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.
- 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)
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.
- 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 "hoist
ed uponwith 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.
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.