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Will Shortz is “Illin”, Starts First Hip-Hop vs. NY Times Crossword Puzzle Beef

Posted by Nathan S. on 01/16/12 | Filed under Features, QuickHits


Hip-hop's been at the center of a lot of controversies, but never like this. Will Shortz, the man who runs the NY Times crossword puzzles, recently threw down a puzzle where the clue was "A five letter word for wack in hip-hop". The answer? "Illin" - thus marking the only time that old white people in Idaho and hardcore hip-hop heads have ever gotten angry about the same thing.

Shortz defended himself - citing the first use of "illin" in Run DMC's "You Be Illin" - insisting that "illin" meant to act crazy or stupid; in other words "wack". But while that may have been closer to the definition in 1986, today "illin" still means to be crazy, but in a good way. A track might be so "ill" that it defies the boundaries of normal human society, therefore making it incredibly good (and the opposite of wack).

The Atlantic has broken down the debate in depth, and Colbert recently invited the Beastie Boys' Mike D (and "Licensed to Ill" creator") on to weigh in.

While the debate over "wack" vs. "illin" continues to rage one thing is for sure. This is the first and only time Will Shortz dares to include hip-hop slang in a crossword puzzle.

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