Film director Neil / WED 8-5-15 / Where biennial Vinexpo is held / Former CBS News chief Friendly / Aunt in Judy Moody book series / Sport played on piste

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: hoosegow —  fill in the blank clues that treat literally some figurative terms for being in prison. All clues begin "I merely..." and end "... and now I'm ___!," the idea being that the speaker is talking as if he's been put in prison for doing something, when the prison term is actually just a literal description of what the speaker was doing. Here:

Theme answers:
  • 17A: "I merely agreed to serve beer at some pubs, and now I'm ___!" (BEHIND BARS) (Get it? He's literally behind bars, only they're bars that serve alcohol, not the bars of a prison cage.... yeah, you get it)
  • 25A: "I merely bought mysefl a McMansion, and now I'm ___!" (IN THE BIG HOUSE)
  • 42A: "I merely went to my yoga class, and now I'm ___!") (DOING A STRETCH)
  • 55A: "I merely paddled my canoe against a current, and now I'm ___!" (UP THE RIVER) 
Word of the Day: Neil LABUTE (6D: Film director Neil) —
Neil N. LaBute (born March 19, 1963) is an American film director, screenwriter and playwright. (wikipedia) // In the Company of Men is a 1997 Canadian/American black comedy written and directed by Neil LaBute and starring Aaron Eckhart, Matt Malloy, and Stacy Edwards. The film, which was adapted from a play written by LaBute, and served as his feature film debut, won him the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay. // The film revolves around two male coworkers, Chad (Eckhart), and Howard (Malloy), who, angry and frustrated with women in general, plot to toy maliciously with the emotions of a deaf female subordinate.
• • •

I missed solving puzzles and I missed writing about them every day but I did not miss Planet Cornball. This elbow-elbow nudge-nudge kind of cutesy word play does nothing for me, and to go from the HIGH of seeing Patrick Berry's name to the LOW of the "comedy" form here was jarring. I want to say that the concept is clever, or cute, because it kind of is, but the whole thing, ugh. It's even hard to describe exactly what is going on. So ... the speaker is suggesting he's going to jail (the whole "I merely ... and now I'm ..." conceit), but he's also just literally explaining what he is doing, so ... the whole utterance context is lost on me. I get the pun, I just don't get why the speaker is such an idiot that he doesn't know the difference between literal and figurative language. The fill is pretty sub-Berry on this one, too. Better than most, but still a little heavy on the EPEE- and POL- and ETTU-type stuff. OSSIE OTTER ESTERS ASTA UTNE—and those are all within one inch of each other in the grid. Sometimes literalizing figurative speech can pay dividends, but something about the clues was just irksome today. Off. Weird. Not NEATO.


I did enjoy seeing Neil LABUTE, though. Haven't thought about his films in years. I'm realizing now that I saw his first three films (up to and including "Nurse Betty" (2000)) and then nothing else. I think that's less a reflection on him and more a reflection of my (mostly) having stopped going to the movies once the 21st century started, i.e. once I finally got a full-time job, started a family, etc. I'm also realizing that I thought he was the guy who directed "Welcome to the Dollhouse" (1995). But no. That's Todd SOLONDZ (a crossworthy name in its own right).

["DUH!"]

In terms of thorniness, I had a lot of trouble getting out of the SW, where both UNPAVED (38D: Just dirt, say) and GPS (43D: Savior of lost souls, for short?) eluded me for a very long time (well, many seconds ... a very long time *for a Wednesday*). I had S.O.S. for the [Savior of lost souls] clue, and I can't have been the only one. No idea about the aunt in the "Judy Moody" books. I went with OPIE at first ("Wow ... a new OPIE," I thought. "Cool."). After that, I can't remember anything interesting happening. I just finished.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Thanks to Evan Birnholz, who, even though he didn't fill in for me today, agreed to do so last night after it looked like my internet service would Never return (full-day outage courtesy of my friends at Time Warner). Weirdly, my service came back online just minutes before Evan blew a fuse (literally) in his apartment. So, bad karma transfer completed, I was able to resume my normal duties here.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

81 comments:

jae 12:05 AM  

Easy-medium for me with the North a tad tougher than the South.  

Erasure: rowS (wrong plane) before AXES which may have contributed to the perceived North toughness. 

WOEs: OPAL as clued and LABUTE.  Turns out I've seen Nurse Betty and Possession but never processed who the director was. 

I liked this much more than Rex did. A delightful Wed., gave me a chuckle.

...and hey Casco, are you still out there?...

Steve J 12:23 AM  

I try not to look at the constructor byline before I solve the puzzle, as I've found that I often prejudge the puzzle when I see particular names. One interesting outcome since I started doing that a year or two back is that there is a small handful of constructors where I get a sense of who they might be during the course of solving, so that when I do look at the byline I have an "I knew it" or "of course" moment. Patrick Berry is one of those constructors where that frequently happens.

But not always. Like today. I was completely surprised, because this didn't feel like a Berry puzzle. Not as clean as usual, for one (ET TU, POL, ASTA, AGEE, EPEE, OLEO - lots more crosswordese and clunky bits than usual for PB1). Decidedly corny theme clues. Not as much playful cluing as normal (aside from [Pen knife?] at 54A).

Setting aside the cheesy cluing, the theme answers were nice, and it's a nice set of related idiomatic phrases. And overall it was a perfectly adequate puzzle. It just had a really odd, slightly off feel to it.

Aketi 12:43 AM  

@rex, I empathize with the loss of the internet. I once lost email service for nine days thanks to Time Warner. Since most of my clients contact me by email it was a MAJOR disaster. As a result my road runner account is now my spam catcher and my real mail goes to gmail.

Given the Internet frustration, it's understandable that you missed 34 Across "I merely went skating in Rockefeller Center, and now I'm" (ON ICE). Which is where someone could could put some of the LIQUOR STORE options in yesterday's puzzle.

I realize that my taste in puzzles is still RATHER AMATEURISH, but I will admit that I did like that DISAVOW and SHIV accompanied the theme.

Aketi 1:13 AM  

My most embarrassing DUH moment over directors was when I was 19 years old and my mother called me so excited about meeting a director in San Francisco, She was rather NOSY and loved looking at houses. She and my Dad were walking past a Victorian home that she thought it had been turned into an apartment building so she just walked in. The front door wasn't locked Fortunately, the director didn't arrest her for trespassing and was even nice enough to show her the screening room. When my mother told me the director's name I asked her "Who's she?" based on the first name which could be either gender. Needless to say, he is so famous that I still cringe that I didn't recognize his name. I am still hopeless about directors names but perhaps if I keep working on crosswords and googling a few directors names might attach themselves to my LITTLE GREY CELLS.

I loved Welcome to the Dollhouse.

CVB 1:16 AM  

I just LOVE writing in Asta. My favorite dog.

Trombone Tom 1:16 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle even though I had no clue on LaBute and got it from the crosses.

I solved on I-phone and didn't realize who the constructor was until I came here. Must agree that this didn't "feel" like a PB to me.

I'm generally not as bothered by the short fill as some are. Maybe I'm just AMATEURISH. Don't see a lot of MAUVE around. I'm no techie, but don't equate format and INITIALIZE.

AliasZ 1:21 AM  


No ANTIQUER, no LISTICLE, it must be Patrick Berry -- O,NICE!

I loved this one mostly because the cutely clued theme phrases for "in the slammer" were kept to four longs (10/13/13/10) plus a central 5, which left plenty of room for the grid to breathe. This is quite EVIDENT with INITIALIZE, DISAVOW, BORDEAUX, and a few other pretty entries. I liked the MAJOR/MINER symmetrical pair, and the OTTER UTTERING GNAWing noises, SCARING the SHIV out of the little fishes UP THE RIVER.

One thing that surprised me was the over-reliance on proper names, turning this one into more of a trivial pursuit game. I counted 14, ignoring BORDEAUX, COBB, AJAX, ATLAS, and THOR. That's an awful lot of names, uncharacteristic of PB. Even OPAL was clued as a name RATHER than the gem. Thankfully, RATHER was not.

I also have a small issue with one clue. Not that it's wrong, but it feels imprecise. 62A: "What rats may do TO baseboards" suggests that they GNAW "to" them, or simply GNAW them. If the clue had said "what rats may do ON baseboards," the logical answer would be they GNAW "on" them, which to my ears would be more correct. GNAW almost demands ON or AT to sound right. A nit-picky observation for an entirely insignificant clue, you say? Yes, it is.

Not the best PB, but certainly not as AMATEURISH as yesterday's.

Here is a snippet of music from the epic Eisenstein movie IVAN the Terrible by Sergei Prokofiev.

Happy Wednesday all.

David Krost 1:29 AM  

They are crossword puzzles people. Get a life. Instead of King of CrossWorld, make it Curmudgeon of CrossWorld. My God. You don't know why some completely non-real person wouldn't understand the difference between literal and figurative language?? Have you ever heard of a vehicle that makes a joke work? There is a whole genre of comedy based on idiots not getting something most people do. Adam Sandler depends on it, as does Eddie Murphy and almost every other major comic movie.

I know you won't print this now that you are moderating the comments, but get some perspective. You sound more like an idiot than the fictional character you are dissing. SMH.

Ellen S 2:59 AM  

Indeed corny and I loved it. Well, after a while I began to flinch when I came to another themer. Kind of like a dog I once had who liked to bite balloons and make them pop, except he hated it when they popped, but he couldn't help himself. So he'd go after a balloon with his eyes half-closed and kind of trying to get out of the way of the explosion except that's difficult when you're about to chomp on the thing and make it explode. Well, same here, I knew I'd groan, but I couldn't help wanting to fill in the corny answers.

But I digress. Did I ever tell you about the first time I encountered ASTA in a puzzle? The clue was "Dog Star" and I spent, oh, half a day trying to figure out how to put "sirius" in a 4-character space, in a puzzle that was not a rebus. I think I had filled in three of the four letters from crosses before the light came on. Me and Asta, we've been pals ever since. Nobody better ever clue it meaning the celestial body because for me, for the last 20 or so years, any Hollywood dog is ASTA.

Anonymous 3:03 AM  

Meh on the review. Why not let PB toss out some corniness? If anyone has earned that privilege, he has. Fill may have been slightly weak, but wasn't awful.

-Brennan

Loren Muse Smith 5:15 AM  

I agree that there's more glue here than I would expect in a Patrick Berry grid, but some of the great clues balanced that out for me: WRAP, MINER, UNPAVED, SHIV(!), and AUTO all had clues I liked.

Also – until I started writing this, I saw GPS as "General Practitioners." Kind of works, right?

I also misread the clue for COLE as "kind of rhyme," so I just chalked that off as another poetry term I didn't know. What the heck is a cole rhyme?

MAUVE screams '80s the way avocado green and harvest gold scream '70s. When we moved to Lilburn, GA in 1972, our kitchen appliances were avocado green, and I just thought we were so sophisticated and rich, a cut above our former Chattanooga neighbors whose stoves were all just white. I felt bad for them.

I can never forget this tour de force by Cathy Millhauser: ELAND

Until I started playing QuizUp grammar, I had no idea that there were two different dashes with different lengths. I know now about EM DASH and en dash, but when I type, I absolutely don't care what Microsoft Word decides to do when I hit that little hyphen button. We all choose our battles. Sue me.

And boy I tell you I revisited "Charleses'" several times. It just looks weird.

@Steve J – I wish I could exercise your restraint in not looking at the byline, but I can't. If I hadn't seen Patrick's name this morning, I wouldn't have thought this was his, but the themers, their clues, the aforementioned clues, and AMATEURISH, INITIALIZED, and DISAVOW all were highlights.

It's always fun to imagine scenarios where idioms have a literal meaning. Hey. Slow down on those Lays, buddy. You're making a huge mess. Stand over the garbage can and brush your shirt off. And come here, you still have a chip on your shoulder. So, like @jae, I smiled at the themers.

PB did something similar a while back that was terrific:The Meaning of It

DrLee77 6:30 AM  

@jae I also liked ir more than @Rex because I liked the puns. However, I agree with OFL and @Steve J that this was not quite up to Patrick Berry's standards. There was more crosswordease in this puzzle than usual. That said; I still feel that an "adequate" Patrick Berry is superior to many other constructor's submissions.

I never heard of LABUTE but it was easy from the crossings. I liked the clue for AXES. Interestingly, I was watching a special last night about the Civil Rights Acts and FRED Friendly figured significantly in the story as CBS News Chief. That made the clue a gimme.

Good write-up @Rex and pretty good puzzle @Patrick Berry

Z 7:13 AM  

In my mind we have New Yorker cartoons with two cons in a cell with one saying to the other ....

These tickled my funny bones just enough. I like the themers and the bonus themers SHIV and POL.

I was a little surprised at the non-berryesque OLAV/F coin flip at 14 across and the cross-menagerie appearance of ELAND/OTTER/ASTA. Looked for a gnu and an eel but got IKE and ET TU instead.

I wonder if the UTNE Reader gets a subscription bump from all the free advertising the NYTX gives it.

Glimmerglass 7:34 AM  

Let's give Rex some credit for having the cojones to niggle at a puzzle by the great Patrick Berry, who most acknowledge as the best who ever set a crossword. However, I can't really agree with Rex's apostasy today. A second-rate PB, which I guess this is, is still head and shoulders above the next-best.

joho 7:43 AM  

@Rex's vacation did nothing to relax his funny bone or perhaps better said his "punny" bone. Chances are if the theme is wacky he won't like it. I on the other hand got a huge kick out of the wonderful wordplayfullness of all the clues/ themers.

Maybe the grid isn't as Berry smooth as usual because this puzzle is more scrabbly than the usual Berry puzzle? Only a Q short of a pangram.

My favorite clues were for COLE and GPS.

My favorite word: BORDEAX.

Loved the bonus answer, SHIV (another great clue, too).

I enjoyed this one a lot, thank you, Patrick!

Charles Flaster 7:57 AM  

Liked the themer said in this one.
Disagree with the review as even the CrosswordEASE was uniquely clued,
GPS crossing ATLAS was cute.
Liked clues for AMATEURISH, SHIV, UNPAVED and MINER.
Fred Friendly was a giant in the news world and became acquainted with his son in 1970 who was a bright young man at the time.
My Trivia team finished third out of eleven teams last evening and Fred Friendly was one of the answers!
Thanks PB.


Tita 8:01 AM  

Agree about the groaniness...if PB had merely left out the word merely, I mighn't have groaned at all...
I don't mind the crossword else, but some of the clues...like the one for EAST...really? ...and environs??

Liked THOR crossing ATLAS, with AJAX ABOVE.

Isn't this the 3rd day in a row with some form of NOSE/Y in the grid?

@Ellen...great balloon story!

And actually liked seeing ASTA again, now that I know his name was really Skippy. My brother-in-law had several dogs in succession. He named them all Skippy. Made it easier when he had to call him. I also knew a guy who was married to a Barbara. And he only cheated with women named Barbara.

Thanks Patrick.

dk 8:12 AM  

🌕🌕 (2 mOOns)

Planet Cornball! Rex, that comment was on the money. Not a bad puzzle but like my bad jokes just a little off. The inclusion of hoosegow may have helped.

We often pen in UTNE and he is a fine fellow. However, his ex-wife Nina is a real charmer: Just sayin.

Cannot decide on my outfit for the ACME fest later today. Perhaps some go-go boots in honor of Cilla Black.

Besottedly yours,

dk

Sir Hillary 8:22 AM  

"Planet Cornball" -- LOL.

Still, nothing wrong with this one in my mind. Cute theme, well done. If anything, too easy for a Wednesday.

I suspect that the less-than-stellar fill will get more attention because we're so used to seeing squeaky-clean grids from PB1. But hey, when you're the best at what you, this kind of scrutiny comes with the territory.

I would be interested to know how long ago PB1 actually wrote this one -- could have been anytime in the last 15 years.

GeezerJackYale48 8:31 AM  

I thought the puzzle was just fine for a Wednesday. It does seem to me, however, that it is way beyond time to give up on "Asta". The last "Thin Man" movie was in the thirties - I mean nineteen-thirties! Come on!

Casco Kid 8:38 AM  

@JAE, am I still here? Kinda. I was alerted to your query by a friendly anonymouse -- one of the good ones. I'm not as underemployed these days as I have been for the last 18 months, and work cuts into crossword commentary time, you know. For that matter, I had begun boring myself with my daily wrongness report, so I thought we all deserved a break. You're welcome. ;)

I did solve today's puzzle, finishign without errors in 39 minutes after waiting out lots of periods of blank staring. Transient wrongness included EthERS for ESTERS (reminding the world: I am not a chemist, but I have been known to play one between 9 and 5) which blocked the SE. UshERING before UTTERING crossed with EthERS. Nothing in the SW fell until INITIALIZE did. IMdb for IMAX in the NE. MSs then abS before DRs in the north. E_AND looked familiar while LABUTE is a ??? Ultimately, the clues were BERRY fair, so the key was trusting the constructor and waiting out the wrongness. It all finally did evaporate.

An aside: years ago I accompanied an analytical chemistry colleague to a technical meeting with microbiologists. "Don't worry," he counseled me, sweating profusely. "Just use their nomenclature: strains, serovars, isolates, etc." The meeting went fine, and afterwards he said with a heavy sigh of relief, "Not bad for a couple of analytical chemists." My rejoinder: "You don't know the half of it."

That's just my way of saying: I didn't know to use ESTERS in context. Go ahead and judge. It seems not to affect my professional life, which I have much more of these days, it seems. :)

John V 8:40 AM  

What @rex said about the SW. Couldn't make it work. Un PB like.

NCA President 8:51 AM  

This one wasn't too challenging for me but there were definitely some sticking points. The OSSIE/SAKI crossing was one. Hadn't heard of either name. EPEE is xwordese enough to get from the crosses, but I didn't know it was played on a "piste." So, yeah, that Tidewater area was sticky.

I have a grammar question (I seem to have a lot of them lately): does "unnerving" actually equal "SCARING?" I get that they are both present participles, and I'm assuming that the latter is from the word "scare," but "unnerving" can be used as an adjective, or at least it usually is: "Wow, that was unnerving." Whereas "scaring" isn't. "Wow. That was scaring." In the event that "scaring" refers to the word "scar," then maybe they're similar. I guess events can be "scaring," but isn't that spelled "scarring?" SCARING (as clued) crossing OSSIE didn't help matters.

As for the cornball factor, seriously? That has become de rigueur for NYT puzzles. Some people like that stuff. I know taking a break can clear the mind, but when you come back to a standard, right down the middle of the plate cornball punny puzzle, you can't possibly be surprised. I would think you'd be surprised if you came back and there was no pun-based theme...or "wordplay" as it's euphemistically known...

I liked the puzzle, but those several questions I asked dropped it some.

NCA President 9:00 AM  

@Casco Kid: I used to be fairly deep into wine and even considered becoming a sommelier at one point. "ESTERS" is really common as a description of what is emanating from the glass as you swirl it: bright cherries, stone fruit, pencil lead, barnyard, that sort of thing.

@Geezer and CVB: I agree ASTA needs to go the way of Roman numerals, tic tac toe clues, and alphabet strings. If a constructor puts ASTA in a grid, the grid should just be pre-filled with it in there already. Same could be true for EPEE, I guess...but evidently that still has some ways of cluing that are obscure (I'm looking at you, piste).

Leapfinger 9:25 AM  

I frequently check the constructor's name before starting, so it did seem un-Berryesque to slide right in with OLEO, esp crossed by the redoubtable OLAV. otoh, it was definitely NEATO to see how OLEO was LAHRed.

The theme cluing may have been too cute for some, but I enjoyed the ploy, and the phrases were all strong, if not difficult to suss out. One nice touch was having a different beginning for each phrase: BEHIND, IN, ON, DOING, and UP. Another was sticking in that SHIV, which would have been a definite accessory to the theme had the symmetrical SAME been STAB. So many of the long'uns were better than BORDEAUX-line, they more than made up for the shorties that were a MISC., and the clues for SHIV and GPS were inspired.

Wouldn't it have been nice to somehow work in SERVE A SENTENCE, though I might have to eat my words if someone were to cater to that particular whim.

I merely raced out the door, and now I'm IN THE SLAMMER.

My listicle of film directors also trails off soon after Lean, Scorcese, and Tarantino, so LABUTE was my outlier du jour. As fill, he's a bit of a beaut, but sadly he hails from Detroit Michigan rather than someplace in Montana, as I'd hoped. I browsed him to the extent of watching the trailer for Dirty Weekend, his latest release. For some reason, the lead stars relate themselves to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and it's fun to hear Alice Eve's Brit accent addressing Matthew Broderick as "Sundunce".

For anyone who's piste-off, I can recommend looking for some good pistou.
btw, @Nabob, it only struck me this morning how well your 'Scottish dialectical' suited yesterday's theme with its 'wee deoch-an-dorris'. If ye can say "It's a braw bricht moonlicht nicht", then ye're a'richt, ye ken.

An enjoyable Wednesday. Even if the berries in the PIE weren't quite plUMP, it still gets the GNAWed.

Ludyjynn 9:37 AM  

GEE,I RATHER liked it, theme and all.

I'm still chuckling over the clue for GPS; it alone was worth the price of admission, so to speak. Also liked clues for COED and PIE.

The quantity of MISC proper names didn't bother me, either. I guess compared w/ some of you, I am and will remain an AMATEUR in xword world.

When I first began to do the puzzle daily, I always checked the constructor byline at the start to get a feel for his or her style. I quickly realized it was biasing me (often not in a good way) and creating a predisposition on my part which did not enhance the solve. So now, if I check the name at all, it is not until I'm done. As a result, I had no lofty expectations simply because this was a PB puzzle. "For a Wednesday", it worked for me just fine.

Thanks, PB and WS. And thanks, Rex, for your insights, esp. when I disagree!

Nancy 9:45 AM  

Thought for the day: If you "paddle your canoe against the current" and end up UP THE RIVER, you're a much better and stronger canoeist than I am. I always ended up DOWN THE RIVER when I canoed at Camp Pinecliffe. Which is why I no longer canoe.

I thought this was cute and pretty easy, though I was initially baffled by the "Just dirt" clue and find UNPAVED a bit off as an answer. And I always futz around between OLAf and OLAV, never knowing which one is right. But I'm halfway between Rex and those here who loved this. I merely liked it OK.

JC66 9:49 AM  

Sing Sing, the prison in Ossining, NY is located 30 or so miles north or NYC on the Hudson.

Going back to the 1920's when a criminal in NYC were convicted of serious crimes, they were sent UP THE RIVER to serve his sentence.

Hartley70 9:56 AM  

@NCA, no ASTA can still be fresh if clued correctly, ie "Skippy's stage name" or "Myrna Loy's fur".

I liked the puns, although I filled them in before I started the puzzle. They sort of made prison feel like a friendly place. Where I grew up, the one state prison, the ACI, was visible from the main highway. You passed by it quite frequently. In such a small state one invariably knew someone, socially, from school, or heaven forbid a relative, who was spending a bit of time there or at the nearby juvie facility. The idea of the BIGHOUSE or UPTHERIVER didn't strike fear in the heart of a 1950's kid. Well Attica ended all that schmaltz and rightly so. While the puns are cutsy, they are a throwback to the 50's. There's too much pain involved in a prison stretch today to find much real humor in them.

Carola 9:56 AM  

I loved the "Wait, how did this happen to me?!" idea of the theme - I thought it was very clever and funny. Plus COBB salad x COLE slaw, BORDEAUX, competing mythologies in ATLAS x THOR, and UTTERING x SCARING (pick the POL of your choice).

Nancy 9:57 AM  

@Geezer Jack (8:31) It's sad, but true, that in puzzleworld, there is no dog but ASTA, no king but OLAV, no antelope but ELAND and no sport but EPEE. Still, there are two wives: Ono and Oona. And today, instead of Obama, we got IKE. So there's always something to look forward to.

dk 9:59 AM  

Fellow winos: Got a job as a sommiler in 1968 at an Italian Rest in Virginia Beach. My qualifications were: The jacket was in my size. Patrons pondered over the 2 reds and one white served. Paradox was red or white with grilled salmon.

Craig 10:02 AM  

@Ellen S at 2:59, I enjoyed your “pooch” stories and the popping balloons. Nice image. (And forgive me for responding to something you posted late-ish yesterday, but … ) @Ellen S, if you do indeed think “moot” means “worthless”, I don’t hear that. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I think the definition “not pertinent” stands. However, because it’s often used in argument the idea of “worthless” attaches easily and often in context — so in that sense (with context) it would indeed mean “worthless”. But the only time I see the word defined as “worthless” is in the NYTimes crossword puzzle clues — that’s not a natural evolution of the language, that’s an editor taking a short cut with a minor inaccuracy. Your other point about “eke” is very interesting. I think I’m with you that it’s healthy for a language to evolve — it means it’s “alive”. And, fo shizzle, it’s interesting try to predict what might be next.

I thought today’s puzzle had a lot of charm and quirky challenges. Me like.

pmdm 10:12 AM  

Another rehashing of the love or hatred of funny theme entries. Nothing to add to that that hasn't being already said. But I do agree that this puzzle was not as satisfying as most of Berry's puzzles. Is the almost excessive amount of proper nouns partly the cause? Using so many proper nouns lowers the number of entries you can fill fill ordinary words with snappy clues, something Berry excels with.

Out of 201 puzzles, this is only the 4th Wednesday puzzle. Might it have been originally intended for a Thursday? Too bad Berry never comments on his puzzles. That would be interesting to know, as well as to learn how old the puzzle really is.

Refer to NCA President's question, I tried to construct a sentence that would justify the clue and its corresponding entry. For adjectives, I came up with "That movie was unnerving/scary" which supports NCA President's gripe. Then I came up with this sentence. "My brother wound up unnerving/scaring our sister when he threw a live snake at her." Hardly elegant, but I guess the two words can be close to synonymous in a sentence.

Phil Safier 10:13 AM  

In Rex's house, he gets to speak his mind. He even lets you call him an idiot, and I doubt that your solving times qualify you to sharpen his pencils. Lighten up.
Vive le rex!

mathguy 10:18 AM  

I should follow @Steve J and not look at the byline beforehand. Knowing that it was a Patrick Berry, I ended up disappointed.

I liked "disavow." Remember the signature phrase in the Mission Impossible TV series? "The secretery will disavow himself of any knowledge of your activities." We just saw the latest Tom Cruise episode in the franchise. Very enjoyable despite a nonsensical plot. A wonderful scene during an opera performance in Vienna.

I'm trying to come up with a sentence where SAME can be substituted for "corresponding."

@NCA President: I like your idea about having some dull entries being pre-entered in the grid. Kenkens often are published with a square or two containing the correct digit.

@Ellen S: Loved your dog story.

I expect that now we will have more comments beginning "I know you won't print this, but ..." I think that one of my recent comments didn't get printed. Somewhat ironically, it gave my opinion that if Rex Porker resumed his parodies of Rex's critiques, that they would be allowed.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:29 AM  

Does it count as a write-over if I changed my mind before completing the incorrect entry?

At25 A, early in the solve, I was halfway into entering IN THE DOG HOUSE when something stayed my pen, I reconsidered, and finished with IN THE BIG HOUSE.

Tiny bit surprised that no one has mentioned having an alternative thought at 55 A, before counting spaces -- or maybe those comments were moderated out!

Nancy 10:31 AM  

@dk (9:59) -- Just love your sommelier qualifications! So funny!

@Hartley (9:56) Didn't know that a great many of your friends and relatives ended up in the BIG HOUSE. Is there anything I can do at this late date to offer support?

Well, that's 3 and out for me. And I'm out the door, now, anyway. Bye.

mac 10:35 AM  

I have to agree, a little disappointing Patrick Berry, and easy for a Wednesday to me.

Of course there is the sparkle of some wonderful clues and words, but I'd rather meet
up on Thursday/Saturday.

Sir Hillary 10:43 AM  

I merely signed a record deal with Suge Knight, and now I'm ___!

jberg 11:04 AM  

I spent seven months BEHIND BARS back in the 1970s (for an antiwar demonstration), and it was no fund -- but I still enjoyed the puns. And hey, they're symmetrical! That's worth something.

Oddly enough, I usually do check the constructor's name, but forgot to this time -- and I did feel surprised when I saw it here, so I guess I have to agree that it's less than I should have expected. But then, I expect a Friday or Saturday, and this is Wednesday, I think (I'm on vacation, not really keeping track). I've been doing his simple little puzzles in the Sunday Times, and they're fun but not hard at all.

@aliasz -- You're all bloody, what did that guy do TO you?

He punched me IN the nose.

Sounds right to me.

And whoever didn't like SCARING, I offer this sentence:

Please stop throwing those knives at my feet, it is UNNERVING me.

What I learned today:

1. A pisted doesn't have to be a ski run;

2. I'd been confusing ELAND and oryx visually.

Enough for now.

Joseph Michael 11:04 AM  

O NICE, a Patrick Berry puzzle.

This one is neither a MAJOR opus NOR an AMATEURISH attempt. Theme is corny cute and the weak fill is often clued well. So it was enjoyable enough to solve.

i know Neil LABUTE as a playwright ("Fat Pig" and "Reasons to Be Pretty") and have always found him to be an acquired taste. I did like the film adaptation of "In the Company of Men" which featured brilliant acting.

I agree with the comment that a rat would GNAW "on" or "at" a baseboard, so the clue feels slightly off.

GILL I. 11:17 AM  

Well I was too scared to say what @Rex said because, after all, it is Patrick Berry...not so today. I agree that his clues were a bit irksome or, as I noted, a bit moth eaten. He usually clues the short stuff in a whimsical fun way but I didn't feel the love with DUH, USE, OUI or POL (ugh)
When Patrick throws a party, I get my Blahniks ready. Today, I sifted around and found my Keds. (I guess it sucks to be numero uno)
@dk...Why am I picturing Boones Farm, Thunderbird and maybe some White Lightning? Was the jacked green and red?
I wasn't going to admit it, but I actually had NANA as the Charlesesseses dog. Why do I confuse them?

Ellen S 11:18 AM  

@Craig - I wasn't taking a position on the meaning of "moot", only trying to point out (with an EPEE) that you can't control what happens to it. "Moot" now means "irrelevant. "Eke out" means "barely get by." The people have spoken.

I like the idea of cheating only with people who have your spouse's name. I'm going to rename my newer dog "Liam-I-mean-Cyrus-whoever you are" because that's what I always call him. Stepdaughter and her partner had two German Shepherds named Maggie and Allie. They gave up trying to get their names straight--sorry, they don't like that terminology, suggesting "straight" is "proper", let me start over. They gave up trying to get the correct name out when giving one of them a command and just called them both "Mallie".

quilter1 11:25 AM  

No problem here. I enjoyed the solve, the puns and thought it was cute.

NitPicker 11:32 AM  

I don't think lilac and Mayville the have much in common.

NitPicker 11:32 AM  

That's mauve. Darn you, autocorrect.

Hartley70 11:34 AM  

@Aketi, I'm wracking my brain and the director list residing there is rather short. Ang Lee? Wracking/Racking, now there's a controversy! I like me a W, just because, but the R crowd is ahead I understand.

Yes @Nancy, send cash! But no, not MY relatives, we're a law-abiding crew. But I heard that an old boyfriend went on vacay there not that long ago, and my best friend and fellow cheerleader in high school was his parole officer. One or two degrees of separation is all you ever have, and Kevin Bacon is superfluous. The initial anonymity of NYC was an interesting contrast.

Anoa Bob 11:39 AM  

ASTA gets much more grid time, but there are two more canines that should be in The Compleat Crossworder's arsenal, Dorothy's yellow brick road companion TOTO & Buster Brown's shoe mate TIGE.

Another Oz-related name that shows up way more often than its unusual sequence of letters would lead one to suspect is LAHR.

Masked and Anonymous 11:45 AM  

Give the guy a break. This WedPuz gig is pretty new to the Berrymeister. This is only his 4th try at one. Last such incident was in 2011. Hardly a habitual criminal type. Think of him as more out on parole, WedPuz-wise. Slack-cuttin is called for, here. Give him a new suit and $300 bucks, and give him a fourth chance at a new life in decent society, baggin groceries somewheres ...

8 U's! See that? No court could ever convict. Any jury would be more sympathetic than snot. Case dismissed.

LAB UTE! har! Ok, that did it. M&A now definitely has yer back on this puz, prisoner PB1. Such desperation must be doggedly defended to the death (oooh -- scratch that last little phrase) at all costs. Prosecutors should be piste whipped.

fave weeject: DUH. @009 is surely still available, as a character witness ...

M&A

** gruntz **

chefbea 11:49 AM  

Late to the party..too many posts to read so will do that later. Thought the puzzle was a good one. Of course love cobb salad

Master Melvin 11:54 AM  

As usual, liked it better than Rex. I could do without LaBute.

old timer 12:06 PM  

I got started the best I could with ELAND MAJOR NOR and then CANTO OUI ETTU and DOING and asked myself, why can't I immediately do the rest? Wanted OLAV of course, and AJAX but whet Italian city ends in an X? It was then I looked at the constructor's name and realized it would not always be easy, because the clues would be devilishly hard. Finally figured out that the city was not in Italy, therefore BORDEAUX, therefore the punny BEHINDBARS. I laughed. I like the jokes Rex finds jejune. And the rest of the puzzle flew by, though I forgot the theme when I write in UPTHE and followed it with "Creek". It's hard to paddle a canoe up a RIVER unless the river has almost no current.

My last entry was DATA. And I really thought, from the time it took me,this was more like an easy Friday than a Wednesday puzzle. And, yes, I hesitated to put in ETTU and ASTA and UTNE and even SAKI because these all are over-used. Though I liked the ASTA clue a lot.

Has there ever been a King of Norway not named HAAKON or OLAV? And what is it with this family? For a country that has only existed as an independent state for a little over a century, they seem to have had a lot of monarchs, who therefore did not live very long on average. The answer is surprising: There have been only three kings in all: Haakon, Olav, and Harald.They lived long lives. You (or at least I) think there were more because Haakon was Haakon VII, and Olav and Harald are both V -- the Norse take the position that Norway has always been independent, and centuries of rule from Copenhagen and, in the 19th Century, Stockholm meant nothing.

You can learn a lot from crosswords, and Google.

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

@lms, Maybe you saw GPS as General PractitionerS on account of DRS up at the top. As far as that working for 'Savior of lost souls' goes, I'd say 'Mmmmaybe'. There was one GP I knew whose fall-back position was to call any kind of problem psychosomatic and treat it with Valium.

bwalker 12:35 PM  

It took nearly double my usual Wednesday time (ugh!). However, I did finish (yay!). I appreciated the challenge, but agree with @rex about the elephant's eye level of corn. Still, I enjoyed the puzzle overall.

Glad to see Saki make an appearance. I really like his twisty short stories. As a teacher I daydreamed of using the Schartz-Metterklume Method in real life. It would have been glorious.

Craig 1:11 PM  

Could I just say, regarding 1D, that I had the pleasure of having a Cobb salad at the place where it was invented, The Hollywood Brown Derby. It was VERY different from any Cobb Salad that I’ve ever had since, because the entire salad was chopped so incredibly fine that each bit was not much bitter than a grain of sand. And it was crispy. The experience of eating it was wonderfully weird and felt unusual in the mouth.

@Ellen S, I’m very glad that we now seem to be in perfect agreement, and I think we always were, we just didn’t realize it for a little while. I like your dog’s name — a mouthful though when calling for him to come home. I named my dog “Fido”. I still have to teach it to him.

cwf 1:26 PM  

I am trying to imagine solving any puzzle without looking at the constructor's name. I do believe it would drive me crazy trying to avoid looking at letters printed immediately above the top right answer. Possibly I could squint while inking out the name?

In Across Lite, I see no option to hide the constructor's name. And that wouldn't always help, as in the case of today's AVCX, the filename of which is `AV Club xword 8 5 15 BEQ.puz`. I wonder who that could be!

Martel Moopsbane 1:31 PM  

@Nancy and @Anoa Bob - we could add FDR's FALA as another xword dog.

Music man 1:45 PM  

I passed out on the couch solving this last night and still had the 2 acrosses in the top north center empty except for the crossing NOR. I actually liked this puzzle despite the obvious junk. But I think I may be biased toward a Berry. It's like Chase Utley. He can screw up as much as he wants and I'll still find a way to justify it :)

So Monday detective theme, Tuesday liquor theme, Wednesday jail theme, what vice is scheduled for thirsty Thursday????

El Chapo 1:46 PM  

Nothing on breaking out of the STONY LONESOME?

dick swart 2:21 PM  

A nice Wednesday: harder than Tuesday and with more of a touch of humor. Rex seems to be back in hid old form. Itmight be better to have more guest critiques and have Rex make his observations in the comments. His editing of the section this last week was excellent.

Leapfinger 2:21 PM  

@Tita, I enjoyed your story about the fellow who was skipping from Barbara to Barbara; guess his theme song was "I'll Always Be True To You, Darling (In My Fashion)". The business of simplified name-calling can have drawbacks, however. I know a family with three daughters named Dawn, Donna and Dana; when the kids were all still at home, they never knew who was being called, unless it was the son, whom they called Jake.

Also had a shot at ID-ing @Aketi's director. Carol Reed didn't ever live in California,I don't think, and I doubt the mistake of thinking it's Cecile B. deMille. I did think of Ang Lee as a possible unisex name, but I kind of have my money on Terry Gilliam.

Speaking of MAUVE (as some were), does anyone else pronounce the vowel sound like 'loafer'? My kid says it to sound like 'cough' and gives me grief about it. Same with turq-waz vs turq-oyz, so maybe I just shouldn't talk colours with her.

Had to look up that formatting/ initializing business, and all Ican say after doing is:
HAPPLY I may remember, and hAPPLY may forget.

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

You left out an important detail. Who was the director?

Leapfinger 3:00 PM  

'On' vs 'at' is a moot point; rats gnaw through baseboards, and that's what threw me.

@old timer, from what you say, it sounds as if Norway never deposed a Haakon. I guess that would have qualified as somewhat Haakon-SAKI.

(There isn't much that's lower than taking pot-shots at NJ, but some people are truly shameless.)

Aketi 3:14 PM  

@Ellen S, loved your story of your ballon popping dog, Both our cats, Charlie and Faith love popping bubble WRAP.
@Hartley 70, my DUH Director moment was a bigger fail than that. He is older than Ang Lee and has a daughter who is also a director. She happens to be very nice by the way. I am not someone you would ever want on a team playing trivial pursuit.

Steve J 4:40 PM  

@cwf: Yeah, it would be a lot tougher to ignore the name in print, since it's right there on top of the grid. In the NYT Crossword iPad app, the constructor's name isn't displayed with the grid - just on the start screen, where it's well below the "play" button or in the info window, which I never look at - so it's much easier to avoid there.

@Ellen S: Great story about your dog. I can easily picture that, given what I've seen some of our family's dogs do over the years.

David Glasser 6:32 PM  

What's wrong with OTTER?

weingolb 6:41 PM  

This was hard for me because of ESTERS being clued as a wine term (as @NCA President already mentions). I mean, ESTERS, it's what gives flavour to everything around us from fruit to fat, isn't it? So ESTERS coming out of a wine clue isn't exactly endearing. (For the record, ESTERS is not even mentioned in the Oxford Companion to Wine when you read the page under the "aromatic compounds" entry.)

A cryptic Wednesday overall, I'd say. Oodles of "ing" in clues and fill. Anyone keeping track of that? Seems to up the obfuscation.

AMATEURJOB crossing nicely with VIOLA didn't help me, and it stayed there till the finish.

Teedmn 7:30 PM  

I liked the puns today with BEHIND BARS and DOING A STRETCH my faves.

Messy in the NE for me due to putting in "epic" for IMAX and "is to" for SAME (thinking ratios, I guess). All fixable.

For 28D, was looking for a skiing tie-in with 'piste' like @jberg. Piste in EPEE means 'strip' so similar to a ski run? If you step off the mat in EPEE, are you off-piste?

'Just dirt, say', 'Category for leftovers', 'Person who picks his work?', 'Messy missile' and 'Crunched material' were all great clues in my book, very PB1.

@Hartley70, I also "wrack" my brain. "Rack" implies straightening or arranging, whereas "wrack" seems like "wring", where I am squeezing or rifling through the little grey cells.

Thanks, PB1 for the Berry Wednesday puzzle.

Ludyjynn 9:32 PM  

@aketi, is the director's name Francis Ford Coppola? His daughter, Sofia, also directs. And Nicholas Cage is a nephew, I believe.

Hartley70 10:16 PM  

I had the Francis after your last post @Aketi. Both my parents had the same middle name. Here's the trick. A female Frances ends in "es". A male Francis ends in "is". That's how it was explained to me.

kitshef 12:05 AM  

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the show LOST. However, one irritation is that at the end of the show, they would show a teaser for the following week's show. One thing we did not want was to be told what we were going to see, so we had to make sure to turn off the TV at the right time. Trouble was, they tended to start the show at 9:01 and end at 10:01, or other odd times. This meant you had to be very much on the ball in order to not miss any of the current show, but not see any of the teaser. And then we also had to avoid seeing any commercials.

This is how I feel about looking at the constructor's name, also. I want to solve a puzzle with no expectations or preconceptions - just let the solve be what it is. Fortunately, this is much easier than avoiding seeing anything about upcoming LOST episodes (at least for a paper solver).

So I went into this puzzle with no idea what may be coming, and perhaps as a result was did not feel the disappointment that seems to have been common. Loved AMATEURISH and INITIALIZE, and the themers. Did not love the crosswordese, and hand up for banishing ASTA forevermore, but on balance, thought it was pretty good.

PoreS before PEERS only overwrite.

Looks like we may be seeing a second Miracle Mets team this year.

Notes from the underground 4:44 AM  

Ludy, in the aural version, Frances and Frances are indistinguishable.

Lotsa votes for ASTA la vista, Baby.

Prosper Bellizia 7:23 AM  

Sycophant !
When The King publishes a NYT puzzle himself, give me a call.

Z 9:02 AM  

@Prosper Bellizia - Five years ago soon enough for you?

Burma Shave 9:43 AM  

DISAVOW DATA

I’m DOINGASTRETCH INTHEBIGHOUSE, an AMATEURISH innocent BEHINDBARS,
so I’m UPTHERIVER and ONICE, it’s EVIDENT them attorneys wuz LAHRs.

--- MAJOR AJAX LABUTE

rondo 10:15 AM  

Didn’t read much above, but there sure seems to be lotsa names in this puz. PB1 OTTER not USE so many. Three mythicals make for a mini-theme. And even Dan’s mother ESTER S. RATHER appears in the south.

Anyone notice the MAJOR/MINER (tehee) juxtaposition?

Can’t even dig up a MISC yeah baby, I’m UTTERING. Puz is too TAME.

Mediocre puz from both DS and PB1 so far this weak week. AMATEURISH even. Or maybe I’m USEd to better from them? ETTU?

packerbacker 10:39 AM  

COBB = "Packer Randall", No. 18. Ask for his Corn on the COBB Burger at Curly's restaurant inside Lambeau Field. With COLE slaw. I did, you should do the SAME.

spacecraft 11:01 AM  

I merely agreed to put a newsmagazine by everyone's place setting, and now I'm SERVING TIME! Aw, c'mon, Rex, isn't ANYTHING fun any more?

As soon as I saw the word AMATEURISH, I knew the constructor wasn't. In my paper the byline is so small I need a magnifying glass to see it, so no spoiler for me. I look after I'm done. A few WOEs: EMDASH, LABUTE, UTNE; just enough to shove it into a Wednesday slot. All fell on crosses, so I'd rate this easy-medium. Has anybody been caught UTTERING "NEATO!" in the last fifty years? I know it's a great word for crosswords, but still...

OPAL to me is Grandma Pickles of the hit comic strip. Very funny. Hand up for the MI memory with DISAVOW. Great old show; I don't like the newer ones.

And now to see if, like three of its predecessors, this post will self-destruct in five seconds. Grade this one a B+, though on a Berry scale it'd be more like a C-.

Torb 11:41 AM  

Kinda rough for a Wednesday. Finished it with a smile.

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

Easy/Peasy/Puzzle, so I'm a happy, daffy, old pappy. I have to strongly disagree with Rex. I believe the grid was clever, cute and generally OK. Quite simple for a Wednesday but maybe Shortz thought we had to get back to school and didn't have extra time.

You just can't top Patrick Berry when it comes to completeness, balance and his appeal to the general crossword solvers. All you have to do is start filling in the blanks and the rest becomes obvious. For instance, I didn't know Utne's first name but the crosses filled it in.

Not taking anything away from Spacecraft, I'd rate this a B++

Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA
(Where the words King, La Roi, Shah, Czar, etc. are acceptable but the word Rex is not spoken in polite society). teehee

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