FRIDAY, Oct. 17, 2008 - Patrick Berry (Topmost optic in a microscope / Offbeat Parisian tourist sites / Milky and iridescent)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Patrick Berry is a fabulous constructor, generally, but this is my least favorite PB1 puzzle of all time. Yes, it's exceedingly difficult to fill in roughly 6x7 chunks of open space, and the puzzle has just one 3-letter word and NO 4-letter words - amazing technical accomplishments. But again, as I have before, I have to ask WHY!? When the resulting fill is compromised, over and over and over, what is the point? First - you knew it was coming, so here it is: all the words that end -ER or -ERS

  1. GASPER (7A: Coffin nail)
  2. STARKERS (20A: In the buff) - what in the world is this?
  3. TILTERS (22A: Joust participants) - yay, medievalism
  4. SPEEDOMETERS (23A: They offer rates for automobiles) - great clue. I always want to spell this SPEDOMOETERS ...
  5. OLD-TIMER (40A: Veteran)
  6. PAST MASTERS (16D: People of much experience) - in other words, OLDTIMERs.
  7. SOONER (45A: Nickname for a cheater in the Oklahoma land rush of 1889) - cool. Word origins!
  8. STICKER (9D: Price holder)
  9. PACKERS (10D: Winner over the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI)
  10. ETHERS (11D: Organic compounds used as solvents) - didn't know there was more than one.
  11. COWER (38D: Behave cravenly)
  12. SOLDIER (26D: Servant in a cause)
  13. SEWERS (37D: Offbeat Parisian tourist sites)
Thirteen. I'm just gonna go ahead and call that a record for a non-Sunday puzzle. I'm excepting ORATORS, but barely (2D: Delivery professionals?). I am told that you *have* to have a lot of -ER words to fill a grid this wide-open. If so, then I have to ask, is it worth it? (I'll also answer: no). So many RLSTNE, and A, that's it's kind of dull to look at. Those K's in the NE are a blessing, even if one of them is implicated in STARKERS.

Then, there are the !?!?!? words like - well, several of the -ER words: STARKERS!?! GASPER? Then there's EASELED (6D: Like paintings in progress). WEASELED, yes, EASELED, ugh. MALABO (1D: Equatorial Guinea's capital) and MALAYA (35D: Singapore lies just off its tip) were very and semi-mysterious to me, respectively, but they were delicious in that they were interesting-looking, and clearly valid answers.

Here's an interesting fact about this puzzle - it was planned as a Saturday. My test-solving copy is clearly marked 10/18/08, so I have no idea if the puzzle marked for today (10/17/08) has been moved to tomorrow or what? We'll see.


  • 16A: Sherlock Holmes story not by Conan Doyle, e.g. (pastiche) - in America, we call this "fan fiction." I know the word PASTICHE, but I don't know what it has to do with this clue. I think of PASTICHE as an assemblage of materials from different sources. Apparently it also means "imitation."
  • 17A: About whom Churchill purportedly said "A modest man who has much to be modest about" (Attlee) - first, awesome quote. Second, great great fake-out, in that I had HITLER here for a long time, and HITLER and ATTLEE ... have some things in common. Namely, three consecutive letters. I know the idea of HITLER as "modest" may seem odd, but ... that's why I went with HITLER. I was expecting the unexpected.
  • 19A: Of the north wind (boreal) - yay, medievalism (that's how I learned it, anyway - all that windy stuff, like "Zephyrus" and what not, comes from Chaucer as far as I'm concerned)
  • 21A: Curacao flavoring (orange) - blatant pandering to a certain blogger
  • 35A: Bitingly sarcastic (mordant) - a fantabulous word.
  • 38A: Skin soother (calamine) - had CALOMINE ... but I didn't know what PROTTLE was supposed to be (27D: Meaningless talk - PRATTLE)
  • 41A: Plant family that includes hibiscus (mallow) - slight trouble figuring this one out, as I screwed up a cross for a while - had DELETES for DECODES (34D: Uses a key, perhaps)
  • 44A: Topmost optic in a microscope (eye lens) - very literal, kind of boring, but hey, at least we get a Scrabble letter worth more than 1 point. Yay for Y.
  • 3D: It deserves to be condemned (rat trap) - you know what especially deserves to be condemned? The TATTIEST (14D: Showing the most wear and tear) RAT TRAP.
  • 7D: Integration that exceeds the sum of its parts (gestalt) - "Integration" threw me quite badly. Was thinking mathematics. The NE seems clearly the roughest (in every sense) part of this grid.
  • 8D: Semitic fertility goddess (Astarte) - she was part of the STAR rebus puzzle from five weeks ago yesterday (I know because she was the most popular search term)
  • 4D: Town that Wild Bill Hickok was marshal of (Abilene) - guessed from crosses. I like how Western this puzzle is, with ABILENE and SOONER and ARNESS (47A: James in many westerns). I always do a double-take on "Hickok" - that -OK ending looks all kinds of wrong. Rhymes with Springbok?
  • 29D: Closet hangings (raiment) - very nice trick with the non-s plural RAIMENT
  • 30D: Los Angeles County's _____ Beach (Hermosa) - means "beautiful"; took me a while to get it. Being from CA helps, because even if you've never been to said beach (and I haven't) the names of places are in the air so much that they become familiar.
  • 33D: Milky and iridescent (opaline) - great adjective. Strangely reminding me of this song - "Opelousas" by Maria McKee (written by Victoria Williams); video's kind of bad, but I really like the song.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Peter Gordon tells me that the Sun Crossword is "up and running" at, so head over and check it out.


imsdave1 9:11 AM  
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Anonymous 9:11 AM  

Uh-oh, Rex, you've got an error at 14A: the answer is TESTATE, so there's no duplication of RAT(trap).
Did you wonder what RESTATE might mean?

Anonymous 9:14 AM  

I had TESTATE too. Ready to go as in leaving a valid will. It's funny.

aunthattie 9:20 AM  

I think you were too hard on this puzzle, Rex--it was fun and clever with lots of idiomatic answers (gaspers, starkers)that made it interesting. Took me a while to get rid of knights, but otherwise I did pretty well for a Friday.

steve l 9:23 AM  

I vote for TESTATE too. TESTATE means you have a will, so you're "ready to go". I originally had RATTIEST, but it didn't fit. I found the NE really hard (the only part that gave me trouble) but I like that in a Fri/Sat puzzle. What I like most is that once I start guessing, starting with what I think is most likely, the puzzle starts to fall. And that's what happened this time.

BTW, I didn't like EASELED, either. Also, I don't really notice how many -ER words there are unless they are clunkers.

treedweller 9:23 AM  

I expected the litany of -ER words, but was surprised you didn't like STARKERS. Maybe it's a Southern thing--from "stark naked" we get STARKERS (I assume--haven't actually looked up the origin). I think it's a fabulous addition to any puzzle. Colloquial words and phrases make the language so much more interesting, don't they?

And, as it has been noted here, "rattiest" with RATTRAP is not an issue, since that's not the correct answer, but it should be. What the hell is TATTIEST? That was my mistake for today, and it took a long time to find it, let me tell you. I mean, "restate" was a stretch, but I was convincing myself you could restate "Ready" as "to go," or something like that. Again, I know it's a stretch, but so is TATTIEST, IMOO.

I kept trying to fit in "cigar" or "Cigarro" or "Cigarette" for coffin nail, since I never heard of GASPER, either. Just one example of a place where I filled in what clearly had to be the correct letters, but couldn't believe the resulting answers were words.

Oh, did I mention, What The Hell Is TATTIEST?

treedweller 9:28 AM  

Oh, by the way, I can and did look up "tatty" (and acknowledge that it exists in dictionaries (I will note that TATTIEST does not get a definition when I google "define: tattiest", but if tatty works then I think we have to concede tattiest, as well) so nobody needs to point that out. Why this one sticks out so badly for me among all the words I've seen in crosswords that never come up in the real world, I do not know. But I still Hate It.

steve l 9:31 AM  

TATTIEST--think "in tatters." STARKERS and GASPER are British slang. In the USA, they should be clued as such. PASTICHE--I don't use it that way, but it's in the dictionary.

male chicken 9:40 AM  

I have never heard of GASPER and i'm a british smoker. STARKERS, now you're talking.

foodie 9:51 AM  

As I was solving this puzzle, I knew that I was doing far better than my usual Friday performance, and that the reason was the preponderance of Wheel of Fortune letters. I loved many words pointed out by Rex. MORDANT is not only fantabulous as an answer, but is clued brilliantly with "bitingly sarcastic" as "Mordre" means to bite.

Having learned PASTICHE from French, I always knew it to mean imitation but in painting. I looked it up in Larousse, and there are multiple meanings referring to imitation of a distinctive style, including in literature and arts. The imitation can often be tongue in cheek, a send-up, and there is a verb "Pasticher". I believe the other meaning of pastiche is not common in modern French. I think it may come from Italian?

A last little note: I did this puzzle using Across Lite last night, and did an experiment this morning of how long it would take me to do it in print. It took 5 minutes even though I had very good recall of the answers and did not have to dwell on reading the clues. Just goes to show how awesome people are who can finish any puzzle in say 4 minutes or less, much less a complex one. Wow!

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

American Heritage Dictionary says:

tat·ty (tat?e) adjective
tat·ti·er, tat·ti·est
Somewhat worn, shabby, or dilapidated.

but for the other disputed answer:

gasp·er (gas?p?r) noun

Chiefly British.
A cigarette.


ArtLvr 10:00 AM  

It's a fun puzzle to me with the OLDTIMER slang, especially GASPER, STARKERS and TATTIEST. I started with PASTICHE and filled the NE first, then worked out the bottom half starting with DECODES OPALINE and ELEANOR, and finally the NW. Love the MORDANT and GESTALT, and am reminded by ATTLEE that Churchill actually had some nice things to say about Hitler early on, before the worst was known.

Somehow the -er words aren't grating because those endings mostly are not "add-ons" today -- SEWERS, COWER, SPEEDOMETERES, PACKERS, SOONER, PASTMASTERS, SOLDIERS, ETHERS. C'mon Rex, I'd give you TILTERS maybe, but the rest are integral words per se!

Thr EYELENS was a surprise since I expected a more technical term ar first, and EASELED was the least felicitous to my ear. Last answer in was BOREAL, shades of Maureen Dowd's "Sara Palina, barracuda borealis", the LATINS hoot.


dorkus malorkus 10:04 AM  

Ethers are just a class of compounds that have an oxygen atom bonded to two carbon atoms. FYI.

Marshmallows were originally made from the marshmallow plant, apparently.

I didn't think this puzzle was as bad as you made it out to be. A few ridiculous words like easeled (which, by the way, my Firefox spell-check doesn't recognize) and starkers, but overall a pretty decent puzzle that wasn't all that easy.

Shamik 10:04 AM  

I liked this puzzle. A lot. The grid pleased me. I'm so odd, I've probably even used the word STARKERS. However, I also like to write SPEDOMETERS. It's good to be humbled from time to time. Would call this puzzle a medium.

A lot of misstarts:
ESTERS for ETHERS (always did get those confused anyway)
RENAIL for RELACE (thinking horses from the jousting)
INSIDE for ONSIDE (thinking war)

Loved RAIMENT. But then, everybody loves raiment (wink).

Norm 10:11 AM  

This struck me as a very English puzzle, what with STARKERS and TATTIEST, and now we learn (thank you, anonymous@9:53) GASPER as well.

Ulrich 10:33 AM  

When I looked at all that empty space and found just one 3-letter and no 4-letter words, my heart sank. But then my spirits picked up when I realized that it was solvable, with each quadrant practically constituting a mini-puzzle in itself. Got started in each with one or two gimmies: good old Eleanor and Sooner in the SE, Arabia and Attlee in the NW (I remember both the quote and its target), and Astarte in the NE. The SW was the exception, and it took me consequently the longest to get a foothold in it. Never knew pastiche in the imitation sense--thx foodie for enlightening us!

Was it worth learning all that British stuff? Maybe--who am I to complain, given how much German is seeping into puzzles!

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

I always thought STARKERS was crazy--as in stark raving mad. Also, had Knights for TILTERS for way too long. Which made PASTMASTERS Taskmasters which made perfect sense to me. :)

Noam D. Elkies 10:49 AM  

WHY!? Because it's there (the challenge, that is). Here it seems that the challenge was overcome quite nicely, in fact. Yes, there's a baker's dozen of -ER words (would have been one more if 17A were HITLER as Rex thought), but all of them save for 22A:TILTERS are indepdendent words, not odd jobs or even comparatives (even 7A:SOONER is clued non-comparatively). Rex writes as if the Y of 44A:EYELENS is the only "Scrabbly" letter in the puzzle, but there's a number of other 3-point (BCMP) and 4-point letters (WH), and a K in the NE region. A good amount of other nice clues and/or fill. Is Rex still in a foul mood after yesterday's prison runaround?...


P.S. 19A:BOREAL doesn't strike me as particularly medieval; remember "aurora borealis" (and its polar opposite the "aurora australis"). 23A:SPEEDOMETERS = timing devices in Beijing's Water Cube? :-)

PhillySolver 10:54 AM  

I liked the puzzle despite its difficulty and quibbles I have with the NE. The BOREAL clue had me mentally checking my Trivia banks and came up with this list of Greek gods:
North wind = Boreas
South wind = Notus
East wind = Eurus
West Wind = Zephyrus, which lets me tell one of my favorite Greek myth questions. What Greek male youth was sought as a lover by both Apollo and Zephyrus? Today his name is most often associated with females. Answer: Hyacinth.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

did anyone try UNLOCKS for 34D - uses a key sometimes? that derailed me for a while.

Joe Krozel 11:02 AM  

Hi Rex:
You certainly are consistent in your criticism of the -ER endings, so -- as I pointed out in a comment to my Sept 20 puzzle -- I didn't take your (similar) criticism of my own puzzle personally. (Hopefully Patrick doesn't take your remarks personally either).

In response to your earlier feedback, I've drastically downranked most of the -ER words in my own wordlist ...not to mention RE-, UN-, -LY, -EST, and the like. So, solvers who comment on this blog should know they have a certain amount of influence on constructors... or at least me.

But... assuming all those entry issues get worked out, I'd still like to know whether these 54-, 56-, and 58-word quad puzzles are a worthy challenge for solvers because of the absence of 3- and 4-letter words. I'll be happy to listen to whether solvers tend to use those shorter entries to gain a foothold into other puzzles, and whether they enjoy the challenge when those short entries are absent. Thanks gang.
-Joe Krozel

dk 11:03 AM  

All the same mistakes as those who have blogged before me so I close in keeping with the English theme:

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.

Off to try to figure out how to post the OLDTIMER

Two Ponies 11:04 AM  

I'm with Rex on this one for the most part. I had to tickle and coax the back corners of my brain for a few answers and was pretty surprised that I was right.
Boreal unlocked the NW.
I thought the clue for waitress was a clever diversion. Interesting that the folks in OK openly call themselves cheaters. Who knew?
How did I know mallow???
The Lion in Winter helped open up the SE for me (thanks Kate Hepburn).
Openness just looks like a typo.
Also liked Spare the rod. Man, those biblical kids must have had it rough.

poc 11:13 AM  

I liked this one because of the complete absence of sports figures and the occasional British slang word, so there :-)

Another great Churchill quote about Attlee: "That man has all the virtues I detest and none of the vices I admire".

PuzzleGirl 11:15 AM  

With three googles (two in the NE) I still couldn't finish this one correctly. I only had one hiccup on the bottom half (CAUSTIC for MORDANT), but choked big-time on the top. For some reason I guessed BENGALS for PACKERS. That's pretty dumb, right? Once I got that straightened out and figured out ASTARTE (via Google), I assumed 14A was GESTATE. Wrong but come on ... awesome guess!

STARKERS is weird. I have no recollection of ever having heard this word, but I immediately got a fuzzy picture in my head of a British woman saying it as a part of some sort of exclamation. ("Well, he was starkers is wot he was!...") Tracey Ullman maybe?

ArtLvr 11:21 AM  

@ joe krozel -- Constructors who can do a puzzle with a dearth of 3- and 4-letter words should go ahead and give us the challenge! I like the stacks today, not too long and not too pop culture...

Thanks for listening to your fans!


jannieb 11:37 AM  

Hardest puzzle for me in a long time - and the "ers" had nothing to do with it. Very few gimmes (Joe, I get my foothold more with names than 3 or 4 letter words. I rarely notice how many of them are in a puzzle.)

Had many of the same missteps as Shamik - the NE being an absolute bear!

Ulrich 11:38 AM  

Re. Churchill vs. Attlee. It's no wonder Churchill had such an animus: Attlee beat him decisively in the general election of 1945, right at the end of WWII !!!, to become the first Labor PM to serve a full term.

joho 11:42 AM  

@hereinfranklin: I, too had TASKMASTER/KNIGHT for a bit.

I changed the "R" to "T" to make TESTATE as RATTIEST wouldn't work in a puzzle with RATTRAP. The clue for TESTATE is amusing.

@joe krozel: I like the challenge of solving with the short answers absent ... I managed to finish correctly today with no Googles which gives me a great sense of accomplisment (even though it takes me a lot longer than usual.)

@puzzlegirl: filling in BENGALS is funnier than can know for us living near Cincinnati!

Anonymous 11:51 AM  

Didn't like "eye lens". Sure, it describes the object. Nevertheless my 7th grade daughter assures me the only acceptable answers on her recent test were "eyepiece" or "ocular lens".

Campesite 12:02 PM  

This was a particularly pleasurable puzzle for me, as I entered into the grid Hermosa Beach while at home in the small town of Hermosa Beach.
@ Joe: good of you to respond to feedback. I too like the challenge open spaces in the grid offer. Plus, longer answers tend to be fresher and less crosswordese-y.


Anonymous 12:06 PM  

I screwed this one up. I started in the southwest corner with acerbic for 35 across, aloevera for 38 across, and acolyte for 26 down.

imsdave1 12:11 PM  

@joe krozel: Firstly, thanks for asking. I looked at this puzzle this morning and asked to myself, where the hell am I going to start? Typically on late week puzzles, I'll go right after the 4-letter downs which will usually get me enough letters to get some of the big across fill that opens them up for me. Today, I got PAS as is my wont, and wasn't that a big help?

No complaints about the puzzle however. After getting no where with PAS, went to the NW and found ORANGE which pretty much worked to get me going.

Probably just me, but I like the shorter fill for traction.

HudsonHawk 12:21 PM  

@joe k, count me among those that enjoy the challenges of the wide open spaces. I also don't mind the ER words as long as they're not just tacked on.

I started in the SE, with SOONER as the only gimme, but gradually moved to the west and north, finishing in the NE. Loved STARKERS.

@two ponies: my brother lived in Tulsa for a number of years, and would occasionally harp that locals were proud of the fact that their state was founded by cheating land grabbers.

dk 12:33 PM  

@joe k to quote the Dixie Chicks we need wide open spaces thank you for asking. Outside of GASPER (a term I have never heard,despite spending a fair amount of time in English Pubs eyeing WAITRESSes with ill intent (lame reference to J. Tull from yesterday)), I like the English theme.

Mike the Wino 12:42 PM  

I started in the NW and kept asking myself, "can it be that simple?". ARABIA, LATINS, ORANGE, LINEAGE! They gave me RATTRAP and ABILENE from the crosses, producing the "speed" in SPEEDOMETER which dropped like a rock.

Then..........power off. I hit a wall. Eventually I got started again, with ARNESS the first to fall in the SE, followed by ELEANOR and OPALINE and the smell of SEWERS.

I, too, had "taskmasters" for the longest time, but not "knights". I actually had "kilters" because I visualized people in kilts doing a joust. Hey, if you can have all those other -er words, why not?

We're bottling the '07 vintages tomorrow. Good thing, because the stock in my cellar is getting low.

kevin der 12:45 PM  

Rex, I learned STARKERS from Harry Potter. It shows up numerous times throughout the series even in the American edition.

I found this far harder than the similar open grid we had about a month ago.

Joon 1:11 PM  

i loved STARKERS too. kevin, i think i just said somewhere that i learned all my britslang from harry potter, but this one seems like it's been in my banks for longer, so probably... stoppard? seems like something out of the real thing. yeah, i'll go ahead and say i learned it from stoppard, and you can't prove me wrong.

poc 1:13 PM  

@joon (and others): STARKERS is a contraction of "stark naked".

archaeoprof 1:37 PM  

All that Britslang got the better of me today. Really now, GASPER?? But wasn't that a nice clue for 42A: "special announcer."

Cheryl 1:43 PM  

I enjoyed doing this puzzle. It was a challenge but I managed it without looking anything up and I did it in one sitting between karate class and bedtime. It's still unusual for me to complete a Friday or Saturday unassisted so I was quite happy.

I enjoy the potential and sense of discovery afforded by the wide open spaces, even if they are a little daunting. Some short answers can be a help, but not necessarily.

As jannieb said, names are more of a foothold,(as long as they are someone you know,) because they are not open to interpretation the way some phrases and colloquialisms are.

karmasartre 1:45 PM  

Is there a reason for adding "er" to nouns make them people? Seems it should be "or" a portion of the time commensurate to actual "or" vs "er" people-words. Then there are "eer" and others wanting their fair share.

mac 1:52 PM  

I found this one tough, and of course it didn't help that I started out with aloevera at 38A and reveres at 28D. Oddly enough I immediately thought of "spare the rod" but miscounted and thought I had too many spaces...
I like all the Brit expressions, although I had never heard of gasper. I, too, wanted "knights". I have a friend in London (I'm seeing her next week!) who uses the word "tatty" regularly.
Boreal was a gimme because of the recent trip to Alaska.
I have to admit, Joe, that I would have loved a few more 3 and 4 letter words to get me started....

foodie 2:00 PM  


For someone like me who knows very little about sports and has all kinds of other blind spots, today's puzzle was both doable and delightful because I could use logic and work it out. In my book, logic should be an integral part of working a puzzle, but in some puzzles you simply can't (e.g. where Naticks abound). But having said that, I feel that I really don't want to have too much influence on you all unless a clue is plain wrong or the style is too forced.

Sometimes I give public lectures about neuroscience, genetics and ethical ramifications, and when people ask about the possibility of using cloning techniques to produce mentally and physically perfect kids, my response is that beyond the obvious spiritual and moral objections, my biggest concern is that people would design extremely boring kids (typically boring versions of themselves). Social consensus and genius are rarely compatible. You and other constructors are so talented, and it seems to me each of you takes on various challenges, and in a way, we the solvers have the privilege of watching creative minds at work.

Crosscan 2:02 PM  
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Crosscan 2:04 PM  

I'm with most of you. I had ALOE VERA and REVERES and ended with one error, the infamous RESTATE/RATTIEST.

Without the ER's I would have gotten nowhere. Hey, Joe, how about a puzzle where every word ends in ER...[waiting for Rex to get down off the ledge]...

First time in a few weeks I had to Google to complete the NE.

I have heard the term STARKERS.

Wade 2:07 PM  

Good, so it's not just me.

Each quadrant was Monday-easy, but only after you got a foothold in each quadrant. That's my least-favorite kind of puzzle. It's like sprinting a lap and then jogging two--you start to dread the sprints. I finished the bottom half, cheated in the NE (I looked up the Super Bowl winner. I can name every winner up to 1996, the last year the Cowboys won, and after that it seems it was just a bunch of AFC teams with their silly AFC-team uniforms), and gave up in the NW.

Gestalt and pastiche are handy words because they can mean whatever you want them to mean. I use them all the time with great gusto, confident that nobody else knows what they mean either and won't bother to look them up. They're also two words I remember the first time I heard or read: I came across "pastiche" when a writer described Hemingway's unreadable second book (or third, depending on whether you count "Three Stories and Ten Poems"), "The Torrents of Spring," as a pastiche of Sherwood Anderson (because everybody's always trying to write like Sherwood Anderson.) "Gestalt" I first heard used by my torts and admiralty professor and the only law professor I still keep up with, David Robertson, who counseled me (in response to my confession that I sucked at billing my time) that I needed to take a gestalt approach to billing some types of work in order not to cheat myself, "because, he said, "remember how hard I worked to get you where you are."

andrea carla michaels 2:09 PM  

Wow. One of those days that I agree with literally everything you said/did...right down to leaving in RESTATE, which I literally spent more time trying to justify and/or make the connection than it took me to do the puzzle!

My only difference was starting with ACERBIC

The whole time instead of thinking about the puzzle, I kept thinking "uh oh, look at all these -ER words and this is Rex's favorite construct-er?
(I have a different favorite Patrick!)
Today, yours put the ER in bERry!"

(If you're counting oratOR you might as well throw in EleanOR too!)
But I think folks response that they weren't those phony kind of -ER words does make up for almost all of it.

OPALINE was a gimme because the opal is October's birthstone
(Happy birthus, Fergus!)
(I have a tiny tiny one attached to my nose)

Ashamed that I knew the Churchill quote but not the man. :(
Do I get credit for my third answer being GESTALT?
One of my favorite concepts in life and typical that the English language has no word for it, but the German's captured it in one of their shortest!
(As opposed to other fabulous concepts like Schadenfreude)

TOTALLY stealing that Hyacinth question for my next trivia show!

Ask a Friday crowd about open grids and I think you are going to get the response that you are looking for!
I do love that this blog has made a difference by "constructive" criticism!
I've said this before, if not for this blog and the reviews and feedback and erudition, who the hell are we making puzzles for, other constructors?

chefbea1 2:19 PM  

got the northwest and southeast alright but had a terrible time with the rest.

@joe K I too like having 3 and four letter words along with the long ones.

Loved speedometer and spare the rod and waitress

Orange 2:31 PM  

Full ashtrays are not things I encounter much any more, living in a state with a public smoking ban, but I want you to know that the next butt I see (not of the STARKERS variety—though I did just see a mail carrier's upper butt, and I must say it did not improve my day), I'll be noticing whether it's the TATTIEST GASPER I've ever seen. Doesn't that sound like a good name for a pub? Hipper than that place called The Artful Dodger, for sure.

There was a recent Sun puzzle with ORANGE ZEST in the theme, and the constructor, Donna Levin, said in all seriousness that she'd thought of me when she plunked that in there. Still, I haven't really arrived until REYNALDO makes it into a crossword clued as me.

fikink 2:53 PM  

I enjoyed the challenge of this puzzle and learned much, so it is my idea of a great puzzle - made missteps already mentioned, but ended up finishing the SW last because I stubbornly hung onto PALAVER for PRATTLE.
@foodie, how do you like using Acrosslite now? I don't think I can return to paper as I enter wild guesses all the time and can move around the puzzle faster.
@twoponies, Lion in Winter served me well today, too. My favorite Hepburn role!

mexicangirl 2:54 PM  

I agree that each corner has like an independent life of its own, which only makes it the more difficult for me because nothing carries on to the next section. Still, after some help from my friend Lori, I managed to get about three quarters of it. The problem section? the British quadrant of course! (AND I have read all the Harry Potter books...!)

@ Joe Krozel,
I definitely like the help of 4 letter words (not three, though, since they're mostly acronyms and I hate those), but I can always welcome a challenge, like today's.... provided my friend Lori is around.

JoefromMtVernon 2:58 PM  

Here's a three letter word: ugh!

If I lived in London, what a great puzzle this would have been.

It is enjoying to find 1, maybe 2 words in a puzzle you don't know. But..(and I know they're all not British):

Gasper, testate, pastiche, starkers AND tilters across
Gestalt and Astarte down should have come on a Saturday.

So, I had kilters (because I had taskmaster), esters (because, hey, it's been a week since it was in the puzzle), and rattiest.

If Mr. Berry's intent was to give us speeding (NW), fast (SE), slow (SW) and bumper-to-bumper (NE) based on the center clue (speedometer), then he succeeded.

It would take 9 hours to go from home, to JFK, wait in JFK, and go to Heathrow. It seemed to take that long in that stupid corner (and, googling didn't help).

Better times next week.


Hobbyist 3:32 PM  

I loved this puzzle. Got it all and found it to be very clever. Or maybe I just think myself brainy for having solved without help.
Yesterday's I hated as am sports ignorant and didn't even finish.

Doug 3:39 PM  

As my Brit friend would say, one must surely be a cunning linguist to get all these answers.

Amazed myself by getting about half, and was clearly performing out of my head. Actally had EASELED and took it out, thinking it was too wacky for even the NYT puzzle. Never say never.

Ulrich 3:51 PM  

@Andrea, cara: Yes, I give you full credit (but then again, I always give you full credit!). Note, though, that "Gestalt" assumed its fancy connotation only after the Gestalt psychologists used it to designate their brand of inquiry. It simply means "shape" in ordinary German. It's used in this sense in my favorite paragraph from a German building code, which says, in translation, "All buildings must be shaped so that they do not appear misshapen"--isn't that the mother of all tautologies?

Anonymous 3:57 PM  

2 hours, *45* missed squares....

i go the southern half of the puzzle, then gave up and basically didn't attempt the nw when i couldn't get the ne...

gaspers? tatties? ethers? starkers? all beyond me, though I guess i did technically fill in gaspers correctly.

really liked "special announcer" clue for some reason.

Anonymous 4:08 PM  


Fan fiction just means taking the author's characters and writing a story with then. Pastiche includes taking an author's characters as well as imitating his/her writing style. As an example, see the posthumous Dorothy Sayers mystery "Thrones, Dominations", completed from notes after her death by another writer.

fergus 4:49 PM  

With a virtually blank NE, though I did have IN PLACE for Ready to go, and either THE RAMS or PACKERS, I thought of STREAKER as more likely than STARKERS, which just seemed to toff for the NYT puzzle.

I couldn't believe it turned out to be ARABIA. ELEANOR too. Eleanor of Arabia would be better.

I'm voting for the SW as the prettiest corner.

Thanks Andrea. Looking forward to magic beach adventure. And happy OPOPALINE Eve to you.

SethG 5:18 PM  

SO many problems!

Apparently, GASPER is a slang term for a cigarette, which apparently 'Coffin nail' is a slang term for. It just makes me think of Gaston Caperton.

Aside from math, the clue for 7D made me think the answer would be something that could be phrased as 'xxxxxx integration'. So many other problems up there, too--in the end, I felt like I was throwing random letters in for GASPER, (R/T)ESTATE/-ATTIEST, ETHERS/ESTERS, PAST/PASS/TASK/CASK/etc MASTERS, whatever those are, ASTARTE/ASTARLE/SILTERS/TILTERS/KILLERS/KILTERS... until I found a mix that worked. Basically, a whole lotta yuck.

Add me in for ALOE VERA/REVERES; isn't ADMIRES weaker than it's clued? And, while I'm sure it's accurate (along with all my other peeves), I also don't like the 'Soldier IN a cause' phrasing. EASEL is not a verb--apparently other forms like ENEASEL, DISEASEL (or is it UNEASEL?), and the ever-dreaded AEASEL are now fair game.

Finally, PAs do not talk.

foodie 5:34 PM  

re GESTALT, as Ulrich points out it's more philosophical meaning comes from a brand of psychology, and the definition is often misquoted. I think the original intent is that perception of the whole is DIFFERENT from the sum of the parts. Our gestalt of a rose is different from seeing the lines of each individual petal, and then assembling them into the idea of a rose. The concept was a push-back against extreme reductionism, and it makes sense that it derives from the word for shape.

So, back to the puzzle, the clue is at the edge of correctness: "Integration that exceeds the sum of its parts". Integration is not bad, but my objection is to "exceeds".

@wade, the gestalt approach to billing is the L'Oréal slogan: "Because I'm worth it".

@fikink, I agree that Across Lite is wonderful in encouraging taking guesses. I'm still not very agile in using it, though. But it does change the experience of puzzle solving (I resisted using the g word).

@fergus Happy Birthday! I hope your plans include something (someone?) fun and scrumptious.

fikink 6:07 PM  

@foodie: I think you've hit on a very important difference in approaches to a crossword puzzle.
When I speak of "guessing" I am not talking about going down the alphabet and inserting different letters, I am talking about discovering same-number-of-letter synonyms, e.g., PRATTLE and PALAVER, STOUTNESS and FORTITUDE, et. al. It is more often what gets me in the most trouble, because I am so stubborn. But I end up learning things.
Needless to say, I am not into timing myself; I guess I approach a difficult puzzle more as Evildoug does - something to be conquered, especially at the end of the week. Were I to still be doing them on paper, the puzzle would be in tatters before I completed it.
I also think that constructing puzzles without a database lends your personality to the puzzle since it is reveals things about your experiences and thinking processes.
This is in no way meant to insult timers or database users. I enjoy the products of your efforts, obviously, and could never construct puzzles as a livelihood - I would starve!
In a way, this kind of echoes your point about breeding boring children (I think).

Anonymous 6:24 PM  

"easelled"? what a douchebag.
thanks for existing. i'd go nuts without your page.

treedweller 6:32 PM  


I suppose then that the Saturday papers would generally be the tattiest?

fikink 6:43 PM  

'XACTLY! It ends up confetti.

Both 8-letter words!


andrea carla michaels 6:53 PM  

That makes sense bec I indeed learned Gestalt as a Psych major.
Gestalt feels it must be more than just different from the sum of its parts, it doesn't feel incorrect to say it exceeds it, whatever it's being applied to... bec of the synergy involved.
Isn't seeing a rose, instead of its individual pieces MORE than just being different? You have the whole feeling of the object and the myriad associations.
When it's a puzzle, you have the words, the clues, the grid, the black square pattern, the theme, the constructor's style, the editing, the malapops, the moments of synchronicity, etc. and the whole effect is the gestalt. More than different, it exceeds.

Oy, I'm exhausted just trying to have a coherent thought that borders on intellectual. My brain might be bleeding!

I'll revert to pointing out that ARNESS is from Minnesota and his brother is/was Peter Graves from "Mission Impossible"

foodie 8:05 PM  

@andrea, yes, I agree, I must think of exceed not just as being larger, but as transcending. I think the misdirection in the clue that leads one to think in mathematical terms made me think of "exceed" in the more quantitative sense. But of course, the word is richer than that, and it is a clever clue afterall : )

What I was trying to say, with my own little brain bleed, is that most people when they say the whole is greater than the sum of its parts don't stop enough to think that it may be nothing like the sum of its parts. This is tapping into something that I will not get into here, which has to do with reductionism in science, particularly relevant to understanding the brain and the mind.

Rex, please excuse the 4th post, but Andrea bled to set me straight. I had to acknowledge how right she is.

male chicken 8:36 PM  

@everyone. I'm totally baffled by this acceptance of Gasper as British slang. Yes, I'm googling, and yes, it says it constantly, but I've never ever heard of it, despite being a long time smoker and even longer time Brit. I don't claim, as many do, to be well read, but I'm certainly well versed in indulging in substances that will kill me, and I know cigarette slang (most of it inappropriate in the US). It may be regional ... but it sounds WWI to me (in among the chaps and blighters and the old boys. So, let's see. Oh, yes, good! It is! see

miriam b 8:45 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
miriam b 8:57 PM  

A police officer friend and his partner once rescued a hefty woman who was stuck in her bathtub and unable to extricate herself. She was felicitously named Fanny STARK.

@doug: tsk. So what do you call a cook who knows the names of various dishes in their original languages?

@wade: There's a great New Yorker cartoon depicting several monks plying their quill pens. Contemplating a man in their midst who is wearing a serious business suit and likewise working on a manuscript, a monk informs his neighbor: “He’s illuminating something called ‘The Book of Billable Hours.’”

I was thinking just yesterday about the word EASEL. I thought it probably came from the German word Esel, an ass - something that bears a burden. Googled it today after filling in EASELED (under protest, like so many here) and found I was right!

Having spent much too much time today alternating between peeling old paper off my bedroom walls preparatory to filling cracks in the plaster and painting; and preparing a labor-intensive casserole for dinner, I found the puzzle to be welcome diversion. Some of the clues were very clever - I liked "Special announcer" - and the ambiguity of many of them kept me on my toes.

Yes, Churchill was handily booted out by Attlee in '45 - in fact, one might say he got Attlee's foot.

Deborah 9:54 PM  

En fin, after 30 odd years of solving the NY Times xword, I must declare that I hate Will Shortz's editing.
My only impediment to solving this puzzle (which I ultimately did avec mucho White Out) was Attlee, a reflection on my ignorance of history and not Will's perfidy. But, really, easeled? Pastiche? (I know what the word means, I speak a fair amount of French, and I acknowledge, after research, that that is an acceptable usage - but gimme a break.
Contact lens, yeah; eyelens - ow.
I assume "onside" is a sports reference; if not, I don't want to know.
The only thing that didn't piss me off in this puzzle was the absence of product placement. Would Will PLEASE follow in the footsteps of forebears and not use brand names? An aspirin cannot assuage the pain in my head nor a band aid stanch the psychic bleeding caused by this practice.

chefbea1 10:05 PM  

@miriamb what kind of casserole did you make?

Michael 10:11 PM  

I liked this puzzle -- challenging and interestingly constructed. I went through it at about average time for a Friday -- perhaps a bit slower. The bottom half went quickly, but I had more trouble with both the top corners. The nw was fair, but the ne had gasper (which I got but didn't understand) and I made the restate/rattiest mistake. But I knew that restate didn't make sense and when I saw testate/tattiest I thought "of course" and was surprised that others had fallen into the same trap that I had.

fergus 11:26 PM  

All full of salt spray, wild jumping large ocean creatures, and lately getting back into an urbane environment.

A lit slice of pie signaled to my math students today the occasion, so I relinquished my new age as a product of two primes. Could you believe that the first answer was 35? 49 wasn't a bad answer, but 57 was. Think of the triples on the dartboard, but please not 19, even if it's close to that.

A slice or two more lie ahead, I fear, as I listen to phone messages.

Daryl 1:51 AM  

Wow, I'm shocked at the people complaining about the difficulty of this puzzle - I finished it very quickly, and was coming here expecting to be disappointed that Rex did it in half the time I did. But I suppose it helped to be doing the puzzle in Singapore, at the tip of MALAYA, with an education system that still leans towards the British, enough to know STARKERS. Although frankly who says MALAYA these days? I liked the puzzle, but some of it sounds very much like it comes from a public school boy in the days of ATTLEE.

I was actually kind of surprised for a Friday that a lot of answers that I thought seemed obvious turned out to be just that - no tricks, not surprises - this was the case for ARABIA, ONSIDE, EYE LENS, and WAITRESS.

Craig K. 3:13 PM  

Yes, I'm getting to this very late. (I'm on vacation this weekend and I just checked the crossword blogs to see what I missed.)

You're going to think I'm inconsistent for saying this (and that's OK), but I think that this particular puzzle suffers from things the Krozel puzzle we crossed swords over recently does not: over-use of the same suffix, stairstepping of the same suffix, and suffix-weaving to set lower-right corners in place. The Krozel puzzle I saluted used a mix of prefixes and suffixes, did not use suffixes in a stair-step pattern, and did not anchor from suffixes in the lower right corners to build the wide open areas up. The Krozel puzzle was able to attain an impressive degree of freshness as a result, and avoided some - not all, but some - of the predictability in this puzzle.

And by the way: yes, the "freshness" of the vocabulary goes down as the word count of a puzzle goes down, but I for one enjoy trying to break into a puzzle with very few three and four letter words. I tend to wish they were clued harder to make them harder to solve overall, but I understand that with fewer short words overall, the editor will typically want to not push the difficulty envelope too far; a puzzle with few short words clued as hard as I'd like it to be would leave many solvers unable to break into it at all.

One more thing... I have a book of NYT themeless puzzles from about 7-8 years ago along with me on this trip. It's been interesting to me to compare the freshness level of those puzzles to the freshness level of even the least fresh puzzles of today. My (subjective) opinion is that even the least fresh of today's puzzles compare favorably to the puzzles of that time period which were not notable for their freshness - even this one, modulo the over-suffixization.

Anonymous 2:55 PM  

I'm 5 weeks behind (SF Chronicle) and really messed myself up with "aloevera" for "calamine" and "reveres" for admires". Took a while to get that fixed.

Hapless in Seattle 8:32 PM  

The "Seattle Post-Intellegencer" publishes the NYT Crossword about 5 weeks after it's published on the east coast. So today, Nov.21, I was having fun with the Oct. 17 puzzle -ugh! Rex writes at the end of the puzzle, "33D: Milky and iridescent (opaline) - great adjective. Strangely reminding me of this song - "Opelousas" by Maria McKee (written by Victoria Williams); video's kind of bad, but I really like the song." In turn, Opelousas strangely reminded me of a chocolate drink called "Yoo Hoo" which is manufactured in Opelousas, Louisiana. I haven't seen this product on the west coast so I'm wondering if any of you have come across it during your east coast travels. I'd like to get some so if you've got any leads on where to get it, I'd love to hear from you. Many thanks, and best regards,

GFox49 12:10 AM  

I was thrown a curve by 26A - Isn't strict enough, say. I immediately thought of MOLLYCODDLE - which fit perfectly. It was so perfect that I had a hard time convincing my self later to try something else. I reckon context and inflection is everything...Oh Well.

Aviatrix 1:44 PM  

GASPERS - A gasper can also be one of those eyeball vents above the seating in an airplane that you can open to direct air on you.

eSTers are compounds responsible for Scents and Tastes. Sniff ethers and you just pass out.

I appreciate, now that you point it out, that the puzzle would be technically better without all the ERs, but I finished the puzzle without Googling and didn't even notice the surfeit of ER words. I just liked the pretty grid.

For Joe Krozel. I like this style of grid better than the ones that have three stacked full width words across the top and bottom. The three letter words there are often nondescript enough that I can't get anything for a long time, and just make a big mess of ink with my speculations. The shorter entries aren't really a good foothold into a NYT quality rossword, because they shouldn't be all that predictable. My foothold is usually slightly longer words that I just happen to know: my subject area or I just go with it because the first thing I think of fits and I'm right.

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