Sunday, April 12, 2020

Bye, Will

I’ve finally acknowledged that The New York Times crossword puzzle sparks, for me, no joy. I ended my subscription and switched to the syndicated puzzle some time ago, after TORME, Mel Tormé, was clued as a “cool jazz pioneer.” No, he wasn’t one. I wrote to Will Shortz, the crossword editor, to make that case. I even sussed out the likely source of the mistake (which I suspected was Shortz’s) — the Times obituary for Tormé, which misinterpreted a statement about Tormé and cool jazz in a book on jazz singers. Shortz wrote back to say that I obviously knew more about jazz than he did (well, yes) but that he had “several sources” to support the clue (sure, sure). No correction appeared.

Fast-forward to today’s syndicated puzzle (published March 1). The clue for 54-A, seven letters: “Informal ‘Ugh!‘” The answer: NOLIKEY. Ugh, indeed. Here’s a different kind of cluelessness, the same kind that let BEANER appear as a puzzle answer last year, even after Shortz had been told that beaner is a derogatory term. If there’s any doubt that “No likey” is blatantly racist stuff, a search in Google Books will return ample evidence. An additional element of cluelessness: in no universe might “No likey” be regarded as less formal than “Ugh!” Ugh, indeed, again.

In a comment on my Saturday Stumper post yesterday, blogger Zhoen recommended of The American Values Club crossword. Her recommendation couldn’t have been more timely. I’ve started a trial subscription.

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