Word + Quiz: spurious

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Word + Quiz: spurious

1. plausible but false

2. intended to deceive

3. born out of wedlock

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The word spurious has appeared in 40 articles on NYTimes.com in the past year, including on Feb. 27 in the theater review “In London, Contemporary Anxieties Take the Stage” by Matt Wolf:

Telling of a surveillance state in which our every move is monitored, the careering narrative devolves into a nasty revenge drama, by which point you’ve lost sympathy for both the hotshot intelligence expert Neil (Oliver Johnstone) and the emotionally damaged journalist, Cora (Rona Morison), on whom he alights first professionally and then romantically. She, for her part, gives scant respect to professional benchmarks like fact-checking and attribution.

It’s a measure of clunky dramaturgy when a play resorts to lapsing into direct address for no other reason but to impart information or gain a spurious relevance. At one point, we’re given a vivid recapitulation of recent terror attacks in London that only distracts from the tortured courtship at the play’s core. The play takes its title, you guessed it, from the proverbial image of a needle in a haystack, but at a running time of nearly three hours, “The Haystack” is at least one bale too many. Compression, not to mention more logical plotting, would seem to be the noninvasive remedy here.

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