Sorrowful 1954 Patti Page hit / WED 10-15-14 / Drifter of literature / Potent potable in Arsenic Old Lace / Astronaut Wally first person to go into space three times / Greece/Turkey separator

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Constructor: David Poole

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: CHUCK BERRY (56A: One of the original Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, whose name is a hint to the answers to the four starred clues) — "BERRY" has been "chucked" out of four phrases:

Theme answers:
  • HUCKLE FINN (17A: *Drifter of literature)
  • ELDER WINE (28A: *Potent potable in "Arsenic and Old Lace")
  • STRAW BLONDE (33A: *Nicole Kidman, hairwise)
  • RASP BERET (43A: *1985 Prince hit)
Word of the Day: HUCKLE 
[Perh. dim. of Prov. E. hucka hook, and so named from its round shape. See Hook.]
1. The hip; the haunch. 
2. A bunch or part projecting like the hip. 
Huckle bone(a) The hip bone; the innominate bone. (b) A small bone of the ankle; astragalus. [R.]  Udall.

Read more:
• • •

I don't have too much to say about this one except that the theme just doesn't work. I want it to work. I love the revealer—that is, I love the idea of reimagining CHUCK BERRY as a verb phrase. The problem is that when you chuck the berries, nothing interesting happens. You just have meaningless phrases without BERRY in them. There's literally nothing interesting about them, or their clues. If you're going to serve up nonsense, at least give a wacky clue. Something? This manages to take a potentially great concept (turning CHUCK BERRY into a verb phrase) and paint it beige. Also, this puzzle made me look up HUCKLE, because man does that answer seem like an outlier (all the other berry-less theme answers seem to be composed of real words, whereas HUCKLE FINN, what the hell?). And it turns out HUCKLE is an actual word. Ish. Sort of. I mean, it is, but not one you've likely used ever. Or seen outside of berry contexts. But it's kind of a cool word. I'm going to use it now to refer to any orthopedic pain I might have. Hip pain is so pedestrian—I'm gonna tell people I have hucklealgia. To which people will respond either by saying "Uncle who?" or by quietly walking away.

SCHIRRA (1D: Astronaut Wally, the first person to go into space three times) seems like weak fill to me, in that "first person to go into space three times" doesn't feel like a thing. I'm sure it's a tremendous accomplishment—I haven't been into space even once—but lots of people have been into space, and "first to three" doesn't pass the crossworthy test, for me. Overall, the fill is not bad, but not remarkable either. If your grid is this theme-dependent, and the theme clunks this badly, well, that's a problem. But hey, I learned a few things. Beyond the meaning of "huckle," I learned that planes park in APRONs (seriously, did not know this) and that the big TOE is called "hallux" in Latin / medicalese. I'm not sure I'll remember any of that. Well, I'll remember huckle. I'll always have huckle. Don't you (ba dum dum da dum dum) forget about huckle. Etc.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Whirred Whacks 12:07 AM  

This puzzle's concept: meh.

I did like the clue for 52 across: "Like preserved flowers and writers under deadline." PRESSED.

Anonymous 12:21 AM  

The clue for 32D, "Tea choice for TV's Frasier Crane" befuddles me. Let's suppose that I were some kind of Frasier Crane fanboy freak, one of the 3 out there. Would I really have needed the "TV's" part of the clue? Does gratitiously inserting TV's in the middle of a clue give it needed gravitas?

Suppose on the other hand I am not one of the 3 freaks, i.e. I don't know what friggin tea Frasier Crane pretended to drink. Does anything after "Tea Choice" matter?

jae 12:22 AM  

Easy-medium for me.  Got the "sans BERRY" theme quickly and waited for the punch line.  I was not disappointed.   This one hit a few sweet spots... my graduate alma mater (spent 4+ years in ChamBana), one of my favorite TV writers (Sports Night was one of his best), a rock and roll legend...liked it. 

wreck 12:22 AM  

I thought the theme worked fine. While not "exciting" examples, in everyone of the theme answers, the "chucked berry" was pretty obvious.
I'll agree the puzzle overall was "meh" and pretty darn easy.

ZenMonkey 12:25 AM  

I thought it was fun, mainly because I like wordplay clues that I can try to solve without any crosses.

Wally SCHIRRA was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, a major figure in Wolfe's "The Right Stuff" as well as the movie. If you're talking astronauts and "Wally," there's only one obvious answer, like his compadre astronaut John ("GLENN.") And I'm by no means an expert on this stuff.

His inclusion in the puzzle seems fine to me based on his role in science as well as pop culture; perhaps the problem is the choice of such a banal clue.

John Child 12:25 AM  

I liked the missing berries, but never heard of RASPberryBERET. My education for the day. Better than Eiffel Tower topper. Significantly easier than yesterday for me.

Moly Shu 12:28 AM  

3 really good puzzles in a row, IMHO. CHUCK the BERRY? I think that's great. Liked HOKEY and REDHOT. Also learned the definition of ANODYNE.
Going in to space 3 times and being the first person to do it ? Yea, pretty big deal. Beyond crossword worthy. And, airplanes park on APRONs, not in them. C'mon @Rex, you're better than this.

Whirred Whacks 12:30 AM  

Also, I did like the reference to KONRAD Adenauer, West Germany's post WWII Chancellor. My favorite Adenauer quote is:

"A thick skin is a gift from God."

Yes, indeed.

Steve J 12:33 AM  

The payoff on this one was well worth whatever weirdness existed in the theme answers. I had filled in all four before getting to the revealer, wondering what the hell was going on (I thought rebus, but obviously that didn't cross correctly). When I filled in CHUCK BERRY, I literally laughed out loud and thought to myself that that's one of the best reveals I can recall.

Very easy puzzle, and there's nothing outside the reveal that jumped out at me, but enjoyable nevertheless.

retired_chemist 12:34 AM  

Enjoyed it. Got the theme early and that helped. The puzzle was published in the week of Chuck Berry's birthday (October 18); it would not have been an appropriate Sunday puzzle, so ON his birthday this year wasn't on. I wonder what year Oct. 18 last was on a Tuesday - maybe that was the year this puzzle was submitted.

A wide variety of answers IMO. Opera, a basketball trivium, HG Wells, country, pop (AIMEE, and so I assume, RASPBERET), a stage classic, and more. Always good to have a challenge like that. Keeps you on your toes, and I bet d**ned few of us were familiar with all of these.

Thanks, Mr. Poole.

Casco Kid 12:50 AM  

Lightning fast here. Resistance-less. Monday difficulty, and Monday chortle-worthy with the campy CHUCKBERRY revealer. And I'm reminded what a hallux is. And the blog is working. I'm camping happily.

AliasZ 1:36 AM  

This puzzle played on the easy side for me, maybe a little easier than yesterday's.

HUCKLE FINN - Hip Lahti native?
ELDER WINE - Aged Bordeaux?
STRAW BLONDE - "La fille aux cheveux de lin" DECLAWED Debussy?
RASP BERET - Cap with laryngitis?

Perhaps clues like this would have made the theme a bit more enticing, but ultimately it did not matter to me, I think the theme was cute and original.

The fill is quite satisfactory as well. I liked SCHIRRA, TYPESETS, TOUCH-UP (although I think retouch is more common), EARL GREY and ASCRIBES, and the nice open spaces in the four corners. I also like a shapely BIKINI if nothing has SAGGED yet. The word DECLAWED is fine, but it's an inhumane procedure from what my cat Claude told me.

I also enjoyed the HOKEY YAHOO RUBES scattered around, and HUCKLEberry reminded me if Phil Rizzuto.

As promised, here is the STRAW BLONDE by Clawed Debussy.

Leapfinger 2:17 AM  

Jaschur, Heifive on DE CLAWED Debussy, @Alias! Perfect to hear just before going to sleep.

Too funny, the opening ad was a commercial for (?) something by the Ferraris in Queens. Should have been by the PORSCHEs, no?

Anonymous 2:24 AM  


Rex wasn't complaining about the clue, he was claiming that Wally Schirra doesn't pass the "crossworthy" test. I agree with you that this is silly.

There's often a bias towards movie, music, sports, and literary trivia. Whereas history, geography, and similar fields of knowledge get short shrift. Roger Taney was a recent example who was claimed to be "obscure".

Anoa Bob 3:16 AM  

I wonder if ELDER WINE would be a good ANODYNE for HUCKLEalgia in older folks.

Is it just me & OTROS RUBES who pronounce RASPBERRY "razzberry"?

It must be some long-forgotten olfactory blast from the past that keeps drawing my eye back to SMELLY BIKINI.

Hartley70 4:29 AM  

Easy Peasy, but really liked CHUCKBERRY who I heard perform in the 60's to a small gathering. My Clue of the Day goes to "takes your breath away" for BOA. My unknowns were RASPBERET because Prince falls into a time slot when I was operating in another zone (babies, law school, who knows?) and ELOI but easy from the crosses.

Charles Flaster 5:50 AM  

EZ.Should be Monday.Clues were a little too straightforward.
CHUCK was both a noun and verb I haven' t used since my 1950's Bklyn days.
A chucker is someone who shoots too much in basketball.To chuck is to eliminate someone from a team( usually not in a nice way).
Now Chuck Berry was our idol. Loved his "Sweet little sixteen", "Back in the USA", "Nadine" and many others .
Puzzle definitely was nostalgic for moi.
Thanks DP.

Anonymous 6:25 AM  

It could have been clued more difficultly, a la AliasZ above, but this was a good Wednesday puzzle. Easy solve, with enough crunchiness to please, IMO. As Elvis said, thank you BERRY much, Mr. Poole.


LHS 888 6:33 AM  

Easy for me as well. I figured out the "berrylessness" with HUCKLEFINN, but I'm with @Steve J in really enjoying the payoff of the revealer. Write-overs: SONd > SONE, Cork > CLOT, eons > AEON, eTROS > OTROS. Still finished in faster than normal Wednesday time.

Lots of fun words in this puzzle. Thanks DP / WS.

Gill I. P. 6:42 AM  

ISLE SAYS whoever DELT the BOA clue gave me a CHUCKle.
If the second digit of your hallux is the longest, does that mean you have a SMELLY TOE ?
This seemed right up the Wednesday alley...not too difficult and not too easy. Good job señor Poole.

George Barany 7:20 AM  

This puzzle by @David Poole was about as good as they get for a Wednesday. CHUCK_BERRY, author of Sweet Little Sixteen, successfully sued the Beach Boys for using the identical tune on Surfin USA. As for Wally SCHIRRA, he was about as close as they come to a rock star in the heady early days of the American space program.

@Rex's suggestion that this puzzle could have used some punnier clues is brilliantly echoed by @Hayley Gold's webcomic about it.

Last, a hearty "Happy Birthday" to a regular commentator to this blog.

Leapfinger 7:28 AM  

@Rex, ad astronaut per aspersion? Not me, I say Hip Hip SCHIRRA! As a matter of fact, I CRIED 'YAHOO' for the entire lively NW, which all by itself includes opera, geography, literature, a Hungarian reference and wordplay!! Yes @ret_chem, great range!

Caught the theme when HUCKLE only had 4 more spaces left to fill, and I saw we'd have to Bury BERRY,and I really liked that. I'm sure lots of people remember that sailors on long voyages would get a lime with their daily grog to avoid beri beri, but this sweet puzzle has no thiamine deficiency, nor any other vitamin!!

More good stuff:
!Ortho refs! DELT, TOE/Hallux, thumbs up, @Casco! Or maybe pollux up!
!BOA: Shades of "The Little Prince"! Can everyone tell the difference between a drawing of a hat and a boa that swallowed an elephant? Great clue!!
!REALIST! Stephen's reminder when grocery shopping?
!RAPIDS on the Neuse River! I've shot 'em!!
!SAGGED? I have! But there's a REDHOT BIKINI shot to prove that wasn't always true!! YUL be glad to know, @AliasZ, that photo underwent no TOUCHUP, but yesterday I was TOUCHed UP for $20!!

Aside from RASPBERRY sounding like RAzzBERRY, so does RASPBERET, don't you think? Whatever, they're my favourite BERRY, and all disappear quickly around me!

Perhaps I won't even mention UKR and the ms-spelling of HOcKEY [which is, after all, a Canadian game], because this was a Bloom I Loved!!

Surprised though that nobody has brought up Patrick so far. Call me on my Black (and Blue) and have a great day!!

Leapfinger 7:31 AM  

'Please prove you're not an idiot', says my captcha. Sheesh!

George 7:52 AM  

In the United States, the areas where planes are parked are now usually referred to as 'ramps,' but some other countries still refer to them as 'aprons.' I think the term 'apron' is a bit archaic, at least in the US.

Susan McConnell 7:54 AM  

Best reveal in a long while. Annoyed my husband with the number of times I repeated "CHUCK Berry....get it?"

joho 8:01 AM  

@George Barany, thanks for Hayley Gold's webcomic: brilliant! It beautifully illustrates how this already fun puzzle could be "funner" and punnier.

Thank you, David Poole, for the chuckle I got at CHUCKBERRY!

joho 8:06 AM  

@Rex, Huckleagia: hilarious!

Mohair Sam 8:11 AM  

Fun Wednesday with a nifty theme.

Old Rex getting castigated here over his SCHIRRA silliness. Well-deserved. Hell, lots of people have circumnavigated the globe - who's this Magellan guy? He ain't crossworthy.

@anon 12:21 - 37D a great clue: Frasier Crane was played as a snoot, EARLGREY sounds snooty. I didn't know the character drank tea (thought tea was banned in Seattle) but the highbrow sounding EARLGREY easily sussable off a letter or two.

Got FINN quickly and slid in mickeyFINN for a second until Wally saved us. Saw a local college production of "Arsenic and Old Lace" last month so ELDERberryWINE as super gimme.

Agree with @Moly, three really great puzzles in a row.

Z 8:13 AM  

For all you Prince fans out there. "She came in through the out door."

I did not realize that Frasier and Jean-Luc Picard shared tastes in tea.

Only slow down was thinking "attributes" was "attributes." Noun? Verb? Long A or short? Where's the stress. Inquiring minds want to know. Otherwise - agree on the Monday/Tuesday feel for this one.

Anyone here familiar with Hanlon's Razor? "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." I may just get that one tattooed on my HUCKLE.

JohnV 8:31 AM  

Pretty easy stuff here, around 10 minutes which is crazy for me on a Wednesday. Liked the surprise missing berry idea; not breathtaking but interesting, for a Wednesday.

jberg 8:45 AM  

This was a nice sequel to the 'twist' Sunday puzzle we had a few weeks ago, which also had Chuck Berry as a revealer. Who would have thought there were two ways to go with that? So I enjoyed it for that alone.

As for punny clues -- first of all, they're neat, but you lose the theme if you do that. If you clue an old wine as an old wine, you aren't CHUCKing the BERRY anymore. Second, that wasn't Rex's point -- his point was that the answers, not the clues, should be funnier. Maybe in a perfect world, I'd say, but I was happy with this one.

On the subject of literary interpretation, I also didn't think Rex was saying Wally SCHIRRA wasn't crossworthy, just that 'first to go into space three times' wasn't the right way to identify him. As someone else said, "Astronaut Wally" is enough.

And then Patti Page! YUL Brynner! Figures from another AEON.

What I didn't like was ANODYNE. Perfectly good word, but completely unknown to me as a child, when I had to try to spell it in the Wisconsin state championship spelling bee. I figured it must be antidine, I think, and went down in flames.

Sir Hillary 8:45 AM  

Easy and fun. I solved top to bottom. Like @Steve J, I was surprised and pleased by the revealer, even though I knew it would have something to do with AWOL berries.

Not a damn thing wrong with SCHIRRA.

At the risk of cultural heresy, I'll take Elton John's ELDER[*]WINE over Joseph Kesselring's any day of the week...and twice on Wednesday.

Lewis 8:49 AM  

Agree with @zenmonkey re Wally SCHIRRA, and agree with @SteveJ re the payoff.

Sixteen double letters -- that's remarkably high, if you're keeping stats. The puzzle never felt like it SAGGED to me, kept me on my toes. No super interesting words, but the overall puzzle was a joy.

One BERRY I would not like to chuck is Patrick.

Nancy 8:55 AM  

Very easy for me, too. I got HUCKLEFINN right off the bat, so was looking for a BERRY revealer and there it was, right on cue. A cute puzzle that consumed almost none of my morning. Looking forward to tomorrow, I hope, for more challenge.

dk 8:55 AM  

🌕🌕🌕 (3 mOOOns)

BERRY good Wednesday. Thanks David

Andrew Morrison 9:00 AM  

Oh - you CHUCK the BERRY. I got the 'drop the berry' part right away, but it seemed nonsensical. 'Why is Chuck Berry in this puzzle?' thinks me. Now I see.

Gotta join the Rex-bashing on SCHIRRA. He is 1,000,000 times more worthy than, say, any music critic. Or rapper, for that matter. Plus, what a great combination of letters.

I feel like having a nice cold glass of Tang right about now.

Anonymous 9:03 AM  

re: Bloom I Love

cf Paul Mazursky's "Blume in Love" starring George Segal and the wonderful Susan Anspach. Released (not re-let) in 1973, that also trends ELDERly, but a clever connection nonetheless.

edwords 9:08 AM  

A better way to clue Schirra might have been "the only astronaut to have flown on Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions," which is a far more interesting accomplishment, IMO.

Lewis 9:19 AM  

Factoid: The LEEK was the favorite vegetable of the Emperor Nero, who consumed it in soup or in oil, believing it beneficial to the quality of his voice.

Quotoid: "Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright." -- AARON Sorkin

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

Isn't all STRAW BLOND[E]?

DBlock 9:26 AM  

And any time we can think of Starbuck as a literary character and not a place to buy overpriced, bad coffee is good by me -DB

quilter1 9:27 AM  

SCHIRRA is absolutely fine. @Rex is too young to remember how amazing it was to be an earthling during the early days of space travel. This puzz was dead easy for me, twigging to the BERRY trick right away. I even got the Prince clue, although I have no memory of ever hearing a Prince song.

chefbea 9:30 AM  

Got the theme right away but have never heard of raspberry beret. Love chum Berry.

Time to put on my apron and make some dill pickle and some vichyssoise.

chefbea 9:31 AM  

meant Chuck Berry

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

I remember the HOKEY pokey, but wasn't there also a HUCKLE buck?

Newbie 9:54 AM  

Would have said "Easy" for me, except DNF. Never heard of Illini, and with the letters _A_EL for "one third of triptych" I put in Easel, which didn't seem right, but fit. So instead of Apron I had Aeron - somehow the Aero seemed possible! That left me with Illisi - and since I know nothing of sports, well...
Found myself surprised at Typeset, since I'm old enough to remember type being set, and didn't realize the same word is still used for composing text on a computer! (Guess it's like "rolling down your car window" when it's actually electric and you're pushing a button.)

oldbizmark 9:56 AM  

i don't see how this is possibly a medium. this was the easiest of the week, by far. the theme was easily discovered with H. Finn and all the others then became apparent, opening up the entire puzzle for a quick solve. I thought yesterday's was much more difficult. The BANDSHELL/BANDSTAND possibility was enough to slow things down a bit, among other somewhat obscure short answers.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:03 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle a lot; thought it was a "cut" above the typical Wednesday.

I'm glad at least @Z made reference to Captain Picard. Must be other Star Trek fans!

chefbea 10:04 AM  

@Anon 9:53 Yes, I think there was a huckle buck. I'll have to google it

chefbea 10:12 AM  

I googled huckle buck and got this...It's priceless...Norton teaching Ralph Cramden how to do the Huckle Buck.

Ludyjynn 10:18 AM  

After yesterday's frustration--tried posting comments 3x and then gave up, coupled w/ the Os 3rd straight awful loss, today was an easy, breezy Wed. As a REALIST, I fear that nothing short of an AIRSEA rescue will save them.

Before I forget, I was a bit surprised to see SMUSH on Tuesday's grid, as the term has come to mean having sex in slang-speak since the introduction of the low-life characters on MTV's "Jersey Shore". Snooki and the others stated and showed their fondness for "smushing" on a regular basis. BTW, none of the leads was actually from NJ, thank goodness.
SMUSH did go well w/ ERECT, HEHE.

Liked the theme from the outset. Had no problem w/ the "Frazier" clueing, as the show has been syndicated for years and can be seen, marathon style, M-F mornings. Apparently, there are more than 3 fans out there still watching! JC Picard, as noted, would also work, since "Star Trek, TNG" is on a regular viewing loop, as well.

Thanks, DP and WS.

Z 10:19 AM  

My first thought on Starbuck is always "Adama" and I never watched much of either version of Battlestar Galactica.

As for being the first to space three times, that anyone would consider such an accomplishment mundane is pretty amazing.

mac 10:28 AM  

Very good Wednesday, easy solve.

My only nit is that straw blonde is a thing, without the berry.

J McHale 10:31 AM  

One actual native of New Jersey was Wally Schirra. I could not miss the name or its spelling since I drive on Schirra Drive in Oradell,NJ almost every day.

GeezerJackYale48 10:38 AM  

Mohair Sam summed it up pretty well in chastising Rex for not appreciating Wally Schirra's accomplishments. He is probably too young to have sat spellbound watching Neil Armstrong's "first step" on to the moon.

Twangster 10:41 AM  

Interesting that huckle is a word. FWIW The Hucklebuck was a popular song and dance craze.

BioAnalyte 10:42 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Casco Kid 10:50 AM  

@Lewis Excellent quotoid. Shall you change the wiki citation, or shall I? ;)

AVC was another rule breaker this week. Unsussable, ungoogleable. Even after you get the trick (in my case in the post mortem), the cluing doesn't really hold it together. It is solvable, I guess, if you get the trick earlyand use the cluing for word association. My solve was themeless and doomed.

Doug Garr 10:56 AM  

I liked this puzzle fine. Maybe Rex would have been happier if the clue jus read "Astronaut Wally." Seems like a needless snivel to me. I had plug and clog before clot dawned on me. I had babbled before blabbed. Forgot who Ben was though I could picture his face. And I knew Konrad and Yul because I'm a lot older than Rex. There didn't seem like a lot to complain about. I guess that's why there were so many meh comments.

r.alphbunker 11:00 AM  

Happy Birthday Arlene. It's nice to hear how people use technology to improve people's lives.

Not sure why @RP doesn't have a link to Hayley Gold's webcomics site.

Some great punny clues from the past
APRON Child protector?
EDS Post office workers, for short?
OAF Dropper?
RUBES Sticks figures?
TOE Digital print source?

chefbea 11:02 AM  

@Twangster see the clip I's a riot!!!

SenorLynn 11:26 AM  

NASA sent the Voyager spacecraft beyond our solar system,carrying recordings of our world on a gold phonograph disc. Included were babies crying, laughter, Chuck Berry, Beethoven, and so on.
Another civilization finally came across our explorer, and decided to contact us. NASA began receiving a four-word measage,over and over, across the vastness of space:


Anonymous 11:38 AM  

BALE Christian?

Andrew Heinegg 12:07 PM  


RooMonster 12:11 PM  

Hey All !
Took a second or two to get the theme. Actually sussed it on the Prince clue! Now, I'm not a Prince fan, but growing up in the 80's, you heard plenty of him and Michael Jackson. So, yeah. Nice revealer, I like how names or phrases like that have to be interpreted literally. Fairly straightforward puz, filled easily. Only a couple of writeovers, had BabblBED. for BLABBED, but knew BOb or lEN wasn't right! 19A, pLug, then CLOg, then CLOT.

Nice corners, a LITTLE strained in the middle.

HELLO, I must be going.

old timer 12:33 PM  

I came to the blog expecting Rex to praise the clean fill and admire the concept, just about perfect for a Wednesday.

Instead, we get to watch Rex play with his ding-a-ling.

Happy birthday, Mr. Berry!

Carola 12:35 PM  

As I began filling in HUCKLE, I thought I might be sketching in a little BERRY, until I ran out of room. I wondered how the constructor was going to deal with "lose 'berry'" - never saw CHUCK BERRY coming. Terrific reveal - loved it!

Also thought there were many nice non-theme answers - DECLAWED, EARL GREY, AEGEAN, BOLEROS, RED HOT.... I liked DYED and TOUCH UP with STRAW[BERRY]BLONDE, ISLE x SEA, and KONRAD ("Der Alte) x ELDER.

Re: SCHIRRA together with AIR-SEA rescue - reminded me of those scary splashdowns - open the hatch and get out before the thing sinks (although it was Grissom and not Schirra who came close to drowning).

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

Someone help me here. I realize that BERRY was chucked from the theme entries. But how do the clues equal the entries? e.g. Kidman's hair is not actually STRAW BLONDE. Don't you have to clue it wacky style?

retired_chemist 12:50 PM  

Question of the day: Does Starbuck's sell EARL GREY tea?

Chip Hilton 1:00 PM  

Count me in among the SCHIRRA clue supporters. I also liked the Frasier clue. The reveal was marvelous and the puzzle a breeze. So, for me, a delightful Wednesday.

LaneB 1:01 PM  

A fair "medium" Wednesday, needing some google help with BEN and AIMEE. Otherwise smooth and fast and fun.

Zed the Answer Man 1:08 PM  

anon12:43 - You got it - HUCKLEBERRY FINN is the answer - CHUCK the BERRY leaving HUCKLE FINN.

anon11:38 - Christian BALE is an actor.

Ratswan 1:11 PM  

This fill is pretty clean. Considering this grid goes for both 72 words and five theme answers, it is remarkably clean. And the corners were tough, wide-open areas for the constructor to negotiate. Oddly, the S central area may have got the worst of it, probably because it has the letters CHUCK at its top. All consonants, save for one M&A special.

EDS-UKR-SKYS-OTROS is admittedly not ideal, in that S area, although HOKEY and REDHOT are strong contributions. There are other fill possibilities there. I'll offer one that's not too bad: change REDHOT to RASHER, HOKEY to HENRY, OTROS to ORATE. Now everything is fine, except perhaps for the glue-like UNA at 57-down. But now I miss REDHOT and HOKEY, so... trade-offs.

Returning to the theme, the CHUCKBERRY revealer more than makes up for all the strangeness of the other entries. On some other level, RASPBERET is quite nice, as it mimics the sound of RASPBERRY.

Ratswan of Metropolis.

MikeM 1:19 PM  

J McHale - I live 2 blocks away from Schirra Drive in Oradell

Arlene 2:02 PM  

Today was a very quick solve for a Wednesday. I seemed to know this stuff - like the APRONs near a runway, and even Christian BALE.
What I've found particularly interesting about Christian Bale is that he looks almost identical to James Brolin. Being an old-timer, I knew James Brolin from Marcus Welby. So when I saw the Dark Knight movie, I thought it was James Brolin, but couldn't be - would have been too old. So did the online comparison - and they do look incredibly alike - and also made recalling his name a piece of (birthday) cake.

Timothy Smith 2:05 PM  

Fraizer and Seattle known for coffee, not tea. Got the berry thing right away. No problem with the huckle thing.

Anonymous 3:33 PM  

All the kids in my 6th grade class knew who Wally Schirra was. I would be in 49th grade this year if it worked that way.

sanfranman59 3:47 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)

Wed 8:11, 9:30, 0.86, 19%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:29, 6:12, 0.88, 18%, Easy

RooMonster 5:39 PM  

So Anon 3:33, does that mean you are 55?

Ten years the junior

joho 5:43 PM  

Happy Birthday, @Arlene!

Anonymous 7:05 PM  

Boy, I glided through that puzzle with barely a hitch. I had PLUG instead of CLOT, but I don't think I gad to change anything else. And I agree that Captain "Tea, EARL GREY, Hot" Picard would have made a better clue than Frasier. Frasier was more known for coffee and sherry.

Frank Lynch 7:26 PM  

I have problems with a puzzle when I get the reveal before any of the theme answers.

But, as Chico Escuela would say, Baseball been good to me.

RnRGhost57 7:47 PM  

Nice to see that Rex learned a thing or two. Who says he's no better than the Bourbons?

Timjim 8:04 PM  

Loved it!

sanfranman59 10:06 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 5:56, 6:03, 0.98, 41%, Medium
Tue 7:23, 7:50, 0.94, 32%, Easy-Medium
Wed 8:26, 9:30, 0.89, 25%, Medium-Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:13, 4:04, 1.04, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:04, 5:21, 0.95, 28%, Easy-Medium
Wed 5:18, 6:12, 0.85, 10%, Easy

Arlene 10:49 PM  

Thanks so much for the birthday wishes!
A perfectly puzzling present!

Peter Oswald 5:13 PM  

Ummm, the RHINE isn't a "Swiss/Austrian border river." Maybe he meant Swiss\German.

Not Alex Trebek 5:34 PM  

@Peter Oswald - No, he was referring to the Alpine RHINE

spacecraft 11:16 AM  

The long-term future of mankind depends very heavily on our eventual ability to CHUCK this third rock and go spacefaring. To that end, any pioneer in space exploration is a great big deal, and is superbly crossworthy. 'Course, OFL probably wouldn't like it out there. There doesn't seem to me much he DOES like.

Anyway, after Wally & co. TOUCHed UP the MW, I'm looking at HUCK... FINN's too short, and the whole name would be a grid-spanning 15 (did he ever?). So I'm thinking rebus, but then the north just fills in with HUCKLEFINN. OMG, I think in a Wedensday epiphany: the revealer is gonna be CHUCK BERRY! And it was! Extremely cool.

I needed every single cross for the Prince song--though come to think of it, they ARE purple, aren't they? That was the only factor that might move this baby off an "easy" rating. I'd call it "easy with a dash of medium."
Okay, a teaspoon.

This grid is pretty clean, and contains the haunting "I CRIED." I also liked the double all-I words BIKINI and ILLINI. Especially the former. LOOSEN up a LITTLE, FL. LETS give it an A-. The ELOI have been working too hard lately. They lead the Morlocks 3,879 to 2.

5102. If no one gets nine: YAHOO!

Anonymous 11:19 AM  

I only do the syndicated puzzle, so this comment is over a month late because it refers to the one on October 15. I know many of your posts only relate to the puzzle tangentially, but shouldn't you let your younger followers know that is not a photo of Chuck Berry but of Berry Gordy? Anyway, very clever.

rondo 12:58 PM  

Pretty easy, kinda HOKEY even. Wondered about which berry would appear (disappear) next. Goes without saying that my favorite Berry is Halle.

414 - HELLO, two naturals in two days!!

DMG 1:13 PM  

Liked this sort of "something for everybody" puzzle. Only pause was the unknown-actor/unknown-rap-thing cross, but, but I guessed E for a successful splashdown.

Sorry @Spacecraft, I got 603!

Waxy in Montreal 3:35 PM  

Other than the PLUG-->CLOG-->CLOT progression found this one extremely easy but quite entertaining. Liked the reveal berry, berry much. Sorry OFL was offhandish about Wally SCHIRRA, an early hero of mine among the Project Mercury seven - perhaps a generational thing.

Looked in vain in the grid for BLUEHILL for two reasons: Blueberry Hill, the great Fats Domino tune from the Chuck Berry era and also because Blueberry Hill is the name of the club in St. Louis where the legendary Mr. Berry still performs.

1763 - @DMG, you rule!

rondo 4:35 PM  

@rondo ruled first

2205 - another winner!

Dirigonzo 4:36 PM  

I liked the theme just fine, perhaps because I spotted it early which almost never happens.

@Rondo has been REDHOT but today he has to share the pot with @DMG.

leftcoastTAM 8:37 PM  

I think this is one of those rare puzzles where RP complains only because it is just out of his ken. He's clearly earned a little leeway.

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