Spiral-shaped particle accelerators / FRI 2-21-14 / Queen's Chapel designer Jones / 1998 purchaser of Netscape / 18th-century Hapsburg monarch Maria

Friday, February 21, 2014

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Maria THERESA (13D: 18th-century Hapsburg monarch Maria ___) —
Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina (GermanMaria Theresia; 13 May 1717 – 29 November 1780) was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg. She was the sovereign of Austria,HungaryCroatiaBohemiaMantuaMilanLodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands and Parma. By marriage, she was Duchess of LorraineGrand Duchess of Tuscany and Holy Roman EmpressShe started her 40-year reign when her father, Emperor Charles VI, died in October 1740. Charles VI paved the way for her accession with the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 and spent his entire reign securing it. Upon the death of her father,Saxony, Prussia, Bavaria, and France all repudiated the sanction they had recognised during his lifetime. Prussia proceeded to invade the affluent Habsburg province of Silesia, sparking a nine-year conflict known as the War of the Austrian Succession. Maria Theresa would later unsuccessfully try to reconquer Silesia during the Seven Years' War.
Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, had sixteen children, including Queen Marie Antoinette of France, Queen Maria Carolina of Naples, Duchess Maria Amalia of Parma and two Holy Roman Emperors,Joseph II and Leopold II. (wikipedia)
• • •

I think there are three "bad" answers in this puzzle. Three: PENH, HE'D, and, let's say, DEARTHS, which seems weird in the plural. Nah, I can't even ding that one, really. So, two. Two "bad" answers. There are also quite a few plurals (or otherwise S-ending words), so maybe that's a fault? I am trying hard to find this puzzle's weaknesses, and it's really, really hard. The difference between the average Patrick Berry puzzle and the average (non-Berry) NYT puzzle is astronomical. For a variety of reasons (which I'll get into another time), there has been a talent drain from the NYT submission pool over the past few years. A lot of great constructors are going the independent route, or they work almost exclusively for another outfit, or they're submitting their best work to Fireball (which is better edited and pays more). So it's delightful to see a puzzle like this in the NYT—pure, glorious, professional work. Nobody handles great expanses of white space more smoothly than Berry. The clues show a good deal of thought, care, and humor. They bounce. They feel like they were written just for this puzzle (as opposed to being pulled out of some musty clue hoard). I dearly wish we saw this caliber of work more often.

The triple slant-stack through the middle is wonderful. GO BIG OR GO HOME is a great central answer that reads like a boast, or a challenge—"Come on, constructors. Try to top this." One of the main reasons I love Berry's puzzles is that I feel rewarded for pushing through difficulty. Today's puzzle wa not especially hard, but I found myself floundering a bit in the NE, north of OBSCURA. The main issue was [Stamp act?]. I had got it down to CLOG- but that's it. That seemed like an impossible opening letter sequence for an answer that long, so I started second-guessing some of those crosses, but they were all air tight. The I put the "D" in from DIE and got CLOGD- and after about 1 second of "That can't be right" the dime dropped: CLOG DANCE! Such a great clue for that answer. When I struggle and the answers come up crap, I get cranky. When I struggle and they come up gold, I'm amazed, and grateful.

Hardest part for me was getting off the ground, as I totally second-guessed the OED- start to 20A: Like some unhealthy relationships (OEDIPAL). Wrote in TRIOS and RENEE and liked all the results except OE-. Then ABIDE gave me OED- and I thought "nope, something's wrong." But everything checked out, so I plowed forward, and … oh, I remember the main problem: I had written in an "S" at the end of 4D: Holiday travelers?, giving me OEDS- (clearly impossible). Eventually got MAGS for the "travelers" and thought, and thought, and thought about how that could be correct. And then MAGI popped into my head. Toughness through clever cluing = my favorite kind of toughness.

Thanks, Patrick Berry. I do have one large complaint, though, and that's that your Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies book is out of print. I doubt a better "For Dummies" book has ever been written, and without its being readily available, I have no go-to recommendation for "books about constructing." So my questions is "what the hell?" I'll take my answer off air.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:10 AM  

Easy-medium for me too.  NW, SW, and SE went quickly. NE and the center required some staring, especially after I missed the word "accelerators" when I read the 6d clue and was trying to think of a spiral shaped particle.

Erasure: DEsireS for DEARTHS.

Something to stick in your crossword memory bank:  Architect Jones = INIGO and Princess Bride swordsman Montoya = INIGO

Fun puzzle.  Liked the clues for IDAHOAN, CLOG DANCERS, and STREAKERS, plus there was quite a bit of zip.  A very fine Fri. Mr. Berry!

wreck 12:17 AM  

As usual with Patrick Berry puzzles, it was very solid AND enjoyable. I guess what stands out for me, is the fact that almost every clue is 'gettable' without some esoteric knowledge of some 15th century avant-garde artiste. It still takes me a long time, but there is really no need/use for Google.

That said, I DO appreciate Rex's take on each puzzle and have much respect for his opinions and commentary -- But, I really get turned off by what seems to be a very personal vendetta against Will Shortz. It goes beyond a mere critique of the daily puzzle.

Garth 1:06 AM  

Rex states: "The difference between the average Patrick Berry puzzle and the average (non-Berry) NYT puzzle is astronomical."

It's a lovely puzzle. But Rex's hyperbole feels demeaning to many other constructors whose puzzles don't exhibit the particular features that he favors. I suppose that's life in the blogosphere, but I find it kind of sad.

I share the sentiment expressed in @ wreck's last paragraph.

Questinia 1:16 AM  

Best NYT's puzzle so far this year in my book. Savored nearly every entry.

IDAHOAN. Solvers know the clue refers to a state but ends up just not any of the states that pop into mind. Who'd think of IDAHO before Texas, Oklahoma, or Florida? Probably not even an IDAHOAN. Perfect. Mildly esoteric.

BROW. First had Bong then pROW. Playful.

KIOSK and ABIDE. Stand, simply for both. Haute couture cluing.


OEDIPAL and the validity of its clue. Only qualm. But created an internal debate.

Rex put his finger on it when he describes the "struggle" of the clue and emergent answer evoking the gratitude for finding the solution. Satisfaction.

In other words Patrick Berry's puzzles are great cruciverbal sex. OK? There I said it. Orgasmatron.

Evan 1:32 AM  

Jeff Chen writes:

"as one constructor put it, it's tough to have a puzzle run anywhere close (in date) to a Patrick Berry."

Aye, but someone's gotta do it. Hopefully the feeling one gets from tomorrow's puzzle will be somewhere between orgasmatron and pleasurable break-up sex.

retired_chemist 2:24 AM  

A fine, fine puzzle for reasons stated by Res and previous posters.

The first few acrosses all fell easily, and that felt almost Mondayish. OK, I had dylan instead of SEGER but that was easily fixed. OEDI??? filled in trivially, but a lot of what was left got harder.

The other corners fell with varying degrees of difficulty and I was left with a few crosses to the center echelon 3-stack and some surrounding errors and unfilled squares. 32D was carpentER, 27A JiLTED, 31D sedate, and that made a hot mess of the center from which it took time to extricate myself.

But, in time, I did just that. And that is the beauty of this puzzle. It can be done with thought alone. No truly obscure knowledge is needed. The worst to me was CHRISTO (35D) but the crosses were all fair, so no foul. PROP CiMIC (a result of JiLTED for 27A) made me think for a while - I couldn't parse it and hadn't heard the phrase. Once it was in place, D'oh! Plenty to smile about in clues for answers short and long. EDSEL as the car that would "make other cars seem ordinary" will not soon be forgotten.

Thanks, Mr. Berry. You never disappoint.

Will Shortz 2:24 AM  

Regarding the quality of the Times' crossword contributors ... during the past six weeks the paper has published Liz Gorski, Doug Peterson, Charles Deber, Brad Wilber, David Steinberg, Kevin Der, Daniel A. Finan, Lynn Lempel, Ian Livengood, Jeff Chen, and Patrick Berry himself, among other top names, some of these multiple times. Stanley Newman is coming up next week, Brendan Quigley the following week. I'd say the quality of the roster is quite high -- although I agree the quality of the competition now is also very high, both in the traditional markets and the new "independents." That's great for solvers.

There are also a lot of new names among the Times' contributors, and I'm proud of that. Most constructors don't reach the top ranks overnight. I work with new contributors -- and there are 365 spots to fill each year. Anyone with a great idea is welcome to try. Eventually some of the newbies will surely become top names themselves.

--Will Shortz

Mohair Sam 2:26 AM  

Back from Philly at 12:45, (saw EROICA, remember?) ran the puzzle and saw Patrick Berry's name and skipped sleep. Just finished. That man can nail a clue, what fun. NW gave us the most trouble until we realized that Oxford English Dictionary's PAL didn't really fit the clue and went with the "I".

@Evan - We would have stayed up for a Jeff Chen puzzle too, looking forward to Saturday.

@Wreck - I second your second paragraph - our feelings exactly.

Anonymous 2:27 AM  

I thought this puzzle was one of the harder puzzles in recent memory, mostly the middle and NE. Perhaps if you knew some answers like Christo, Shoemaker, Cyclotrons, Theresa, CameraObscura, it becomes much easier, but I didn't. Add to that clues that were vague or clever and the puzzle is tough.

I'm beginning to think that Rex's ratings of puzzles are so idiosyncratic as to be worthless.

Moly Shu 3:26 AM  

First time commenting for me. I really enjoy reading what others have to say about each puzzle. The differences of opinion, keep me highly entertained. Simple things for simple minds, maybe.
This PB puzzle was excellent, as usual, and I agree with @rex regarding his struggle comment. Liked coeddorms crossing streakers.
@wreck, valid point, thx

John Child 4:32 AM  

A minimum of proper nouns means, as @wreck said, that there was no reason or point to use anything except your brain to solve this puzzle. Fiendish, fascinating clues made it fun and pretty much Saturday difficult here.

And again, what @wreck said in conclusion. And thanks to the community here.

jae 4:45 AM  

@Will - Competition may be not be the right word.  It implies choosing one over another.  Fortunately, in the crossword universe we can choose them all. And, there is definitely an apples and oranges thing going on between what you are able to do given constraints like the breakfast test and 365 puzzles per year and what the independents can produce sans those constraints.  So, I too think @wreck has a valid point.  

And that's a fine list of top-notch contributors, but I'm still wondering what happened to David Quarfoot and Mike Nothnagel? Did they just lose interest in creating high quality grids?

Danp 6:21 AM  

After getting 1D and 2D, I went right for the clue for OE, thinking it has to be a wine thing, a dictionary clue or a complex.

One quibble with Rex's review in terms of consistency. Who ever heard of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame? Could have been Rubin Stein for all I know.

grmartin 6:22 AM  

Finished everything quickly except for SW. (Did not know the term REDCAP for a porter, never heard of CHRISTO or "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze")
I loved the cluing for CRESCENTMOONS, MBA, GREENTEA, and CLOGDANCE, of course.

Glimmerglass 7:32 AM  

Everyone agrees that Berry is the best. I agree with @wreck that "every clue is 'gettable'". And with @retired_chemist that "[the puzzle] can be done with thought alone." This one was a bit easier for me than PB's usual, but just because some clues happened to be in my wheelhouse. There was still plenty of satisfying head-scratching and aha moments. If it's a PB, I know that if I keep at it long enough (I never Google), I'll finish and be glad I did.

Sir Hillary 7:36 AM  

The usual awesome Berry grid, this one spiced up more than his usual NYT fare by some really great clues.

I had a tough time finding an entry point, and dropping in BendS for BASES didn't help. The bottom fell first, then the top, and finally the brilliant middle.

GOBIGORGOHOME is about as good a payoff as it gets.

Classy response by @Will Shortz to a cheap shot by @Rex.

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

Loved it--easily my favorite of the week so far. Friday often leaves me tempted to Google or otherwise cheat once or twice, but although this one was tricky enough to tempt me, it was doable enough to not need to. Of course it didn't hurt that I got things like camera obscura from the URA at end andcC at the beginning. 2 minutes faster than Fri average so I'd say easy-medium is about right for a Friday.

Anonymous 7:48 AM  

I thought ALLEGE was a bad answer for the clue "put forward" and I'm almost positive the constructor did it to mislead, as "assert" is more in keeping with "put forward." My guess is the constructor felt if allege is filled in quickly so too is a lot of the puzzle.

And Rex is upset that the Times doesn't pay enough so his jihad continues.

MetaRex 7:52 AM  

Not to say that a fine themeless CW is as fine a piece of art as a fine film...but I don't think you get the same range of responses to what a movie is about as you can to a puzz. For Questinia, CAMERA OBSCURA, CRESCENT MOONS, etc. brought to mind something that sounds like a sexy dreamy thought-provoking Luis Bunuel flick...for the possibly less advanced sensibility of MR the same clues plus GO BIG OR GO HOME, STREAKERS, COED DORM, ONCE MORE, the "Swingers" clue (wanted PENDULARS at first--an obscura term for certain boy parts or girl parts?) all brought to mind an anything but elevated "Animal House" kind of movie with the frat guys installing hidden cameras in the sorority house.

Anonymous 7:53 AM  

And DEARTHS seemed like a stretch for "Needs." Again, IMHO, a way to make the puzzle harder.

jberg 8:22 AM  

Gee, I thought DEARTHS was a great answer. That H was my last square--somehow, I stared at S_AKES for 30 seconds or so before it occurred to me that Dairy Queen sold SHAKES. I was fixated on some proprietary term.

Aside from any Rex-Will debate, what interests me about these comments is the different views of which terms are obscure. CHRISTO? Pnom PENH? Maria THERESA? It goes to show that while knowledge can help, ultimately you can get everything no matter what you know or don't know.

Writeovers for me: Assert before ALLEGE, kId before RIB, both porter and skyCAP before REDCAP, and gAng before CABS (you know, "Hail, hail ..." And, somehow, SailMAKER before SHOEMAKER. All sorted in the end, and all part of the fun.

Looking forward to Saturday!

Mohair Sam 8:32 AM  

You New Yorkers must remember CHRISTO's "The Gates" in Central Park. Really neat. Took our last horse drawn carriage ride through that, still have that little swath of fabric they gave to visitors.

AliasZ 8:39 AM  

Oh boy. What can I complain about today?

The plural of PENDULUM should be pendula. Like stadia, media, fulcra, plectra, et cetera.

OEDIPAL sounds plain wrong. To my ears Oedipic or Oedipan or Oedipish or Oedipesque sounds right.

REDO and EDIT, RESUME and ONCE MORE mean the same thing. They shouldn't be allowed. Throw in RENÉE, REBAR and REDCAP - too many RE-words.

CAMERA OBSCURA is too obscure.

OAST, EDSEL, YORE, LOS, DIE, ADA, AOL, CONS, SOBS, CABS, JABS, MBA, etc.: pure crosswordese.

GO BIG OR GO HOME has too many G's for my taste. Throw in INIGO and CLOG DANCE, way too many G's. Good thing there was no "go gaga."

I never saw DEARTH in the plural. And who ever uses the word DOGMATISTS?

PENH? PENH??? The less said, the better.

What could be more weird than WEIRDER?

CRESCENT MOONS: last I checked, the earth has only one MOON.

I could go on. Instead, let me pick up a USA Today on the way to work.

Enjoy your Friday!

Unknown 9:18 AM  

1:50. 3 googles. 10 cheats. I solved the NE and SW, and got hung up in the NW where Rex did, and rejected MAGs, but went to mEDIcAL for OEDIPAL, turning TRIOS Into TRImS, then started to replace TRAMPS with gRAins, a kind of freight hopper, no? Not really. Lots of time spent on negative progress.

Center and SE were filled with copious wrongness. To wit,

Saul of Tarsus was from ASIA (MINOR). Raise your hand if you went to the rebus there. Anybody? Anybody?

[sky hooks] had me working the rabbit warren for Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Lew Alcinder, and Boy Scout pranks. [early projections] had me in AP/UPI exit polling, and [catchphrase] got me thinking of L'Oreal's "I'm worth it." Took the bait on all three, CLOD-like.

I abandoned SHAKES when it didn't cross anything. ScoopS crossed [reserved] ONHOLD, so it was a keeper. I mistook [Robinson] for Oscar Robertson before mistaking him for Robinson Cano, then worrying if Berry had constructed during Cano's Yankee or brand-new Mariner era. Har.

SADCLOWN for PROPCOMIC. Didn't fit the grid. Yet still somehow fit the puzzle.

The NE and SW were a glorious solve though. I could tell I was doing a Patrick Berry.

OAST was the only crosswordese here. Yet the brilliant Rexites marched through this "easy-medium" Friday like nothing. I withdraw my comment of the other day. You don't need the crosswordese nearly as much as I thought you did. Sorry for that undeserved JAB.

wordie 9:35 AM  

@AliasZ, hilarious!

I loved this puzzle and concur with all prior posts lauding it.

But, one nit re 28D, dogmatists are dogmatic, I.e., tied to a belief system, inflexible, rigid of thought, etc. This is not the same as overbearing.

Loren Muse Smith 9:46 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Muse Smith 9:47 AM  

@Susan McConnell – give me Patrick Berry's name at the top of my morning puzzle over a double-yolk egg any day.

And GO BIG OR GO HOME. Long bus ride home last night for Duke, huh? (Cue Carolina Fight Song)

This one was a lot harder for me than most PBs – I had never heard of ADA, CHRISTO, CAMERA OBSCURA or INIGO. Plus, I carelessly had "lore" for YORE, and with magnificent disregard to that final E, "later on(e)" for ONCE MORE. Sorting all that out took a while, but certainly all those unknowns were gettable with the crosses. Well, except OBSCURA. I had a dnf with "obscure/Therese."

My toe hold was the WEIRDER/DIE cross. I've said before – I cannot bring myself to call it a DIE. Makes me feel like a miss smarty pants priss pot. Hmm. I know I come across that way a lot with other stuff. Wonder why I draw the line at DIE (and "toad" and "tortoise." And "whom.") (@jberg – I pondered a sentence a couple of days ago I'll post about separately here in a little bit.)

"Much hailed group" – first thought - Pitt. My daughter is a freshman there. Hail to Pitt!

Believe it or not, PENH was essential for me in fixing the northeast; I once used it in some truly phnomenal grid and praised the Almighty Benevolent Grid Gods that the guy who made up all those Cambodian place names spelled it that way. EEL schmeel and all that.

@Questinia – I had "brew" for "head piece?" and then changed it as soon as I saw that the clue for 56A (OASTS) had "brewery." This is a PBJ*, after all. That. Would. Not. Happen.

I use the word DEARTH about as often as I use DIE, but it does feel like something you want to remedy. "There's a noticeable DEARTH of fleas on these dogs feels WEIRDER than "absence."

I get a real kick out of CLOGgers and have tried on several occasions, mercifully in the privacy of my own bedroom, to dance that way. Sheesh. Picture someone barefoot waiting in line on really, really hot pavement for a DQ Blizzard. (@jberg – I was looking for something Dairy Queenish there, too.) Besides, I would look ridiculous in one of those full-skirted, poofy-sleeved dresses.

*Jewel. Whatever. I won't HIDE the fact that I'm a huge fan.

Harrison 9:53 AM  

When a blog author is, in my opinion, consistently way off base,I tend not to frequent the blog. It simply ceases to remain front and center on my radar. I don't wake up and rush onto it to criticize the author's opinions first thing in the morning.

@wreck, @Garth: what gets boring is your constant harping on @Rex. If you have so much dissatisfaction, why visit his blog? And you both are always among the first up at bat.

Hey! I know! Why not start your own blog? As in, design it, provide content, be responsible for comments, etc. Now there's a solution for you. You won't have to suffer Rex Parker any longer, because you will find yourselves rather busy.

Rex provides reasons for his judgements and opinions. When he was off recently for a week, I missed his sharp analysis. I'm not a great solver, but the fill is usually boring, lame and often ridiculous, even to a newbie.

As to Will: His retort to Rex may be "classy" - that's not the point. Rex is critical of the content WS lets fly, in terms of a standard to which the Times should measure. The amount of gunk indicates a certain laziness on Will's part, perhaps? Not to mention an editorial philosophy that Rex Parker doesn't jibe with. It's his blog. He has that right. Take it or leave it.

In terms of Rex's dissatisfaction with the fee per puzzle: when a newspaper is cutting back on its newsroom staff, one can hardly expect it to be increasing fees for crossword puzzles, no matter how much revenue one thinks it generates.

Ludyjynn 9:55 AM  

A perfect Friday puzzle experience for me, w/ an easy start in the NW and SW, followed by periodic brain farts all over the place. But then, letter by letter, the answers materialized. Ingenious construction, medium to challenging and so satisfying in the end.

Thank yous to PB and WS.

Sir Hillary 9:58 AM  

@Harrison -- Let us know what you thought of today's puzzle. Thanks.

Tracy Bennett 10:14 AM  

PB's "Dummies" book is indispensable for constructors starting out. I too cannot believe it's out of print. I wonder if I got almost the last one when I bought it three years ago? Berry was the first editor to deal with my fledgling creations at the CHE. It was a good way to start out---I learned not to push and strain a theme beyond what a grid can contain. Also that it's not whether you can make something fit, but whether the solver will understand and enjoy the way you made it fit.

DeanR 10:16 AM  

Patrick Berry kicks my ass yet again...finished in 45, which is twice my normal Friday. I get that this man is kind of in a league of his own among top notch constructors, but that is a different league than the one I play in. Or maybe I'm just getting "dumbed down" by all the inferior puzzles Will is allegedly publishing these days.

lawprof 10:18 AM  

Just about the perfect solving experience for me: virtually nothing on the first pass through the grid, then a toe-hold here, another there and then a bunch of aha moments.

"Go big or go home" is not a catchphrase in my lexicon (whereas "Win or go home" is), but nevertheless gettable from crosses. Had to pause at WEIRDER because of the "i" before "e" except after "c"...thingy. Same with PENH (Phen? Pehn?). Don't know what a PROPCOMIC is (a comedian who uses props? e.g., a ventriloquist?) but, again, gettable.

Three writeovers: sAsS/JABS; BanKED/BOOKED; gOOSE/MOOSE.

Thanks, Mr. Berry, and you, too, Mr. Shortz.

Twangster 10:19 AM  

This took me more than an hour and about a bucket of whiteout, but I somehow managed to sort it out. Among my problems were: GOBIGORDONTGO, HOMEMAKER, and DORMROOMS, (which, while not ultimately not making sense as answer, shares several letters with COEDDORMS).

All the while I had a feeling I would come here and see this rated easy/medium...

Unknown 10:20 AM  

@harrison. I come here for all the smart, funny, genuine people, @wreck and @garth principal among them. If you read this site daily, you'll build mental pictures of the regulars, and if you're like me, you'll feel privileged to know them, warts and all, even if only through their aliases. So please enjoy us -- revel in us-- for who we are. I'm certain you'll be better off for it.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:26 AM  

Amen to all the good things said about the puzzle.

Just one write-over (and @lawprof beat me to posting by 15 minutes!), BANKED before BOOKED.

Maruchka 10:41 AM  

Who doesn't LOVE Patrick Berry? I agree with Rex re: NYT's recent dumb-down reliance on pop culture and obscura-tortured fill-ins. This morning's puzzle is pure wordsmith pleasure..

Two Ponies 10:42 AM  

When I saw that we had a PB on a Friday I did a little jig (but not a clog dance).
Lots to love here and such a feeling of satisfaction.
Puzzle-mate is an artist so I have him to thank for teaching me about camera obscura.
@ Danp, the clue for 9D reminded me of Rubin Stein too!
@ Rex, thank you for this blog and
@ WS for dropping by.

JTHurst 10:42 AM  

I hope someday I can grow up to call this puzzle easy - medium. That is my oneiric cathectic. I worked relatively easily through the top half of the puzzle and then hit 'lamebrain' and was stymied. My schmendrick personality took over.

@AliasZ If dogmatists are dogmatic and nihilists are nihilistic then are cruciverbalists cruciverbalistic, and is that why we spin comments in this blog? Or am I, a syllogist, being syllogistic?

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

@loren muse smith - Go Tar Heels!

oldactor 10:53 AM  


Carrot Top and Galagher are prop comics.

Mohair Sam 10:57 AM  

Yikes! You can buy a used copy of Patrick Berry's book for as little as $99.90 on Amazon. Average used price about $250.00. They list one new copy at $1,610.20 (.20?). It's gotta be a great book, I bought a copy of "East of Eden" there for $3.99 last year.

Seriously - Get that book back in print - I'm a recently retired crossword freak here would love to get hold of it.

@cascokid san - nicely put. Enjoy your daily posts, btw.

3rd post for me today - I'm gone.

Failed on two impossibly blurry alpha captchas and then got numbers as clear as day. Can't figure how they work.

Carola 11:02 AM  

A thorough pleasure. Besides the grid treats others have mentioned, I liked the references to physics devices through the ages: CAMERA OBSCURA, PENDULUMS, CYCLOTRONS. I've been interested in the theory of David Hockney and others, who ALLEGE that artists of YORE (the Renaissance and later) relied on the CAMERA OBSCURA for a realistic depiction of space and form.

Unknown 11:03 AM  

I wonder what Patrick Berry's publication contract says. Does he have the right to produce a vanity press edition? Surely, something is possible with a phone call or two.

RnRGhost57 11:18 AM  

Great puzzle.

As for OFL versus Will Shortz, both are big boys who can dish it out and take it.

So let a hundred flowers bloom: may Rex rant, WS respond regally, and regulars like @wreck and @garth give Rex what for.

quilter1 11:20 AM  

AS usual Patrick delivers a puzzle that is fun to do with high entertainment value. I have no problems with DEARTHS, just happy to see the word. Same with CLOG DANCE, JOLTED, CAMERA OBSCURA, GO BIG OR GO HOME--just extra fine.

Notsofast 11:23 AM  

Spectacular puzzle! Hey, all you young hotshot constructors out there. You know who you are. Yeah, I'm talking' to you. This! is how it's done! Patrick Berry is King. Long live the King!

Unknown 11:25 AM  

@lms I gotta agree with you. When I fired up the puzzle at the breakfast table and let out "Ooh, Patrick Berry!", Hubs retorted with "Nerd," but so be it. PB is always a treat. Someday perhaps I, too, will be able to rate a puzzle like this as Easy, but not today.

JC66 11:37 AM  

@ PB & @ AliasZ


Notsofast 11:39 AM  

P.S. Loved the two stealth fighters on the grid!

quilter1 11:40 AM  

I believe it was Maria THERESA who said,"A woman needs to take only three baths in her life: when she is born, on her wedding day and when she dies." She had lots of children, so Francis' BO tolerance had to be high. (the quote is a paraphrase)

GILL I. 11:50 AM  

@lawprof said it all for me in his/her first paragraph.
Yes, thank goodness the puzzle was so well constructed that I could get everything despite not *EVER* hearing of CLOG DANCE nor knowing what PROP COMIC meant.
CHRISTO and his wife Jeanne Claude made a few big impressions here in California with their "Umbrella" display back in the 90's. I remember seeing the thousands of umbrellas on the Tejon Pass in Southern Ca and thinking "good lord, what next..." Unfortunately, one of the umbrellas was up-ended by a strong gust of wind and killed a woman. I mean really, to be killed by an umbrella?
Thank you @Carola for the CAMERA OBSCURA info. I remember reading something about the Hockney-Falco theory of the "Masters" use of mirrors to create realistic images....I thought it was all a bunch of hooey but I like a good story.

Lewis 11:57 AM  

aliasZ -- great post!

Once again a PB puzzle low on scrabblyness yet high on quality. Usually here people praise cool words that show up in the puzzle, and there hasn't been much of that today. But still, nothing but praise. I believe it comes down to his devilish and twinkle in the eye cluing.

Words whose clues I loved: GREENTEA, PEKES, SOBS, MBA, CABS, BASES, MAGI, HIDE

Mette 12:06 PM  

@retired chemist - also had JiLTED and thought it was a great clue. Unpleasantly surprised indeed.
According to the OED, cordwain originally described leather made in Corduba, Spain. Cue Ricardo Monteban.

Thank you, thank you Patrick and Will. Just loved it

Questinia 12:16 PM  

@ jae~ I've been thinking of the same thing re Quarfoot, Nothnagel, and I'd add MIke Norris. Luckily I can do their puzzles in the NYT's archives. And where did Michael Sharp go for that matter? Also, when WS used the word "competition" he is probably using it from his angle, not ours.

@ Evan~ Is that a hint? In that case have I ever told you how mad I am at you?! {{Throws vase-Slams door}}

@ Alias Z~ When you started in at OEDIPAL I had to remind myself of past Cropland.

@ Mohair~ Lemme call you MOOSE.

Unknown 12:19 PM  

Crikey! I thiught it was challenging. About 33% tougher than average, based on my time. Things just wouldn't fall for me. Just wasn't in sync with the constructor's wavelength. Still, a very enjoysble puzzle. No BS. I was very happy to solve it without cheating. Once i got The CAMERAOBSCURA things started falling into place.

astroman 12:29 PM  

I was so proud to immediately see that early projectionist was GEORGESMELIES. Had some problems after that.

Sandy K 12:32 PM  

Yet another elegant and wonderfully constructed puzzle by PB.

DIE harkens back to his great meta creation- The DIE is cast.

Steve J 12:52 PM  

I'll be yet another to lavish the praise for this one. You have to search for things to quibble with (the plural DEARTHS is unusual, and of the dozens of breweries I've visited, not a single one has had an OAST; that's all I can even pretend to come up with). Just so smooth, well-crafted, and wonderfully clued. I love clues that have you scratching your head, and then when you get the answer, it seems so obvious.

Had a harder time than I usually do with Berry's puzzles, but the additional struggle just meant I got to spend more time with this one.

Masked and Anonymo2Us 1:22 PM  

4-Oh, just last Jan the 29th: "... the awful OAST..."
4-Oh, today: "(there are) two 'bad' answers".

So, OAST is awful, but it ain't bad. Confuses the M&A. Holy Christo, Propcomic.

I think I have a copy of that there for dummies book. Wait up a sec, while I go check...

*** = sec

har. Somebody just sent me a bunch of old master paintings, retitiled. Fave has got to be "Pandora Choosing an Unfortunate Place to Look for the Remote". But I digress.

...yep. Got 'er, right in my hot little hands! Got quite a few of them for dummies books. "Digressin For Dummies" is an all-time fave.

A coupla quotes, from this Patrick Berry book...

* "Don't worry, you can still find plenty of perfectly usable four-letter words". Sounds like he's gettin ready to lay out a case for OAST...

* "Digging for partials". This is actually a section name, on page 125. Deals with desperation.

* On numbering the grid by hand: "Later, I'd realize my mistake and, cursing freely, go back and renumber the blasted thing."

Yep. More similarity between his and my constructioneerin techniques, than I thought...


p.s. Almost forgot. Primo puz, today. Only 66 words! Book needs a section on keepin yer U count up, tho.

Numinous 1:35 PM  

What a wonderful PB puzzle! I loved this even though I DNF'd because I fell down the @cascokid rabbit hole with mEDIcAL and I didn't look at the folk groups closely enough. I originally thought they were iRIsh.

YORE was my first entry in the Dakotas and that gave me, @Danp, SEGER. Maybe that's because:
"I awoke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain't it funny how the night moves"

As a child, I traveled cross country by train more than a few times with my mother on visits to grandmother's house. @Jberg and @grmartin, I remember the REDCAPs helping with our bags when we changed trains in Chicago.

CHRISTO was a gimme. When I lived in Sydney, I visited and roamed over his Wrapped Coastline in Little Bay. It was much harder to walk on than you'd think. I also used to see his Running Fence in Sonoma county on my commutes between Berkeley and Mendocino.

I used to make moccasins and leather sandals with molded arch supports so I had to study cordwaining. I never liked the cheesy kits sold by Tandy, everything was made from scratch.

@LMS, As a film students in London, we had to study film history and photography. My first thought for an early projectionist was, of course, George Méilès but crosses soon gave me CAMERA OBSCURA, something every photography student knows and has experimented with. So, another wonderful AHA!

@Mohair Sam, I have PB's book. I'll sell you a Xerox copy for $75.37. Ok, just kidding. I feel lucky to have it. I hope it comes back in print.

I psychology major in the 1940s, when my parents divorced, my mother developed a pathological fear of the OEDIPus complex. Don't know why I never saw that answer.

There were too many gems in this puzzle to comment on after everyone else here has mentioned the stand-outs. Thanks @Rex for your thought provoking blog, Thanks Will for your informative answer. Thanks Patrick Berry for a really good time. But will you respect me in the morning?

Bird 1:39 PM  

Saw the byline and thought I was in for some fun. Nope. Clues were too tough/obscure today.

WTH is with the clue for IDAHOAN?

Liked the clues for CRESCENT MOONS and STREAKERS.


Anonymous 1:44 PM  

I found this difficult. Took me some time to get into the constructor's mindset. In the end, it was a fun challenge.

Agree with the comment about not needing to Google a lot of obscure facts. Just semi-obscure ordinary words trickily clued.

Numinous 1:49 PM  

Erratum, paragraph 8: A psychology major in the 1940s.

DigitalDan 1:52 PM  


I had no beef even with Rex's beefs; PENH was one of first answers for me, if one followed the turmoils of the 60's and 70's. HE'D was a surprise to me, but made total sense once obtained.

Gareth Bain 1:52 PM  

http://www.xwordinfo.com/AuthorByYear suggests that most constructors contribute a large number of puzzles to the NYT for at most a few years, then drop off and get replaced by other constructors. Berry, La Liz and to a lesser extent BEQ (who is tailing off as his blog takes precedence; La Liz has a puzzle blog too now at Crossword Nation, so expect her output to drop too?) seem to be the only true NYT stalwarts!

retired_chemist 1:55 PM  


CLOGs are wooden shoes.

camera obscura is Latin for "dark room" and resets to the imaging that results from a pinhole in one wall.

Idaho Has a panhandle.

retired_chemist 1:57 PM  

That's refers, not resets.

Nancy 3:05 PM  

Couldn't get "head piece" and finally wrote in BReW. As in a beer has a head. (Well that's not any worse an answer than BROW, is it? The word "piece" doesn't make a bit of sense with either one.) Anyway, that gave me CLeGDANCE which I'd never heard of, but since I've never heard of a CLOGDANCE either, I left it in.
I agree that ALLEGE was misleading, but I saw immediately that ASSERT wouldn't work. I got REBAR, though I have no idea what it is. And a personal Nancy Guide to all Solvers: Whatever "car" clue is provided, no matter how obscure, the answer is always, always EDSEL. This seems to be a helpful letter combo for constructors.

OISK 3:10 PM  

I found it difficult, and nearly gave up, but it suddenly fell into place when I wrote "allege". Fridays SHOULD be challenging; as others have said, this was exactly what a Friday puzzle ought to be. I don't share the opinions of some that the quality is declining. I prefer the obscure (to me) clues to be literary, geographical, scientific, and not hip-hop slang, rap songs, or movie directors. That has nothing to do with puzzle quality, just with my own personal stodginess. I also think that David Steinberg is a wonderful constructor, whose puzzles are sometimes too far out of my wheelhouse to be enjoyable. The last few, though have been more balanced. I miss Barry Silk.

Ankle Camera Mooses 3:19 PM  

I literally only had 8 words first pass thru:
So chip chip chip...
Even enjoyed my mistakes as much as the real aha moments (DraMATISTS, blOT, pROW, ALLudE) as they slowly revealed.

Word for word thoughts on OEDs as @Rex.

Great grand CAMERAOBSCURA out at sea cliff in SF,never thought about/ realized it meant "dark room" which makes perfect sense, so interesting that camera = Room!

I'm consoling myself not making Will's list of fave constructors, but we Monday folk do get paid the same as the Friday/Saturday gang...doesn't get WEIRDER than that!

My fave answer was MOOSE.
And I know I'm a girl because I thought central answer was going to be SHOPTILYOUDROP

Ovaltine 3:26 PM  

I enjoy Rex's column but often disagree with his difficulty ratings. Excellent puzzle today that was at least a medium for me, probably a medium-challenging.

jae 3:47 PM  

@OISK -- Barry Silk authors the Sat. LAT puzzle on occasion.

Paul Statt 4:07 PM  

Nobody else was troubled by the clue for TRAMP? I thought a hobo rode the rails; a tramp walks.

GILL I. 4:28 PM  

@Paul Statt: I had a question mark next to TRAMP and forgot to mention it. I agree with you - I always thought a hobo was the rail taker and the TRAMP always "footed" it.

M and Also 4:35 PM  

Amazin, that a dude with Patrick Berry's book could create this:



Z 4:35 PM  

Like yesterday, I was struggling. Took a 6 hour break it go paint the new place, came back and flew through it.

SEGER is a demi-god in these parts, but it still took all the crosses. - - - - DANCE was three squares too short for CLOppen DANCE. Only writeover was Stevedore before SHOEMAKER. A crunchy PBJ, my favorite.

JOLTED SHAKES. The taser is missing.

@ sanfranman59 - wondering if your n goes up when it's Berry.

Bob Kerfuffle 4:50 PM  

Dear Prof. M and Also:

Yay! 3:11 on your latest little gem. Maybe because I went in saying I would not get flustered, or maybe because it was just a bit more straightforward.

But, but, . . . yesterday . . . your remarks on "coset" . . . all of a sudden it seemed your straw-bedight coveralls were slipping and I glimpsed . . . tweed? . . . beneath!

Thanks as always.

Mohair Sam 5:32 PM  

@questina - Thanks for the chuckle on MOOSE. Decades back when I was in the military I was known by one of two nicknames: Mohair Sam or MOOSE (I was 6'3 and over 200 lbs.)

sanfranman59 5:39 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

Fri 21:01, 20:55, 1.00, 54%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Fri 12:51, 12:06, 1.06, 60%, Medium-Challenging

@Z ... Given that there are fewer and fewer people posting solve times, it's tough to answer your question about the number of solvers for Patrick Berry's puzzles. I didn't record the number of solvers for his last Friday puzzle (1/10/2014). The one before that (11/22/2013) had more than the usual number of solvers, but it was also among the easiest Friday puzzles in my spreadsheet (as are many of his, btw). There have been 250 successful solutions submitted so far today. That puts this puzzle on pace for what has become a normal number of Friday solvers. Last Friday's puzzle by Bruce Haight had similar metrics and there were 269 solvers. Today will probably wind up a little above that, but not by much, I don't think.

jburgs 5:59 PM  

Imust agree that this was a perfect Friday puzzle. I went to bed last night with few write ins. Had that OE so was full of doubts. Started in again on and off through the the day just chipping away.

Can't tell you how satisfying it is to get through a puzzle like this without resorting to checking and cheats.

Finally finished at the end of the second period of the Canada-USA game. My joy with Canada's win paled in comparison to my joy in completing without errors.

mac 6:15 PM  

Delightful puzzle, totally in my wheelhouse! Quick for a Friday. The clue for clog dance was great, but there are plenty more good ones.

I put in MBA more or less as a joke, removed it, then put it back in.

A lot of fun, thank you Mr. Berry!

Anonymous 6:39 PM  

I think Rex hit a nerve with Mr. Schortz. It's quite amusing to see his somewhat grovelling defense of the quality of his little kingdom after watching him drive a respected institution further and further into the ditch for years.

Questinia 6:48 PM  

@Mohair Moose

Mohair was probably my clue ....

Anonymous 7:31 PM  

Stuck with "Ida Roan" instead of thinking geographically. (I thought maybe this was some obscure-ish literary character and was just lazy with the "ride" cross.)

But loved the puzzle. For me, a good effort after failing miserably with last Friday's "easy-medium."

schmuzz 8:10 PM  

Couldn't get the NW

I had TRIOS ..RENEE...and MAGI

and then went brain dead

Oh and I had SEE

But i oouldn't SEE tramp nor rebar

Looking forward to Saturday

sanfranman59 10:03 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 6:12, 6:15, 0.99, 44%, Medium
Tue 11:44, 8:18, 1.41, 100%, Challenging (2nd highest ratio of 219 Tuesdays)
Wed 10:21, 10:21, 1.00, 50%, Medium
Thu 12:27, 18:35, 0.67, 4%, Easy (9th lowest ratio of 217 Thursdays)
Fri 21:03, 20:56, 1.01, 54%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:15, 3:59, 1.07, 80%, Challenging
Tue 6:46, 5:14, 1.29, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 219 Tuesdays)
Wed 6:22, 6:19, 1.01, 54%, Medium
Thu 7:39, 10:36, 0.72, 6%, Easy (12th lowest ratio of 217 Thursdays)
Fri 12:21, 12:06, 1.02, 53%, Medium

As it turns out, there were exactly the same number of successful solutions submitted online this Friday as there were the previous two Fridays. So based on this small sample size, there's no evidence that Patrick Berry's Friday puzzles increase the n.

Z 3:01 AM  

@sanfranman59 - Dang. Star power makes no difference. It seems as though the apps have a far higher number of solving times posted, but that data isn't readily available.

@anon 7:31 - I think I dated Miss Roan back in the day.

Anonymous 8:15 PM  

Sunday puzzle, I have an issue with TIDE for "daily riser."
Last I checked, it rises twice a day.

Bob Kerfuffle 8:49 PM  

@mhpage - Don't recognize your name, so welcome to the blog. But please, it isn't cricket to comment on a future puzzle - takes away the pleasure of solving from everyone who sees your remark.

Anonymous 4:18 PM  

Can't understand your complains about "Penh" -- I thought that was a "gimme". "Pnom Penh" is or was an Asian capital, what's the issue. Nothing wrong with "dearths", all editors create unnatural plurals. Didn't understand "rebar" and still don't. Agreed that there's PB and then there's everyone else. So hard to find a decent puzzle nowadays because the younger folk stick in tons of pop culture, which doesn't belong in a crossword puzzle. With PB I resist the temptation to Google, because I know everything is gettable if I'm patient and use my noodle.

spacecraft 11:44 AM  

First: HEY SYNDIMAN! WAKE UP--AGAIN! You're still stuck on Tuesday! Can't we get this dude fired?

And now on to much more pleasant things, say like Patrick Berry puzzles. I don't know how he does it. The man is a wizard. I had to work at this one a bit, so I'd say medium. The NW and north popped in smoothly, but the center created some problems. Entries were not OBSCURe--mostly. I didn't know CHRISTO but could infer the name with some of the letters in place. And I learned what a cordwainer is.

Had THERESA, changed it to THERESe for the more common -URE ending going across--then finally had to change it back to the A for the Latin phrase. Also, my REDCAP started out as a skyCAP but got pro(de?)moted.

Is PROPCOMIC a thing? Are we talking Gallagher here? Oh well, I will allow the venerable Mr. B. a wayward step or two. His work is so unassailable that I start looking for stuff to pounce on.

Oh dear; I just used a preposition to end a sentence with. #self-flag

A lowly rowboat, 2's over 5's.

Solving in Seattle 1:50 PM  

OK, @Gill I.P., back to reading Realtimers. @Alias Z musta woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Can we say Grumpmeister?

This PBpuz took me a while but no write overs. Such a beauty.

Had K---K at 52A, and was convinced it was wrong. Had, like Rex, OEDI--- at 20A and was convinced it was wrong. Had --------SCURA at 30A and was convinced it was wrong. But I was wrong to think they were wrong. Huh?

Loved the clues - too many to mention. "Certain letter attachment" had me thinking serif, or umlaut, or accent, etc. Great head fake.

My only nit is the clue for MBA had no indication of init.

Loved learning of CAMERAOBSCURA which was totally gotten on crosses (no pun intended).

@Z, the Seattle Times sports section picked the Tigers to win their division again. Good luck.

Enjoy your weekend, Syndylanders.

3 pairs. I fold.

Z 2:42 PM  

I get to read the real-timers in chunks in my email. On the rare occasion that I post later than 11 I find myself skimming except for those I know will be worth the effort. When realtime breaks 100 it's got to get tedious - especially when someone asks a question that was alreadt answered.

@SiS - "Is Miggy the next Hank Aaron or the next Albert Pujols?" is the swirling debate on the interwebs today. I am hopeful, but we lost our SS, our 8th inning guy, and half of leftfield already and the Royals look scary. Can't decide if I want to wish the Mariners luck or the usual curse for over-paying for an ex-Yankee. However, I hope the Sounders have a great season.

DMG 2:56 PM  

Enjoyed this puzzle. Loved OEPEDIAL, and, as I wrote it in, wondered if REDCAPS still exist. Haven't gone by train for years. In the long run, I got all the corners, but even with a bunch of good downs, couldn't hack the top two long crosses. Done in, it turns out, by digS where JABS was wanted, and never would have guessed DEARTHS in a thousand years. Love PB's grids, and someday I'll actually finish one!

Two miserable pairs!

Solving in Seattle 3:27 PM  

@Z, other than coaching my kids' teams for eight years and watching the US Women's team, I have little interest in soccer. Maybe the quadrennial thingy as long as they ban those damn vuvuzelas.
Cano might be worth what the fools in the Mariners executive suite payed for him. He's been batting about seven thousand in Spring training.
As far as Realtimers go, there are some real diphthongs who show up. Wouldn't you give the left one to actually meet M&A? And attend a Mensa meeting with Questina and Alias Z? Or observe LMS live seven lives while we live one boring one. I swear she's doing the dog's life thing. Or hang with ACMe and meet more celebs than Forrest Gump? And does JAE actually sleep?
Anyway, miss your beer ratings.

I guess my boat doesn't count on post two.

rain forest 4:11 PM  

Nice break in Mexico for 8 days with no puzzle, and the first one I confront on my return is a Patrick Berry! Karma.

CHRISTO, DEARTHS, PROPCOMIC. Other than those, this went down pretty well. There was a DEARTH of crosswordese, but I don't think they were *needed*.

@SIS - with you on M&A and @Alias Z, who was hilarious today. Flipped past quite a few others, as my mentor @DIRI suggests.

Side note: ran out of books to read so I picked up a James Patterson from the resort pile: absolute trash. After persevering with it for too long, I realized that one of the real-timers talks like he writes. Explains a few things, huh?

anonymous in syndication 8:21 PM  

syndiction here. Is a 'hook' the same shape as a CRESCENT?

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

"Split second?" I had TIE early on, for which I think that would be a great clue.

Anonymous 12:54 PM  

@AliasZ 8:39 AM

The earth does indeed have but one moon (I researched this--you are correct!) but within the lunar cycle there are two CRESCENT MOONS each month.

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