Sometimes the New York Times stylebook makes life hard for its writers, and interesting for those of its readers who like cloze tests. According to Michael Barbaro, "A Mood of Gloom Afflicts the Romney Campaign", NYT 9/18/2012:
A palpably gloomy and openly frustrated mood has begun to creep into Mr. Romney’s campaign for president. Well practiced in the art of lurching from public relations crisis to public relations crisis, his team seemed to reach its limit as it digested a ubiquitous set of video clips that showed their boss candidly describing nearly half of the country’s population as government-dependent “victims,” and saying that he would “kick the ball down the road” on the biggest foreign policy challenge of the past few decades, the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Grim-faced aides acknowledged that it was an unusually dark moment, made worse by the self-inflicted, seemingly avoidable nature of the wound. In low-volume, out-of-the-way conversations, a few of them are now wondering whether victory is still possible and whether they are entering McCain-Palin ticket territory.
It may prove a fleeting anxiety: national polls show the race remains close, even though Mr. Romney trails in some key swing states.
Still, a flustered adviser, describing the mood, said that the campaign was turning into a vulgar, unprintable phrase.
The New York Times stylebook goes beyond banning "obscene words" — it says that
The Times writes unblushingly about sexual behavior, arts censorship, science, health, crime and similar subjects, opening its columns to any newsworthy detail, however disturbing, provided the approach is dignified and the vocabulary clinical rather than coarse. In these situations, the paper rejects evasiveness and euphemism, which would be a disservice to readers who need to understand issues.
But The Times virtually never prints obscene words, and it maintains a steep threshold for vulgar ones. […]
The Times also forgoes offensive or coy hints. An article should not seem to be saying, “Look, I want to use this word, but they won’t let me.” Generally that principle rules out telltale strings of hyphens or dashes […]
As a result, Barbaro could not have given us hints like these:
… a flustered adviser, describing the mood, said that the campaign was turning into a colossal cluster-f___.
… a flustered adviser, describing the mood, said that the campaign was turning into one s___-storm after another.
Nor … Well, come on, we really need a hint. And we deserve one, I think — the nature of the unprintable metaphors used by Mr. Romney's advisors would tell us something how they see the situation.