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Published: Saturday, 4/27/2002

Smoking Gun site is a guilty pleasure

BY TOM GEARHART
BLADE FEATURES EDITOR

Whatever you may think about The Smoking Gun, a web site that trades in lowly and embarrassing information about famous people, you can't honestly accuse it of misrepresenting itself with its slogan: “A collection of secret, surprising, and salacious documents.”

Yes, the site is definitely a guilty pleasure, and yes, much of the material that appears therein is of the kind that tabloids like to publish beneath screeching headlines. But the fact remains: The Smoking Gun appeals to our base instincts, and increasingly, mainstream publications are trading in some of the same kinds of information gleaned from police blotters and court files, often obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

So don't feel bad if every week or so you get grabbed by the impulse to find out what lurid new public documents have been unearthed about some celebrity or public figure. Here's an update on what's new and juicy at the site:

  • A police report on notorious ice skater and dubious TV boxing champion Tonya Harding's arrest last week in the state of Washington on a DUI charge. Naturally, Tonya claimed to have had only two drinks in two hours, but according to police, a breathalyzer, a field test in which she could only recite the alphabet up to “t,” and “a strong odor of intoxicants coming from her breath” suggested otherwise.

  • A brief report by Seattle, Wash., police about the discovery last Friday of the body of rock singer Layne Staley, whose death was thought to be caused by a heroin overdose. He was former lead singer of Alice in Chains.

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  • (Baretta, In Cold Blood) with the 2001 murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.

  • A letter from Boston archdiocese Cardinal Bernard Law to fellow clergymen declaring that he will not resign from his post despite dozens of recently surfaced complaints about Boston priests sexually abusing young parishioners.

  • A notification from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to a Florida aviation school that two of its flight enrollees, Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shahhi, had been approved for student visas. Atta is the presumed mastermind of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as pilot of the passenger airline that crashed into the first WTC tower. Al-Shahhi is thought to be the pilot of the airliner that slammed into the second tower. The written approval forms pictured at The Smoking Gun site arrived at the school on March 11, exactly six months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

    And of course, don't forget to check into the site's long list of often-outrageous backstage riders issued to producers by celebrity performers. The various demands include a police escort for Christina Aguilera, an ear, nose, and throat doctor, armed with B-12 shots, on duty for Ozzy Osbourne, and clean boxer shorts for members of Jane's Addiction.

    If you're new to the site, go to the archives, where hundreds of other documents will keep you clicking away happily for days.

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com

    Crossword help

    How many crossword puzzles do you suppose go unfinished, tossed out in frustration because the solver couldn't match the clues with the correct words? Help for those frustrated wordsmiths springs eternal, however, thanks to the Internet.

    Click on Crossword Solver at the home page of AllWords.com. A grid pops up where you can type in letters and their exact location in the across or down line. The Solver then finds a variety of words that could fill the bill, along with dictionary definitions. Is this cheating? Purists may say so, but if you can't otherwise complete the crossword, the answer is a capital NO.

    Example: You're looking to fill a four-letter word that begins with the letters s-p-a. The clue is: “Nine inches.” What's the word? Crossword Solver comes up with a variety of possible words: “spae,” “spat,” “spar,” “spay,” and “span.” One of the definitions for “span” happens to be “A measure of nine inches.” Ta da! Another example: you want to find a three-letter word that begins with the letters s-o and the clue is “bribe.” The Solver lists a bunch of words - “sot,” “sob,” “sod,” “son,” and “sop.” One of the dictionary definitions for “sop” turns out to be “anything given to pacify; a bribe.”

    The AllWords site also offers crossword puzzles in various degrees of difficulty; glossaries, online discussions, and links to sites for word lovers, including dictionaries, language learning tools, lesson plans for teachers, rhyming tools, and creative writing tips.

    Until now, the site has tried to support itself through advertising. That isn't working, so its creators are asking people to subscribe for $10 a year, or $25 if you can afford it.

    http://www.allwords.com

    If you have a Web site to recommend, send an e-mail to tgearhart@theblade.com.



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