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an endless succession of beans and nuts.

So... they're doing this in the New Yorker crossword.

So... they're doing this in the New Yorker crossword.

That's today's puzzle. Clue: "What kind of white nonsense..." Answer: "The Caucasity!"

It's good wordplay — a twist on "the audacity!" — but not anything I'd seen before, and the clue suggests this is a phrase in ordinary speech these days rather than a new joke. 

It really is white supremacy, in my view, which is — as advised yesterday by WaPo's Philip Bump — not to be too "rigid" about the meaning of "white supremacy." Bump, you will remember, argued that "white supremacy" could be understood to include promotion of the "structures of power that largely benefit Whites." So, if you like just about anything the way it is, you may be a white supremacist.

I had thought that The New Yorker would refrain from using racial taunts in its crossword! Why did it seem okay? Answer: White supremacy. You don't understand my point? To quote Philip Bump, "This confusion... stems from overly rigid understanding[] of... 'white supremacist.'"

[C]ritical race scholar, journalist and activist El Jones... says, “The caucacity of it all is that not only can everything that we generate be taken and used, but then white people can turn around and say, it was never yours in the first place — claiming to be the expert on blackness,” explaining that it is audacious for a white person to rewrite the origin stories of Black colloquialisms....
“Caucacity” — a combination of “Caucasian” and “audacity,” is a term coined in 2019 by the Bodega Boys podcast, and has been used all over social media as a way to “marvel at the baffling behaviors of white folks” and capture their “willingness to take bold risks” due to the comfort that privilege provides.

That is, the phrase expresses a belief in the superior position of white people. It's critical of that perceived position, of course, but don't be so rigid. It also reinforces the idea that the high position of white people is real. 

"Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition."

"Man is the only being who knows he is alone, and the only one who seeks out another. His nature – if that word can be used in reference to man, who has 'invented' himself by saying 'no' to nature – consists of his longing to realize himself in another. Man is nostalgic and in search for communion. Therefore, when he is aware of himself he is aware of his lack of another, that is, of his solitude."

Wrote Octavio Paz in "The Labyrinth of Solitude." 

I wasn't reading that book. I encountered the first line of the quote in a puzzle just now and went looking for more context. I became aware that the sentence was alone and experienced a longing that it realize itself in a paragraph. 

"Survivor 44 recap: Why all old puzzles need to go/With players memorizing puzzles before they even step foot on the island, it's time for producers to start anew."

That's the headline for Dalton Ross's new column.

The problem, as — spoiler alert — you saw in this episode, is that the show re-uses old puzzles, and some players, before beginning their stint on the show, have made 3D printed copies of these puzzles and practiced. This week, we saw Carson do a complicated puzzle speedily and then heard in the voiceover that he'd done the puzzle a thousand times at home. He also openly celebrates nerd power — uses the word "nerd" to rally the other nerds. 

Ross asks: 
[I]s that really what we want to watch as viewers — someone just putting together a puzzle they already learned how to solve before they even stepped on the beach? 

Okay, let me nerd out in my particular lane of nerdery — language usage. I have no problem with Ross writing "before they even stepped on the beach." But I don't like the wording in the headline "before they even step foot on the island." 

Here's an article from a few years back in The Atlantic analyzing whether "step foot" is an error:
It’s true that set foot in is far and away the more common phrase. And thirteen citations that include set foot in are scattered around the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest of which (illustrating the use of the now obsolete and rare word reguerdonment, meaning “reward”) is from 1599. But the version you don’t like, step foot in, is also in the OED, with citations dating back to 1540. According to a note under step, it’s now seen and heard only in the United States. 
The question remains whether we ought to consider it a mistake. Citations in the OED include, without demur, many words and phrases widely regarded as incorrect—for instance, baited breath, free reign, hone in, and all ready meaning “already.”... 
Language geeks have given the name eggcorns to usages of this kind—“spontaneous reshapings of known expressions” which seem to make sense. (Eggcorn is itself an eggcorn, for acorn.) Whether step foot in is, or originally was, an eggcorn has been hotly but inconclusively debated. However, no one argues that set foot in is anything other than standard English. So step foot in is one of those phrases that we’re probably better off not using even though there’s little reason to object if others use them.

But "we’re probably better off not using" conflates our own word choice and our disapproval of the words other people use. I'm always going to say "set foot" myself, but I will look somewhat less askance at "step foot" from here on out. I mean: the 1500s. That's got to earn some respect. 

By the way, this is a usage question I've thought of a lot, because I taught the subject of personal jurisdiction for many years, and in that context, defendants would often argue that they're not subject to jurisdiction because they'd never "set foot" in the state, and every so often you'd see "stepped foot," which stood out like a sore big toe.

ADDED: Is "nerd" in the OED? Yes, but only with an excessively negative definition: "An insignificant, foolish, or socially inept person; a person who is boringly conventional or studious." The oldest appearance in print is:

1951    Newsweek 8 Oct. 28 In Detroit, someone who once would be called a drip or a square is now, regrettably, a nerd.

It came from Detroit! 

I reveal the name of the puzzle cited in yesterday's post, "She feels that curves are far more appealing than angles...."

I didn't want to spoil the day's "Name Drop" puzzle, but now that I've updated the post, I'm afraid you won't see it and some other new material that I added there, and because I think some of it is kind of cool, I'm going to repeat it here, after the jump:

The puzzle was the New Yorker's "Name Drop" yesterday. I like this puzzle. Each weekday there's a set of 6 clues for a famous name. The clues get easier as you go along, and I got Mae West after the second clue: "My silhouette inspired the shape of the bottle for Elsa Schiaparelli’s Shocking perfume, and my lips inspired the shape of a sofa designed by Edward James and Salvador Dalí." 

Last night, I happened to watch a Mae West movie, her first, "Night After Night." It was another one of the Criterion Channel's series of pre-code Paramount movies. She has a secondary role and doesn't even show up until the movie is halfway over, and it looks like this, at the door of George Raft's speakeasy:

The character West plays — Maudie Triplett — was based on the real life personage, Texas Guinan. Here's some documentary footage of Guinan in a speakeasy in 1928:

According to Wikipedia, George Raft wanted Guinan to play the role that went to West, but "but the studio opted for West since she was nine years younger. Raft believed that the part would have launched a major film career for Guinan (then aged 48), which proved to be the case for West instead. (West was reportedly a fan of Guinan and incorporated some of the flamboyant Guinan's ideas into her own acts)."

I do the NYT crossword every day, and often it contains humor, but I had never, not once, until yesterday, laughed out loud.

It was just a small outburst. A "ha." But it was huge, because I've gotten so many clues over the years that went for humor and not one thing had burst through my steely exterior until yesterday. 

I don't want to spoil the puzzle for you, and frankly, I don't want to have to explain the theme, which is a tad complicated. I'll just say: 88 Across. Finally, a crossword answer that made me laugh. 

Do the puzzle yourself, or read Rex Parker's write up, here

A little music to puzzle over:

"I have never subscribed to the 'breakfast test.' Of course the puzzle should be polite, but it should follow modern standards of good taste..."

"... and those have changed over the years. The word 'ass,' when it appeared in crosswords in the old days, it was always the animal. Now there might be a polite way to clue it in terms of the rear end. I remember I submitted a crossword to Will Weng, one of my predecessors at the Times, in 1975, and it had the answer 'belly button.' And he returned the puzzle saying that was indelicate.... An answer that got controversy once was 'scumbag,' which was clued in terms of the person, of course, but it has a literal meaning that’s really not nice, and some people objected to that.... I remember early on I had the answer 'brownnose' in a crossword. To me, the common meaning is so far removed from the literal origin of the term that it’s not a problem. But some people who know the origin don’t like to see that in a puzzle.... Once somebody—this is hilarious, I think—sent me a puzzle whose theme was four anagrams of 'Adolf Hitler.'"

The "breakfast test" imagines people doing the crossword at breakfast and therefore not wanting to feel like puking.

About that first serious romance:
I’m struck by the wonderfulness of finding love at seventy.... I never expected to find love at my age, never expected to have a relationship like this. This guy is the perfect person for me, the only person in the world I think I would be partners with. We match in so many unusual ways. I don’t really believe in fate, but our connection feels like fate. 

 Asked why it happened only so late in life, Shortz says:

I’ve never come out publicly. I’ve told lots of friends, but I’ve never been public about my sexuality. I’ve known that I’ve been interested in guys my whole life, but it wasn’t a life I wanted to lead. 
First of all, I was in denial for years, and I fought my inclinations. By the time I was in my thirties, I accepted the way I was. But I didn’t want to have a gay life style, if that’s how you put it. I have a wonderful career. I have a wonderful life. I have great friends. This wasn’t something I needed. 
It just dropped in my lap when I was sixty-nine and I thought, Wow, this is amazing. We’ve moved in together, we own a house together, and our intention is to get married, maybe this year. 

"Thinking it might be fun to try to see how the language model performs as a Socratic conversation partner, I attempted a rough version of Plato’s Crito...."

"... in which ChatGPT plays the titular role. As you will see, ChatGPT isn’t the subtlest actor; there were some stumbling blocks in setting up the dialogue and keeping the language model in character."

Here's an excerpt from the middle of the exchange that shows you how ChatGPT keeps repeating phrases that make it clear it has no opinion and is not actually the character to whom the human has assigned an opinion:

Plato, by contrast, could create an interlocutor for Socrates and, putting whatever arguments he wanted into Crito's mouth, give the reader a fluid reading experience. 

What I was looking for when I found this little experiment was an app that could have a conversation with me when I was out walking. I wasn't looking for a companion to stave off loneliness or make me feel good about myself — e.g., Replika. I wanted someone like Socrates to engage me in philosophical conversations.

That was just me getting distracted as I tried to gain a foothold in this morning's "challenging" puzzle in The New Yorker:


The term peripatetic is a transliteration of the ancient Greek word περιπατητικός (peripatētikós), which means "of walking" or "given to walking about." The Peripatetic school, founded by Aristotle, was actually known simply as the Peripatos. Aristotle's school came to be so named because of the peripatoi ("walkways", some covered or with colonnades) of the Lyceum where the members met. The legend that the name came from Aristotle's alleged habit of walking while lecturing may have started with Hermippus of Smyrna
Unlike Plato (428/7–348/7 BC), Aristotle (384–322 BC) was not a citizen of Athens and so could not own property; he and his colleagues therefore used the grounds of the Lyceum as a gathering place, just as it had been used by earlier philosophers such as Socrates....

UPDATE: I've finished the puzzle, and — as I'd expected — "SLOW" was wrong. Spoiler alert: It was the much odder word "LOGY." And "Peripatetic professor" wasn't any particular peripatetic professor. Obviously, "Aristotle" didn't fit, and, boringly, the answer was just "VISITING SCHOLAR." This character apparently had to travel to get to his temporary position, but I'm sure he didn't walk, and I'm sure once he arrived, he got an indoor chamber within which to profess. No one does the walk-and-talk approach to teaching anymore, but they will, eventually, when that app I want springs into existence. Or will it still be "no one," since it will only be an artificial intelligence. That's just one of the philosophical questions you can talk about, once this someone/no one embeds itself in your life.

AND: Speaking of philosophy:

"That... section was tough not just because I didn't know WTF [that one word] was, but because it gets really tight in there..."

"... and there are only a few clues to help you out with [that word], and those are either cross-referenced or vague."

Writes Rex Parker, about today's NYT crossword, about what was the last word I got. Maybe you haven't done the puzzle yet, so I'm putting a page break before the spoilers, but what follows is of interest even if you don't do the puzzle:
My... struggle came with WAYMO (40A: Self-driving car company that started as a Google project), which I hated not because I didn't know it, but because ugh, cars, self-driving cars, Google ... it's a dystopic tech bro nightmare. Build efficient public transportation! It's doable! And it's so much better than this apocalyptic vision of hyper-individualism they're trying to sell you. "Oooh, robot cars." Bah. Pffffft. WAYMO, because you'll get "way mo'" pedestrian deaths and way less human accountability for those deaths. Google will not be satisfied until you have Google Brain Implants. At some point you have to stop worshiping your tech overlords, who hate people except insofar as they can be hooked up to machines (literally or figuratively) and drained of their resources and volition. Gonna stop before I write a manifesto and Google tells the feds on me.

Google Brain Implants! I was just talking about head implants. Ugh! 

Unlike Rex, I don't remember ever hearing about Waymo. The word never appears in the archive of my blog. How's Waymo doing? I wondered. So, of course, I googled, googling about Google, as one so often does.

There's this from last Thursday: "Waymo Lays Off a Number of Employees As Autonomous Tech Hits Roadblock" (Jalopnik).

"Before I get to the meat of the puzzle, a word about the title. Well, three words: I hate it. Like, viscerally."

"It's a vicious, stupid, and ultimately inapt title," writes Rex Parker, about the NYT Sunday Crossword, which is titled "Step on it."

Click to spoil the theme of today's puzzle.

"Why the &$#! are you stepping on bees? Or any insect, really. First of all, insects are living creatures, so leave them be. Second, stepping on a louse will do nothing. Like, if that is your method for getting rid of lice, I have Big News for you, and it's not good. Third, gnats? You're trying to step on gnats? What are you even doing? You look silly. The title is both casually and cruelly human-centered *and* stupid as hell on a literal level—even if you got your jollies squashing insects, a good hunk of these just aren't plausibly killable with your stupid foot. Just a terrible editorial decision, that title."

ADDED: Discussing the meat of the puzzle, Rex considers the clue on 104 Down: "Painter Edouard often confused with painter Claude":

Hmm. That reminded me of a question I saw recently at the Bob Dylan subreddit:


Interpretation is subjective. Much of what you see comes from your own mind.

"One player told The Post via Twitter DM that they changed their computer’s clock to do the Wordle early and avoid breaking a 90-day streak."

 From "Wordle players break streaks to support New York Times union walkout While it might be a small sacrifice, breaking a streak can be tough. Here’s why" (WaPo).

Other players weren’t aware of the union’s call to skip the daily puzzle. On the Wordle subreddit, some lamented not knowing about the call sooner. On social media, other players declined to break their streak consciously, with some claiming they didn’t see the point, and others not interested in taking such an action....

As The Cut explored in 2019, people can become attached to their streaks, and the bigger a streak grows, the more a person might feel they have to lose by breaking it....

Do you have any streaks that you're truly attached to, that you feel you'd lose a lot by breaking?

I really only have one: this blog. I'm coming up on 19 years of blogging every single day. The longer it gets the more unbreakably magical it feels. Or... no. That's not really true. Going the whole first year without missing a day felt far more significant than the completion of any other year. Now, it's just normal. But don't misunderstand me: I love normal. I'm very happy to have something that feels so good that I get to do every day. 

What's the tag for this? I had to think for a second: It's "superstition"!

So... they're doing this in the New Yorker crossword.I reveal the name of the puzzle cited in yesterday's post, "She feels that curves are far more appealing than angles...."I do the NYT crossword every day, and often it contains humor, but I had never, not once, until yesterday, laughed out loud."Thinking it might be fun to try to see how the language model performs as a Socratic conversation partner, I attempted a rough version of Plato’s Crito....""Before I get to the meat of the puzzle, a word about the title. Well, three words: I hate it. Like, viscerally."

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