Three scathing epithets ripe for hurling in 1828, the year Noah Webster published An American Dictionary of the English Language, make up this theme. These choice words have passed out of the language, so you get to discover them afresh. I hope you found the crosses fair!
In November 2014, I posted a link on Rex Parker's blog asking for comments on a puzzle from a novice. I was overwhelmed by the responses and how helpful they were, and I promptly took all of the advice. That meant new, more consistent theme answers and refilling almost all of the puzzle. (The crosses through NOAH_WEBSTER mostly remained the same.) I am ever so grateful to those who offered comments: George Barany, Martin Ashwood-Smith, Daniel Cabot, Robert Kern, Daniel Pierce, and Phil Weston.
The puzzle was sent to a prominent newspaper November 17, 2014 and rejected on January 16, 2014. The newspaper's puzzle editor called the word slut in the clue for 17-Across "a charged term that would offend some of our solvers." I'd known that was likely, but the irony is that slut in 1828 meant a woman who was dirty or disorderly—the "tail" that was "draggling" was the muddy hem of her dress. Even the 1913 Webster's has no reference to a sexual connotation for the word. Now, of course, slut is used differently.
The version of the puzzle posted here was the result of feedback after its rejection. Again, wow! Because I had learned quite a lot in the two months between the original submission and the rejection, I refilled the grid from scratch, instead of just trying to patch up the original answers and clues. Many thanks for the incentive to do this to commenters Daniel Chall, Sam Ezersky, Todd Gross, Brent Hartzell, Martin Herbach, and Jim Quinlin.
It was fun, and a wonderful learning experience.
"Be not discouraged in a laudable undertaking at the ill success of the first attempt."—Noah Webster (this 1828 definition)
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