Classical guitarist Segovia / SUN 12-8-13 / Actor Jack of oaters / English film festival city / Political title of 1930s-40s / Biblical priest of Shiloh / Youngest of Chekhov's Three Sisters

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Two Outs" — theme answers are words and phrases in which "two" letters are circled. Take those two letters "out," and you get a different word—answers to the wacky "?" clues are a  combination of the complete answer and the circle-free answer:

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Red wine drinker's paradise? (SANGRIA / SHANGRI-LA)
  • 22A: Employee at the Ron Paul archive? (LIBERTARIAN / LIBRARIAN) — so the theme appears a bit inconsistent from the outset. First the longer part comes second in the answer phrase, then the longer part comes first…)
  • 24A: Pitch that fixes everything? (CURE-ALL / CURVEBALL)
  • 26A: Dollar bill featuring a portrait of Duran Duran's lead singer? (SIMON LE BON / SIMOLEON)
  • 47A: The one puppy that can read? (LITERATE / LITTERMATE)
  • 53A: Creator of perfect whirlpools? (MAELSTROM / MAESTRO)
  • 83A: Minor-league championship flag? (PENNY ANTE / PENNANT)
  • 86A: Alienate a New Jersey city? (ESTRANGE / EAST ORANGE)
  • 109A: Begat a soft place to sleep? (FATHERED / FEATHER BED)
  • 113A: "Charge!," to Duracells? (BATTERY / BATTLE CRY)
  • 117A: Satisfying finale coming to pass? (HAPPY ENDING / HAPPENING)
  • 119A: Labeled idiotic? (BRANDED / BRAIN-DEAD)
Word of the Day: John Bull (80A: Whom John Bull symbolizes => BRITON) —
John Bull is a national personification of the United Kingdom in general, and England in particular, especially in political cartoons and similar graphic works. He is usually depicted as a stout, middle-aged, country dwelling, jolly, matter-of-fact man. (wikipedia)
• • •

Concept is clever, theme is dense, and the whole thing was over far too soon. I did not try to speed on this one and was still done in 11 minutes. Absurd. In some ways, this super-easiness factor is a testament to how fantastically smooth Mr. Berry's grids are. There's just nothing jarring, awkward, off, or nutso about this grid. Just start reading the answers … especially the Acrosses toward the middle. Between EERO at 41A and ELAM at 107A (!), everything is remarkably … real. EEK is as ugly as it gets, and that's just not that ugly. Again, the most impressive thing about this guy's work is the understated polish of it all. This is a grid that has been crafted. Too often we see decent theme coupled with Whatever Works-type fill. Not here. The theme is not a mind-blower, but the solving experience was definitely pleasurable. Just wish it had been a bit longer.

Unless there is some pattern I can't perceive, this theme has a bit of weirdness to it with the longer word in the imagined answers sometimes coming first, sometimes coming second. It hardly mattered, solving-wise. Most of the time I didn't really put the full phrase together as I was solving. It was enough to get the long answer and see that the circle-less answer also made a word. In fact, I didn't really grasp that the full version + two-outs version (or vice versa) made coherent answers to the theme clues until after I was done. Seeing the connection between the two made for a nice little revelation. I think this puzzle would make a nice, accessible introduction to Sunday puzzles for a novice solver. You don't need a lot of arcane crossword knowledge. The theme is kind of funny. The whole thing falls on the easy side. You could have fun solving this with your family. Perhaps a precocious 13-year-old. Whatever you got.

Please allow me to call attention to two important developments in the world of independent crosswords. The first is the recent publication of Ben Tausig's The Curious History of the Crossword (Race Point Publishing, 2013). It's a comprehensive history of the crossword from 1913 to the present, and it is remarkably informative (and funny) when it comes to discussing the development of the puzzle in the Internet Age—specifically, how technology has changed the production, dissemination, and solving of crosswords in recent years. There may even be a bit in there about crossword blogs. Best of all, it contains 100 puzzles representing a great cross-section of constructors from the past century. It's the best history of the crossword I know of, and easily the best book I've read about crosswords since Matt Gaffney's Gridlock (also worth your time).

Speaking of Matt Gaffney, the second new crossword development I want to tell you about comes from him. Matt is the man behind the wildly popular website, "Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest," where each week's crossword is a metapuzzle—once you complete the grid, you need to find the answer to some question, which is in some way hidden in or suggested by elements in the grid (see Matt's "Introduction to Meta Crossword Puzzles," here). Now Matt has launched a Kickstarter campaign (already very close to making its funding) in order to bring you "Murder by Meta," a multi-puzzle, meta-puzzle murder mystery (a mega meta murder mystery, if you will), which is scheduled to drop in March 2014. Just $10 to get in on the fun. All the info you'll need, including a handy-dandy and fairly hilarious video, can be found at the "Murder by Meta" Kickstarter page, here.

Enjoy your Sunday,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Ooh, I forgot to post this reader letter. Now seems as good a day as any, since it concerns Patrick Berry:

Dear Rex, 

I don't have many friends that can appreciate how cool, in a geeky way, this story is, so here goes : 

I was doing the Friday Times puzzle during happy hour at my favorite Athens GA watering hole when who should walk in but Times puzzle author Patrick Berry. I'd met him at a party about a year ago, and was in the process of making the standard "Hey, if I need a hint, I'm coming to you" joke when I looked at my puzzle and realized that he was the author of the very puzzle I was working on ! (11/22/13). Got to be one of the weirdest coincidences of my life. I finished the puzzle and got him to autograph it - his friends seemed impressed with this rock-star treatment - and then I proceeded to tell the story to everyone I knew, until at some point my friend Greg spilled a beer all over my precious artifact. Which kind of makes the story better, in a way. 

At least the beer stains don't show up in the image. 

Thanks for your blog, I appreciate it most when you're angry at the same clues I am. Some of them make steam come from my eyepits. 



Steve J 12:26 AM  

Great fun. Really enjoyed the theme. I love how each individual word is solid on its own, and the resulting phrases make internal sense. I also noticed that sometimes the full word led, and sometimes the truncated word did, and I do think that took away from the elegance of the theme very slightly (i.e., if the elegance level started at 100, that took it to like 95).

I picked up the theme at PENNY ANTE PENNANT, which was early in my solve. Noticed straight away that the two words formed a phrase, and I was off to the races. SANGRIA SHANGRILA was the hardest one to get. Probably a case of knowing too much about a topic getting in the way: I'm a wine guy, and I know that SANGRIA is a wine cocktail, not a wine. I was looking for some way to get a classic red wine in there, like Burgundy or Chianti or Rioja or Bordeaux.

Fill outside the theme was rock-solid - and impressively free of dreck - and clues were fun. Typical Patrick Berry, in other words.

Only nit: The clue for 39D seems off. For one, ADENOID is a noun, and the clue reads like it's looking for an adjective. More importantly, ADENOID (or adenoidal) is not synonymous with the entire lymphatic system; the adenoids are one of many components. It's a bit like having a clue of "circulatory system" and an answer of aorta.

That nit matters very little in the face of such an enjoyable puzzle. Agreed that the fact it was over too soon was its biggest "flaw".

Nitless Dufuss 12:31 AM  

1. Usually, adenoids. an enlarged mass of lymphoid tissue in the upper pharynx, often obstructing breathing through the nasal passages.
2. of or pertaining to the lymph glands.
3. of or pertaining to the adenoids.

jae 12:39 AM  

Interesting clever theme and of course a very smooth grid.  Although it took me a while to figure out exactly what was going on, this was still an easy-medium end to a mostly easy weekend for me.  My only erasure was Fade for FRAY and there were no WOEs.   Liked it, something a bit different on a Sun.

Steve J 12:39 AM  

Looks like I should have checked more than one dictionary. Mine (New Oxford American) did not include the adjectival definitions of adenoid. My mistake.

retired_chemist 1:07 AM  

Good one. Easy-medium. Did not see the theme - just got the longer answer and, even though I didn't completely understand the clue, figured it must be right since the crosses all fit.

Last letter was a fix of 100D - had BoA for the burlesque garment, thus MAoNIE. Saw it on my final check.

Absolutely nothing to complain about here. Thanks, Mr. Berry.

Anonymous 2:20 AM  


is a blog post at the provided link. Most here will find it, and the comments, very interesting. Rex, the NYT puzzle, puzzles in general, commenters at forums like this one, are all addressed.

AliasZ 2:31 AM  

This is what a Sunday puzzle should be. It was relatively easy so that I didn't lose interest half way through, yet with enough crunch that I didn't get bored by it either and it prolonged the fun as an added bonus.

The theme initially seemed arbitrary, but after getting the first theme entry, I couldn't wait to get to the next ones, challenging myself to guess the two-in-one answers with only one or two crosses. This in itself was more fun than any other Sunday theme in recent memory. The only questionable outcome was that the 12 themers contain 24 words total, pushing the word count to 152 instead of 140 -- but not really.

Half way through I tried figuring out how Patrick Berry came up with these seemingly random 9-, 10- and 11-letter words from which other words can be created by removing two letters. I can't imagine what sort of software he used, if any at all. I eventually came to the conclusion that he accidentally came across one or two of them, my guess is LIBERTARIAN and MAELSTROM or a couple of other relatively obvious ones, which gave him the initial idea. Then from these seed words he started thinking of other possibilities using nothing more than creative human brainpower. Terrific!

The fill is magnificent too. EEK didn't bother me as much as THEYD, but I didn't give a darn. The brilliance of the construction is most evident in the marvelous center section bordered by two themers. It contains nine 6- and 7-letter crossing words and one fiver, without a hint of a clumsy or questionable one among them. To me, this section is the clearest proof of the virtuosity of a master constructor.

Speaking of virtuosity, here is ANDRÉS Segovia playing his own guitar transcription of the Chaconne, final movement of Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1040, for solo violin by J.S. Bach. Greater perfection in the history of music does not exist.

Fantastic fun, a great start to Sunday. Thanks, Patrick and Will.

John Child 4:03 AM  

A pure medium here, exactly one hour, which is what most Sundays take me. Hands up @retired_chemist for BoA and ELoM, then realizing that Hitchcock probably didn't do a movie about a Korean cult ...

I didn't pay much attention to the circles, so the theme didn't hit me until I went back to the north to finish up. Then I saw what the circles were for and understood.

Danp 5:02 AM  

What? No mention of cheater squares today? I found the theme clues mostly unhelpful. Once I got enough crosses, I could find two words or phrases that were vaguely related to the clues, but it was far more "Ugh" than "Aha". And yet, it was easy.

Ted Cole 6:59 AM  

It didn't take a genius to solve this one, but it took one to construct it.

Bob Kerfuffle 7:04 AM  

Fine puzzle.

I slowed myself down considerably by making a wrong guess at the gimmick.

The first theme answer I had complete was 24 A, "Pitch that fixes everything?", CURVEBALL (circles on V and B), and I just *knew* that somehow it meant "CURATIVE BALL". Took quite a while to extract myself from that chain of thought.

Only write-over at 39 D, ADRENAL (yes, even as I entered it I didn't believe it, but it started AD and it fit) before ADENOID.

Mohair Sam 8:20 AM  

Easy solve, but clever theme and lotsa fun. Brief hangup 'cause we didn't know Duran Duran lead, and had forgotten the ancient SIMOLEON slang. I'll bet ELAM used the term in a few movies. Chuckled at Jack ELAM btw, I had guessed him first on Saturday's "tough guy" Stallone clue.

Thanks for the book tip @Rex. Great stocking-stuffer for my crossword addicted wife. It appears to be on back order, but if it's too late for Christmas she has a March b'day.

Unknown 8:24 AM  

@Ted Cole nailed it. Super fun and smooth. Darn near perfect. Can you tell I loved it? :-)

Loren Muse Smith 8:30 AM  
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Glimmerglass 8:31 AM  

@Ted Cole speaks my mind. PB is the very best.

Ω 8:51 AM  
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jberg 8:53 AM  

Me too for BoA/MooNIE. Fortunately I remembered MARNIE before it was too late; had no idea about that ELAM guy.

But SIMOLEON was what really made this puzzle for me. Sure, the theme was lots of fun, but that put it over the top.

Only other writeovers: TONE deaf before LESS, and AiM before ARM.

What I learned: Zeus swore on the STYX. Well, why not?

The rest has all been said, off to trim our tree.

FearlessKim 8:56 AM  

Agreed that there's always that lovely anticipation when one sees PB's byline! I enjoyed the theme, swept through the puzzle in near-record Sunday time, and yet... No joy in Mudville, with two wrong squares: ELoM and BoA, for a very reasonable-looking cross of MooNIE. So, in the end, argh. Time to go read the Arts section in the Post and try to up my entertainment knowledge!

I attempt, and almost always fail, to do Matt Gaffney's metas every week, and enjoy the experience tremendously. The Kickstarter video is lots of fun -- I burst out laughing at the caption under Matt's photo, and I bet you will too! -- so I echo Rex's suggestion that you go have a look, and support the project as you are able.

Rob C 8:57 AM  

Easy Sunday for me. So this is why PB is the best. Don't remember ever seeing a theme like this before. Fantastic. Wow. As I was doing it, I could't wait to get to the next theme answer to see what awesome zaniness awaited. Only real clunker for me was FATHERED/FEATHERBED. That was just weird.

Theme definitely helped in the solve. I caught on to the trick early on and a few times after that, I was able to plunk down an answer with no crosses.

Fill was smooth as butter despite the theme being insanely dense in some areas. There's many places where theme answers are double stacked and some where they are triple stacked.

Originally had BoA for BRA at 112A. At 33A, I'm not sure I've ever heard the word willowy for SLENDER.

Loren Muse Smith 8:58 AM  
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Loren Muse Smith 8:59 AM  

Rex -"The theme is not a mind-blower, but the solving experience was definitely pleasurable. Just wish it had been a bit longer." Huh? When I saw HAPPENING HAPPY ENDING fairly early on, my mind was blown again, the way it was back when I saw BEQ's PINATA OF BEER. And this was really, really hard for me. I finished the top and bottom, but the whole middle took forever. For me, this was, as PB puzzles go, a pretty hard one.

@Danp – couldn't disagree more.

@Steve J – PENNY ANTE PENNANT was my penultimate themer, and SANGRIA SHANGRILA was the second themer to fall – funny how we all have such different solving experiences. And @Bob K– I had "adrenal" forever – one of the reasons that this was so tough for me to finish.

Also "uptown" before URBANE. "Bongo" before ANVIL. "Mir" before MIG. "Hynes," "Hynds," HYNDE. "Erv" (because of "Trader Vic's) before DRJ. I can live with those.

Liked TONELESS crossing TIN EAR. My sister visited for Thanksgiving. Just sayin'. Hey – she's the first to admit it.

For some mysterious reason, I totally knew ERNESTO Miranda. He and ANDRES Segovia are DISTANT RELATIVES. (Anyone else sit with the Stumper yesterday and just feel like a MORON?)

@AliasZ – I came to the same conclusion – Patrick probably came up with these, after noticing the trick with one or two, without the aid of a computer. There's not really a pattern. As I said yesterday, I won't check XWord notes until I post, but I'm guessing that we won't hear from him about this theme's inception. What an enigma he is! And what a MAESTRO. (My son is visiting this weekend and for some reason was asking all kinds of questions about my Crossworld. I was delighted to talk about themes, constructors, Will, Rex. . .and at 6:00pm, when I saw Patrick's name, I said, "Yes! A Patrick Berry Sunday!!" My son asked about him, and I said, "He's kind of an enigma." But I mangled the articulation of "an enigma," and he tried it and mangled it, too, and we kept trying it until we both could say it right.)

Say "toy boat" three times really fast. (Some of my most spectacular marital fights have been over things linguistic because my husband, like so many, thinks he understands a lot of linguistics. He told me the reason "toy boat" was so hard to repeat three times was "because of the t." Where do you even start with that?)

WEST BERLIN. Boy, there's a throwback. Jelly doughnut and all that.


Enjoyed your write-up, Rex. Ben's book is on my wish-list. I also want this t shirt

I'm going to do my darndest to come up with a phrase of my own that follows this trick. I suspect a lot of us will.

Thanks, Patrick – you're the master.

Ω 9:05 AM  

@LMS - "Why, yes dear, of course you are right." (if you're really good he will even believe you are sincere)

Six answers where the longer word is the first word of the phrase, six where the shorter word is the first word of the phrase (for a moment I thought I saw another pattern - but it took ignoring four themers to be fully consistent). Nicely balanced.

ANDRES/SILAS gave me pause, as did BBC/C'MON. Otherwise, a smooth solve. I love all the themers, but BRANDED BRAIN-DEAD is my favorite. BRACE yourself for PAEANs to PB's genius.

joho 9:06 AM  

Yet another fresh,fun and original idea from Patrick Berry executed, as usual, like a well-oiled machine: smooth, smooth, smooth!

I loved finding the two words in the theme answers, and there were so many to find!

Wonderful Sunday!

Rex Parker 9:09 AM  


The question is only ever "were the cheaters necessary?" and "is the puzzle of sufficient smoothness to justify them?" As for the first question, when you look at how much dense, stacked theme material there is here, I'm going to say, "yes—probably necessary." Which leads to the second question, the answer to which is obviously "yes—the puzzle is not just smooth enough, it's smooth as hell." Cheaters aren't inherently bad—they are embarrassing, however, if you resort to them and your grid *still* sucks.

Thanks for giving me the chance to elaborate.

Lola 9:12 AM  

Here, at Lola's Massage Parlor, HAPPY ENDINGS are HAPPENING every 5 minutes. Come and enjoy!

Unknown 9:33 AM  

@RP - good clarification

Easy. Enjoyable. Nothing outrageously and unsolveably arcane. (I'm ok with arcane as long as the constructor gives you a fighting chance.)

AliasZ 9:48 AM  


I understood immediately your DISTANT RELATIVE reference. And yes, the Saturday Stumper was a stumper. Good thing my T-shirt was sweat proof. It was a Duesy that needed no Botox injections for a face lift, or epoxy resin to keep it together. By the way, the LAT/Sat by Bruce Venzke is great also, with six 15's running across and two 11-letter downs crossing all six of them. Quite a feat.

Here are a couple of themers I came up with:


I am not sure the second one works because the two removable letters are adjacent, which was not the case in any of Patrick's themers. I am working on some others even as we speak.

Here is the distant relative of ANDRÉS Segovia, Cuban composer ERNESTO Lecuona (1895-1963), playing his own Malagueña and Andalucía.

Enjoy your Sunday!

jburgs 9:58 AM  

Took me longer to catch on to the theme. Enjoyed the challenge and able to get through without cheats.

The only thing that bothered me, preventing a happy ending happening with this puzzle, were CURATIVE/CURVEBALL and FATHERED/FEATHERBED. All the other theme parings made sense together. Brand me brain dead but I just don't see how the above pairings make sense together.

joho 10:04 AM  

@Rex, thank you for sharing Pete's note and puzzle story. Love how he worked in eyepits!

Carole Shmurak 10:23 AM  

Can someone explain 60 Across? Counter formations=lines?

Got it from crosses, but don't understand.

Easy puzzle otherwise. Got the theme from Happy Ending and Maelstrom.

Unknown 10:25 AM  

2:26 no googles, 3 errors, so I resubmitted twice, and I break into the 10000 Club of master solvers. Gist was not apparent until very end with SANGRIA SHANGRILA, which meant that all theme clues needed a lot of crossing, but the crosses also needed a lot of crossing, too.

Unknown 10:31 AM  

@Carole Picture people standing in line at a deli counter.

So glad I came back and saw Pete's story on the blog about the Patrick Berry encounter - very cool and fun.

Nancy 10:35 AM  

To Carole S.: Lines form at crowded lunch counters.
What a clever, clever puzzle! So much fun to do and so original. My only complaint is LITTERMATE, which can never be "the one puppy". There has to be at least one OTHER puppy! But why carp? I loved it.

chefbea 10:41 AM  

Great puzzle!! Now to bake xmas cookies

Norm 11:04 AM  

I found this one rather boring. Humm, a bunch of word pairs that vary by two letters and you can make up an odd reference to them. I wanted the circled letters to have a secondary meaning, like "ET" in 22A and "NB" in 26A, but that was not to be, at least not unless "AO" and "EB" have some meaning unknown to me. Heck, I would have been happy if they had all been state abbreviations. This one fell flat for me.

Sandy K 11:12 AM  

C'MON, PB is so brilliant at what he does, I half expected that the circled letters would spell out some secret meta-message...

Maybe it does.

Tita 11:24 AM  

@Nancy - but only *one* of the LITTERMATEs is LITERATE.

Quite fun, theme helped me out plenty.
A DNF that I didn't know till I got here, with the popular BoA, but also with ELoM instead of ELAM.

Overall, had fun with this, and it absolutely is one of those ideas that has me scratching my head over 'how do they come up with that', but not a top ten candidate.

Off to create and write Christmas cards, and to put away the boxes from trimming the tree. No baking for me just yet.

Thanks, Patrick, and thanks, Rex.

quilter1 11:31 AM  

Great easy puzzle even though I did it with a sore throat and nagging cough. It took a little longer because of coughing fits.

David 11:35 AM  

@Rex, thanks so much for posting Pete's letter and autographed puzzle! I have been to 2 ACPTs and 2 Lollapuzzoolas, and each time I have brought along bunches of old solved puzzles and gotten autographs from constructors in attendance. Reactions have ranged from "Great idea - sure!", to pure humility, to (possibly) "Who is this nut?"

My favorite was solving the Finn Vigeland Sunday NYT at the 2013 ACPT, and then running into him not 5 minutes later.

Tremendous puzzle today....

Pete 11:45 AM  

For the sake of full disclosure, the Pete in the letter is not the Pete who occasionally posts here. Knowledgeable people would have known that because the Pete of the letter seems like a nice guy, is funny, and actually has a friend.

John Child 11:51 AM  

Thumbs up @CaskoKid San! Way to go.

OISK 12:13 PM  

I remember Jack Elam very well. Wasn't he in Blazing Saddles? Loved the puzzle, and since I remember the film "Marnie" there were no naticks for me. My only extremely minor complaint was that there were two pop singers in the same sector, Teena Marie and Chrissie Hynde. Never heard of the latter, but the former is in the folder on my mental hard drive labeled "Pop stars for the puzzle."
Really clever, beautifully constructed puzzle!

Questinia 12:29 PM  

Oh Patrick, your puzzles make me want to Samba.

August West 12:47 PM  

Easy, fast, fun. Man, he good.

Chrissy Hynde and friends roll Dylan's "I Shall Be Released."


lawprof 12:53 PM  

I beg to differ with Rex on just one point. He says that "There's just nothing...nutso about this grid." Everything about the theme is nutso. Delightfully so.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

@ OISK. you may be mixing up Jack Elam with Slim Pickens. Don't recall the former in Blazing Saddles.

mac 1:39 PM  

One of the most enjoyable Sunday puzzles in a long time. Unfortunately I realized after reading the comments that I had two wrong squares: the bra/Elam area.

I enjoyed figuring these words out, and libertarian was a great one to find it out! It is a fact, Patrick Berry is one of the top.

Feel better, @quilter 1. Now I have to do a little Christmas shopping, hopefully returning before the snow starts.

GILL I. 1:39 PM  

I guess I was the only one who opted for LEIS instead of the plucky UKES.
Got the "trick" at SHANGRILA/SANGRIA
and thought ok, that's cute. LITTERMATE made me bang my head and wonder how in the world did PB come up with this idea.
Brilliant puzzle.

Tom 1:40 PM  

Silly me, thinking that the theme applied to Down answers, as well, until I reread that titular Rule of Two (and 'til I realized that 7D had no conceivable connection to little Ronny Howard). Still, a beautifully enjoyable solve after a somewhat disappointing run of Sundays - and a welcome diversion from all the yuletide chores I should be doing. Thank you, Mr. Berry, and happy holidays to all.

retired_chemist 1:51 PM  

[time killer] I see no Jack Elam in the full cast of Blazing Saddles. Slim Pickens indeed played Taggart. [/time killer]

Hey, the ice in Dallas is gonna start melting and I have to go scrape off a car. I'm looking for ways to delay the inevitable, OK?

North Beach 2:07 PM  

I love Patrick Berry.

Ever since his Meta/Mega Puzzle masterpiece, my heart races when I read he's the constructor. He resides in that sweet spot of my brain that challenges just enough and rewards magnificently when one gets the trick. While I admire you speedsolvers, I pity @Rex in this case for his 11 minute finish. How can one savor this filet mignon while wolfing it down like a Big Mac? My regret is that it took me 45 mins which is a fast Sunday for me.

Thank you, Patrick Berry

Carola 2:13 PM  

Ingenious. I'm amazed at how many of theses pairs PB came up with - that even fit together as phrases, if sometimes ZANILY. I caught on at LIB(E)R(T)ARIAN, went back and finished S(H)ANGRI(L)A and then had fun anticipating and savoring the remaining ones.

Pure pleasure throughout the grid. I don't even MIND my DNF (I also accepted "MooNIE" with a "Huh, never heard of that one").

Sandy K 2:34 PM  

@Gill I. P

You're not the only one who had LEIS before UKES. I think PB threw us a CURVE BALL...which had a HAPPY ENDING if KIA or ELL were REALized. ; )

Sandy K 2:46 PM  

ps- my other rewrite:

ThE rAMones before

Dick Swart 2:52 PM  

A perfect puzzle! Fun to do, fun to savor the word overtones. I guess there is a satisfaction to being the fastest this or that, but the loss of the recollections and passing notes in the chords is lost to the the speed solver watching the clock.

I don't go to a concert or performance to see how fast I can see it. I don't go to an art show to see how quickly I can walk the show and tick off the catalogue.

Words have nuance, words trigger individual reminiscence. Words are a performance. And crosswords a very particular art form to be enjoyed in a sensuous span of time.

jae 3:27 PM  

@Gill I.P. & Sandy K. - Me too for LEIS. I'd forgotten that erasure until I read your post.

The HBO film "The Girl" is a fascinating look and the relationship between Hitchcock and Hedren and the effect it had on her movie career.

OISK 4:21 PM  

Yep, I was wrong about Jack Elam; he was not in Blazing Saddles. It was not the actors that I got mixed up, it was the movie. The role I was thinking of was in "Support your local sheriff."

Nameless 5:05 PM  

Good not great because robots speak in monotone (not TONELESS) and SOY is not savory.

Love the theme.

ahimsa 5:31 PM  

@Rex, thanks for including the letter from Pete. What a nice story! My eyepits are happy after reading that.

Today's puzzle was great! Maybe I'll be BRANDED BRAINDEAD but it was not so easy, more like medium for me. But the theme entries were a huge help in the solve and it got easier as it went on. I finished with one wrong letter at GASaHOL because I forgot to check the word going down - ADENaID? :-)

I *loved* all the theme phrases! I also noticed that they were in different orders (sometimes the shorter word came first, other times the longer word did) but it was impressive that they all made phrases. It's so hard to pick a favorite -- maybe MAELSTROM MAESTRO?

To sum up, doing this puzzle led to a HAPPY ENDING HAPPENING.

PS. I like EEK! I have no idea why that is bad fill. I guess I'm weird.

LaneB 6:31 PM  

Pleasant Sunday slog whilst taking in the NFL. Never caught the two- out device, but paid no mind to the circles. A couple of mistakes: ADENaID, KLUTc, and was slowed down by first using leis instead of UKES. Thanks Mr. Berry!

Unknown 7:43 PM  

In my earlier post I said "At 33A, I'm not sure I've ever heard the word willowy for SLENDER"

Just asked my 12yo daughter what willowy meant and she said SLENDER without much thought. Humbling. I get some credit for that though, right?

sanfranman59 10:11 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 5:43, 6:07, 0.93, 19%, Easy
Tue 8:18, 8:12, 1.01, 57%, Medium
Wed 10:50, 9:52, 1.10, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 19:17, 17:47, 1.08, 66%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 13:44, 19:17, 0.71, 7%, Easy
Sat 23:22, 26:56, 0.87, 22%, Easy-Medium
Sun 28:29, 30:01, 0.95, 38%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:40, 3:46, 0.97, 31%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:46, 5:01, 0.95, 31%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:26, 5:49, 1.11, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 10:32, 10:07, 1.04, 57%, Medium
Fri 7:50, 11:12, 0.70, 7%, Easy
Sat 13:21, 17:17, 0.77, 9%, Easy
Sun 18:05, 20:29, 0.88, 24%, Easy-Medium

Carole Shmurak 10:29 PM  

Thank you for counter formations! I guess I haven't stood in a deli line for a long, long time.
I too had LEIS before UKES.

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

Isn't it Andrei Segovia?

spacecraft 1:14 PM  

Nope, it's ANDRES. A beautiful man. A master craftsman. Sorta like today's author. It's all been said. This guy is the Lawrence Taylor of crosswords: he changed the way the game is played. Both ears and the tail, as usual, Mr. B!

Dirigonzo 7:30 PM  

Is it "HAPPENING HAPPY ENDING" or "HAPPY ENDING HAPPENING"? Either way, Patrick Berry delivered one with this puzzle - loved it!

Cary in Boulder 12:58 AM  

Not easy for me but not surprised the superstars found it so. Didn't take me all that long to figure out the trick once I got some squares filled in. But something about the cluing made me have to really reach for almost every answer.

Still I finished it and I liked it and glad I didn't just give up and turn my full attention to football.

Still don't get what THEYD is about.

Dirigonzo 5:08 AM  

@Cary in Boulder - "They'd" is a contraction of "they would", so the completed quote in the clue could read, "I thought they would never leave" which is often said when party guests overstayed their welcome.

RonL 9:32 PM  

I found the middle and NW difficult. I did enjoy 37a TONELESS crossing 23d TiNEARS.

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