New York Times Crossword Puzzlemaster Updates His Definition of 'Ill'

Venerable New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz was recently schooled on the meaning of "Illin'," sending shockwaves through the close-knit puzzler community. He's learned his lesson, if Sunday's crossword puzzle is any indication.

In January, "Illin'" was defined in a Times crossword puzzle as "Wack, in hip hop," prompting writer Julieanne Smolinski to email and argue that Illin is actually a positive state of being. Shortz disagreed, then everyone on the internet debated the true meaning of Illin' and we were all the worse for it, because if there's anything worse than using slang wrong it's people being pedantic about how to use slang which, by definition, has no formal meaning.

(For the record: Both definitions are "correct," although nobody has used "Ill" to mean something bad since, like, 1989, which is probably the last time Will Shortz heard a rap song.)

In either a nod to the multiple meanings of "Illin'" or just to screw with us, last Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle (PDF), featured this clue for 7 across: "Sublime, in hip hop slang." The answer was "Ill." Ill is now good, according to the New York Times.

Asked about her apparent victory over the world's most beloved and only celebrity crossword puzzle editor, Smolinski wrote in an email: "William knows where to finds me if he wants to hate-sex out any lingering resentments. And yes, Scott Simon can come, IF he's cool."