Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Cranky Blogging 3

It's been a while since the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle made me cranky, at least politically cranky...but, yup, yesterday's did the trick. It was 24 Across: "Tammany Hall corruption, e.g.?" The answer: "Evil from New York" (The question mark in the clue is pegged to the theme, which had to do with "flipped front" so that the answer was a riff on "Live from New York").

"Evil"? Really? I suppose that to some extent it's justified, since it asks about Tammany Hall corruption, as opposed to Tammany Hall or machine politics in general. But, really, the crossword writer and editor can't think of a better example of New York evil?

It's all Goo Goo nonsense, in my view. For the best understanding of "corruption," read Plunkitt of Tammany Hall. That's not to say there was no dishonest graft or other even worse behavior, but normal machine politics, including "honest" graft, is in my view probably a positive, but at any rate far from evil.

Evil? Try a progressive politician...say, Woodrow Wilson.


  1. Not having seen the crossword, the answer that immediately came to mind was *Plunkitt*. I am sure he was not the most famous boss of the time, but he is now.

  2. Can't believe you missed a chance for a shot at Jimmy Carter there.

  3. No need to link to *Plunkett of Tammany Hall* is available for free at

    And no, I don't think Wilson was evil. His views on race were, alas, all too common at the time, and he faced real dilemmas on the World War, the difficulties of which are minimized by later critics.

  4. A better clue for "Evil From New York," ...Hmm, I'd go with: "Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, e.g.?"

  5. one of their recent clues was "alibi" and the answer was "lie for"! So precision is not always their forte.

    1. "Alibi" is a perfectly good transitive verb: "Senator Morton alibied Bruno for the time of the murder."

      Or is your quibble that alibis don't have to be untrue? That is a fair point. The clue should have been "alibi, maybe" or something. :) I actually like the trickiness of using "alibi" as a verb - it's very Shortzian.

      Generally, when I think I've found a flat-out mistake in the NYT crossword, I haven't. Issues of interpretation (as with this Tammany Hall clue, or the infamous "ILLIN" episode) do arise.

      There was also a kerfuffle over using "ILLEGAL" as a noun, last year, I think.

  6. Two things, JB:
    1) The question mark in the clue does allow for differences of opinion over the evilness of Tammany corruption. :) I think Sta-Puft would have been better, though!
    2) I don't want to be a "spoilers" whiner, but I think a warning would have been appropriate on this post - it's for this Sunday's puzzle, right? I totally know the trick now. :( Ah well, not the worst thing in the world today.

    1. Eh. I read it as the question mark just signifying that it's a theme answer. But I suppose you may be correct.

      And sorry about the spoiler. In my defense, it was about as easy a theme/trick as I can remember. But fair enough.


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