Controversial one-act play by Mamet / FRI 11-4-11 / 1994 sci-fi film about alien artifact / 1990s cartoon dog / R&B drinking song covered by Ray Charles

Friday, November 4, 2011

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: "EDMOND" (56A: Controversial one-act play by Mamet) —
Edmond is a one-act play written by David Mamet. It premiered at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, on June 4, 1982. The first New York production was October 27 of the same year, at the Provincetown Playhouse. The play consists of twenty-three short scenes. In the original production, each of the actors took on multiple roles, save the two playing Edmond and his wife. Kenneth Branagh starred as Edmond in a production of the play in London in 2003. [...] Despite its critical praise, the racial content of the play, particularly the numerous slurs against African-Americans, has caused controversy at colleges and universities attempting to stage it. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was mostly delightful, and remarkably easy. Well, remarkably easy except (for me) in the SW corner, where I had serious name issues. Never heard of Hugh Lofting, so DOLITTLE didn't come quickly (32D: Doctor in Hugh Lofting tales). Never heard of *any* of the 6-letter Acrosses down there—not a one. Not TRIJET, not LESLIE, and not "EDMOND." Also never heard of "ONE MINT JULEP" (36A: R&B "drinking song" covered by Ray Charles). The MINT JULEP part was easy to pick up; the ONE part, less so. Because of this corner, I was going to rate this puzzle "Easy-Medium," but then I noticed that my peers at the NYT applet (the ones whose times normally compare with my own) crushed me—by several minutes in some cases. So I was slow. And I was still faster than normal. So, Easy.

For a Patrick Berry puzzle, this one didn't have too many "wow" moments. I think I exclaimed something adulatory with WEASELS OUT OF, and I know I did with CHUMP CHANGE (my favorite answer) (25D: Amount scarcely worth arguing over). There's a bit of overreliance on obscure names here. I'd include MORTIMER and STU Redman and "ODELAY" in that category (despite the fact that I actually knew "ODELAY"), along with the aforementioned LESLIE and EDMOND. Puzzle remains pleasurable, however, because the names all have ultimately fair crosses, and the general quality of the fill is (unsurprisingly) stellar. FER is about as rickety as it gets, and that's not very rickety (Odd sidenote: I somehow got FER-de-Lance confused with pot-au-FEU ...).

["Hey! EYES LEFT!"]

Started out with 1D: Bach's "Mass in ___" (B MINOR), and despite not remembering the key off the top of my head, I knew it was something MAJOR or something MINOR, and so I put in the "M" and "R." Tested the "N" and got NEATEN, and tore through that section from there. Beyond the struggles in the SW, I can't think of much that went wrong. Prudishly wanted DARN instead of DAMN at 27D: Confounded. Thought FEMINISM was so obvious for 34D: Doctrine associated with Betty Friedan that I refused to believe it was right at first. Pulled ERIS out of my crosswordese bag of tricks (30D: Ninth-largest body known to orbit the sun). Cheated by looking down at my keyboard at 24D: Symbol above the comma on a keyboard (LESS THAN), and still screwed it up because I confused the comma with the apostrophe (?).  Otherwise, a smooth, enjoyable, problem-free journey. 

  • 20A: African migrators (GNUS) — off the "G" in FRAGILE. No sweat. 

  • 49A: Foul ball's landing spot, often (STANDS) — Have you ever read The Natural? There's some amazing foul ball action in that book, including a foul ball that Roy Hobbs tries to hit at a dwarf in the STANDS named Otto Zipp, but that then caroms off the dwarf and hits Roy's former lover Iris Lemon, who has come to the game (unbeknownst to Roy) to tell him that she is pregnant with his child, and that he has to win the game rather than throw it (as he's being paid to do). I just read it. Can you tell? It's an amazing piece of writing. You know that famous shot from the movie, where Robert Redford (as Roy Hobbs) hits that triumphant homerun, the one that smashes the ballpark lights? Not in the book. Not even close. To understand what the movie did to the book, imagine a movie version of "King Lear" where Lear is restored to the throne and he and Cordelia go on to usher in a new era of benevolent monarchy. Or a "Marley & Me" where Marley lives to a ripe old age. Or a "Midnight Cowboy" where they actually make it to Florida and open a surf shop. You get the picture.
  • 55A: 1994 sci-fi film about an alien artifact ("STARGATE") — I tried to watch the TV series. I got part of one episode in.
  • 11D: 1990s cartoon dog (REN) — This is what I mean by "Easy." Anyone who does puzzle regularly is going to get this instantly. [Cartoon Chihuahua] is the most common "cartoon"-containing clue in the database, by a mile.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


razerx 12:09 AM  

Am I going nuts or did we do this one a month ago?

foodie 12:15 AM  

Exactly! What Rex said. Delightful, very easy, except for a hang up in the SW corner.

This one felt like the perfect little black dress, cut by a master designer. Simple, elegant, understated and yet does wonders for you. You think others could copy it because of its apparent simplicity, but they really cannot. It's hard to achieve perfection when there are no froufrous to hide behind.

And I'm so grateful that I have come to appreciate such artistry. Three years ago, I would have struggled through the puzzle, not stopped to admire it, and not enjoyed it nearly as much.

And FEMINISM supporting STATESWOMEN (in little black dresses), how great is that!

PS. And yes, this was up for a few hours before being pulled down the day of the Steve Jobs tribute puzzle

Tobias Duncan 12:18 AM  

Second time this week that Rex writes my solving experience verbatim. Was killing this thing until I got to the southwest where I hit everything Rex mentioned.An acquaintance of mine got his big break in STARGATE. I remember tooling around LA in my jet black 56 Chevy with him and some mutual friends. We were so happy for him thinking STARGATE would be the next Starwars (it was the most expensive movie ever made at the time I think)we were sure action figures of him would be made.

Spent some time trying to remember Scripps for the La Jolla clue, wrong anyway.

Anonymous 12:29 AM  

I could swear this one is a repeat, or maybe one of the free puzzles that came with the app? Seemed awfully familiar, especially "One Mint Julep".

CoffeeLvr 12:31 AM  

Yes, easy, but very satisfying. I am glad I was solving on paper, so I could resist the temptation to go look at the key board.

I remembered MORTIMER from doing "Arsenic and Old Lace" in summer stock, long ago. Also knew Dr. DOLITTLE, must be from parenting. Did not know ODELAY, needed every cross.

DAMN, that JACKASS orders ONE MINT JULEP and a round of RYES, then WEASELS OUT OF the tab. He only left the server CHUMP CHANGE.

Michaela 12:31 AM  

This is the one that was pulled and replaced with the Steve Jobs puzzle, which probably explains the high scores.

Michaela 12:33 AM  

(I mean a bunch of people saw this puzzle while others saw the Steve Jobs puzzle -- I got this one on Magmic and actually never got the replacement one.)

Anonymous 12:38 AM  

I didn't think the puzzle was a repeat, but I'd estimate about half these clues/answers have appeared in the last few weeks.

Sara 12:44 AM  

This is definitely a clue-for-clue repeat. Fridays are my favorite and I'm pretty bummed.

Sara 12:48 AM  

Same as October 7th.

Anonymous 12:50 AM  

It was October 7 th puzzle

TomAz 12:56 AM  

Well shoot. Here I was all proud of my time.

jae 12:56 AM  

Easy and very smooth. 50, 54, and 56a were mysteries to me also but, the downs were pretty much gimmies (e.g. 2001 three letter album is almost always JLO) so, no real problems there. RUMS for RYES and TORN for TORE were my only write overs. (I am one of those that only saw the Jobs puzzle on Oct. 7).

I recommend reading the entire wiki entry on EDMOND. That is one very weird play!

North Beach 1:00 AM  

It's always so interesting seeing what people know/don't know in a puzzle. For me, DOLITTLE and LESLIE were gimmes. Read and loved Dr Dolittle well before REX Harrison played him in the movies.

foodie 1:07 AM  

Info re the confusion about today's puzzle- and Spoiler Alert re Oct. 7 puzzle:

From Diary of a Crossword Fiend: "This is the puzzle that spent several hours in the NYT’s applet before Kevin Der’s Steve Jobs tribute puzzle replaced it there."

I just checked. What is now there on Oct. 7 is the tribute Puzzle, so if you have not done that one, you can download it from the archives. Although the theme has now been revealed...

We had another such confusion during the PB meta-challenge as well...

williahk 1:51 AM  

How annoying! I so look forward to everyday's new puzzle (which usually comes out around 8:00 the night before for those of us in Colorado) only to find out that I already did this one. And I missed this Steve Jobs tribute you speak of!

chefwen 2:28 AM  

@williahk - Read @foodie's post 1:07. she explains how to download the Job's puzzle that you missed.

Another fun romp with Patrick Berry! Friday's are rarely easy for me, but this one was pretty easy once I was able to WEASEL my way in.
It's also is giving me another opportunity to brag on my CHUM Andy Finch who has come in first, four times out of the first five episodes of The Amazing Race 22A. Go Andy Go! The kid is AMAZING.

Cute little mini animal theme also, with GNUS, JACKASS, WEASEL, and of course REN the little dog.

Detour 3:28 AM  

I was beyond impressed that I was able to throw down BLASTOFF until I got to the 2nd & 3rd clues and realized it was a repeat. For those of us using Magmic this was our only puzzle for 10/7.

ala carte mortimer (eyesleft)...aka acme 5:07 AM  

I had a lot of trouble coming up with the Ray Charles Drinking SOng...
I had the ONE...
so ONEfortheroad...too long

and I had emUS for GNUS. Who gnu?


My hardest thing to figure out was EYESLEFT.

My only surprise with Patrick Berry is the seeming lack of Scrabbly letters, which I guess leads to his I appreciated 2 Js and a lone K, the last letter I filled in.

Those d'un certain age, LESLIE Howard is a given...and the first man I had heard named LESLIE. My biggest question was whether or not it might be LESLey.

LESLIE is a man's name more commonly in England. I used to think it was a joke that Bob Hope was originally named LESLIE...
so when calling roll he was
"Hope, Leslie". I swear!

Gareth Bain 5:09 AM  

For once we're stumped by the same stuff! Cruised through this, then suddenly SW >sound of gears grinding to a halt<. Guessing ramJET didn't help a whit!

Doris 5:46 AM  

Since WILDEBEEST didn't fit, it had to be GNU.

Final verse of "The Gnu Song" by the immortal Flanders & Swann:

I'm a gnu—a-g-nother gnu
I wish I could g-nash my teeth at you
I'm a gnu—how do you do?
You really oughtta g-know w-who's w-who
I'm a gnu—spelt G - N - U
Call me bison or okapi and I'll sue
Nor am I in the least like that dreadful hearty beast
Oh, g-no, g-no, g-no, I'm a gnu!
G-no, g-no, g-no, I'm a gnu!
G-no, g-no, g-no, I'm a gnu!"

Rick Stein 6:15 AM  

This really sucks that it's a repeat of Oct 7. I figured that out after DELI--place where you queue.

Anonymous 6:16 AM  

Doris! I LOVED the Gnu song, which somehow I missed all these years. WOW! We just moved and my kids are currently at a new school. As soon as I play this for them on youtube they will no longer be new, they'll be 'g-nu'---WAY more fun.

Anonymous 7:12 AM  

Thank goodness for all those comments. I knew I had done that puzzle already! Whew! Deja vu and not going nuts. Wil check out the Steve Jobs puzzle.

joho 8:08 AM  

My solving experience was very close to @Rex' in the most difficult SW except I knew LESLIE. My last letter in was the second "T" in the unknown DOLITTLE.

I loved WEASELSOUTOF, CHUMPCHANGE and JACKASS. Also the clue "Craft store?" for HANGAR.

The only weird thing that kind of jumped out at me was CHUM crossing the wonderful CHUMPCHANGE. CHUM/CHUM.

Smooth, fantastic Patrick Berry Friday!

efrex 8:22 AM  

Took me a moment to figure out why so many clues seemed familiar. Lots of fun, even the second time around.

Smooth solve all around, and the misdirection clues for ARCADE and HANGAR were great.

@Doris: Yay for the Flanders & Swann reference! Between their "Laws of Thermodynamics" and Tom Lehrer's "Elements," I had far too much exposure to chemistry at a young age. The Smothers Brothers also had a "Gnu" routine, if memory serves.

Z 8:25 AM  

The SW was little problem for me, had the D, L, I, and T and DOLITTLE popped out. On the other hand, my cookie cutter was cutting dough for waaaaay too long, so I was stuck. Finally guessed ASLONGAS (yuck) and was able to build up from there. Knew it would be easy, since even after being stuck I still finished this quickly. Seems as though the whole week has been pretty easy.

dk 8:29 AM  

@Doris, I have found that if you use a very fine tip you can fit whatever you want into the little boxes. I am working on my own little happy pencil to complete my pre-Copernian puzzle world.

I found today to be a fine solving experience. And, truly when you have INCAMERA, weasel and chump in the grid: woo woo.

****(4 Stars) I was in a snit over HANGER but after ONEMINTJULIP I am over it

Speaking of 6 degrees of separation (err.. were we not--never mind), It turns out that one of our Rexvillians lives right across the St. Croix river in Taylor's Falls MN. While not the middle of nowhere you can see it from here. Just goes to show the reach of our dear leader.

evil doug 8:35 AM  

I flew the greatest trijet---the good ol' 727. Old school, very mechanical compared to today's fly-by-wire jets; hard to make great landings but very forgiving when we didn't. Never had the pleasure on the L-1011, but those pilots loved it. Had a buddy who was a Delta mechanic, and he said the DC-10 (and its successor, MD-11) were a comparative nightmare to repair---speaking of hangars....

'Weasel' and 'chump' are great words, and even better in today's combinations. My USAF squadron was known as "The Green Weasels"---we had a stuffed one dyed green in our trophy case---so them critters'll always have a warm spot in my heart. I got out with "train tracks" for rank, but some of my pals earned stars.

The brilliant Cary Grant was Mortimer. Even better in "Bringing Up Baby" and "The Awful Truth". I think Eddie Murphy---who's getting a lot of press this week for his new movie (no, I won't be attending) was Dr. Dolittle in the remake. Rex Harrison in the original....

Jonas Salk: A true American hero who came up with the polio vaccine. Love La Jolla. Albert Sabin, working here at Cincinnati's great Children's Hospital, was at odds with Salk's approach using weakened polio virus---and produced an improved (and orally administered, much appreciated by us school children of the day) vaccine.

I've read every Rex Stout Nero Wolfe book. Wonderfully crafted characters, and effortlessly spanning the decades from the '30s to the '70s.


Blue Stater 8:37 AM  

For me the hard part was SE, not SW. This felt like two puzzles, one (all but the SE) very easy for a Friday, the other (SW) pretty close to impossible, though I finally managed to finish.

How does one get from "Craft store" to HANGAR (41D)?

Campesite 8:50 AM  

A hangar is a place to store aircraft.

I vaguely recall being annoyed at times while watching The Natural. I remember, probably incorrectly, one baseball game where Hobbs hits a game-ending HR, but was playing an away game, thus the home team would have one more at-bat.

Loved chump change.

oldbizmark 8:53 AM  

thought this was a cinch... except for the SW corner where I got hung up and DNF. Still, a fun puzzle. Just didn't know EDMOND, LESLIE, and TRI(jet) which hung me out to dry.

MaryBR 8:55 AM  

Easy for me. SW made me pause after having torn through the rest, but didn't put up much resistance. DOLITTLE was a gimme; I read many of those books as a kid.

@Campesite, a HANGAR is where you store your (air)craft.

Judith 9:28 AM  

I feel better cause I didn't do this Oct. 7. Thought my time wasn't too bad then saw I was near the bottom! One mint julep messed me up cause I had One More Julep.

Almost went for Halloween as the lamp from A Christmas Story w. hubby dressed as the fra-gi-le box, but couldn't find fishnet hose for less than $20 so this tightwad went in a dress made from an old twister game and hubby went as the spinner. Maybe next year

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

I spent way too much time trying to make "House" fit into the Hugh Lofting clue.

jackj 9:57 AM  

This puzzle seemed a rather ordinary solve, which is not expected when the master, Patrick Berry, is the author. But, just because Patrick is involved, it is wise to take a deeper look and realize that all those gettable answers have still combined to make a first-rate crossword.

Maybe it's a phenomenon like that "sum of the parts" thing which rules the day, or, maybe it's just a reaffirmation of the abilities of those super talented humans who make their most extraordinary achievements seem routine, (think Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky or, yes, Patrick Berry).

When looking at the various parts of today's puzzle, many of them do seem rather special and beauties like FORAGE, WEASELSOUTOF, CHUMPCHANGE, INCAMERA, NAILGUNS and even the more modest but impressive, HANK, combine to fill the grid.

Biggest disappointment for me was Patrick's missed opportunity to clue MORTIMER by referencing Sir John MORTIMER, creator of one of Brit literatures most cherished characters, Horace Rumpole, rapscallion barrister at the Old Bailey; husband of the indomitable Hilda,( "She who must be obeyed") and imbiber of that favorite Rumpole plonk, "Chateau Fleet Street".

chefbea 10:04 AM  

Had dough for 46 across. Lots of googling and DNF

Was up a lot last night trying to come up with more answers for yesterday's puzzle.



John V 10:28 AM  

Absolutely loved this one! There was a raft of things for which I had no clue: Beck album, Stargate, Stu Redmond, Mortimer Brewster, etc, all of which had easy crosses. Like others, SW was last to fall, even though I had TRIJET straight off.

I though all of the "?" clues were terrific, WEASELSOUTOF and CHUMPCHANGE as my favorites.

So, for those of us that find "EASY FRIDAY" to be a bit of an oxymoron, this was a really nice way to close out the week, rather than FINEJOHNVMESS

quilter1 10:32 AM  

Easy here, too. I did not see it on 10/7 so it was new to me. Liked everything everyone else liked. On to LAT.

Matthew G. 10:34 AM  

This wasn't a repeat for me because I missed the brief window to grab it on 10/7 before the Steve Jobs puzzle went up. And I agree with Rex -- this was very easy for a Friday. Even though I solved on paper today (atypical for me), I finished with what would be an excellent Friday time for me even when solving on the iPad. So I think that rates it super easy.

Like Rex, I started with _M__OR and went from there without much resistance. Unlike most people, I had more trouble in the NE, where ODELAY and EYES LEFT were both unfamiliar to me (on the latter, I was looking for something involving footsteps, not eyes).

The SW wasn't so bad -- by the time I got to those three obscure acrosses, I already had TRI and LES, so TRIJET and LESLIE were the only things that made sense even though I'd never heard of them. Didn't know EDMOND, but the crosses were easy.

I'm sure that cluing STU with the character from "The Stand" is a tough Friday-to-Saturday clue for most people. For me, it's actually one of the easiest ways to clue that word. Got lucky on that one.

Never heard {Buddyroo} before. Why not just {Buddy}?

Two Ponies 10:36 AM  

So many great words in the grid today. What a pleasure.
As a proper name hater I surprised myself by filling in Leslie and Stu as my first entries. Stephen King's The Stand is by far his best work. If you only read one of his books this is the one to choose.
I am so glad to solve on paper because I never saw this one before.
Isn't a fer-de-lance a highly poisonous snake?

North Beach 10:39 AM  

Please tell me I'm not the only one who did this puzzle a month ago and didn't recognize it when it rolled around again....
Beck's ODELAY and Mr Lofting's DOLITTLE did seem familiar but I just chalked it up to some of the weird repeats as of late.
So much for staving off memory loss...
On the plus side, I did shave 25% off my solving time (not divulging from what to what).

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Patrick Berry's puzzles are the worst. I refuse to waste a second on his ridiculous clues.

Rex Parker 10:48 AM  

Best comment ever.

FloribundaPetuniaPatch 10:59 AM  

Overjoyed to have finished a Friday and then it's rated easy. Boo, Hoo. ERIS new to me and then it's on the Macy's Parade puzz from the NYT site. Had mate before CHUM, Mars before ERIS. LESLIE a gimme for this old girl. Wanted Let's Go Get Stoned before ONEMINTJULEP. Cary Grant wonderful in Arsenic and Old Lace. A master of double takes.

I'm with @foodie on this. A neat, clean go round. For instance, 47A: Large amount=ATON. Sometimes I get sick of the trickyness.

Thanks again @Evil Doug, Sanfranman and JenCT for the help on the New Yorker cover. I posted late last night.

Energized by Patrick Berry. Looking forward to the weekend.

John V 11:06 AM  

Re: EDMOND, I've seen the film, but not the play. Even by Mamet standards, this one is, um, sui generis? However, for me, anything with William H. Macy is worth watching. It is available on Netflix, but not for the faint of heart.

It is almost impossible to imagine or recognize New York of the early 80s from today's perspective, but Mamet's dramatization is more on the mark than not in many ways.

PuzzleNut 11:06 AM  

Greatly enjoyed this one and fortunate I hadn't see it last month. Pretty easy, even though there were several tough areas. My SW was pretty empty except for an iffy TON and somehow managed to pull DOLITTLE and LESLIE out of my keister with practically no confidence. Lo and behold, they worked and everything fell into place neatly. Sometimes the crossword gods smile down that way.

Anonymous 11:08 AM  

(GNU's Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX
((GNU's Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX
(((GNU's Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX
((((GNU's Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX
(((((GNU's Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX)'s Not UNIX

jberg 11:20 AM  

Gotta love @Anonymous 10:41! Freedom of opinion and all . . .

I solve only in the newspaper, so this was new to me. Also, I'm not quite as smart as the rest of you, so in each corner I felt really stumped for a minute, then saw one answer and it all fell into place quickly - esp. the NW, where the B minor mass was a gimme. If you don't know it, stop reading and go listen to it right now!

The SW was harder, though -- partly because I was confident that 29A had to be WiggleS OUT OF. This made me think that STATESWOMEN had to be STATES something else, and led to all kinds of other problems, not helped because I decided that the DC-10 must have been a fanJET. I wanted bAll at 39A, too (since skein wouldn't fit). Once I had JACKASS, though, ONE MINT JULEP was clear, I gave up DAng for DAMN, got DEFORMS, and the rest just clicked in.

That's what I love about puzzles, especially Patrick Berry's - the sequence of befuddlement and enlightenment.

jberg 11:22 AM  

Also, I'd read all those books, but remembered him as Dr. DOoLITTLE.

Mel Ott 11:26 AM  

Really good puzzle except for the name cluster in the SW. WEASELS OUT OF & CHUMP CHANGE are great.

Speaking of crossword names - the death of Matty ALOU was announced yesterday. Condolences to the ALOU family. Brothers Felipe and Jesus and nephew Moises are still with us.

DBGeezer 12:10 PM  

Amazing Crossworder of Marvelous Excellence, it's wonderful to have you back. I have missed seeing your entries during the past weeks. Keep up your Analytic, Clever, Machinations, Empress!

Two Ponies 12:19 PM  

What in the world is Anon. 11:08 going on about??

Anonymous 12:23 PM  

@Two Ponies: GNU is an operating system very similar to Unix. It's a (very) geek joke that GNU might or might not be an initialization of Gnu's Not Unix, and that it's recursive.

Lois 1:37 PM  

jberg: You and I thought the same about almost everything. I think we remembered the Doolittle spelling from My Fair Lady.

Yes, Rex, try listening to the mass before some of the other assignments we've given you.

If anyone is unfamiliar with One Mint Julep (I thought I was), listen to it on Wordplay, the Times site, or elsewhere. Very familiar indeed!

John V 1:45 PM  

Re: Bach Mass in B Minor. I had the privilege to sing it once and it is the most glorious work; on my desert island list, particularly the Dona Nobis Pacem. The John Eliot Gardiner recording is my favorite:

aslongas call messed enamored 1:49 PM  

@ANon 12:23
wow, thanks for that explanation, but now my eyes are bleeding!

Thanks! And Cute Message Entries...

It's a bad sign that we have had too many bleedovers lately (ILTROVATORE anyone?) so that we can't even tell if a puzzle is new (gnu?) or not!

My fear is I actually did the puzzle Oct 7th and don't even remember!!!
Yesterday, according to Parker Lewis, I helped test solve and had extensive back and forth with him on the entries, the theme of his delightful puzzle, and practically commented on each and every word and I didn't remember at ALL till he mentioned it in his post!
So I googled my gmail and there it ALL was, just back in June!!! Scary!
But I did remember LESLIE Howard from my childhood, so I won't panic... yet.

@Mel Ott
Also heard about ALOU last night and had that little frisson of puzzle recognition...but I thought they were from a million years ago so was surprised they were still alive.
Like when you watch the Oscar in memoriam tribute and feel saddened to see someone you liked died and then realize you hadn't even known they were still alive.

I tried Wiggle, Wriggle and Wangle
(and, to be honest, WEngle). I wonder why W is such a slippery letter!
(No Bush joke intended)

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

I liked this puzzle but DNF the SW corner. Too obscure for me (EDMOND, LESLIE, DOLITTLE). Had DEAL for IMIN, TON and ***JET. Like Rex I could not figure out start of ***MINTJULEP.

Would have liked to see clue for 27D in quotes so I would have known it was supposed to be a synonym. Oh, well. TGIF!


Lojman 1:57 PM  

Really enjoyed it. LAMES and SUMMERED as verbs are a nice twist, CHUMPCHANGE crossing WEASELSOUTOF is great.

I struggled to get a foothold on this puzzle on 10/7, was busy and didn't get back to it. Today, breezed through in near record time. I think the meta challenge launched me into a steep climb on the learning curve!

@Rex - any piece of music in _____, you can fill in the M, O and R without thinking.

@evil doug, I always enjoy a puzzle that hits me personally from several angles. Glad this one did for you. By the way, did you know that the Sabin vaccine was discontinued...a victim of its own success? There's a tiny rate of iatrogenic polio that develops in people taking the live oral vaccine. When polio is common, that's not a big deal (benefits outweight risks); but when polio is rare, it makes no sense to expose the population to the added risk of the oral vaccine. So for my kids, yet another shot.


Anonymous 2:06 PM  

I can't believe this was a patrick berry puzzle. To me it was much easier than your average Friday puzzle,,,did not find it challenging at all. Not saying I knew every word, but was very workable with the crosses. Too easy for a Friday!! Hope Saturday's will be more of a challenge.

syndy 2:16 PM  

Had DARN for DAMN ;DOUGH for SHAPE and wanted two "O"s in DOLITTLE!(read Lofting a VERY long time ago)otherwise agreed with EASY rating-and glad not to have seen the puzzle before,but HOW OH HOW can you people have never heard of bloody Leslie Howard are you all soviet moles?

mac 2:31 PM  

Easy Friday puzzle, Do(o)little my only writeover. Since we produced the first grandchild we got the
old family series of books.

Lots of wonderful words and clues, typical Patrick Berry. Just was over a little too soon.....

Lewis 2:50 PM  

chefbea -- If you say "Chicken in a puff pastry", it works, but the second one doesn't because one doesn't say "knights in a shining armor". I thought both were clever, but yesterday's "rule" was that "in a" came between... None of this stopped me from smiling at what you came up with, however!

I loved the clues for ALACARTE and ARCADE, though my favorite clue of the week was for yesterday's VERY.

I am still at the point in my crossword career where I am thrilled to complete a Friday, much less complete it without having to resort to "reveal incorrect letters". Even with the "easy" rating, I'm thrilled...

archaeoprof 2:56 PM  

NE was toughest for me.

Never heard of Beck, and wanted "left face" for 13D.

Like @ChefBea, I tried to make my cookie cutter cut "dough."

GILL I. 3:04 PM  

I wasn't able to do PB's puzzles last week, so I clapped for joy when I got this one.
I'm always amazed by how he's able to just toss out a bunch of uncomplicated words and yet make you work hard to find them.
My new favorite word is now BUDDYROO. Is this Australian?
I did have troube with 14D. I always thought the military command, when in marching formation, is "Eyes, RIGHT;" forty-five degree angle, which you would hear in front of the reviewing stand.
@ala carte ACME. I always get Leslie/Lesley mixed up too. My British sister-in-law is a Lesley and I still have to ask my husband (after 25 years) how to spell her name. And I like her too....
Well, thank you Mr. Berry for making me look up EDMOND and learning how to spell DOLITTLE correctly.

JenCT 3:22 PM  

Hand up for DOUGH. Another fine Berry puzzle.

Question: There are so many complaints about whether a puzzle is too hard/easy for the day of the week that it's printed. What I'd like to know is, does the constructor indicate which day he/she is submitting a puzzle for, or does Will decide which day it should run? Also, since I hear that Will changes many of the clues, does he intentionally change, say, a Wednesday puzzle to a Friday puzzle, etc., via the cluing? Just wondering.

JenCT 3:34 PM  

I mean duh, of course Will decides which day the puzzles run, but are constructors writing the puzzles with a specific day in mind?

sanfranman59 3:58 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Fri 15:10, 25:35, 0.59, 2%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Fri 7:29, 12:39, 0.59, 2%, Easy

Since this is a repeat puzzle (sort of), I think I'm probably going to exclude it from my database. I hate when real life gets in the way of good science (kidding, of course). By the numbers, this is definitely an outlier for a Friday. That said, I didn't do this puzzle when it was first published online 10/7 and I finished it with my 5th fastest time of the 125 Fridays in my spreadsheet.

John V 4:14 PM  


In your opinion, is there a typical relationship between on-line and paper solver times? I know on-line is typically quite a bit faster, but what is your view on this?


quilter1 4:42 PM  

Yes, a fer de lance is a poisonous snake.

Hand up for dough before shape, but I knew Leslie, Stu and Mortimer. I was a stay at home mom for a number of years and watched the old movie channel while folding diapers. Also read a lot of Stephen King as soon as the library got them.

william e emba 4:47 PM  

Rex Stout's first Nero Wolfe novel, FER-de-Lance, has been in the puzzle before. It should probably be memorized. Even better, it should probably be read. A fairly good novel, overall, it took a few novels before Stout/Wolfe became a phenomenon. Rex (the other Rex) thought it was "rickety". It was my first fill!

Since I solve the puzzles on paper, I thought at first semicolon was what was above the comma and that didn't fit, and I was stumped. Off of LE------ I thought it might be LEFT----, but that didn't work either. I don't think they had LESS THAN signs on keyboards back when I learned to touchtype. It certainly never occurred to me as I tried to feel what was on my mental keyboard, and I don't think shifting occurred to me, since I recall commas, like periods, being the same after shifting.

Pete 5:07 PM  

So, it's official - I am no longer a math geek but am now a computer geek. The LESSTHAN sign was to me a LEFTANGLEBRACKET. Oh well.

Oh, I'm also old. The Beck Album clue made me think "Oh, Jeff Beck won a Grammy in '96? That's odd"

Two Ponies 5:10 PM  

@ JohnV, I just finished watching Edmond and thank you so much for recommending it. You're right that it's not for the feint of heart but so worth it. Is there anything that Wm. H. Macy cannot do well?

quilter1 5:39 PM  

I just saw Joon Pahk on the Jeopardy tournament of champions. No spoiler, but try to see it just for what he said he is going to do with the money he won previously.

Tita 7:12 PM  

I think this was a record Friday for me...

Since I STILL have no power, and only a scant few necessities are plugged into the generator, I have to solve using AcrossLite instead of printing on (recycled) paper, as is my wont. (Computer is necessity - printer is not).

Was ready to settle in for a good long struggle with Friday, then slip off into dreams of utility crews on my street, but after a scant 15 minutes I was done!

Always liked LESLIE Howard, who was Professor Higgins long before Rex Harrison (Dr. Dolittle)was.

chefbea 7:58 PM  

just watched jeopardy!!! Un beeting believable!!! Go joon

sanfranman59 8:06 PM  

@John V ... I don't know about online solve times vs paper. I haven't solved a crossword on paper in quite some time. Off the top of my head, I'd say that the times would be comparable, but there are a lot of factors to consider. Some people type a lot faster than they can write and vice versa. I'd be interested in hearing others' takes on this.

I also think the user interface for solving on the computer is a big factor. I solve most NYT puzzles using the online interface so I can quickly see where I rank with my solve time, but I actually find it rather cumbersome. I solve 3 other daily puzzles using Across Lite. It's also got its shortcomings, but I think I've become accustomed to them. I also do the CrosSynergy puzzle online at and really dislike the crossword-compiler interface. I find that it's not very user-friendly for speed-solving purposes when I make a typo. My solve times on that puzzle have gone up noticeably since they stopped making their puzzles available in the .puz format and I could solve them in Across Lite. I'm attributing that to the change in interface and am assuming that the difficulty of their puzzles has not been ratcheted up (although I could be wrong about that). They do typically have at least a couple of Bob Klahn puzzles each month and that always ratchets up the difficulty level for me. I average about 10 or 11 minutes on his puzzles vs. about 5 1/2 or 6 minutes on others. But they've always had regular Klahn contributions for as long as I've been a CrosSynergy solver.

Come on gang ... no Jeopardy spoilers! Some of us don't get to watch it for another couple of hours.

michael 8:32 PM  

I solve on paper and hadn't seen this before. Perhaps the easiest Friday ever for me. Under ten minutes without hurrying at all.

Boaster 10:20 PM  

That's right--everyone talked about a Steve Jobs puzzle but I subscribe to the iPad version of the NYT and puzzles so never got to do the Steve Jobs one and did this one instead. That's why it seemed so familiar and I sailed through it!

Boaster 10:23 PM  

Anyone know how I clear old puzzles off the NYT Crossword iPad applet so I can download the October 7 puzzle (which is the same) and do the Steve jobs one?

pk 12:47 AM  

@acme: Just go ahead and slip in a Bush joke anytime you get a chance!

sanfranman59 1:30 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:23, 6:50, 0.93, 25%, Easy-Medium
Tue 7:24, 8:51, 0.84, 8%, Easy (10th lowest median solve time of 124 Tuesdays)
Wed 11:18, 11:49, 0.96, 43%, Medium
Thu 13:42, 19:02, 0.72, 7%, Easy (9th lowest median solve time of 125 Thursdays)
Fri 15:16, 25:35, 0.60, 2%, Easy (2nd lowest median solve time of 124 Fridays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:16, 3:40, 0.89, 7%, Easy (8th lowest median solve time of 123 Mondays)
Tue 3:50, 4:34, 0.84, 6%, Easy (7th lowest median solve time of 124 Tuesdays)
Wed 5:34, 5:50, 0.95, 40%, Medium
Thu 6:44, 9:17, 0.72, 10%, Easy
Fri 7:13, 12:39, 0.57, 2%, Easy (2nd lowest median solve time of 123 Fridays)

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

Syndication land meets the real world: both 11/4 and 12/9 bear Patrick Berry's name.

First letters in grid were _ M _ _ OR. Unfortunately I entered them in 2d instead of 1d. (GOTTA get that eye exam.) I wanted F MINOR to match my Electric Prunes album, but it turns out that had nothing to do with Bach.

Sensed another "split" theme with BLAST OFF at 1a, but that was the end of it.

I recently read The Natural as well. I actually found it nearly as ridiculous as the movie, but perhaps all those groan-inducing baseball cliches were not yet cliches at the time the book was written. And yeah, the movie got it completely wrong. Aside from the "Florida surf shop" ending, Redford portrayed Hobbs as this All American golden boy hero, whereas Malamud's Hobbs was basically just a jerk. I know lots of A's fans who wish Kirk Gibson had emulated the book's Roy Hobbs.

I miss A&M records, where some of my favorite artists resided.

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

It wasn't that long ago that you'd never have HELL or DAMN in a NYT Crossword. Now we get them both on back-to-back days. The world's going to handhellbasket.

Anonymous 2:03 PM  

Spacecraft here, trapped in syndiland. When I hit the syndicated spot, up came Thursday with all its splits. So, laboriously, I had to type in the correct date on the heading. Most annoying!
Also, as I only do these from the paper, I have no memory of this particular puzzle, so I have no clue what the rest of you are talking about, re repeats.
A good one today--and it looks as though Mr. Berry paid attention to some of my earlier grousing: this one seems more in the spirit of fairness. Some cluing still tricky, but gettable.
I had one writeover, which held me up in the SW for a while: I misremembered Mr. Howard as TREVOR. He was the guy in Mutiny on the Bounty, wasn't he? Right. "Should any man disobey the least of thee orders, I shall cause that man to curse his mother for giving him birth." I still get chills. Anyway, both DOLITTLE and FEMINISM made me get rid of him in favor of the proper LESLIE. That left only the Natick at O_ELAY. Not a Beck fan, I had no idea. Was it ODES? But why "high-flying?" Or was it OLES? Could be; I'm guessing your average bullring has nosebleed seats. The high-flying thing really messed with my mind. I broke down and Googled Beck, so, finished with one lone Google. So sue me.

tribb: thing that caused all that "troub" on Space Station 7.

Pippin 3:45 PM  

@Anonymous 2:03 PM - I often have the trouble you mention with trying to get the current day's syndy puzzle. When it happens I scroll to the bottom of the previous day's syndy puzzle and click on "Newer Post". But it is still annoying that it doesn't come up with the first hit for syndication.

@Lewis - I'm with you! Don't care how "easy" this one was rated, I was thrilled to finish a Friday! And this capped a five day run of finishing all the puzzles so far this week. I will probably get shot down tomorrow.

Arsenic and Old Lace is one of my all-time favourite movies.

Loved CHUMPCHANGE,SUMMERED and INCAMERA. Loved this puzzle. Love ALL Patrick Berry's puzzles! (Surely Anonymous 10:41 AM was not serious! If so, What a GRINCH!)

Waxy in Montreal 6:43 PM  

Sorry that @Rex and presumably others of his generation aren't familiar with Leslie Howard who in his time was one of the most important and famous actors on both the London and Broadway stages as well as in Hollywood. He usually played the perfect gentleman perhaps like Hugh Grant more recently. Always liked him in "The Petrified Forest" along with Bette Davis and Bogey as the notorious killer Duke Mantee. Lots of controversy about Howard's death in 1943, shot down by the Germans in a plane (probably not a trijet) over the Bay of Biscay: Churchill wrote that the Nazis mistook Howard's plane for the one scheduled to carry him (Churchill) back to the UK after a secret visit to Portugal.

See for more.

Captcha=deddly, Dudley Do-Right's more accomplished brother?

Dirigonzo 10:46 PM  

Maybe it was *easy* if you had done the same puzzle just a few weeks earlier, but I found it challenging and ultimately very satisfying - just the way a Friday puzzle should be.

Way back in 2006, December 9 in Rexville looked like this:
- "Solving time: about 48 min."
- "I always start in the NW, out of habit or convention. Starting at 1A seems as natural as starting a maze at "start" (if I did mazes, which I don't, as I'm not 8). Maybe I should get out and venture to other parts of the puzzle first some time."
- "Very much loved 17A: Write seperately, say (misspell), if only because it had me baffled for a long time (unlike many of my solving peers, I did not notice that "seperately" was misspelled), and I didn't really catch the significance of the answer until the puzzle was done. Then had the very satisfying "aha" / "gotcha!" moment. Well played, Messrs. Wolfe and Shortz."
- "It was with great regret that I completed the puzzle by EXPUNGing Joe MORGAN's name from the grid and inserting this CRONIN guy I've never heard of instead. MORGAN won back-to-back MVP Awards with Cincinnati's Big Red Machine back in the mid-70's. CRONIN ... was a teammate of Red Sox greats Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, and, most notably, Ted Williams. Then the war started and Williams went off to serve while CRONIN stayed behind like a coward and played baseball."
- There were 17 comments, many from syndicated solvers who had just discovered the blog. Rex said this in reply to one of them: "Rudiger!

I was laughing before I ever read your comment. The very name ...

Good to know that not every paper botched the "seperately" thing.

I'd forgotten how brutal this puzzle was. Sorry to say, they don't get any easier. Today's (1/27/07), for instance, was pretty crushing - but you'll discover that soon enough. Come back often, "Rudiger"


Anonymous 12:05 AM  

Damn! I too was shocked... (At my easy solve, until I got here).

In re "best comment ever" (--Steelworder Rex) @ 10:41: It seems Berry's fill is so straightforward (w/ just a few names thrown in for balance), that sometimes, 'as long as' I've gotten a start, it's easier to look for a common word to fit the grid and voila! I thought that was the approach I used to get a nice clean solve today in Syndiland. Alas, until the regulars set me straight, as usuual.

Pippin, if you are still checking in, way to go! It's nice to see other relative newcomers around.

I was surprised no one mentioned the cool grid. It made me think that maybe, Mr. Shortz stuck in a pattern for us syndi-sovers to think of a nice, well-designed mall store layout, where the people enter from the southwest, walk through the (imacs, say) section along the middle, split aisle, but have to go off to the side rooms to see the really cool stuff. The classic products are on the left today, and the new phone hook-ups are on the right. Then it's migrating out the northeast to forage in the food court and check out Santa's elves.

C.H.I. 10:37 AM  

Surprised nobody saw this? Answers containing same words crossing each other:

ODElay/ODEs in NE
CHUM/CHUMpchange in SE
iMIN/feMINism in SW

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