Figure skater Mao / SUN 8-24-14 / Connie's husband in Godfather / Boccaccio wrote biography of him / Cantor German mathematician who invented set theory / Joseph Anton memoir autobiographer / Lane acting first lady during Buchanan's tenure

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Second Shift" — second and third letters in first words of common phrases swap places. Wackiness ensues.

Theme answers:
  • BLOT ACTION RIFLE (23A: Paintball gun?)
  • LEI DETECTOR (28A: Device that can tell if someone's recently vacationed in Hawaii?)
  • SLIVER MINE (33A: Narrow shaft in a mountain?)
  • BRA OF CHOCOLATE (44A: Item from the Victoria's Sweetness catalog?)
  • DIARY MAID (57A: Anne Frank, e.g.?)
  • ERA OF CORN (73A: "Hee Haw" heyday, say?)
  • SATINLESS STEEL (89A: Novelist Danielle without her glossy dress?)
  • CLOD CEREAL (95A: Honey Bunches of Oafs, e.g.?)
  • CALM CHOWDER (101A: Soup after it's been taken off the burner?)
  • CROONER'S INQUEST (113A: What might determine if the moon hitting your eye like a big pizza pie is truly amore?)

Word of the Day: HARRIET Lane (117A: ___ Lane, acting first lady during Buchanan's tenure) —
Harriet Rebecca Lane Johnston (May 9, 1830 – July 3, 1903), acted as First Lady of the United Statesduring the presidency of her uncle, lifelong bachelor James Buchanan, from 1857 to 1861. Among the handful of women who have served as first lady while not being married to the president, she is by far the best known. (Most of the other women were relatives of widowed presidents.) // The capital welcomed its new "Democratic Queen" to the White House in 1857. Harriet was a popular hostess during the four years of the Buchanan presidency. Women copied her hair and clothing styles (especially when she lowered the neckline on her inaugural gown by 2.5 inches), parents named their daughters for her, and a popular song ("Listen to the Mockingbird") was dedicated to her. While in the White House, she used her position to promote social causes, such as improving the living conditions of Native Americans in reservations. She also made a point of inviting artists and musicians to White House functions. For both her popularity and her advocacy work, she has been described as the first of the modern first ladies, and her popularity at the time is compared to that of Jacqueline Kennedy in the 1960s. The presidential yacht was named for her—the first of several ships to be named for her, one of which is still in service today. // From her teenage years, the popular Miss Lane flirted happily with numerous men, calling them "pleasant but dreadfully troublesome". Buchanan often warned her against "rushing precipitately into matrimonial connections", and she waited until she was almost 36 to marry. She chose, with her uncle's approval, Henry Elliott Johnston, a Baltimore banker. Within the next 18 years she lost her uncle, both her young sons, and her husband. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well you're not going to find a theme with a simpler conceit than this. Are you? That isn't a dare, by the way. Anyway, just the tiniest of adjustments (or "shifts," if you must), and the original answer goes all Transformers (™) on you. This is a dangerous game. if you are going to enter the ring with something this lo-fi, and something that relies on what the Ancients called "humor," then your game better be tight. While this effort didn't wow me, it batted about .500 in the Wacky Humor department, which is a higher average than virtually any other wackiness-depenendent puzzle is likely to see. Kind of a tepid opening, but once we hit BRA OF CHOCOLATE I was like "Now we're talking …" DIARY MAID was a bit jarring, as I'm not used to seeing Anne Frank used for whimsy, but ERA OF CORN was dead-on, as was CLOD CEREAL and CROONER'S INQUEST. The clues are particularly nice. Again, the rule with Wacky is go big or go home. I love the invented products in today's clues. I'm telling you right now that Victoria's Sweetness would do huge (Huge) business. How does that not exist already? A little adjacent candy shop where you can buy the perfect complement to Gift of Underwear? Somewhere there is an EXEC going "oh hell yes." And then there's Honey Bunches of Oafs, a perfect vintage Mad Magazine-type spoof name. True, this puzzle is not a jaw-dropper, but it's entertaining, and the fill (as always w/ Mr. Berry) is air tight. Could've been a bit more colorful, perhaps, but overall this was somewhat north of Satisfying.

Puzzle seemed to be of roughly uniform difficulty throughout, except for the NW, which seriously, if somewhat briefly, threatened to remain a wee white hole. Thankfully I had the LEID in the theme answer, and from that was able to infer LEI DETECTOR, because before that, yeesh. First pass at all the Acrosses and Downs yielded squat, plus I had a 1/4 dozen flat-out wrong answers. OILS for TALC (29D: Masseur's supply); BASS for ALTO (17D: ___ clef); OLD for SAW (32A: Dated). Couldn't remember where Ovid was from. "Virgil's from Mantua, and Ovid's from … from … come on, 20+-year-old Latin education, where are you!?" Turns out clue didn't care where he was from; just wanted EXILE. In the end, LEI DETECTOR settled things. But it was a harrowing 30 seconds or so.

It was a nicely literary puzzle today, with RUSHDIE and DEFOE really classing up the joint. And of course Danielle Steel. Didn't mean to overlook her. There were several names I did not know, but they ended up being names I had at least seen before—names that were recognizable as names one might have, as opposed to some dumb name like EDEL. I mean I know a GEORG Solti (98D: ___ Cantor, German mathematician who invented set theory) and a HARRIET Tubman (117A: ___ Lane, acting first lady during Buchanan's tenure) and a Carne ASADA (83A: Figure skater Mao), so even though I didn't know any of those names based on their clues, it was just a matter of a few crosses before I set each of them in place.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Bob Kerfuffle 8:09 AM  

On the way to beach, no time to read.

OK puzzle, but agree 57 A should have been Bridget Jones.

Had 76 D as LOSS, not LASS, as in "a hit or a miss, a win or a loss." Put in wrong answer even with _SADA in place; after all, if the puzz wanted ASADA, it could have said "Carne ____."

Anonymous 8:09 AM  

"Qua" seems wrong to me. I would have clued it "Whom," not "Who." It's an ablative, not a nominative; it cannot function as a subject.

chefbea 8:17 AM  

Easy puzzle which was great..compared to yesterday's. Finished it last night.

Didn't we just have a discussion about bedew??

Shout out to @acme!!! Wish she would join us again

Glimmerglass 8:22 AM  

PB is, as always, the best. The theme answers made me chuckle more than 50% of the time. I especially liked LEI DETECTOR and CROONER'S INQUEST. Odd how many answers end in LE.

Arlene 9:15 AM  

Quite a puzzle! Loved it!
I got the theme at CALM CHOWDER.

And now we also know that for an entire class of crossword solvers and constructors (Alpha males), the subject of edible lingerie will forever consume their thoughts.

Kenneth Wurman 9:16 AM  

I would, and do, rate this one as "easy". All of the theme answers were discovered after I had the first 3 letters...

AliasZ 9:44 AM  

Edible underwear: Does it pass the breakfast test? In my world, yes!

AS A RULE, I like Patrick Berry puzzles. I caught on to the theme at the CROONER'S INQUEST. It was a fun, but IN A WAY the letter-swapping trick seemed arbitrary to me. Why not the third and fourth letters? Or first and third? Who knows. As it is, I am sure you can guess my favorite theme entry, but I liked SATINLESS STEEL and CALM CHOWDER as well.

Things in the fill that stuck out: BELAY crossing BEDEW -- but am grateful PB avoided RELAY and REDEW. I remember seeing ISAK and CATE a few days ago, although not next to each other. HMOS at times are better experts at avoiding to be care providers. Does anyone still remember the movie "AMMAN and a Womman"? I thought the plural of BONUS is BONI.

I found at least six non-theme entries in which the second and third letters can be switched to make a different legitimate English word, not an abbr. Obviously, words in which the second and third letters are the same, do not count. Can you find more?

Great fun from PB the First. Crunchy enough to keep one's brain challenged, and clean enough not to mumble "Oh no, really?" types of comments throughout the solve.

This is Concerto in G minor for ALTO Recorder by GEORG Philipp Telemann (1681-1767).

Enjoy your Sunday!

Questinia 9:51 AM  

Yes Rex, there is a Victoria's Sweetness
She needs to sex it up a notch but they're probably Berry delicious. Oops she makes cupcake phalluses
never mind. Did not see that coming.

Maruchka 9:52 AM  

First PB to give me agita re: whether I'd finish. How could I not suss the NE? BICARB, BELAY, BRAOFCHOCOLATE did not come. Lullabye is a LILT? Musicians, please advise.

4 googles. Do-overs for SETTLERS (pioneers), TALC (oils, @Rexy), SALES (sells).


I'm detecting some creeping chauvinism, boys. That said, I'm pleased to note that candy panties were a FAD back in my day.

Liking ISAK Dinesen and CATE Blanchett next door to each other. Sisterhood!

Thank you, as always, Mr. Berry.

Questinia 9:58 AM  

@ RooMonster
I got them from "special characters" under the edit menu on my Mac ☺︎

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

Awesome sentence: "I you are going to enter the ring with something this lo-fi, and something that relies on what the Ancients called "humor," then you're game better be tight."

Maruchka 10:02 AM  

@ Bob K - Agree about 57A.

@ Alias - Lovely links you post. Thanks.

@ Questina - Remembering the naughty 70's bakery? Can't recall it's name.

As Lucky RANTS in Waiting for Godot, - QUA, QUA, QUA... here's a link to some qua musings: ttp://

Maruchka 10:13 AM  

That's Https/will.... Sorry. Also, more stuff for the boy in us ...

@ Questinia - apologies for the misspell.

bswein99 10:16 AM  

I found the Anne Frank clue jarring (and Bridget Jones would have been an obvious substitute), but maybe Anne wouldn't have liked the idea of being excluded from the world or whimsy.

Did anybody get BELAY and BEDEW right off the bat? That was the very final thing I got, and only because I couldn't imagine any alternative.

bswein99 10:18 AM  

PS Meant world OF whimsy, not OR whimsy. My keyboard skills are definitely deteriorating.

GPO 10:32 AM  

This was a medium for me. I got stick forever on the middle right side. It didn't help that I wanted TEAMPLAY to be TEAMwork for quite a while. That stretched this out to over 45 minutes for me.

Since there have been so many rants lately, I'll add my two cents. First, the idea that some of the humor embodied in the various puns, wacky answers, etc., is somehow qualitatively better than others, and that there is some objective means by which to measure their relative value, is ridiculous. They're puns. They're all stupid. In fact, the best ones are the ones you hate yourself most for liking.

Second, what is with this complaint that some aspect of a puzzle is "arbitrary"? Is there anything more arbitrary than the whole genre of cruciverbalism itself, or the very act of deciding to sit down and do a crossword puzzle? Why is arbitrary a bad thing? How could you have a crossword puzzle that wasn't? And whom (qua?) is in charge of telling us when that mystifying line has been crossed?

I have been lurking and lightly commenting for a few years now, thinking that eventually I would pick up on this subculture's value system. Hasn't happened yet. I have learned what a NATICK is, though.

jberg 10:43 AM  

SO, PUP, what do you think of this puzzle? Well, it had the best OTTO clue ever, and even the EEL clue was kind of cute. And it was nice to see LEW Wallace here just a day after his novel.

I didn't try OILS because of LEI DETECTOR, but went for TEAM work before PLAY, and the pioneers/SETTLERS thing.

eassy and fun theme-- I'd go above 500 with the wackiness average. The more you think about CALM CHOWDER, the funnier it gets.

C'mon, ACME, Patrick Berry clearly wants you to come back to us!

Fred Smith 10:49 AM  

Re: 32A -- "Dated" --

Fill "SAW" works two ways, i. e. --

- I saw my date (went out with him/her)

- Old saw (out of date)

allan 10:52 AM  

On the tougher side for me, but this puzzle demonstrates why PB is one of the top constructors of the day.

@everyone Are you telling me that M&A is not acme posting under one of her wacky pseudonyms? If not, then @Rex needs to send her a personal apology. I'm just sayin.

allan 10:55 AM  

BTW Era of corn was my fav.

Norm 10:58 AM  

Delightful puzzle.

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

Never thought I could detest a PB puzzle, but this one fits the bill.

This one definitely elicited groans in this household. None of the themers were funny esp 57A.

Makes the Sat. puzzle look even better by comparison.

Z 11:34 AM  

A fun Sunday. Trouble in the NW with tirE and soON before SOLE and ANON (I wish OFL would DESIST from conflating his east and west), but otherwise straightforward solving.

@GPO - Arbitrary, adj; based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system. For yesterday it seems a perfectly acceptable description. Why not drop all the S's, or R's, or some other letter. I happen to have liked the ensuing cluing, so I disagree with the overall assessment, but I understand why he picked that word. At times, arbitrariness is required, so I don't see it as a major complaint in and of itself. And, yes, some humor is qualitatively better than other humor. Some of it is a matter of taste, but I think even lovers of dark humor cringed just a little at using Anne Frank to go from DAIRY MAID to DIARY MAID.

Ellen S 11:41 AM  

Well, since @Questinia started it, I'll contribute this. My hubby and I were watching a nature program, some CGI-thing about a sperm's-eye view of the reproductive process. It seems that at the moment of ejaculation there is some mechanism that slaps a little dab of sugar onto the sperm's tail, kind of like providing it with a bag lunch for the trip ahead. We had been dozing or letting the TV play while we did a crossword puzzle together, but at that point hubby sat up, eyes wide. "Wow!" he said, "If we could figure out a way of making that chocolate, we'd have it made!"

Just sayin'.

Otherwise, I agree with everyone except Anon 11:13, a delightful puzzle. Though I didn't welcome 85D... unworthy of PB. And I'm sure once we have a LEI DETECTOR and chocolate-flavored sperm, it will be easy to invent a way of measuring unworthiness.

And one other nit, maybe I'm wrong, though. My first VW Beetle weighed 1600 pounds. Even adding a heater, radiator, catalytic converter and all the other modern features, do they weight "tons"? Or is that only after you load them up with American passengers? That would do it.

A delightful way to start a Sunday.

crossvine 11:44 AM  

Had a lot of fun with this. My favorites were LEI DETECTOR, CROONER'S INQUEST and ERA OF CORN.

Got the trick at SATINLESSSTEEL.

Had Pioneers forever and reluctantly gave it up. Also started off with usually instead of ASARULE, which messed up that corner for way too long.

I was taken aback by the Anne Frank reference, but I like @bswein99's point that maybe she wouldn't have liked the idea of being excluded from whimsy. So thanks for giving that perspective.

jdv 11:46 AM  

Med-Challenging w/2 errors. EDKOCk and LiVEIN. Spent about 4 minutes tracking the errors down; both errors were my fault. Had TIRE before SOLE and DEEPSIX before SCUTTLE. Punny puzzles are currently my nemeses. My brain doesn't process the puns as fast as I'm trying to type, so what ends up happening is I ignore theme as long as possible hoping each answer will manifest itself as I fill in the rest of the puzzle. Didn't like SMALLCAR; would've laughed if it was GREENCAR. I would rather the masseuse use oils on me instead of TALC. Timely clue for Brady and NRA.

shari 11:48 AM  


Ron White 11:52 AM  

@Ellen - Your husband either anticipated or copied me.

Z 12:04 PM  

@shari - the answer to your question and many others can be found here.

@Ellen S - It seems like PB could have worked AHI in there somehow. As for "tons," I took it as metaphorical tons, not literal tons.

@crossvine - I forgot... I had pioneer first, as well, along with TEAMwork.

quilter1 12:19 PM  

I'm sure Anne Frank would take any whimsy she could get, poor girl. I DNF because I just could not get the BLOT. Had everything else. I really enjoyed all the jokes. Need to start my day with a laugh.

Suzy 12:22 PM  

Latin for "who" is qui, not qua!

ArtO 12:28 PM  

Had to work this from the bottom up. Theme came around CLOD CEREAL and it all proceeded clockwise from there. Was so stuck on the idea of DARK CHOCOLATE (even though it wouldn't fit or work with the theme) that BAR took much too long to get.

But, in the end a satisfying solve and kudos to a constructor who needs no special accolades from me. He earned top honors long ago.

OISK 12:36 PM  

Wonderful Sunday puzzle, and the best of the theme clues had me laughing out loud (era of corn!). Belay and bedew are both "G and S" words…The former, IIRC is used a lot by Richard in Ruddigore, and the latter "While sympathetic tears my cheeks bedew" (from "A wandering minstrel.") in the Mikado. Can't think of ever encountering "belay" outside of G and S.

Thanks, Patrick, again.

Leapfinger 12:40 PM  

@Q-T, Nice finish; you nailed it.
@A-Z, PB 'the First'? Hmm.
...What can you Telemann? Apparently, not much. It definitely wasn't baroquen, needed no fixin'. A lovely LILT for a sunny day morning.
@GPO, there's not unified field 'subculture'; there's an agglomeration of individuals who randomly switch subsets, issue by issue. I wouldn't attempt modelling this system: it would Nothnagel anyone.

Anne Frank? omg. Noir, baby, noirer than noir.
Listen up, LECHER LICHENs. The V of Experience is here to say the CHOCOLATE melts within nanoseconds of contact with skin. Would make for a messy DECOYtage, so fuhgeddabahtit.
otoh, [Honey Bunches of Oafs] alone was worth the price of admission. Coffee-snortin' time.

AS usUal, an APSEoLILTly first-rate Berry LOVEIN; no HEMS, many Haws.

More maybe later; right now, gotta check out that SIN QUEST.

Y'all have a Sunny day, now, hear?

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

People are so biased by the byline...

This is a simplistic theme with painfully average resulting answers. As always, the fill is nicely executed, although this seemed half a notch below Berry's usual bar. I'd be shocked if this same puzzle garnered a similar reaction with David Steinberg's name on it. Beware our collective biases

Lewis 12:53 PM  

In his book, Patrick Berry says the purpose of a puzzle is to entertain, and to me, he does that with his cluing. Absolutely loved (and was entertained by) the clues for PAGERS, DECOYS, LEASE, CLASSIC, CATTLE, OPUS YEAR, and FLIES.

I was thinking "too soon" for Anne Frank. And, I guess, EEL is back!

phil lacy 1:09 PM  

Easy for me
Have to brag as i'm on other end of scale compared to everyonge
First theme I ran into was hee haw

Had earofcorn and thought puzzle was to drop ends of answer yEAROFCORNy
So took a ways in to fix it

Leapfinger 1:21 PM  

Yes @Alias, I found more. Any opposed, please avert your gaze.

OER, ORE [as in mines]

SAW, SWA - abbrev SWAhili
NRA, NAR - abbrev NARwhale
SEA, SAE - SAE si bon
ASK, AKS - AKS me no questions, I'll Telemann no lies [honest, it's out there!]
SKEE, SEKE -conflation Sese Seko Mobutu
SALES, SLAES [He ____ me!]
BOLD, BLOD the Impaler [hi @Deadline!]
CLASSIC, CALS SIC... in to work
ALTO, ATLO - with a tip of the 'ATLO 'AT

Do BEDEW BEDEW BEDEW and CROONERS, too!! More to love.

r.alphbunker 1:28 PM  


Sunday NYT puzzle of Aug 31, 1980 clued AHI with {Vedic sky dragon}

"Is it a bird, is it a plane, no its an ahi!"

Numinous 1:38 PM  

I got the gimmick when nothing other than BRA OF CHOCOLATE, to my utter amazment, would work. Still, it took me forever to swap the O and the L for 21A.. I figured the EEL would excite a few comments.

DIARY MAID stopped me cold in my tracks. Upon reflection I have to agree that she would be miffed to be excluded from whimsy and would have more than a few choice words for the excluders. When everybody I knew in the mid 60s was reading her book they all got so precious and reverent over it and her. I think the saddest thing of all is that the world lost someone who would probably have become a brilliant writer. She was a keen observer and wrote, even as a 13 year old, beautifully. In the end, I think DIARY MAID fits her aptly.

One day, while sailing in rather rough seas, I lost a jib up the forestay while I was trying to hank it on. I was afraid I was going to have to go up the maat to retrieve it. Fortunately someone else had already BELAYed it so it was a simple matter of hauling on the sheet to pull it down. I've BELAYed lines to cleats, bollards, and other handy projections, even tent pegs. As the son of two Marines, I've been told to BELAY behaviors and to forget things that have been said. I guess it all depends on which direction your wheel house faces.

I guess I've always eaten CALM CHOWDER as it's way to hot to eat whiling ROILing. As has already been said, the proper nouns came easily with crosses. N googling for me today and I got some smirks and chuckles out of this bit of entertainment.

OISK 2:11 PM  

@anonymous (12:42) - David Steinberg is a talented constructor, and I don't think, were his name on this puzzle, that the comments would be very different, although someone like me would probably express his delight at the absence of hip-hop artists, computer jargon, sneaker brands, rock lyrics - that frequently pepper his puzzles. Aside from the humor, cleverness - what seems to set Mr. Berry apart, for me, is the consistent absence of Naticks. ( the recent cross of emoji with AJA, which defeated me, I can't imagine happening in a Berry puzzle.)

jae 2:27 PM  

Easy-medium for me.  Struggled a bit in the center were I also had TEAM work for a while, but that was about it.

Did not know the RUSHDIE work or the skater and thought I was looking at a Natick until the crosses came through. 

Really liked this one!  Genuinely amusing theme, sparkling grid, a pitch perfect Sun. from a master.  

AliasZ 2:39 PM  

Neil deGrasse Tyson's quote "It's true whether or not you believe in it," while a catchy slogan and a pithy observation, is a questionable statement at best. The great thing about SCIENCE is that it's ever changing, evolving and developing as scientific methods and technology change, evolve and develop. Thus a scientific truth from as recently as a decade ago can turn into a fallacy today. Scientists can honestly and easily make a 180° turn (some scientists easier than other), but scientists can also stick to their perhaps erroneous beliefs in the truth of science even after proven wrong by other scientists.

Introducing the philosophical concepts of "truth" and "belief" into SCIENCE doesn't work.

First, the truth of science often changes.
Second, scientific proof requires no belief.

When Gustav Holst composed his "Planets", it was scientific truth that Neptune was the outermost planet of our solar system. When I was in high school, it was scientific truth that Pluto was. Today the scientific truth is that Pluto is not a planet. Until they change their minds again.

Philosophical "truth" is immovable, scientific "truth" only until a different truth comes to light and supplants it.

I do not waste my belief in science, which requires no belief to begin with, and in which the truth can change from moment to moment. Instead, I just accept current scientific findings.

I believe in things that do not fall within the purview of scientific proof.

chefwen 2:54 PM  

We had a ball with this one, the fact that Patrick Berry constructed it doesn't sway me a bit, the amount of fun I have solving it is the selling factor for me. I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite, but SLIVER MINE and CALM CHOWDER are right up there. Not too many write-overs, SMArt CAR before SMALL CAR, EER and OER had to be reversed and near before STEP at 111D.

Thanks to all who chipped in on the new kitty's name. We have opted to follow @Maruchka and @Numinous train of thought and Have honored PADDY by naming her Laiki which is rice in Hawaiian. She's not much bigger that a couple scoops of rice. So cute! I feel a new avatar coming soon.

Z 3:55 PM  

@AliasZ - the Truth of science never changes, our understanding of it does. Whatever we may have believed, the sun has never orbited the earth. And I do believe we all put a little belief into science. Anyone here get a flu shot? Run the AC? Drive a car? Use a computer to comment about a crossword puzzle? All thanks to SCIENCE!

Now, would you care to debate the number of angels we can fit on the head of a pin?

On a totally unrelated note - I never realized that rap stars had such deep-seated feelings of inadequacy. Har.

Benko 3:57 PM  

I agree with @anonymous 12:42, and it's not the first time I've noticed this phenomenon. I didn't read the byline and didn't much care for this puzzle, with lame, barely thought-out puns (in my opinion) and blah (for the most part) fill. Then I saw it was by Patrick Berry, and I immediately thought, "Everyone on the blogs is going to be talking about how great this puzzle is." Often Mr. Berry impresses me greatly--some of his puzzles I rank among my very favorites--but this is not one of those efforts. But there is not a single constructor in Crossworld who is considered as untouchably perfect, for better or for worse.
Greetings from Budapest, on a lighter note.

Moly Shu 4:06 PM  

I'm gonna somewhat agree with @anon12:42, and say this was a clear notch below what I've come to expect from PB1. Liked the themes and little dreck, just not enough zing for me.

Discovered the trick at DAIRYMAID, and absolutely loved that. Don't see why Anne Frank can't be poked fun at. It's not insulting is it? Maybe I'm just insensitive. Had the same experience as @Maruchka, trouble in the NE. LILT, DELTA etc. caused me minutes of consternation.

@Chefwen, I was going to suggest Epcot, glad I didn't, I like Laiki much better.

Sir Hillary 4:08 PM  

No one's a bigger Patrick Berry fan than I am, but this is far from his best. While I appreciate the theme density and imagine that the puzzle was a bear to construct, in the end it's a ho-hummer with modest entertainment value. Count me among those who believes that were the byline different, the commentary would be different as well. Just my opinion, which I recognized is not shared by very many here.

Cases in point (and apologies if I missed them in the comments above):
-- SMALLCAR is dreadful, and I can only picture it covered in green paint.
-- Does anyone really say "bar of chocolate" rather than "chocolate bar"? Come on!

wreck 4:15 PM  

I thought the puzzle was okay, but nothing to write home about. For some reason, I did not look at the constructor before I solved it as usual. It never dawned on me it was a Patrick Berry puzzle until I came here. Looking back, I don't think this was one of his better efforts. Still solid, just no "wow" factor.

RooMonster 4:19 PM  

Hey All!
Little late today, as working and trying to suss this puz. Had moments of quick filling and moments of blank staring! Particularly difficult was the TEAMPLAY area, had TEAMwork for the longest time mungling up the works. Managed to fill the whole puz, except the NE corner. Finally threw in the towel and came here. Neat puz, I love OFL's description, "Wackiness ensues"!

Writovers: Had tirE for SOLE, old for SAW, SLipS for SLEDS. IMMUNE for IMBIBEOh, and of course, the work for PLAY.

Some nice misdirectional clues, 39D had me thinking actual rock, once I sussed out CLASSIC,it gave me a chuckle. 70A, SMALLCAR, and 60D, DECOYS were nice clues.

Overall, nice puz, maybe now I'll go watch a ROADEO. Who knew?


RooMonster 4:43 PM  

@Benko, I can think of another constructor that no one seems to find fault with, Elizabeth Gorski. Alot of her puzzles are good, the last NYT she had , though, I thought not good.


Doc John 4:59 PM  

James Buchanan- our first gay president? His relationship with William R. King earned them the nicknames Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy.

mathguy 5:04 PM  

Just for the record, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Enough crunch, some amusing theme answers.

Maruchka 5:09 PM  

@ chefwen - Sweet! Aloha to Laiki and her gang from Trixie and hers. Mahalo.

Z 5:45 PM  

"OK puzzle"
"Easy puzzle which was great..compared to yesterday's."
"The theme answers made me chuckle more than 50% of the time."
"Quite a puzzle! Loved it!"
"I would, and do, rate this one as 'easy'."
"Great fun from PB the First. Crunchy enough to keep one's brain challenged, and clean enough not to mumble "Oh no, really?" types of comments throughout the solve."
"First PB to give me agita re: whether I'd finish."
"I found the Anne Frank clue jarring (and Bridget Jones would have been an obvious substitute), but maybe Anne wouldn't have liked the idea of being excluded from the world or whimsy."
"eassy and fun theme-- I'd go above 500 with the wackiness average"
"On the tougher side for me, but this puzzle demonstrates why PB is one of the top constructors of the day."
"Delightful puzzle."
"A fun Sunday. ..., but otherwise straightforward solving."
"A delightful way to start a Sunday."
"Had a lot of fun with this.
I was taken aback by the Anne Frank reference"
"Wonderful Sunday puzzle, and the best of the theme clues had me laughing out loud (era of corn!)."

These are the pre-12:42 quotes of "praise" for the puzzle. I omitted comments from people who didn't like the puzzle. I count 5 comments that are purely positive. What is missing are complaints about the fill, SMALL CARS and QUA getting a little bit of questioning. Compare this to the frequent rants on fill generated by the 21x21 Sunday grid.

If you have an actual criticism of the puzzle feel free to express it. It appears that the dominant consensus is that we've seen better from Berry but this theme is decent to great (depending on one's tastes) and has clean fill (but not everyone agrees). However, if you are going to accuse people of bias you might want to check your own bias, first. Otherwise you risk sounding like an asshole, and nobody wants to be thought of that way. Or, if you really think we are the biased assholes you could just skip the blog and save yourself the stress of reading the musings of such easily fooled people. Honest, we won't make you read any of our opinions.

Benko 6:01 PM  

Wow, someone sure is sensitive today.
I found this puzzle uninspired at best. Didn't think that the theme was "decent to great", but in fact far below average, which was one of my actual criticisms of this puzzle. I just didn't enjoy it, and feel it would have gotten a much colder reception if had been by almost any other constructor.
Having bias because you like a certain constructor and seeing his name gives you rose-colored glasses doesn't make you an "asshole", and I don't think anyone implied that. Quit being a martyr. I know that makes me sound like an asshole...but I can take the risk.

Numinous 6:04 PM  

Ghoti and Skunk say hi to Laiki and wish her all the best the word has to offer.

sanfranman59 6:22 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 6:45, 6:02, 1.12, 88%, Challenging
Tue 8:58, 7:54, 1.14, 81%, Challenging
Wed 9:14, 9:18, 0.99, 49%, Medium
Thu 17:49, 17:37, 1.01, 56%, Medium
Fri 25:43, 20:16, 1.27, 91%, Challenging
Sat 26:30, 25:21, 1.05, 68%, Medium-Challenging
Sun 34:48, 28:21, 1.23, 89%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:36, 3:57, 1.16, 93%, Challenging
Tue 5:36, 5:21, 1.05, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:04, 6:05, 1.00, 48%, Medium
Thu 12:06, 10:56, 1.11, 67%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 17:41, 13:48, 1.28, 87%, Challenging
Sat 19:31, 17:13, 1.13, 77%, Medium-Challenging
Sun 24:02, 21:41, 1.11, 71%, Medium-Challenging

Carole Shmurak 6:56 PM  

@AliasZ: the title of the puzzle, Second Shift, makes it clear that it is the second letter that gets shifted.

I've never seen SHYSTER as a verb before.

Loved CROONERS INQUEST- that's what gave me the theme too.

Agree that 'who' should be QUI.

AliasZ 7:25 PM  


I cannot find any statement in my comment which needed clarification by you as to what science is and does. I think you may have misunderstood the entire point of my comment, or read it too superficially to follow my line of thought. Cracking an unfitting joke certainly points me in the latter direction. So be it.

I will not bore the readership on this subject any further. Neither should you -- it does not belong in this blog.

Fred Smith 7:46 PM  

Carole S. --

A person can be "a cheat." And can therefore can sometimes can be a "shyster."

Anonymous 11:09 PM  

I do find the cultish aspects of constructor worship on this blog somewhat odd and disturbing. I have been solving NY Times xwords since I was a lad. I don't look at the constructor's name, I could not care less qua the constructor is, and I find the claimed familiarity with constructors more than a tad poseurish. Do you see "little starbursts," (a la Sarah Palin) in every clue, when one of your hero's names is at the top?
Enjoyed today's puzzle.

norbert jay 11:58 PM  

anonymous... I like your comment (and many others of yours) and the misuse of qua which should be quod according to your picked nit about case.

paulsfo 1:23 AM  

Based on seeing CROONER, 'moon', and 'Second Shift", I immediately realized that the theme was Spoonerisms and that, in this case, the original phrase was "lunar conquest." ;)
I also quickly realized that "It starts with a celebration" must be LENT.
Eventually (quite a while later) I abandoned my initial brilliant deductions, above, and solved the puzzle, except for getting Naticked by ASAtA RUSHtIE.
I agree that there were several clever clues; about 8 by my count, which is high.

Anonymous 6:55 PM  

You don't judge a PB puzzle by its theme, that isn't its strength. His genius is in disguised cluing that gives you no idea which direction to go, without the answer being a stretch. This was typical and very fulfilling in that regard. I'm amazed anyone here found it "easy". I finished 100% but it was a battle clue by clue.

Anonymous 7:11 PM  

I was taken aback by the Anne Frank answer. Considering we do not know how she perished or what happened to her beforehand, the assumption that she was a "maid", while optimistic, led to some dark speculation I didn't need while completing a crossword.

muhammad yasir bawani 11:34 PM  

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spacecraft 12:17 PM  

A tough nut for this reporter. Settled in with STELLA/SCIENCE/FASTER etc. and got the trick at CLODCEREAL. But close by, I almost came a cropper with stOMPS instead of CLOMPS. Rejected Ms. STEEL because I thought sure it was STEELE. I guess the -LE from her first name confused me. Anyhoo, got that all straightened out--then had more trouble in the center till I evicted the FLeaS from my garbage and let the FLIES in. (Why fleas first? Don't ask. I haven't had my coffee yet.)

The point's been made, but I'll make it again: never mind the theme in a Berry. Look at the fill. Where are the awkward partials? Where the SEA of acronyms (okay, a couple, but solidly in use)? Where the seemingly obligatory RRN? The uber-obscurity? The overused EKEs and ALOEs? Not to be found! Not in a Berry. The man cares, and it shows. See, guys? It CAN be done!

I don't really get SLIVERMINE's relation to the clue, and the Frank thing has already been mentioned. But BRAOFCHOCOLATE more than restores this one to an A.

279...lessee, carry the one...yes!

Dirigonzo 3:52 PM  

I got the theme very early on when I threw down LEIDETECTOR with only a couple of crosses in place so that made most of the long themers fairly simple. The theme and the puns reminded me strongly of what one might find in a Frank Longo Premier Crossword - I won't go any further with that comparison but I definitely like this type of puzzle. The final letter in was at the ASADA/ISAK cross and I had my fingers crossed when I put the "s" in.

Now I'm off to do battle with yesterday's puzzle which still has two areas with blank squares. I'm hoping a fresh look will provide some new insight because I was dead in the water when I put it down yesterday.

Happy Labor Day everyone - don't forget the reason for the holiday!

I think that's 908, which comes up short of a winner.

Solving in Seattle 4:15 PM  

When I opened the paper and saw that the constructor was Patrick Berry I told Mrs. SiS that I was in for a treat. Had to explain that PB is in a league by himself.

Sleuthed out the trick with SLIVERMINE and the rest of the themers were easierish. The CALMCHOWDER answer made me think of a famous and zany Seattle restauranteur, Ivar Haglund, who had a number of very successful seafood eateries in Western Washington, icluding Ivar's Acres of Clams. His tag line was "Keep Clam."

Question: how does one remove a BRAOFCHOCOLATE?

Go Mariners?

214 - @Spacey takes the pot.

Anonymous 5:35 PM  

Why you'd lick it off of course

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

Although less concise, the theme could have been "Second and Third Shift" ("Second and Third Shifts"?).

Joe V.

Anonymous 11:12 PM  

Challenging but enjoyable with many "aha" moments. My only nit to pick; paintball guns are not rifles, they are smooth-bore.

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