Mata Hari portrayer of 1931 / FRI 10-30-15 / Lewis presidential also-ran 1848 / Halloween antagonist's surname / Deluded prospector's find / Excellent in 1990s slang / Joe Buck's pal in 1969 film / Theme song of Doris Day show

Friday, October 30, 2015

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Lewis CASS (25D: Lewis ___, presidential also-ran of 1848) —
Lewis Cass (October 9, 1782 – June 17, 1866) was an American military officer and politician. During his long political career, Cass served as a governor of the Michigan Territory, an American ambassador, a U.S. Senator representing Michigan, and co-founder as well as first Masonic Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Michigan. He was the losing nominee of the Democratic Party for president in 1848. Cass was nationally famous as a leading spokesman for the controversial Doctrine of Popular Sovereignty, which would have allowed voters in the territories to determine whether to make slavery legal instead of having Congress decide.
• • •

This was somewhat less interesting and far, far more dated in its frame of reference than I'm used to seeing from Patrick Berry's puzzles. Peewee REESE, Doris Day, TIPPI Hedren, GRETA GARBO, Harold ARLEN, "Beau Geste," RENÉ Lacoste, and on and on. We get up to about 20 years ago, once, with PHAT. But when "Halloween" (1978) and "FAME" (1980) are your modern clues, your puzzle is old. Those last two were in my wheelhouse, but that's the point: I Am A Solidly Middle-Aged Man. When I say your puzzle is old, it's old. Again, with the caveat that old is fine if it's balanced out. But this one wasn't. Not even close. NYT is basically going hard after an established older (boomer+) audience. Safe. Doomed, ultimately, but certainly safe for the time being. And Patrick Berry is a god, so the grid is clean and even lovely in places. RASPBERRY / STUPEFIED / SPIT TAKE is my favorite stack in recent memory. But this one doesn't even try to come into the 21st century. And yet it's pop culturey as hell—it's just old pop culture that's on display. So remember, when you (you know who you are) complain about "pop culture" in modern crosswords, you're really complaining about the recent stuff you don't know. You're fine with it if it's from your childhood / teen years / early adulthood. This is to say that the pop-haters won't complain about this one's being pop-laden, even though it clearly is. We like the pop we know and love and denigrate the pop we don't. My only problem with this puzzle is that it is (overwhelmingly) lily white and old as hell. The grid is, of course, exceedingly well made.

I got through the grid pretty easily until I got to the NE, where things froze up. Right about here:

As you can see, I know *&%^-all about "Beau Geste" and have no idea how [Stacked beds] could be STRATA. I can't visualize that. I have no idea what is being referred to there. STRATA are just layers. WTF is a "stacked bed." Is that a gardening thing? [beds of rock, people are saying ... bedrock. I have no choice but to believe them]. Also couldn't yet see IRON PYRITE (though looking at the grid now, it seems obvious) or TETE-A-TETES. I wrote in SAFARI at one point for SAHARA (30D: Setting of "Beau Geste"). It got ugly enough that I tore out MOLTO and ALL THE ... I think I got STARTER eventually, and things loosened up from there.

  • 17A: Minor additions to the bill? (B PICTURES) — Yuck. B MOVIES or go home.
  • 25D: Lewis ___, presidential also-ran of 1848 (CASS) — Because Mama CASS would've been too current.
  • 36A: Twelver, religiously speaking (SHIITE) — Embarrassed to say I had No idea what "Twelver" meant. "The term Twelver refers to its adherents' belief in twelve divinely ordained leaders, known as the Twelve Imams, and their belief that the last Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, lives in occultation and will reappear as the promised Mahdi" (wikpedia).
  • 16A: "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" songwriter (ARLEN) — I thought sure it was Mercer. I know I have that song on a Mercer compilation ... [looks it up] ... ah, he was the lyricist. ARLEN, writer, Mercer, lyricist. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:13 AM  

Easy-medium for me with the east side easy and the west medium.  I got hung up in the SW with opelS before SAABS, which led to some "creative" errors that took a while to fix.   Also, I never would have come up with ICBM from the clue with out IT'S MAGIC in place.

That said, I really really really wanted Que Sera Sera for 1a. 

Some times running the vowels is helpful.  I spelled STUPEFIED with an I and BiT made no sense.  Hence a vowel run and BET.

I'm an aging Boomer and this was very much in my wheelhouse.  However, I read the entertainment section of the LATimes daily,  watch selected late night talk shows ( Colbert), and have teenage grandkids so, what's currently "pop" is also often in my wheelhouse.   It doesn't take a ton of effort to keep up.

Super smooth with some zip or a typical PB.  Liked it!

jp flanigan 12:14 AM  

Boy, did i make a mess out of this one. I was doing just fine when instead of CARGO, I put in PREGO thinking maybe "It's Loaded" was a slogan or something. I saw mid 19th century president and already had a P, so i wrote POLK, know, crosswords (not far off as he was incumbent in 1848, of course wrong first name.) That took me forever to untangle.

Also had SPILLAGE instead of SPITTAKE.

Anonymous 12:49 AM  

Got stuck at 12'ers too. Thought it had to do with the 12 tribes so wrote in semite. And shrug instead of snort. The NE took some time to suss. Arlen? No way. Voted for Cohan. Born on the 4th of July!

Doris Day song could only have been Que Sera Sera. Alas, not to be.

Dated fill? This one was on life support. I could hear it wheezing way over here.

John Child 12:49 AM  

No surprise that Rex felt this skewed old. I did too, and I'm twenty years older than he is. One of the few things that felt young to me was SPIT TAKE, an idea I know but a phrase completely new to me. And PHAT. That's awphul.

Very challenging here and ultimate DNF because I had to ask for a check to see several errors. I did like taking the YETI on TREK in (yesterday's) NEPAL. Factoid: Sherpas, the ethnic group that live in the Mount Everest area, are unanimously convinced that the yeti exists or at least did up to a generation or two ago.

Let's hope CASS Elliot and Roger EBERT are hoisting a glass together in heaven and commiserating over being snubbed by the Times.

Anonymous 2:21 AM  

@rex, pretty sure strata is referring to bedrocks. very tricky cluing... excessively so in my opinion, crossing SAHARA and TIPPI.

Liked the AS PER USUAL/NOT AS YET juxtaposition, though even that skewed a bit older. And IRON PYRITE-- fun clue for the more science-oriented.

Dolgo 3:22 AM  

REALLY easy for a Friday. My first entry was iron pyrite, so I didn't have any problem with theNE at all. Only one erasure--"Mame" for "Fame". Chalk it up to not paying attention to the date. One loses track sometimes when you're an old fart. But maybe that's why it was so easy. I'm two years too old to be an official boomer like you, Rex!

Lise 5:22 AM  

I think STRATA for Stacked beds refers to bedrock.

I liked the puzzle although having PATAGONIA instead of CATALONIA messed me up for a while.

konnofromtokyo 5:47 AM  

the stacked beds are layers of rock etc. that make up strata.

chefbea 8:08 AM  

Too tough for me as are most Fridays. I gave up. what is a spit take??? and gaiter?????

Imfromjersey 8:27 AM  

I had a lot of trouble with the NW, ICBM was the last answer to fall. I got 25D right away, because of TMBG's James K Polk "Lewis Cass, a General and expansionist". Overall a typical smooth Berry creation and right in my middle aged wheelhouse.

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

I don't think it's called "pop culture" when the references are from 60 years ago. I think it's called historical cultural trivia.

Regardless, the dependence of the NYT puzzle on this kind of stuff (DORIS DAY, TIPPI HEDRON, etc.) puzzles me. Is it because the puzzle wants to appeal to 65-year-olds or is it that the constructors/editors think this content is more obscure and therefore more challenging?

Z 8:51 AM  

CASS Avenue, Technical High School, and Park (with a statue of Lewis CASS) are all within a quarter mile of my condo, so 25D was easy here. Interesting how little we generally know about someone responsible for carrying out some of Andrew Jacksons most reprehensible policies.

Ditto on what Rex said. Probably the worst PB I've ever seen, and it is because this puzzle could have easily run a quarter century ago, before any of my three adult sons were born. Doris Day made her film debut 67 years ago. She was a born a year before my late mother and over a decade before my mother-in-law. The show itself went off the air 40+ years ago. I can't imagine why I had a hard time in the NW.

Interesting, too, that the most current pop culture reference, PHAT, actually has an original use found by Merriam-Webster in 1963.

I also struggled with "Twelver." I have friends who are Sunni, and know quite a few Shi'a, so I have a passing familiarity with the schism between the two. Still, I don't recall that term ever coming up in discussion. (BTW - you may have noticed that I talk politics and religion - shocking, I know). I don't know anything about the term or its use, but it has a pejorative feel to it. I wonder if that's the reason it's never come up in polite discussion. I think I'll text my Socialogist friend in Qatar and ask.

NCA President 8:59 AM  

Rex's take today articulated well why I didn't care for the puzzle...well, why I hated the puzzle, but that might be too strong. I'm 55. I remember Doris Day, but evidently only from the Que Sera Sera days. I remember Beau Geste as a film, but I was too young to have seen it...and as for the book, my good old Nebraska education did not include it in my reading lists.

The NW was a killer. CATALONIA? Andorra? BPICTURES (as clued) was terrible. DUNS?

Then there is the NE..MOLTO actually means more like "much." Assai is the musical term for in Allegro Assai. Yes, "molto" can mean something similar "Allegro molto" or "crescendo molto" can mean very fast or get really loud, but a one to one translation is assai=very, molto=a lot or much.

Then you have GAITER (dafuq?), BOATMEN (from Venice, Italy?), Trollhatten?, BURG (do people really still call small towns burgs?) and STRATA as clued.

If you liked this puzzle I'm just going to guess that a) you are either 10 years older than me, or b) you like old pop culture trivia and happen to know that Doris Day's theme song from her early shows was "It's Magic."

Sir Hillary 9:07 AM  

Yes @Rex, fair enough that the grid is pretty stodgy, but seeing a PB1 byline on Friday always make me smile. Yes @Rex, fair enough also that BPICTURES is far less in the language than B-movies -- but hey, with a clue that good, who cares? Took me a while to gain a foothold, which I finally did in the SE, starting with TIPPI (dreadful actress IMO). I got held up for a bit by dropping in deseRt as the "Beau Geste" setting, off only the R -- correct factually, but not puzzle-wise. Usually, my only critique of PB1 Fridays is that they're too easy, but this felt like it was clued harder than most. I was thrown off by the syntax on the clues for TAPE and CARGO, for example.

GILL I. 9:15 AM  

@Rex is spot on....The more I do BEQ's, BuzzFeed and the WSJ, the more grumpy I get with the NYT.
SPITTAKE was the only oh ho good oh word . Well, I also liked CATALONIA but dummy me had Barcelona for a while. Re-read the clue and although my answer is sorta true, it's not a "land". Looks like that beautiful area of Spain just might become independent pretty soon. They've fought long enough for it...!
As @Rex mentioned, clean grid and all - we know PB can do that easily but dang, this did feel oldish.
I did learn that GOUDA is brine-soaked according to the clue. I just thought it was made from pasteurized cows milk and then smoked somehow.
SAHARA and SHIITE took me the longest but in the end, I didn't need Google so that was fine.
Not so PHAT for moi....

Carola 9:20 AM  

I'm sure I won't be the first to comment that IT"S MAGIC that Patrick Berry works on a grid. After reading @Rex, I see the point about this one's old-timey entries, but honestly, when I'm doing a puzzle, I never think about whether it "skews" old or not. I found plenty of pleasures here and was really entertained by the tricky cluing. Favorite: Craft workers.

Solving: No idea of how to get a foothold in the NW, as my feeble attempts at Downs (glue, task [tricky answer for "to-do"]) came to naught, so my first guess was FIATS x FAME, confirmed by MOLTO and then ARLEN. Guessed IRON PYRITE but then rejected it because the cross gave a double "i" with ALL THE TIME - obviously impossible :).
So I sought greener pastures and found them in the opposite corner, surrounding GRETA GARBO. ROAD RAGE sent me into the SE, where I erased BET because it didn't fit with SPIllAgE (hi, @ jp flanigan) or STUPiFIED (hi, @jae). Eventually got it all. @jae, ditto on ICBM.

Indypuzzler 9:33 AM  

If you google It's Magic by Doris Day you get a song I've never heard or remember. If you google theme song for Doris Day Show you get Que Sera. I'm 60 so yes this puzzle skews older than Methusaleh.

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

Yes, kind of appealing to the olders, but I did pretty well, so I liked it. But what the heck is spittake? A Japanese mushroom? I had trouble with the NW and SE. The double "i" shouted out shiite to me altho I hadn't heard of a Twelver either.

Whirred Whacks 9:57 AM  

It's usually pretty easy for me to get on Patrick Berry's wavelength, but this one took a little more effort. Still fun, though.

I have been enjoying the "knight" clues of late.
Today: "Knight club" for MACE
Last week: "Over-knight mail" for ARMOR

Also have been enjoying thr WSJ X-words.

jberg 10:04 AM  

TIPPI Hedren, eh? No idea, so I went with TIPPO -- I've never encountered the phrase SPIT TAKE -- considered, but thought that would be something like "apit bite" (an etching technique), thought the spilled beverage might leave a SPoT, and so went with the O there. Sigh.

If you are going to complain about pop culture words (and I'm not), then doesn't it follow that clues referring to major political figures, such as Lewis CASS or Friedrich EBERT, are to be preferred?

Well, maybe not. It's just that I happened to know them. I didn't actually know CATALONIA -- that is, whether it borders Andorra -- but none of the other likely choices (Spain, Euzkady ...) fit.

I liked the way the constructor slipped his surname in there, also.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:08 AM  

Nice Medium Friday.

But where is the outrage at 54 A? RASP BERRY! The constructor putting his name in the grid! Imagine! :>)

With all the mentions of Doris Day, I am reminded of a wisecrack someone (too lazy to look up the source) made about DD: "I knew her before she was a virgin."

(Typed 10:08 AM)

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

@NCA Prez, I don't think people ever called, in the sense you mean, small towns BURGs. To my mind its usage has always tilted too quaint to be common.

Ben Briarst 10:10 AM  

There was a Doris Day Show besides the Que Sera Sera one? And believe me I'm not that young. Not knowing that hopelessly threw me off from that whole corner. Well for me to get anything on Friday is progress.

Fabozz 10:12 AM  

I still don't accept that 17A isn't KIDS' MEALS--that answer was so clear and strong, it was the first one I entered and sat there forever. It took an ICBM and a MACE in the face to get me to grudgingly change it.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

I don't always agree with Rex's lambasting of puzzles but today he is spot on. I particularly liked his comment on pop culture. I guess the theory of relativity works here.

Casco Kid 10:21 AM  

9 errors. 3 hrs. No chance in NW.

It turrns out that half of all cheeses are brined.

Minor addition to a bill was not a doodle nor a smiley face nor a "thank you!!" nor a pork-laden rider nor a nosejob.

Music genre modifier, if not neo is ALa. I get ALTERNATIVE. But ALT. No. ALT is many things, but not that.

Not less than = samE. How does MERE work?

This one was much more Byron Walden than it was Patrick Berry. Far more frustrating than enlightening.

Nancy 10:45 AM  

I solved from right to left, as the NW proved to be hardest for me. It took me forever to think of MACE; I was thinking of a club knights joined, like the Round Table or Camelot, only shorter. And then, TinE instead of TAPE really presented a problem. I wanted SST instead of ICBM, but it didn't fit. I don't get ALT at 5D, so I'll go back and read Rex and everyone else when I'm done typing.

As a lyricist, I resent the ARLEN clue. He was the composer, not the songwriter. A little guy named Johnny Mercer was also involved, as I recall. This reminds me of Oscar Hammerstein's wife's rejoinder when someone said that Jerome Kern wrote "Ol' Man River". No, said Dorothy Hammerstein, Jerome Kern wrote "Da da da da." My husband wrote "Ol' Man River!"

Other than that, a nice challenging puzzle. I loved the clues for B PICTURES and ROAD RAGE. Very enjoyable.

Robso 10:51 AM  

"Duns" is a word I have never heard spoken in my entire life, and I'm 50. I only mention it because I missed "BPICTURES" which . . . do they have "bills" at the movies anymore? Admission gets you two cartoons, a feature and a B picture? I don't know. And also I put in "ITSMUSIC" instead of "ITSMAGIC" because, why not, I didn't even know Doris Day had a show. And one more nit to pick in the NW: "Stick with it?" This seems like a new way of cluing, where the noun is left out just to mess with my head (unless this happens a lot during the rest of the week).
In short, I hated the NW. Sorry if you though it was GOUDA. (Ha! Get it???)

Nancy 10:55 AM  

@jae -- I also wanted "Que Sera Sera", but it didn't fit. I remember now that it was from "The Man Who Knew Too Much," not from her show.

@GILL -- I also had no idea that GOUDA was brine-soaked, so it took me forever to write it in, even though I wanted a D there. To me, GOUDA is such a bland, totally uninteresting cheese that it's hard to imagine it's been soaked in anything.

@Sir Hillary -- Finally! Someone's dared to say it! TIPPI Hedren WAS a dreadful actress!

bwalker 11:00 AM  

Another one-letter mistake at STUPiFIED/BiT, so DNF. Very aggravating. Rex's review says it all regarding the ancient clues.

My Aunt Jacqueline was Doris Day's understudy at one time. She was such a beautiful woman...and Doris, too. Regretfully, a family illness necessitated her return from Hollywood, but she met my uncle, and the rest is colorful family history.

@chefbea -- a SPIT TAKE is a slapstick comedy gag wherein one spews water, coffee, or some other liquid in surprise. A GAITER is a waterproof covering for the lower leg used primarily while snow skiing.

Mohair Sam 11:01 AM  

I gave some passing attention to pop culture from 1965 to 1974, therefore all pop culture references in NYT puzzles from all other periods are annoying and invalid. I'm working on a long letter to Will Shortz defining things I specifically consider dated (most of today's puzzle) and what is too new (anything after 1975, "Game of Thrones" excepted).

Doris Day had a show? Who knew? Didn't know you could even see one lonely IRONPYRITE. SHInTo for SHIITE cost us a ton of time. Thought STRATA was best clue of the puzzle, had us scratching our heads for the longest time. Forgiving the CASS clue 'cuz it's a Saturday, but wow!

Four stacks with essentially no crosswordese, very impressive. Only PB.

@Rex - I don't consider the PeeWee REESE clue dated. There's dated and there's history. He is history. PeeWee's arm around Jackie in Cincy in 1947 makes him THE Jackie Robinson teammate and integral to that very important part of American history.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

I actually didn't love this one. Some of the longer answers felt a little bland (NOTASYET, ALLTHETIME, RHETORICAL, ASPERUSUAL), a couple I had just seen in other puzzles (TETEATETES, ROADRAGE), and others I just plain don't care about as someone under 30 (GRETAGARBO, ITSMAGIC). No one says BPICTURES, but BMOVIES. Played kinda hard for me.

GeezerJackYale48 11:18 AM  

Spittake? Yuck! As you may guess from my disgust with that answer, I struggled in the SE corner. I really really wanted "slog", not "trek". Still do, for that matter, but had to give it up to fit in (yuck again) that word (phrase?). Yuck once more.

Tita 11:40 AM  

DNF cause I had dropped in bARGe, feeling fine with bASS, then when forced to go to GOADED, shrugged my shoulders at bARGO...

Liked learning that nesting dolls are called matryoshka dolls. As a girl, I had always longed for a set...contented myself with one bought in Prague when I was in my forties. The stand selling them also had Bush, Clinton, and even AROD versions, so not the most authentic, I suppose.

NE also hard... Couldn't see beyond foolsgold at 9d, and had a really hard time seeing TETEATETE. Yup, had mAME there.

A fair, if seriously old puzzle...heck, SAABs went out of business ages ago...
I really really don't care much about the age of the fill...hey...does STRATA count as musty? I mean, rocks are billions of years old... So what? Sometime I gotta know something from last week, sometimes from last century.

Rex... I gotta laugh at "Because Mama CASS would've been too current."

Thanks, Patrick!

Masked and Anonymous 12:05 PM  

Solid FriPuz. @009 might be right, on it skewin a mite musty. The following years were cited, in the clues:
1990(s), 1980, 1969, 1848, 1931. [Average: August, 1943.] Didn't know what a "twelver" was, either. Neither does auto-correct, btw.

CIENTO? day-um. We have to be able to count to 100 in yer foreign lingos, now? Scary. Oh, hey -- wait! Halloween Index! …

Lots of Halloween Index potential, in this here grid. Bullets:

* 66 out of 66 answers have Patrick Berry Usage immunity. Eerily high mark. A record that cannot be beaten with a mace.
* HYDE. Clue could be made slightly scarier than a British park.
* TREK. Clue could go all sci-fi franchise on this.
* ALLOT. Clue sanctioned by Hammer Films: {Private cemetery where the Jolsonmeister is buried?}
* GAITER. Cloning-gone-wrong clue: {Alligator/tiger mix monster?}
* REESE. Witherspoon, of "Monsters vs. Aliens". (2009!)
* YETI. Good one.
* MYERS. Primo "Halloween" reference.
* B-PICTURE. Quintessential schlock flick example: Any "Mystery Science Theater 3000" fare.
* SETTEES. House of Usher furniture.
* BOATMEN. River Styx guides.
* SNORT. Several movie monsters had real good snorts. Velociraptors, e.g.
* ICBM. Scares the snot outta M&A.
* MACE GRETA GARBO. 4th column combo. Makes one do a spittake.
Ergo, Halloween Index = 3.8. (Points off for TIPPI and Doris Day.)

Only 2 weejects in the whole rodeo. Lean and mean, PB1. But, thanx for all the old-time fun.

Nice central "+" sign in the grid. That always scares M&A, for reasons he can't quite remember.

Masked & Anonymo5Us

**skyhigh Halloween Index gruntz**

John V 12:10 PM  

This boomer/senior solve got absolutely no traction at all. I know it says Patrick Berry on the by line, but sure doesn't feel like his work. Pretty disappointing, IMHO>

Roo Monster 12:22 PM  

Hey All !
Challenging, nay, impossible to complete. I'm as old as Rex, but apparently know close to nothing pre-80's TV or movie-wise. Was stuck in all corners except SE, managed to wrangle that one out. Finally after going snow blind from looking at all that white, I began to Goog. Looked up 1A and 14A, and still couldn't get 17A, or 1,2,3D! Talk about feeling like a dumb ass! Had rollS in for SAABS, isle for BURG, and not knowing GRETA GARBO (know the actress, just not the film) messed up the SW. Had to also Goog for SAHARA. as had NOT today in for NOT AS YET. Googed for RENE also. So after all that, still couldn't get NE, just flat out gave up and came here. Way out of my ken for Mr. (RASP) BERRY. I can usually twist and turn my way through one of his puzs, but today I got BEATS UP! It LEFT me IN RUINS. I SNORTed and SAABed! Felt STUPIFIED by it all. AS PER USUAL for a Fri or SatPuz. I could go on, but I'm sure you stopped caring a couple sentences ago!

So, ouch! Thanks for the drumming PB1!

@chefbea (et. al. who don't know)
A SPIT TAKE is when someone is drinking something, and you tell them something shocking, and they spit out the liquid in a spray. Classic comedy shtick.


nick 12:38 PM  

Interesting thought, the nyt catering to an old-skewing audience. Had always thought the persistent mustiness here was we-set-the-bar hubris, not a doomed business model.

BUT this puzzle still had the Berry, wit and elegance and, my favorite -- the Jackie Robinson clue at 42, which was his players number.

Lewis 12:39 PM  

@rex -- Enjoyable and spot-on review.
@strawgirl -- Good one on spittake!
@jberg and @kerfuffle -- Good catch on berry in the grid.

Will has all kinds of groups to please, and one of his largest groups is seniors, so I'm not surprised that he will occasionally run puzzles skewing old like this one does. I'd like to see more young skewing puzzles as well, as well as puzzles that mix the two. I don't mind the variety.

But look at how clean this grid is, and it's a 66-worder! PB does this all the time, so we get used to it, but every time I see a low-word-count grid this clean I marvel. There was some terrific clever cluing, another PB hallmark that people take for granted, but what a treasure, such as the clues for CARGO, ROADRAGE, BOATMEN, and PICTURES. Not to mention some answers of interest: STUPEFIED, SPITTAKE, TETEATETES, RATSO, and RHETORICAL. Plus extraneous sounds: ARIA, SPITTAKE, SNORT.

The bottom line is not for whom the puzzle skews, but how was the solve? For me, it was a very enjoyable tussle. Once again, thank you PB.

old timer 12:44 PM  

About a quarter of the way through, I did look at the byline. When I saw it was PB, I said to myself, "That's a great help. Now I know I don't need to be looking for lame, overused, or crosswordy answers."I could have added, "or abbreviations or partials", though there were two: The brilliant CASS, and the almost inexcusable (for PB) ASIAN, which could have been clued in many other good ways.

The puzzle skewed old enough to be beyond the ken of many boomers (I am technically not one, having been born during WWII, barely). But I fundamentally disagree with Rex's take on this. A lot of us know almost nothing about modern pop culture. But a lot of people my children's age know quite a bit about pop culture from earlier generations. All my kids would have heard of TIPPI Hedrin and maybe Doris Day. Would they have known ITSMAGIC? No, but neither did I, though I sometimes watched the show. The hardest for them might have been BPICTURES, which barely existed even in the Sixties. Those films were designed to be used in theaters that always had a double feature.

They certainly would have known (and used) PHAT. The rallying cry at their high school (though the principal tried to suppress it) was " ___ girls are fat." Which finally died out when the rival school could claim their girls were PHAT.

SPITTAKE was my last entry. I'm not at allsure I know what it means, but I had vaguely heard the term.

Chip Hilton 12:46 PM  

I like golf courses that start with flat, wide open par fours. No hidden hazards, a welcome to the round feel. One-across should do the same thing. Que Sera should've been a given. I was convinced I was misspelling it so I came here. Had I not, the northwest would've totally flummoxed me. Very surprising for the great PB. Otherwise, an enjoyable test for this 66 year old solver.

AliasZ 12:52 PM  

Any puzzle with FIATS and SAABS in it can't be all bad.

I remember walking around in Rome, Italy, in the fall of 1968, and seeing hundreds of FIATS (500s, 600s and 850s) zig-zag around the streets ALL THE TIME like so many SPEEDY bumblebees. It was amazing that during the three months I spent there I never once saw a fender bender. Yes, there was some screaming, a RASPBERRY here and there, talking with the hands, and some obscene gestures, but no real sign of ROAD RAGE. How do they do it?

Some of the older references in this puzzle may seem dated to some solvers, but I prefer to call them classics. Yes, old pop culture items turn into classics if they stand the test of time, while fresh, up-to-the-minute ones obviously haven't had the chance to prove themselves worthy of becoming classics as yet. Maybe in another fifty years they will, but today, no.

Here is a classic that will never be out of fashion: Córdoba from the cycle "Chants d'Espagne" (Cantos de España) by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909), born in CATALONIA, Spain.


Anonymous 1:04 PM  

I'm going to "counter-curmudgeon" a few of you here regarding cultural references being too dated. None of these individuals is by any means an obscure footnote in history. They’ve all made significant contributions to American culture and society. So while most of them in this puzzle were prominent in the 30s-early 60s, it's sort of depressing that someone who was born later should think of them as dated and complain about not being familiar with them. As I am a tail-end baby boomer, they were all either dead or past their prime by the time I was old enough to know. Also, while I understand the argument that not enough puzzles have more recent cultural references, where is it written that each one has to have a balance?

MetroGnome 1:16 PM  

Well, to be fair, Harold Arlen also qualifies as "history" more than mere "pop culture," and simply by virtue of her having worked with Hitchcock, I think Tippi Hedren might fit that category, as well.

That RASPBERRY, though, got me wondering -- any etymology geeks out there who can tell us why/how such a perfectly delightful fruit became associated with such a perfectly vulgar and disgusting (but FUN!!!) sound?

Leapfinger 1:24 PM  

Skews old? Yes! Almost choked on the CASStigated clue. Only way that could have been out-done would be to have gone medieval with DUNS Scotus.

Despite that, the usual complement of Berryesque misleads that resulted in:
glue before TAPE (right church, wrong pew)
elo before ALT (wrong church; what can I say? It's not my religion)
NOT today before NOT AS YET (NOT that I ever spoke those words)
ActA before ARIA (sometimes I'll write down something I know is wrong

@ChefBea, GAITERS can simply be spats, but there are also waterproof gaiters made for rugged climbing, that fit over the boot and snap together all the way up the calf. The keep out snow and water so your feet stay dry -- a good thing, as are the memories of snow climbs.

Liked the SPITTAKE mushrooms and loved the 'Hundred to Juan' clue. Beautiful sound to CATALONIA, and if there's anyone needs to borrow a pet for a while, I'm sure to have a ... Well, just see me.

Is there any connection between LUCRE and LUCREtia Borgia? She's keeping some interesting company here, with Lizzie STRATA and STUPEFIED Jones. (I looked for JONES in the grid; that really would've capped all.

Also noticed a cool automotive sub(tle)theme, with SAABS in one corner and FIATS in the opposite. Couldn't tell if that was a Spider or a Spyder, but wouldya look at that SPEEDY S-CARGO!! It's sure gonna STIR up some ROADRAGE on the STRATAway!

Well, well, this may have been something of a RASPy BERRY as some have said, but there's still plenty of shiny Phool's Gold to play with.

As the man says, TGIF.

Anoa Bob 1:28 PM  

Here's the real Dinah Shore theme song.

Charles Flaster 1:59 PM  

Thought it was medium but then a DNF due to pATAgONIA in lieu of CATALONIA. Write overs were STUPEFIED for SurPrisED and BURG for BeRG.
Liked cluing for CIENTO and LUCRE
In 23 across we did not need Buck because RATSO is the answer ( first name).
Midnight Cowboy is a phenomenally well-acted movie that is a must see for all.
Thanks PB

Tita 2:03 PM  

@Robso...I worked at a company that had been a part of DUN & Bradstreet, the financial and business data company, Thought I would be smart by posting the origin of the word DUN as having come from being sent a letter by that company saying you were got DUNned, or were sent a DUNning letter.
I googled it to confirm, and learned that it is a 17th c. word. D&B only 19th c..

Oops. We'll, I at least can tell you that I used to hear it in sentences, though not in the last 30 years. And that they did in fact send dunning letters to demand payment.

ArtO 2:07 PM  

As an old timer, I was really thrown by trying to fit MERCER in where ARLEN was the response. Unfair, I say.

Will have to admit, this one skewed old even for this old timer. GRETAGARBO is even before my time!

But was able to work out all but the NW.

Teedmn 2:12 PM  

This has to be one of the hardest PB puzzles I've done. The NW and the SHIITE-BOATMEN sections were toughest for me. I always think "Beau Geste" was in the Sierra Madre area so that made everything around there hard to see. I was really doubting the accuracy of the double II of SHIITE since I, like @Rex, had no idea what the 'Twelver' referred to (had SemITE for a while.

Somehow I sorted that out and went back to the NW. 17A was briefly BroChURES.

Loved the clues for 25A, 40A, 48A and 53A. Didn't get BET for Venture, or MERE as No better than and I don't think B PICTURES is great either.

Still, a fun solve and plenty of good, long answers. Thanks, PB.

the redanman 2:54 PM  

Easy 70%, ???? 30%, different spots than Rex, NE was close to GIMME ME

so be it

Anonymous 3:01 PM  

The theme song for the television program THE DORIS DAY SHOW, for all five seasons, was "Que Sera, Sera." However, she also had a radio show in the 1950s called THE DORIS DAY SHOW. Its theme song was "It's Magic." Both are signature songs for DD, but I imagine that only the most knowledgeable fans are aware of the radio show.

Anonymous 3:02 PM  

As a former geologist, a puzzle that includes STRATA and IRONPYRITE is fun.

Some spots were troubling: I've never heard of a 'twelver'. The clue for BPICTURES was confusing, even after I got the answer. I didn't get it until I read Rex's comment about BMOVIES. Ah, that kind of picture! D'oh. CASS was out of my range of knowledge for that clue.

Other than that, I loved the SE corner. Loved ROADRAGE. Great grid.

Enjoyed it, even the parts I didn't know.

Malsdemare 3:14 PM  

Someone, I forget who, called Tippi Hedron "Hitchcocks's teutonic titwillow." I love the image. Massive dnf here, lost in the NE and the SW. I've never heard of SPITTAKE and BPICTURES never came to me. I got lots of stuff by channeling PB (DUNS, GAITORS, TETEATETES, STARTER, ITSMAGIC, though I have no clue how I knew that one), and with those toeholds, completed most of this only to tank courtesy of STUPiFIED and almost everything in the NW.


Da Bears 3:21 PM  

I don't consider this puzzle old. I consider it timeless...or suitable ALL THE TIME.

chefbea 3:31 PM  

@bwalker thanks for the explanations

Z 3:47 PM  

@Casco Kid - Since I love one of the pioneers of ALT-rock (R.E.M.) and one of the pioneers of ALT-country (Uncle Tupelo - whose break-up led to both Wilco and Son Volt), I didn't have much trouble with ALT. Of course, not quite sure about ALT-J.

@Mohair Sam - Tee Hee. I assume you know that The Doris Day Show was on during your pop culture wheelhouse years. The other interesting thing I learned from the Wiki article on the show is that at the end DD played a swinging single. Not bad for a woman who had turned 50. Also, I agree 100% on your PeeWee Reese observation.

LindaPRmaven 4:46 PM  

Yes, this is B- Patrick Berry with more groaners than I'd expect from him (TAPE, YETI - can we please leave the Himalayas for a bit - CARGO, ARIA). TETEATETES and ROADRAGE gave me a smile though. And liked seeing Harold ARLEN in a puzzle and a nod to Jule Styne with ITSMAGIC. Rex, these songs are classic pop culture. But who's heard of a SPITTAKE? Got it from the crosses but pretty obscure in this quarter.

Easy-Medium for me, unusually for a Friday. Medium in the SE and NW.

Leapfinger 7:16 PM  

@Chas Flastrr, finally someone else who appreciated 'A hundred to Juan'!! What are the odds?

Ben Briarst 7:18 PM  

There was a Doris Day Show besides the Que Sera Sera one? And believe me I'm not that young. Not knowing that hopelessly threw me off from that whole corner. Well for me to get anything on Friday is progress.

Z 7:59 PM  

@Anon 3:01 is correct, IT'S MAGIC is from the 1952 radio show. YIKES. It's even worse than I thought.

@Oldtimer and @anonymous counter-curmudgeon, and @other defenders - No. There is no more reason to know IT'S MAGIC or TIPPI Hedron or RENÉ Lacoste or PHAT if you are my sons' age than for a 70-something to know The Weeknd, Keira Knightley, John Varvatos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. And worse for this puzzle, there's no balance. The world did not end in 1990, but you can't tell that from this puzzle. "I don't want to learn anything about your interests but expect you to know everything about mine," is an interesting attitude, but I prefer to listen a little more to people younger than me. Keeps me free of mold.

Alby 8:37 PM  

I thought NOTASYET and IRONPYRITE were stretched out for the sake of the grid. I've only ever heard it called pyrite.

Elephant's Child 9:41 PM  

@Z, not every puzzle is a microcosm.

Cat's Eye 10:51 PM  

@Anon 3:02, once a geologist, always a geologist. Rock on!

Heehee, there's a CATALONIA for anyone who wants to borrow a kitty.

Anonymous 11:12 PM  

Yuck. The NW corner had too much dreck - BPICTURES with a completely obscure clue, crossed by TAPE with a clue that should have had a ? next to it, or something - just unpleasant.

Leapfinger 1:14 AM  

Now that I think of it, it's fairly surprising that nobody complained Ms Hedren's first name is normally spelled TEPPEE.

Z 10:03 AM  

@Leapfinger - Zing!

I did get a response from my friend regarding "Twelver." If I'm understanding his response, Twelvers are a subset of Shi'a. Sort of like Baptists being Protestants doesn't make all Protestants Baptists. He also said it is not especially pejorative, but it can be used that way. So, now you know.

Anonymous 11:54 AM  


kitshef 8:41 PM  

So often @Rex will rave about a Berry puzzle I don't care for, and now he upchucks all over this gem. Soooo many ambiguous clues to puzzle out, and every obscure answer crossed fairly. I loved it.
'Dated' pop culture has stood the test of time to be remembered at all, and thus is valid. Modern pop culture may likewise be remembered, or may be forgotten faster than ... something we've all forgotten.

David A. Bedford 3:39 PM  

Assai is "rarther". The clue is correct.

David A. Bedford 3:56 PM  

It's cien, not ciento

David A. Bedford 4:00 PM  

The credits always have Tippi.

David A. Bedford 4:03 PM  

I know I'ts Magic from the Bugs Bunny cartoon. Now THAT's timeless.

Syndyland Solver 11:27 AM  

Teepee? Really? I hope you are kidding.

Burma Shave 12:02 PM  




Longbeachlee 12:10 PM  

I join the bit/spittake gripers and wonder why no one else sees this as a bona fide natick

spacecraft 12:34 PM  

Thanks to @roo monster for 'splaining SPITTAKE, which was such a WOE that I pored over that corner for uncounted minutes trying to see where I'd gone astray. But every letter seemed locked in, so I LEFT it with a shrug.

Although this is a marvel of long answers--triple 10-stacks and the 8-9-9 STRATA--ASPERUSUAL for Mr. B, I was struck by the common-letter crutchiness of ASSETS, SETTEES and, good grief, TETEATETES. Glad he doesn't do that ALLTHETIME.

@Fabozz: hand up for KIDSMEALS; would've been a great clue. The NW was yet again the last to fall for me; last two letters were the P and T of BPICTURES: oh, THAT kind of [play]bill, and the "it" of "Stick with it" was the actual answer TAPE.

Tricky clues as befit endweek made for more of a medium-challenging (in spots) rating, IMHO. TIPPI shoehorned me in, but you're right, guys: she was never an Oscar threat. But, Alfred loved blondes, and she had that classy aristocratic look. I always wondered what the hell was wrong with Eva Marie Saint, who did a smashing job in "North By Northwest?" BTW, the other end of the acting scale is well represented here with DH's amazing portrayal of RATSO Rizzo.

SPIT TAKE. Go figure. I mean, I've seen it, but never had a clue that someone had actually NAMED it. I guess we can grant PB immunity. A-.

rondo 12:45 PM  

I could take puzzles like this ALLTHETIME. Not particularly SPEEDY, but once you get a STARTER things roll along with a little brainwork. Since I am older than OFL, I guess this puz was made for me, though I don’t mind some “newer” fill intimidating either.

I’ve mentioned before that yeah baby GRETAGARBO was my grandmother’s cousin – my small claim to FAME. And that Swede crossed with SAABS (my very own group protesting the micro-aggression that using the term MN Vikings makes my people seem to be war-like, Scandinavian Americans Against Blatant Slurs – SAABS) was nice.

In my line of work our clients have DUNS numbers; does not exactly fit the clue, but financially related.

Minnesota Public Radio has a couple of stations that often play and stream ALT/indie-rock and ALT-country/Americana as well as stuff that is not ALT. It keeps me Current. You should google MPR.

It’s not much of a structure if the shingles are supported by LATH. The stucco outside or real plaster inside cold be supported by LATH, but certainly not a roof.

More current would have been ELO’s Oh Oh ITSMAGIC.

ASPERUSAL I liked this PB puz.

Torb 1:46 PM  

Brutal fill (spittake, cass) but finished. Yay!

rain forest 4:07 PM  

Who really cares if a puzzle's "pop culture" references are old, new, or somewhere in between (what is the dividing line, btw?)? Why does there need to be a balance? Ah, I see: Rule 12A of the Arcane Crossword Puzzle Rules, just after Rule 11: How to do Wacky, which follows Rule 10: Puzzles should be FUN. Author--M. Sharp. Got it.

This enjoyable puzzle was like all of Berry's--get a few gimmes (DUNS, GRETA GARBO, FIATS, GAITER), and let PB guide your pen smoothly through the rest.

I just about did a SPIT TAKE when I saw that was actually going to be the answer. Beauty.

Yeah, I'm an oldie, but I don't think that really matters. As an observation, I would have liked to see CASS clued via Robert Penn Warren's masterpiece, All the King's Men. I think OFL would get that one, even though it is, ahem, OLD.

leftcoastTAM 4:55 PM  

All went pretty well until--you guessed it--the BET/SPITTAKE cross, where I made a bad BET on Bid/SPIdTAKE , misspelling STUPIFIED in the process. (Bronx cheer here.)

Otherwise, some good, clever, misdirecting clues, which are expected from Mr. Berry (first name, RASP).

DMG 5:16 PM  

Hey, it looks like I can post again- the Captcha God has relented. yOu know it's an age thing, lots of this puzzle skewed "young. For me! fInally solved it after seeing PB's name- always doable if you stick with it. did have to change PUTEE to GAITER!

Unknown 10:38 PM  

Glad someone was more knowledgeable than I, as I was upset with NY Times for getting DD theme song wrong. I knew from experience that it was que Sera Sera for the TV show, but didn't know about the radio show

Bryan Lewis 11:04 AM  

Most of the references to "old" pop culture didn't have to be there; it was a choice of the person who made the clues.

There are lots of people named MYERS, not to mention Fort Myers. FAME and ITS MAGIC could have had lots of non-pop culture clues.

REESE had a prominent part in the recent movie about Jackie Robinson. So this is not just "old" culture.

TIPPI Hedren has appeared in quite a few TV shows and movies since 2006. She was a big star in "The Birds", and if you don't know what movie that is, you have no business doing a NYT crossword puzzle. Similarly, I don't care if you're 18 or 80, if you don't know who GRETA GARBO is you may as well hand in your pencil.

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