Victorian vehicle / FRI 5-21-10 / Sedan chair accessories / Descendants of Japheth / Animal on Mauritius's coat of arms / Chicago outfit bigwig

Friday, May 21, 2010

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: RINSO (18A: Product once advertised as having Solium) —

Rinso was the brand name of a laundry soap most commonly used in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The brand was created by Hudson's Soap which was sold to Lever Brothers of Port Sunlight, England, in 1908. It was also manufactured by the Lever Brothers Company (later known as Unilever) in the United States, starting in 1918. // Rinso was one of the first mass-marketed soap powders. It was advertised widely on radio, being the sponsor of many network programs such as the popular daytime soap opera Big Sister from 1936 to 1946, and the night-time programs Big Town from 1937 to 1942, Mayor of the Town from 1942 to 1943, and most notably The Amos 'n' Andy Show from 1943 to 1950. During this time the product's advertisements happily chanted the slogan "Rinso white, Rinso bright" and boasted that Rinso contained "Solium, the sunlight ingredient".

• • •
Easy, beautiful puzzle. If you want to know why Patrick Berry is one of the most respected and admired constructors in the world of crosswords, just check out this grid. Gorgeousness as far as the eye can see. Gigantic, wide-open NW and SE corners that are filled Perfectly (so, so hard to fill in that much white space without resorting to some ugly and/or marginal stuff). He relies on a couple -ER words and four colliding words with the letter string "ATE" there in the SE, but not so that anyone but me (a hyperinspector) would notice. There's not a single answer in the puzzle that made me wince or caused me the slightest discomfort. Gush gush gush. Patrick Berry rules.

This was my fastest Friday of the year, but I jacked the rating up to "Easy-Medium" because my ease-of-solving felt freakish and idiosyncratic. I mean, for instance, I pulled LANDAU (12D: Victorian vehicle) instantly off just the "U," and not everyone can do that. I also just *knew* SWAMPY (41D: Camp ___ ("Beetle Bailey" setting)) and MADISON (7D: Mermaid's name in "Splash"), both of which gave me great leverage in the NW and SW, respectively. SWAMPY was particularly important — I went STAKE RACES (41A: Belmont and Preakness, for two) to SWAMPY and had that whole (amazing) section done before I blinked twice. ZONK-YANKS-PRONG-MAGOG (53D: Descendants of Japheth) — the fill is just bouncing off the walls down there. Great energy. Love it.

Biggest problems were getting started (as usual) and the SE, where I finished the puzzle off. Began with ABET (6D: Give shelter, perhaps) and then, stupidly, neglected to look one more Down over to MADISON, which I would have gotten w/o crosses. Instead, I went back west into the fat part of the corner and started mucking around. Wanted NEPAL at 5D: So-called "Land of the Gods" but had no way of being certain. Then ventured a guess of TOWEL at 21A: Beach bag item and decided sure, why not, NEPAL. Then MEN at 28A: Playing pieces, then the -ING suffix at 3D: Tossing about (STREWING). With second "T" and "M" in place LOST TIME leapt forth (1D: Something to make up for), and the NW was all over but the shouting. SWEPT (22A: Got award after award) through the NE and SW like a tornado, only to come to a near-halt in the SE, despite having it surrounded. Main problem — I had REGROUP where REGIMEN belonged (39D: Training recommendation). Seemed reasonable. But ONU- seemed an improbable beginning for 56A: Cramped vehicle (ONE-SEATER), so I scrapped REGROUP, and bam, TENT DRESS just fell into place (58A: Garment with no waistline). Wanted ONE-SEATER, but couldn't picture one, so waited. Then REGIMEN fell in, then HOME PLATE went across (54A: Swinging place?), and the corner went down without any more fight. The only answers in the whole puzzle that left me with that "wha?" feeling were RINSO (before my time, I assume), and JOSIP (48A: Marshal Tito's first name). I had JOSEP. But it's JOSIP. I really wish Yugoslavia had produced a Saturday-morning TV show called "JOSEP and the Pussycats." I would play a clip of it for you right now. But instead you get this:

[this cartoon and I are the same age]

  • 10A: Sedan chair accessories (POLES) — Wow, I have no idea what a "sedan chair" is, apparently. Why would a chair require POLES? Oh, wait, are the POLES holding the chair up? Oh, I see, they are the poles that the porters (front and back) use to carry you in your little compartment. You gotta be pretty special / lazy to ride in one of those.
  • 19A: Magazine founded by abolitionists in 1865 ("THE NATION") — They used to have a cryptic crossword. Do they still?
  • 24A: "A very high price to pay for maturity," per Tom Stoppard (AGE) — Not the funniest quote in the world, but easy enough to figure out.
  • 31A: Robert L. Fish Memorial Award and others (EDGARS) — the annual awards for mystery writing. No idea who "Robert L. Fish" is/was. He apparently wrote the book that the 1968 Steve McQueen movie "Bullitt" was based on, but he doesn't even have a wikipedia page (in English, that is).
  • 45A: Animal on Mauritius's coat of arms (DODO) — makes sense. Only place on earth where DODO is known to have existed.
  • 51A: Band name that has an umlaut over the "n" (SPINAL TAP) — embarrassing that this took so many crosses to get. I own the DVD and played part of it in class just a few weeks ago (I was teaching Swift's "Modest Proposal" ... I swear it was educationally justifiable).
  • 4D: Old English aristocrats (THANES) — I know these *only* as Scottish.
  • 11D: Poet exiled by Augustus (OVID) — another flat-out gimme. Love him. He has an irreverence and sense of humor that Virgil, say, does not. I love Virgil, too, but kind of in that way that you dutifully love some older relative with whom you have Zero in common. OK, a little more than that.
  • 26D: Publike eatery (BISTRO) — Is "publike" a real word. I kept reading "public." That, and "pubic lice."
  • 42D: Soap opera actress Braun (TAMARA) — the RINSO of the SW, i.e. "wha?"
  • 43D: Kingdom that once included Sicily and Sardinia (ARAGON) — not to be confused with the Christopher Paolini novel "ERAGON" (a book, and series, that my daughter has devoured).
  • 44D: Chicago Outfit bigwig (CAPONE) — the biggest wig. I was expecting something less obvious, like NITTI, but no.
  • 48D: Poked fun (JAPED) — this answer will forever remind me of PuzzleGirl, who insisted I take it out of a grid we were constructing together. When I defended it as a perfectly good word (one that would add some zazz to the grid with its "J"), she called it all kinds of derogatory names, and ultimately I was forced to back down. I don't know what's in its place now. Something lame, no doubt (actually, it's something pretty decent ... but I still like JAPED).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


chefwen 12:46 AM  

I loved this puzzle because a. I finished it and b. I finished it in a reasonable amount of time. Usually agonize over Friday. Had a couple of false starts, like snood before DO RAG (how old are you Wendels?) But once I got a toe hold in each corner, the rest just kind of fell into place. Will admit to a couple of minor Googles, hey, it's Friday.

Thank you Mr. Berry for another excellent puzzle.

lickelik - I'll let Jesser cover that one.

CaseAceFos 1:06 AM  

Happily I SCRAPEDBY tonights puzzle, courtesy of P. Berry, unlike yesterdays entry that I simply SCRAPED!

lit.doc 1:17 AM  

I smile with anticipation when I see Patrick Berry’s name on a puzzle. I also expect to get my ass kicked, but hey. This one was terrific fun, as expected.

N was “Friday easy” (whatever the hell that means), but then SE took as long as all of N, despite 11A SPINAL TAP being a stone-cold gimme. 50D CONK out and 41A HORSE RACES were my bear traps in SW. I could see that 32D had to be ASK, not ASS, but I had to google both “beetle bailey” and “actress braun” to sort out that corner.

syndy 1:20 AM  

Rinso was a gimme for me as my grandfather worked for Lever Brothers in Mass. for over 40 years (did not miss a days work during the depression)Good company! Cared about its workers.Wanted magog immediately but didn't know why so i kept hesitating--the things you know but don't know you know.nice workmanlike puzzle

Cathyat40 1:27 AM  

I finished in 19 minutes, at 1:00 AM; that's fast for me, even when I've had a good night's sleep.

I also finished in the SE. I needed the crosses to get TAMARA and ARAGON.

Time for bed.

my captcha = anectre: anagram for reenact; meaning: an annexed acre

Clark 1:28 AM  

I liked this puzzle a lot, even if I did finish with 2 X 2 bad squares. For [Order indiscriminately] I had BUYS A ROUND, which isn't really that crazy. That gave me MADI-SUE for the mermaid. No stranger than the names of any other mermaids I have known. ELBOW Y was on the weird side, but I figured this was some kind of Y fitting that was also elbow shaped.

The SE took me longer than the rest of the puzzle. but it fell into place pretty much like it did for Rex, except m u c h - s l o w e r. And, I put TANK DRESS for no waist line -- kinda works. I thought CAPONA was some kind of CAPO; and NESK, well I didn't know what the $#*& that was. Sticks in a bowl? Why not.

Cathyat40 1:29 AM  

oops, I meant southwest

Steve J 2:34 AM  

Really, really nice. Best time I've had with a Friday (literally and figuratively) in ages. the eastern half came pretty easily to me, had to work the west a little more (especially the Norhtwest), giving a nice mix of feeling like I was making progress while having some challenges to work through.

And I am amazed at the quality of the fill and clues. The only thing I can even think of quibbling about is MAGOG, since that was one of Japheth's sons (which I "recalled" only after looking it up). That's only one descendant, but then I remembered there's a region mentioned way later in the Bible with the same name (about as late as it gets: the book of Revelations references a battle of Gog and Magog, which is either the battle immediately before or immediately after Armageddon; I don't remember much of apocalyptic literature anymore). Perhaps there was a people named that.

And, really, that's being extremely nitpicky. Didn't notice it during, and the quibble came only after, and after thinking that there just weren't any flaws to speak of.

After a week of puzzles that either just weren't very good or that I just couldn't get my brain into gear for, this was really a great puzzle to do.

jae 2:43 AM  

Great Fri. puzzle. No real problems with this one so it goes into the easy column for me. SW was the most difficult with WTFS TAMARA and ARAGON but SWAMPY made it doable. I also played with a variation on JOSIP (JOSEF) and tried JIBED (variant of GIBE = taunt) before JAPED. BTW, I'm with Rex (no offense puzzlegirl), JAPED is a fine answer for "poked fun."

imsdave 7:22 AM  

Really enjoyed this one (of course, I would expect nothing less from Mr. Berry). Started in the NE with the OVID/AVANT cross quickly felling that whole corner. Futzed around until CAPONE/DORAG (DORAG meant nothing to me a year ago - now it's a gimme) giving me the entire south. Finally back to the NW and saw MADISON and cleaned up the rest. Great fun.

Busier than all get out yesterday, but thanks for all the kind words - they were much appreciated.

mac 8:08 AM  

I thought I was doing my fastest Friday ever, until I hit the SW: STAKE races? I had amaze, zonk and fried eggs, but probably gave up too soon on the other answers.

Because I started out with "parachute" at 10d, I felt confident 30a would be "loud". Publike? Why did I think that might be a Swedish word with the accent on the i?

Yes, Unilever is a great company, husband worked for them many years.

The Nation still has the cryptogram.

Great puzzle! Want another one like it tomorrow.

ArtLvr 8:16 AM  

Wow! Smooth as ... a blue-ribbon (blue)berry! Rex said it all -- gush, gush, gush.

Loved the FRIED EGGS in the SW with ZONK and YANKS, THE NATION in the NW with ON THE BALL so that THANES had to be right, the Sedan chair's POLES and old RINSO suds in the NE made the LANDAU easy to recall from Holmesiana.

The SPINAL TAP in the SW might have stumped me but came easily from crosses. First fill in the SW was the awesome APOSTATE.

My last touches were the I in JOSIP and the L in SLOW, where I'd first had Snow. Thinking of sticking out my tongue to catch some flakes. I guess, but Las PALMAS looked much better than Panmas.

Cheers at the BISTRO for Mr. Berry's Friday romp!


"pureno" - what that cat CAPONE wasn't?

jesser 8:17 AM  

I echo all the compliments about the beauty of this one, and although I don't time myself, it went faster than yesterday, so I also rate it easy for a Friday.

Rex: Pubic lice? Eeewwwww. OK, it was funny as hell, but still. :-)

I have never been in a sedan whose chairs had POLES. Then again, I don't pal around with Miss USA, so that may be the problem. And I only know LANDAU because my mother had a Lincoln with a LANDAU top, which cracked and ruined in about three New Mexico summers, prompting many 'I told you sos' from Pops.

Had I read the clue carefully at 38D, I would not have plunked down EARlyOn, and that would have saved me some grief. SPINAL TAP came to the rescue, amps a'blaring. Like Rex, I did not like the way JOSIP slithered into my grid, but there he is, and I'm supposed to like diversity, so humph. Welcome.

Only other writeover was at 50D, where I wrote in cONK off the K, only to change it when 49A AMAZEd me.

You cannot imagine my temptation to write a rather long paragraph about PRONG YANKS. Talk about your TENT DRESS.

I cannot go any further. I hereby throw in the TOWEL.

Haritsph! (The sentiment expressed by my cat when he feels the need to ejest something vile, usually late at night and revoltingly nearby. I still love him.) -- jesser

dk 8:22 AM  

Nice homecoming puzzle. Hardly ONTHEBALL this morning, but I stumbled across HOMEPLATE.

Early miscues included Led Zeplin, konk, aids (ABET) and thinking TOWEL was way to easy.

Another few days and I should be able to spell NEPAL correctly and a DORAG will be my de-facto headgear.

*** (3 Stars)

secret word: undri - when you are wet.

NCA President 8:23 AM  

33A: (Adult humans have 12 of these) i sooo wanted this to be credit cards.

joho 8:26 AM  

Patrick Berry is not only the constructor of beautifully smooth crossword puzzles, he's the Ooxteplernon Slayer!

SCRAPEDBY, BOSSEDAROUND, SPINAL TAP, EARSHOT, ZONK ... lovely and so actively new.

Loved it!!!!

Andrew 8:51 AM  

Only problem I could see is OWL. I remember the character was called WOL.

Christopher 8:55 AM  

@Andrew - His name was OWL, this sign on his tree was WOL. Bird could speak, just not spell.

mitchs 9:00 AM  

@Andrew: it pays lately to know about the 100 Acre Woods - which I don't. It's referenced in clues in three different crosswords recently, and I still always have to resort to crosses.

This puzzle has reinforced that I'm learning a lot about puzzle subtleties from reading this blog, and developing a real appreciation that was lacking in my "solve it and pitch it" days. My thanks to Rex and all you posters.

Aunt Hattie 9:02 AM  

Rinso WHITE!!
Happy little washday song.

Now that jingle will be in my head for days, I suppose. I think you have to be over a certain age to have even ever heard of Rinso--which, of course, I am. liked this puzzle a lot--

Smitty 9:03 AM  

Some nice AHA moments, esp SPINAL TAP

One objection - the term is STAKES RACE not STAKE RACE

mitchs 9:06 AM  

BTW, the cover of "The Man Who Japed" (what a title!) looks like some desperado has bloodied and made off with Rex' avatar.

Deborah 9:24 AM  

Conk out. Pass out. Zonk out? Nope.
Projection = prong? Encore nope.

Tinbeni 9:39 AM  

Looked at the grid, almost put it down, thought to myself "I'm too STONED to do a Saturday!"

But WTF, it is only Friday. Not going to throw in the TOWEL. So I perused the clues, stuck in ON THE BALL, HOME PLATE and YANKS and was off and running.

JOSIP was a gimmie. I worked in Zagreb a while back and decided to learn a little bit of their history.

POLES fell due to the perps. Couldn't figure out why a chair needed them until I came here.
Nor what kind of vehicle is a ONE-SEATER?
But I've learned to trust my crosses.

Now I just have to get that jingle out of my head.

For a puzzle with so few clues and black squares this was my fastest Friday ever.

Rex Parker 9:54 AM  

Clues on ZONK and PRONG are accurate. Consult a dictionary.

Rex Parker 9:56 AM  

Oh, and STAKE RACE and STAKES RACE are equally accurate. Again, dictionary.

PuzzleNut 10:07 AM  

I've been trying to work on speeding up my solving time and was really pleased how quick this one came together. Alas, seems like everyone else had the same experience.
My missteps included PARAchute, roo for the 100 acre character, thRoWING for STREWING, and halo for IRIS.
Looks like most folks solved this the same way, with SE being the toughest. Wanted athiest for APOSTATE, but couldn't figure how to make it fit. Absolutely love the SPINAL TAP movie. Still use the "but this one goes to 11" quote whenever I can.
A very pleasant Friday puzzle. Fair and fun.

r.alphbunker 10:13 AM  

There are so many good things about this puzzle. I had "buy a round" instead of "boss around" for a while and it took a while for me to stop thinking of "plug" as a verb and wanted "found a way" instead of "scraped by". It is enjoyable when a correct answer suddenly comes to replace a plausible wrong answer. That seems to happen a lot in a PB puzzle.

archaeoprof 10:22 AM  

More love for this puzzle! Writeovers today include PARAchute, horsERACES, JOSeP, and sacK. Thanks, Patrick Berry.

@SteveJ: fyi, the last book of the Bible is Revelation (no S).

@REX: I'm with you on Ovid and Virgil. Right after country music, my next love is the Roman Empire.

Chorister 10:27 AM  

@joho - LOL

@Aunt Hattie - my mom would sing that jingle on washdays and I never detected anything but cheeriness. My kids know if from their mom singing it too, but it's the sarcastic version.

My nit to pick was 'sticks in a bowl' because said brain tends to be exasperatingly literal left to itself, and all I could think of was chopsticks.

fikink 10:55 AM  

Thanks for the Rinso commercial. How far we've come, Ladies!!!!

This puzzle was wonderful to solve. Rex, I must share your idiosyncrasies. So much of it was in my language - YANKS, PRONG, MEN, "easy to catch, say" - felt like Patrick was sitting across the table from me. Very conversational.

The southeast gave me the most trouble, owing to my insistence on "stanches" for STOPPERS. But when I gave up "pins" (as in bowling) for NEST, HOMEPLATE was finally revealed and I begrudgingly threw out "stanches."

@Steve J, thanks for the dope on MAGOG. I meant to come back to it and look it up, too, but got sidetracked.

@Artlvr, agree APOSTATE is a gem!

@jesser, you cannot imagine how surprised I am that I wrote "yanks, prong, men" above and the obvious never crossed my mind! TENT DRESS, indeed!

@NCA Prez - credit cards, indeed!

@Christopher Robin - thanks for your reply to Andrew. Funny, we just had mention of "Now We Are Six" in a puzzle.

A dynamite way to begin the day. Thanks, Patrick, you are welcome at my table anytime.

SethG 11:01 AM  

FOUND A WAY shares exactly one letter with SCRAPED BY. I couldn't think of a brand with an umlautted 'n', and I painstakingly filled in most of SPIn̈AL TAP from the crosses before I realized it said "band".

J's over the Black Sea right now on her way to NEPAL. If it's in the puzzle again tomorrow, I'll give you another status update tomorrow. Had I constructed this, I'd have probably used STAMPY crossing TAR.

retired_chemist 11:54 AM  

Easy-medium works. Friday tough, totally fair, and chock full of good answers. Agree that Patrick Berry rules.

Got LANDAU from only the U. I hear not everyone can do that...

JOSIP was a gimme - THE NATION was a lucky guess. Who knew? Was not sure of MOLARS, since I am a counterexample: an adult human who (by now) has only 6.

Had a blast with this one. Thanks again, Mr. B.

PlantieBea 12:49 PM  

Great puzzle which presented few difficulties other than the SE where I ended with training REGIMES and TEST DRESS. Argh.

abide 1:00 PM  

Frank Lewis has been doing his own breed of a cryptic crossword for The Nation since 1947. I believe he retired last year in his 90s.If you want to try one of his puzzles here is a link. They don't quite follow the rules like a Hex.

Masked and Anonymous 1:12 PM  

Yup. 44's got it exactly knock-down dead-on straight-up sign-off right. Patrick Berry rules.

Had a personal nat-tick at MAGOG crossing TAMARA and ARAGON. Guessed all them letters OK and eventually got my completed puz bonus. Hats off to Camp SWAMPY and FRIEDEGGS for savin' my bacon, gettin'-into-the-puz-wise.

OK, SatPuz, whattayah got?

"ditypoti"?! Dang, 44, where do you get these words?

Masked and Anonymous Part Deux 1:22 PM  

P.S. One teensy little "U" today! (Told yah! Hard to stuff 'em in!)

dls 1:24 PM  

Never heard of LANDAU, so while the rest of the puzzle was a snap, I got stuck in the northeast and finished in slightly faster than medium Friday time for me, rather than easy. Was sure about _A_D_U and was convinced that the answer was something I didn't know. Kept trying to make SANDHU work -- British colony, after all.

Rube 1:54 PM  

THe NE and SW went down quickly although tried hard to fit Europeans into the space for, (the obscure), MAGOG. In the NW had alarmBeLL for alert. MADISON cleared that up, but only after the longest time. As others did, had the most trouble in the SE. For 38D, couldn't get EARbobs out of my mind, even though it made no sense!?

APOSTATE is my WOTD. Great word... and a great puzzle.

To clarify, the Robert L. Fish award is for "... the best first short [mystery] story by an American author. The author receives a plaque and a monetary award", per

Ulrich 2:49 PM  

Can't add more to the puzzle, so let me say a word about Ovid, whom I used to admire based on the Metamorphoses. But then I started to read the Ars Amatoria (admittedly in translation) until I got to the point where he recommends that if the woman you are pursuing doesn't give in voluntarily, use force--after all "no means yes". The commentor sheepishly remarks re. that passage that "no means yes" belongs to the "mythology of rape". Really, at this day and age? In any case, I did not continue reading that day (or ever after), to quote another famous author I can't stand...

Rex Parker 3:05 PM  

@Ulrich, you know that Ars Amatoria is a satire, right? Needless to say, I think you have misrepresented the poem in question. Horribly.


Zeke 3:16 PM  

@Rex - You mean when Ovid advised "When a woman has crumbs in her lap, by all means brush them off" he was kidding? Man, I can't tell you how many times I've been slapped taking that advice seriously.

Ulrich 3:18 PM  

@Rex: That may be true and would certainly change my impression--but then, why didn't the commentary enlighten me about that? People who are a little thick at times, like me, need help in these cases.

Of course, the commentary may be bad, in which case the likes of me are left completely stranded...

BTW I did not mean to characterize the Ars as a whole.

Zeke 3:32 PM  

@Ulrich - Who you calling an Ars Whole?

Martin 3:37 PM  

@Steve J,

The Magogs are all related. Magog is the nation associated with the offspring of Magog, son of Japeth. The "Gog of Magog" reference in Revelations has End Timers convinced the Antichrist will come from Russia (Scythia) or Hungary or Sweden or Finland or Afghanistan, all interpretations of "modern-day Magog."

I assume they're working on Kenya as we speak.

LGW 3:48 PM  

This was great. And easy, except for the SW, which I reached after 5 minutes (on Friday! whee!), after ripping through the rest thanks to lots of nerd-words (landau, ensign, thanes...) that popped right to mind, a lucky guess on "The Nation", and a helpful cross to correct "Josep" to "Josip". Took another four minutes to discover that "zonk" is a word--I had "pass", then "conk"--thanks to FINALLY remembering that Aragon was a medieval kingdom (I was fixated on the Normans, who once ruled Sicily, and then the Austrian Empire...).

Re: "Magog" and sort of @Steve J: I think this is reasonable even if he was a single person and thus a "descendant" rather than multiple "descendants", because medieval apocalyptic literature (and, actually, travel lit, including Marco Polo if I remember right!) often mentions "the tribes/nations of Gog and Magog".

edith b 3:51 PM  

I saw MAGOG in an earlier Patrick Berry puzzle and I worked part-time at a diner while at college and they used all the colorful expressions for food as shoutouts to the short order cooks so I had a jump on the SW and SPINALTAP was a neon so I got all of the South right away.

I usually struggle with Patrick Berry but not today as neons for me were scattered across this puzzle MADISON THENATION so I was able to finish in relatively short order. Form followed function on this one and I really enjoyed it.

sanfranman59 4:22 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Fri 22:07, 26:21, 0.84, 13%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Fri 11:38, 12:45, 0.91, 28%, Easy-Medium

foodie 6:49 PM  

My daughter's middle name is TAMARA and it's her birthday today. I smiled as I plunked down TAMARA in the empty SW, thinking it was likely to be totally wrong but why not write her name on her birthday? Then I found myself building the entire corner around it and it made me ridiculously happy.

Rex, in reading your review today I thought how much more compelling your praise was specifically because you don't dole it out freely. I know that holding to very high standards can make some people uncomfortable, but I believe that it's actually unfair to be indiscriminate in one's praise, as the outstanding gets lumped with the merely good. And the observer is left in a muddle about what excellence requires and what is truly looks like...

A long winded way of saying thank you for those high standards!

Stan 7:15 PM  

Lovely puzzle (though not easy for some of us DODOs). Scary-looking grid, few gimmes (other than Spinal Tap), but in retrospect nothing obscure or painful. Plus a snappy wordlist (ZONK, STONED and PRONG sound like R. Crumb) and some great clues (Sedan chair accessories, Bass part, the one for EARSHOT).

RINSO Blue -- can't believe that I actually had that stored in some neglected neural pathway.

Smitty 7:33 PM  

@Rex - Stake Race may be the dictionary, but it would be considered a typo in the Daily Racing Form, Bloodhorse magazine, or Equidaily. Then again, Daniel Webster probably didn't spent much time wheeling a trifecta.

SethG 10:04 PM  

Here's an interesting mix of typography and artwork on a different version of the The Man Who Japed cover.

Here's Ring Lardner mentioning the stake race at Belmont.

Here's a picture of a construction worker in Auckland.

sanfranman59 10:13 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:39, 6:55, 0.96, 44%, Medium
Tue 8:17, 8:52, 0.93, 35%, Easy-Medium
Wed 11:33, 11:52, 0.97, 47%, Medium
Thu 19:58, 19:23, 1.03, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 22:09, 26:21, 0.84, 13%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:34, 3:41, 0.97, 48%, Medium
Tue 4:15, 4:31, 0.94, 38%, Easy-Medium
Wed 5:28, 5:49, 0.94, 37%, Easy-Medium
Thu 10:06, 9:17, 1.09, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 10:58, 12:44, 0.86, 16%, Easy

Smitty 10:28 AM  

@seth G, thanks for the research - No doubt that term has been used, and the rule is, if it's in the dictionary it's fair game for crosswords.
But google Graded Stake Race and Belmont or Preakness Stake and it will give you the plural
And thanks for the Philip K. Dick picture - I"m a huge fan.

ShortShrift 7:28 PM  

A lift of the DO RAG to Rex and all who ABET this SITE, which has ANCHORED and enriched my solving REGIMEN greatly. I'm taking ShortShrift as my handle since I think it was a Rexite who clued me in to the story behind that phrase (caution: memory here is SWAMPY--even at my AGE--and my search for that link yielded nothing but LOST TIME). But all of you who enlighten us in on some of the crazy, fun fill are THANES who can ride my LANDAU anytime!
So let me follow you MEN (and women and children) who've gone AVANT moi (I only got to this today, Monday, but I tend to be on the SLOW side anyway) and ADD IN another PAT to Mr. Berry for a puzz that RADIATES SLYNESS but was quite fair, too. (I was able to guess neighbors TAMARA and MAGOG by crosses alone, f'rinstance). In other words: YANKS! (OK, sorry, I got a little SWEPT away there.)
Though 1865 gave me THE NATION right quick, SE was the first to fall, despite having Josep for JOSIP too for awhile, along with coat dress (for TENT DRESS) and jibed (for JAPED).
My other write-overs were horse races (STAKE RACES) and novel (TOWEL); I toyed with stop gaps (for STOPPERS) and for some time I had tavern instead of BISTRO. But I SCRAPED BY (without any ASKing, if you must know). So Mr. Berry, and--continuing with LAST NAMES briefly--Mr. Shortz, you both deserve a PALMAS d'or for this one. (OK, I'll pull the PRONG now; please don't get OVID over any of this.)

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