Beverage introduced as Brad's Drink / THU 7-25-13 / Pirate portrayer of film / Pro bono promo for short / Brew whose name is article of clothing when read backward / Mary of early Hollywood

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Constructor: Patrick Blindauer

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging



THEME: DOUBLE FEATURE (14D: Drive-in theater draw ... with a literal hint to 4- and 21-Down) — the double-feature answers are movie titles of identical lengths that must be written in side-by-side, in the same single answer, for the Acrosses to make any sense:

Theme answers:
  • 4D: 14-Down starring Jack Lemmon (first feature: "GRUMPY OLD MEN"; second feature: "THE APARTMENT")
  • 21D: 14-Down starring Frank Sinatra (first feature: "OCEAN'S ELEVEN"; second feature: "GUYS AND DOLLS")

Word of the Day: Mary AST[OR] (32A: Mary of early Hollywood) —
Mary Astor (born Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke; May 3, 1906 – September 25, 1987) was an American actress. Most remembered for her role as Brigid O'Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon (1941) with Humphrey Bogart, Astor began her long motion picture career as a teenager in the silent movies of the early 1920s. (wikipedia)
• • •

Astonishing. I don't think I've solved a better puzzle this year. Imaginative concept, perfect execution. Any infelicities in the fill (ITAGO, for instance) are minimal and can easily be excused given how perfectly, neatly, delicately this puzzle comes together in the theme material. Like two perfectly functioning zippers, those DOUBLE FEATURE answers are. This Thursday puzzle did what a Thursday puzzle should do, at its best—go off book, make me work to figure out what's up, and then make me go "whoa..." when I figure it out. It helps that this puzzle was not exceedingly difficult. My time was above average, but that's just because I had to keep mentally re-entering the second feature (since I was solving online, against the clock, and thus could enter only one of the movies). Not surprisingly, I got the entire middle section of the puzzle first, and then couldn't move outward. Entire middle done, but I couldn't build off of it. Wanted both OB[EY] and OR[EO], but ... not enough room. Managed to get into that NE corner w/ ABYSS and then began to get a sense of what was going on with [OG]RES. I typed in "OCEAN'S ELEVEN" and then realized shortly thereafter that it would have to be running alongside "GUYS AND DOLLS." At that moment, I was Just So Impressed. One real challenged with that Sinatra DOUBLE FEATURE is the "VL" sequence—not at all common in English. So I loved the very tricky "?" clue on HOV LANE (63A: Perk for a pool party?). It highlighted both the awkward letter sequence and the creative escape therefrom.


Jack Lemmon DOUBLE FEATURE was slightly harder for me to come up with. I'd been wanting "THE APARTMENT" from the second I saw the clue, but (early on) I chucked it when crosses didn't work. The fact that WIDTH fits in 1A: One of the three dimensions (LEN[GT]His exquisite torture, or at least a very effective little trap. Once I had the theme, I knew LEN[GT]H had to be right, and the dominoes started to topple from there. I don't think of "GRUMPY OLD MEN" as classic Lemmon, but no matter. That's not the point. Someone pointed out to me that "THE ODD COUPLE" fits in there as well. I didn't fall into that particular hole, luckily. Finished up in the SW and then gave the puzzle a mental standing ovation.


OK, wait. I have one problem with the puzzle. I don't understand why APR wasn't changed to ... something else. First, that's a three-abbr. little section (PSA, APR, OPER). Seems unnecessary. But the bigger issue, for me, is that APR. is an abbr. for APRIL, which is also in the grid (55D: You may be fooled at its beginning). The fact that APR is given loan cluing (8D: Loan letters) doesn't matter much to me. It's still a distraction (*esp.* in such a sterling puzzle). There are probably half a dozen ways to change that section—to lose APR and maintain or improve fill quality. Without doing anything else, you could make APR into UPN or ATL. I would love to see TON there, because DEPO is a very common shortening of "deposition," but ... whatever. The point is, I hate APR. Again, I hate it because this puzzle is a masterpiece and so APR is bugging me in ways it might not otherwise.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    118 comments:

    jae 12:01 AM  

    Wow!  A tricky thing of beauty, just what I'm looking for on a Thurs.!  Easy-medium for me because I filled in 14d fairly quickly and because the movies are well known.  Remarkably smooth grid given the theme. 

    Random comments:  

    My DEA friends had a different set of words for FBI. 
    Diane FARR was better on Rescue Me. 
    KAREN Carpenter had an amazing voice.  Still sad about what happened.
    I suspect I'm not the only one thinking horse for 13d.
    It took a lot of work to get my teenage daughter to stop saying GOES. 

    Did I say I liked it!

    DocRoss 12:04 AM  

    One word. Bravo!

    August West 12:16 AM  

    Loved it! Most enjoyable puzzle in a long, long time. Filled the reveal at 14D easily and knew a rebus was at work early. Couldn't worm my way into it, though, until Von TraPP. Then, the sequentially descending beneath it fell like dominoes: EasYA; AstOR; StILTs; AnDMy; MEmo; KarEN, and; AgeNT. That parallel string of letters made filling in the rest of GRUMPYOLDMEN/THEAPARTMENT a snap, and off I went to see which two of Frank's films made the grid. East went slower, as I couldn't see OASIS for "Garden Spot" (and still think it a bit of a groan-inducing reach), or HOVLANE (which, in hindsight, is perfectly clued). That I didn't know NAT Hentoff didn't help.

    In the end, just a broad-grinned appreciation of a wonderful, challenging but eminently fair and fun masterwork.

    Outstanding!

    Elaine2 12:16 AM  

    @DocRoss -- You bet!

    At first I just could NOT figure out what was going on. When it clicked into place, it was great!

    Tough Thursday for me, but absolutely worth the struggle!


    Pete 12:18 AM  

    I can't remember a puzzle better than this one.

    Anonymous 12:20 AM  

    Awesome, awesome, awesome.

    I got DOUBLE FEATURE with zero crosses. Woo hoo! Caught the gimmick real quick also. Just a matter of piecing it all together. HOV LANE was the last to go.
    ...................................

    I have zero problem with APR. Had I even noticed it, I would have preferred really cool cross-referencing specifically to APRIL so as to enjoy Rexy's meltdown.

    If you insist, though:

    PSA to PSY

    DEPP to DEPT

    OPER to OP-ED

    Gets you APR to YTD

    And don't be giving me any guff for PSY.

    Steve J 12:28 AM  

    Agreed, brilliant. And that's even with a couple crosses away from the theme that I thought were borderline unfair (STILTS/ASTIN and FARR/FBI; STILTS are not widely known birds, and ASTIN is not a widely known actress; likewise, FARR and her show are hardly in the TV pantheon, and how many people know the FBI's slogan?).

    In an average puzzle, those spots would have pissed me off. Here, the theme is so fantastic that I don't care. The moment I had when I got what was going on was one of my favorite puzzle-solving moments ever. I had picked up a couple spots where there were rebuses, but I hadn't yet figured out the full trick. And then when I solved DOUBLEFEATURE and realized what that meant for the other downs, it was like an epiphany.

    I had a harder time with Sinatra's features, because OCEANSELEVEN just would not come to me for the longest time (probably because of the VL square).

    Well-done, Patrick Blindauer.

    Rookie 12:30 AM  

    Amazing! I am in awe ...

    Anonymous 12:35 AM  

    "Astin?"

    "Forget it. He's rolllin'."

    Evan 12:40 AM  

    Amazing. I had DOUBLE FEATURE right off the first two letters, knew there was a rebus very early on when I got CURLS, then had a second a-ha moment when I finally saw GRUMPY OLD MEN staring me in the face. How many puzzles give you two a-ha moments?

    I didn't have a problem with APR/APRIL, though I wasn't crazy about the AN[DM]Y/SYM crossing. It wasn't hard to figure out -- I just don't like SYM as an entry, so I might have gone with AN[DM]E/SEM instead.

    Other difficulties: I fell into the WIDTH trap right from the start, and thought Dr. DRE might have been the rapper at 3-Down. Rap enthusiasts will surely scoff at me for that. And I've seen each "Lord of the Rings" movie several times, so I don't know why my brain would not let go of Sean BEAN before ASTIN for what felt like an uncomfortably long time. That BEAN is one letter short didn't matter -- I could not think of the other Sean for too long.

    It's worth noting that this has 80 words, which exceeds the NYT's normal limit. They say they'll take more than 78 if the puzzle really warrants it, and this one surely did since it's so friggin' cool.

    Evan 12:41 AM  

    @Steve J:

    I think you meant ASTOR? ASTIN is an actor, not an actress. He played Mikey in "The Goonies" and Rudy in "Rudy."

    ME 1:28 AM  

    Incredibly clever, beautifully executed!

    Anonymous 1:58 AM  

    Really impressive puzzle.

    Signed Me Count of the Crossworld

    Anoa Bob 2:02 AM  

    I agree with others that Mr. Blindauer deserves high marks for a clever, inventive theme> But needing 48 black squares---the normal limit is 38---makes me think it would have been better suited for a different puzzle format, maybe something along the lines of an acrostic. I'll betcha a cold brewski that 48 is a record.





    chefwen 2:24 AM  

    So, how much fun was that kids? Can't remember a more entertaining puzzle.

    Got it with OGRES and CURLS, the rest was history. Got the movies going down and had the whole thing about 95% done when I handed it to my Sous puzzle mate and he figured out that the other letters filling out the crosses spelled yet another movie DOH! That had totally escaped me and brought a "OMG Patrick, this is more brilliant than I thought possible. FABULOUS!

    Anonymous 2:40 AM  

    STELLLLLLLA(R)!

    Steve J 2:42 AM  

    @Evan. You're correct. I got my Astors and Astins garbled. I did mean to comment on ASTIN, but I had Mary ASTOR in my head when writing my post. The point I made still applies, even with the gender mixup.

    Agaze Cpu Memos 2:43 AM  

    Oops, @patrick, that "stellar" shoutout was from me!
    BEARHUG,
    andrea

    Deserves at least two OSCARS

    syndy 2:44 AM  

    Although I had WIDTH as my first answer and cavalierly assigned Sean an extra N in Bean(n)I new a rebus was abrewin' I filled in GTRHUEMAPPYAORLTDMMENT without regard to any previous wrong guesses. Then I filled in GUYSANDDOLLS and had to work out my doubled feature.A STELLAR offering from p Blindauer thank you for NOT having a note!!

    Robert Rothschild 3:12 AM  

    Ridiculously superb! Left me in awe!

    Mike Rees 3:18 AM  

    This puzzle was Pure Genius. And I managed to finish it, which is something of an accomplishment for me for a rebus puzzle. I'm thoroughly impressed.

    Anonymous 4:05 AM  

    I enjoyed the theme a lot, of course, but I had a different handful of things bug me that prevented it from being a perfect puzzle for me.

    First: LDOPA. Never heard of it. Looks awkward as all get out. I got it from the crosses, but I didn't believe it until my puzzle app told me I solved correctly.

    Second: the FARR/FBI/ISL crossing. I just could not see it. I'd never heard of Diane Farr, all I had was the B in FBI so I couldn't see that, and I hate ISL as an abbrev. Clued that way I couldn't see it. It was an annoying thing to cause a lookup, which I hate having to do. But no way was I getting that F and I without looking up the motto. Grr.

    Otherwise, fantastic puzzle.

    Anonymous 5:06 AM  

    I was also a bit stumped by FBI/FARR/ISL at first, but I don't think it was all that unfair - especially when I realized (aided by the way the clue's line breaks occurred in the iPad app) that the motto's initials spell FBI.

    Anonymous 5:58 AM  

    One of my very favorite puzzles ever! Wrote in FBI which crossed nicely with BRIE, but thought, nah, too easy so erased it before coming back to it at the end. Had COTE DE BOEUF at first which annoyed me because I wanted OREO and STELLAR. Living overseas, I have never heard of a HOVLANE and thought that was a mistake. All this aside, the puzzle was really remarkable. Loved it!

    loren muse smith 6:12 AM  

    This one had me at SATYR and ABYSS! Saw the trick at KAREN and then AGENT, glanced back to the right to see the completely unfilled 21d, and knew instantly that every square in those downs would have two letters. Let’s give “a hand” (before IT A TRY) to Patrick!

    @Tita – here’s one for your hall of fame – I had “hot date” for “perk for pool party?” for a long time before I changed it to HOV LANE.

    Hi, @Gill I.P. – I wasn’t feeling well yesterday and didn’t notice the palatal question until the middle of last night. Hi, @TachyJacky! I would add a few consonants to the y in year:

    I thought the consonants in
    church
    sheesh
    garage
    magic
    were all palatal, too, no?

    As to the clue for LINGUIST – I didn’t mind it, (though I would have preferred some “usage” element. Just kidding)!!! I can’t argue that you don’t study “words” in linguistics.

    Patrick – I second Andrea - SSTTEELLAARR!

    squirrel1.1 6:42 AM  

    This is by far the best puzzle I have seen in a very long time. Unreal.

    Catherine Park 6:52 AM  

    I smelled a rat along the west coast, when I came across Mary ASToR and Von TRAPp. THE APARTMENT came easily.... but then... whoa!!! I think my head just exploded.

    Anonymous 7:12 AM  

    Dear Rex (and gang),

    I might be way off base, but I thought APR was abbreviation for
    "approved."

    Just a rookie here, so I am probably wrong.

    Otherwise, great review.

    tc

    Anonymous 7:27 AM  

    Hate to rain on the parade, but while I found the construction quite nifty, the content did not impress. The four theme answers required specific knowledge of four mid-20th century movie titles which you either know or you don't. Sure, you could probably get them from the crosses, but that's not really fun.

    Glimmerglass 7:32 AM  

    Excellent puzzle! Great fun to solve. I agree with Rex and most of the comments above.

    MaryRoseG 7:51 AM  

    Just when you think these clever constructors couldn't possibly think of something even MORE clever...

    Fun! Fun! FUN!

    And movies to top it all off.

    Great puzzle. Love that A-ha moment!

    Milford 7:51 AM  

    I was just excited to realize at von TRA(PP) that we had a rebus going on, but then to have it run twice down the length of the grid! I really couldn't believe it until I was almost finished that all 4 movie titles would work! Pretty amazing.

    The last corner to fill in was the SE with the NAT and ROTI - both were unknowns for me. That scrabbly SW corner with REMIX was very fun.

    Cool clues for PEPSI and STROHS - who knew?

    Hey, my name made it in the puzzle, and it's part of the rebus- yippee! No, my name is not EDGAR.

    @Anon - APR is Annual Percentage Rate. I literally had a car commercial saying this phrase as I filled it in.

    @other Anon - L-DOPA is a precursor for dopamine and a drug used for treatment of Parkinson's. You'll find it periodically in a crossword.

    Anonymous 8:02 AM  

    Wow.

    Figured early on it was a rebus but couldn't see exactly how it would work, until I got the reveal, which -- for a change -- really was a significant help in figuring out what to do. Nice. Funny thing was I got both the right-hand strings (THE APARTMENT and GUYS AND DOLLS) pretty quickly, but couldn't physically get them in the rebus square on AL until I got the left string as well (which took longer). (Started out on my iPad and realized it just wouldn't work there.)

    Also blew the _BI/_ARR cross, but no matter -- this is A Terrific Puzzle -- and having SO SUE ME in there is brilliant! (Also loved HOV LANE.)

    Anonymous 8:02 AM  

    Love love love this puzzle...never saw one so clever..I solved it and thoroughly enjoyed that "aha" moment...only had one hang up...had the commonly used agape as opposed to agaze...fixed it but held me up....all I can say is encore!!!!!

    Mitzie 8:02 AM  

    Can't say I disagree. Very cool, unique theme. DNF for me, though. HOVLANE: gah!

    dk 8:12 AM  

    The reason why I hate stunt puzzles is I never get the gimmick. The reason for that is my rage at gimmicks blinds me to reason…. or just dumb.

    This time I got the gimmick but was stumped by HOVLANE and STELLAR (spelled it incorrectly) and penning in STORKS even tho I knew they are not exclusively swamp birds.

    Sigh,

    �������� (4 Stars) The construction alone merits the 4.

    Note on LDOPA -- It creates Horney Old Men

    Mohair Sam 8:22 AM  

    What's not to love about this puzzle? It just doesn't get any better.

    Had AGApE for AGAZE as my last word, and stared at UpI wondering if there was an insect I'd never heard about. Resorted to an alphabet run and upon mumbling UZI chuckled that my last letter in this great puzzle should be the last letter in the alphabet.

    Loved Rex's comments too - but he gets the GRUMPYOLDMaN award for complaining about APR. Pick, pick, pick.

    baja 8:24 AM  

    ww
    oo
    ww
    !!

    Anonymous 8:33 AM  

    The best!! Thank you Patrick!

    joho 8:35 AM  

    This is one for the Crossword Hall of Fame! Or several Oryx's. What a beauty, Patrick!!

    I knew something was up at MASH. The solving experience after that was nothing but sheer delight.

    My favorites clues: "Perk for a pool party?" for HOVLANE (brilliant answer! When I lived in CA people used to put a blow up doll in the passenger seat to qualify for the lane ... until that trick was discovered by the Highway Patrol ... or is this an urban legend?) And "Dangerous sprayer" for UZI.

    April didn't even occur to me at APR because that is such a familiar loan term.

    It's amazing to me how smooth the acrosses are with the constraints of the double downs. Loved BEARHUG and SOSUEME.

    SNATCH above SNARE is cool.

    Even OREO has a certain panache crossing 21D.

    I could go on and on. I gotta stop!

    Susan McConnell 8:40 AM  

    Wow. I am speechless. I am without speech. Just...blown away.

    JayWalker 8:41 AM  

    LOVED THIS PUZZLE!!! BUT - I do have a 'Grinch comment' about 52D. To "goggle" suggests wide-eyed amazement, not dreamy gazing. So, naturally, I went with "agaPe" and had one (well - two) errors. Had nary a clue about a "dangerous sprayer" so I take full responsibility - but I still feel like I was skedungled. And, in all fairness, UPI (the news agency) has often been accused of "spraying" around a lot of BS. Can't that be "dangerous?"
    Just kidding. Fabulous puzzle!!

    crackblind 8:52 AM  

    Really beautiful. My aha moment was KARen & AGEnt - WTF ends in ENNT.

    Rex, as for APR, I think Nigel says it best:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ruDdcd8G-g&t=0m17s

    Elle54 8:56 AM  

    Fantastic! LOVED IT!
    Did not know HOV LANE. We don't have them in Chicago

    Norm 9:17 AM  

    I am in awe.

    Shamik 9:19 AM  

    Thoroughly unexpected and delightful. Only stumbled on UZI/AGAPE...found it and corrected when Mr. Happy Pencil didn't show up.

    Z 9:21 AM  

    I don't want Blindauer to get a big head so I'll have to comment about a couple of comments...

    @FBI complainers - Did you notice that the motto "Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity" was chosen by the FBI for a reason? I looked at BRIE, I looked at the clue, and I went " D'Oh."

    @whoever complained about the "mid-century" movies. Really?!? I've never seen a one of these movies, I'm not a movie goer, and yet all four of these movies are in the old noodle not too deep. The Sinatra films were harder for me, but I saw both with about half the letters in place.

    jberg 9:41 AM  

    My experience mirrored @chefwen's, saw OGRE and CURL, realized the revealer must be DOUBLE FEATURE, and the rest followed.

    @milford, you mean your name is GUY SANDOLL?

    The problem for he constructor, obviously, was that it was too hard to find crosses that would cross two theme answers, and there would have to be a lot of those in a normal grid. Hence we get all those vertical bars of black squares, and a lot of short fill. He makes up for that the best way he can with cluing that is either deceptive (e.g., the oft-mentioned HOV LANE) or cute ("Pro bono promo" or "Loan letters") Actually, the latter is both cute and deceptive, since our minds leap to IOU before realize that all loans must state their Annual Percentage Rate.

    So I'm satisfied, I think the necessary compromise was well worth it -- still, a puzzle with some long acrosses in the middle would have had us all in heaven!

    Joe The Juggler 9:48 AM  

    And I guess this rapper NAS is now a crossword standard. Twice this week.

    evil doug 9:51 AM  

    At the end of a grueling, 4-hour oral exam on every microscopic detail of the 727's systems, switch positions, limitations, malfunctions, and emergency procedures, the examiner started quizzing me about the potable water system. I began to silently celebrate: "If I've forced him to test me on the damn drinking water, then I must have really aced this thing." And if 'apr' is the worst gripe you can find to hang on this puzzle, then it's pretty small potatoes indeed.

    Lots of black squares? But that's easily mitigated by all the extra letters---48 if you count both down and across---that the theme required. And the vivid quality of those lengthened words, plus the theme answers themselves, reflect that those letters weren't just useless filler.

    A puzzle where I even appreciate 'OReo'....

    Evil

    Joe The Juggler 9:54 AM  

    Anon said:
    "First: LDOPA. Never heard of it. Looks awkward as all get out."

    It's actually L-Dopa, and it was the drug that figured heavily in the Robin Williams/Robert DeNiro movie Awakenings--so an appropriate answer for a puzzle with a movies theme.

    John V 9:55 AM  

    Holy crap! What a beauty! Challenging but fair and superb. Can't remember having had this much fun with my clothes on in a very long time. Thank you, Patrick!

    Nancy in PA 9:58 AM  

    Stunning puzzle! Loved it, though I finished with an error I didn't even know about until coming here. I was perfectly willing to accept UpI as some insect or denizen of the deep I had never encountered. THis is whetting my appetite for Lollapuzzoola, where tricky dastardly "think twice or die" puzzles are bound to show up.

    chefbea 9:58 AM  

    No time to read all the comments..will do that later

    What a brilliant puzzle!!! DNF. I think this will go down in history as one of the best..if not THE best

    Joe The Juggler 9:59 AM  

    Steve said:

    "and how many people know the FBI's slogan?"

    Fans of The Big Bang Theory should know it.

    Frederico Dynamite 10:01 AM  

    "...this much fun with my clothes on." @John V - any tweetable pictures?

    Sandy K 10:04 AM  

    SL
    TO
    EV
    LE
    LD
    AI
    RT

    @Susan McConnell- lol! Perfect Elaine line!

    Sandstress 10:05 AM  

    Amazing!

    I concur with @Z--Because only one of the 4 theme titles--THEAPARTMENT--is strictly a mid-century movie; GRUMPYOLDMEN was made in 1993, GUYSANDDOLLS is in constant revival as a stage musical (in fact I first saw it on Broadway in 1993), and OCEANSELEVEN was remade in 2011. Even if you didn't know Sinatra was in those movies, I would argue that the titles are mainstream enough to get on the crosses once you've cracked the theme.

    And every time I look at the grid I see more great movie/TV references:
    EASYA, SNATCH, MASH, [Me]ANDMY[gal], [The]ABYSS.. Von TRAPP, DEPP, ASTOR, FARR, OSCARS...did I miss any?
    (Even the lone sports name in the grid, Bart STARR, sorta fits, at least homophonically.)

    And speaking of movie references, @Anon 12:35AM: Nice.

    Norm 10:28 AM  

    I knew this puzzle reminded me of another one. I wonder if PB was inspired by Matt Gaffney's brilliant Appalachian Trail puzzle back in April 2012. Both belong in the Hall of Fame.

    Rob C 10:36 AM  

    OHO! what a great puzzle. When I saw the constructor's name and noticed how segmented the grid was with it's 48 black squares, I knew something major was up. It was, and it succeeded.

    As great and fun as it was, I do find myself drifting back to @Anoa Bob's point of 48 black squares. That's an awful lot. Part of achieving something great is doing it within the established rules/constraints. Would it still be a great feat if someone hit 100 home runs in a season, but did it with the fences pulled in 50 ft when they batted? That doesn't necessarily diminish the puzzle, just something I find myself pondering.

    retired_chemist 10:39 AM  

    Wonderful puzzle. They don't get any better. Hand up for AGAPE (a better fit to the clue, I agree)/UPI. Missed it on the recheck so finished with an error.

    Fell for the WIDTH/DRE trap. Most people start with 1A so it is hard to shake if you get it wrong. Making WIDTH 1A, with a supposed "verifier" (DRE), was damned clever - it forced us eventually to think outide the box we had constructed for ourselves in the NW.

    Figured something was up when lots of acrosses seemed to want one more letter. had enough crosses to see DOUBLE FEATURE, went to 21D, got (OG)RES and (CU)RLS, slammed down OCEAN'S ELEVEN and GUYS AND DOLLS, and teh east fell quickly. GRUMPY OLD MEN and some crosses then gave me THE APARTMENT, and it all came together (except for UZI).

    Best this year. Thanks, Mr. Blindauer.

    Ulrich 10:43 AM  

    I have to join the chorus of praise. This one is worth framing and putting on your wall. And I fell hopelessly in love with Shirley McLane when I saw The Apartment as a teenager...

    Carola 10:58 AM  

    Wow, terrific! Very challenging for me, though. Even when I saw that 2 letters had to share a square, I thought that was the DOUBLE FEATURE and that all the letters would string together to make one movie title, like The Manchurian Candidate, which almost fits, spaces-wise. But no. Was AGApE when I finally figured it out. Just beautiful.

    Glad NAS was just talked about the other day and glad I've been in CA where they have HOV LANES - none around these parts.

    @Milford - Photo was of a sandhill crane just alighting - dramatic wings!

    Steve J 11:00 AM  

    @Loren: Correct on the Y and G (as in the second G in garage) being palatal consonants. SH and CH, however, aren't classified as such, as the tongue isn't completely pressed against the roof of the mouth (and because they're primarily sibilant). I had to look the terminology up, because I've forgotten most of this, but they're classified as palato-alveolar consonants.

    The palatal consonant that should be recognizable to everyone who hangs out here is the ñ, since it features so prominently in the great año/ano wars.

    @Anon 7:27: Disagreed that the theme requires highly specific knowledge of mid-20th century movies. For one, GRUMPYOLDMEN is from the 1990s. The others are all very known amongst most film buffs (plus, GUYSANDDOLLS is also a pretty widely known musical). I've seen only one of the four movies, but I thought they were all pretty easy gets once you got a few crossings in.

    @Joe the Juggler: I can't stand "The Big Bang Theory", so the allusion is lost on me. (Nor did I notice what multiple people pointed out regarding the motto's initials providing the initials; clever, even if it flew completely over my head.)

    Bob Kerfuffle 11:15 AM  

    Brilliant puzzle!

    I took my time and proceeded carefully, so I finished with only one write-over: 54 A, SATAN before SATYR. But in retrospect, I can see that the clue was precise and perfect: "Horny devil" encompasses two facets of a SATYR, while if it had been simply "Horned devil" it would have been much weaker and would have justified my first guess.

    loren muse smith 11:22 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    loren muse smith 11:24 AM  

    I don’t know, @Steve J - I think the g in garage and the sh in sugar share the same articulation as far as the mouth is concerned – the only difference is the latter is voiceless. So both sounds have the same point of articulation.

    Where would you assign the points of articulation for ch and sh if not the palate? For me, my tongue is much closer to my palate than my alveolar ridge on those. Does the tongue actually have to make contact with the palate for it to be considered palatal? (That Y-sound wouldn’t count as palatal, then.) I would even argue that some dialects have a retroflex R that could be considered palatal, and that makes no contact with the palate.

    Kurt 11:24 AM  

    Stellar!

    Masked and Anonymous 11:33 AM  

    @Rob C, Anoa Bob, Mitzie, et al... Not only 48 black blobs, but also 80 words. This puz may have put up as much fight in the construction phase as in my solvin phase. Which was considerable. And which was real enjoyable. thUmbsUp, pauer dude.

    Notes from the valiant but flawed M&A solvin phase:

    1. Went huntin for the theme from the gitgo and figured out DOUBLEFEATURE almost immediately. Then, like 4-Oh's other friend, suckered for THEODDCOUPLE and WIDTH immediately in the NW. I mean, swallowed the bait, hook, line, sinker and bass boat. Ka-gulp. COUPLE. DOUBLE. There was no doubt. Lost many valuable nanoseconds.

    2. At this point, noticed the pleasant T shapes in the grid design. Lost many more precious nanoseconds, admiring those. M&A is pathetically easy to distract.

    3. Noticed there weren't no long words, other than the three self-evident themers. Counted up the words. Got 80. Figured I'd miscounted. Counted again. By this time, was sure Dan Feyer had passed me by. So now the pressure was off.

    4. Discovered 22-Across wasn't leavin enough space for the von TRAPP family. Ahar moment. Evicted THEODDCOUPLE. Snorted and commenced to tear thru the puz. Taped puz back together.

    5. Zipped along briskly at this point. Minor GEHRIG/GOES, FARR/FBI, and HOVLANE/NAT problemos. Stopped to admire STROHS clue. Too bad there ain't no ZTROHS beer, I mused.

    6. Ended by spatterin precious drops of coffee on the open squares left in the SE corner. But already had nailed the Sinatra flicks, by then. Close enough, I decided. IMF.

    7. Counted up the U's. Pretty little things. Five today, give or take a coffee square.

    Possible STROHS slogan: "We'll make U put yer shorts on backwards". Make residuals checks payable to Narciso Furtive.

    NYer 12:03 PM  

    Like @JayWalker, I had AGApE for AGAZE and therefore technically DNF. But that didn't detract me from thoroughly enjoying this puzzle. Got DOUBLEFEATURE right away, then wrote in THEAPARTMENT, then realized it was a rebus when the second P of Von TRAPP went missing.

    Could not stop smiling after that.

    Gill I. P. 12:09 PM  

    All the words I would have used to describe this puzzle have been taken so I'll just add that I got the trick at TRAPP and EASYA.
    Loved the clue for SATYR - horny devil indeed. (TOADY didn't fit)
    @joho - it's not an urban myth. Here in California we make a game of trying to find a blow-up doll in the car. My favorite was this man was caught by putting a blond wig on his dalmation...Made the news.
    @TachyJacky and @Loren. Thanks for the info on PALATAL consonants. I did though have to look up the meaning of "phoneme."
    I don't know that much about meaningful sounds but I can mimic any language after I've heard it once. It's fun but then people think you are fluent and start yaking away at you and you have to pretend you understand! Still don't know why the English "J" or "G" is so difficult to pronounce by foreigners.

    M and A also 12:13 PM  

    p.s. After careful inspection of the official, balls-on accurate 4-Oh grid solution, I hereby ammend my U count for today:
    Five regular U's.
    One UE jobber.
    One CU jobber.

    Better ITAGO clue: "Iago's revised name, as insisted on by the T-Party caucus".

    fave weeject: APR. Could also use TPS there instead, if APRIL gives off too much dejavuosity. Whatever. As long as Tonto remains intact at 14-A.

    John V 12:24 PM  

    Btw, Patrick as has the Cross Synergy Washington Post puzzle today, too.

    John V 12:25 PM  

    That would be “also"

    Anonymous 1:02 PM  

    Just another opinion here to break up the unanimity. This exercise is a particularly salient example of what WS has done to crosswords as a genre. it isn't a crossword puzzle at all, but an arcane word game. Very clever of its kind, I suppose, but it isn't what I come to the NYT crossword puzzle for. I hope one day the NYT can get back to putting crossword puzzles in the paper on a regular basis.

    Steve J 1:09 PM  

    @Loren: I definitely notice a forward shift when I say both ch and sh compared to the j sound in garage. For ch, I notice it if I say the German "nicht" immediately followed by a word like "chair". My tongue is not directly on the alveolar ridge for "chair", but it's much closer to it relative to "nicht", and I note the same thing for sh relative to j. Neither sound is directly alveolar like with t, but in a spot between the hard palate and the alveolar ridge. Which is why I'm guessing that the various references I'm finding classify ch and sh as palatal-alveolar, rather than purely palatal.

    Maleska 1:10 PM  

    Aw ... somebody misses me!

    Milford 1:22 PM  

    @jberg - yes, exactly - it's my new Carlos Danger alias. ;)

    @Carola - Very cool. We have sandhill cranes come hang out in our neighborhood sometime from the nearby lake. Their calls are very loud! At Kensington we also love to go down to the nature trails to look at the Blue Heron nests up in the trees on the islands - they are huge!

    retired_chemist 1:42 PM  

    We have a blue heron who nests in a tree by our pond and often strolls along the pond's bank.

    ahimsa-NYT 2:05 PM  

    Loved the puzzle! Since I'm not a speed solver I resisted putting in width at 1 Across. I caught on to the rebus at 23 Across, TRAPP.

    When I got DOUBLE FEATURE, I read the clues for the movie names. No worries with 4 Down. I know lots of Jack Lemmon movies, everything from "Some Like It Hot" to "Glengarry Glen Ross."

    But I could not think of many Frank Sinatra movies. The only way I got OCEANS ELEVEN was that I read somewhere that the recent movie (with Clooney, I think?) was a remake. I don't think I've ever seen the whole GUYS AND DOLLS movie, either. But it's a pretty famous movie and I know I've seen clips from it (don't remember Sinatra's role). That was a relief because I thought those two movies were going to be very hard.

    So, easier than usual (for me) for a Thursday but loads of fun. And that HOV LANE clue was great fun! I also liked "Keeps one's mouth shut" for HUMS.

    DrPuzzle 2:11 PM  

    Incredible. I've been doing the NYT crossword for 40 years. I thought I've seen it all. But this is the best, most satisfying themed puzzle I can remember. Forget, "for a Thursday". I mean all time, 7/365/40.
    I was initially tipped off with TRAPP, ASTOR and ANDMY. But still didn't quite understand what was going on until 14 Down, which fell after I got DEPP, OPER and ILL.
    BEST PUZZLE EVER!!!

    Jeff 2:11 PM  

    Agree wholeheartedly that this was an outstanding puzzle! One question though, for the puzzle constructors and experienced solvers here--and this in no way is meant to take anything away from this puzzle--are those two double feature answers any different in a construction sense from creating two double stacks and condensing them into one row of squares? Finding those answers and making them fit thematically is still an extraordinary achievement, but couldn't most doublestacks be similarly consolidated, or is there something different about the construction I'm not seeing?

    M and A's last silver bullet 2:37 PM  

    @Jeff: Glad U asked that. I see yer point. Ol' pauer coulda just had a 17x15 gid, with two sets of two parallel (stacked) movie titles. The drawbacks of that might include...

    * No ahar moment when unmasking the rebus aspect.
    * The need for real thick black bars to anchor stacked set ends into the grid. Mucho unsightly. Would use up everyone's black inkjet cartridge in a NY minute.
    * The DOUBLEFEATURE punchline would lose some of its punch, if each movie in the set had its own clue.
    * On the other hand, it woulda made it much easier for m&e to count the U's today. So, tradeoff, there.

    No question here is stupid. We are here to learn, after all. Even 4-Oh reads the comments section, to soak up these copious pearls of wisdom and paragons of grammatic correctness. Yo, 4-Oh.

    Chip Hilton 2:52 PM  

    I see something like this and wish I could have been there when Mr. Blindauer came up with the idea and developed it into this finished product. I'm in awe of constructors when their work is so monumentally clever and pristine. The toughies for me were HOVLANE and GEHRIG. For the latter, I spent way too much time going through Count Fleet, War Admiral and the like.

    Thanks for The Perfect Thursday Puzzle.

    John V 2:53 PM  

    @jeff. Sure, but it's about the theme and its playing on the rebuses as "doubles“ and integral to the theme. That's what this puzzle is about, to me.

    jerry k 3:22 PM  

    Last to go, Gehrig (was thinking of horses). So sue me. Brilliant (the puzzle).

    gifcan 3:35 PM  

    Got clued in at TRAPP and CURLS, but didn't nail it until I found KAREN and the AGENT nestled together.

    Used crosses for HOVLANE but sure I was wrong.

    What exquisite fun!

    Instant Cappuccino 3:37 PM  

    Someone has pointed out that 'SO SUE ME' is a GUYS AND DOLLS song, right?

    Ulrich 3:39 PM  

    @M and A: As they say, you took the words out of my mouth. I would emphasize particularly your emphasis about the rebus, from the solver's experience, and the meaning of the revealer, which would be watered down to the point of (almost) irrelevance. To me, pauer's genius shows precisely bec. he saw that his idea would come into its own through a rebus. If that makes it more or less difficult to construct isn't really the point here.

    Lewis 3:44 PM  

    Utterly entertaining. To almost everyone, apparently. A true puzzle, rewarding to unlock. Bravo, Patrick! You made me light up like that other constructor with your initials did a couple of years ago with his meta-puzzle. Entertaining, clever, brilliant!

    I even liked the two clues: Carpenter _____, and _____ Carpenter.

    Anonymous 3:53 PM  

    @Instant Cappuccino

    Right! Rex has the video of "Sue Me" from Guys and Dolls right there on his blog.

    Joe The Juggler 3:59 PM  

    @Steve:

    "@Joe the Juggler: I can't stand "The Big Bang Theory", so the allusion is lost on me. (Nor did I notice what multiple people pointed out regarding the motto's initials providing the initials; clever, even if it flew completely over my head.)"

    This scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8Me6qW4kmY
    Especially, about 1:10

    Jeff 4:01 PM  

    Thank you M and A. I appreciate your insights. I'm a relatively new solver and just wanted to make sure I understood how this one was built. It's exceptionally well done!

    PeteS 4:04 PM  

    Am I the only dirty old man here? I wanted hottie for my pool party perk. Then when I figured out the rebus I wanted Hot babe. Not to good with Frank Sinatra movies went to hot lane before I saw oceans eleven

    sanfranman59 4:15 PM  

    Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

    Thu 23:13, 16:29, 1.41, 94%, Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Thu 15:56, 9:30, 1.68, 97%, Challenging

    pauer 4:15 PM  

    Thanks for all of the lovely comments. It has been a while since my last NYT puz, it's true, and I'd forgotten what a rush it is to get so much feedback about one's work! My Refresh button is probably exhausted.

    Looking back at my manuscript/drafts of this puz, I see that I was initially planning 3 sets of features and even had a pair of 15-letter Heston movies to use, but I couldn't get them to work. So I went with the revealer down the center, instead. I also see notes about bonus theme answers in the corners (ROCKY/RAMBO and TWINS/HOFFA) but those didn't pan out, either, I guess. And yes, the theme did start out horizontally but got flipped around so that the letters would be easier to read in Across Lite.

    Oh, and if you like this kind of wacky xword, please think about joining me and Brian Cimmet for "Lollapuzzoola 6: Words, Nerds, and Birds (NO BIRDS)" on Saturday, August 10th in NYC. Visit http://bemoresmarter.com/Lollapuzzoola_6.html to get all the details and to preregister; there's even an At Home division if you can't make it in person. It's gonna be illin' and/or wack, whichever one means "good" in the 'hood.

    Matty 4:47 PM  

    Simply amazing.

    retired_chemist 5:01 PM  

    @ pauer - thanks for dropping by and congratulations.

    Jim in Chicago 5:19 PM  

    TERRIFIC THURSDAY. I was helped immensely by getting "double feature" almost immediately, followed by the double lettering from CURLS. But, took my awhile to realize the answers both went down side by side, with that figured out it was a matter of putting things together.

    HOVLANE also fell last for me and I had to come here to figure it out (followed by a DOH moment). Great puzzle. BRAVO

    Anonymous 6:58 PM  

    I guess I'm the only one who didn't care for it at all. Really clever, I'll grant you, but no fun to solve. Using Across Lite, it was impossible to keep it organized as Rex mentioned. Maybe a warning that it would be better to solve on paper would have helped. This was a total exercise in frustration, and in retrospect I should have done it on paper as I usually do. Meh, sorry.

    LaneB 7:47 PM  

    The rebus is not for me but the puzzle is insanely ingenious. To be greatly admired. When one starts with WIDTH instead of LENGTH and fills the APARTMENT ( half).correctly and suspects a rebus because TRAPP doesn't fit and still can't make sense of the effing thing, it' time to throw in the jock and tune in to those who thought it was just wonderful. I got the mid- section cleanly, but, of course, the huge rebus was not a factor in that lengthy part. Friday and Saturday cannot be tougher than this one.

    Questinia 8:26 PM  

    This went super fast even though I am not partial to rebuses.
    But the cascading rebus made it exciting, like a double helix cooperating to form and complete itself.

    Rube 9:13 PM  

    Marvelous puzzle. I agree with @Joho that this belongs in the CWP Hall of Fame.

    Anonymous 12:04 AM  

    Hated it.
    Hated it.
    Hated it.
    Hated it.
    Figured it out.
    Loved it.

    gpo

    sanfranman59 1:02 AM  

    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 5:21, 6:09, 0.87, 3%, Easy (6th lowest ratio of 188 Mondays)
    Tue 9:05, 8:13, 1.10, 76%, Medium-Challenging
    Wed 9:56, 9:43, 1.02, 60%, Medium
    Thu 22:51, 16:29, 1.39, 94%, Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:18, 3:46, 0.88, 3%, Easy (5th lowest ratio of 188 Mondays)
    Tue 5:25, 4:57, 1.09, 72%, Medium-Challenging
    Wed 5:24, 5:36, 0.96, 41%, Medium
    Thu 14:20, 9:30, 1.51, 94%, Challenging

    ZenMonkey 1:27 AM  

    @pauer: Refreshed? Here's another BRAVO!

    To the anon complaining that there was a trick puzzle on a Thursday, that's a bit like complaining about people in costume in Halloween.

    Anonymous 4:27 PM  

    An astonishing puzzle. What was even more astonishing was that I managed to finish it. It took me quite a while to realize that EVERY square in the downs about Lemmon and Sinatra had to have doubles in them, but that finally allowed me to break everything out. I'm still amazed at the construction -- and my finishing.

    Tita 6:12 PM  

    I've only been getting to a coupla puzzles a week these days, and here not at all - not even to lurk.
    But my sometimes-puzzle colleague mentioned today that Thursday's was REALLY, REALLY, hard, with other twists/tricks to figure out - I quickly stopped him before he could reveal to much.

    I'm so glad he mentioned it, because this was fabulous.
    I never noticed too many black squares - I've learned so much from OFL and y'all, but haven't learned enough to notice grid structure issues like that.

    Anyhow, congrats, PAUER. I'll bring a copy of this puzz for you to autograph at Puzzoolah.

    @lms & @PeteS - yes, those are HoF candidates - will try to get there over hte weekend.

    Did I miss any others over the past coupla weeks??

    (Ugh - the street num s are back...)

    paulsfo 9:32 PM  

    I don't understand the Across Lite complaints. I did this on Across Lite with no problem, and it ever got the rebus squares right (it doesn't always).

    J.aussiegirl 10:54 AM  

    Tremendously fun puzzle; I zipped through the centre and left side (TRAPP/EASYA/ASTOR/STILTS gave it away quickly), and came to a plodding solve on the right side. In awe of the constructor's cleverness.

    Technically DNF as I also had AGAPE/UPI - well it could have been right. And HOVLANE made no sense to me but had to be right. Now I know a new term from explanations given here. Thanks everyone for an always entertaining blog.

    spacecraft 12:11 PM  

    Fell into the WIDTH trap(p); figured WGT for 1d. Then when I couldn't get going with that I left it and went looking for a gimme: there, 9d. STARR. So, filling in those three corner downs, I'm left with _RES and _RLS. Hmmm. So the 21d clue refers me to 14d...Taking some potshots at a few crosses, I see that this could be DOUBLEFEATURE. Then: "OMG! 'Literal?' What if there are actually TWO movies side by side?" That would explain...yes! OGRES and CURLS! Yikes, you mean he did this ALL the FREAKIN WAY DOWN?!?

    ON BOTH SIDES!?!

    I say again, the genius of some people scares me. Thank God one of these Patricks (how many now, four? five?) didn't decide to become a master criminal. Whew! You fellas just go on amazing us poor mortals with puzzles. I hope the plaudits in these blogs are compensation enough. [now kowtowing, but PLEASE don't try to picture that; it ain't pretty]

    Bonuses--as if any were needed!--: OSCARS (THE APARTMENT); the twin carpenter clues; STARR/STELLAR. One other writeover: SATan before SATYR.

    Stupefyingly amazing.

    Solving in Seattle 1:47 PM  

    My eureka!!!! moment didn't come until the last square was filled in at 62A/21D when I'm trying to figure out what the hell a "Perk for a pool party?" was. I had HO__ANo because my RN was working in the OR. I still hadn't figured out how the double letters related to Lemmon's or Sinatra's movies. Pauer totally head faked me to the end.

    Then I glanced up at 21D again and saw G-U-Y-S as the inside letters going down... then after I recovered from the head slap I gave myself I saw the four movies.

    I can't explain how many ways I tried to make sense of the double letters during the solve. The sheer beauty of this puzzle is that a dummy like me can actually solve the puzzle without getting the "Rosetta Stone" moment. Fortunately, by casting my eyes up and seeing the start of the title I got to enjoy the full offering of this amazing work.

    rain forest 2:27 PM  

    First off, I have to say that @M&A is one hilarious fella. Who is he, really? "Wasted precious nanoseconds", LOL.

    My solving experience was similar to @Spacecraft's except that I resisted putting in WIDTH, and so my first entries were ANY, STARR, and SPA, quickly followed by PANEL, and ABYSS. So there sat -RES, and -RLS. I just knew I was looking at OGRES and CURLS, and because I've been away from puzzling for over a week, was slow to realize a rebus was afoot. So I turned my attention to 14D, and knew it was DOUBLE - something, but couldn't come up with FEATURE immediately (obtusity), but going back to the OGRES/CURLS section, I saw the Sinatra films quickly, checked that the letters fit, and I was essentially done, taking precious nanoseconds to come up with the second Lemmon film to go with THE APARTMENT, which of course gave me LENGTH, and then NAS. All in all, a heck of a puzzle, which regardless of time taken, is quite brilliant.

    Dirigonzo 3:18 PM  

    "No puzzle that features proper names as the theme answers will ever be my favorite..." I wrote that yesterday and I now withdraw the remark and condemn it to eternal damnation.

    I saw DOUBLEFEATURE off only the DEPP cross (note: another movie reference that the old me would have hated on) and then figured The Odd Couple filled the bill as a "double" reference, and either "depth" or "width" would give me the "t" I needed at the top. Luckily, the rebus answers soon became apparent and I got it straightened out but not without some nearly illegible squares due to the write-overs.

    This puzzle made me a RABID fan of PB.

    pauer 5:01 PM  

    Hi, syndication-land! Thanks for the nice comments--maybe I should quit while I'm ahead! ;)

    rain forest 5:53 PM  

    Thanks for dropping by syndiland, Patrick. Btw, ignore the fatuous remark about APR. I thought the clue and answer were just fine.

    WilsonCPU 11:48 AM  

    Three words.
    B. R. ILLIANT.
    Or perhaps: So Much Fun.
    Wowzers. This ranks up there with the CLINTON/GORE puzzle of yesteryear. I agree with the poster who said some of these constructors are scary. Pauer is one scary dude.

    Anonymous 10:43 PM  

    Syndication accolades: Kudos to Patrick B. this is the best xword puzzle EVER.
    Susan c.

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