Saturday, March 8, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Splits and Mergers" - theme answers are made up of Acrosses into or out of which Downs flow (the former a "merger," the latter a "split")

An ingenious puzzle, though that's what I expect from Patrick Berry. He has set the bar very, very high for himself. I took far longer to do this than I normally take on most Sundays, first because I forgot to enlarge the grid at first, and so had to backtrack and fix that (sadly, the NYT clock does not stop when you do that), and second because my computer response time is terrible, and every key stroke I make appears to be delayed by about a half second. My keyboard technique is poor as it is - the lag time made it even worse. Then there was the fact that the puzzle was simply more challenging than your average Sunday, with several words I'd never heard of and many clues that were quite vexing. I got the split/merge thing confused at least once, trying to split when I should have merged and vice versa. The worst example of this was at 42A: 1980s "NBC News Overnight" anchor / Feared insect [merger] // 31D: See 42-Across => ELLERBEE / KILLER BEE. I thought this merger was a split and so had ERIK going east and then north, my brain telling me that that was, of course, how you spell ERIK Sevareid (wrong, it's ERIC, and he had zero to do with the news show in question).

Other theme answers:

  • 24A: "Over my dead body!" / Alert [split] // 25D: See 24-Across ("Not if I can help it" / notification)
  • 26A: Exchange words? / New beginning [merger] // 5D: See 26-Across (translate / clean slate)
  • 39A: Annoying obligations / "No need to check" [split] // 41D: See 39-Across (impositions / "I'm positive")
  • 59A: Black hole's boundary / Despite the fact that [split] // 61D: See 59-Across (event horizon / even though)
  • 70A: Double sugar / Travel freely? [merger] // 56D: See 70-Across (disaccharide / hitch a ride) - whoa, DISACCHARIDE hurt me. The first "C" was the last letter I put in the grid - not knowing until the very end what the hell 62D: Pros who practice could be going for (DOCS, it turns out).
  • 86A: Commuter's source of entertainment / Actor John or David [split] // 88D: See 86-Across (car radio / Carradine)
  • 90A: Martini ingredient / Delta site [merger] // 79D: See 90-Across (dry vermouth / river mouth)
  • 103A: Franz Liszt, e.g. / Didn't got straight, maybe [split] // 104D: See 103-Across (Hungarian / hung a right)
  • 106A: "Come back now, y'hear?" / Park employee [merger] // 85D: See 106-Across ("Don't be a stranger" / forest ranger)

Wow, those were difficult to type in accurately.

My biggest WTF!? moment happened where NIMBY (27D: Modern political acronym) met BOYS (46A: "The History _____" (Tony-winning play)). NIMBY BOYS sounds ... suggestive. [Actually stands for "Not-In-My-Back-Yard"] I've never heard of the acronym NIMBY, nor have I ever heard of the play (@#$@! Broadway again) "The History BOYS," so that "Y" was an out-and-out guess. "The History BOAS?" "The History BOSS?" "BOYS" seemed the least preposterous. Good guess. My first guess: "The History OF US" (not U.S., but the pronoun, US; is that ... something?).

A while back I had massive Google traffic from a clue which I am loath to reprint here, lest it throw off any future Google traffic. Oh, what the hell - the clue was [Violinist Mischa] and the answer was AUER even though as far as I can tell Mischa AUER was an actor, not a violinist, but I don't want to rehash the controversy. I just want to note that two answers in today's puzzle made me flash on this now (to me) infamous clue - 65A: Author of the "Earth's Children" series (Auel) - just one letter off from AUER - and 63D: Violinist Itzhak (Perlman) - now he's really a violinist. I've got at least one CD to prove it.

Scary stuff:

  • 95A: "The Seagull" ingenue (Nina) - no clue.
  • 55D: W.W. II light machine gun (bren) - that looks almost as made-up as ...
  • 90D: Himalayan cedar (deodar) - from which Yetis make DEODARant.
  • 103D: Chemistry Nobelist Otto (Hahn) - I'm sure I've seen his name before, but that means nothing. I'm doomed never to remember this guy's name. Give me [Violinist Hilary] any day.
  • 92D: Chinese province bordering Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar (Yunnan) - if you say so! No one from China ever reads my blog, so screw those guys (I'm just kidding, billions of potential future readers! I take it back!)
  • 81D: 1953 3-D film starring Fernando Lamas ("Sangaree") - holy moly. Is this a Bollywood production? Oh, it seems SANGAREE is another form of, or somehow related to, "sangria" - definition: "A sweet chilled beverage made of wine or other alcoholic liquor and grated nutmeg."

Puzzling stuff:

  • 33A: Animated film character voice by Matthew Broderick (Simba) - "puzzling" only because I misread the clue and was looking for a film title, not, as the clue clearly states, a "film character."
  • 58A: Figure just above the total (tip) - I think you forgot to add "in a restaurant!" I was looking for some technical term, like ADDEND only shorter.
  • 61A: Unread messages, usually (spam) - "usually?" I'm not sure about this. All messages are "unread" at one point.
  • 3D: Patrician (genteel) - had GENTILE (HA ha), and then second- and third-guessed the world as I wrestled with the whole ELLERBEE / KILLER BEE // ERIK Sevareid / ERLERBEE problem (me: "I've never heard of an ERLER BEE ... maybe they have powerful stings ...")
  • 15D: Peacemaker maker (Colt) - wanted DOVE, completely missing out on the redundancy in the clue that makes DOVE clearly wrong. Gotta love a gun called a "peacemaker."
  • 37D: Prepares, in a way, as chicken (debones) - another victim of the ERLER BEE massacre. Took a while to put this one together, for no good reason.
  • 40D: California county with Point Reyes National Seashore (Marin) - why I kept reading this as [California resort ...] I'll never know. My aunt lives in MARIN, so this was close to a gimme.
  • 49D: It's clipped at both ends (stogie) - good one. I had ... that's right, SALAMI. This was due to FLIES for FLEES at 77A: Takes off.
  • 57D: Bleeped word (oath) - way, way harder to get than it should have been, perhaps because No One calls them [bleep]-ing OATHs any more. I really taxed my dirty word vocabulary before realizing that none of those words could possibly be an answer in a Sunday NYT puzzle.
  • 71D: _____ Sea, connected to St. George's Channel (Irish) - guessed from crosses. Not sure why this clue is compelling me to tell you this, but yesterday I got what I believe is my first Google hit from NUUK, Greenland! It's the capital! Why don't I see this in puzzles more often, i.e. every other day? Speaking of Arctic words - Commenter Pete M. sent me a little crosswordese quiz he made for himself, one I could take on-line (I got 97/100), and one of the clues was something like [Eskimo knife] and the answer (which I guessed by knowing the alternatives were all wrong) was ULU, and I told him "I've never heard of that word" ... and then three days later I saw the word in a puzzle. Love when that happens.
  • 109D: What retroviruses contain (RNA) - shows my ignorance; I got this easily enough, but I thought all living things had RNA. I know, I'm an ignoramus. You may start hurling tomatoes now.
  • 76D: _____ bourguignon (boeuf) - rough. French. Don't we (Americans) normally say "BEEF Bourguignon" (if we say it at all, that is).

Smiley faces:

  • 1A: Upper end of a soprano's range (high C) - looks awesome in the grid: consonantastic!
  • 19A: Basketballer nicknamed the Diesel (O'Neal) - also "The Big Aristotle"; he is Very entertaining.
  • 66A: Social reformer Lucretia (Mott) - I just love that I got this instantly. Learned from xwords.
  • 83A: Mountain SE of ancient Troy (Ida) - See also OSSA and ETNA.
  • 94A: Burt's "Stroker Ace" co-star (Loni) - oh yeah, that's the stuff. Sweet, sweet trash-pop culture of my youth. Give Me More.
  • 97A: Fictional blue humanoid (Smurf) - it's not "Stroker Ace," but it'll do.
  • 11A: Superhero name ender (-Man) - what I love about this is that it makes a boring word interesting. Fabulous.
  • 4D: Della sells hers in "The Gift of the Magi" (hair) - No, don't sell your hair! He bought you a comb!!!!!
  • 10D: Kimono securer (obi) - "Securer" just makes me laugh, for some reason. Highly Google-worthy, believe me (although anyone attempting the Sunday puzzle should know what an OBI is without Googling).
  • 6D: Keen producers (banshees) - love it. I also LOVE that BANSHEES and SANGAREE are symmetrical. Like words in some kind of hellish, fever-induced poetry.
  • 16D: #1 hit for Marty Robbins ("El Paso") - one of you will explain to me how I got this with just the "P" in place, having absolutely no recollection of any part of said song. Oh wait, is this the one that goes "Out in the west Texas town of El Paso / I fell in love with a Mexican girl" or something like that??? YES!
  • 47D: It's not needed in hydroponics (soil) - happy that I knew it. That's all.
  • 91D: _____ Quimby, girl of children's lit (Ramona) - Sahra's RAMONA phase was quick, but amusing. Maybe she'll return to the RAMONA books after she's read every single Harry Potter books ten times. She read the entirety of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick yesterday. I still think it's wrong, cosmically, that she reads more than I do.

And that is, indeed, all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[drawing by Emily Cureton]


miriam b 10:44 PM  

Yep. In El Paso, he falls in love with wicked Felina, who dances nightly in Rosa's cantina. One night he shoots and kills a supposed rival. He takes off, eventually returning to El Paso in hopes of seeing Felina again. He is shot, and as he checks out, Felina shows up just in time for him to bid her farewell.

A few puzzles back we encountered Ernest TUBB (aka The Texas Troubador). I remember hearing his songs broadcast over KABQ during a 3-year stay in Albuquerque in the '50's. At the time, someone by the name of Elvis Presley was occasionally heard on the same station. My reaction was lukewarm. I preferred Tubb and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

Of course, my thing was, and is, the classics. One night KABQ broadcast what the announcer informed us in dulcet tones was "The Soldier's Chorus from Faust, by Gonad." You can't make this stuff up.

We were friendly with one of the announcers (not that one) who was a collateral descendent of Wyatt Earp.

Anonymous 10:49 PM  

Don't hold your breath for those Chinese readers. I'd guess that your blog is probably blocked by the Great Firewall.

Anonymous 11:16 PM  

Viruses are technically not living. They're genomes (RNA or DNA, but virus particles don't contain both) and protein, but they don't actually carry out any metabolic processes on their own and rely heavily on host cell machinery for replication. Retroviruses have RNA genomes, which are reverse transcribed to DNA and usually integrated into the host genome and transcribed back to RNA.

miriam b 11:32 PM  

NIMBY = not in my back yard.

Unknown 11:41 PM  

Pretty good puzzle, but the split/merge stuff was obscure, so I just kept getting the crosses and that left two errors when I came to check. OUGH/AUEL (r for u) and NINA/INE (r for n). There was an article on NIMBY on the NYT front page this week and I truly said to myself I need to remember that word for the crosswords. Really. If you can't find it let me know and I will look it up.

Just listened to "El Paso" and recall listening to the CARRADIO and waiting for it and "I Walk the Line" to come on. Loved those tunes. I saw "A white Sports Coat" on your YouTube link and watched that too. Thanks.

I have read a few good SciFi books with an EVENTHORIZON theme, but can't recall a title. I need to get you to Broadway because you can't escape this stuff and it is a highly entertaining subculture. The History Boys was very good. Your daughter would love the Lion King.

I hope you got rain like we did and not snow...what a storm!

Unknown 11:43 PM  

Ah, here is the NIMBY the first paragraph I think.

Unknown 11:46 PM  

oops, ninth paragraph...

Anonymous 11:49 PM  

I really liked this one. Clever theme with lots of unknowns (to me)that could be inferred. Tough in places but rewarding. Most of my difficulties were in the areas Rex discussed, although the ELLERBEE section was not one of them. I was more slowed down in the DISACC..., MOTT, DONAT region, and in SANGAREE, JINGO, HAHN Texas area. This definitely took me longer than the average Sun.

History Boys was a gimmie because it was made into a movie which I've seen in the last year or so. It was pretty good.

Unknown 12:25 AM  

I see the theme now and how I went wrong (Sad it took this long, huh?) Anyway as I was reading through it I see 7D has a right turn where it can be ISOLATE two ways! 3d Can be Genie and I see lots of other twists that are stretching it. (Caradinners almost works for people playing one of the Carradines) This is one cool puzzle!

Ulrich 12:39 AM  

I agree with Rex: "ingenious", and to me, a real feat of construction. Since I got the theme soon in the NW, it helped significantly throughout, with two big exceptions: the center regions, which are closed off from the rest by almost solid diagonal barriers, i.e. constitute mini-puzzles within the puzzle (to me, a flaw of the grid). Since I forgot all my physics and am not a sci-fi guy, "event horizons" were total unknowns, and since a "sten" gun is the only WWII gun I knew until now (from puzzles), I stuck to it in the center and came to a screeching halt. Found the event horizons through googling (interesting stuff) and slowly managed to untangle the mess. Still, I found this a relief compared to yesterday.

Shanti11 3:16 AM  

I loved this puzzle, mostly because I caught onto the theme early and was able to get the answers fairly quickly. I think another reason I was so fond of it is that I got massacred on Friday and Saturday, and this one renewed my faith in my ability to complete a puzzle.

I also had FLIES instead of FLEES for 77A, which made 49D "It's clipped at both ends" end in an "i". All I could think of was "strati", which I thought might be a form of the word "castrati" and, well, I didn't think that would pass any breakfast test. Besides, they got clipped at both ends?

Speaking of which, thanks to the breakfast test, I avoided going through every four-letter word for "Bleeped word" (57D). Maybe I'll start saying EGAD...

I finally got one of those RANDR words immediately - 44D: ATOZ. (Pats self on back)

I loved SMURFS and BOOGIE. And I also had GENTILE for awhile. Ha ha!

Anonymous 4:11 AM  

I was sad to struggle getting "ELLERBEE" (kept trying for Ed something and had "TORN" for "TIED" a long time), as I always liked her, but my worst sticking point was south central.
I was sure I knew the star of "Mr. Chips" (but didn't), couldn't think of a sea ending in "sh", blanked on borers, and never heard of Ms. Mott. I tried "DDSS" instead of DOCS, which made "DISACCHARIDES" impossible. I almost went to google several times, but finally "MARE" clicked and I finished with just a little trial-and-error (tried "BONAT" before getting the correct solution).

I must say, it's more satisfying to stick with it and finish sans search engine, even if it does make me want to rip out my HAIR at times.

Today's nit: A "SECT" is the result of a split, but is not necessarily split itself, no?

Today's joy: Shout out to an old friend, RAMONA Quimby. I also liked the cluing for FEAST.

Anonymous 4:14 AM  

Oho! I just noticed the year on the Mr. Chips clue. I am glad to see I am not going crazy--O'TOOLE was in the movie, just not that version.

And now I have to go find a CARRADIO to get ELPASO out of my head . . .

Unknown 7:53 AM  

Great puzzle, maybe because I got the theme almost instantly on HUNGARIAN/HUNGARIGHT and then confidently wrote in EVENTHORIZON. This is going to be a breeze, I thought, but no. I clung to GIN way too long to be able to see DRYVERMOUTH staring at me. Then there was DEODAR, one of those words that you kind of know you've seen; so it must be right. I have to google for a picture of a deodar.

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

Finished, though found it rough going around PLUSSIGN and FEAST.

My brain wouldn't parse CARRADIO into two words, so I was wondering whether west coast trains have different entertainment than on the east coast.

Please do not the ONEAL (Diesel) of 19A AKA Shaq?

Happy Sunday.

Anonymous 9:43 AM  



Anonymous 9:43 AM  

Loved it. Agree it was ingenious. Also lots of unknowns I was able to puzzle through. Got the theme pretty early so felt encouraged.
I was also saved by the breakfast test on bleeped word -- took me a while to get OATH but I didn't waste a lot of time going through a list of dirty words.
But couldn't come up with EVENTHORIZON/EVENTHOUGH at all and just stalled in that area. Caviar source -RUSSIA? Really appeals to - PLEADS? I just couldn't get anything to work. Finally had to google. Didn't help that I didn't know BREN or IMAGO and it took forever for the lightbulb to go on for ATOZ.
Like many had FLIES instead of FLEES but was able to figure it out without a detour into castrati and that sort of clipping.

Spencer 10:19 AM  

NINA is a main character in Checkov's The Seagull ( I didn't know that to fill in, but recognized it once I had the fill.

NIMBY is quite familiar to me, living in a college town. There's lots of NIMBYism as folks try to keep student rentals out of their residential neighborhoods. Also, as Ann Arbor is undergoing its inevitable urbanization, NIMBYs are blocking construction of tall apartment buildings (which, ironically, would reduce the student pressure on the surrounding neighborhoods -- but they're different sets of people with different back yards, and very blinkered views of what would "benefit" and "hurt" the community.

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

We have a lot of NIMBYs here trying to block the development of a wind farm, because it would mar the view from their million dollar homes. Sigh. I'd rather have a wind farm here than a coal burning plant there.

I knew Lucretia MOTT from the Schoolhouse Rock anthem 'Sufferin til Sufferage', which I still sing when I go to vote.

For some reason DEODAR is in my brain from previous crosswords. BREN was new to me. YUNNAN needs a better PR department, I've never heard of it.

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

Really excellent original puzzle, and I'm glad I saved it for the morning paper -- doing it in ink with no googles must have been a bit easier with all the pairs to check out. (Even with daylight saving time, there's still most of the day left and PLUS SIGN: no rain or snow, contrary to forecasts).

A while ago I was going to check the difference between "sten" and BREN, but figured one could usually tell the one wanted by the crosses, and that worked out... I noted above that some had a clue date for the DONAT "Mr Chips" while my paper gives no date, but this was the version I knew.

HUNGARIAN always brings to mind "My Fair Lady" with the oily ex-student of the linguistic Professor, who "eeled his way across the floor" in his attempt to expose the protegee's origins.

And I had MOUTH before the earlier parts of 79A and 90A, except for a beginning D in DEODAR, so I first thought of Dartmouth (too short, doesn't go into a martini as ingredient), but had to pause and ponder the three ways "mouth" gets pronounced in "vermouth" etc.!

On top of all the rest of the cleverness, it looks like this is a pangram or whatever? Has all the letters of the alphabet....


Anonymous 11:41 AM  

Wow. This is one of those puzzles that make me give up any hope for being a constructor. Really clever concept and terrific execution.

What I like is the combination of colloquial expressions (DONTBEASTRANGER, for example, or NOTIFICANHELPIT) and words like DEODAR and DISCACHHARIDE. I mean come on - Robert DONAT and SIMBA? Marty Robbins and Itzhak PERLMAN? You've got to love it.

Second appearance this week for AVALON! Now I _definitely_ have to play Bill Murray's version of "More Than This" on my radio show tonight. (, 6 to 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time - free plug.)

Also the second appearance of FIFE this week (once in a clue and one in the answer). Interesting how some puzzles build on each other.

John CARRADINE gave two great and very different performances for John Ford in consecutive years: STAGECOACH and GRAPES OF WRATH.

I think Fred Pohl wrote a book called BEYOND THE BLUE EVENT HORIZON.

Now, I know very little about opera, but it strikes me that a soprano might go higher than a HIGH C. I mean, wasn't Pavarotti able to hit high C, and he was a tenor.

Myron 11:42 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 11:52 AM  

Yeah, my niece is an amateur soprano, and she can hit E above high C. With ease. Great puzzle, Patrick. Took me a long time.

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

The soprano high C is an octave above the tenor high C (which is one octave above middle C).

Anonymous 12:23 PM  

FYI -- Aside from "Lady Liberty", given us by the French, few real historic women are remembered in our national monumemts -- but MOTT is one:

Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), the Quaker reformer and preacher, who advocated tirelessly for abolition of slavery, peace, and equality for women, was the organizer of the 1848 Woman's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls NY, thus launching the women's rights movement...

Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), and Susan B Anthony (1820-1906) are the three leaders represented on the marble Suffrage Monument in the Capital Rotunda in Washington, DC. Sculpted by Adelaide Johnson (1859-1955) to commemorate the 1920 ratification of the U.S. Constiitution's 19th Amendment, which finally secured the vote for women, the multi-ton work was first installed in the Crypt in 1921 and only relocated to the main floor in 1997.


Jim Finder 12:31 PM  

The year for "Mr. Chips" doesn't appear in my AcrossLite printout. Cool puz. Hmmm, doesn't look right... Cool puzzle.

Joel 12:33 PM  

I had the first and next-to-last E's and the second L and got ELLERBEE instantly, but I know the name from a much different context than a 1980s NBC news show. I remember her from the Nick News show of my childhood, which was my first exposure as a child to "serious news." Loved that show!

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

Had N_MB_ and kept wanting to put NAMBLA, despite it's not fitting or passing the breakfast test.

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

Nobody got cheated in their 'Chips' clue. I was googling after I completed the puzzle to find this guy Don At--what a crazy name. The years of two different releases came up in my search. I misremembered seeing it in the clue. Sorry for any angst I may have caused.

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

Karen, are you on Cape Cod? If so, where? I love the Cape. Loved the puzzle, too, even though it kicked my ass, even after figuring out the theme. Guess we could say that I "respect" this puzzle.


Anonymous 2:43 PM  

NIMBY very familiar in Hood River, OR. Wind farms, high-density housing/resort developments, and Indian casinos!

Anonymous 2:48 PM  

This was a challenging puzzle for me, but not because of the theme answers, except disaccharide. At the end, I took the longest time with atoz, imago, boogie, and bren, but at least the answers were rewarding. Overall, it was fun, because of the number of clever clues.

Liz 3:15 PM  

Since I am as old as the hills, I knew it would be BREN or STEN and waited for the crosses. Also, I knew there are at least two "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", movies so I just waited for the non-O'Toole by the crosses. I really enjoyed the theme and although I am slow, I made no errors and did it all without help.

I've been a fan of Frances de la Tour since a BBC series "Flickers" a fictional humorous account of the early days of movie making in which she had a role. Unfortunately she has done most of her work on the stage including "The History Boys" for which she received a Tony. I saw it on DVD, so I had no trouble getting BOYS.

Anonymous 3:26 PM  

@Rex - I just followed your link to the Brian Selznick book at Amazon... it's listed as having 544 pages!!! Your daughter can read that much in a day? I wish I had that ability. My dad and my sister can read a novel in a day, but I've never been able to get through one in under a week.

Today's puzzle was fun. I've liked Patrick Berry's puzzles for quite a while now, he really does some amazing stuff. I still read GAMES and he gets quite a bit of his work published there. Any of you ever seen the 'Some Assembly Required' puzzles? Amazing!

The last letter I entered today was the Y where NIMBY crosses BOYS. Also a lucky guess! I thought the clue for FEAST (at 85A) was the best - very misleading and funny, had me racking my brain for a while. PLUSSIGN was also very clever. I wasn't too sure about SANGAREE, but most of the crosses looked good. I remember that in Australia, 'By JINGO!' was an old fashioned colloquialism... I never really knew what it meant though. I think I've subsequently seen the word in crosswords though and it seemed to work so I went with it.

Happy to finish with no mistakes, after the last two days' troubles. It's always nice to finish off the week and see Monday coming again. If the whole week was Friday/Saturday level puzzles, I'd never get any work done!

[BTW, have I mentioned before that I love it when Rex solves puzzles on the computer, instead of printing them out? It's the only way I have a chance to beat his solving time!] :^)

Rex Parker 3:29 PM  

Sahra does indeed read quickly, but in the interest of full disclosure, MANY of the pages in the Selznick book are pictures ... and it may have taken her a day and a half, not just one day.


Joseph Brick 3:59 PM  

A stunningly clever puzzle. The merger of EVENT HORIZON and EVEN THOUGH was especially impressive. Patrick Berry must be some kind of genius.

I liked how the "mergers" helped verify my guesses - especially true for DISACCHARIDE. (I was debating an N instead of the D, since I had no idea what the crossing "Philippic" meant.)

Speaking of guesses, for the first time ever I had two complete stabs that both turned out to be right: the M between AMAIN and IMAGO, and the E of BREN and AUEL. Usually I'd get both wrong and darken my whole Sunday.

Anonymous 4:03 PM  

Happy Daylight Savings Time to all !

The wail of the Banshees, Irish Sea, and Avalon gave the puzzle a Celtic feel.

The clued Mutate was appropriate with all the splits and mergers.

Anonymous 4:40 PM  

Ramsey, thanks for the clarification on the soprano high C compared to the tenor high C.

I highly recommend the play AND the movie of THE HISTORY BOYS. My lovely wife Debbie and I were fortunate enough to see it on Broadway with the same people as in the movie. Richard Griffiths and Frances de la Tour were wonderful. Very literate script, and a couple of the boys are excellent.

Liz, don't forget that Frances de la Tour has shown up in at least one Harry Potter movie - as has Richard Griffiths, come to think of it. (Be a British actor, appear in a Harry Potter movie - it's the law.)

Anonymous 5:34 PM  

@ John Reid:

I just did March's some assembly requiered this morning and was continually amazed at the intricacy. In one corner Lorenzo Lamas shares 5 letters with Spamalot. Genius.

dorothysmom 5:53 PM  

I am one of those puzzle solvers who loves to take the whole sunday - going back to it - more coffee - bathroom-breakfast break - back to it again - etc. -

I LOVED this puzzle because during the course of the day, I got the wholeeeee thing!!! (without any cheating glances at rex's site) I'm not fast, don't care to be, but I learn something every time.

fergus 6:02 PM  

Plodded though this one with many instances of admiration, amusement, some temporary bemusement, then full stop bewilderment in the Kansas region (which then caused doubts and confusion over into Tennessee and Kentucky). It didn't help that I had bungled the theme and plonked in __HITCH A RIDE horizontally, when the order in the clue should have told me to bring the HITC in from above. On the wrong side of Britain with the NORTH instead of the IRISH Sea, and what the hell could FE__T be, with many sides? A FECAT -- alternative group of many Facets? No, that not only looked wrong, but vulgar, too. Never thought of the sides as dishes, even though this little trick has been used a number of times before.

OK, so I Googled Mr. Chips fruitlessly because I stuck with 1969 version. Cheating, with continued exasperation -- what a wretched combination. UGH.

This region also made me start to doubt DIASPORA, since the Group migration could have implied that everyone went to the same place, and perhaps there's a related term for that?

Had PALE for the ETON boys, figuring that they wouldn't be getting much sun. And TAX instead of TIP. Then started to wonder what the connection might be between Fillip and Phillipic? Couldn't find one, but remembered the Simon & Garfunkle song "A Simple, Desultory Phillipic" as some form of consolation.

Anonymous 6:55 PM  

This puzzle was an amazing construction that basically makes me quake in my shoes. Before I get to that, let me express my outrage at the crossing LONI / SANGAREE. I ended up putting LORI / SARGAREE, obviously I had never heard of either word. I had everything else correct (that never happens for me) even after guessing completely on H_IG for HAIG, _U_L for AUEL, and BR_N for BREN.

Now, I am in awe at the construction of this puzzle. A bunch of reasons. The theme in is simple but elegant. The entries are lively and each pair has different word boundaries and roots. Moreover, the entries are SYMMETRIC! This means that where one split occurred, an accompanying merger had to be there with the same lengths of both entries in the pair. Finally, two of the pairs are INTERSECTING!! NOTIFICATIONS crosses IMPOSITIONS and DRY VERMOUTH crosses FOREST RANGER. That is absurdly astounding.

Anonymous 8:36 PM  

I just finished the puzzle. As usual, a bit of help from Google.

This is the best puzzle I have ever had the pleasure of working on in the past two years. That's how long I've been horsing around with the NY Times puzzle.

I have not read a single comment about the puzzle, as yet. Just went and did it, partly in the afternoon and finished it in the evening. Hope I don't look silly with this endorsement. But this puzzle is absolutely outstanding! Numerous accolades could be due for cleverness, originality, and new material. Again, not claiming to be an old saw.

When I understood the design and intent, I was very impressed. It was the most fun I have had in doing a puzzle ever since I have done New York Times puzzles.

Congrats to the puzzle constuctor and the puzzle editor. A wonderful job.

(Now I go read the comments. Hope I didn't make a fool of myself.)

Anonymous 10:00 PM  

This was the first Sunday I did with no googles and it was also one of my favorites. I started the NYT late in life (50! - six months ago) and have been enjoying the puzzles and Rex's blog ever since. I had no idea that these puzzles could be so challenging and addicting. Thank you Patrick Berry and all the other great constructors.

By the way, I saw violinist Perlman a few years ago and it was an amazing experience. Imagine a man of some years struggling to get to his chair in the middle of the stage. You wonder if he is well and fit enough to play. He lays down his crutches and picks up his violin and instantly you are mesmerized by sounds of almost unimaginable beauty and incredible emotional depth. As he played a whole range of emotions would play across his face. It is hard to believe that someone who has endured so much physical hardship and pain could attain such greatness. But there you have it. See him if you can - he is an inspiration,

Anonymous 10:12 PM  

catherine k, you were too funny today! I was so happy to see the smurf appear after I expected one yesterday.
I thought this was a beautiful puzzle, a lot of the crosses a little easy, but thank goodness for them. I never heard of Donat, so my only mistake (no googling at all!) was a b in bisaccharide. Still doesn't feel that wrong. It was odd how easy it was to get the theme solutions once I knew what it was about. It sped up solving whole regions much more quickly.

Bill D 10:18 PM  

Amazing what we could do if we all worked together! eg - EL PASO, EVENT HORIZON, and (given the R) BREN were my gimmes! Figured the theme out early, and it helped everywhere but DISACCHARIDE/HITCH A RIDE. I foolishly fought my initial warped urge to put in STOGIE, and for a while I had HIT THE ROAD going around the HITCH A RIDE bend.

Is A TO Z an Ampersandwich even though the "meat" is not an "AND"? Our recent discussion of this type of answer must have helped, because I saw it right away, too.

Beautiful and stimulating puzzle - I thought only the extremely arcane DISACCHARIDE was a bit unfair. Didn't recall "Stroker Ace" but, given the "L", I figured LONI (Anderson), one of Burt's many squeezes, was the only answer.

billnutt is correct about the title of the POHL book - I read it once and I think his HEECHEE universe figures in it - both could appear in the grid someday!

BREN and STEN are both types of British light machine gun. The larger Bren is a .30 caliber weapon, similar to the US BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle.) The smaller, 9mm Sten is your classic "burp gun" or "grease gun". The similarity of the names is because they are both acroynyms with the EN short for the Enfield arsenal where both were manufactured. The BR stands for Brno (a grid-worthy town in Czechoslovakia) where the gun was designed. The S and T are the last initials of the Sten's two chief designers.

Anonymous 11:05 PM  

Being a biochemist by education, disaccharide and ester were gimmies. The retrovirus one too. For some reason I even remembered Otto Hahn.

I liked the phillipic clue.The phillipics were a series of tirades that Demosthenes delivered against Phillip of Macedon's wrongs to the people of Athens. Seems like they had unpopular politicians even back then.

Emily 11:48 PM  

Funny, the ones you have the most trouble with are always the ones I get first, and vice versa - though I work on Broadway, so things like the Lunt-Fontaine Theater and History Boys are no problem. It was DONAT and HAIG that threw me most (generation gap, perhaps? I grew up during Bush I and Clinton.) As billnut mentioned above, they made a movie of History Boys with the same cast as the play - I'd highly recommend it to crossword types and anyone else who's a little nerdy and proud of it.

Anonymous 11:51 PM  

Adding to the love fest for this puzzle - an early candidate for puzzle of the year? Brilliant construction, enough gimmes to keep you going and the hard ones were doable through the crosses. A good finish to the week. A good weekend for me, finished both Friday and Sunday puzzles without mistakes, though the top third of Saturday puzzle is killing me, I'm still tearing my hair out over that one, about ready to call it quits and start googling - admit defeat.

Anonymous 12:04 AM  

@bill d: Thanks for the BREN/sten details! I knew that WW2 was for both of them, but now I think B for bigger Bren and S for smaller Sten if I'm given a fair shot (pun).

@anon.disaccharide: Appreciate your note on the Phillipics derivation too... Do you remember the visual pun of the hexagon drawing with an Fe+2 attached at each point around it? What is it?


(Answer: Ferrous Wheel)

Anonymous 1:12 AM  

p.s. Rex, your quip in the blog that tickled me the most was: "Himalayan cedar (deodar) - from which Yetis make DEODARant." Cedar having such a wonderful smell just made it funnier...


Bill from NJ 2:44 AM  

Finished in little more than an hour which is pretty good for me, particularly on a Patrick Berry.

Blew out the North in pretty short order except in PA. I took my grandkids to see Bee Movie and couldn't figure out how to squeeze ADAM FLAYMAN in five letters!

When I finally tumbled to the theme, the puzzle fell in pretty short order.

I confess to having to employ the services of Mr. Google to get 81D and, as usual, totally blocked on ATOZ which prevented me from getting EVENT HORIZON/EVENTHOUGH.

But, all in all, a pleasureable time on a Sunday puzzle

Doug 5:45 AM  

Luckily I downloaded the puzzle prior to a long haul between HK and Sydney--I think it took me about a Frasier, a Sex and The City, and Michael Clayton to knock it off. I really like these Sunday puzzles that make you claw your way through. After the Across section I think I had about 10 answers, and then again for Down. Then it was fill in the blanks for about an hour. I got the whole thing except that I just couldn't get HITCHARIDE and OATH. I used CUSS and then tried to make the surrounding letters work, knowing CUSS was wrong. ALAS...

Really nice to have a theme that's not forced, with legitimate answers!

Michael Chibnik 8:37 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle a lot. I first tried it after a long airplane trip and it took a long to get the theme and even then it went slowly. I picked it up again today and finished without problems. Amazing how the brain can work better some times than others.

Unknown 3:08 AM  

I haven't looked at the Times crossword in decades. Last weekend I was so bored, I think I surfed to the end of the internet, so I actually picked up my Times Magazine and attempted to do the puzzle. I don't remember the term "merger" at all. On Sunday there were 4 or 5. And the term "split" was new to me. It's kind of like cheating - or the puzzler ran out of ideas. In the DOWN section there were so many that just stated "see -- across" I think it's really awful.... and so many ACROSS spaces that were just multiple words, not even and expression or idiomatic phrases. My curiosity is piqued and I'll try some more. But it's not done with the same kind of pinache it used to be.

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

The Colt .44 was known as the Peacemaker because...
wait for it...
there's nothing more peaceful than a dead man.

Brian 10:33 AM  


Thanks for "sangaree." Knew I'd have to come back here for help, but didn't think it'd be on a Sunday.


Brian (a.k.a. Professor Homunculus at )

Anonymous 10:41 PM  

Joel, when I was a kid there was no NICK at NITE. I read Linda Ellerbee's autobio and remembered "Overnight"... Knew Event Horizon from Star Trek and knew El Paso because the Grateful Dead covered it (although I did see Marty Robbins sing it at a horse racetrack one time). I'm continually fascinated by what I seem to know for no apparent reason. Like DONAT. I knew it right away, but didn't fill it in because I thought, I've never heard of this guy, I must be making this up.

Anonymous 2:38 AM  

I'm a little late to the party (darn syndicated puzzles), but I loved this puzzle so much that I felt I had to comment. The long theme answers thrilled my inner nerd: DISACCHARIDE was a gimme from science class, and EVENT HORIZON was culled from my days of reading Discover magazine. Also, NIMBY I learned from SimCity 2000 back in the day.

Unfortunately, after tearing through the puzzle I had "BAH" instead of "UGH" - HAIG was before my time, and I figured SPEDES was just another weird fabric. And then I had PINCH A RIDE instead of the correct HITCH...hadn't ever heard of MOTT. I guess I should have read more history and less Discover.

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

Like Andrew, I solve in syndication, so I'm a week (plus two days) late, but solving this last night allowed me to notice something interesting. The phrase "DONT BE A STRANGER" appeared in two consecutive puzzles for me--3/16 (orig 3/9) and 3/17 (orig 2/4)

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