Italy's San __ / Sun 6-8-14 / Bruce of "Nebraska" / Dormant Turkish volcano / Political commentator Liz / Mohs scale mineral

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: *cross out* — Common phrases are clued two ways. The second clue requires you to "cross out" one letter in the first answer, replacing it with 'X', to get a new phrase. UPDATE: commenter points out that, after the puzzle is solved, you "cross out" the letters that spell "crossed out." I'm sure we all have opinions about whether that makes it work. I'm feeling a little sheepish, I guess. --treedweller
Warning: video contains strong language

Word of the Day: SORORAL (88D: Like some twins) —
Fraternal or dizygotic (DZ) twins (also referred to as "non-identical twins", "dissimilar twins", "biovular twins", and, in cases of females, sororal twins) usually occur when two fertilized eggs are implanted in the uterus wall at the same time.
• • •
Happy Sunday, everyone. This is treedweller again, and I am not sure where this write-up is going. I have extremely mixed feelings about this puzzle. As I was solving, I wore a SMILEY FACE because every answer was smooth, without the irksome corners of crosswordese I expect in such a big grid. Mostly, I think, I was just relieved it didn't turn out to be a soporific slog, which is how I often see Sunday puzzles. The pop culture fill was right out of my salad days, making it very gettable and vaguely nostalgic (I saw 91A: "Vision Quest" co-star Matthew MODINE in the theater with my first girlfriend, for example).

Then I got to the end. Solving on the ipad Crosswords app, I was disappointed to find it was not giving me credit for a correct solution. After a little troubleshooting, I just asked for the reveal, where I discovered a mistake--in the software. 102A: [*cross out* Children's song] Ignore the lunch I brought and just eat the fish? was the clue, and the answer it provided was SKIP TO MY LOOX. Then I filled the grid on the NYT site and still got no satisfaction, so again revealed the solution. Turns out it wanted the "cross-out" squares to be written U/X. But that's just silly logistical issues, so I'm not overly concerned by it.

My complaint is, I can't see how the theme works. I liked the clever phrases Mr. Berry wrought with his Xes, but the name of the game is Crossword, and the crosses Do Not Work. For example, 18D: Studies intently is clearly STARES AT. It is not Staxexat, and it is not Starxesxat. So I guess you're supposed to solve with the first clue, then just alter the theme answers with the cross-outs after you're done. Maybe it passes on a technicality, but I call Foul.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: [*cross out* Symbols of happiness] Transmission with colons, dashes and parentheses? SMILEY FAC/XES I was looking to make "emoticons" part of this answer.
  • 29A: [*cross out* Sun Tzu tome] Madame Tussaud's specialty? THE ART OF WAR/X
  • 38A: [*cross out* "Star Wars" character] Where droids go to dry out? ARTOODETOO/X I think this is my favorite alteration.
  • 42A: [*cross out* Gibbons and siamangs] Mountaintop that's not the very top?
  • 56A: [*cross out* Pageant] Circumstances that render someone attractive? BEAUTY CONTES/XT
  • 78A: [*cross out* Pine, e.g.] Dinosaur that never goes out of style? EVERGREEN TREE/X I have to be happy when I see a tree in the grid, though I found this to be less than satisfying as a clever twist on the phrase.
  • 92A: [*cross out* Studio substitute] Squarish bed? BOD/XY DOUBLE
  • 95A: [*cross out* Member of a certain 1990s-2000s rock band] Censor unhappy with "Family Guy" and "Glee," maybe? FOO/X FIGHTER I have reservations about this one based on the fact that the band members are in Foo Fighters, but one member of the band is not a foo fighter. per Wikipedia: "The term foo fighter was used by Allied aircraft pilots in World War II to describe various UFOs or mysterious aerial phenomena seen in the skies over both the European and Pacific theaters of operations."
  • 102A: [*cross out* Children's song] Ignore the lunch I brought and just eat the fish?
  • 113A: [*cross out* After-dinner display] One way to see a pie's filling? DESSERT T/XRAY
Maybe someone in the comments will tell me how to reconcile the crosses and I'll love this puzzle. As it stands, I'm just not there.


  • 68D: Singer/actress Rita MORENO — My mother loved her because of "West Side Story," but to me she was the "Hey, you guys!" lady. 
  • 107A: Warner Bros. cartoon company ACME — I have done my best to remain objective on this one.

*treedweller out*


retired_chemist 12:16 AM  

Yep, error in the checking section of the software. The reveal wanted SKIP TO MY LO(OX) but all the others worked fine with the original across without the X. Found it easy but time spent looking for an error that wasn't there made my time longer than it should have been.

That said, the puzzle was fun to solve. The theme I left until after all was done. Good fill, little c**p, on target for Mr. Berry.

George NYC 12:20 AM  

Agree with Tree re one-way-rebus and I thought it was strange to have artoodetoo correct for both clues. Otherwise an enjoyable Sunday.

jae 12:20 AM  

Easy for me.  SOROAL was a WOE and I had cyst before GLOB, but those where the only hiccups.  My initial impression of this was that it was kinda meh for a PB.  Then I checked Xwordinfo...pretty impressive!

AliasZ 12:23 AM  

I solved this puzzle imagining that the byline had the name of Phileas Schmendrake.

The logic of the theme is off. Since the clue in parenthesis has to be XED out for the theme to work, and the actual clue and its answer requires the X to replace the original letter in a standard phrase, it stands to reason that the crossing down entry should share that X and should be clued as such, instead of the original letter that already changed into an X. For instance, SMILEY FAXES is the actual answer, yet the down crossing at the X is TIC, not TIX. Does this make any sense? It confused the hell out of me.

Therefore I paid attention only to the clues in parentheses and solved it as a themeless. I looked at it the other way for a minute, but I am sure TIX, STAXEX AT, PXINT, CXI, ELITX, MORENX, OLXTIMER, AXDEN and RED HEAX would not have been accepted as correct answers. While it's a cute enough theme, the way it was executed was an epic fail in my book. Sorry Mr. Schmendrake, better luck next time.

The fill was smooth as silk, pleasant and free-flowing, the work of a seasoned professional. I loved the trip-stacked 8's in the NE and SW, the IDIOTIC VAMPIRE in the North, and in the South, the overcrowded private beach that EMITTED NUDISTS. Favorite entry: LOP EARED, favorite clue: "You'll see a lot of them" for NUDISTS.

On balance, this one did not rate better than a B-.

But let me sign off on a positive note, with a brief portion of the anthem The Ways of ZION Do Mourn by G. F. Handel.

Casco Kid 12:28 AM  

My Sunday google-less, complete-grid DNF took 90 minutes, 45 for the SW corner alone, 45 for the rest. One error: a fatal Natick SKIPTOMYLOl/AlDEN. I thought Alden was a decent guess at a poet's name. Should have held out for a-poet-I've-actually-read(-but-didn't-really-enjoy.) viz AUDEN. For punishment, I will now read Funeral Blues . . . Ok, done. The shorter AUDEN: TEENAGERSINLOVE, with one pushing up daisies, and the other ordering people how to Mourn Big Time. AUDEN. Sigh.

The theme, which seemed more effort than it was worth, helped solidify fill, but changed nothing and helped the solve not-at-all. Indeed, figuring out what was supposed to be going on made this PB1 feel more like an elective at PB2's (Patrick Blindauer's) XW Meta University.

I'm as big a fan of PB1 as anybody. But this was pretty flat, and @treedweller's point the crosses are crossless is a valid one.

Next Sunday I'll get my kindergarten report card. We'll see if I've made it out of Rex's kindergarten or if, maybe, a bit more practice is warranted before I face the rigors and expectations of Rex's first grade solving.

jae 12:43 AM  

Ok folks - The crossed out letters spell CROSSED OUT.

Casco Kid 12:55 AM  

@jae, ahhhh! Excellent suss! Ok. Well. Umm. So?

As Letterman might ask, Is this anything?

George NYC 1:00 AM  

That's really impressive. But is it worth the effort? Is PB1 bored?

jae 1:21 AM  

@Casco - Wish I could say I figured it out, but the last line of the Xwordinfo write up revealed it. Apparently, someone had to tell Jeff Chen because he also missed it in his initial comments. And, while I can't speak for Dave and Paul, yeah, that's something.

treedweller 1:31 AM  

OK, that's pretty cool that the letters spell out the phrase. But the crosses still don't work. I'm not sold.

Moly Shu 1:43 AM  

Went through this fairly quickly except for SORORAL. Like @Jae, a WOE. Got the theme and the 2 definitions, but felt unsatisfied. This was, after all, a PB1. So..... I searched the grid and got the CROSSED OUT. "That's neat" I thought, but still felt a sense of longing. Hey, Babe Ruth didn't hit a home run every at bat.

paulsfo 1:46 AM  

Hmmm, the CROSSED OUT thing makes it harder to construct, but does nothing to make the puzzle more satisfying to solve. I think that fundamental point is often missed. I guess that the editor has to take the blame.

Look at some of the clues: "Has ____", "Love's ______ Lost", "Psyche component", "Oxford teachers", "English privy", "Dependable patron", "Odd mannerism". Why not just pre-fill the answers for these; it would be less boring than having to fill them in ourselves?

I guarantee that it would have taken Mr. Shortz less than five minutes to have changed all of the above clues to ones which would at least have taken a few second's thought, with maybe a clever clue or two thrown in. Very disappointing cluing.

Benko 2:02 AM  

Haven't we all seen puzzles before where the theme answers read one way down and another way across? I'm confused as to why this is a big deal. Didn't bother me a bit.

Benko 2:05 AM  

Also, I think the theme entries' first clues were supposed to be the original clues, which work both ways, The second clues show what the phrases would be if you crossed out a letter. There's no need to come up with a resulting phrase for the down entries in this scenario.

treedweller 2:15 AM  

ok, I've thought about it some more, and the fact that you *cross out* the letters after the puzzle, then find another level (that I missed) that justifies it, makes the whole thing work. Slow Clap. It didn't hit me right, I guess.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:35 AM  

Agree with the general feeling: Solving on paper, there was just something disconcerting about the process of putting in the (Down-conforming) letter and then Xing it out to get the revised (Across-conforming) answer.

It was more impressive to discover that the crossed out letters in order spelled CROSSED OUT, but I only got that from Amy at Diary of a Crossword Fiend at 9 o'clock last night.

(When do other blogs post the Sunday puzzle? I always look at the Fiend on Saturday night to get an advance look, compared to Rex's midnight release.)

chefwen 2:50 AM  

Very clever puzzle that I did not get until it was explained to me. Easy to solve using the first part of the clue, after a while I didn't even look at the second part. Oh well, just not that quick on the uptake. Appreciate it now, but while solving it was a big HUH?

I'm with @treedweller and @Alias Z on this one.

Steve J 3:39 AM  

Didn't get the theme as I was solving this, so like @Alias Z I approached this as a themeless while focusing on the parenthetical clues. On those terms the fill was silky smooth and tight, as one would expect from a Patrick Berry puzzle.

The theme itself: Clunky and not really successful. @Benko: For me, the big deal is that this is a *cross*word puzzle: Things are supposed to work in both directions. Yes, there have been other puzzles where things work one direction and didn't in the other direction. I didn't like those, either. While I'm open to all kinds of tricks, I really do think that the crossing nature of crosswords is essential and shouldn't be violated.

The actual X'ing out part is kind of cool, and it's especially cool that the Xes show up to spell CROSSED OUT, but the lack of logical crossing answers is still a blemish in my book.

The clue for 6D immediately made me think of this classic clip.

Danp 5:19 AM  

Worst puzzle theme ever. The format here is 1) explain punchline 2) tell joke 3) let audience imagine punchline is actually in the puzzle, which it isn't because... what? The Xs are too hard to manage?

The theme letters spell crossed out, but there is no clue that the puzzle has this meta-bonus. I wonder if the NYT has 10 solvers who would have looked for that. Might there have been better theme answers had Berry not been fixated on these rare overachievers?

Davidph 6:58 AM  

If there had been a note telling us to look for a meta-answer, that would have upped the interest. As it is, it slipped by almost everyone.

Anonymous 7:08 AM  

Given the clue for 52 A - (antacid ingredient), it is too bad that an answer for 102 A (children's song, etc.) could not have been SKIPTOMYMAALOX

chefbea 7:33 AM  

Finnished the puzzle but couldn't see the theme except for dessert t/xray. I now understand except for body double...what does bod x double mean???

Leapfinger 7:43 AM  

@Benko said it. One that I remember had squares that read 'WATER' in the across entries, 'HHO' in the downs. That one sticks in my mind because of the outcry about HHO vs HOH, but there were others.

Often, when the theme is a phrase clued punnily, some people want the clue to relate to the original phrase, some to the punny version, and some complain if there isn't an explanatory reveal. Here, the PBerry gives us the original phrase, tells us *in every case* to cross [X] out, then gives us the resulting phrase. The only way he could make it easier for us would be to come over and type in the letters personally for us.

As for having a difference between the Acrosses and Downs, that shouldn't be a problem...When you look both ways, you expect to see something different, yes/no?

Loved SKIP TO MY LOX, and completely missed the Easter Egg, DERN it.

Watching TV last night, saw some RERUNS of LA LaX, and for the first time, saw Mad MeX. @JFC, now I understand why you're hooked on the latter

Only had one small grouse: NUDEST was misspelled

@FredRom: There always someone trolling for late nuggets. Sounds to me like only the very earliest blooming of Old Cooterie.

BOXY [sora] Leap

Anonymous 7:46 AM  

Very disappointing Sunday ...solved as themeless..the solves so ridiculously easy I could care less there was a theme.....come on NYT!...aren't you supposed to be the elite crossword puzzle??? .,.would love to know what rex would have said....

Anonymous 8:05 AM  

I'm still not getting the iPad app to accept the solution. can't do c/x, etc. so I just did a cx rebus. no dice. any ideas (all the non-themers check out)?

Casco Kid 8:12 AM  

@anonymous 8:05 using Magmic's rebus feature, my solution looks like BO{DX}YDOUBLE. When my initial tries didn't work, I found my one actual error reported above.

chefbea 8:18 AM  

@Casco Kid thanx!!!

Glimmerglass 8:20 AM  

What is a BEAUTY CONTESX? As AliasZ said, the down answers match only the non-crossed-out letters, and as chefwen said, you can solve the puzzle adequately by ignoring the cross-out stuff. PB is the best ever, but this one misses on the theme. I'm surprised PB didn't work it out so that the down answers were also double-sense (e.g. TIC/X = muscle spasm/Broadway abbreviation for ducats). Maybe not even the great PB could pull that off for 10 theme answers.

Arlene 8:24 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle - took me a while to get the X gimmick - it was WAR/WAX that did it for me.

As for the crosses not applying to the downs - I understand the complaints - but this situation reminded me of a LAGNIAPPE (look that one up, folks, it's bound to be in a future puzzle.) A LAGNIAPPE derives from the New Orleans custom of giving the patron a little something extra at no charge. So added to this standard decent puzzle, we're given this little Xing out interest. No extra charge - so appreciate it for what it is.

And then, just to put a little icing on the cake, you get a second LAGNIAPPE - the X'ed out letters spell CROSSED OUT - another little something extra.

I agree it would have been nice to have gotten a hint about that second treat - I missed it until coming here.

Maruchka 8:38 AM  

Oh boy. I feel pretty S/Tupid. PB1 is a clever fellow and I shouldn't have dismissed this puzzle as far too simple. Did not get the x-out gimmick until reading the blog. Just scratchin' me head and wondering wha, Patrick, wha?

Agree that a little hinting would have been nice and more satisfying ... perhaps something mildly graphical next time.

@Leap - Hmm. Aren't bare-all folks proud to be NUDISTS and, perhaps, THE nudest?


joho 8:39 AM  

I was excited to see Patrick Berry at the top and was not disappointed in the solve.

I thought the theme answers were amusing, my favorite being SKIPTOMYLOX.

For the clue, "Raised on books" I quickly wrote in EducaTED: not! Great misdirect!

I'm not sure if the the clue "Dead Storage" for MORGUE is clever or creepy?

Patrick's puzzle are never scrabbly but this just lacks a Q.

I had no idea that the crossed out letters spelled CROSSEDOUT until coming here ... WOW, indeed!

chefbea 8:40 AM  

anyone doing the vowelless sword in the magazine section??? Just started it.

jberg 8:50 AM  

I liked this a lot more than most of you did, even though I, too, did not get the little extra bit. In retrospect, I think the clued for 124A was supposed to be a hint -- the answer was both XED and 'one letter in each of this puzzle's theme answers.'

I didn't solve it this way, quite, but I think the theme idea is that you solve the puzzle with the clues that are stricken out -- then strike out one letter in each to get the second clue. Since the downs have only one clue, they don't change. (I gather the online version used parentheses for the first clues; in the paper they are actually stricken out, though with a horizontal line rather than a row of Xes.) That's pretty clever and intricate, and works for me. The theme answers are mostly pretty funny, too. SMILEY FAXES isn't quite right -- since you can fax an image of anything, there's no need to make the smiley with punctuation marks.

What doesn't work for me is AGARS. But a fun puzzle, all the same.

Davidph 8:54 AM  

@Glimmerglass: Think BEAUTY CONTEXT.

r.alphbunker 9:02 AM  


To continue your observation: Imagine 9 teensy post-it notes with X's written on them. Each post-it note is the size of a square of the puzzle. Solve for the first clue, then apply the post-it notes to get the answers to the second clue. Also note that the Xed answers are all zany but the unXed ones are literal.

Perhaps another name for the theme could be "The Ploy of X."

"Lagniappe" is a perfect word to use to describe this achievement. I am adding it to my crossword technical vocabulary!

r.alphbunker 9:11 AM  

One more thing. I think it would be better for the theme clues to have the format Cross out {clue1} to get {clue2} e.g.
Cross out Sun Tzu tome to get Madame Tussaud's speciality?

Kim Scudera 9:11 AM  

IPad users: I just entered the answer in its original form (i.e., not "crossed out") and the app accepted the solution.

Which brings me to my big beef with the puzzle, as clued for the app: the answer is the original phrase -- ARTOODETOO) and the lagniappe is the altered phrase (ARTOODETOx). So shouldn't the clues have read

Star Wars character [*crossed out* Where droids go to dry out?]


Once I figured out the concept, and solved it like a themeless with the mental bonus of the altered clues, it was fun and easy.

Kim Scudera 9:12 AM  

@r.alphbunker! Perfect!

Joseph Welling 9:17 AM  

I liked this puzzle. It was a fast solve for a Sunday, and the theme was entertaining (and helpful in solving).

My only complaint: the easily avoidable bogus plurals, AGARS and RUMS.

loren muse smith 9:17 AM  

I've said here many times – I solve the puzzle and write my notes (JEEZ. Think about how nerdy that statement is) before looking at Rex, XwordInfo, or Fiend. Then I post before looking at Xword and Fiend, as I am this morning. Even though I'm seeing a lot of posts talking about the other sites now, I solved this with only One Big Fat Heads-Up.*

@paulsfo – "Look at some of the clues: "Has ____", "Love's ______ Lost", "Psyche component", "Oxford teachers", "English privy", "Dependable patron", "Odd mannerism". Why not just pre-fill the answers for these; it would be less boring than having to fill them in ourselves?" Only the last clue you list was a gimme for me. For "has ____" I actually was thinking a very wrong "nots." Different wheelhouses and all that.

The word that caught my attention and kept it was FILETS for the "fishmonger's cuts." When I was doing my little menus, I was careful to use FILET for beef but "fillet" for fish. Someone had pointed this out to me a while back. But I just sniffed around google, and it seems more a verb/noun or labor/LABOUR thing. Live and learn, huh?

GLOB next to DROOL is gloriously icky. SHOO to either one.

I saw the first part of the trick very early and dispatched the whole thing quickly, especially after I changed "Humvees" to HUMMERS and spelled LABOURS the way those DONS do. Oh, and I had "said" before SAME in that lawyertalk way.

I also had "tax act" before TEA ACT, and even though I wasn't even halfway finished, I had this tingly disappointment, my mind wailing, "Noooo!! Not an X! It can't be!!" Then I fixed it and the world TILTed right again.

@danp "but there is no clue that the puzzle has this meta-bonus"
@davidph "If there had been a note telling us to look for a meta-answer"
@Maruchka "Agree that a little hinting would have been nice and more satisfying"

Said hints might have well been in neon at the top of the puzzle for me – the name Partick Berry.* This shameless PB groupie immediately started listing all the letters that were replaced by X, certain that there was more afoot than just the letter changes. I never questioned it. To have CROSSED OUT slowly emerge was enormously satisfying, so satisfying that I never looked back and considered the complaint about the crosses not working. The crosses *did* work because of Patrick's sleight of hand – he never actually replaced them – he just kinda told me to do it over in the margin, and I did.

So I'm with @Benko, @jae, @joho, @jberg – I really liked this. Ten themers (110 squares???) and they're in order and work with the wacky clues *and* the letters are crossed one-by-one so the phrase appears? Come on! I loved it!

Joseph Welling 9:21 AM  

I'm trying to get the image Retired Chemist's version of the popular old-time children's song out of my mind: someone with a urinary tract infection in England.

DocRoss 9:21 AM  

I really enjoyed the puzzle, but it was clearly meant to solve on paper. All of the complaints I have, and that I have seen here and elsewhere, are about the electronic versions of the puzzle.

In the official iPad app, the clues were rendered as "(*cross out* original answer) Funny Answer." And the software accepted the original answer as correct (except for "SKIP TO MY LOX" for some reason).

The Puzzazz app showed the original clues as typographically struck through, but accepted only the X as correct.

In the paper, though, you get an original clue that is struck through, and an order from the title that says "Strike One." So when you strike (cross out) one character in each clue, you'll see the final meta of CROSSED OUT.

The problem is not with the brilliant puzzle, but with our electronic solving tools.

Muscato 9:26 AM  

A clever enough concept, I suppose, but what surprised me is how very Tuesday-level (at best) it was if you just ignored the theme - until I had to go back and fill in the rebus squares (always a time-eater on the iPad, at least for me), it was one of my fastest Sundays ever, and almost disappointingly simple. A 20-minute Sunday leaves me with anything up to half-an-hour to fill!

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

Anonymous (8:05): the NYT iPad app is looking for the "non-crossed-out" solutions only (ie the ones that work for the down clues as well) rebus

Benko 9:34 AM  

I like it when people play with the format of the crossword. I do probably 2-3000 puzzles in the year and I forget most of them almost right away. This is the type of puzzle I will remember probably forever: "Oh, remember that Patrick Berry where you had to cross out letters that spelled 'crossed out'?" "Yes!"
It isn't fill which makes a puzzle memorable. It's a very clever and unique theme which plays with the preconceptions you have of crosswords which makes a puzzle memorable. I think we got that here.

Ludyjynn 9:50 AM  

@DocRoss has gotten to the CRUX of the matter. You rock!

I solved on paper as per my custom. Call me an OLDTIMER, IM FINE w/ that! But it enabled me to BLOWOPEN the theme w/o getting LOST.

Thanks, @Steve, for the Python clip. Made me SMILEYFACEd.

Thanks, Patrick Berry. You MAKE a HUMMER of a puzzle.

Yikes, the IDIOTIC captcha infamous letters are back!

scm 10:10 AM  

In addition to the core problem that the puzzle DOESN'T WORK WITH THE CROSSES, some of the results didn't make sense either! A Fax doesn't have emoticons! Only emails and texts do - a fax is a copy of a piece of paper. And I don't know if ARTOO alone (without DETOO) is a droid, but if he isn't, then an ARTOO DETOX doesn't make sense either.

Glad someone pointed out the pan-puzzle reveal as the X'd out letters spelled something, but that doesn't redeem this puzzle for me.

AliasZ 10:18 AM  


My problem wasn't with the punny clues and funky X-phrases. That was the fun part, the aspect of the puzzle that I really enjoyed. The cause of my unfavorable assessment was the lack of logic in the crossing words. WATER / HHO made logical sense - they both mean WATER in different languages. That is ingenious. PXINT or OLXTIMER isn't. The ingenious part of today's puzzle was that the crossed out letters spelled CROSSED OUT. The best part was that there was no clue given for this Easter egg, so most solvers (even Jeff Chen) missed it.

- Why do HUMMERS hum? They forgot the words.

Igor Stravinsky composed his EBONY Concerto for the Woody Herman band in 1945. In the above clip Stravinsky himself conducts the Columbia Jazz Band with Benny Goodman as soloist.

By the way, I really enjoyed the vowelless Variety puzzle today. NHTGMS could have been NoHiTGaMeS or oNeHiTGaMes, since they are both pretty rare, and I love HVRT cheese. The one problem I encountered was with VCSCRCLE. I wanted "vicious cycle" because that is the phrase I always use. I also liked the (unintentional?) meta. The last across entry was BaCKToSQuaReoNe, and square #1 across was HaRVaRDSQuaRe. Cute.

Hartley70 10:39 AM  

The puzzle was fine even if a bit on the easy side because it gets newbies started. I'm just irritated because I've wasted the better part of the morning trying to get the iphone app to check what I know to be a correct grid. I've tried every permutation, Grrrr!

Hartley70 10:43 AM  

@Ludyjynn I got numbers. I'm convinced they play favorites.

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

Love PB, but this didn't work. I think he got a little too fixated on the theme and lost sight of the solving experience. Oh well... one swing and a miss is not a strike out!

Anonymous 10:49 AM  

I'm going to vote with the people who say the theme is fine. It is not necessary the crosses work with the replacement X. That's a choice of the constructor.

I recommend today's Merl Reagle puzzle. It does some slick things.

Anon 7:46 am If you could care less, then you care. The proper expression is "couldn't care less".

Masked and Anonym007Us 10:50 AM  

I was X-ing out letters in themers, as I progressed. Wish I could say I noticed the crossed-out letters were spellin something. And also kinda like that I got outwitted, a little bit.

Primo SunPuz. Multiple onion layers. Spooky clever. thUmbsUp. Agree with @Benko-meister: memorable.

My Sunday Stumpy Stumper's theme seems kinda potsy, by comparison. Great minds think somewhat alike. But runtpuzs think more runtily...

Actually, I was mostly just tryin to find a way to out-long-clue @muse.

Leapfinger 11:02 AM  

@Alias: Okey-dokey.

Just for the record, I liked it. Not crazy-mad liked it, but big grin all over my face liked it. If I remember this one [and I will], it won't be like @Benko, but because of all the huffing and puffing that ensued.

My favourite wrong-un was having those twins be SIAMESE instead of SORORAL [Are they Sorora Emerita?], and I have three good reasons for going that way, and they're shedding all over me as I type. All of them rescues, btw, and Baby Boy Baxter is my avatar.

Fill that piqued my interest included NUDEST MORGUE (if we're going to be creepy, let's do it up right!) which Bloomerizes nicely to MODEST NORGUE. Were I to pull an @Alias, that would segue nicely to something by Edvard Grieg, maybe some Lyrical Shtick, but helas, I'm not, so all y'all will have to DIY, should you want it.

Sorry if this was INXS.

Z 11:06 AM  

"The software didn't handle the solution to tell me I was correct" and "I didn't get it" are NOT criticisms of the puzzle. I solve on paper so I always get a little irked wading through the early software complaints with puzzles like these. I get that it is frustrating to think you have an error somewhere when you don't, but that the various apps handle creativity about as well as one expects a computer to handle creativity is not especially comment worthy.

As for the solution, I entered all the crossed out clues' answers (the original clues are crossed out in the magazine) and then wrote out the revised answers post solve. I missed the added touch that the crossed out letters spell CROSSED OUT. Sweet touch. This is a puzzle that needs to be savored like a complex IPA, not guzzled like a Bud Light. Sure, you can guzzle an IPA, but you're missing the fun.

Sloppy Seconds 11:08 AM  


Watch them spoilers for those of us that do the "other" puzzle later in the day.

Mohair Sam 11:16 AM  

I count myself among the many admirers of PB's work . . but, as an English friend says, this one was just too clever by half.

Very easy solve as a themeless, figured the X substitution thing early (WAR/X) and wondered why. Had to come here to find that crossed out letters spelled, well . . . .

Agree with @treedweller and many here - a crossword is a crossword and these did not cross in any way. Yes, we get the clever trick, but since it doesn't involve crossing words it just doesn't work for us - too clever by half.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

Absolutely wonderful puzzle. I want Sundays to be different and am disappointed when they're not clever. IMO, PB's worst day is better than anyone else's best. I wish more constructors would use their imagination - this was delightful!

jdv 11:44 AM  

Easy. Similar to SteveJ, solved this as a themeless by looking at the clues inside the brackets. I thought the fill was great. Really liked the clue for 82d 'Raised on Books'. Never heard of Harlequin Opal.

loren muse smith 11:46 AM  

Spoiler alert to anyone planning to tackle @M&A's latest runt. . .

@M&A – talk about, a, um, shut'em up! You win! One – I'm going to try to be less wordy on my clues. Two – I shouldn't have singled out guys on the towel thing. My bad. (Understand, though, my kids have some friends visiting, and I have identified a definite gender pattern in this post-shower issue.)

(From yesterday – Pop Tart to Pop Tot. As in (popular) Shirley Temple or Honey Boo Boo. Ya gotta work with me here, man!)

One of my first entries was "I lie. . ." for 13A. Har. Ahem. Also, shameless shout-out weeject there, buddy. What a MAssive ego, I say. Anyway – great theme! I managed in 10:04. Reminds me of yesterday – they were haying our front fields so we had to close the dogs in on the front porch for a while. Talk about yer pup deck.

Off to look for my Glenn Miller's Pig Band Era masterpiece. . .

M and Also 11:55 AM  

PB1's pitiful idea of desperate fill:
* Usin both MOTE and IOTA in the same puz.
* Usin both IVE and IVY in the same puz.
* Openin with MOP, after REMOP was already used earlier in the same NYTPuz week. This is known as "unreverse dejavuosity".
* RICO. Wants to buy a PUERTO.
* SCI. Cousin ICS would be much more desperater.
* DAT. Fave weeject, here.
* CANST. Suggests a good runpuz theme, actually.

That's about all I can scrape off the cellar floor of this puppy. Masterful puz makin, Mr. MetaBerry.

Great subbin this weekend, @Treedweller. Like your pro-bullets style, mon amigo.


Norm 11:57 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norm 11:59 AM  

I was confused (a little bit annoyed) by this puzzle while solving it, but I'm liking it more and more in hindsight. I think Z@11:06 just above has it: this was a paper puzzle. It wasn't particularly well-suited to any of the apps, since they require you to have one letter per square (or two side-by-side), but on paper you could put an X over the original letter and see both at the same time. Then, the down answers are still real words, and you have both alternatives going across. At least, that's my take on it. Okay, I'm going with "fantastic" as my review. Thanks, PBerry!

Last Silver Bull Woot 12:06 PM  

@muse: Well, yeah. But shouldn't yer 21-A clue be:
"* Pop ___ (Little celebrity kid?)"
in that case?
Confused the M&A.

Anyhoo, stellar museruntpuz, regardless. Might even be better, with the mystery 21-A touch.
Pup deck. har.


JenCT 12:25 PM  

Well, I liked it too - solving on paper certainly helped. While I use the iPad to solve during the week, I always do the Sunday puzzle on paper - reminds me of solving with my Mom when I first started doing the NY Times puzzles.

Favorite clues/answers:

"Star Wars" character Where droids go to dry out? : ARTOO DETOX

Pine, e.g. Dinosaur that never goes out of style? : EVERGREEN T REX

Dead storage: MORGUE

As Anon. 11:39 said, "PB's worst day is better than anyone else's best."

RnRGhost57 1:01 PM  

A little confusing but different and fun.

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

Loved it. Didn't see the meta. Love it more now.

Anybody else put cOffin for Dead Storage, think, "Ooh, creepy," and feel relieved when it turned out to be MORGUE? No? Just me? OK then...

Anonymous 1:03 PM  

Or TEAtax instead of TEAACT? Or just silly me again?

AliasZ 1:19 PM  

@Sloppy Seconds,

Sorry about the spoilers. The Variety puzzle has been available online since Thursday night, and it never occurred to me that by Sunday morning at 10:00 AM those who do it every week would have still not finished it.

@ Leapy,

Since you mentioned Grieg, OSLO in his time was called Cristiania. Nonetheless, here are his Two Elegiac Melodies, Op. 34.

And now I'm outta here before I get TARRED and feathered.

Leapfinger 1:37 PM  

@M&Also 11:55

I thought the stand-alone RICO pretty cool in this grid. I'll bet it drives RICOh crazy when people call their copiers XeroX machines.

The CAN ST idea doesn't have anything to do with CANnery Row, does it? CAN'T 'AVE that, you know.

Andrew Heinegg 1:45 PM  

Let's talk turkey here. It would probably be best if regular solvers did not see the author of the puzzle until the solving of it was completed. Today we have the estimable Mr. Berry, who turns out one interesting effort after another. But, no one can be on their game all the time and it looks as though Mr. Berry foul-tipped this one. It just does not have any zing to it and, who knows, maybe some editing made it worse. It was a bit of a snoozer.

Tita 1:47 PM  

Anyone else think 82A "Raised on books?" was ElevatED? As in, telephone books when you were too old for a high chair but too young for a regular chair?
Now most folks are too young to have even heard of a phone book, let alone revel in its many uses.

Thought it was a great clue for either answer...

Anyone else think the way you see a pie's filling is DE-SkIRT TRAY? How risque for the Lady, methought.
Since the crossewd letter did not have to make sense in the downs, that was totally plausible...
Actually, i totally forgot to go back and figure out what the EVERGREENTREE would become, because allthe downs made sense and then I went elsewhere.

This was fun, with some great clueing, but not my favorite Sunday ever.
And I agree with most who thought the spellingout of crossedout needed to be at least hinted at.

Thanks PB!

Bob Kerfuffle 1:57 PM  

@Tita -

Your first question reminds me of a "true-life anecdote" I once read in a then-popular magazine:

A Manhattan (NY) family was on a vacation trip in the Midwest. They stopped at a diner in a small town, and when the couple's toddler could barely see over the tabletop, the mother asked the waitress if perhaps they could borrow a phone book. The waitress gave her a strange look, but complied - and brought out a volume the size of a Reader's Digest!

(I've lived all my life in Bergen County, NJ, where our phone book was always at least two inches thick, not quite the three inches of the Manhattan book. But now, there is no phone book at all.)

Anoa Bob 3:01 PM  

I've been trying to look the other way these days when I see a Plural Of Convenience (POC©), where an "S" or an "ES" is added to a word for the sole purpose of boosting its letter-count to make it fit a bigger slot, thereby making it easier to fill the grid.

Used judiciously, I think POCs are like other grid-fill-friendly devices such as abbreviations, partials, foreign words, Roman Numerals, etc. It's their excessive use that, for me, impacts the puzzle's overall quality.

Today's offering had a passel of POCs, too many for me to ignore. I count twenty of them, including a bevy of double POCs in the NW, (where an Across and a Down share a cheater/helper square "S" at their ends), and at least one (SMILEY FACES), if not two (LESSER APES) themers. So this one goes down as "POC Assisted" in my book.

Disclosure: I never paid much attention to grid-fill-friendly devices like POCs until I tried my hand at construction. I can see how this is a non-issue for lots of solvers who are focused mostly on the theme and could care less what kind of "glue" holds the puzzle together.

D Carr 3:14 PM  

Two comments: I didn't rebus, I used the correct letter and it solved properly, so no stray x's in the downs. Second, I thought it was Lou who skipped, and Auden is spelled with a U. No?

Bob Kerfuffle 3:24 PM  

@Anoa Bob - I understand your dislike of POCs in general, but in fairness to the puzzle, the two theme entries you cite both required the plural to work. You could have had SMILEY FAX, but then SMILEY FAC is no good, and of course LESSER APEX absolutely demands LESSER APES.

retired_chemist 3:33 PM  

@ D Carr - yes. The reveal of that square in Across Lite is a rebus: OX. You are right, the answer key is wrong.

Fred Romagnolo 3:37 PM  

@Alias Z: I solve on paper so the warnings about "spoilers" hold. I can't even start til the morn of the puzzle. @Leapfinger: congrats on having rescues, all mine are (3 dogs, 1 cat): for Siamese to be rescues is rare, they're in great demand here (San Francisco). @Steve J.: great M. Python recollect; with me it was Walter Mitty's offhand comment about his broken arm: "no problem; set it myself;" Danny K aye delivered it superbly. I too started with TEA tax, because I had the theme figured out. Nobody has pointed out to the ones who wanted the word "cross" incl. in the hints that STRIKE in the title means just that in bowling scores (or X). Berry's the best, but Reagle's the most amusing. The San Francisco Chronicle has him every Sunday, along with a L.A.Times puzzle, and a crostic vastly inferior to the ones in the NYTimes (Rathvon & Cross, I believe).

Fred Romagnolo 3:43 PM  

@Kerfuffle: San Francisco still has a thick phone-book, but it's getting thinner every year.

Anoa Bob 3:48 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle, points well taken. In spite of my attempt to look the other way, perhaps I'm still POC hyper-vigilant.

Anonymous 4:31 PM  


As a very ordinary solver-sans-constructor, I feel properly shamed not to have sufficiently focused on those egregious PoCs. It was remiss of me to be so distracted by an interesting theme, lively fill and a sufficiency of clever cluing. Now that my eyes have been opened, I agree that the Berryman should have taken a LESSER AXE to this flawed effort.

Or at the very least, PB should have given us LESSER AXES (usually known as "Z") crossing BLOW OXEN.

Wdeluty 4:49 PM  

Worked the whole puzzle out without ever figuring out the theme . Then I came here to find out what the theme was and I think it was really stupid lame and pointless. Pone of the worst themes I have seen in >40 years of NYT puzzles

Question Mark Mysterious 5:33 PM  

@wdeluty: If the theme was so stupid, how come a genius like you couldn't figure it out?

Carola 5:42 PM  

I've been away since early morning with my granddaughters, and was very curious to see what the response to this puzzle would be.

Me: disgruntled,, because of the "x" words not working both ways (solved on paper, by the way). And because I had the nagging feeling I must be missing something - that would be the "crossed out" rebus. Never occurred to me to look at the x-ed out letters.

I also found the pay-off for some of the "x" theme answers wanting: BEAUTY CONTEXT, DESSERT X-RAY, BOXY DOUBLE, FOX FIGHTER. I did like the idea of SMILEY FAXES and of droids going to DETOX. Also that ERIK has his MASK.

@Alias Z - I wait for the Sunday paper to do the variety puzzles - part of what makes Sunday morning Sunday morning :).

wreck 5:51 PM  

Struggled with the theme, but fully get it now that I've read everything here. Would it become moe clear if they would have "circled" the squares requiring the "X?"

sanfranman59 6:03 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 5:14, 6:04, 0.86, 3%, Easy (6th lowest ratio of 230 Mondays)
Tue 8:51, 8:46, 1.01, 56%, Medium
Wed 10:36, 9:54, 1.07, 71%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 12:13, 17:42, 0.69, 6%, Easy
Fri 19:38, 21:06, 0.93, 38%, Easy-Medium
Sat 25:25, 26:13, 0.97, 44%, Medium
Sun 21:29, 28:08, 0.76, 7%, Easy (9th lowest ratio of 138 Sundays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:33, 3:56, 0.90, 5%, Easy (12th lowest ratio of 230 Mondays)
Tue 5:44, 5:24, 1.06, 66%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 7:02, 6:11, 1.14, 84%, Challenging
Thu 8:22, 10:43, 0.78, 13%, Easy
Fri 14:49, 13:00, 1.14, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 17:18, 16:43, 1.03, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Sun 16:43, 20:13, 0.83, 17%, Easy

Lee in Denver 7:08 PM  

I am a bit confused by the "theme." I crossed out the Xs to preserve the first answer and the down crosses. I did not cross out the letters that spelled the meta. My iPad app accepted those single letters; would it also have accepted an X in those squares? Overall one of my fastest Sundays; did I just luck into it?

Anonymous 7:42 PM  

I'm with the "theme does not work camp". The fact is that the crosses need the letters crossed out and so do the "real" clues - the ones not in the "crossed out" section of the clue. So the Xs were...not actually in the puzzle. And thus neither were the wordplay "crossed out" clues. I mean why not add a third clue for ANOTHER theme answer that's not actually n the puzzle? To me it only woulda worked if the theme answers needed the real letter but the crosses needed the Xs or vice versa.

Billy 7:54 PM  

If the crosses are "out," they don't need to work with the xs.

Tita 1:07 AM  

@Bob K... Funny... Yet another big city bias...

Ellen S 9:48 AM  

I loved SORORAL! I used to say it all the time, or incorrectly, "sororical"--the opposite of "fraternal". I am thrilled to find that it is a real word. I thought I had made it up.

Nancy 9:50 AM  

Much more fun than most Sundays. As others said, makes perfect sense when you solve on paper. Wouldn't have wanted to deal with cyberspace solving...but then I don't want to deal with cyberspace solving even when nothing's xed out!

Confused 12:30 AM  

Where is everyone getting the theme as "crossed out"?? I'm doing the puzzle in the Magazine and the title is "strike one".

Not @jae 6:41 AM  

Sorry I wasn't clear enough, but this is what I posted in the sixth comment:

Blogger jae said...

Ok folks - The crossed out letters spell CROSSED OUT.

12:43 AM

Give me some time to figure out how to make that clearer, please.

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

I was so happy to see PB, but was very disappointed in the clueing. Way too easy! Very straightforward clues, no lateral thinking, no twists, tons of gimmes. Compliments as always that PB doesn't force you to share his interests, the proper nouns all filled themselves in from the surrounding context whether you knew them or not, which is how a crossword is supposed to work. Theme wasn't bad, don't understand your objections to it. But the clueing wasn't so obvious and full of gimmes that I got nothing out of this puzzle. 100% filled in a short time, and no pleasure at all.

Charles Flaster 8:42 AM  

Not worth the effort after solving. Finished but very difficult.

spacecraft 11:52 AM  

Awesome synchronicity: The Las Vegas Sun in which this puzzle appears also contains an article about, a group of builders. What do they build? Why, ARTODETOOs, of course!

Though OFL lists the theme title as "Cross out," the title on my copy reads "STRIKE ONE." That, together with the revealer clue, seems to indicate that a letter should be removed, not replaced by an X or anything else. To that extent, This is the first time I've ever encountered a misdirect in the theme statement itself. Of course, once I had the first one (FOO/XFIGHTERS, because I happened to see the "Picnic" playwright gimme INGE first), it was clear what to do. I was a bit disappointed when the downs didn't work; MORENX just won't fly. Wow, imagine if I'd started in the NW and found TIC/X--I'd have wondered why there weren't two down clues as well.

Yet Berry redeems himself when you discover that the XED (ouch, I still hate that)-out letters spell CROSSEDOUT. This adds the extra dimension that the non-fitting downs took away.

As is usual with PB, this was easy to do not because of dumbed-down clues but because of that smoothly-flowing fill quality we have come to expect. And EVERGREEN T-REX? What a hoot! I am glad Patrick's a REGULAR. REHIRE him many more times!

*sigh* apparently, the NOLIMIT poker game is over. All we have is more of those atrociously-photographed addresses. I don't know who does these, but Ansel Adams he is NOT.

Dirigonzo 3:50 PM  

I solved it, I liked it; I didn't fully understand the intricasies of the theme until I came here. Sometimes the elegance of a puzzle surpasses my ability to appreciate it.

Anonymous 4:25 PM  

@docross...... glad someone noted the title is Strike One, not Crossed Out.

Seems odd that every other reference is "crossed out". Poor titling, IMHO.

I just filled the paper version without the X's, and in many cases, didn't see the logic of the X (i.e. after dinner display is a dessert X-ray? Not exactly I think a dinner crowd would enjoy.

At least the crosswordese was gone from this one. No "ono", no "eel", no "hie" (what does that even mean?)

Still, I finished it, but didn't really get an "ah" feeling except that its over.

rain forest 7:09 PM  

I'm a little bewildered by the number of commenters who seemingly can't understand how the theme works in this puzzle. It actually seemed straightforward to me, in a pretty easy puzzle.

I didn't see that the 'crossed out' letters spelled anything, but I had a complete puzzle without that.

It's kind of nice to have a Sunday that is not like a forced march.

Pair of 5's in my three-number address.

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