SUNDAY, Dec. 6 2009 — 1930s heavyweight champ Ambling Alp / Headwear also known as jipijapas / Competitors Wahoos Tarheels

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium
(I have no idea, really, as I did this on paper while "watching" TV ...)

THEME: "Double Break Point" — common two-word phrases where last letter of first word is doubled and then added to the front of the second word, creating wacky phrases (which sound virtually the same as the original phrases when you say them), clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: Primo CARNERA (17A: 1930s heavyweight champ known as the Ambling Alp) Primo Carnera (October 26, 1906 – June 29, 1967) was an Italian boxer who became the world heavyweight champion. // Born in Sequals, that time Province of Udine, now Province of Pordenone, Italy, Carnera was a remarkable 6 ft 5.5 in (1.97 m tall and weighed 284 pounds (129 kg), at a time when the average height in Italy was approximately 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m). Until December 19, 2005, when the 7 ft 1 in, 147 kg Nikolay Valuev won the WBA title, Jess Willard who stood 6' 6 1/2" was the tallest champion in boxing history for a long while. Carnera was an inch shorter but around 40 lbs heavier and was the heaviest champion in boxing history. He enjoyed a sizable reach advantage over most rivals, and when seen on fight footage, he seems like a towering giant compared to many heavyweights of his era, who were usually at least 60 pounds (27 kg) lighter and 7 inches (18 cm) shorter than he was. One publicity release about him read in part: For breakfast, Primo has a quart of orange juice, two quarts of milk, nineteen pieces of toast, fourteen eggs, a loaf of bread and half a pound of Virginia ham. Because of his size, he earned the nickname The Ambling Alp. His career was one of great suspicion as he was a fighter of limited speed and talent and his trek to the title was notably strewn with Mafia fixes.

["... last slice of Virginia ham / Is the best that you can eat!"]


Sometimes great concepts are not complicated. Just a single letter added in the case of each theme answer, but with completely transformative results: a double-letter at the phrase's breaking point, which completely (and occasionally hilariously) changes the phrase's meaning without changing its pronunciation in any appreciable way. Theme answers then lend themselves to preposterous cluing of the sort that adds much-needed thorniness to the typical Sunday solve. Cluing in general felt amped up a bit today — ambiguous and clever in ways that made me had to work a little to get the job done. All that and a truly gorgeous, smoothly-filled grid. Two names that were from outer space to me (CARNERA — see above — and RAHAB — 91A: Prostitute who protected Israelite spies in Joshua), but those were (eventually) easily dispatched via crosses.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Deciding the best man is better, perhaps? (changinG Grooms)
  • 25A: Memento of an old athletic injury? (sportS Scar)
  • 32A: Nipicks? (assaulT Trifles)
  • 52A: Double or nothing, say? (neW Wager)
  • 60A: Begging soldiers? (trooP Pleaders)
  • 67A: Young scientists who are impossible to work with? (laB Brats)
  • 81A: Things heard after thumbs are hit with hammers? (carpenteR Rants)
  • 93A: Holder of pet electrons, protons and neutrons? (atomiC Cage)
  • 100A: Reductions in rank that aren't entirely bad? (mixeD Demotions)

Sticking points: I couldn't remember the damned dwarf in "Lord of the Rings" — GIMLI (7A: "The Lord of the Rings" dwarf). Had some combination of "Mowgli" and "Studio Ghibli" in my head. Also had BAAS for MOOS up there (9D: Farmyard chorus). All kinds of issues with the Nevada region of the puzzle (i.e. the area around the front end of TROOP PLEADERS). Wasnt' sure how to spell FREY (FRAY?) (34D: James who wrote "A Million Little Pieces") or GEHRY (GEARY?) (51A: Architect of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao), so I had no initial luck entering that section from the top. Later tried to come at it from the west but got hung up in what now seems like the stupidest place — the "S" in "YES!" (75A: Triumphant cry). Had "YAY!" at first, but that made 55D: Hall-of-Famers end in a "Y"; seemed unlikely. So I changed my answer to ... YEA! (which made me annoyed as YEA is a vote, not a triumphant cry). Strangely, despite the plural [Hall-of-Famers], a terminal "S" really didn't occur to me. Perhaps because it's not inherently a "cry" at all. Once I figured out "THREE AMIGOS" (60D: 1986 film featuring Chevy Chase as Dusty Bottoms), I was able (finally) to get into that section and take care of it rather easily. Only other erasures I see on my paper are GRAMMA changed to GRAMPA (78D: Rocking chair storyteller) and EVEN changed to EXPO (96D: Fair).


  • 23A: Where Caleb was sent as a spy (Canaan) — Biblical puzzle today. Unlike with RAHAB, I nailed this one — not because my Bible knowledge is so great (it's really shaky, as you know), but because I had the "C" and final "N" and thought "why not?"
  • 47A: Bottom line? (footer) — "?" clues like this abound, even outside the theme answers, which is partly why this puzzle was harder to cut through than most Sundays.
  • 78A: Country whose name means "warrior king" (Ghana) — guessed it off the "N." Like CANAAN, it just ... appeared. Love it when the answers just rise to the top of my brain without any effort (or any real knowledge/expertise on my part). Feels magical.
  • 106A: Setting of Van Gogh's "Cafe Terrace at Night" (Arles) — first thing in the grid, only because my eye caught this clue first. Very different experience solving on paper. Much easier to get sucked into bouncing around the grid — solving in Across Lite (or Black Ink) really focuses my attention on a single clue at a time, and I'm much more likely to work in a deliberate, counter-clockwise fashion (starting in NW) if I'm solving on screen. I think...
  • 8D: Skater Midori (Ito) — she and the judge duke it out for ownership of this bit of crosswordese.
  • 45D: Competitors of Wahoos and Tar Heels (Terps) — a common enough crossword answer (U. of Maryland's team name), but one obscured to me for a while because I kept imagining "Wahoos" as a breakfast food or snack cake or something, i.e. I kept ignoring "Tar Heels" (which would have made the ACC context clear).
  • 76D: Headwear also known as jipijapas (panamas) — wow, this hurt. I had PANA-AS and still didn't know what I was dealing with (!?!?). I think I'm not used to seeing panama hats called "PANAMAS," and so I figured I was dealing with something more exotic. PANAKAS? PANAJAS? Yeesh.

And now for your Tweets of the Week — puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse

  • @wlai fairly certain that nyt crossword are the only people who still use the term "ezine"
  • @chrissyteigen everyone say congrats to @johnlegend for yet another grammy nomination!!! then congratulate me on finishing this months people mag crossword
  • @sveiki You know what is the real barrier to me moving to China? The systematic suppression of crossword puzzles.
  • @MrWesley247 If you have a scene in your movie that features competetive team crossword puzzles, send the script back for a rewrite.
  • @FigaroTheParrot My comp at work may actually be slower than ENIAC.
  • @EmGrace HA, crossword puzzle clue is "old prizm automaker", three letters, starts with g. My car does not appreciate that comment.
  • @sportswritergal Should have know a crossword book would be a difficult thing to snag in a newsroom silent auction. Surrounded by fellow word people.
  • @napalmbeth Pretty sure i'm getting paid to drink this bubblegum vodka and sprite and do this crossword puzzle.
  • @ryansomers Thanks k'naan for making it possible for me to hear chubb rock rap while i sip my pale ale and do battle with the nytimes crossword...
  • @KeithJardine205 My girlfriend is boxing tonight. I'm sitting back stage right now attempting the crossword. Way nervous...but confident.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


imsdave 8:32 AM  

A solid medium that I managed to push up to challenging. PAIL/MAIN, SOSO/EXPO, BILBO/GIMLI, GAWAIN/GARETH. Those can really slow you down. Mr. Berry always seems to construct his puzzles to make me do that.

Great stuff.

Bob Kerfuffle 8:41 AM  

Fun puzzle, nice word play.

Only three write-overs: 33D, It might have an extension: Abbr., had TEL before URL; 81 D, Pres. title, had CEO before CIC; and, 19 A, Plays at maximum volume,had BLASTS before BLARES.

CoolPapaD 8:44 AM  

I thought this was a most entertaining puzzle, and agree that there was enough ambiguous cluing to generate many write-overs. MARE for MANE (I thought horsehair came from tails - manes seem too short to be effective); HOOP for LOOP (at least I remembered what an ankh was today), HINTS for LISTS; RKO for TWA - the LIST goes on!

Speaking of which - what is the connection between tips and LISTS? I don't get it. Wasn't crazy about using "up" as a verb (ELEVATE) either, but otherwise, a fun outing.

I've never seen Three Amigos, but my wife's family sits around on Christmas morning, opening every box, shouting, "It's a sweater!" after which they convulse with laughter!

foodie 8:44 AM  

Excellent puzzle, but not a smooth solving experience. I pulled the horsehair out of a MArE and had MIAROS/PIAROS for Key Holders (they're ancient Italian guards ;)

And "Professional Material" was
CREED-- you know, something you profess? That got in the way until my belief in its veracity was shaken.

Favorite answer by far: LAB BRATS-- I've met a few, with and without the "B".

Thanks Rex for a great write up.

And the Tweets! I'd love to meet KeithJardine!

Smitty 8:48 AM  

Talk about sheesh - I had USSR for CCCP

Bob Kerfuffle 8:54 AM  

@CoolPapaD - Think of tips and lists as in "Leans over".

CoolPapaD 9:16 AM  

@Bob Kerfuffle - THANK YOU - it was making me nuts! Was not thinking along that line at all!

Elaine 9:57 AM  

Like everyone else, I was led astray by competing possibles, making this the kind of fun puzzle that makes you feel good about the finished grid.

Hubby gave me GIMLI, which was a big help.

Was led astray by Great white WHALE, SHARK, HOPES....although birdfully, I think it's Great White HERON; EGRET species are cattle or snowy.... Mr. Shortz may need to get out more.

Thanks, Mr. Berry and Rex!

Don't Call me no Heron 10:16 AM  

Mr. Egret

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Subclass: Neornithes
Infraclass: Neognathae
Superorder: Neoaves
Order: Ciconiiformes (disputed)
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Ardea
Species: A. alba
Binomial name
Ardea alba

Casmerodius albus
Egretta alba

The Great Egret (Ardea alba), also known as the Great White Egret or Common Egret or (now not in use) Great White Heron.

retired_chemist 10:27 AM  

@ foodie - it was professorial material.

@ Elaine - the Great Egret is also called the Great White Egret acc/to Wikipedia. We sometimes have some on our tank (that's pond outside Texas) along with the Great Blue Herons who are kinda regulars.

@chrissyteigen - the People puzzle is weekly. I know because if non-puzzle wife takes one along on a car trip we do the crossword together. Sometimes tough- requires a knowledge of current pop culture, which I do not have much of.

The puzzle: enjoyably challenging, as Mr. Berry's puzzles always are.

A true Natick at the FREY/GEHRY crossing. I considered E and I - should have played alphabet soup longer.

76D - knew PANAMAS from crosswords. Never had one or knew anyone who did.

The 52A (NEW WAGER) environs were a toughie for me - my last fill. it was so short I did not consider it part of the theme, which meant the first W was blank. My bad. Add that to LOVER 2 47D (arguably almost as much a Peggy Lee signature song as FEVER to this geezer) and missing FOOTER initially left a 2X2 square that was my last fill. 40D was P__ERS for what superheroes have. I was tempted to enter what superheroines don't have, but I didn't.

54A was I WIN until TIME LAG showed up. 19A was BLASTS for a while. Nice to have two (or more) possible answers sharing 3 or 4 letters. Keeps you on your toes.

Thanks, Mr. Berry.

PlantieBea 10:34 AM  

Fun Sunday Patrick Berry. Add me to the MARES and GRAMMA group. I also tried HINTS and HOOP too. I liked the image of LAB BRATS held in an ATOMIC CAGE. My last letter was the C in CARNERA. Thanks for the photo, REX; his nickname was well deserved.

@Foodie: Enjoy your stay in Florida. It looks like it should warm up and be a beautiful week.

F.O.G. 10:35 AM  

Excellent puzzle! Working online last night, after repeated rejects, I guessed that "DON" was actually "DAN" Brown, thus making "CARNERO", "CARNERA." Resubmitting I received my "Thanks for playing" message and was able to turn in and get some sleep.

Parshutr 10:47 AM  

I just Loved this one...can't say why, but that's how love goes! Only transitory errors...GHERY for GEHRY, PAIL for MAIN.

mac 10:48 AM  

I loved this puzzle as much as yesterday's, just on a Sunday level and size. Such a variety of subjects, I don't think anyone can complain about too much sports, arts, pop culture or any other subject. I didn't find anything Simpson, though;-)!

I don't think I found any of the theme answers or clues contrived or silly, the whole thing just worked.

I also had some spelling trouble with Frey and Gehry, put in heron instead of egret (nice to have the crane up there as well)and went from mule to mare to mane.... Isn't it great, though, to be able to figure it all out without help? Except from my husband, who piped up with "Fever"!

I don't quite understand "footer" and why do they say the Latin mater in Manchester? Oh, I just figured out the last one, Ma --- ter....

Thanks Patrick Berry and Rex Parker! Great puzzle Sunday.

Parshutr 10:50 AM  

@retired this geezer, Miss Peggy's signature song will always be "Is that all there is?"

SethG 10:51 AM  

I had GEHRY for GETTY before I had GEHRY for GEHRY, made lots of the missteps mentioned above, and still had a plethora of fun.

mac, what is a footer, and where does it appear?

Parshutr 10:52 AM a document, the footer has information like "Page X of Y" at the bottom of the page; the header has the document title, etc. They are repeated (with proper pagination, of course) throughout the section, or the whole document.

Anonymous 10:53 AM  

Fun puzzle.

Rex, thanks for the Louis Prima.

Chemist - I hava a Panama - love to wear it at outdoor events in the summer (or desert, when we travel) heat.

Elaine 10:56 AM  

Does this mean I need to discard my old Peterson's bird book and get the newer Sibley?

But ALBA means "white," not "great." That's just plain ole White Egret.

We see a lot of bird life on our lake. The Great White Egret is as large as the Great Blue, but always flees if the Blue disputes the stump or fishing cove.

I am standing here, arms akimbo, using Great White Heron.

Manchester, England.... MATER and PATER are the Latin for Mother and Father, but I doubt young Brits often use it now, eh? That was my take on the clue/answer. Could it just have implied "those who mate?"

Footnote= bottom line
OR a FOOTER is laid before a structure goes up.

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

Had "pajamas" instead of "panamas" -- not sure why you'd wear pajamas on your head (and didn't know what a "maij" was).

Terrific puzzle (and write-up), otherwise.

joecab 11:06 AM  

Nice puzzle, but I'd rate it tougher than medium.

Also, points to you for thinking of Studio Ghibli and not the movie Gigli.

will nediger 11:07 AM  

This puzzle reminded me of the great Sarah Orne Jewett short story "A White Heron." Plus Yeasayer's new single, "Ambling Alp," which is about Primo Carnera (I can only assume).

archaeoprof 11:09 AM  

Every one of the theme answers was a surprise, and every one made me smile. I like that in a Sunday puzzle.

Thank you Patrick Berry.

BTW, I tried great white whale too. And Geary and Geery.

Van55 11:09 AM  

Good puzzle all around, despite the horrible GEHRY/FREY crossing. The theme answers were uniformly droll.

archaeoprof 11:10 AM  

PS: thanks, Rex, for the background on CARNERA. Never had heard of him.

Noam D. Elkies 11:27 AM  

Thanks for a fun puzzle! A numer of non-thematic Downs (12D:CLASSCLOWNS, 60D:THREEAMIGOS — hm, non-thematic clowns? — and even the 13-letter 29D:LIBERALMINDED) much longer than the thematic 52A:NEWWAGER and 67A:LABBRATS, but I'm not complaining. One nitpick, fittingly for 32A: I see that to "assault trifles" can be to "nitpick", but I can't make the clue "nitpicks?" work; what part of speech should I be thinking of?

The Hebrew word רחב (here seen as 91A:RAHAB) also means "broad (adj.)"; I've long wondered whether this might be the source of the colloquial "broad (n.)"...

Is 81D:CIC legitimate? I've seen Commander in Chief abbreviated CinC, but can't recall CIC; expands CIC only to "combat information center" or "counterintelligence corps".


P.S. 7A:GIMLI was a gimmi ;-) (From the book, not the movie.)

Norm 11:53 AM  

Very entertaining puzzle, but I have to agree with Retired Chemist that GEHRY/FREY was a classic Natick. Never heard of either person, and there were so many letters that could fit (e.g., GEHRE/FREE, GEHRT/FRET, GEHRN/FREN) that a "Y" was far from inferrable. Just left it blank and gave myself a win anyway. Grump ...

Chorister 11:57 AM  

Wasn't loving the theme (just from CHANGING GROOMS) until I got ASSAULT TRIFLES which made me LOL.

Made the whole thing harder by trying for too long to make those long downs into theme answers.

Naticked at FREY/GEHRY

Also still don't get CIC. Is it really for Commander in Chief? Yeech.

slypett 12:12 PM  

If you take what everyone else said all together, then that's what I say. This was a copacetic solve all the way to the bank.

Well done, Patrick Bery!

SethG 12:37 PM  

Frank Gehry has been mentioned in the New York Times 107 times in the last year.

James Frey has appeared 20 times, Natick, 8. It's fine not to have heard of either of them, but I don't see how it can be considered in the same class.

Lon 12:47 PM  

Rex --

Ditto 23A and 78A. I'm constantly amazed at how much trivial stuff the human brain can retain.

I once got the answer, "Tess Harper" having seen the movie Tender Mercies only once.

It's not intelligence, it's data storage.

Texas Momma 12:48 PM  

Bugs me that 47:A'Bottom line?' and 48:D'Vanity case?'are clued with ? but don't meet the requirements of the other "wacky" clues.

ArtLvr 12:52 PM  

Me too, loved the puzzle overall and had the same trouble with names GEHRY/FREY and RAHAB. The "Ambling Alp" was a new one, very funny, and King Arthur's nephew GARETH didn't ring a bell. At least BRECHT was easier...

The theme answers were great, and in the fill I got a kick out of WHELPED -- Our Retired_Chemist must have enjoyed that one? The tipping/LISTS made me laugh too.

@ Elaine -- thanks for your bird observations! I had to tape a picture of an owl on the wide front window after an unknown swooper crashed into it twice yesterday, thinking it could fly straight through to the back deck. Ouch. No BONES left behind, though.


Shamik 1:03 PM  

Loved, loved, loved this puzzle despite ending up with four wrong letters.

@Lon: IS data storage, not intelligence.

Had brain lapse and had MCCP with MANERA. Should have recalled those CCCP letters.

But the real surprise was in the Peggy Lee area: LOVER (it could happen), which creates LOOTER (it could happen), LODES (it could happen) and LOWWAGER (well, it could). But it didn't. Medium-challenging time at 24:27...and then there are those 4 wrong squares.

Still, I loved this clever and mind-tingling puzzle.

Elaine 1:12 PM  

"Nitpicks" would be a verb. If you nitpick, you assault trifles, eh?

I tried LOVER and LOOTER (without writing them in.) Rock stars, singers and songs, movies, bands, car models, and most sports figures....I'll never nitpick THOSE clues!

Noam D. Elkies 1:32 PM  

@Elaine: nitpicks (v.) = assaults trifles, so that interpretation doesn't quite work.

Glad to see 77A wasn't MEEP (as in Roadrunner)...


Stan 1:32 PM  

Loved it.

Am singing "You're not the only one, with mixed demotions..."

Thanks, Patrick

lit.doc 1:47 PM  

58:33! First Sunday puzz I ever got through on my own! And there was a great rejoycing in the streets.

But then there was CARNERA in the first l-o-n-g minute. I usually start NW, cross N, then back to NW to work down W, so going stupid (or ignorant, apropos the intelligence v. data storage comments above)took some of the wind out of my sails early on.

Had Gehry in my head (art museum geek), which saved me from killing time killing James AGEE, who also wrote an autobio.

@ Elaine, my last four squares were 65A M__ERS and, right beneath, 69A LI__S. I was thinking in the right direction for "Tips", just went into synonym paralysis briefly. Sticking point was MATERS. I concur in your cavil. Clue had me searching for Brit, probably working-class slang, despite the Latin possibility being clear enough. Mr Shortz, please at least change 65A go "Eton moms".

Three cheers for Patrick Berry! I LOVE themed puzz's in which the theme actually helps to solve the puzzle, instead of being something esoteric (read "lame") figured out after the fact.

foodie 1:50 PM  

@RC-- D'Oh! You'd think I hadn't heard of professorial! I even try to look the part sometimes, but no TWEED or elbow patches for me.

@PlantieBea, thank you, I'm already enjoying it! And my view of the water!

@Shamik, for a while, I had exactly the same set of errors, with the Lover, Lowwager, etc.. Exactly. I got rejected and went back and fixed it.

@NDE, the long downs actually hung me up for a while. I had CLASSCLOWNS early on and thought it was a theme answer, had a double SS in the middle and two word starting with the same letter "C" and thought that must be the theme... You had to pay attention to the ? in the clue...

I took nitpicks to be a noun, which means an assault over a trifling matter. I agree that people tend to say I have a nit to pick, rather than I have a nitpick. But here's something called JOHO, The Blog (is it our Joho?), with the title: Most annoying nitpicks...

Shamik 2:09 PM  

@foodie: I like the knowing if it was rejected part and use it on other puzzles with AcrossLite (or NYT after that day). But, I'm too needful of the pause button, so don't solve it on the NYT site. Oh well.

Meg 2:12 PM  

# long (down) answers which were not themes and short entries which were kept me hopping.


Fun puzzle and not too easy.

Fitzy 2:56 PM  

Two answers today (i.e. REBS and VEEP) struck me as being in need of cluing that would have suggested abbreviations, shortened form or slang in the cluing... Are there "rules" or "conventions" for this in the world of crossword construction? VEEP I got right away, but I had LEE as "Pickett's Charge participant"... though "participant" would have been a far stretch as LEE was Pickett's commander... just wondering...

Fitzy 2:58 PM  

Meant "REB" in the singular, "REBS"

joho 3:06 PM  

Loved this Sunday puzzle because it wasn't just filling in the squares but took some effort to figure out. Not too much to make it feel like work ... just enough to make it fun.

My only stumbles were GRAMPs before GRAMPA, code, then case before WHIPS, Iwon before IMIN and VEto before VEEP.

Great Sunday, thank you, Patrick Berry!

@Foodie ... I am not Joho, The Blog ... so now, I'm thinking of suing!

jae 3:26 PM  

Great puzzle which I found a bit on the tough side. Last fill was the NW corner (didn't know CARNERA or ERIN and had trouble seeing 3 & 4d). On the plus side I knew both GEHRY and FREY (data storage). I would argue, however, there is a fair amount of inferencing that goes on while solving and that falls in the realm of intelligence.

Anonymous 3:37 PM  

Thought ClassClowns was a theme clue for a while and got stuck until I nnoticed there was no ? then I got it.

bookmark 3:45 PM  

Architect husband and I got to see Frank GEHRY's Bilbao Museum (a dream of his) and to wander through Richard Serra's steel sculpture installation there. Unbelievable experience!

@Smitty: I, too, had USSR for CCCP.

The great egret is one of my favorite birds. We watch them on rocks on the river from our house, though none today, as the river is too high from recent heavy rains. We only see snowy egrets on the coast.

chefwen 4:17 PM  

Absolutely loved this puzzle and managed to get it done with only two Googles. Did end up with a mistake with gramma and mare and thought that maybe MIAROS would be the "word of the day", I had never heard of it, but ya never know. Oh well, it was a lot of fun and I did LOL at CARPENTER RANTS.

chefbea 4:47 PM  

Fun puzzle!! Had a tough time with it this morning. Husband and went xmas shopping and when I came back to the puzzle almost everything fell into place

I too had sssr for a while

Loved carpenterrants also

Clark 4:50 PM  

According to ‘mater’ is used in the UK for mother ( Semi-puzzle partner confirms this. His source is I Love Lucy reruns.

@NDE has convinced me that the clue for 32A should have been ‘nitpick?’.

bluebell 5:08 PM  

I firmly wanted granma in the rocking chair telling stories. I know granpas are story tellers--it's the rocking chair that throws the picture off for me. Don't have a clue, why.

At this point in my life I am more amazed at all the trivia I have forgotten--and equally amazed at what survives the memory dump. I knew "Fever" immediately, but Gimli wasn't there, even though I once spent a wonderful week immersed in the Tolkien trilogy.

An enjoyable puzzle nonetheless.

Bill from NJ 5:34 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve J 5:42 PM  

@SethG: Completely agreed that GEHRY/FREY is not remotely a Natick. They're both quite widely known. (Gehry is arguably the most famous living architect - only one I can think of who could compete on that mark would be Michael Graves, who's probably more known for selling stuff at Target - and the controversy with Frey's memori was big news a few years back.)

@Fitzy: Agreed with you on VEEP. Seemed like it needed some sort of qualifier to indicate the abbreviation/slang. However, REB is one of those terms that became so common as to become a word in its own right, much as I don't think you need to indicate that GIs is an abbreviation.

As for the puzzle, as someone who normally hates letter-substitution/addition themes, I found this quite clever. I think it's precisely because most of them were phonetically identical to the root phrase that made it work so well.

And there wasn't a single one that made me groan or roll my eyes. These days, that to me is the mark of a truly good puzzle.

chefbea 6:26 PM  

@steve my son-in-law Domenico Minchilli is a very well known architect in Italy!!! Check it out

Schmidtenor 6:28 PM  

Argh. Foiled in an otherwise perfect solve by GEHRY/FREY. Like many others, had GEHRI/FREI. Puzzle gets an F for having that lame cross in it. I don't care how cute the theme was.

mac 6:35 PM  

@Parshutr: thank you for answering Seth. I had never heard this expression, just footnote.

@Noam: interesting, rahab = broad plus the prostitute. I love these little facts.

@Elaine and @lit.doc: after I asked the question I answered myself. I figured it just meant the Latin "mater" was hidden in the word Manchester. Only the facetious academic types in Great Britain might use the word, not the working class.

Robin 7:07 PM  

Think I am way too hung up on the day of the week and the corresponding expected difficulty level. Since we never know what Sundays will bring, I didn't have that problem today and easily solved this enjoyable puzzle with 2 googles. One for Peggy Lee song - before my time - answer helped a lot, and one for unknown to me architect Gehry.

I'm just wondering what would happen if I tried a Saturday puzzle thinking it was a Monday.

Blackhawk 7:16 PM  

Absolutely fantastic puzzle. Clever, fun, interesting, great clues, energetic fill. Total professionalism. Loved the "mixeddemotions" as it struck me as especially smart. Bravo to the constructor.... Did this one on the NYT iPhone app while flying cross-country. The app is much easier to use than I expected.

Fitzy 7:21 PM  

Thanks Steve... I guess that would go for "TERPS" instead of Terrapins as well...

slypett 7:51 PM  

Robin: You'd have twin cows before you could say "jackrobinson".

Rex Parker 8:01 PM  

How in the world is "I" a good, or even plausible, guess at GEHRY / FREY??? As @SethG and others have said above, those two are not just famous, but alive and famous. In-the-news-a-lot famous; I would add that the "Y" is *highly* inferrable (as the "N" in "N.C. WYETH" and "NATICK" was not).

Complaints about names and (from others) the odd Roman numeral or compass direction are starting to sound like horrible broken records, and betray a serious misunderstanding of what it takes to make a good, interesting puzzle.


Robin 8:12 PM  

I'll have to experiment, but my best guess is that I would cavalierly throw down answers in ink, whereas I would otherwise google and timidly pencil in.

retired_chemist 8:23 PM  

@ Rex - the I is a perfectly plausible guess. I know people named FREI and the clue leaves it likely that GEHR? is a European. So why not I?

We who found it a Natick did not know either name.

Taking your comment literally means we all should know either or both names. I would be interested to see how many times either was used in the Dallas or Houston papers. Maybe a lot - but I doubt it.

FWIW both N.C. WYETH and NATICK are familiar to me and I am sure to many others - N.C. more so, Natick less. By that criterion, the N in question is no more a Natick than the Y in question today.

I simply disagree that the Y is highly inferrable. One needs to know the names, as apparently you and many others do - but that is foreknowledge, not inference.

Robin 8:33 PM  

Where in the world is there in the world, a man so extraordinaire? Thanks, Rex, for this blog. I have to agree with Ret_Chem on the Natick, however. I've already publicly admitted to googling for Gehry, which gave me Frey, so I'm outted. But I've actually been to Natick.

Where is ACME when we need her?

retired_chemist 8:34 PM  

Gehry is apparently a made-up name, cf. Wikipedia:

Frank Owen Gehry, CC (born Ephraim Owen Goldberg, February 28, 1929) is a Canadian Pritzker Prize-winning architect based in Los Angeles....

Google lists several individuals named GEHRI on page 1 of a search.

A search for GEHRY finds all but one of the references on page 1 to Frank O. Gehry, né E. O. Goldberg. The one is to a company,not an individual.

So tell me again why you think I is not a plausible guess? I think it is more plausible than Y.

chefbea 8:35 PM  

I knew Gehry...even know him. Met him in the 60's. But I have never heard of Frey

Anonymous 8:51 PM  

Lotsa work, but got it done, for the most part. Too many distractions today.

Egrets are beautiful birds-- a few years ago on vacation, we saw a treeful of them in South Carolina in the evening, with the moon shining on them. Absolutely spectacular.

PlantieBea 8:51 PM  

James Frey's book "A Million Little Pieces" was selected by Oprah for her very popular book reading/discussion group. This book was on all kinds of best seller lists for months. It was plastered in windows of books stores with Oprah's label prominently displayed on a special version. In it Frey vividly detailed his struggle with alcoholism. After his period of Oprah fame, he admitted to cooking up some of the incidents in the book and took quite a tongue lashing from Oprah on a well publicized show. Didn't anybody else read this thing? The incident received so much publicity--even in southern papers!

mac 10:07 PM  

@PlantieBea: of course, the first thing I thought of when I saw the title of the book in the clue was Oprah and all the publicity about his lies. He will have to deal with this for the rest of his career, I guess.

Glitch 10:27 PM  

Comments [posted above] such as "Completely agreed that GEHRY/FREY is not remotely a Natick. They're both quite widely known. (Gehry is arguably the most famous living architect)" simply indicate a myoptic assumption...

Not up on architects (haven't completed Ulrich's course), avoid watching Oprah (and Drs Phil & Oz) so my only "missing letter" was the FRE_/GEHR_ crossing ...but then I've posted a similar comment before.


mac 10:33 PM  

@Glitch: I don't watch Oprah and the doctors either, I read about Frey in the New York Times.

jeff in chicago 11:22 PM  

Was out all to the puzzle late. Too late now to say much, except I, too, liked it a lot. So for anyone who actually checks in after 10:20 Central Time...Hi! Hope you had a nice day!

slypett 11:47 PM  

retired-chemist: If I hadn't recovered Gehry from the wild cornucopia that is my memory, I would have considered Gehri as just as likely, perhaps even more so, since Frei seems more common than Frey.

Steve J 11:55 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve J 12:31 AM  

@Glitch: Not sure where myopia is coming into it. My only point was that both those figures are widely known by a good number of people that it doesn't, in my opinion, represent an unfair crossing (which is the spirit of the Natick principle).

Everyone has areas that just don't click for them or fall in their areas of knowledge. I'm useless on most opera-related clues, for instance, but I recognize that many people know those, so I wouldn't consider an all-opera crossing to be unfair. Just not in my wheelhouse.

Incidentally, I've never watched Oprah nor the offshoots. As @mac said, the Frey news was all over the place when that came out a few years back.

foodie 1:23 AM  

I just heard about a survey where people were asked to name a single living scientist, and most people could not. And those who said they could actually named dead ones (Einstein, Pasteur, etc..). My fellow scientists in the audience were shocked to hear this. But I imagine many of you would be shocked that I hadn't heard of OTT or ORR until I started doing the puzzle.

I like it when people say: This was my personal Natick. It means that they're not passing a judgment about whether something is common knowledge.

BTW, it's really hard to come up with objective criteria about what is common knowledge, or commonly accessible. Using Google is tempting, but of course is full of artifacts. Example:

"Mel Ott": 72,400

"Frank Gehry": 317,000

"Natick, MA: 931,000

May be one way to do it is comparing apples to apples-- So, contrast Natick to other cities, or Gehry to other architects:

"Phoenix, Az": 18,600,000
"Robert Venturi"--Another famous architect and Pritzker Prize winner: 133,000

Calling a Natick is not an exact science : )

Elaine 1:49 AM  

I read about the "Million Little Pieces" guy, checked the book out of the library, and then subsequently read about the scandal. Saw an excerpt of Oprah's grilling the guy. Had FRYE in the puzzle for quite some time.
I lived for some years with Frank Lloyd Wright's gruesome campus designs (Florida Southern in Lakeland) and except for Pei am ignorant of living architects. Totally relied on crosses for GEHRY (almost the last thing to go in.) One can read broadly, listen to NPR, and (cough) do the NYT puzzles, yet find the name completely unknown...without any D'OH feeling. I ever so slightly suspect P.Berry of finding this name via xword construction tool. I mean, a museum in Bilbao? Yes, quite the major tourist destination! (Not.)
Puzzle was nonetheless totally do-able and fun. Didn't even need my lucky earbobs!
(The Rule of Three expires at midnight!)

Crackerjack 2:59 AM  

Find it quite amazing that some people consider Gehry to be an obscure name. His architecture is among the famous of the past 30 years. The Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles is a masterpiece. His Experience Music Project in Seattle and Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis are not as great, but still should be well known. Equating the name Gehry with the obscurity of a town of 19,000 outside Boston is absurd. Gehry is no Natick, not even close.

acme 3:50 AM  

Here I am!
(I take Sundays off, save the tweets...but your message came to me thru Google alerts!)

Need me for what?

In 1997? was en route to the Gehry museum in Bilbao with Arcangelo, the love of my life, when we broke up... Remains one of the most painful periods of my life!
He coaxed me all the way to Europe, we were to go from his tiny town in Northern Italy to Spain to see the newly opened Gehry museum (which was a HUGE deal at the time...and the sculpture garden as Serra is his idol.
When I arrived in his village, he had a new idea for a piece and said he couldn't go AND it was a distraction for me to be there. Artists. :(

As for Frey, never read the book, rarely watch Oprah, but certainly read about the whole thing while it was going down...
Isn't there an Eagle named Glenn Frey? Perhaps that would have been easier.

Rex Parker 6:37 AM  

If you google "gehri" the first hit is ... Frank GEHRY.

Parshutr 7:05 AM  

And to some of us, NATICK is not "a Natick"!

Parshutr 7:11 AM  

@acme...yes, Glenn Frey, arguably in the same familiarity stratum as the author.

brucy 9:26 AM  

Elaine, slightly more people visit the museum in Bilbao each year than, say, Stonehenge. It is, in fact, a major tourist destination, and using just the fact that you're unfamiliar with it to accuse Patrick Berry of being unfamiliar with it is kinda sucky.

Glitch 10:42 AM  

My objection is to being "told" that I should "know" a particular fact simply because a lot of other people do.

I do not use the term Natick without a "in my opinion" type disclaimer. I object to those that don't extend the same courtesy.

@Foodie came closest to what I was trying to say [Thanks]


slypett 10:43 AM  

brucy: It's kind of sucky to tell people that they are (or have done something) sucky.

william e emba 11:11 AM  

My trouble with RAHAB was I wasn't sure how it would be spelled in English!

I first learned of FREY's memoir when it was all over the bookstores in paperback, probably because of Oprah. I certainly remember the striking cover illustration, which was good enough to get me to read the first page or so.

FREY did not admit to fictionalizing his story until he was outed by others. The scandal was everywhere, including the "Arts" section of the NYT, right next to the dead-tree edition of the crossword puzzle. Even Foxtrot had fun with it for a week.

Heck, the FREY scandal made it in the news again this past month. Oprah announced she's ending her show, and bang! every newspaper gave a short obituary for the show. It seems her involvement with FREY was a major highlight.

Moreover, about once a year now, a noted memoir is getting exposed as a fraud. Inevitably, FREY gets mentioned.

I particularly remember being amused by the news article regarding the Hollywood studio that backed out of its movie deal for the memoir. It seems that when something is "based on true story", they want an exclusive on the fictionalizing process. How dare an author think the way they do!

So while it's true I got his name off the crosses, and yes, I had to convince myself that I recognized both FREY and GEHRY, recognition did happen.

Steve J 3:56 PM  

@Glitch: Fair enough. My intent wasn't to say that everyone should know Gehry and/or Frey. As I said, everyone has things they don't know that a lot of people do. So, apologies if the comment came across that way, instead of the intended point that over a broad base of people, I believe it doesn't fall into the Natick category (recognizing that for many people it obviously was a personal Natick).

Doc John 10:56 AM  

It's Dec 13 and I just finished this one!

BassManPDX 10:08 PM  

Talk about happy coincidences! I have lately been re-reading my 1955 set of Lands and Peoples. In the chapter I read last night, they described the manufacture of jipijapa ("Panama") hats in Ecuador. Another two days and I might have forgotten that connection!

BTW, I'm missing Volume V - Africa Australia and Southern Islands. If anyone has an extra copy. I suspect it might have been removed from my set because it had pictures of native boobies in it.

Anonymous 8:15 PM  

I got bogged down right away with 1A 'Like mountains & maps' I had FOLDED instead of SCALED.
Breezed through the rest of the puzzle nicely.

...Mister Ed

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