Circus performer Kelly / SUN 4-6-14 / 1986 girl's-name song by Boston / DuPont trademark of 1941 / Dual-sport athlete Sanders / Indonesian tourist haven

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "At Times" — two-word noun phrases where the second word ends "-ER" are clued as if they referred to particular kinds of people; that is, the -ER is imagined as a verbal suffix meaning "one who does x," thus completely changing the meaning of the second word.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Clumsy pharmacist, at times? (MEDICINE DROPPER)
  • 28A: Dressage rider, at times? (COLT REVOLVER)
  • 47A: Old-fashioned barber, at times? (FOAM RUBBER)
  • 54A: Inexperienced shucker, at times? (OYSTER CRACKER)
  • 65A: No-limit Texas hold'em player, at times? (ALL BETTER) 
  • 74A: Farmer, at times? (CHICKEN TENDER)
  • 84A: Sleeping sunbather, at times? (BACK BURNER)
  • 103A: Dieter, at times? (SNACK COUNTER)
  • 110A: Person getting out of a tub, at times? (BATHROOM SLIPPER)

Word of the Day: MONOSKI (14D: Snowboard relative) —
1. (Skiing) a wide ski on which the skier stands with both feet
ˈmonoˌskier n ˈmonoˌskiing n (
• • •

This was a Patrick Berry 3 … which is a normal person's 7. This is to say, it's a good puzzle, but not nearly of the caliber of most PB1 puzzles (PB1 is Patrick Berry; PB2 is Patrick Blindauer; just FYI). I kept waiting for "times" to be involved in some important way. Like … maybe multiplication would be involved somehow? And then I thought perhaps letters had been added or rearranged; but it's just ordinary phrases, made interesting / funny / clever by their wacky clues. There is something very inventive about the theme, conceptually, and the clues definitely add a nice level of humor at times (at times!). And the fill is PB1-grade all the way—with care and polish and attention to detail evident in every corner of the grid. So theme is OK, fill is great, thumbs up. If this review seems at all tepid, it's just because Berry has set the bar so high. The Bar Is Too Damned High!

I had this weird experience solving where I noticed that the times posted at the NYT applet seemed to be running high. This made my brain think "uh oh, a tough Patrick Berry," and right away, within the first couple minutes, I found myself running slow and getting kind of frustrated. Then I remembered something I'd read recently about an experiment where people who were told beforehand that a problem was easy found it easier than those who were told it was hard. That is, people were primed to believe something, and that affected their experience of that thing. So mid-solve, I consciously told myself—you were primed. You are struggling and getting frustrated because you believe this is a tough puzzle. Forget what you believe. Just solve the puzzle. It's just a puzzle. And through purely willed confidence,  I took off and solved this thing in slightly below-average time (just over 10 for me). I have learned that I am overly sensitive to frustration when solving—I can feel myself getting annoyed and self-critical, which saps my speed and also weirdly blinds me. I get in bad ruts, fail to read clues properly (or at all), keep things in I should tear out, etc. I don't think everyone is as emotionally volatile as I am when solving, and that is undoubtedly a good thing. I think the trick is to proceed with confidence and self-assuredness and a level head, even when the puzzle is kicking your ass sideways.

I have never heard the phrase TRICK UP before (88D: Dress in fancy duds). TRICK OUT, I think I've heard. Also never ever heard COCKERS. I'm sure it's real. I've just not heard it. I don't know many cocker spaniels, though, so this is perhaps not surprising. Anyway, the TRICK UP / COCKERS area in the SW gave me a little trouble, is what I'm trying to say, but only a little. Had a conversation about my wife's MAORI middle name (Ataahua) at dinner with friends earlier tonight, so that answer was personally timely (14A: Indigenous people known for their tattoos). I like to the ZOOT / OOZES crossing—something about the two Os going toward the Z, and then the two Os going away from the Z at a right angle. Looks cool. Clue on IAMB is fantastic (31D: One of four in "As I Was Going to St. Ives"). I was like "There were LAMBs in that rhyme? … oh … IAMB … OH! Wow, yes. that is true." I was less thrilled at being forced to remember "AMANDA," a song which always sounds 10 years older than it actually is. 1986!? How is that possible? (20A: 1986 girl's-name song by Boston)

Puzzle of the Week (last week's edition) — I missed last week because I was all the way on the other side of the country at a memorial service for my step-siblings' father (I was also visiting my own father). Sorry to give last week short shrift, since it feature amazing work by (once again) Erik Agard (some of the clues in his "Themeless 18" are just unreal—crazy good) and Andy Kravis (whose "Unlucky in Love" is a lot of fun and has a great revealer). Winner, though, was Peter Broda for a vowelless puzzle ("Vowelless #9") that just was something close to perfect. I have three words written on it, in various places: "awesome" "killer" and "wow." So you should do that puzzle.

Puzzle of the Week (this week's edition) — it was a good week. Trip Payne's Cuckoo Crossword (for Fireball Crosswords) was tough and entertaining and made me laugh over and over (Cuckoos are very wide-open grids filled with a Ton of totally made-up, ridiculous phrases, magnificently and absurdly clued in a way that makes them—miraculously, despite all their made-upedness, doable). Patrick Blindauer's April puzzle is a parody puzzle (find it here, under "Play"). Specifically, a parody of this NYT puzzle from last month. I didn't realize it was a parody at first, and thought "ah, that's pretty good." Then I found out about the parody angle, which revealed another hidden level to the puzzle. Really spectacular. But my winner this week is one of the best NYT puzzles of the year—a holiday puzzle done right: Andrew Reynolds' April Fool's Day puzzle. I was traveling when it came out, so didn't get around to solving it til the 3rd or so, but I'd already heard murmurs about how good it was. I opened it and was like "hmmm, circles … I don't know." Then I solved it. It's brilliant while also being simple, elegant, and utterly solvable. It's rare that you get a fancy trick puzzle that is also so accessible. I just loved it. So it wins this week.

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Happy birthday to my sister, who does not do crosswords.


Moly Shu 12:40 AM  

Agree all the way with @Rex. I thought the clues were the star of this puzzle. The fill clean, the theme good, the clues outstanding. The IAMB clue in particular, was fantastic.

My only hangup was at 1A and 1D. Had rap and ramp. AREA and MEDICINE fit so it took a long while to sort it out.

PB, you are the best, thanks.

allan 1:13 AM  

Wish I had been able to convince myself that this puzzle was as easy as it was. I saw PB1, and thought uh oh. I'll have to remember Rex's trick next time I see a Berry...good puzzle that is.

Mark 1:27 AM  

Would have finished sooner if I hadn't been sure that Shapiro is IRA (of course that's TAL's Ira Glass I was carelessly remembering), and therefore got all jammed in the NW without any jam or jamb.

Also if I hadn't thought that "Dieter" was a German guy pronounced "Deeter." Once the theme became clear, most of the themers dropped and slipped and burned in all better and tenderly.

Do any barbers still rub FOAM on faces?

jae 1:30 AM  

Smooth fun Sun.  Easy-medium for me too.  As close to zero dreck as possible and an amusing theme.  Right in the Sun. sweet spot!  I did have a bit of trouble in the NW corner where it took a while to see the JAM/JAMB pair and suss out MID STREAM.  Trying iRa @Mark and eRv before ARI didn't help.

retired_chemist 1:33 AM  

Agree with Rex. Solid, solid, solid. Easy-medium here too (which means almost twice Rex's time for me).

COCKERS is fine - normal dog show lingo, like peke (Pekingese) and pom (Pomeranian), both of which I think I have seen in NYT puzzles. I have yet to see weim, beardie, and terv (among other bits of onomastic shorthand) in a crossword, but maybe someday.....

Had NO NO for 100A, which made naming the Allman brother (100D) an uphill fight. Rough was my opposite of smooth (77D), so a bit of a hangup there too. CAL again - but no Jason Kidd reference today.

Just what it should be - a strong Sunday, quite doable with a bit of thought. Thanks, Mr. Berry.

Benko 3:12 AM  

I've gotta agree--solved the puzzle without looking at the constructor, then was surprised to see it was Patrick Berry. Although the theme was clever, it wasn't the kind of awesome puzzle I expect from the maestro.
I did the puzzles @rex mentions for puzzles of the weeks, and I have to say that the Blindauer was pretty amazing. I didn't get the whole awesomeness of it until Amy revealed it on her blog--truly inspired.
Also, that Broda vowelless was really killer. One of the toughest puzzles I've done recently but well worth it.
Also would like to give a shout out to Rexite @evan for his latest themeless, which was super-smooth.
Here's to @you-know-who complaining about AMANDA and DUANE as clued.

Anonymous 5:09 AM  

I know what a bedroom slipper is, but what the heck is a bathroom slipper?

Bob Kerfuffle 6:39 AM  

Fun puzzle!

Another weird example of synchronicity: Yesterday as I was doing this puzz, I was also listening to the NPR program "Ask Me Another." One of their questions involved a dance called "the Dougie" which I had never heard of in my life (though looking at Wikipedia later, I see it has existed for years), and then it pops up in the clue for 99 D!

@Anonymous 5:09 AM, and anyone else with knowledge of or interest in Japanese culture, you must go to Diary of a Crossword Fiend and follow the link for more on BATHROOM SLIPPERs.

chefbea 7:40 AM  

Must have been easy cuz I had it almost finished last night. Had a few mistakes...Plus for 95 across and Rap and ramp like @Molly shu.
Have a great recipe for spicy oyster crackers...think I'll make some today!!

Ted Cole 7:40 AM  

Loved the Colt Revolver!

Glimmerglass 8:32 AM  

leave onsentkI agree with Rex all the way. All PB puzzles are excellent, and this is no exception, but this is maybe a little less excellent than PB's usual. I find I can solve all PB puzzles -- eventually. This one came a bit quicker than usual, which is not exactly disappointing, but just not quite enough of a visit with the master.

Greg 8:43 AM  

One who bets is a bettor not a better. I understand that better is an acceptable alternate spelling, but it's so rarely used that it seems like a huge stretch for a theme answer. Also, no Hold'em player ever has said "I bet all". It's "all in". The puzzle played on the easy side but very dry... not enjoyable.

Unknown 8:55 AM  

Agree with Rex, and had the same experience with "When I was going to St. Ives"....I'm going to have to look up the rest of that now.

I also wondered about BATHROOM SLIPPER. Knew it had to be right, but was not familiar with the term.

Hartley70 9:10 AM  

Cute but really easy solve. I'm feeling smart today!

AliasZ 9:28 AM  

I enjoyed this one very much, PB1 or no. Being a PB1 however, I expected more from the theme. Nine of them are quite a few of them, so I decided I was cool with it as she was. The only one I had a slight problem with was ALL BETTER. According to M-W, the word is spelled bettor. This only outlier was placed in the center, and as a phonetic rather than a spelling theme, I quickly got over it. It also inspired these other potential themers:

UN CHARTER - Person removing graphs from the easel, at times?
TINA TURNER - Ike, while dancing with his wife, at times?
BABYSITTER - Newborn artist's model, at times?
GRAY MATTER - Senior framing shop employee, at times?
INDIAN SUMMER - Accountant from Mumbai, at times?
BATTERY CHARGER - District Attorney, at times?
SPEED SOLVER - Radar gun, at times?

Speaking of which, instead of rushing through puzzles to see how fast I can do it, I like to savor the process of solving, the cleverness of cluing, the unusual or rarely-seen words and phrases, etc. Today I really enjoyed "It's got problems" for TEST, "Expiration notice" for OBIT and "Current location?" for MIDSTREAM.

Like @Rex, I also loved the ZOO/OOZ crossing, as well as ODIOUS/ODE, DANCE/DANKE, NAIVE/OLIVE and ROVER/REVOLVER. In fact, the whole puzzle was a joy to solve. I expect nothing less from PB1.

Hungarian opera singer Sylvia SASS (pronounced shawsh, rhymes with "wash") displays her vocal prowess in the lovely aria D'amor sull'ali rosee (on the rosy wings of love) from Il trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

Not getting it.....

As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits:
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were there going to St. Ives?

Z 9:31 AM  

Chilly day at the ballpark, yesterday, so I poured my ABSOLUT into my hot chocolate (no ALMONDS) instead of having a Two-Hearted Ale.

With SL in place I really wanted my roomie to be a SLut. Sadly, it was not to be.

Norm C. 9:32 AM  

Puzzle was OK, no complaints. But I don't see the need for "At Times." It seems to me an affectation.

A "clumsy pharmacist" can be a "medicine dropper" just as Rex is a blogger. One does not have to be doing something all the time to be categorized as such. A poultry farmer is a chicken tender even when he/she is watching TV. I'm a guitar player, even now when I'm typing this comment. (OK, I'm not a very good guitar player, and I don't do it professionally, but still...)

Speaking of TV: Game of Thrones returns tonight. Let the good times roll!

Good day to all.

Mohair Sam 10:10 AM  

Played easy for us. Surprised to rip through a Patrick Berry like that. Very much agree with Rex's opinion today.

Stalled for a moment because we had "Rough" for RASPY, and we don't drink slurpees, and don't know super model's names. But we were saved because we did drink ABSOLUT when I had a PLUM job.

@TedCole - yes to loving the COLTREVOLVER clue. The "St. Ives" clue was awesome too, we proudly got it off the "I" alone.

Rex's reading about the mind sounds like Kahneman's work. His "Thinking, Fast and Slow" is a fascinating read about how we think and why, and how we can improve the process.

Nancy 10:12 AM  

Hey, Rex -- Today is my brother's birthday, too. Your sister and my brother have the same birthday! (He doesn't do crosswords, either, though if he did, he'd probably get good at them fairly quickly.) I'm leaving this site to go call him now.

joho 10:31 AM  

@Greg, I had the same thought at 65A and wanted to write in ALLinnER but didn't because 1. it was too short 2. didn't make a bit of sense!

I finished at STONE/TEST which was the hardest part of the puzzle for me. I read the clue for 'Missile launched at Goliath" too quickly and was looking for some fancy-dancy rocket name. And, "It's got problems" being a brilliant clue for TEST, took me a long time to sort out.

I liked the theme a lot and, as has been stated, being a Patrick Berry all answers are smooth and unforced.

Lovely Sunday.

Ludyjynn 10:33 AM  

I enjoyed the theme. Unlike @NormC, felt the puzzle title, AT TIMES, helped to apply it, as opposed to being gratuitous. For instance, a person getting out of a tub may never, ever be in danger of falling, but at times, could indeed be a "bathroom slipper". A sleeping sunbather, prone on his back, will never, ever be a "back burner", but at times, could change position and end up red. And so on. Different strokes...

A beautiful day in the neighborhood. Can't wait to get outside in the garden.

Carola 10:36 AM  

Fun. Especially liked BACK BURNER and ALL BETTER.

JAMB IAMB - sounds sort of Dr. Seussish.

@Z - SLOB instead of SLut = EROTIC SADNESS?

The Bardlett 10:39 AM  

@anon 9:29
Da dah da dah da dah da dah

Iambic pentameter.

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

Thank you!

Anon 9:29

GILL I. 10:50 AM  

This was like having a thin slice of Meyer lemon gently floating in your PG Tips while sipping it out of your grandmother's Royal Albert tea cup. So satisfying....So elegant and so yummy.
The only thing that was new to me was TRICK UP and I always have trouble spelling COKIE.
Thanks you PB1...

Loren Muse Smith 10:58 AM  

@Gill i.P. – well said! And I think this is even more elegant than meets the eye – textbook Berry. He's taken nouns that are fairly removed from their ultimate verb meanings: REVOLVER, CRACKER, SLIPPER, COUNTER or simply homonyms: BETTER ( I don't care if MW wants "bettor," this was my favorite entry), TENDER. . . and kind of reminded us of either what they mean as verbs or their alternate meaning. His choice of themers and their clues are excellent because he asks us to revisit the word from a different angle. I bet it's not as easy as it looks. ELECTRIC TOASTER or HAIR DRYER just wouldn't work at all.

This puzzle reminds me of his "The Meaning of It" Sunday puzzle a couple of years ago – take a regular phrase and shine a new light on it with really, really clever clues.

Rex – liked your picture of PEANUT BUTTER. How to clue *that*one, huh? Or CAKE BATTER, NOSY PARKER, PRIME NUMBER. . .

@AliasZ – good list! I'll add

Someone who rents a bunch of hotel rooms near each other? BLOCK LETTER
Ball and chain? FOOT LOCKER
Skinny hen? THIN LAYER

TEA "pot" before SET, like @Mohair Sam "rough" before RASPY, "Uris" before AMIS, "text" (book) before TEST (morning, @joho), "laid" before LIED. ;-)

Patrick – another winner. Thanks!

Oh, and one more


tensace 10:58 AM  

The puzzle was pretty straight forward, but I do tire of OBIT clues. The word bails out the puzzler and so it appears all too often and almost always with some groaner pun. While I know we've all lost love ones, some of us lost them suddenly and tragically. So for me when OBIT is tied to some corny pun like "expiration notice", which sounds more like a dairy issue, it comes off as cruel and insensitive.

John V 11:01 AM  

Easy. Pleasant.

jdv 11:08 AM  

@102A Not all woks have two handles. I also had ira at 19A. Needed all the crosses for 53A circus performer. Overall, this puzzle was lackluster.

noreen 11:37 AM  

What is a 'vowelless' puzzle? I checked the link and saw answers and clues with vowels....

evil doug 11:52 AM  


I think you're an iamb short.


RnRGhost57 11:55 AM  

An easy and enjoyable Sunday.

Milford 12:16 PM  

This played pretty medium, I had many of the same missteps as others with poor iRa Shapiro before ARI, and the BATHROOM SLIPPER. Also had MONaSKI/aRLON at first before I was able to parse out MONOSKI (never heard of this term).

Interesting that many here get pre-determined expectations based on the constructor. The only time I even think about that is if I happen to notice that it's a Steinberg puzzle. Otherwise, I know of many constructors' names, but still don't think of their style (even after a couple years of regular solving).

Really loved the clue for CENSOR = "Offensive line striker" - perfect type of crossword clue, IMHO.

Lovely Sunday, overall.

mathguy 12:40 PM  

Enjoyed it. I counted 12 delightful clues. A little disappointed in the theme entries and their clues, however. Had never heard the term MEDICINEDROPPER but I checked and it's legit. The only one I really liked was COLTREVOLVER.

Agree with all you pros: the fill was outstanding.

Unknown 1:02 PM  

No googles. No errors. Lots of head-slaps when clues came into focus. It is soooo nice when the ambiguity dries up in an instant. Thanks to Patrick Berry and Will Shortz for this much-needed confidence builder. I rate it medium DOABLE. 3 hours, and a genuine sense of accomplishment.

Steve J 2:13 PM  

Same impression as most everyone else: Clean, cleverly clued, and a nice theme that wasn't particularly sparkly and just a little short of the very, very high standards we've all come to expect from Berry. I try to avoid looking at constructors' names before I solve (not always successfully, today included), but I think I'd have the same impression of the theme even if it were someone else's puzzle. I do like how each theme phrase is completely unforced and well in the language, however.

This was mostly easy, although I slowed myself with Pan Am instead of US AIR (it's subtle, but I love that the former name of US Airways was clued as a competitor to a defunct airline, rather than a contemporary one), and a pot instead of a WOK.

Toughest part was the NW, with almost exactly the same problems @jae had (except I knew ARI, since I listen to NPR a lot).

Nice Sunday. Now off to check out PB2's puzzle Rex mentioned.

Fred Romagnolo 2:24 PM  

@Evil, as usual, is marvelous; who else stopped to count them?Rough for raspy, wondered if "heinus" could be right for odious, but Horace's ode straightened me out. I'm not sure if the word "lake" should be in the clue if the answer is
sea." I liked glue and goop being near each other with oozes at the top. I, too, can never remember how Cokie spells her name. I agree with everybody that colt revolver is a zinger.

Dick Swart 2:28 PM  

zoot suit with a reet pleat

Loved the reference!

Anonymous 2:28 PM  

Sailed through, but needed Google for EMMET_/BLU_O.

Neither of those was familiar to me, so an unfortunate cross.

Z 2:32 PM  

An interesting contest.

evil doug 2:55 PM  

See, Fred? Kind of nice guy I am, I was concerned that poor anon 9:29 might humiliate himself trying to sell that pitifully incorrect definition--maybe to a teacher or something...

"But it's got to be right, professor, the Bardlett assured me!"

"I hate to break it to you, stupid clown;
An iamb short demands I grade you down.
The penta/tetra error must be paid.
Now, tell our class the diff of 'lain' from 'laid'...."

Serving the blog since 2008

mac 7:47 PM  

...and it my sister's birthday as well! She is celebrating in Oregon; just yesterday I lamented I should have surprised her and showed up.

Very nice Sunday, and I don't often feel that. Not terribly easy, I worked around it, but the theme was easily found and fun.

Lori S 9:12 PM  

Fun puzzle. Interesting title, which led to a mis-start on the themed answers. My trajectory through a puzzle is to get what answers I can throughout, which will usually give me enough crosses to figure out a themed answer or two. The first word I got in one of the themed answers was "oyster". I knew that's a name of a type of Rolex, so I spent the next ten minutes convinced that the puzzle's "at times" had something to do with types of watches. Once I realized that wasn't the case, they were very fun to figure out. Cheers!

OISK 10:04 PM  

Enjoyed this one very much, although I didn't "get" oyster cracker at first. Just wonderful fill, clever clues, colt revolver, Haha, Thanks again, Patrick!

Tita 10:58 PM  

Fun all around.


BACKBURNER last to fall, and funnest.

Qosmonaut 12:28 AM  

I find it curious that whenever Rex knows the author he's polite and deferential, even when it's an obtuse and poorly written example such as this. Calling it a PB3 is about the worst criticism we can expect. On the other hand, if it's a new constructor and there's one answer Rex has never heard if, then heaven help her (or him). I find the blog entertaining, but the commentary uneven, slanted, and usually dead wrong.

Gardening Sandy 11:36 AM  

I found the color descriptions really off. Peridots are chartreuse, which is a long way from olive. And maroon bricks? Really?

Anonymous 2:07 PM  

An elephant at the zoo, at times= peanut butter!

Anonymous 4:39 PM  

I give up. What's the clue for 44 Down, please?

Bob Kerfuffle 5:02 PM  

@Anonymous 4:39 PM -

44. -- --- .-. ... . : MORSE
In Morse code:

-- (M)
--- (O)
.- (R)
… (S)
. (E)

from WEB's New York Times Crossword Solution @

Anonymous 8:27 PM  

I would like all of you to note your times. After hearing Rex's time I'm developing an inferiority complex .

Z 8:52 PM  

@anon8:27 - my best is around 6:00 on a Monday. Saturday best will be around 25:00 or 30:00 upwards to all day. I solve in the paper mostly.

paulsfo 5:28 AM  

I did all you IRAs one better. Joseph Shapiro, NPR investigative reporter and one hell of a nice guy, lived across the hall from me at Carleton College, so I did JOE -> IRA -> ARI.
BTW, David Welna, also a long-time NPR reporter, attended the same school in the same era (the Late Mesozoic). Let's hear it for liberal arts education!

I liked the clues "Goes to court?" and "Flick site?"

Ah. I just this minute figured out why a JAMB is an "Entrance side." :) I was stuck on a side of a building.

I thought it was fine and enjoyable, but not amazing.

Anonymous 4:35 PM  

My face lights up when I see Patrick's name on a puzzle, but this was a huge disappointment. Unoriginal and uninteresting theme, some disputable clues, and way more trivia than he normally gives. Normally as soon as I see his name I resolve not to Google because I know I can get all the trivia from fill. This time I was stumped and blocked over and over again by trivia that I couldn't get by fill, that was essential. Very disappointed this week!

spacecraft 11:44 AM  

@tensace: I am sorry for your loss. Still, we can choose to be offended by almost anything, if that's what we really want. This has become the Age of Being Offended. How sad for you that you have bought into it.

On to VAINER (?) things. How would you use that? Lessee...

"You're so vain, you're even VAINER than that apricot-scarfed idiot in Carly Simon's song."

OK, I'll buy it. I'm less READY to accept TRICKUP. Never heard that one. Seen plenty of tricked-OUT people--and cars--but not UP. Does one, um, TRICKUP for a PICKUP? Maybe, if their pickup is tricked out.

Had to read the blogs to recall the oriental custom of BATHROOM SLIPPERS, so that one's good. FOAMRUBBER; man, that's going WAY back. That's OLD old school. Bottom line? A stretch here and there, but nothing to throw a flag over. And yes, to be sure, the total lack of dreck fill marks this--without looking--as a Berry. My only w/o OCCURred when my total bore started out as a DRag, which I think fits the clue better than DRIP.

The best for last: the piece de resistance, fittingly located in the center. ALLBETTER, that line most memorably delivered by Bonnie Hunt as Paul's wife in "The Green Mile" after John Coffey cured him, is just fine as applied to poker. Better and bettor are interchangeable; no harm, no foul. Fan of the game that I am, I have been--all too often, I'm afraid--a 65a.

Thanks, as usual, you ever get bored being thanked so often? Ah, we all have our crosses to bear...

Dirigonzo 1:32 PM  

I totally fell for the misdirection at Offensive line striker and went all in with CENteRS, but I don't mind being fooled by the constructor as long as the crosswords let me work myself out of the mistake. What was totally unforgivable, though, was popping in COonERS (as in coon dogs) as the long-eared dogs while my COCKER, Buddy, lay next to me on the couch. He's still sulking.

Deuces full of fives is not good enough to make me ALL BETTER.

Solving in Seattle 2:51 PM  

Did this puz on Monday morning after a beautiful PacNW weekend of sun and golf. Was getting ready to toss the Sunday paper in the recycling and peeked a look at the puz. Saw that it was a PB - Joy!

My favorite theme answer was OYSTERCRACKER. Too bad the best local oyster farm (Westcott Bay on San Juan Island) went out of business. Sold to a developer. Rats!

27A almost had me thinking rebus. I was convinced that it had to end in "ists." Cellists? Violists? Harpists? Bassists? All too long. PB fooled me with BASSES.

My only other trouble spot was mainly pilot error on my part. Had Rough for 77D and (Heidi) bLUM misplaced in 85D. Think how long it took me (I solve in ink) to make it ALLBETTER.

Do ATOMs decay? SiS is not a physicist.

@Z, I prefer your first roommate, too.

A pair of treys. Out.

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