Old English recorder /FRI 6-10-11/ Political entity 1854-1900 / Animated girl-group leader / Actress Corby Grandma Walton / Short-lived republic 1836

Friday, June 10, 2011

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none


Word of the Day: Samuel PEPYS (30A: Old English recorder) —

Samuel Pepys FRS, MP, JP, (23 February 1633 – 26 May 1703) was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man. Although Pepys had no maritime experience, he rose by patronage, hard work and his talent for administration, to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and subsequently King James II. // His influence and reforms at the Admiralty were important in the early professionalisation of the Royal Navy. // The detailed private diary Pepys kept from 1660 until 1669 was first published in the 19th century, and is one of the most important primary sources for the English Restoration period. It provides a combination of personal revelation and eyewitness accounts of great events, such as the Great Plague of London, the Second Dutch War and the Great Fire of London.

• • •

Pretty much everything a Friday should be. A perfect example of the form. Anyone who wants to be a constructor should first get Patrick's book, Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies, which is unerring; and second, study his grids, which do not cry out for attention but instead command respect with their careful, smooth, fluid construction and their genuinely thoughtful, often entertaining cluing. Your goal should always be to make puzzles this smooth—you will fail, mostly, but it should be your goal anyway. Keep your wacky, outlandish gimmicks in the closet until you have some experience making clean, crisp grids (but don't start with themelesses, for god's sake; that bar's too high—stick with simple theme concepts and high (76 or 78) word counts to start).

What makes this puzzle wonderful: the ultra-clean grid (ROTA sucks on a Wednesday, but is just fine as the lone bit of short crud in an otherwise gorgeous themeless) (41A: Membership list); the rank unobscurity of the fill—all names are widely known, all vocabulary common (interesting, but familiar); the wide-open spaces; the wide-ranging quality of answers (balanced ... I tend to love puzzles that are somewhat more contemporary in their frame of reference, but this one seems designed to have broad appeal, which is more-than-reasonable); the spot-on clues—I mean, [Old English recorder] had me baffled despite the fact that I *taught* PEPYS just a month or so ago; it's literally correct, despite the fact that both "Old English" (suggesting Beowulf-era England) and "recorder" (suggesting musical instrument) will throw you (me) off.

I started out painfully slowly, with just PARE, IVAN, and HAVE IT OUT in my grid, along with a smattering of Ss where I knew plurals must be. I went All Over the grid and couldn't get any kind of toehold until I hit DARIN (37A: "Beyond the Sea" singer), which allowed me to guess DEEP END, then get CHET (42A: Jazz trumpeter Baker) ... and I was off. Not quickly, but methodically. And suddenly all the parts that had refused to let me in began to open up, and in the end, my time was pretty normal for a Friday. I love the zoo-like quality the animal answers bring to the grid, as well as the 19th-century feel imparted by answers like ORANGE FREE STATE (17A: Political entity of 1854-1900) and TEXAS (25D: Short-lived republic founded in 1836) and DAVIS (51A: Mid 19th-century president), and the classical literature elements playing around in the SE corner and elsewhere: TROY and CARTHAGE and THEBAN and PAGAN. Lots of little subthemes swirling around and giving the grid an interesting character. No pop culture that isn't at least 35 years old, and yet it still didn't feel musty and dated to me. Superior work all around.


Bullets:
  • 1A: It uses liquid from a pitcher (SPIT BALL) — more great clue misdirection
  • 9A: Cloud maker (A-BOMB) — I wanted APPLE (if you follow tech news, you know why)
  • 19A: Tree-defoliating insect (TENT CATERPILLAR) — never heard of this, and was dubious when TENT ran into the TENT from TENTACLE. For everyone who says I don't like learning new things or answers I don't know or whatever other nonsense people say, here: didn't know it, liked it (this is not a first ... or a second, or a ninety-eighth...). Also didn't know SAN ANGELO, but could piece it together easily enough (52A: Site of Goodfellow Air Force Base).
  • 32A: Pirate's hiding place, possibly (ISLE) — confidently wrote in CAVE, ugh.
  • 33A: "Poor Richard's Almanack" tidbit (MAXIM) — wouldn't have minded a [Men's mag] clue here to give the puzzle some balance, something from this century, but I don't mind this clue. Love the "X" dead center (reminds me of a treasure map, speaking of "Pirate's hiding place...").
  • 50A: Popular June program? ("LEAVE IT TO BEAVER") — never saw this clue, which is lovely. Tough yet playful, and capable of generating a true aha moment.
  • 54A: 1950s million-selling song that begins "The evening breeze caressed the trees ..." ("TENDERLY") — never heard of it (to my knowledge), but like SAN ANGELO, I could piece it together from crosses. I know "LOVE ME TENDER" by Elvis. I know "FAITHFULLY," by Journey. I also know this:

  • 5D: Typical of urban life (BIG-CITY) — just a great, great colloquial answer
  • 10D: Role in a drawing-room mystery (BUTLER) — I teach crime fiction, but BUTLERs are almost never involved, mainly because I tend to avoid "drawing-room mysteries" like the plague.
  • 11D: Flame Queen ___ (famous gemstone) (OPAL) — never heard of it (again!). From the second I saw this clue, this is the song that's been stuck in my head:

  • 12D: Having multiple layers of self-reference (META) — spot-on, in-the-language; great clue.
  • 15D: Swampland swimmer (TERRAPIN) — Some kind of turtle. Maryland's mascot.
  • 44D: "That little darkroom where negatives are developed," per Michael Pritchard (FEAR) — interesting quote, but I have no idea who this is—he appears to be some kind of motivational speaker ... this clue feels like it was taken from a Quotations site (search=FEAR), and yet I still enjoyed figuring out how to get from clue to answer.
  • 24D: Actress Corby who played Grandma Walton (ELLEN) — this is possibly the most obscure thing in the puzzle. But ELLEN is a basic name. Not too tough.
  • 18D: Roby Roy or Shirley Temple (EPONYM) — I had DRINKS, which is stupid since the clue says "or," not "and" ... and yet the "N" was still in the right place, which helped me get TANTRUMS (25A: They're thrown in anger).
  • 23D: Animated girl-group leader (JOSIE) — ... and the Pussycats.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

86 comments:

Noam D. Elkies 12:05 AM  

You forgot to circle the one X in the grid ;-)

thursdaysd 12:28 AM  

Surprised myself by working straight through this, and then more surprised to find it classed as Medium. I'm usually DNF on Fridays. Started with LEAVEITTOBEAVER - no idea why as I've never seen it - then AFRICANELEPHANT (like the tie in with ORANGEFREESTATE) and then worked back up. Center left was the last to go.

Wanted Ma'am or y'all for the Southern contraction, and had eDgeS for EDITS for a while, as I was thinking of cutting into lines. Lots of good clues, and what I didn't know I got from crosses.

syndy 12:35 AM  

It was all that-I stupidly threw in MIDCITY? which slowed the nw corner down but the ORANGEFREESTATE liberated me!So much to love so many AHA moments!but I was hoping SAN ANGELO was the WOD-Guess I'am off to google it!PATRICK BERRY ROCKS

Anonymous 12:42 AM  

Rex - We agreed to disagree (at least I did) yesterday but today we agree. I enjoyed this puzzle and I enjoyed your commentary which explained to me why I enjoyed the puzzle. One of your best write-ups! There is something I like about Mr. Berry's puzzles, like they as as smooth as a 18 yo Macallan's single malt.

PurpleGuy 12:50 AM  

My crankypants from yesterday are gone, and I'm back in my purple haze.
So much better than yesterday's experience.
Agree with @Anonymous 12:42.
Yhis is surely one of your best writeups, Rex.
Thank you.
Thank you all for putting up with me.

Had a great day with a friend who took me to Luke Air Force Base, where I bought myself an early birthday present.Then on to a fabulous lunch. Great day.

Have wonderful weekend all !!

Shanti -
Bob/PurpleGuy

jae 12:55 AM  

Very solid and interesting Fri. which I had as easy. My first entry was SPITBALL and I just kept going with no missteps. Must be a wheelhouse thing or this one is actually on the easy side.

chefwen 1:09 AM  

@PurpleGuy - I join you, yet again, by casting off those cranky pants.

Loved this one. Started of with DARIN at 37A, mom adored Bobby Darin, she would swoon every time Mack the Knife came on the radio, kind of embarrassing if I had friends over.

Bottom half fell easier than the top half. Once I got my mind off a water pitcher and onto a pitcher on the mound, the top opened up nicely.

Thanks for a great puzzle Mr. Berry and a superb write up Mr. Parker.

Anonymous 1:24 AM  

Unreally smooth puzzle. Must be a Berry.

CoffeeLvr 1:26 AM  

@Rex, since Ellen is my first name, I did not find Ms. Corby obscure at all; she stuck in my mind. Also, I think Mr. Berry clued MAXIM the way he did so that there were more possibilities (adage, motto, etc.); the magazine would have been fresher but easier for those who know of it (my son is 24, so I've seen it.)

@Thursdaysd, I also had EDgeS for cutting a line, but was thinking of lawn edging.

I was slow up top because I entered SkImmiLk for the pitcher clue, thinking you have to pour off the cream. This gave me a "knot" at the end of the line.

I have been working through the puzzles at the front of Patrick Berry's book, so that may have helped me be on his wavelength. Great Friday puzzle.

davko 2:24 AM  

Really got dialed in with this puzzle, moving over this grid as if spreading butter on toast. For a Friday, it was definitely an "easy" for me, but I somehow managed to groove this one, and totally get the "medium" rating from an objective standpoint.

It's funny about solvers' varied strengths, because when I saw the clue "tree-defoliating insect" (19A), I wrote in TENT CATERPILLAR without batting an eye, sans a single cross. I just couldn't imagine any creature more aptly filling that space. It's probably been ages since the pest has made headlines on the East Coast, but I can remember riding along the NY State Thruway as a youth in outbreak years and thinking we were witnessing the demise of the Eastern deciduous forest, so infested were the trees with this critters' ominous-looking silk enclosures.

Was SUPER 8 (16A) just a coincidence, or a subtle tribute to the Steven Spielberg/J.J. Abrams movie of that name that just happened to open today?

I skip M-W 3:30 AM  

African elephant was a gimme, took quite a while to see Texas as short lived republic. Messed up the north because I wrote in "caterillar" by mistake, and then couldn't figure out why tent didn't work, etc. Finally corrected. Had free state and then took it out, thought of drinks but didn't try since clearly wrong. "tenderly' was another gimme --mid 50's? for 38 across tried ski trips, which made 30 D something pants, but eventually got all that straightened out. Liked Davis answer; suitably tricky.

Glad @ REx found it a medium and for v. good write up. Happy to say I finished.

Orange-Free Octavian 4:21 AM  

Rolled through this one like an African elephant on the savannah. Always feel like I am on Berry's wavelength.

SPITBALL, PARE, SHOT, IVAN flew out of my pen like it was a Monday, then slowed down ... couldn't get anything in the middle .... then got the toehold on the bottom with factual answers ALDA, ETAT, CHET, TROY, which opened up the subjective ones and let me loop around back to the center.

Loved PAGEANT next to TEXAS ... lots of history, literature, biology, botany, music, cocktails. And what a great way to clue PAGAN.

A Friday masterpiece.

Rex Parker 7:03 AM  

Actually, I think I was just unusually slow to start today, and so my Difficulty Rating is off. This will probably come in on the Easy side. When I saw wife had finished 85% last night before falling asleep, I knew it was going to come in "Easy" (she's a good barometer that way).

rp

PuzzleGirl 7:29 AM  

Awesome puzzle. I thought 1A was going to be DRUG TEST. Ew.

SethG 7:52 AM  

Caterpillars, elephants, beavers, no oranges.

My path through this (not my time) was basically early-week like. ASSISTS to TANTRUMS to SPEND to MARIE to NAP, CARE, DARIN, and building from there. No jumping around, I just worked from there and spread to all areas. Usually I need to jump around a bit late-week. So smooth!

Glimmerglass 8:08 AM  

Great Friday, and a great write up. A dozen examples of misdirection (by my count) and some arcana. June Cleaver is both. I don't think LOFTS are [building] stories, but that's a minor quibble. A very satisfying puzzle to finish.

jackj 8:16 AM  

Patrick thoughtfully gives us an entry which is good for both the under-25 crowd and the dinosaurs: SUPER 8.

It can be either the new Spielberg production opening today or the Kodak amateur movie film cartridge popular in the 70's (1970's that is) and since wiped out by the use of videotape.

Lots of wonderful misdirects but "Old English recorder" for PEPYS was one for the ages.

This one was as good as it gets!! Thanks, Patrick

joho 8:18 AM  

I echo others: fantastic Friday puzzle and write up, too. Like Sandy I had it almost done before falling asleep. I left the top pretty much blank but for TENTACLE and BUTLER.

This morning it didn't take long to finish it off especially when I got LOFTS to help me with the NW corner. I love the clue: Artists' stories, maybe. That was a fun aha moment for me.

@Rex, your musical picks today are great. Really like that you chose a CHET Baker clip to play us TENDERLY.

Thank you, Patrick Berry, you are the best!

Leslie 8:31 AM  

I wanted "y'all" instead of BRER, and "tyrant" instead of THEBAN, but those were my only two write-overs.

It did take me a while to get traction, and then I sailed through, enjoying the great clues. My favorite may have been "Arm of the sea?" for TENTACLE. Cute.

The Bard 8:35 AM  

The Tempest > Act II, scene I

ADRIAN: Tunis was never graced before with such a paragon to
their queen.

GONZALO: Not since widow Dido's time.

ANTONIO: Widow! a pox o' that! How came that widow in?
widow Dido!

SEBASTIAN: What if he had said 'widower AEneas' too? Good Lord,
how you take it!

ADRIAN: 'Widow Dido' said you? you make me study of that:
she was of Carthage, not of Tunis.

GONZALO: This Tunis, sir, was Carthage.

ADRIAN: Carthage?

GONZALO: I assure you, Carthage.

Old School Solver 8:53 AM  

For some reason, I found this one really tough to get a toehold in anywhere for about ten minutes, until I saw the cross of "tantrums" and "assists" and after that everything fell instantly, even more easily than a typical Friday. I actually felt somewhat confident about the name Ellen Corby and didn't think it was overly obscure as Rex did, possibly showing my age and lack of social life, but initially had nothing to cross it with.

nanpilla 9:04 AM  

Started with SPITBALL and never looked back. Just wish there was more of it or something - I didn't want it to be over!

Sitting at the barn watching my horse enjoy his first grass in 5 months. It may only be half an hour for now, but it is real progress! Thanks for all the well-wishers here- in another couple of weeks we may even be able to take off the orthopedic boots!

Thanks, Patrick for a practically perfect puzzle, and Rex for a terrific write-up.

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

I love where synapses cross: "broad appeal" is probably an ADMIRABLE rather than an admiral goal--all that Pepys wikipedia did a brain word scramble.....

Wally 9:15 AM  

Cross my heart and hope to spit. - Beaver’s oath.

Beaver asks Violet if she wants to get aggressive. Violet says she doesn't want to fight. She suggests that they go spit off the bridge. "The Black Eye," Season one

Beaver charges passers-by 10 cents to spit off a nearby bridge. "The Clubhouse," Season one.

jp 9:32 AM  

I loved this puzzle by Patrick Berry. Very clever cluing, difficult yet doable. Solved the bottom part without any help. Got AFRICAN ELEPHANT right away. Did not know SAN ANGELO or TENDERLY but the South came from crosses.
While solving I kept on thinking why can't all puzzles be like this one.
The North was a lot more difficult for me. Even with GOOGLE I did not get enough fill to guess 17A and 19A. The clues for SPIT BALL and A-BOMB were too clever for me.
Speaking of Googling I just want to alert all those who Google to solve Fridays or Saturdays to be VERY VERY careful. I infected my PC with a very nasty Trojan Horse. Had to wipe out the hard disk.
I am much more careful now.

Lindsay 9:36 AM  

Easy but enjoyable.

Thank you for posting the TENT CATERPILLER pic. I've heard of the insect, and seen the wormy webs in the woods, but never put the name and the face together before.

jesser 9:48 AM  

The bottom half was easy. The top half, not so much. At least for me. Why? Because I plopped down moccAsIN at 15D and HAshITOUT at 14A, and those two turds in the punchbowl played havoc with all things north until I remembered the TENT CATERPILLARS that infested the cottonwoods down along the river levee during my childhood. Those loathesome creatures saved me today, but I still don't think of 'swimmers' when I think of TERRAPINS.

Last letters in the grid were the J and E of EJECTS, because they could have been V and I, except it turned out they couldn't be. I love how crosswords work themselves out!

Never heard of PEPYS, but never saw the clue, so that's cool. I had him from the downs. I'm down with PEPYS, I suppose.

LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and AFRICAN ELEPHANT came immediately once Alan ALDA graced the grid. I sure miss The West WIng, and hate that Zoe now does migraine-aspirin commercials. She's better than that.

Now on to Brendan's late-week puzzle. Hello DOLLY!

quilter1 9:53 AM  

ELLEN Corby was my first entry and filled in a counterclockwise swirl. Smooth is the word. I liked all the misdirection. TENDERLY is a favorite, as was Beyond the Sea. Otherwise, everything @Rex said.

Lovely.

Karen 9:55 AM  

Great Friday puzzle! Fun, doable, but enough misdirection to keep things lively. I couldn't get the NW corner until I went to bed with the "pitcher" clue in my brain -then it came to me!! I went back to the puzzle and completed it immediately.

Cheerio 10:12 AM  

The middle section of this puzzle is really fabulous.

JaxInL.A. 10:16 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
JaxInL.A. 10:23 AM  

Sooooo much fun to do this wonderful PB puzzle.  I blew through in an atypical Friday time of 32 very enjoyable, AHA-filled minutes.  And   I appreciate Rex's clear, entertaining explication of why this puzzle left me with such a satisfied feeling.  Y'all (the abbreviation I didn't get to use in the grid) have noted many of the puzzles great features.  I got hold of this one around the waist and then worked my way up and down.  I liked so much that I can't name a favorite, though I might say it was the PEPYS /EPONYM cross, if pressed.

I got SUPER 8 because my dad was a car buff and I remember him talking about the Buick SUPER 8.  Turns out that Packard and Triumph also had Super 8 cars. Probably others did, too, since I think it mainly refers to a V8 engine configuration.  Dodge made one as recently as 2001.  Wonder if the new J.J. Abrams/Spielberg movie will be any good?

That Tenderoni video is very clever, and I always love to see Jim Croce.  His songs really hold up for me.  Thanks, @joho for letting me know that the video I can't see is CHET Baker.  I fell in love with a Nat King Cole recording of TENDERLY when I was very young.  

Thanks, Mr. Berry, for a wonderful start to the day, and to Rex for a charming write-up. 

Tobias Duncan 10:37 AM  

This puzzle absolutely killed me last night.Looking back over the grid this morning I have no idea why.I guess I just had an off night. I am also still green enough that for late week puzzles, once I go off track a bit, it is very hard for me to recover.

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

Good puzzle. Like it when seemingly misleading clues have straightforward answers, inviting you to over-think, which I will do at the drop of a hat.

Examples are "Major party," which had me trying to think of a four-letter name for the U.K. Conservative party; and "Elaborate spectacles"---not XRAYSPEX but PAGEANTS.

ANON B 10:39 AM  

Anonymous at 9:07

Please explain about synapses crossing and broad appeal-admiral-
admiral.

ANON B 10:41 AM  

At 10:39

Last word should have been admirable

Tobias Duncan 10:44 AM  

Rex saying that Patrick's grids "do not cry out for attention" put me in stitches as it reminded me of Garson Hampfield, Crossword Inker.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnJjNtGkfLc

I am sure you guys have seen this a thousand times but it is one of those youtube greats that is still funny a year later.

jberg 10:48 AM  

What everyone said. I got the S at the end of 51A and confidently wrote in HAYES until LEAVE IT TO BEAVER gave me ALDA and the light bulb went on.

Also started with SPIN at 1D, EVICTS at 22A, and DESPOND at 37D, but all easily fixed.

If it wasn't clued as singular, I would have put TORPEDOS for 4D, "Arm of the sea." TENTACLE was even better, though.

evil doug 10:49 AM  

Barbara Billingsley's other great role: Jive Lady, in "Airport":

*****************************

Randy: Can I get you something?

Second Jive Dude: 'S'mofo butter layin' me to da' BONE! Jackin' me up... tight me!

Randy: I'm sorry, I don't understand.

First Jive Dude: Cutty say 'e can't HANG!

Jive Lady: Oh stewardess! I speak jive.

Randy: Oh, good.

Jive Lady: He said that he's in great pain and he wants to know if you can help him.

Randy: All right. Would you tell him to just relax and I'll be back as soon as I can with some medicine?

Jive Lady: [to the Second Jive Dude] Jus' hang loose, blood. She gonna catch ya up on da' rebound on da' med side.

Second Jive Dude: What it is, big mama? My mama no raise no dummies. I dug her rap!

Jive Lady: Cut me some slack, Jack! Chump don' want no help, chump don't GET da' help!

First Jive Dude: Say 'e can't hang, say seven up!

Jive Lady: Jive ass dude don't got no brains anyhow! Hmmph!

***********************

Not the Bard

First thing I learned at Delta:
What's the plural of y'all?
All y'all.

Two Ponies 10:56 AM  

A Patrick Berry puzzle on a Friday is always a gift.

@ nanpilla, So happy for you.

Matthew G. 11:21 AM  

Agree with most commenters that this was easy as pie for a Friday. My fastest Friday ever by a decent margin, just a few weeks after I set a Friday best I thought it would take some time to match. SPITBALL jumped right out at me, and after getting ORANG- I just pulled ORANGE FREE STATE out of ... I don't know where, but I knew it.

The TENT CATERPILLAR and AFRICAN ELEPHANT answers also added a lot to the easiness factor, what with long-but-common animal words to just fill in once you had a couple of crosses.

This took me 25% as long as last Friday's puzzle.

@davko: Nice analogy! That's exactly how smooth this solve felt ... like butter.

@Rex: I bought Patrick's book in January and took a few cracks at constructing, and I'd have to agree that it got me closer to getting one done that I'd ever gotten before. Not that I've made a puzzle I'd show to anyone in the business yet (and with the hours the day job is taking lately, it'll be a while), but maybe someday...

@Puzzle Girl: Gross.

OldCarFudd 11:27 AM  

Nanpilla - I'm delighted your horse is on the mend. I'll tell Joan. She enjoyed your company at thee horse-and-yoga thing. (Others - the rider, not the horse, does the yoga, and not while on the horse.)

JaxInL.A. - The Buick and Packard Super 8s were STRAIGHT eights - long engines with eight cylinders all in a row. The Triumph Super 8 was an itty-bitty English car in the '30s. The 8 referred to taxable horsepower - the less-than-one-liter engine had only four cylinders.

Wonderful, smooth puzzle and write-up.

chefbea 11:50 AM  

Easier than yesterday but still DNF. Loved the clue for leave it to Beaver.
And love the two songs!!!

Mel Ott 12:28 PM  

Terrific puzzle! Great start with SPITBALL and it continues at that high level all the way to TENDERLY.

Anonymous 12:35 PM  

was elated that rex deemed this as medium at first. none the less i am delighted to have completed a friday puzzle as yesterday was too hard for me.

i'm going to my 50th high school reunion this wkend. where have the years gone???? it was a specialized school so there will be alums entertaining and artists' works on view.but it is all bitter-sweet.

David 1:08 PM  

What a fun, fun puzzle today! Started a bit slow, slogging for a minute before opting for the ALDA gimme in the SW corner, and from there I just cruised, ALDA>>DAVIS>>RAVE>>which got me to the 15 letter clues in the bottom, and the momentum carried me right to the end, which was EJECTS (I wanted EVICTS).

Love the JOSIE clue and answer, as well as SPITBALL.

PEPYS was another key for me. Right at a moment where I could have stalled, I got it off of the 1st P and S (I wanted the Y as the last letter instead of the 4th, for PENALTY). That gave me TERRAPIN, which leads me to my final Grateful Dead reference for the week, the great album/CD/song Terrapin Station (would've been a delightful surprise to see a reference somewhere in the blog, but there are tons of great ones already to compliment the excellent puzzle)

santafefran 1:12 PM  

I love a Friday where I can finish much of the puzzle. Putting in SHUFFLE for PROCESS was my main error which made the SE tough to break through. Also tried REACTS for EJECTS. Otherwise, so BERRY nice!
Thanks Patrick and Rex.


vextetr--not today

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

Wah! Every time I actually finish a Friday puzzle, somebody posts how easy it was. I did appreciate Rex's description of how he solved it, because even though I was (probably much) slower, the process is about the same. Go through the entire grid, fill in a few words and tentative S's for plurals, despair of getting it done, find a little toe hold, then methodically building on it. In my case, SPITBALL helped a lot, being the first letter of so many words, and mostly consonants.

retired_chemist 1:19 PM  

FWIW Super 8 is a motel chain and a science fiction film as well as an engine.

Easy enough, though my time was slow. When I solved it, I was still keyed up from the Mavs' victory over the Heat. Dwayne Wade and Dirk Nowitzki may make no excuses but *I* do.

Tyler was my first answer to 51A. Hand up for Y'ALL @ 13D. CROCE @ 37A was readily corrected by the local pop music wizard, non-puzzle wife.

last fill was the I in TIE/JOSIE. Though they might call the supports for the rebars TEES and JOSEE seemed OK. Mr. Happy Pencil, however,was his usual unrelenting self and hid until I fixed it.

Did you know that the first Sputnik was launched on the same day that LEAVE IT TO BEAVER was? Me neither, until that coincidence arose in a NYT puzzle a while back. Prompted a couple of beaver jokes.

All told a fine puzzle. Thanks, Mr. Berry.

Anonymous 1:34 PM  

I was disappointed that "Old English recorder" wasn't Eazy E.

mac 1:50 PM  

I join the chorus. But who would have thought "spitball" was my first entry!

My last letter was the I in aims. Had arms at first, before unarm appeared. Also wanted y'all.

Fantastic puzzle day.

eliselzer 1:53 PM  

Loved solving this one. Never felt EASY easy, but never had any real hiccups, either. Challenging, but in the smoothest way possible. My brain felt good having finished.

And Rex, I've never hear any original versions of Tenderly, but the Electric Mayhem did a rock version of it on The Muppet Show that made it on to the Muppet Show album, so it was instantly familiar from the lyric to me. Can't find a video of the actual episode, but this video uses the audio:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W-Nfv4oobg&playnext=1&list=PLEDCF5F082459F8A4

PuzzleNut 1:53 PM  

Bottom half was SUPER easy. Started with ALDA (4 letter Alan is ALWAYS ALDA), which gave me AFR... and LEAV... with no other crosses. DAVIS was a fine misdirect, but otherwise that area was a throwdown. Middle a little tougher (EchoeS for EJECTS). Top brought me to a halt. YALL for brer (seems to be a common problem). Finally saw the TENTCAT... from the C and P which was enough to open the rest.
Add me to the LOVE IT list, but let me add a new reason. A number of answers I didn't know, or knew only vaguely, but at the end, I was 100% sure that everything I entered was correct. For some reason, that seems more common in late week puzzles.

CoffeeLvr 2:04 PM  

@Napilla, so glad to hear the positive update about your horse.

@TobiasDuncan, thank you, I had never seen that YouTube. Very funny.

LR 2:06 PM  

@retired_chemist said...

...

last fill was the I in TIE/JOSIE. Though they might call the supports for the rebars TEES and JOSEE seemed OK.

---

Those "rebars" TIEd to the roadbed are usually called "rails," as in "railroad."

D'oh!

quilter1 2:52 PM  

My mother, aged 84, told me that PEPYS' diary was the naughty book to read when she was a teenager, because of references to having sex with his wife. His phrase "and so to bed" made it into her bridal shower/wedding scrapbook.

I've always heard the wooden beams supporting the rails called railroad ties.

Rex Parker 3:08 PM  

@quilter1,

Not just his wife.

rp

efrex 3:27 PM  

Patrick Berry = joyful puzzle. Just a great, consistent solve. Tough but fair cluing, great answers, and would probably have gotten my fastest Friday ever if I'd had a pencil. Got SPITBALL right off the bat, dropped in the AFRICANELEPHANT with almost no crosses, and was off and solving.

Berry & Nothnagel are by far and away my most doable late-week constructors, and this was just a gem.

mac 3:27 PM  

@Nanpilla: So glad about your horse!

KarenSampsonHudson 4:09 PM  

Loved this puzzle---erudite and smooth, with enough crosses to aid the fill.

retired_chemist 4:19 PM  

@ LR - I was thinking of concrete highway construction. And TIES/TEES as the things that hold rebars in place. Never even thought about railroads.....

Sparky 4:38 PM  

I finished. Rah, Ole! NELL suggested ELEPHANT; ALDA confirmed AFRICAN. Adage before MAXIM, cove before ISLE. Popped in Laine, then Damone (too long), finally DARIN. All the while hearing it in my head. Liked EPONYM, $10 word. I discovered I don't know how to spell CATERPILLAR. The bottom filled in first, then chipped away. Only NE blank. Big Ah Hah with SPITBALL. DAVIS on Jeopardy! recently.

Really enjoyed working on this. Thanks Mr.Berry and @Rex for the informative write up.

JenCT 4:46 PM  

Finally, finally on Patrick Berry's wavelength!

Flew through the top & bottom; middle was harder for me.

@David - I also knew TERRAPIN from the Terrapin Station album.

Great puzzle, nice misdirections.

chefwen 4:49 PM  

@santefefran - I also was shuffling my papers before I processed them.

@Nanpilla - Great news on your horse.

Sparky 4:58 PM  

P.S.: @nanpilla. So glad to hear the horse is doing better.

Isn't anybody out there playing music on the Les Paul Google gadget? I'm strumming away and I don't even know how to play.

chefbea 5:03 PM  

@Sparky It's been on for 2 days. Love it. I also love Les Paul and Mary Ford

OISK 5:20 PM  

Just wanted to add my generally cranky voice to the chorus of those who loved this puzzle! Liquid from a pitcher! Love that clue. Orange Free State and Tent Caterpillar were gimmees for me, as was Tenderly - the only two answers in the whole puzzle that were strange to me were Ellen (Corby); I never watched the Waltons, and Josie. (who were the Pussycats?) Thanks, Mr. Berry! Thanks also to Mr. Parker for a great write-up.

Brian 5:38 PM  

Kudos to Berry. I loved it. Worked from the SE up to the NW where I got all tied up because I wanted "torpedos" for arm of the sea. Resisted far too long that I was in error. Beautiful, honest cluing. Never felt tricked. This was everything I love about working a crossword.

m 7:10 PM  

Okay, here's a meta-confession. First, the only time I've heard/seen META was in reference to crosswords, specifically Gaffney's. Then, yesterday, I posted a reference to his "mega" puzzles and included that in a prompt to please tip the hard working and ingenious man. Today, I proudly sussed out the great clue from Mr. Berry as MEGA. That left me wondering what the hell was an "ORANGE FREE STAGE".

I apologize to Gaffney lest people think stupid me represents his contributors. Also, to Rex, I promise that future posts won't be this META.

@eliselzr: nicely put.

BigSteve46 7:20 PM  

Why would anyone need to "teach" crime fiction? If there's one genre of literature that people should be able to handle on their own, I would think that would be it. Just asking ...

Anonymous 7:49 PM  

So I have to assume that by "medium" what you mean is "unsolvable." I hated this. The fill rarely had anything to do with the clues. Inconsistent from top to bottom. One star.

Jim 8:51 PM  

Got CATERPILLAR, but had to struggle for TENT. Don't know the things. For me, that clue will always mean a different two words...gypsy moth.

mac 9:10 PM  

@Jim: that's what we call them in CT. I remember a huge infestation, it was disgusting and scary.

JenCT 9:18 PM  

Tent caterpillars & gypsy moths are often mistaken for one another: Caterpillars

Z 9:45 PM  

Orange Zeus. Orange Free State. Orange Julius has to be in tomorrow's puzzle to complete the citrus trifecta.

I don't often finish late week puzzles, so was pleased that I finished today. Finding Nemo on the brain for some reason, so wanted little Dory 48D and Dory for 37A. This after throwing in AFRICANELEP---- and thinking it was too short because I was dropping the "H." Once I realized my elephantine error, dory became NELL, I could see TENDERLY.

I wanted apple, too, at 9A, And took several seconds of staring at ABOM_ for the aha to hit. The B completed the puzzle for me.

Great puzzle. Great write-up. Great comments.

andrea carthage maitai 11:41 PM  

Was actually in Natick yesterday!!!
So excited I called Rex just to tell him.
Tonight did this puzzle as a family group activity on Cape Cod; everyone chiming in with what they knew...Maria knew "Tenderly" which i had never heard of, or so I thought till she sang a few bars, etc.
that was super fun, more fun than the puzzle for me which was beautifully constructed, but was a bit dull for us...all AHAs were muted to "oh yeah, I guess this is that". :(
Tiny bit shocked about the rave...

ELLEN was my first answer (sister's name among other things)...EPONYM was the hardest for us to get.

My mom's last name is Cleveland, close enough to Cleaver, which always makes me hear Eddie Haskell's suckup voice.

And yes, @Rex, I tried to put in Apple for the Cloud answer...

hazel 11:57 PM  

TERRAPIN makes a great rye ale - in Athens, GA. BRER is an Uncle Remus contraction not a Southern one.

Pleasant wavelength solve (SPITBALL!! and LEAVEITTOBEAVER!!)

sanfranman59 1:39 AM  

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 6:35, 6:52, 0.96, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 9:36, 8:55, 1.08, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 11:12, 11:47, 0.95, 42%, Medium
Thu 21:27, 19:06, 1.12, 79%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 20:32, 25:51, 0.79, 16%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:40, 0.96, 37%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:54, 4:35, 1.07, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:45, 5:49, 0.99, 51%, Medium
Thu 11:09, 9:13, 1.21, 83%, Challenging
Fri 9:51, 12:42, 0.78, 15%, Easy

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

Tent caterpillar? We call 'em bagworms where I come from.

Deb @ RoomscapesDecor.com 3:18 PM  

@hazel - I appreciate your comment re "Br'er" since I had automatically accepted that, if it were clued as a southern contraction in a NYT crossword puzzle, it must be so - even though I've never run across it anywhere but the Uncle Remus stories.

So, I googled, and found that it most likely stems from the creole language of the Gullah population of the coastal regions of NC, SC, GA and the Sea Islands. There's disagreement among experts as to whether the language sprung from this area though, or whether it was brought to the south by African slaves who picked it up on the West African coast.

At any rate, it was interesting to read about, so thanks for piquing my interest. :)

BTW, as to the puzzle: It kicked my butt, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Anonymous 5:06 PM  

A rarity, twofold. (1) Rex's ratings are usually at least two steps below mine (his "easy" is my "challenging," etc.), but I found today's puzzle pretty easy, despite never having heard of ROTA. (2) At the end, I looked around for junky fill--and found none! Not a single abbreviation, Roman numeral, acronym, or even awkward phrase. Remarkable! I don't much care for UNARM, there is a foreign word, ETAT--though it's very familiar--and a lone prefix, META. ATEAMS and ABOMB are an interesting pair of hyphenates, and of course the famous BRER contributes the lone apostrophe. But these are nits. The puzzle is so clean compared to others it loooks like the only member of The Dirty Dozen who got to use the shower.
I started right out at 1a; the clue, coupled with knowing how Will's mind works, suggested SPITBALL, and by the time I got to the meeting of the TENTs, I knew TENTCATERPILLAR. I've seen trees laid waste by them, it's scary. The rest of it just flowed. Clues that make you do mental gymnastics were the norm--NOT unfair, super-obscure clues that I see so often on these pages, but good, fun ones that let you get there with just a scenic little detour now and then.
Usually, stacked fifteens make for extreme awkwardness and junky fill. Not this time! Also interesting is the clip you provided melding two of today's entries: CHET and TENDERLY. Kudos all around!

Anonymous 11:13 PM  

I don't think a caterpillar is an insect. It is a future insect or a larva.

Cary in Boulder 12:36 AM  

Way back when there was an "about town" column in the Baltimore Sun called "Mr. Peep's Diary," a play on old Samuel.

The Mrs. usually gives a blank look whenever I throw a clue at her, but this time she got me OPAL and the TENT prefix. Too bad I misspelled caterpillAr and couldn't see META. And PIPES for PEPYS obscured EPONYM.

Been on the road and way too busy to puzzle for a couple weeks, so it's nice to be back. Spent the final four innings of the Rockies game on this one.

Today's magic captcha is FACKS, and nothing but.

SharonAK 8:00 PM  

@ andrea carthage maitai
"a bit dull..AHAs were muted to "oh yea,...tiny bit shocked about the rave..."
My reaction overall, tho different things were easy for me. "Tenderly" I got right away but eventually DNF.
Surprised it was "Easy".
And, don't think 1A passes the "breakfast test."
Now to go look up "meta"...

Dirigonzo 8:44 PM  

Like many others I had to sleep on this before I could gain a toehold to get into the puzzle. Last night I had the long theme answers at the bottom and not much else. Today I was able to move up the grid but it was truly an "uphill battle" to get into the NE corner and finish the puzzle. "Easy" is not a term I would apply, but "fun" seems appropriate and there was much to be learned from the experience so it was a solid, satisfying Friday-Saturday effort for me.

@Cary in Boulder - nice to see you back home in syndicationland.

TinainTexas 12:36 PM  

I have been doing these for many many years now and I have to admit, this one had me stumped for a minute. "Orangefreestate" really? It was challenging but almost on the verge of I give up! Kept picking it up though so I had them all in there somewhere... I did have to look up sanangelo and tenderly. Have a great day, yall!

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