Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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NY Times Crossword References Book of Shadows

Really, I just about swallowed my gum.

I had just started yesterday's New York Times crossword puzzle—by Jeff Chen, bless him—when the clue for 58 Across—as these things do—leapt out and slapped me upside the head.

58. Ones reading the Book of Shadows.

A massive grin on my face, I inked in: Wiccans.

Step by step, the journey is made. That the New York Times should expect the average educated reader not only to know of Wicca, but to recognize the name of the book most associated with it, must be acknowledged as one such step.

So thanks and kudos to you, Jeff Chen, puzzle-master inclusive.

One appreciates the gesture, of course, while acknowledging the (rather endearing, actually) misapprehensions. No Wiccan that I know would describe herself as a “reader of the Book of Shadows.”

Unlike the scriptures of some religions, the Book of Shadows isn't exactly something you sit around and read.


Jeff Chen, New York Times Crossword Puzzle No. 0906, October 11, 2018






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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien Friday, 12 October 2018

    Haha! I do lots of crossword puzzles in the hope that it staves off dementia. I've encountered such words and Wiccan and Pagan, crone and hag, plus the occasional Greek and Roman deity, for several years now. I even encountered the word Samhain in a crossword puzzle. These were not NYT crosswords; they've mostly been the two that appear in the Sunday SF Chronicle. I guess we're out of the broom closet whether we like it or not. xoxoxo

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Saturday, 13 October 2018

    I'm frequently struck by just how closely crossword puzzles act as barometers of the zeitgeist. So we're in, and we're in because we've made it so. If you ask me, that's a pretty impressive feat of magic.

    "Samhain," though?! I wonder what the clue was?

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