rex" reminds me of those neoclassical critics who dismissed Shakespeare as violating the three unities of time, place, and action. You can't admire a play that shows the action of more than one day in more than one place, they said. It "strains credulity."

The same goes for most of "Rex"s remarks on "bad fill." Reviewers care about it; average solvers are no more bothered by it than the Globe audience, when Antony appears in Egypt in one scene, Rome in another.

pssts 9:25 AM  

This puzzle just PSST me off.

chefbea 9:26 AM  

Repeat offender=broken record...don't get it. Too many things I did not know and couldn't remember how to spell mohel.

Shout out to @mac and me...gotta get sewing..I mean going

joho 9:33 AM  

Hi, @chefbea! When a record is scratched or broken the song it plays skips or repeats.

jberg 9:35 AM  

Only yesterday, while wistfully browsing a guide to gardens and quiet spots in Paris, I came upon a reference to Rue Georges PEREC (actually a footpath). He's worth getting to know, as has been pointed out by @AliasZ. Even more amazingly, IMO, is that La Disparition has been translated into English, still without any Es, as A Void -- imposing yet another constraint. I don't know how close a translation it is, though. Here's a review.

Ellen S 9:42 AM  

I agree with @Rex on this. Perhaps I'm just grumpy because I DNF with a blank at the PEREC/CAD crossing. If I had thought to go back and figure out the theme I more likely would have gotten it.

On the "their" vs "his/her" debate, thank you @Horace and @NCA President. I'm as much a grammar and usage nazi as anyone. Still mourning the transition of "eke out" from meaning "supplement" to "barely get by." But I don't want to sacrifice the treatment of women and gender minorities in order to preserve the masculine-dominant puritiy of singular or plural pronouns. It's not that, theoretically, we can't have equality for all, regardless of race, sex, religion, sexual preference, or etc -- theoretically. But in fact, our language reflects our assumptions, and if some find it jarring to say "their" instead of "his" or (ugh) "his/her", then maybe that's good: makes you think about it.

So maybe this was a good puzzle -- blog is fascinating today!

Oh -- @Retired_Chemist -- your question about AcrossLite reminds me of why I stopped using it. At that time, the Rebus feature was only available in the paid version. So I ponied up the $20 or whatever they wanted, and discovered to my horror that if the puzzle involved "Rebi" (or rabbis) the Rebus button was active; otherwise not. So it was spoiling my solving experience by telling me that there was a Rebus without my asking. Phooey! Puzzazz is much better behaved -- it will let me put multiple letters or special characters or whatever in a square even if it's wrong, and will only point out my errors if I ask it. The puzzles, by the way, look just like how people describe the print version, including notes and weird graphics in the grids. And there is a "Show/Hide Explanations" button that circles the theme answers, or connects the dots for pictures. The developer isn't paying me to say this. I just like it better than AcrossLite.

Arlene 9:52 AM  

I had one of those strange solving experiences this morning. I was moving through this puzzle - getting clues here and there, but no solid solving. I was interrupted for about five minutes, and when I resumed doing the puzzle, it was smooth sailing.

It is so bizarre when this happens.
Brains rule!

chefbea 9:53 AM  

@joho..thanks!! Now I get it

CarylB 9:55 AM  

Dear Retired Chemist:
There's a gear/settings icon at the upper left on my Mac. Try playing with Interaction.
Same icon on iPad does not have this option.

Unknown 9:55 AM  

I'll take Grand Marais over GRANDMÈRÉ any day. Ok, if I wanted a pretentious name for a B&B, GRANDMERE would do fine. Vaguely Celtic. Think I'd bring in the newlywed crowd?

pmdm 10:01 AM  

According to Mr. Landman, he had second thoughts after submitted this puzzle because he, too, thought less than kindly about the fill. But he says that Mr. Shortz liked the long down answers so much that those answers made up for the lousy fill. Apparently, that's the reason Mr. Shortz accepted the puzzle. I guess, as in much of life, sometimes a compromise is in order. While many may disagree with Mr. Shortz, at least now you can understand his reasoning.

Mohair Sam 10:06 AM  

@7d5a9b1. Although I agreed with @Rex's comments I have to say your comment was well said, and a point well-taken. Good stuff.

Questinia 10:06 AM  

I misread bris officiant as French. "Bree offissiahn". Yeah, an extra minute in the NE.
I must have a high tolerance for dreck especially in the service of a good theme. Did not mind it at all.

@ NCA President, binary indeed and how many aren't dogmatic about it? Their as a stand-in for all the variants that can occur in nature is more accurate. What was once considered normal is being replaced by what is more common. The act of pathologizing identity is the pathology.

I'm looking forward to the day *u* and *r* will be acceptable for *you* and *are* without bias. Sometimes efficiency needs to outweigh the traditional and quaint.

Steve J 10:07 AM  

Re; Rod Carew: Apparently Adam Sandler corrected the song after finding out Carew never actually converted. The original version, of course, still has the lyric. I hadn't realized he never converted, so I learned something new today.

@Casco Kid and @Glimmerglass: I could not disagree with you more regarding THEIR, especially with the judgments that its use is substandard or screams ignorance. It's not appropriate for formal tone, but there's a world of difference between that and ignorance or sloppiness.

Now that we've (thankfully) evolved past assuming that men are the drivers of everything, English desperately needs a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun for instances when gender is unknown, inclusive or irrelevant. He/she works, but its repeated use is incredibly awkward. A new word altogether would have been lovely, but that's not the way the language evolved. We have THEIR. It's widely used.

@Glimmerglass: I used to write and edit for a living. If I used THEIR in this way, it was a deliberate decision, not laziness. As mentioned, a lot of he/she gets awkward. One can switch use of the third-person singular pronouns, but that can cause ambiguity and confusion, and it can disrupt the flow of the writing as the reader keeps adjusting their mental picture (because we're so used to language assuming men do everything and women do next to nothing, readers inevitably start wondering who the specific "her" is, even if there is none). I wouldn't use THEIR as a third-person singular pronoun in formal writing, but in more informal settings it's perfectly fine and fills a need that millions of English speakers agree needed to be filled.

@NCA President: The difference between thou and you goes beyond singular and plural. English used to have formal and informal pronouns for the second-person, as most Latin and Germanic languages do. Thou was the familiar singular second-person pronoun (equivalent to tu in French, in Spanish or du in German), while you was both the plural and the formal singular (equivalent to vous in French, usted/ustedes in Spanish and Sie in German - I don't believe English had a plural informal second-person pronoun like Spanish and German do).

Z 10:35 AM  

One's anyone?

@7d5a9b1 - PSSTS at the bottom is awful, at the top sorta fun -sorta like ANAL ORDAINING. (I'm sorry - I tried to resist but it was just too easy)

I have a simple grammar law - if it interferes with the listner's/reader's ability to understand the speaker/writer needs to correct.

RooMonster 10:39 AM  

Hey All !
Quite the English debate today. I haven't anything to add, as you all know from reading my posts I'm not the best grammarian!

Did like the puz, although I agree with the Way Too Much Dreck Crowd. Had I turned in this puz for consideration, Will would haven't accepted it.

Theme good. Helped me get PEREC, as I haven't heard of him. Now, I'm interested in him, since @AliasZ pointed out some fascinating facts about his word knowledge. Had some writeovers, wanted NEEDTO at first, but didn't put it in. Eventually put in haveTO, but the crosses changed it back to NEEDTO. Had iCIiLY in without realizing the double I, which gave me ORigINING for 64A! That gave me ORgMA for ORAMA, and a big Huh? Strightened it all out though. Also, joined the crowd for SEWup first.

DNF for MOyEL, ANNiE/SPEi. Oh well.


Z 10:42 AM  

Listner's? How did that not auto-correct?

Since I'm here I'll add what I forgot to include last time regarding too helpful software; Mr. Happy Pencil and his pals are all cheating for me. My SH-BOOM experience is a perfect example. If I'd solved on software I would have finished correctly, but I looked at SIM Alistair and decided I needed to fix it and settled on kIM/kHBOOM.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:43 AM  

Medium for me, but finished with a clean grid. I am not too sensitive about fill.

Several of the comments above remind me of the eternal question, "Why did Dr. Rorschach draw all those filthy pictures?"

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

Great discussion today. I Enjoyed the puzzle. Actually learned about Perec several years ago when he was in the NYT puzzle. I hadn't heard of him, but was embarrassed when I starting reading the stellar reviews of his "Life: A User's Manual". So I read it. It was amazing and I highly recommend it, especially for this crowd.
I agree with NCA president and everyone else who considers "their" a decent replacement for his/her. In 1981 at my "all-girls" college, we were taught to use s/he or their. No ifs, ands, or buts. Funny, over thirty years later, we're still living as if it were 1950. No surprise, of course, since women still change their name when they marry- something we were taught would be out of vogue in ten or twenty years. If I had a dollar for every one of my son's friends who asked me why my name was different....

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

BTW the "their" "his/her" usage is an early clue in "The Monogram Murders" (the new Poirot mystery written by someone other than Christie).

Melodious Funk 11:27 AM  

Did you ever wonder what the origin of assigning gender to nouns is, like other languages do?

The short answer is that nobody really knows. The prevailing theory is that Proto-Indo-European (circa 8000 years ago) originally had two "genders": animate and inanimate, and the "animate" gender later split into "masculine" and "feminine", leaving the inanimate gender as a "neuter" category. The details of how this happened are technical and controversial, and in any case the earlier origin of the animate/inanimate distinction is unknown.

But even this explanation, as shaky as it is, deals only with the history of European languages, and not with the many other languages of the world (including the Semitic) that have this kind of distinction.

The general web page on grammatical gender (what it is, how it varies across languages, etc.) is .

As for the loss of the gender distinction in English, it is part of a general process by which grammatical distinctions have been lost in English. Compare, for example, the present-tense verbal paradigm

I eat
you eat
he/she eats
we eat
you eat
they eat

which has only the two forms "eat" and "eats" with the much more complex verbal "conjugations" of the Romance languages, German, Russian, etc.. (And some dialects of English have lost the distinction entirely, having just "eat" even for "he/she"). and note also the total loss of case distinctions (nominative, accusative, genitive, etc.) in English, except in pronouns. This kind of development is common in languages of the world. In the case of English, it is probably due to the influence of other languages and to the admixture of different English dialects in the medieval period.

Although we think of other European languages as having rich gender systems, in fact many have totally or almost totally lost the neuter gender, collapsing it into a two-gender system.

Some languages have more than three! The Dyirbal language of Australia famously has four "gender" classes of nouns. See .

Oh. What was the question again?

old timer 11:39 AM  

Of course English has a plural for "you". It's "y'all." Or in those parts of the South where "y'all" is the usual word used to address a single person, the plural is "all y'all."

I thought "ADV" was short for "advice" which would have been terrible fill. Thanks, Sam, for the explanation.

Still the fill was mostly swill. I shared Rex's overall take on the puzzle, though if GRANDMERE had made it possible to have many clever Downs, I would not have quarreled with it.

Way easier and faster than yesterday's super-tough Tuesdsy. I filled in the right side of the puzzle as fast as I could right (it helps to know who does a bris).

I no longer think of hyenas as scavengers, not since the time we saw one carry off and eat a baby wildebeest. But hyenas are careful to let lions eat whatever they want, before taking what's left behind.

I have no problem with "their" being an alternative to his or her. Sometimes it's best to recast a sentence into plural form so you can use "their" instead.

Fred Romagnolo 11:47 AM  

As a boy, I first came across "youse" in the old "Joe Palooka" comic. I later learned it was a common sub-standard usage on the East Coast for a plural of a singular that used to be a plural. It actually makes a lot of sense. Is it sill commonly used?

Masked and Anonymo4Us 12:01 PM  

BROKEN stuff. RECORDs and grids. Grid is only two black squares short of bein broke in two.

May need to recuse myself, slightly, on this puppy. After consecutive 12-U and 11-U days, this puz's only hope for salvation woulda been a BROKEN RUCURDS theme.

Still, the desperadometer did light up, brightly and often, so M&A was still basically nicely entertained.
* ACIDLY. As in "@63 was acidly unnicely entertained".
* PPD/PSSTS/SPEE. Can almost still see the contructioneer's beads of sweat hittin the master grid, here. All in the heroic effort to save PUTUP. Could also see steam comin out of @63's earpits.
* PUTUP. Double-U palindrome.
* MAC and his sister SU MAC.
* PEREC. If U can't have PEWIT, this is a credible sub.
* Lotsa nice long vertical stacks, to feed the weeject population. Speakin of which...
* ADV GAI. Great opener. And...
* SRS. Superb closer. Primo plurals enabler, for AnoaB. And...
* IAL. The holy grail of weejects. Glorious. In excelsis desperadORAMA.

So, all in all, a sorta fun experience.
Thanx, Daniel. Welcome again to the lion's den. har


Mohair Sam 12:37 PM  

@Fred Romagnolo - Very much alive. Drop in as a couple to any diner in Eastern PA and the waitstaff will ask if they can help youse.

Freakin' Joe Palooka, btw - what a neat memory.

Outlaw Z 12:53 PM  

@Melodious Funk - I see you are channeling your inner Muse. I know that Dyirbal article was in English, but still way over my head. Thank you for once again exposing the depth of my ignorance.

Today's discussion brings to mind The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K LeGuin. It is a fascinating exploration of what it means to be human, and a lot easier to understand than that Wiki article.

@Bob Kerfuffle - If I didn't have a dirty mind I'd have no mind at all.

M and Also 1:16 PM  

Agree with @63... It would be interesting to hear why the constructioneer chose GRANDMERE for the leadoff themer REcord piece. Was this a PUTUP or shut up-type situation? M&A might fiddle around, and see what else could be comed up with...



mathguy 1:18 PM  

Nice comments today. I especially liked the Shakespeare analogy by @7d5a9b1.

Carola 1:30 PM  

You know how in Star Wars they're always saying "I have a bad feeling about this"? That's how I felt after reading the clues for 1A (ADV? As a puzzle starter?) and 4A (No, it can't be...). But I did like the theme - great reveal, nice job on fragmenting the RECORDs in various ways. SUPERDUPER comments.

I thought maybe 59A would ELICIT some objections. I find it very handy and use it all the time informally. @NCA President, I had no idea, thanks for that information.

Anoa Bob 1:43 PM  

Once again, HYENA (66A) gets dissed in the NYT puzz by being clued as a scavenger. As @old timer points out, they are accomplished predators. But they have a maladaptive habit of creating an uproar of yipping and barking and cackling (hence the "laughing" hyena) after they have made a kill. Any lions in the area simply wait for this signal, go to the kill site, chase away the hyenas, and chow down.

Early naturalists photographers also, on hearing the dust up, would go to the kill site and film the lions eating and the hyenas circling around at a distance in "scavenger" fashion. That undeserved sobriquet has continued to followed them, even into today's NYT xword.

While I'm at it, the hyena is neither canine nor feline, but truly sui generis. The females are physically bigger and socially dominant over the males. The go-to source for things hyena is Hans Kruuk's seminal The Spotted Hyena: A Study of Predation and Social Behavior.

Anonymous 1:45 PM  


Thank you, thank you, thank you. Substituting their for his or hers is indeed the mark of a moron. Now if we we could only get the feeble minded to realize that none takes a singular verb....

Benko 1:58 PM  

@outlaw z: Big LeGuin fan here. Just reread her book Changing Planes, a fun collection of stories about other dimensions and the life they contain.

I am firmly in the "'they' is an acceptable replacement for 'he/she'" camp. 'He/she' is awkward spoken aloud and 'one' sounds stilted, formal, and condescending to my ears. I think this a natural evolution of language and I welcome it; besides, the notion of a person as a singular self is debatable at best,

Mine fewer! 2:24 PM  

The commenters on this blog are dating themselves. Old, conservative (little "c") people have always scolded the younger generation for changes to the English language that then become commonplace in the next generation. Fortunately, there is no "academie anglaise."

Darryl 2:25 PM  

Labeling some whose grammar you disagree with as ignorant, stupid, lazy or moronic is the mark of a profoundly supercilious person, probably with nothing better to do than belittle others.

Anonymous 2:44 PM  


Grammar has rules. They're not a matter of opinion, and not much given to interpretation. There's never any reason to belittle someone, that is true. It's also true that his and her are singular, and their is plural.

Darryl 2:53 PM  

@Anon 2:44 - Grammar does indeed have rules. For centuries, their was used as a singular impersonal pronoun. A few hundred years ago, some misogynist decided to replace it with his, because you know, women are irrelevant. A few decades ago the abomination that is his/hers came into being to replace his and emend this sexism. Recently, their has come back.

You may be a quick or slow adapter to the change. If you're a slow adapter, then you'll call those who change more quickly wrong, but do so with absolutely no validity, and to no point other than being a supercilious twit.

Anonymous 3:02 PM  


Can you please cite some examples of that usage. I'm pretty conversant with English. Middle english is no strength of mine, but that's a bit older than a dfew hundred years. At any rate, Fowler and others are pretty clear on their versus his and hers. I'll give you the particulars from Fowler when I get home. I'm eager to see your citations.

Also, are you certain it was a misogynist that perpetrated this terrific switcheroo on the laguage. That basterd had some skills, huh?

Darryl 3:17 PM  

@Anon 3:02 You could try the citation @Horace Patoot gave above. It gives Shakespearean citations, discusses the change over time, and shows how M-W accepts their as a singular first person pronoun. I didn't think it necessary to point out rule #1 of correcting someone's grammar - first, be sure you're correct.

You're citing Fowler? That's 110 years ago. Also, we don't have a King anymore, other than MLK. Things have changed.

Anonymous 3:42 PM  



Anonymous 3:42 PM  

Elizebethaen English is your citation, and your beefing Fowler's authorithy? I take it back, sometimes someone should be belittled.

Outlaw Z again 3:49 PM  

And we were having such a nice conversation about language.

Doc John 3:57 PM  

All I can say is that I'm happy I checked the theme, otherwise I would never have gotten PEREC. I had a T there and "tad" seemed like it fit the clue OK.
I also agree that it was a stinker. On to Thursday!

Darryl 4:02 PM  

@Anon No, I was summarizing the thoughtful, intelligent, well researched discussion as to why M-W supports the use of their being discussed. In the context of grammar changes over time, I questioned Fowler's currency 100+ years after it was written. Finally, I assume that your assertion about someone requiring belittlement references your first sentence.

grammar nazi 4:35 PM  

anon @ 3:42: I think your misuse of "your" loses the argument for you (not that you were making any serious points prior to that). Kind of embarrassing, given the discussion. I am belittling your grammar, not you. You took care of belittling yourself quite well.

Whirred Whacks 4:40 PM  

In conversation, I tend to use "their" as the possessive singular pronoun when it's unclear what gender its antecedent is. I hadn't thought much about how the transgendered community approaches this, but what @NCA President says makes sense.

My own personal "English grammar bugaboos" are:

--I much prefer to see plural verbs with "data" and "media" when they're the subject of a sentence (however both Greek and Latin made exceptions so that neuter plural nouns could take a singular verb).

--I believe that "none" takes a singular verb.

Ludyjynn 5:27 PM  

Talk about a weird coincidence...until I did today's NYT puzz. I had never heard of Georges PEREC. My mailman subsequently delivered the latest "New York" mag. I just finished the Cathy Allis crossword contained therein...guess who showed up on the grid--Monsieur PEREC at 68D!

Zesse Zames Z 6:22 PM  

@Ludyjynn - A "spoiler alert" would have been good. Remember, readers here do all kinds of puzzles, not at the same time.

@Whirred Whacks and others - None swings both ways. None of the pie is left. I made three pies. None are left.

Teedmn 7:05 PM  

Couldn't remember how to spell MOHEL. The first time I ever heard the word, I was watching The Nanny reruns with my mother (her choice!) and the Nanny was making a dig at men, saying there's a reason there are no female MOHELs!

Rod CAREW, I have a souvenir bat from a Twins game in '74. He was a great favorite. Didn't remember the mention of him in the Chanukah song, though, rightly or wrongly. I had to listen on Spotify and there it was, right after the line "O J Simpson, not a Jew".

I use THEIR for her/his in everyday speech. The one I can't stand and hear all the time (and fall into the error myself) is "there's" for plural usage when "there are" should be used. ACHT!

Zeke 7:46 PM  

The definitive answer to today's grammar connundrum. A must read, simply because it's so well written, and so funny.

wreck 8:34 PM  


Thank-you for that!!!

Ludyjynn 8:52 PM  

@ZZZ, point taken. Will remember for future reference on the odd chance that something similar happens again.

OISK 9:49 PM  

Difficult for a Wednesday for me, but I really enjoyed it. Like many others, got Perec only from the theme, otherwise would have had Peres. I don't understand the grousing about Nanette's nana - I very nice clue for grandmere; I am always grateful for more French and German and less Spanish in the puzzle…I used to smoke Te Amo cigars. Nice clue for "Ordaining". No hip-hop, rap, product clues, obscure slang…no complaints from me!

Anonymous 10:11 PM  

Rex, Shmex, I liked this!

Steve J 11:14 PM  

@Zeke: That was a fantastic article. I'm bookmarking that and holding it in reserve for the next time I'm stuck in an argument about the incorrect incorrectness of using "they" as a neutral singular pronoun.

retired_chemist 12:04 AM  

@ Clark, nyer - thanks. Clark's advice worked since I am using a desktop machine.

Amelia 12:19 AM  

Georges Perec is one of the most important French literary figures of the 20th century. Considering that his great work, Life A User's Manual, is partly based on a jigsaw puzzle, and that Perec himself was a puzzle expert himself, I find it absolutely incredible that Rex, a college professor and puzzle expert, has no knowledge of him. Not only was his other novel La Disparition in French or A Void in English, written without the letter E, it was translated without the letter E. Both versions are brilliant. If you have only seen his name in crosswords, then I pity the state of higher education in this country.

spacecraft 11:01 AM  

So then, "A Void" must have been written by Gorgs PRC? I'll try an "e-"less paragraph.

I concur with OFL: this grid sucks. Plural PSSTS? Absurd. At that point you lost this guy. It was a HOWL-ORAMA from start to finish.

Enough of that. Yeah, where was Will on this one, out to lunch?
Hmm, two F's in a row. Let's right the ship, guys!

971: getting there. CHEERIO!

rondo 1:45 PM  

Got the C in PEREC due to the reveal; so sue me if I never heard of him, don't know if that makes a statement at all re: higer education, not everyone needs to study French Lit.
Oprah's ball team = TEAMO??
Darryl and Anon are creating quite the DIN all starting from his/her THEIR usage.
Is there anything RACIER than VIAGRA in a puz? Maybe PUTUP ABONE just in that order??
ILENE towards the side that considers this puz sub-par.

540 - looks like I've got it SEWED up

DMG 2:53 PM  

Finished this romp though languages and genders only because I decided CAD looked better than tAD and somehow vaguely remembered RODCAREW with no idea why he would be in a religious song. A little learning....

On the his/her vs their topic.I was taught that "he" repreented all singulars, male or female, and "their"(and they), referred to more than one, and I never felt left out. "Their" as a singular just jars my grammar bone. What happens to "All men are created equal" in newspeak."All them are created equal"? "All he/she(s?) are ...." ? I give up. Time for a cup of tea!

237 @Rondo rules!

Dirigonzo 3:16 PM  

I tried Al Kaline for the hall-of famer and not only was it wrong, I had written it in the wrong space. I do stuff like that all the time so I'm usually so grateful just to finish the puzzle that I've long since forgotten whatever sub-par fill I may have encountered along the way. CHEERIO!

312 - DARN IT!

leftcoastTAM 9:59 PM  

As a syndicator solver, I really do miss sanfranman59's ratings. Come back, sanfranman! Come back!

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