English war poet Gurney / SUN 6-23-13 / 1942 Cary Grant comedy / Musical duo Brooks & ___ / Comic strip about the Patterson family / Procter & Gamble soap / Pulitzer-winning composer Ned / Krakauer's "___ the Wild" / Tech-media Web site founded in 1994 / Playwright O'Casey / Where Arab Bank is headquartered / Home of Hannibal / Unalaska native

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging




THEME: Two-By-Fours — Rebus puzzle consisting of phrases where the same two-letter pair appears in four squares in each phrase.

Word of the Day: CAMAY (32D: Procter & Gamble soap)
Camay is the name of a scented hand and body soap, made by Procter & Gamble. It was first introduced in 1926 and marketed as a "white, pure soap for women," as many soaps of the time were colored to mask impurities. Camay's slogan for many years was "Camay: the soap for beautiful women." It was later replaced with "For your most beautiful complexion at every age."

For many years, Camay was a major sponsor of the soap operas As The World Turns and Search for Tomorrow. (Wikipedia)
• • •
Hello, CrossWorld. Evan Birnholz here filling in for Rex while he's away during the Mass Crossword Blogger Exodus of 2013. Seriously, it's weird how many of the best known puzzle bloggers are all vacationing at the same time. Must be something in the water. I mean, puzzle....er, I mean, water. Whatever the reason, I'm glad I got to fill in today, because I got a real good one on my plate.

In a word, this puzzle is astonishing. Consider first how Patrick Berry had to choose eight in-the-language theme answers that A) have the same two-letter string repeated exactly four times and B) fit symmetrically with each other when those strings are jammed into one square. Then, consider just how much real estate went into crossing those rebus squares with common words and phrases (32 rebus squares altogether, which is huge for a Sunday, and 30 non-theme answers cross them). That means that with the eight theme answers, 38 of 140 entries in the puzzle (27% of all the answers) are directly involved in making the theme fit together. Now, take all of those constraints and look at the grid again. To be able to do all of that with an absolute minimum of poor fill is really impressive. The worst offenders might be the geographical partial MOINES (27A: Des ___, Iowa), the I-can't-believe-that's-spelled-correctly NOES (78A: "Regrets" and others), and the long abbreviation PARENS (90A: Holders of addl. thoughts), but that's really it. Just about everything else is rock-solid. I didn't know CAMAY, but I got all of the crosses with no problem. Quite an enjoyable solve all-around.

Theme answers:
  • 4D: 1942 Cary Grant comedy (ONCE UPON A HONEYMOON) — Not one I've ever seen, but I'm a huge fan of another Cary Grant comedy, "Arsenic and Old Lace" from 1944.
  • 15D: Elocution phrase (HOW NOW, BROWN COW)
  • 22A: Comic strip about the Patterson family (FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE)
  • 45A: #1 on the American Film Institute's "Greatest Movie Musicals" list (SINGIN' IN THE RAIN) — My first thought before I caught onto the rebus: MOULIN ROUGE. What a terrible choice for #1 if that had been the right answer.
  • 47D: Initiates a conflict (CASTS THE FIRST STONE) — Great answer. This is the only theme entry where one of the letter pairs spans two words (at the end of CASTS and the beginning of THE), whereas the rest are contained within one word.
  • 61D: Classic name in crossword puzzles (MARGARET FARRAR) — I suspect this one will be the toughest for casual solvers. Farrar was the first editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle, serving in that capacity from 1942 to 1969. In fact, she came up with many of the common crossword conventions that you see today -- the grid must be symmetrical when you rotate it 180 degrees, no two-letter words, etc. Crossword enthusiasts may very well have heard of Farrar, but since she's not exactly a household name outside of the puzzle world, it would not shock me if her name is a complete mystery for many others. Thankfully the crosses are all gettable.
  • 73A: German-born Emmy winner of 1960s TV (WERNER KLEMPERER) — Notable for playing Colonel Klink in "Hogan's Heroes." His appearance as Homer's conscience in "The Simpsons" is a great moment in one of my all-time favorite episodes.
  • 94A: Various things (THIS, THAT, AND THE OTHER)
Hmmm, a 1940s movie, a 1950s movie, a character from a 1960s TV show, a crossword editor from the 1940s-1960s, a comic strip that began in the 1970s.....did you get a distinct old-timey flavor to this puzzle? I certainly did. It's not really a problem -- just, I dunno, kinda funny. One of the very few modern clue/entry combos shows up right at the top with 1D: Cool, in hip-hop slang (DEF), almost like the puzzle is teasing us young'uns from the get-go with the hip, "cool" talk before diving into the trivia from yesteryear.



The only downside to the puzzle (if you can even call it that) is that, owing to the constraints of the theme, you won't find many entries that really pop beyond the theme answers. STORM DRAIN (8D: What a gutter may lead to) is very nice and crosses two different rebus strings to boot. MOUSSAKA (74D: Eggplant casserole) is a fun word too. I'm a big fan of the clues for JAB (3D: Hardly a slow poke), PIECES (77A: Breaking developments?) and MERGER (83A: Company of two?). No other filler answer made me say "wow," but again, to produce a theme-rich puzzle like this with as many constraints that it has and get a clean grid at the same time is no small feat. Patrick is one of the best constructors in the business for a reason and this puzzle is a good example of that.

This was one of those rebuses (rebi?) where it seems pretty difficult at the beginning but becomes much easier once you recognize the gimmick -- but just getting there is tough enough as it is. Before I knew the rebus element was in play, plenty of wrong answers looked appealing at first glance. 48A: John at a piano (ELTON) could be TESH (he of the "NBA on NBC" theme song). 68D: Green ___ (BERETS) could be BEANS. 72A: Gas in a vacuum tube (ARGON) could be NEON. 59A: Toot one's own horn (BOAST) could be BRAG. 103A: Horrorful (SCARY) could be ICKY (well, probably not, but it's only four squares long and I didn't think there was a special trick to the puzzle when I wrote it down....and by the way, is "horrorful" even a word?). Anyway, those latter two mistakes caused some real trouble for me because the B of BRAG and the C of ICKY were both correct, so I hesitated to erase them until it became obvious that they were crossing rebus squares. Once I figured out the trick, I really got rolling and actually finished in my normal range for a Sunday. Amazingly, I had my a-ha moment with the theme answer least likely to tip me off: MARGARET FARRAR, when I realized that 76A: Untrustworthy sort had to be LIAR. It helped that I made a lucky guess on BERETS just from the B and S alone -- I just thought there might be a rebus square in between, and I couldn't remember WERNER KLEMPERER's first name.



Bullets:
  • 18A & 19A: Rescue mission, briefly / Get off the highway (EVAC / EXIT) — A bit fortuitous that these two ended up next to one another.
  • 30D: One of the authors in the game Authors (ALCOTT) — Remember when I said this puzzle felt a little old-timey? Here's Exhibit A of that. Not the answer.....the clue. Authors is not a card game I've ever heard of, but it supposedly dates back to the mid-to-late 19th century.
  • 44A: "What nonsense!" (POOH) — More old-timey goodness. Bosh! What poppycock and balderdash, you nefarious slubberdegullion! A.A. Milne's bear isn't exactly young himself, but people of all ages at least know about him. I'm yet to hear anyone say POOH in this clue's context, though.
  • 45D: Old Nick (SATAN) — Okay, who else thought it was gonna be SANTA? The right answer isn't far off, letter-wise anyway.
  • 47D: Tech media Web site founded in 1994 (CNET) — I don't understand why "Web" is capitalized. And is it kosher that the clue uses the word "founded" when FOUNDING (24D: Setting up) is already in the grid?
  • 67D: Socialite's party (BALL) — I originally misread the clue as [Socialist's party].
  • 69D: Like some stores of years gone by (TEN-CENT)Embrace the old-timeyness!
  • 74D: Eggplant casserole (MOUSSAKA) — I don't think I've ever eaten it, but I know that one of the earliest memories I have of this word is from this scene in the animated Disney film "Hercules."
  • 87A & 5D: Palmed off / Besieger's bomb (FOISTED / PETARD) — If you change that F in 87D: Volume control on a soundboard (FADER) to an H, you'd get Saturday Night Live's Bill HADER. That would turn FOISTED into HOISTED, which would make for a nice pairing for the phrase "hoisted upon with one's own PETARD."
  • 100A: Unalaska native (ALEUT) — I see what you did there, The New York Times. Putting that Un- in there at the beginning, trying to throw me off the scent by making me think it was some playful term for someone who is not from Alaska when, in fact, that person is from Alaska, because Unalaska is a real city there. Your tricks won't work with me, Times puzzle. I'll play your game, you rogue.....and I'll win.
Signed, EVAN Birnholz, Earl of CrossWorld

Update: Questinia makes a good point in the comment section that GURNEY (50A: Patient mover) appears in the clues as well, at 2D: English war poet Gurney (IVOR). I missed that entirely, but it's a fair criticism.

84 comments:

Bob Kerfuffle 5:52 AM  

Brilliant puzzle!

Did it at the beach yesterday.

Unreadable mess of write-overs in the first 5 squares of 22 A - I knew the answer immediately, but , as I suspect will be true for most solvers, struggled to uncover the rebus that would yield the correct number of letters.

More or less smooth sailing until 74 D, Eggplant casserole. My first thought (hey, what do I know?) was TAGINE, realized I was thinking of AUBERGINE, neither fit, worked around until I had _OUS____, put in COUSCOUS (!), eventually let the crosses get me to MOUSSAKA.

Mike in DC 6:01 AM  

Wow, Evan. Your writeup is almost as strong as the puzzle itself. Great job!

(Also, hands up for neon and tesh.)

Gill I. P. 6:13 AM  

This blew me away. - First time since E Gorsky's Guggenheim Sunday that I didn't want to finish a puzzle.
I got that it was a rebus at FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE since that was my very favorite cartoon. Michael always reminded me of our son - his first girl friend Martha who dumped him was also our sons first who also dumped him...
Anyway. Like @B.Kerfuffle that first entry was a mess. I had the number 4 - erased that and put in four, finally caught on with the OR and so thought the rest of the puzzle was going to be an OR rebus. HOW NOW BROWN COW took care of the mess.
The cluing was so much fun. I really like 99A (Tweeter) for BIRDS. MOUSSAKA was one of the first casseroles I ever made and it was awfully CHEWY. The Old Nick clue gets me every time. How did he get to be SATAN?
My only ANGST was finishing too soon. POOH!
Thanks for the write up Evan- you done did good.....

Mohair Sam 6:56 AM  

Clever and fun puzzle. Got the gimmick quickly, but had several answers I never heard of (the movie, the crossword lady, the food, and more.

Still, the fill was crisp and honest and we got a slow but google free finish.

Ted Cole 7:14 AM  

As Soon as I saw who the author was I expected a great ride, and was not disappointed. Fun puzzle.

Bob Kerfuffle 7:43 AM  

@Gill I. P. - This info comes from Patricia T. O'Conner's Grammarphobia.com:

“Old Nick” (later “Nick”) has been a name for the Devil since the mid-17th century. The OED says there’s no convincing explanation of how “Nick” came to be associated with deviltry.

One theory, according to the dictionary, is that the name “Nick” comes from Machiavelli’s first name, Niccolò. Another theory is that “Nick” is a shortened form of “iniquity.”

Interesting how the language works! When I first read your comment, "First time since E Gorsky's Guggenheim Sunday that I didn't want to finish a puzzle," I thought of (last week's?) long trivia question about how many teeth certain animals have, and what a mess I got into, and that I quit before finishing. So it took me awhile to realize that you really meant, "I wished I could enjoy this solving process even longer." I have felt that way about some puzzles, too. :>)

Glimmerglass 8:11 AM  

Good write-up! Patrick Berry is absolutely my favorite constructor (sorry, Rex). I'm an old-timer, but that didn't make the old-timey answers easy for me. Never heard of Margaret Farrar, for one. When I saw the two-letter gimmick in FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE, I thought the whole puzzle would be ORs. Nope. HOW NOW BROWN COW made me think the pairs would all use O. Nope. At the end, knowing it's Patrick Berry, I thought I could rearrange the eight theme pairs to make a sentence. Haven't figured that out yet, but there's no suggestion of that. Hard but doable, as usual for PB.

chefbea 8:11 AM  

What a great puzzle.!!! Started it last night. Got most of it and googled a few things this morning. I made Eggplant parmigianno this past week and that's all I could think of but it wouldn't fit.

Glimmerglass 8:13 AM  

PS. I'm old but I haven't seen a deck of "Authors" cards since I was a kid (in the 1940s - '50s).

chefbea 9:00 AM  

I too had forgotten about that game. Use to play it all the time

loren muse smith 9:01 AM  

I DETESTED this PIECE of POOH of a puzzle, and yes, I’m a LIAR. I absolutely ADOREd it. Wow!(s) before AWES.

I came *so close* to giving up, and with most other constructors, I would have. But Patrick and I go way back (hah!- at least in my mind. Right. What a mystery that guy is!) and I finally had my BINGO moment when I erased that second &^%% “g” in SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN. Then I flirted with 15D being some kind of “RAIN in Spain falls mainly on the plain” thing and went off sniffing around for other RAIN rebus possibilities. I felt so clever.

Hey, EVAN – very subtle BOAST about your shout out! And terrific write-up! I did think “Santa” or even “saint” for SATAN. And you had green “beans” – I had green “acres.” And I had “brag” and “neon,” too.

One huge problem for me for a long time was “drinks” for POINTS, thinking that someone could have two “fingers” of bourbon, say, and “lift” the tumbler to his mouth. Speaking of which – TOPED. New word for me. “Yeah, ARTHUR and GINGER TOPED and then eloped, but we all hoped they COPED.”

And yeah, I’d like to see a tete a tete ;-) between NORM and ARTHUR over a couple of BEERS!

AERIE, TALONED, BIRDS. ONCE UPON my HONEYMOON, I visited Bodega Bay. SCARY.

“Orderly” has one more letter than GURNEY. Great clue. PETARD looks like the first name of some really nasty guy in an O’HENRY novel.

I’ve mentioned our dog, OWEN, before, (I campaigned for “Rodney” and lost) whose sole desire is to maintain meaningful EYE contact with you. It gets so OLD.

@Bob Kerfuffle – Yes, brilliant puzzle. And I have never eaten MOUSSAKA. I guess it’s Greek. Looks like Simba’s uncle. Or someone FEUDing with PETARD.

@Gill I.P. and @ Bob Kerfuffle – I misunderstood Gill, too. Then I got it. I felt that way about the novel These is my Words. I was so dismayed to have finished it that I turned back to page one and started it over.

It’s Sunday! NOAH, ARARAT, KEEL, THOU, MANNA, ASEA, SATAN, RAIN, MALCHIZEDEK, TANHUMETH. . . Ok, maybe I “finished “ with a couple of mistakes. . .

This was really, really, really hard for me –I feel all WEARY, SWEATY, WIPED OUT. But I’m all SMILES and so GRAD I didn’t THROW in the towel. One for the record books. Again.

Questinia 9:14 AM  

The puzzle actually gave me the feeling of constructing with 2x4's as it latticed the grid.
Have NO idea from what scrimmed, atavistic part of my brain I got Margaret Farrar but after thinking of the publishing house and intoning "ar-ar-ar" a few times ol' Margaret popped up.
This was one puzzle where I first went "ugh" and then went "whee!" . Wonderful puzzle, Patrick and wonderful write-up, Evan.

CBCD 9:17 AM  

I had ginseng instead of ginger for a long time and the result was not pretty.

Teriffic puzzle. My mother used to wax fondly over the old days when Margaret Farrar was in charge. I grew up mixing up Margaret Farrar and great contralto Kathleen Ferrier. Great puzzle editor, AND she sings so well!

evil doug 9:21 AM  

Hoist. Not "hoisted".

Evil

Z 9:24 AM  

Going acrosses first, my first word was MANNA. How I got HOW NOW BROWN COW and the rebus from that is one of those mysteries that can't really be explained. Partly it was knowing that Sunday's mean rebus and partly that PB means elegant trickery. Boom, I was on my way.

The west coast was hardest since the Cary Grant movie was unknown and MARGARET FARRAR is a little before my time. In fact, the rebus helped with my last letters in, the ARARAT crossing FARRAR square.

Typical Berry. Give us more.

John Child 9:25 AM  

It took me forever to accept that this was a rebus puzzle despite seeing answers over and over again that didn't fit. For 10 minutes I filled in scattered stuff and thought, "It's Patrick Berry. He's a lot smarter than I am. And what the heck does the title mean?"

And then I saw Colonel Klinck and got it.

A very slow Sunday, but what else was I doing on a rainy day?

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

Did anyone else confuse 73A's answer with his character and write Werner Klinkerer?

Questinia 9:33 AM  

... and how odd that Gurney was a clue and an answer. Don't know whether I've ever seen that before.

Anonymous 9:50 AM  

Loved the puzzle, loved the write up!

joho 9:59 AM  

@Questinia, GURNEY as clue and answer was the only possible negative I have in my margin. It in no way dampened my enthusiasm for this brilliant, yet again, puzzle from Patrick Berry!

I got the rebus at SINGININTHERAIN and was all SMILES from there on.

I, too, had SAnta before SATAN and PrINTS before POINTS, as in lifting one's finger to print it. (No, I have not been arrested!)

Interesting bleedover from Rex's Thursday puzzle with BOWOUT. Great answer in both.

All theme answers were simply amazing. Love the playfulness of HOWNOWBROWNCOW.

Patrick Berry you da best!!!

@Evan, Earl of Crossword, your write-up was one of the best, too!

DBlock 10:38 AM  

When I saw Patrick Berry, knew it would be a great puzzle, so much so, that I was sure the double letters (which I got at Owen Wilson/How Now Brown Cow) would go in two directions and sure that the answer to confers was powwows and kept looking for additional crosses. Eventually realized that 2 by 4 was limited to single phrase which was more than enough.
Great solve and great cluing.
Thanks for the write up Evan.

jackj 10:39 AM  

There are solvers who dislike the use of simple, common words (ERA, ERE, ALOE, etc.) in a Times puzzle; then there are the realists who accept such words as necessary to satisfactorily fill the grid and lastly, there are those who gleefully seek out such words in hopes of finding imaginative cluing that shows respect for the solver while elevating the level of the puzzle.

With a Patrick Berry puzzle like today’s it’s awfully difficult to be a naysayer when simple, commonly seen words are treated so respectfully. Not when answers like EYE are clued as “Size up”; the answer NEW requires serious thought as an interpretation of “State-of-the-art”; even run-of-the-mill EAR is gussied up by the clue “Shucked item” and best of all one has to strain mightily to get JAB when it’s presented as “Hardly a slow poke”.

Also, it must be noted that the simple, common word entries aren’t the only ones treated to the Berry magic touch, just take a peek at “Welcome sight after a flood” a clue for ARARAT or “Company of two?” getting us MERGER and what are “Holders of addl. thoughts” but PARENS, Hall-of-Fame candidates all.

Then we have the theme, eight phrases sharing a double letter combo four times (TWO-BY-FOURS) like H(OW)N(OW)BR(OW)NC(OW) and W(ER)N(ER)KLEMP(ER)(ER).

And, when one locates the first NY Times crossword editor (1942-1968), M(AR)G(AR)ETF(AR)R(AR) as a theme entry, it seems possible, (and I’m hoping), that she was Patrick’s seed entry and the impetus for this uber-rebuzzle of extraordinary cleverness.

My only regret was that the Cary Grant clue looked as if it might be asking for IWASAMALEWARBRIDE and, while it was not to be, at least we got the fun part of the marriage ceremony tradition when we were able to get it ON with ONCEUPONAHONEYMOON.

Thank you, Patrick; this was a special pleasure.

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Since this old lady finished before running out of coffee, it was easy-medium for me. Had fun once I figured out how many rebi in a theme answer.

Norm 10:49 AM  

Marvelous. Just plain marvelous and a lot of fun.

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

What a great way to start a Sunday! Patrick Berry has a twisted mind. I guess I do too, because I love his puzzles, and can usually get them.
Jlb

DBGeezer 10:58 AM  

Wonderful puzzle. Superb write up.
Did any body else get confused and make the beginning of ARARAT (93A) another AR rebus? I was put off in thinking this was a 2 x 2 and not a 2x 4.

JC66 11:06 AM  

Great puzzle and write up.

@ jackj - I originally had Bringing Up Baby for 4Down.

Thoracic 11:09 AM  

Best puzzle I have ever done! So carefully constructed and complex but without the horrible fill. I did have most of the early mistakes that Evan had, but managed to correct them once theme answers came clear. I have frequently eaten MOUSAKKA and it is delicious. Just like this solving experience. Thanks PB.

Merle 11:19 AM  

Delightful puzzle, and oddly very easy. Medium-challenging? I struggled with the Friday and Saturday puzzles, and then found this puzzle a breath of fresh air, intriguing, fun to figure out, and yet easy. The fun part was searching for the two-by-four pop-ups.

Old-timey flavor, Evan? Come on! Sorry, honey, I don't love your write-up, although others adore it. (I had amore for adore and that lost me the answer "today" for quite some time.)

Why didn't I love your write-up? Culture is timeless! The clue for the game Authors and the answer Alcott is just plain old classic American culture. Old-timey? Oh, you mean like 63 A, Home of Hannibal, answer, Carthage, is too old-timey for you too? Answer should have been where Hannibal Lecter lived? The 1940's are too antiquated for you? "Singin' in the Rain" doesn't have any zombies in it, so it is an antiquated movie?

Hissy fit continuing. 25 A, clue "Food in the Bible", answer, "Manna". Ooh, Evan, that's way old. What would a Williamsburg hipster make of Hannibal and Carthage and food in the Bible and Manna and the card game Authors and Alcott? Well, a well-educated Williamsburg hipster might ace Carthage and Manna, and wow, even "Singing' in the Rain" and any Cary Grant comedy -- there are some very young, very hip devotees of 1940's cinema.

I hope Ewoks and Endor weren't too obscure for you. Although my association with Endor is way way in the past -- not with the cute little Ewoks. The Witch of Endor, whom King Saul of the Israelites consulted, the day before he was slain in a battle at Gilboa.

Reiteration: Culture is timeless!

Oh, yeah, shout-out to Evil Doug, re hoist versus hoisted. "Hoist with his own petard", "Hamlet". The Bard, where are you?

Hissy fit over -- Evan, a lot of your write-up really was spot-on, and fun to read.

Stay timeless!

Steve J 11:26 AM  

I'm not nearly as effusive about this as everyone else is. That doesn't mean I don't think it's of considerably higher quality than most Sunday puzzles, because it is. But in the end, I found it very much a Sunday: Figure out the hook, plod through the rest.

The hook is indeed clever. The thematic density is impressive, the crosses intersecting the rebuses are generally solid (with a few scattered exceptions, as to be expected with so many crossing opportunities), and I can appreciate the many opportunities to get tripped up in those crosses, even considering how much confusion some of them gave me.

What dims this shine for me is the obscurity of two of the theme answers: ONCEUPONAHONEYMOON - when I think of Cary Grant, at least a dozen films spring immediately to mind before that one, and that's only because I can't remember every other film he did - and MARGARETFARRARR (I'm guessing many solvers under 35 also may have had difficulty with WERNERKLEMPERER; "Hogan's Heroes" reruns pretty much disappeared from our TV around age 10-12, and I'm in my early 40s). And, outside MOUSSAKA, none of the non-theme feel really sang for me.

I did like a lot of the cluing - French or Italian bread for EURO, the previously mentioned clue for MERGER, Sentence period for YEAR. ALCOTT's clue was Friday/Saturday levels of obscure.

Ultimately, I found it very impressive construction achievement that was better-than-average to solve. But it was ultimately still a Sunday puzzle, and it's rare that I don't find Sunday to be a bit of a chore.

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

Even though I cut my crossword teeth on Margaret Farrar, I didn't remember her name. Shameful!

Blue Stater 11:57 AM  

Could we not be spared this kind of junk on a Sunday?

maureenroe57@yahoo.com 12:02 PM  

I am so bloody sick of multiple letters in one square puzzles. It's been done to death, OK we get it, 2 or 3 letters in one square ooooooh. The clues aren't difficult, I just can't stand squeezing it all in and ensuring the letters are in the right place. It really fecks up my Sunday and I just throw it away out of disgust. My mom's 87, been doing the puzzle for DECADES and feels the same way. Plus she's left handed and has trouble maneuvering multiple letters in one square. That's RIDICULOUS. Really takes the joy out of Sunday. SHORTZ: get a clue and stop this garbage.

Bill from FL 12:19 PM  

Maureen--try a Zebra F-301 fine point pen. By far the best for crosswords and Sudoku. Rebuses are never a problem--at least physical filling part.

Paul Keller 12:26 PM  

This was a great Sunday puzzle. I found it to be on the easy side, but maybe I was lucky to see FORWORSE and parse the theme early in the solve. Particularly appreciated the clean and nattick free fill. It's too bad that every creature strolling or wheeling their way across the earth could not enjoy this puzzle as much as I did.

600 12:28 PM  

Oh, no, oh, no--DON'T "stop this garbage"! I love a rebus. I live for a rebus. This one was everything I hope for and maybe a bit more.

I so wished we could have had hoist and PETARD in one puzzle, but FOISTED made us all think of it, so I guess that's close enough for me.

Did anyone else think the clue for TRIES should be "Makes a go AT it" instead of "OF it"? If "makes a go of it" is a legitimate clue for TRIES, I need an explanation why . . .

In case The Bard doesn't show:


There's letters seal'd: and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang'd,
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For 'tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petar'; and 't shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon: O, 'tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.

jberg 12:41 PM  

Wow, 31 mostly positive comments (counting @Merle's vent as one), and then two off-the-wall negative. Just goes to show you!

I had three comments, but @Questinia has already made two of them, and @ED the other. So I'll just advise @Evan and @Loren to go eat some moussaka immediately -- you won't be sorry! -- and join the ranks of those waxing nostalgic about Authors.

We got the game, used, from my grandmother, in whose family my mother had played it when she was young. It was basically a kind of rumme; there were 4 cards for each author, each with the name of one of that authors works, and you had to amass sets of four. There may hve been a Go Fish element to it, as well. Very educational, if the goal of education is to memorize who wrote what without having to actually read the books. It my understanding that the game (and others, like "Pit,") was developed for Methodists, and perhaps other Protestants, whose churches held card-playing to be a sin. Since the little rectangles didn't have kings, queens, etc. on them, they weren't technically 'cards,' and that made it OK. I have no documentary evidence for this theory, however!

I enjoyed it, despite the GURNEYs. Perhaps the rolling stretchers were invented, or first described, by the poet?

Steve J 12:42 PM  

@600: I think it's just a dialectical difference, much like some people stand on line instead of stand in line. In fact, I think I've encountered "makes a go of it" more often than "makes a go at it"; the latter actually sounds awkward to me.

mac 12:49 PM  

Very good Sunday, puzzle and write-up wise. Many many things I did not know but I still figured it out. Certainly not completely old-time, let's just call it classic.

Had a funny mistake for a while: premie and seals instead of parole and orcas. The clues for the ordinary words made this puzzle so much fun!

600 1:07 PM  

Thanks, Steve J. I've heard "makes a go of it" more often too, but in the sense of succeeds, not TRIES. And now that I think about it, I guess I would like the clue to be "takes a go at it" in order to elicit the answer TRIES.

If it's a question of dialect, though, I just hadn't heard "makes a go of it" as TRIES. Live and learn.

mac 1:20 PM  

@600: "Has a go at it" sounds better to me.

Evan 1:24 PM  

Thanks, all.

@Evil Doug:

Fixed.

@Merle:

I was thinking about including CARTHAGE and MANNA in my "old-timey" analysis but decided to leave them out. Either way your comment made me laugh. I'd be all for watching SINGIN' IN THE RAIN with zombies, just like Seth Grahame-Smith updated Pride and Prejudice by adding zombies to it.

jae 1:26 PM  

Medium-tough for me too mostly because it took a while to figure out what was going on.  Two-By-Fours is not exactly a DEAD give away. Knowing the Patterson comic strip really helped in seeing something funny was happening.

Add me to the list of liked it a lot.  I mean you gotta love stuff like HOW NOW BROWN COW. Tricky, crunchy, fun Sun.!!  But then it is PB...

600 1:39 PM  

@mac: To me too, now that you mention it.

retired_chemist 1:42 PM  

A really, really good puzzle. Medium-challenging here as well. Our guest blogger gets a shout-out at 71A. Good - he and his writeup deserve it.

Kudos for the theme - tight and crunchy. I too saw it at W(ER)N(ER) KLEMP(ER)(ER), having spent a LOT of time unsuccessfully trying to recall F(OR) BETTER (OR) F(OR) W(OR)SE, which eventually I did, after I saw the theme.

Solid fill.Not much to complain about, and others have covered that base anyway.

Spent FOREVER looking for an error and didn't find it. Turns out I had BE(ST)(0W)s @ 55A. "Huh?" you say, "That's correct." No, that's a zero and not the letter O: (0W) not (OW). In teeny type yet. A typo I commonly make but in regular squares I now see it easily. Not this time, though.....

Thanks, Me. Berry. You never disappoint.

Sandy K 1:46 PM  

Superlative construction!
Love, love, love the rebus!

ADORED THIS, THAT, AND THE OTHER answers!

Patrick Berry:
wINnINg IN the world of puzzlINg!!


@Carola- I'm struggling with the Cryptic. Where are you?

Jeff Chen 1:47 PM  

PB + Earl of Crossword = great day in crosswords!

Gill I. P. 1:57 PM  

Dear @Bob and @Loren. Thank you for understanding me...;-)
And @Bob - thanks for the SATAN/SANTA explication - very efficacious of you as usual...

Puzzle Dr 2:09 PM  

In my 45 year old love affair with the NYT Sunday crossword, this is in my top ten! The construction and execution are outstanding. Like Evan, I was astonished that Berry was even able to conjur up so many themed phrases , let alone of the proper length and distribute them symmetrically. I'm in awe. This was great fun.

Anonymous 2:09 PM  

Fine Sunday puzzle and excellent comments from Evan.

PanamaRed 2:28 PM  

Great puzzle - great write up. Thanks Patrick and Evan.

Ellen S 2:50 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Uncle John C 2:51 PM  

I think that with all of those male names - LEE; AR(TH)UR; NOAH; (OW)EN; ERIC; EVAN; NORM; THOMAS; ELT(ON) OHENRY -
man 'o man (MANNA AMMAN) - this puzzle might have been more approprate for Father's Day than the "Teeth" riddle from last week.

I spent the '80s working in a bookstore where M(AR)G(AR)ETF(AR)R(AR)'s name graced the coverr of all those spiral-bound crossword compendiums - so that helped.

Also from m bookstore days: "Louisa May ALCOTT wrote Little Women, Little Men and little else.

A big "me too" on brag before BOA(ST) and Santa before SATAN.

This puzzle was truly delightful.

Ellen S 2:58 PM  

Great writeup, Evan, of a tour de force by PB.

@Maureenoe57, I'm 70 years old; have been left handed my whole life, been solving the NYT for about 33 years and have never had trouble putting two letters in a square. If I get arthritic, or vision worsens, it would be a problem but I cannot imagine handedness being a problem. When I was in grade school the desks still had inkwells (though we didn't use them .. well, yes we did actually put bottles of ink in them come to remember. No quills). Anyway, somehow I learned to write despite the horrible handedness handicap. I was allowed to write with my left hand, though; maybe your mother wasn't. That would be a problem.

@Gill I.P. I knew right away what you meant. I didn't want the puzzle to end, either. Wow, such a lot of theme answers, adjacent to AND crossing each other, and symmetrical, with no really crappy fill! I was AWEd. And then dang it I finished with an error. I had "wOES" for 78A, which gave me the bygone TEw CENT stores. I figured it was some regional ultra-discount chain I had never heard of, cutely named like Piggly Wiggly.

Never got to the Saturday puzzle at all... well, I looked at it Friday night and couldn't do it, and Saturday day I had a brutal conference call following which there was nothing to be done but go out and buy a new cell phone so I can burn the old one and get the taste of that call out of my ears (there's a metaphor for the ages). Have I told you folks how much I like you? Even, or maybe even especially, ED. It's like growing up in a dysfunctional family and walking into a "normal" one and thinking -- "Oh, people can really talk to each other this way? Wow."

Finally, @Questinia, thanks for the information on your Maremma. I knew there was a reason I sometimes tell people my Liam is a "Lesser Pyrenees." He doesn't really look like any particular breed, there are just "notes" of various dogs. I'm afraid to throw away my money on DNA testing him - the list will probably include the entire AKC breed roster and then some. If you have good eyes you can see him in my avatar photo. (Unless I changed it to some other pic he's not in...)

retired_chemist 3:03 PM  

@ Ellen S - no reason to DNA test him since you aren't going to breed him.

Left handed all my life here too - with no problems.

PeteS 3:07 PM  

First ever finish of a Sunday NYT puzzle,and I'm only 64. Wanted Owen Wilson at 42a but it didn't fit when I got to 48 A knew it was Elton and figured out the trick. Immediately went back to Owen and filled in OW(en). Which was wrong. Had lots of trouble with Warner's last name. Tried Kemperer, kempherer, even kemper(er) before I got the L from tuneful. Thought authors game must be a game with fake authors and had Al Cott from the crosses still counted it as correct.

syndy 3:44 PM  

Got the rebus on HOWNOWBROWNCOW but since I wanted The FamilyCircus I had a long row to hoe!thr POINTED/printed error got me ARARAT got me DABS and that whole corner!Deneb/CELEB got me SMINES(AS IN ALL SMINES)I tried real hard to convince myself THAT was plausible!AWESOME achievement even if it did make my brain say OW OW OW OW !

r.alphbunker 4:13 PM  

I.loved.this.puzzle!

Also I like rebus puzzles. I wrote my own program to solve puzzles on a tablet using my finger to write the answers (I hate the virtual keyboard). I paid special attention to rebuses - I tap the rebus button and have the whole screen to draw the rebus, then save it and the program shrinks the rebus down to fit in its square.

okanaganer 4:18 PM  

I am trying to imagine constructing this puzzle. Did Patrick sift through hundreds of phrases searching for four letter-pairs, or is there a database out there? Did he use a computer program of some sort? Then fitting them into the grid, all different lengths, without making the fill too dreadful...yikes! The density of rebus squares is impressive.

Brookboy 4:34 PM  

Put me down as another who thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle (after a slow start and initially disliking it), and who thoroughly enjoyed the write-up. Thank you, Mr. Berry, and thank you also, Mr. Birnholz.

Had the feeling from the beginning that it was a rebus puzzle, but could not figure out how for the longest time. Kept thinking that it was "F[OuR]BETTERORF[OuR]..." somehow. But it finally clicked in with 45A: SINGININTHERAIN and the 28D cross: DETAIN. It was at that point it all became enjoyable for me.

Like others I had SAnta for Old Nick (45D). When I finally corrected it to SATAN, I thought, "Duh! I bet no one else made THAT error...".

Initially had DenieS for 28A (Repudiates), and that made the NE corner tough for me until I finally got HOWNOWBROWNCOW.

Great puzzle, very enjoyable to solve.

ArtO 4:41 PM  

I'm one of the old timers who gets the puzzle in the actual paper on Saturday. Spent a fair amount of time working through it with total success and thought " this is what a Sunday should be about...a struggle that's worth the effort."

Kudos to Patrick Berry one of the all time greats.

For those of you who also get the paper version, check out A19 for a perfect " picture is worth a thousand words" commentary on Paula Dean's cooking.

Anonymous 6:17 PM  

Just because construction may be different, novel, and hard for the creator to design doesn't make it a great puzzle for the solver.

maureenroe57@yahoo.com 6:20 PM  

Bill, I don't have a problem, my left-handed mom does.. you know how lefties write in a way that looks like they've had a stroke -- my main point though is that I'd rather have tougher clues than a puzzle that seems to come from Highlights magazine. 'See how much of the alphabet you can cram in one box!' Last week I made a horsey. OK that was fun.

Elle54 6:41 PM  

We played Authors as kids in the 60's. I think we bought a bunch of card games to play at my grandmother's farm. Authors, Fish, Crazy Eights.
I loved the puzzle and I love to do a rebus!
Thanks Evan!

Really? 6:41 PM  

@anonymous 6:17

True, but in this case it did!
Did you happen to notice how many commenters raved about this puzzle?

Anonymous 6:45 PM  

Great job, Evan. As a newbie to the Sunday Times, I really appreciate a critique almost as clever as the puzzle; lots of constructive comments not much criticism.

mac 7:10 PM  

Aren't waiters wonderful? You ask them for things and they bring them to you.

LaneB 7:12 PM  

Was hoping to find the word "ambivalent" in the fill because that's how I felt about this one. Loved it/hated it but in the end [or with some googling] was weary but all smiles. Got so weary that there were times I wanted to opt out and keel over. But no, today I coped, didn't bow out or take a pass. However, my whole morning went Poof!
What with Pooh and Poof in there, I really expected to find Poop,. Obviously the puzzle was too delicate for that.
A few things prolonged the agony. I immediately filled in the Grant film as THe Talk of THe Town. It's a 16-letter title but does have those 2 THs And it crossed with FOR BETTER OR WORSE and I figured the FOrs might be surrogates for the Four in the puzzles title. Too clever by far for my own good!
Then, I didn't know MARGARETFARRAR from Adam's cat. Which made the SW part somewhat for the birds.
Anyway, very pleased with the final result and truly in awe of Mr. Berry. Thanks to him, indeed.

michael 8:00 PM  

Liked the ouzzle, though perhaps not quite as much as most of you. I do this on paper and my grid was a mess with the double letters mostly because I at first got things slightly wrong (for instance, "for better or worse" instead of "for better or for worse," "singing in the rain" instead of "singin in the rain.")

jburgs 8:27 PM  

Very enjoyable. Figured out the rebus early on but got slowed down when I put in deneb instead of celeb at 32a. as well, I was thinking the strip was "For better or worse." Forgetting the second 'For" caused problems for a time. At 90a I thought maybe it was supposed to be 'Parentheses" as have never heard of "parens". I figured maybe it tied into the rebus and I had to use the "ar" and "th" to get parentheses. I left it as parens thinking I might have goofed somehow but was glad to see I hadn't.

sanfranman59 8:56 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 6:07, 6:12, 0.99, 43%, Medium
Tue 8:12, 8:16, 0.99, 48%, Medium
Wed 8:43, 9:44, 0.90, 28%, Easy-Medium
Thu 14:01, 17:11, 0.82, 18%, Easy
Fri 16:20, 20:22, 0.80, 18%, Easy
Sat 20:06, 25:31, 0.79, 9%, Easy
Sun 36:34, 29:57, 1.22, 88%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:42, 3:49, 0.97, 28%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:59, 4:55, 1.02, 55%, Medium
Wed 5:37, 5:38, 1.00, 48%, Medium
Thu 8:39, 9:49, 0.88, 25%, Easy-Medium
Fri 9:22, 11:37, 0.81, 21%, Easy-Medium
Sat 12:04, 15:22, 0.79, 10%, Easy
Sun 25:35, 19:58, 1.28, 86%, Challenging

Carola 8:57 PM  

Away all day visiting grandkids, just got to the puzzle. What a treat! A lot of fun to figure out, and a real feat to admire when finished. I started catching on with SINGININTHERAIN but only understood the 2 x 4 part later - fortunately enough to help me with the 4 theme entries I didn't yet have.

I thought MARGARET FARRAR was a delightful tip of the hat by this master constructor.

@Sandy K - I saw it was a cryptic and thought of you - don't have the mental energy to tackle it tonight, will give a go tomorrow.

chefwen 9:45 PM  

If y'all go to today's L.A. Times Crossword Corner, there are a couple of great pics of @Acme and @dk. Check 'em out.

Loved the puzzle, as most everybody did!

Cheerio 9:48 PM  

Wow - what an amazing, wonderful puzzle! For anyone new to puzzles, this one should be used for a "teaching example" about "why Rebus puzzles are fun." Can't we have Patrick Berry puzzles every Sunday? I think it's a perfect marriage - Patrick Berry + Sunday. Then we can have Gorski on other days of the week, plus all my other favorite constructors can be mixed in too.

Frenchie 10:19 PM  

For the puzzle person, I got Merle Regal off the M and the E, and was loathe to give it up. Anyone have this experience?

Bill Holland 12:23 AM  

72A: Gas in a vacuum tube = ARGON ??? The whole point of a vacuum is that it's empty; no gas! As a nitpicking electrical enginner, how about clueing this as an "electron tube"?

Anonymous 1:37 AM  

@ Really? 6:41 PM

Yes and I understand that, but Madonna and Bieber have also sold millions of records.

chuchos 8:35 PM  

Really enjoyed this puzzle. Some fun fill:
ARARAT,GURNEY,YEAR,JAB

Cheryl D 5:56 AM  

Syndicated solver here, a week late but had to say what a great puzzle. I got the theme quite early, so it was easy for me, but the fill was so great. Not the usual drek when the theme answers are so dense. Cluing was exceptional. After 2 Gorskis, I had to ask what have we done to deserve such generosity. Thanks to Will and Mr Berry for a great puzzle.

To Anonymous at 6:17 pm and 1:37 am. If you wish to post criticism, do so, but give yourself an identity. Nearly all of the "critics" on this site have an identity, and have the cajones to use them. My name is Cheryl.

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

Tsk, tsk, Cheryl. Don't need comment police. Guy

rain forest 2:02 PM  

This is what I think a Sunday puzzle should be: clever, theme-dense, fine fill-containing, and just challenging enough so that one can (and want to) finish it without it being a slog. Hey, I used (PARENS) there.

Like many, I thought the theme was going to be either a FOR rebus, or else all the theme answers would have four ORs, but SINGININTHERAIN refuted that thought. All went smoothly until the SW corner because I didn't know the crossword woman--I didn't start doing the NYT crossword until around 1990.

Didn't mind the GURNEY situation because one is a name, and the other a thing. Fair game. There was a puzzle with St. Thomas More, and the word "more" was in a clue, and I don't recall a bobkerfuffle.

Berry nice.

spacecraft 4:47 PM  

It took me SO LONG to even FIND this page that I don't even have time to read what was already said. I REALLY, REALLY wish that you guys would get your syndicated page synchronized. PLEEEASE! It's worse that trying to decipher captchas!

I was all day at this, in no small part because I was a lazy clue-reader. Seeing "AFI #1 movie..." I just stopped there and confidently inked in CITIZENKANE without even bothering to rectify the letter count; it fit perfectly, as I "knew" it would.

"Musical?" Never noticed it till much later. My bad. Even if I had, though, this one played hard for me. Not saying it was a slog: you do not use that word for a PB puzzle. It's like not being allowed to say the word "rough" whie announcing at the Masters. When finally done, I did enjoy and appreciate the cleverness. Our Mr. Berry is a clever fellow indeed, no denying.

But again, PLEASE get your syndi-page lined up right! Anybody who wants to reply to this: please do so in tomorrow's blog; I'm NOT hunting this one up again!

Oh, and now we're back to terribly lit house addresses. This whole thing is beginning to be NOT WORTH THE BOTHER!

Dirigonzo 5:31 PM  

I ruined half the fun of this puzzle for myself by accidently seeing a completed grid before I started the puzzle - saw enough to know a rebus was involved so the "aha" moment of making that discovery was gone. It was still fun figuring out the details and discovering the theme answers. Patrick Berry's construction genius always AWES me.

Ginger 12:13 AM  

Crafty, Fun, Masterful, mind-bending; all appropriate to a PB puzzle. It took awhile, and I needed a little help, but the solve was the perfect way to spend a warm Sunday afternoon.

@Diri - thanks for the referral of the osprey-cam on Hog Island. I'm hooked. Is it far from you?

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