Pacific island Magellan visited in 1521 / FRI 9-1-17 / What ancient Greeks called Hyrcanian Ocean / Period ushered in by Augustus

Friday, September 1, 2017

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (just 'cause of the proper nouns I had Never seen, and some confusing cluing)

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: CEBU (39A: Pacific island Magellan visited in 1521) —
Cebu (/seˈbuː/; Cebuano: Lalawigan sa Sugbu, Filipino: Lalawigan ng Cebu) is a province of the Philippines located in the Central Visayas (Region VII) region, and consisting of the main island itself and 167 surrounding islands and islets. Its capital is Cebu City, the oldest city and first capital of the Philippines, which is politically independent from the provincial government. Cebu City forms part of the Cebu Metropolitan Area together with four neighboring cities (Danao City, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City and Talisay City) and eight other local government units. Mactan-Cebu International Airport, located in Mactan Island, is the second busiest airport in the Philippines. (wikipedia)
• • •

Just too much stuff I'd never heard of to be really enjoyable, and this is coming from someone who Nailed 1D: Alistair ___, "The Guns of Navarone" novelist (MACLEAN) (ugh). My proper noun ignorance is really not your or anyone else's problem, and this grid is, in most ways, quite lovely and elegant, especially through the middle. But I've never heard of KORBEL, ever, or of CEBU, ever, so struggling to get them and eventually getting them did not leave an "aha!" feeling, but rather ... there was more of a dull thud sound. And then you try to convince me that TRINI is something other than old-school crosswordese [Singer Lopez]? (3D: Certain Caribbean islander, informally) I don't know. It's a very well-made grid, but Berry's puzzles are starting to feel old to me. Not old bad or old stale, but old ... like, GEORGE WILL old (33A: Newspaper columnist who wrote the book "Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball"). Culturally centered in a bygone era. Not PAX ROMANA bygone, but back there somewhere. So I admire their architectural beauty but increasingly don't really want to live inside them.

[10D: Unlikely winner at the Masters]

There's a METHANOL now? Inferred that one only after getting several crosses (1-Across struggle often means overall struggle). Totally doubted MACLEAN and thought briefly 17A: Clytemnestra's half sister (HELEN) was MEDEA. And I am literally in the middle of a New Yorker article that discusses the Oresteia at length, so botching a clue with Clytemnestra in it really hurts. I also literally said PAX ROMANA out loud today in class (13A: Period ushered in by Augustus), but somehow failed to look at the clue early (when it would've helped me), so despite dropping 1- and 2-Down in quickly, the NW was a mess. And then, because KORBEL meant nothing to me, I couldn't really turn the corner effectively into the center. And then of course I had TOM for JIM (9D: Huck's pal), so that was unfun. I have never heard anyone say MARKER PEN (32A: Soft-headed writer?), so that one just hurts (my ears and eyes and sensibilities). Thank god GEORGE WILL was a gimme, or I might still be doing this puzzle. Had ENSNARL at 41A: Become tangled (SNARL UP), which Really hurt, because it led to GULLS at 37D: Easy marks (DUPES). OPERA BOXES aren't anything I'm familiar with, so they were hard to get to from 49A: What a theater's grand tier is divided into. Had RTE instead of ETA at 50D: GPS guess. I basically stepped in every hole I could, and when you add that to the hot KORBEL-CEBU action, the result is a rather limping and anemic effort on my part.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. speaking of the old feel of this puzzle: AMC is absolutely not not not a 5D: Cable channel for cinephiles. It *used* to be that, but its programming took a significantly different turn FIFTEEN YEARS AGO ... ugh. Cinephiles watch TCM and FilmStruck. I know because ... I just know.

P.P.S. phrasing on the clue at 38A: What the ancient Greeks called the Hyrcanian Ocean is wicked confusing. Makes it sound like "Hyrcanian Ocean" is a current thing that we're supposed to guess the ancient Greek name of, not vice versa. [Ancient Greeks called it "the Hyrcanian Ocean"]. Confusion, eliminated.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:12 AM  

Easy-medium (I did know KORBEL) for me. Solid with some good stuff in the middle, or typical PB, liked it.

@Rex - I agree about AMC. I also had TCM at first. I mean AMC = Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Mad Men....these days.

mathgent 12:15 AM  

Korbel is a popular California sparkling wine. It used to be more popular out here, but it has been surpassed by Gloria Ferrer.

Another sweet job by The Genius.

Geometricus 12:20 AM  

Skewed easy for me. Finished it in less than half my normal Friday time, but I feel like a lot of it was lucky guesses. I've seen KORBEL at the liquor store and I think I was at a going away party yesterday and could have had a glass of it. I've seen CEBU but didn't know it as an island, I got three letters from crosses and that was enough to guess it. I really liked MONKEY BARS, SUCCCINTLY and SMØRGASBÖRD (have no idea if those diacritics are right, but I love the way they look). I still think Patrick Berry is the bomb as the kids used to say 15 or so years ago. I guess that makes me kind of a relic too. Oh well, can't stay young forever, nor would I want to.

George Barany 12:22 AM  

Interesting review by @Rex of @Patrick Berry's puzzle -- in some ways our experiences dovetail but in others they diverge. I confidently put in GLYCEROL for 1-Across, but backpedaled to METHANOL (very easy for a chemist) when some of the crossings weren't working out. That included somehow retrieving from distant trivia memories the answer to 1-Down, no relation to yesterday's MACLEOD, and realizing that the Washington player clue referred to baseball rather than politics.

GEORGE WILL's writings about baseball are well worth reading, be they in column form or full books. The AMATEUR, GASBILL, and MONKEYBARS clues were fun to figure out--typical of the constructor's elegance--and more than make up for hard-to-fathom stuff like KORBEL.

nick 12:44 AM  

Funny -- I had an almost-opposite solving experience: KORBEL, TRINI, & OPERA BOXES were give-aways that pushed me through, while MACLEAN & GEORGE WILL were among the last answers filled (CEBU was a struggle for all of us). Also, I ended up with AT BAY crossing DEAD EYES but didn't/don't understand the cluing for either ...

For what it's worth, I'm in my late 20s & this one didn't feel especially outdated to me. Then again, I'm probably used to Berry's style by now. Not the funnest Friday.

Bill Jenkins, Concerned Citizen 12:54 AM  

Outdated = anything that Rex doesn't know

puzzlehoarder 12:56 AM  

Solving PB1's puzzles is always like eating at a restaurant that serves food for people with no teeth. There's really nothing to chew on. I want a puzzle that generates some real puzzlement. Speaking of which thanks to @jae for suggesting the 12/6/97 by David J. Kahn. It took me just over an hour to go through that thing. The SE corner was terrific.

Dawn 12:57 AM  

Finished slightly faster than usual, but must confess to wondering who the hell Mark Erpen was...ouch. :) Had my Dad's fondness for Guns of Navarone to thank for Alistair MACLEAN. Blazed through the NW, then ran into little road blocks everywhere else. Liked HELEN, MONKEYBARS and PAXROMANA. Didn't know CEBU and had Tom for JIM for a bit too. Why are DEAD EYES hit makers? Anyway, another smooth PB puzzle. I don't think he's getting stale at all. I always enjoy sitting down with one of his puzzles.

Mike in Mountain View 1:00 AM  

This was possibly my fastest Friday ever. Unsurprisingly, the grid seemed silky smooth. PAXROMANA, GEORGEWILL, IMAX, SHOAT were gimmes. Almost everything else fell right into place.

KORBEL is the third-largest sparkling wine seller in the US by volume. I got it off the K in YAK.

IMAX made JIM easy. SMORGASBORD and EPEE were enough to show me OPERA BOXES.

Needed the crosses for TRINI and DEADEYES.

Thanks, Patrick. Keep 'em coming.

Anonymous 1:42 AM  

Finished it, which i rarely do on Fridays. Was fun.

Dolgo 2:39 AM  

Pretty easy for me, especially considering it's Friday.
I have a cavil. It may vary from theater to theater, but the opera houses I know best have the boxes separate from the grand tier. For example, in San Francisco, it's orchestra, boxes, grand tier, dress circle, and balconies in ascending order though the boxes are the most expensive, since they are private.
I liked the proper names--perhaps because they were familiar.

Anoa Bob 2:50 AM  

I think this was a very fine puzzle but having been to CEBU on a diving trip probably SKEWS my opinion somewhat. Seeing that brought back lots of great memories. They have their own language, Cebuano. Magellan was killed in a skirmish with locals on Mactan Island, ONLY about one mile from CEBU.

Magellan's ships likely had many DEADEYES. These are round wooden structures with three holes in them---they look like giant buttons---that are used as part of the ship's rigging. Here's what they look like

Robin 2:58 AM  

Count me vehemently amongst those who think that calling AMC a cinephile's channel is just plain wrong. Grrrr. And more grrrrrrr.

This worked out medium for me. Was able to write out JANE, MACLEAN and GEORGEWILL simply on the clues. But still had some minor issues here and there.

I think I still have a scar somewhere from a MONKEYBARS accident some 45 years ago.

Thomaso808 3:37 AM  

DNF because I had DoPES instead of DUPES, with a guess at the cross CEBo. Shame on me because I worked in Guam for three years with Filipino coworkers and we had a big map of the Philippines hanging in the office and CEBU is a big deal.

Like others, my first entry for 5D was tcm, which totally messed up getting PAXROMANA. I agree with Rex and others AMC just not right. If you need to clue AMC, how about "Gremlin maker". But I guess that makes the puzzle even more dated.

GEORGEWILL was a gimme because I love baseball. It's one thing that many Americans from all walks of life and all political leanings can discuss with passion and civility, advocating their favorite team, but appreciating excellence in their opponents. And all measured against over 130 years of history. That being said, Go Giants! (oops, wrong year, very wrong year!).

C'mon, Rex, METHANOL is not a new thing. Rubbing alcohol? Going blind from bad moonshine? Does this ring any bells?

I thought this was a little on the easy side for a PB1 puz, meaning I actually wrote in a few tentative answers on the first pass. I loved the big open space in the middle, except I gotta agree with Rex that MARKERPEN just hurts. But other than that and AMC, really, really good.

Dolgo 4:41 AM  

A little Googling shows significant variation. There are boxes on several of the levels at the Met, for example, including the grand tier. Some smaller opera houses don't even have boxes, some use a different name for the front section of the first balcony (in SF the grand tier).
It was certainly easy to guess the answer even though the clue was slightly inaccurate because of the many differences.
In Britain, BTW, the orchestra is called "the stalls," maybe because it was "the pit," the cheapest part of Shakespeare's theater, the home of the notorious "Groundlings," and, unlike in the US, not as pricey or prestigious as the higher seats.

Dolgo 4:49 AM  

I agree. Don't they interrupt with (gasp!!) commercials?! I originally put in TCM for Turner Classic Movies, but soon realized that was wrong. Like @Robin,I was shocked at the right answer. But, of course, you regulars have already got old Dolgoruky pegged as an insufferable snob!

Andrew R. 4:58 AM  

For once Rex's experience mirrored mine. Except that he would have solved it in a fraction of the time. And I'd have done better if I'd thought of RETOTALED instead of RETALLIED...

Lewis 5:59 AM  

Wavelength serendipity day for me; probably my fastest Friday ever. As always with Patrick, smooth as silk, and clean can be. I loved CANAPE, SMORGASBORD, and SUCCINCTLY, and smiled at MESS AROUND on the MONKEY BARS. Near neighbor palindrome: ETA and ATE. MARKER PEN didn't sound common to me, but it Googles very well. There were five answers nowhere in my brain, but the crosses were fair.

Pure pleasure. Oui oui, PB!

Anonymous 6:02 AM  

I'm relieved to know Mike Sharp's lack of proper noun knowledge is not my problem.

Johnny 6:09 AM  

I honestly don't get "Hit makers?" for DEADEYES. In addition to ship's rigging as explained above by Bob there are also DEADEYES in doors, specifically a small round window in a watertight door on a ship, but used elsewhere. What are "Hit makers?"?

Alan Richard Textiles, Ltd. 6:40 AM  

A sniper is responsible for a hit and is, by definition, a dead eye.

Z 7:04 AM  
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Z 7:05 AM  

Two people have said Rex called the puzzle "outdated" so I went back and checked; Not old bad or old stale, but old ... like, GEORGE WILL old. I guess if you think GEORGE WILL is "outdated" you could think that was Rex's point. I think Rex is making a different observation, if you venture out to indie puzzles you find lots of currency in PPP answers. It really seems that to be published in the NYTX, though, a puzzle has to be (c)ulturally centered in a bygone era. Even Rap artists tend to be of the "old masters" vintage. This could just be a function of needing to target a broader audience than indie puzzles.

Personally, I like my PPP (that's Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns) to be 25% of the puzzle or less and to be broad. From Hyrcanian Ocean to Frank Ocean say.

SteveCFL 7:10 AM  

Korbel is cheap California champagne - but it is the only American label that can use the word "champagne on its label. I think only because thy started using it before the French protected themselves.

George 7:17 AM  

53 years old and I'm just now finding out that SMORGASBORD is not 'smorgasborg?' I'm flabbergasted. Also, ETA is a GPS calculation, not a guess.

Hungry Mother 7:37 AM  

I usually feel the same way as Rex does about proper names, but I sailed through this one at almost PR speed. I always adjust my logic meter to fuzzy for Friday puzzles, so have no complaints about the cluing.

Space Is Deep 7:43 AM  

Shocked by the rating. Easily one of my fastest Friday's ever. About 15 minutes. I'm usually in the 1-2 hour range on Friday and Saturday. It seems like I grok Berry cluing. Agree with Rex, AMC is not for cinephiles. TCM is. My favorite channel.

Anonymous 7:47 AM  

George Will was on Colbert years ago and calmly and methodically laid out the inherent flaws of liberalism. Colbert was left reeling. He couldn't end the segment soon enough. Don't think Colbert has had the courage to invite him back since.

Isandxan 8:02 AM  

This is one of those that's felt hard - because there were many answers where I started without a clue despite the clue -- but then I had a fast Friday time. So the answers (like METHANOL) were ultimately inferrable from crosses and educated inferences.

Started with AMC, NAT, then SUCCINCTLY was, ironically, the first long answer to drop. After that it was moving back and forth across the grid, filling in what I could and moving on.

Have to say I agree, though, that it didn't feel fun. Not bad, but not great either. Which is interesting because it is such a clean grid with answers I don't often see.

Passing Shot 8:16 AM  

"Easy" fir me (in that most of it fell quickly), except for the SE. The clue for AT BAY seemed off to me; that, plus the inscrutable cluing for DEAD EYES just killed me.

Kodak Jenkins 8:24 AM  

Solved it in about 1/2 the normal time for a Friday.

I think SUCCINCTLY is the jam, it reminded me there's a C in it.

I think if you're still alive and contributing (GEORGE WILL) then you're not exactly outdated. BTW- Colbert didn't seem "left reeling" but delighted and impressed (incredulous?) by George Will's opinions of the inherent flaws of liberalism. Freedom vs equality indeed. Love to see Will's dog eat dog vision of the world in full swing- we'd all be ruled by Standard Oil.

GeezerJackYale48 8:25 AM  

And today we saw a lot. And got a large dose of his dismissive attitude towards all things that are beneath him. "Nailed"Alistair MacLean? Big whoop. "There's a Methanol now?". Tom vs Jim, "forgot"Pax Romana from yesterday, opera boxes, lame AMC, GPS guessing a route,George Will "culturally centered in a bygone era". Not pleasant reading. But the comments are always worth reading!

Small Town Blogger 8:28 AM  

Dead eyes are those with a really great aim, so likely to hit the target.

chefbea 8:31 AM  

Haven't looked at the puzzle yet..

@Music Man from yesterday...I still print out the puzzle from the NYT...E-mail me

More Whit 8:33 AM  

Found this one on the easy side as well, while also agreeing with the AMC and marker pen objections. Smorgasbord ripped open the middle of the puzzle and corner footholds were abundant, so solving time was a Friday best.

Anon 8:33 AM  

RETALLIED for RETOTALED. (shouldn't there be two Ls?). along with DEADEYES, CEBU, made the SE corner the hardest area. Also had TOM for JIM, until I saw IMAX. And didnt know SHOAT. I'm old enough to have read WILL's baseball books when they were fresh, so not a problem there, and MACLEAN was somewhere in the back of my mind once i had a few crosses.

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

A beautiful solving experience. And what I didn't know, I've now learned.

Gretchen 8:37 AM  

I'm in my late 70s and happy to know that a young person agreed with me that this was a fairly easy for a Friday puzzle.

SteveCFL 8:41 AM  

George - calculated guess at best. Usually wrong.

Mohair Sam 8:48 AM  

Well, we learned CEBU, and we learned that Patrick Berry is not a cinephile.

Clean and fun and way too easy for a Friday. Tom before JIM, TCM before AMC (do they even show movies anymore?), and ABA before NBA. Otherwise we think we're pretty smart this morning.

Always confuse Stoat (weasel) and SHOAT, thank heaven that HELEN was pretty much a gimme. Nice clue for ASPENS. Nice to see TRINI clued without Lopez. MACLEAN's first and best novel was "HMS ULYSSES" - the handful of you who still enjoy World War II stories told by those who lived it might enjoy.

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

As I was filling almost everything in, I had to stop and wonder if this was a Friday puzzle I was doing. Unusually easy for me as Friday and Saturday are the hardest for me

Mohair Sam 8:54 AM  

@Kodak Jenkins - We'll all be ruled by Google, not Standard Oil. And we well may be. And soon.

Pete 8:58 AM  

I don't know what GEORGE WILL old means - just yesterday I read a piece of his in the WaPo and got annoyed about as much as I did by Brooks this morning. So Mr. Will has great currency, at least to me. On the other hand, his piece was just 'Kids these days, they're soft, lazy and ever so precious', so yeah, the ranting of an old man.

Two Ponies 9:12 AM  

Elegant fun puzzle that required knowledge of a wide range of topics.
PB sets a high standard.
When a puzzle requires a certain level of sophistication it seems to get panned by Rex.

Unknown 9:13 AM  

I thought dead eyes were shooter marbles.

Anonymous 9:14 AM  

When did the world "old" become a pejorative?

GeezerJackYale48 9:18 AM  
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Amie Devero 9:20 AM  

How in the world can you have lived in America and never heard of Korbel? It's on every shelf for two weeks preceding New Year, and advertised ubiquitously on television. Also, methanol ought to be an everyday word for most of us who took highschool chemistry. I also never heard of Cebu. All in all, a nice, smooth but challenging Friday.

RAD2626 9:22 AM  

Of the 225 puzzles PB has published in the NYT, more than half are Friday or Saturday, i.e., themeless. Given how smooth his puzzles are generally and given what an enjoyable solve they are, not surprising that many solvers find them easy relatively for those days.

Struggled with CEBU and JANE (because of Tom) like many did. While I disagree with Rex' overall assessment, agree that cluing for CASPIAN SEA was confusing, perhaps deliberately so.

Been a good week so far. And WSJ meta is manageable. Hope tomorrow continues the streak.

GeezerJackYale48 9:25 AM  

Yep. The ranting of an old man. Here's another rant from an even older man: HE'S RIGHT.

Stuart Showalter 9:27 AM  

@rex wrote: "Berry's puzzles are starting to feel old to me." I guess anything he doesn't know is "old," and old = bad in his world. GET A LIFE Michael! Your whining is gelling "old." (But I keep coming back to see what you'll whine about every day, so I guess it's my fault.)

Docpat 9:35 AM  

Rex complains about stuff from the past. As for me, I'm delighted to find a puzzle that's not loaded with pop culture.

Steve M 9:44 AM  

A beautiful puzzle from a master and lovely way to set up the long weekend

Stanley Hudson 10:04 AM  

@GeezerJack, I teach at a four-year university on the west coast. Over half of our students are first-generation college students, about two-thirds work part time jobs, about 20% work 30 hours or more per week while attending school full time. They are anything but "soft, lazy, and ever so precious." Speaking as a first-generation college student myself, and nearing retirement (so I SKEW old), I admire them tremendously.

relicofthe60s 10:05 AM  

No obscure rappers, so the puzzle feels "old"? Rex's whining about things from the past is what's getting old.

Gwinns 10:11 AM  

CEBU totally Naticked me, because DOPES and DUPES both work for "Easy marks." So I had CEBO until the Sassy Mistake Box popped up when I completed the grid.
(I appreciate that DUPES is slightly better, but following along with previous comments, DOPES are much more "easy marks" than AMC is a channel for cinephiles.)

a jazz listener's thoughts 10:13 AM  

I'm in my mid sixties and agree. Nothing here except Cebu that was in the realm of the unknown and most seemed to me to be legitimate clues and words/phrases. Tiresome to keep getting the whining about not knowing a word-- the fun is very often doping them out. It's no fun if everything is easy, unless you do these solely as a race against time. Frankly amazed at the things Rex often doesn't know, like Korbel here or marker pen. Too much quibbling.

a jazz listener's thoughts 10:14 AM  

Thank you. If he has to work at it it must not be valid.

jberg 10:18 AM  

Excedt for MARKER PEN, (I wanted felt tip..., but that's too long) I loved this one without reservation. I mean, SMORGASBORD! Here is what the Pepper Pots had to say about it.

Being even older than Rex, and not as much of a baseball fan, I thought from the final LL it had to be Roger Angell -- again, too long, so I was saved.

I've never been to CEBU, but seriously considered it when I was visiting Manila once. I started from the U and thought of Attu, but didn't think Magellan got that far north; then RELAXES gave me the E, and it fell into place.

I thought trick clues, like JIM and CASPIAN SEA, were a virtue, not a fault, on Fridays and Saturdays. Part of what I enjoy is figuring out that I was one of those DUPES, and correcting my mistake.

Rex, you need to drink more wine! KORBEL used to be pretty good, thought from what others are saying it has declined. But still.

And thinking METHANOL is new shows that C.P. Snow was right about "TheTwo Cultures." (Scroll down through long intro for Snow's original essay.) Sad.

a jazz listener's thoughts 10:22 AM  

I'm curious-- do most of you do the puzzle electronically? I'm still an old pen and paper guy and have to wait until my paper arrives in the morning. Just wondering

Teedmn 10:27 AM  

SMÖRGÅSBORD from the Swedish words SMÖRGÅS (open faced sandwich, or just buttered bread) and BORD (table). As one word, it means a spread of dishes similar to the English usage. But as clued, "Choice meal?", what went through my head was that it was referring to Top Choice dog food (I'd forgotten the "Top" part of the brand name). Glad to be wrong.

And I had a DNF on this easy Friday puzzle - S_OAT became StOAT with no hesitation at all, ALAS, and I glanced at tELEN thinking, "Huh, never heard of HER!" You'd think by now, somewhere in the back of my brain, that kind of thought would be akin to "No, don't go down into the basement alone" and some sort of ominous music would kick in to alert me to the danger, but no, total insouciance was my reaction today.

PAX ROMANA was my starting point and the confirming Alistair MACLEAN was a total gimme as my mother was a big fan - my favorite of his books was "The Way To Dusty Death", titled from my favorite Macbeth quote. Funny that my first thought at 1A, Motor oiL, would have had two correct letters.

9D was toM oh so briefly, until I read 9A and realized that the Nine Days Queen was unlikely to be TRINI's sister TINA - had to be JANE.

I was not surprised in the least after I finished this puzzle and saw PB1's name as the constructor. Classic is how I would dub his puzzles, not old or outdated.

Nancy 10:28 AM  

Damn those product names! KORBEL may be known in SF (hi, @mathgent), but I don't think it's well known here. Anyway, I didn't know it. And so I ended up with KOReEL crossing MONKEY eARS (31A). A DNF on a puzzle I found rather easy for a Berry -- though I made it harder for myself by initially having PAX ROMANo (13A) and StOAT at 15D. I corrected to SHOAT when I realized that TELEN (17A) was not the half-sister of anyone. And I initially had ENTWINE at 41A, the T leading me to TREED at 42D. (TREED is so often used for "cornered" in crossword puzzle land.)

As I skimmed over the comments, which I'll go back and read now, the question "What is 'GEORGE WILL old?'" flittered across my screen. I bet Rex must have said that, I thought, and went back to look. Sure enough. Is grass green? Would you stop with the ageism, already, Rex, would you just please stop it! It's really, really obnoxious and it's really unattractive.

Joseph Cebu Michael 10:33 AM  

I expect a lot from a PB puzzle and today was by no means a disappointment. (Translation: I don't know what Rex is talking about)

What I like best is that a puzzle that at first seems difficult turns out to be full of mostly common words that have to be seen with new eyes in order to be discovered. Favorites here are MONKEY BARS, AMATEUR, MARKER PEN, OBELISK, and SMORGASBORD.

I guess it's EPEE Month at the NYT. It seems to show up almost daily either in the grid or in the cluing. I don't think I even knew what an epee was until I stsrted doing crosswords.

Thought the clue for DEAD EYES was a bit of a stretch, but enjoyed most of the other clues, such as "It may go up in winter" and "The seller takes no interest in it."

Had no problem with KORBEL and loved the word SHOAT after I finally realized that a STOAT just AIN'T no swine.

ArtO 10:38 AM  

Shocked to find the rating from Rex. Seeing Patrick Berry I expected this to be a rare doable Friday but it turned out to be (by far) my fastest Friday - under 20 minutes on paper. Thought it would get a "very easy." IMHO thought it was more like a tough Wednesday. (Just want to rub it in to OFL)

Pretty neat clue for DEADEYES.

Loved George Will's baseball book. Used icons of the 1980's to illustrate/deconstruct each aspect of the game.

GeezerJackYale48 10:39 AM  

Stanley, you are right. I back off a bit. I spend winters in the Southern California desert and the first generation kids out there are anything but soft and precious. (By the way I was a first generation college grad also)

QuasiMojo 10:41 AM  

Great puzzle. Fresh, even if some of the clues were dated. AMC might have been a Will Shortz addition. Who knows? I am beginning to understand Rex's thinking, after several years of observing it. He tells us he is a literature professor but he thinks Medea is Clytemnestra's sister. This is because he is racing throught the puzzle to get the shortest time possible and doesn't bother to think things through. He just pops in whatever enters his head in order to keep up that speed. I raced through this puzzle at my own pace, and surprised myself how easy it was. My only write-over was MUFFLERS for old-time antifreeze (the furry kind, thinking it was a misdirect or pun.) I loved the puzzle. Thanks Mr. Berry. Keep 'em coming!

Tom 10:43 AM  

A minute faster than my usual Friday time. KORBEL is okay for mimosas, but not to drink alone. Better than Cook's, though (Charmay bulk process!). Liked this one. Read through it once and got about four entries and thought it would be hard. Second time through and stuff just started to fall into place, from sw to nw. DUPE was the last entry. Thanks Patrick for a RAD puzzle.

RooMonster 10:47 AM  

Hey All !
Didn't find it easy as it seems most of y'all did. Typical FriPuz struggle for me. Wheelhouse, and all that.

Nice Stagger Step of five center answers. Have heard DEAD EYE as meaning a crack shot, i.e., one who never misses. I believe that's what the clue meant.

Funny how words that mean small are sometimes long. Miniscule, microscopic, miniature. SUCCINCTLY fits into that type of category for me.


Tom 10:48 AM  

Sorry. Charmat bulk process. That might be a good puz answer for cluing "headache inducing champagne method of production."

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Easy Friday, MARKERPEN though was unfortunate. Other than that, a breeze.

Nancy 10:53 AM  

The comments today -- and especially (if you'll forgive my chauvinism) from the self-described older contingent on this blog -- are an absolute delight: witty, thoughtful, discerning, and showing a breadth of knowledge that a certain younger person seems to conspicuously lack. It's all you guys who keep me reading.

Craig Percy 10:54 AM  

Other than Cebu, it was pretty easy and enjoyable. Perhaps too easy for a Fri (?), but I liked it just fine. Thank you PB.

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

The Met's Grand Tier is not divided in boxes - they are a separate level.

We've had CEBU before not so long ago.

Why is étouffée CREOLE? It's just French.

joannamauselina 11:02 AM  

This was the easiest Friday I have ever done. Given Rex's twitter, I was expecting the worst, but last time he led me to expect an easy Friday, I couldn't finish it. I think we are on different wavelengths.

Patrick Butler 11:03 AM  

Fastest Friday ever, I think. Agree with Rex only on odd-sounding MARKERPEN. And the CASPIANSEA clue, but it was easy to figure out with a couple of crosses. CEBU and KORBEL are well enough known to me.

Lewis 11:14 AM  

@anonymous 10:48 -- I thought the same, but then found that it Googles very well.
@Nancy -- Hah! Pax romano! The feeling of wellbeing after eating some cheese...

mathgent 11:16 AM  

PB certainly doesn't need me to defend him. I agree that the puzzle didn't have much crunch, but his Fridays seldom do. Very few entries are uncommon (only TRINI today). But he's like a jazz singer who takes a familiar melody and does delightful things with it.

Uke Xensen 11:33 AM  

Had some trouble with northwest, otherwise easy.

Eponymous 11:33 AM  

Why are crossword constructors incapable of looking up the word ROAN? It the color of a horses coat when finely interspersed with hairs of a different color (usually white). Sort of a salt-and-pepper effect. "Dappled" it is not.

Trombone Tom 11:35 AM  

Avoided the Tom/JIM misdirect and enjoyed this smooth PB serving.

KORBEL has been around for ages and is sold nationally. I may be in the minority, but I frequently call a felt-tip a MARKER PEN.

Agree with OFL and others that the AMC clue is just off. On the other hand, I had no problem figuring out that DEADEYES (sharpshooters) were hit makers.

Lots more to like: PAX ROMANA and MONKEY BARS, for example.

Count me among those old guys who are more likely to recognize GEORGE WILL than some obscure rap artist.

This puzzle was on the easy side for Mr. Berry but the cluing was very much up to his standards and served with a moderate crunch.

wordstorn 11:38 AM  

CEBU is the brand of a very good dried mango

Trombone Tom 11:39 AM  

Oh, and while etouffee is indeed a French word, crawfish etouffee is the epitome of Creole food.

Malsdemare 11:42 AM  

Haven't read the comments yet, but I'm in the liked it coterie. Berry is always tough for me and my initial take on this puppy was "no way." Then I got SUCCINCTLY and that was my toehold. I resisted the impulse to put in OBELISK, which slowed me down, as well as did PUEBLO. I Have a small nit to pick there; if Native refers to a person, then it's PUEBLOan. PUEBLO refers either to the building or the community, not an individual. Aside from those small complaints, I'm pretty happy. I finished a Patrick Berry on a Friday and for me that's a big success, especially since I rarely saw Friends, only vaguely knew about the GEORGE WILL book, and have never heard of CEBU. CASPAIN SEA was a lucky guess, as was PAX ROMANA.

Thanks, PB.

oldactor 12:01 PM  

Deadeye Dick was an answer in last Sunday's "Two By Three" puzzle in the NYT.

Hartley70 12:33 PM  

A Berry Friday is always a delight for me. I didn't find this one terribly easy, although KORBEL certainly was. It's the "champagne" you drink when you are young, on a budget, and don't mind a headache. I said adieu to it many years ago.

MONKEYBARS tickled me today because it was so unexpected. So much nicer than the prison cell I was considering.

I'm no baseball fan, but even I had GEORGEWILL. He's not that old, is he? He's still a published columnist so who cares how old he is anyway? Andy Rooney was no spring chicken and his humor was relevant to the end. He was such a cutie and hung out occasionally in our local hardware store on a Saturday morning.

I ran into trouble in the SW when I tried Aegean Sea and weirdly went to Arabian Sea for a very long time. Once I had CASPIANSEA, that corner wasn't tough at all.

Rex is Rex. He provides this forum day after day. He has my thanks regardless of whether he loathes or likes the puzzle. Even the NYT "Crossworld" can benefit from a gadfly.

bookmark 12:38 PM  

George Will is also a political contributor for NBC News and MSNBC.

Masked and Anonymous 12:47 PM  

The NW was certainly well-guarded ... by Cly-somebody's half sister, Navarone dude, methyl alcohol aliases, slang Caribbean islanders, and faux-cinephile-channels. Gorgeous wide-open middle section, in this puppy, tho. Overall, it put up a fight at our house -- and medium-chewy sounds about right, difficulty-wise.

Almost sounds like @RP is startin quietly to unload some of his PB1 stock. Kind of a mixed review today: rangin from "lovely' and "elegant" to "dull thud" and "don't want to live inside [PB1 puzs]".

Well, there is a reliable way to evaluate these themeless puppies, which I really haven't brought up before.
Most evaluations of a puz are personal-like, based on:
1. How much of the fillins U didn't know.
2. How much of the fillins U knew, but didn't like.
3. How many clues U didn't understand, or thought were unfair.
4. How much fun U felt U had had along the way.
5. How glad U were, when it was over.
6. Your status as a cinephile.
7. PEWIT presence.

Pretty arbitrary stuff. @RP kinda tends to roll with the above system, which means his resultin evaluation = subjective and usually kinda "snark-infested".

The New M&A Themeless Evaluation System:
1. One "+" point for each U in the fillins.
2. One "+" point for each weeject [3-letter word].
3. Two "+" points extra, for NER.
4. One "+" point for an entry that is a word in the Official M&A Help Desk dictionary.
5. One "+" point per item #4 word, in a multiple-word entry.
6. One "-" point for each abbr.
7. One "-" point for each plural.
8. One "-" point for each rap reference that uses the clue word "famous".
9. One "-" point for each foreign word.
10. Twenty "-" points for any entry that both starts with "RE-" and ends with "-ER".

Piece of cake, to apply this system even-handedly to all themeless grids.

Was gonna apply this system to today's PB1-er, but had better things to do.

Thanx, Mr. Berry. U are still way in the "+" column, dude.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

runt with theme by M&A PuzEatinSpouse:

Mr. Benson 12:54 PM  

Pretty easy for me, actually, as most Berry puzzles are. Nothing I didn't know or couldn't infer, other than CEBU, which I only trusted because I was sure about the crosses. (Had the terminal U so, of course, penciled in Oahu, but that didn't last long.)

Dick Swart 12:58 PM  

Buffalo Bill ’s
who used to
ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat

he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blue-eyed boy
Mister Death

Dick Swart 1:04 PM  

ee cumming's spacing does not work on the comments.

Pete 1:07 PM  

@GeezerJack - Of course he was right about what he said - the excesses of today are invariably worth decrying. It's what he did that was wrong, which is to condemn the progress of today by focusing only the small excesses, not on the bigger picture.

The arrow of Civilization, true civility, always points towards the better. I'm a better man than was my father not because of any intrinsic virtue that I possess, but because I was raised by a better man than he was, in a society with better, more just norms, than he was. Similarly, he was better than his father for the same reasons. At every stage in the improvement in society, in the definition of what constitutes civilized behavior, when the status quo gets altered, the pendulum sometimes swings too far. resulting in the nonsense George Will focused on. With every change in the status quo, that nonsense always exists, and old men (myself among them) always decry that nonsense. However, if all you do is decry the nonsense you loose sight of the positive changes. This nonsense sorts itself out and dies off. The change in the status quo is, while not monotonically better, always for the better.

Using as precious a commodity as a Op-Ed piece in the WaPo decrying ephemeral nonsense is obscenely wasteful.

Andrea Ojeda 1:44 PM  

@Rex, as a solver who's first language is not English, I can tell you that I don't know MANY words I find in puzzles. Each day. But for me, part of the fun is actually, LEARNING them! I've learned idioms, concepts, ideas, pop-culture references, old-timey things and all sorts of synonyms and foreign language words, to fill a whole college syllabus.
And I love it!
To me, that's what solving puzzles is all about.

TomAz 1:55 PM  

I had the same issue with PUEBLO as @Malsedemare. Puebloan is the correct word there. See, for example,

Other than that head-scratcher and trying to puzzle out CEBU (which I had heard of and could probably point to on a map, but wasn't coming to me), I found this puzzle relatively easy. Finished about 25% faster than normal Friday time.

I thought SMORGASBORD and MONKEY BARS were pretty great entries.

Amelia 2:29 PM  

I'm so old, not only did I find this hugely entertaining, I also remember a time when people knew how to use the word "literally."

Anonymous 2:37 PM  

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
very funny, I love that kind of shtick

Mohair Sam 3:23 PM  

@Dick Stewart (1:04) - Your sad commentary on the blog trying to deal with EE Cummings work cracked me up. Hell, get the computer code stoned and it may begin to understand Cummings spacing.

Anonymous 3:46 PM  

@Kodak Jenkins
Equally destitue, perhaps. Except for the few at the top, who would be more equal than the rest.

i. kharamot 3:59 PM  

"Trini" made me think of Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest (RIP):

Some brothers try to diss but Malik, you see 'em bitching
Me no care about them dibby MC, my shit is hitting
Trini gladiator, anti-hesitater
Shaheed push the fader from here to Grenada

Marty 4:01 PM  

Rex, your write-up today is basically how I feel about PB's puzzles on any other day but today. I've consistently felt about 15 years too young and interested in other facets of life for his pop cultural frame of reference. He's always clever and mostly enjoyable but I gird myself going in when I see his name in the by-line for the proper nouns I'm about to encounter.

AW 4:26 PM  

My experience exactly. I couldn't believe I could actually finish it without feeling intellectually bludgeoned.

Anonymous 4:32 PM  

@Stanley Hudson
ACT and SAT scores have declined over the past 30 to 40 years. How many of your students have mastered middle school math? How many can write using logical, evidence-based argument? How many could pass a comprehensive 8th grade exam from the turn of the 20th Century?

Chip Hilton 4:34 PM  

Old guy here who loved it. KORBEL a given and CEBU, too (thanks to teaching fifth grade for decades and finding Magellan's tale to be the most interesting of the European explorations). The killer for me was SHOAT, which should be in the memory bank by now.

Just look at how beautiful the long stacks are, top, middle, and bottom! Berry remains the most elegant of creators, IMO.

Sunnyvale Solver 5:34 PM  

Wow, that clue for CASPIAN SEA was extra tricky!

But CEBU is a popular tourist destination, surprised so many here are unfamiliar with it.

GILL I. 6:02 PM  

I'm thinking maybe @Rex never heard of KORBEL because it's one of ickiest sparkling wines you'd ever want to pass through your rosy lips. To let them keep the "champagne" appellation is an abomination to the French and frankly, to my sensibilities. I'll be more than happy to have a Segura Viudas for my bubbly morning quaff, thank you very much.
I know what @Rex means about the old but not old but not bad but not terribly contemporary or whatever he said. I mean who doesn't love PB and yet he does seem to spit out the same old tried and true little black cocktail dress with a sparkly diamond or two. I'd love to see him throw a gala with a RuPaul emerald and ruby tiara motif...Or is he passe as well?
We had a little Arab named CEBU and I really want to know how SMORGA lost his G at the end of his name. GEADEYES looks about right.

Malcolm Gibson 6:07 PM  

Hmmm, easiest Friday ever for me. Must be that I'm old, so I knew most of the proper nouns, including Alistair Maclean. Read all of his works.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:17 PM  

One way or another, I seem to be lost. Did I miss a comment? Or has no one taken issue with 14 A, "Format too big for conventional reels" cluing IMAX? I would swear any IMAX film you see, or any film at all in a commercial movie theater these days, is completely digital. "Reels" do not enter the process in any way! Or, am I truly lost?

GILL I. 6:19 PM  

Are you at the beach right now?....You're truly lost....:-)

Frayed Knot 6:21 PM  

Like Rex and others, I had not heard of [METHANOL, TRINI, MARKERPEN, MACLEAN], or barely heard of [CEBU, KORBEL, DEADEYES ] a number of the answers here -- plus had never in my life had occasion to ever spell SMORGASBORD -- yet still finished in better than average time for a Friday so it's tough to label it as it as an unfair or outdated puzzle.

Nancy 6:23 PM  

Apropos of nothing at all: On as spectacularly beautiful a day, weather-wise, as I have ever seen in NYC, I spent the afternoon in Central Park with @Aketi. Now we all know how interesting a person Aketi is from her blog comments, but in addition to being stimulating company, she's also immensely generous and good natured. (It was amazing to me that she was able to be so good natured in the midst of going through a major refrigerator crisis that began this very morning, but she was.) Aketi and I share a deep love of the park and the outdoors. We started at the sailboat pond cafe, where she treated me to a Bloody Mary (and stood on line for me to get it.). She would have treated me to food as well, had I not just had breakfast. Afterwards, we wandered to the Ramble, where we looked out at the lake and hung out there for a while; then wandered northward via the Reservoir. It was a lovely day, and I was delighted to share it with a lovely person. I have met so many terrific people because of this blog!

Joe Dipinto 6:25 PM  

@Anon 10:58 -- every level above the orchestra at the Met Opera House has boxes along the sides, including the Grand Tier (but excluding the Family Circle). No level consists completely of boxes, though; all have central sections with regular seating.

GILL I. 6:53 PM  

@Nancy...As i'm reading your post, I just finished making a batch of bodacious Margaritas for my Brit family visiting for awhile. It's about 108 outside and all I could envision was balmy Central Park with the likes of you two...!
I'm sending a big toast to the Goddess of freon.

Mohair Sam 7:16 PM  

Well I've waited all day and not one of you New Yorkers has mentioned meteorologist Bill KORBEL formerly of WABC radio there in the city and currently working on Long Island. Shame.

@Nancy - I remember the day you envied me my Little Lehigh Park. No bloody Marys here, no boat house either. Weren't you silly? I love Central Park.

@Gill I - I guess if I lived where you live I'd believe in the Goddess of Freon too.

Joe Dipinto 8:07 PM  

@my response to Anon 10:58 -- my bad: upon checking the Met's seating chart, the Family Circle does have side boxes as well. For some reason I thought it didn't.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) 9:01 PM  

I love Patrick Berry ... he makes me feel smart .... always a challenge, but almost always gettable. I aced this one and rather quickly for me, without using any cheats (Google, which I do allow myself on Fri/Sat). But I AM old, so I suppose that wouldn't mean a thing to OFL (though I know he doesn't read comments anyway). I've said before, I never complain about puzzles that include rap stars or whatever else that isn't automatically in my wheelhouse .. more and more, I resent Rex's ageism in hating a puzzle just because it is in it. Especially a beautifully made puzzle like this one.

Donna H 9:05 PM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle, it then I guess I'm old! It was easy -medium for me - well below my average time for a Friday. I'm always eager to do Patrick Berry's puzzles, and this didn't disappoint!

Corina Sachs 9:16 PM  

A refreshing adventure into PBs world of crossword....& A break from the antedeluvian week in Houzton, and Antifa barbarism in Berkeley.....

GEORGEWILL super to the CASPIANSEA somehow intriguing visual....NATS and NATIONAL great....and any puzzle w/ a Magellan reference,scores big....chapeau to Mr. Berry

Jennifer Freeman 9:30 PM  


Jennifer Freeman 9:45 PM  

Thank you, Nancy. I don't always agree with you but this is why I love this blog.

Corina Sachs 9:53 PM  

We should all try a puzzle in your language....touche!

kitshef 2:09 PM  

Rex certainly has a point on AMC (as I look at today's lineup, there is nary a movie to be seen). Beyond that, I disagree wholeheartedly. Found the SE particularly thorny today, but as ever with Mr. Berry, it ultimately came together.

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

As another Californian now living in NY, surprised you didn't know Korbel. Especially if you had been an undergraduate or graduate student there.

Perhaps if you see the label … might jog your memory.

Didn't want to be too commercial. So here's Sonoma County tourism

PS: enjoy your website

Anonymous 7:36 PM  

Fastest Friday ever for me (though one day late). But I majored in Latin and Greek so those were easy including CASPIANSEA. And I read the MACLEAN's book decades ago.

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Burma Shave 10:13 AM  


and EXCELS to TEASE any old man.
She AINT no AMATEUR, I’ve found,


BS2 10:38 AM  

upon further review . . .

and in SERIES TEASE any old man.

thefogman 10:52 AM  

Tricky and fun. It took a while to get started but once I solved SMORGASBORD and MONKEYBARS the grid was mine. This one was challenging but a bit on the easy side for a Friday. There were plenty of misdirects. Like many others, I had ikE before ABE and sudoku before KENKEN.
I never heard of this soft-headed author - Mark Erpen. Poor chap! And why are we picking on his physical abnormality? :-)

spacecraft 11:15 AM  

I tore through this one like Grant through Richmond. For a Friday? Piece-of-cake easy except in the area of CEBU: easy-medium at worst.

Like OFL I didn't see the clue for PAXROMANA right away or I'd have started in the NW. But another X--IMAX--kicked off the NE and--oh hell, I'll just put this SUCCINCTLY: IO ABUSED it.

TV ads around holiday time (esp. New Year's) are thick with KORBEL; if you don't know that name you simply don't watch TV. At all. CEBU was the lone WOE, but given _REOLE, the C wasn't too hard to infer. A typical lovely wordfest, but weakening a bit in the SE: the RRV (random re-verb) RETOTALED gets PB immunity, I guess. I'd like to nominate JANE Seymour for DOD: she'd never have to "play Solitaire" when I'm around. HELEN Hunt is a very able understudy (insert "under" joke here). Birdie, and NOT by an AMATEUR.

rondo 12:39 PM  

Oh @spacey, can’t believe you passed on yeah bay MARINA Sirtis (Counselor Troi) from Star Trek TNG. I know you’re a fan.

On to the puz. Biggest hold-up was “rasta” where TRINI was supposed to be. Otherwise pretty cleanly played. Only reason that I knew CEBU was a real thing is that a couple I know adopted 6 brothers and sisters from there, known in the local media as the CEBU Six-pack. All grown up now.

Monica said SUCCINCTLY to our NATION’S leader, “That was a GASBILL, and if you won’t do it again, GEORGEWILL.”
I wonder if it was the blue dress she WOREON that day.

I’ve been in the CASPIANSEA on a trip to Baku, Azerbaijan. My date was a real TEASE.

This PB1 puz AINT nuthin’ to MOPE about.

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

From Syndication Land:
I flew through this puzzle today, and thought, "That was too easy for a Friday!" Then I came here to learn that I finished with a mistake. I have never heard of the island of Cebu. I thought dopes were easy marks, but I guess I was duped! At least it made me look up Cebu Island on Google. Turns out it is an island in the Philippines with 3.8 million people. That's about the same amount of people in the state of Oregon. Makes me wonder if anyone there has heard of us!

leftcoastTAM 2:32 PM  

Let Patrick Berry have all the immunity he probably doesn't need. His puzzles are characteristically smooth, clever, interesting, and fair--as is this one.

Wanted Paiute before PUEBLO and doubted KENKEN but there it was. METHANOL was a surprise anti-freeze.

The SE was a challenge to unsnarl. DEADEYES, OPERABOXES (echoes of yesterday), ATBAY. Last but hardly least: the CREOLE/CEBU cross. C was the last letter in. But...

...but before that, had CEBo/DoPES and left it at that. Not going to MOPE, but another one-square error, two days in a row, is not an ego builder.

rainforest 3:01 PM  

Seeing the byline I thought to myself, "this will be fun" (can you put a thought in quotation marks?), and I wasn't wrong. I made short work of the NW and had a good time in the NE (JIM, a neon gimme).

Like all PB1's puzzles, this seemed hard until it just wasn't. That "soft-headed writer" is just a MARKER - adding PEN makes it tautological. I don't often agree with GEORGE WILL but I really admire his thoughtful renderings.

One write-over: SNARLed, easily fixed by DUPES and ABUSED, which gave up CEBU en passent.

Liked it a lot.

thefogman 3:05 PM  

Why do I crave for a METHANOL cigarette after I read Burma's posts?

thefogman 3:11 PM  

William F Buckley > George F Will

Diana,LIW 3:37 PM  

The NW corner did me in. For the rest, I made all the errors others have mentioned, only to clear them up. (Ike/ABE, etc. etc)

Went to see Beau Soleil last night, so not enuf sleep. Right, that's it.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rondo 4:41 PM  

@D,LIW - so, a little CREOLE music, eh? Does anything but RELAXES a person.

spacecraft 5:34 PM  

@MARINA Sirtis: I BEG forgiveness, your worship! I ^gasp* forgot the word was in there! 1,000 pardons!

Diana,LIW 6:48 PM  

@Rondo - Ya ya, gumbolishious. My toes doth tap anon. We'll see what the symphony Sunday does for my Monday solve. 'Tis an afternoon performance, so I may have enuf sleep and shan't be dreaming of learning to play that little accordion instrument. Too. Much. Fun.

Lady Di

centralscrewtinizer 7:13 PM  

Patrick Berry! I was afraid at first I would not finish a PB and then got a toehold, floundered a bit, and then I was done, to my great surprise.

Bananafish 2:56 PM  

I made it around the grid just fine until hitting the SE corner, which ensnarled me for quite a while. Part of it is that I really really wanted ICY for "Very cool" (instead of RAD), but more of it was just that the cluing in that corner seems just slightly off.

E.g., I do not think of RAD (which is slang shorthand for Radical) as a synonym for very cool. It really means more "Wow, that is extreme". Sure it is usually used in a positive sense, so in those cases "Very cool" would apply, but it also could be used in a negative sense. So because it captures a use of the word, I do not think the cluing is unfair or out of bounds, just that it is not square on and so merely adds difficulty. I had similar feelings about "Took unfair advantage of" for ABUSED, "Cornered" for ATBAY and even "Pick on" for TEASE. It was just a lot of subtly just off clues for one corner in my view.

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