Punic war agitator / FRI 12-26-14 / Game played by British schoolkids / Acronymic weapon name / Tanyard sight / Love ballad from 1973 album Goats Head Soup / Vessels of Napoleonic war

Friday, December 26, 2014

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: WESSEX (42D: Alfred the Great's kingdom) —
Wessex (/ˈwɛsɨks/Old EnglishWestseaxna rīce, "kingdom of the West Saxons") was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the south of Great Britain, from 519 until the emergence of a unified English state during the early 10th century. (wikipedia)
• • •

Just over 6 minutes, and that's with maximum family post-dinner distraction all around me. My nephew got like half a dozen nerf … swords? Just an arsenal of brightly colored cutlery. Anyway, there's barely been a minute all day long when those weren't being sliced, thrown, balanced on one finger, etc. all over the house. Two kids are watching "Twilight Zone" right now, and even now, both have "knives" in their hands and are swinging them, balancing them, tapping them. Honestly, it's a ****ing nightmare. And still: 6 minutes. I didn't even bother to remove myself to a private place to solve. Full chaos all around me: 6 minutes. That's how I know this was Easy. There were some sticking points. ROMANO for ASIAGO (1D: Often-grated cheese). BOMB (?) for SLOB (4D: Home wrecker?).  And then two words that I just can't accept. CONKERS (!??) (why would anyone know this? Is this in Dickens novels or something?), and LONGIES (oh no. no no. no. I'm wearing them right now, I wear them virtually every day from November to April, and no. "Long johns," yes. LONGIES? Yuck ugh and hell no. This is a beautiful grid, generally, but CONKERS and LONGIES made me grimace. Also, no abbr. hint anywhere in the MAYO clue, which I also deeply dislike (29D: Ingredient in Marie Rose sauce). I also simply have never ever ever heard of Marie Rose sauce.

Gimmes were reasonably plentiful, though: GENA, USA, GRAMOPHONES, ESPN. Then, with just the initial letter in place: AKIMBO, SWEPT, "ANGIE," NOVELLA. And one I got going, there was traction everywhere. NW and SE were hardest to get into, given the limited access routes. But GRAMOPHONES and MR. DEEDS got me out of the NW, and NOVELLA (38D: Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," e.g.) got me into the SE, so there just weren't any scary parts. It was just nice. A nice way to come down from a pretty massive Christmas meal. I've said it before and I'll say it again, to get a middle section like that, with answers from 6 to 14 letters long all running through each other, to come out that smoothly takes incredible talent and artistry. Berry, as usual, makes it look easy. Nothing flashy. Just clean, unforced fill. Nice.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:25 AM  

Very easy Fri. for me too which would have been even easier if I'd replaced smith with DEEDS sooner.  That was my only erasure and CONKERS was the only WOE. 

Delightful, my only regret is that it was over too quickly.

Anonymous 12:33 AM  

Why was BONKERS not used instead of CONKERS?? Doesn't make sense.

wreck 12:36 AM  

Not quite Rex's time, but a super fast Friday for me too! CONKERS threw me for a loop as well and TORO had me stumped for a long time as I was thinking on the lines of tractors instead of mowers. It was one of those puzzles that I had many correct answers entered in the first time, erased them and re-entered them again in several places. A really fun solve!

Baryshnikov 1:25 AM  

American Balllet Theater?

DocRoss 3:10 AM  

I played conkers when I lived in England during middle school a hundred years ago, so it was a gimme. You string up a horse chestnut and try to crack your opponent 's nut off his string. Fun times.

John Child 7:21 AM  

Yup, I fell for MRsmith too, and convinced myself that [Head set?] was rushesS. I felt so clever despite the obvious problem with spelling. But that NE corner was the only hold up to a quick Friday solve.

The four long, lovely answers in this puzzle - GRAMOPHONE, SAVINGS AND LOAN, SEAT OF THE PANTS, and SOFT SCIENCE - are all first-time appearances in the NYT. Wow.

LONGIES bugged me a bit, but I see no reason to complain about CONKERS except "I don't remember it," which is really weak reasoning.

Boxing Day bliss. Thanks Mr Berry.

evil doug 7:34 AM  

"Seat of the pants" is probably rooted in early aviation, before reliable flight instruments were invented. If a pilot flew into the soup, the only way he could try to judge his plane's attitude was by the pressure he felt on his backside. Light in the seat? You might be inverted. Problem was, you might also be right side up but pulling negative g's by pushing your nose over.

That's for you, my anonymous little puppy. Now, speak! Good boy!

Christmas truce is over,


mathguy 7:50 AM  

Not many gimmes (26 squares for me) but almost all the long entries were evident after uncovering just one or two letters.

Wasn't really in the mood for a toughie last night anyway.

Juan Valdez 7:51 AM  

Hey, Evil!
Have you read St. Exupery's "Wind, Sand and Stars? He was one of the pilots who flew the mail over the Andes in the early days. At night.

Good stuff, and the quintessential SEAT OF THE PANTS aviation.

Mohair Sam 8:09 AM  

Quick, clean post-Christmas Friday. Pretty much totally agree with @Rex today.

Thanks for the factoid @John Child - it's amazing that 4 of the long answers have never appeared in the puzzle before.

In the You-Learn-Something-From-the-Puzzle-Everyday department: Learned CONKERS in the puzzle, and the source of the term SEATOFTHEPANTS from @evil doug.

Another quality Patrick Berry puzzle - how's he do it?

Unknown 8:14 AM  

I always cringe when I see Berry's name. For some reason, we're just not on the same wave length (new hire for Trainee and disc jockey for Gramophone are just two examples). Still, I slogged through and would have gotten to the promised land had I not crossed ILamorata with coLkers. In truth, if ones' ladylove lives in Illinois, could I be technically correct?

Dorothy Biggs 8:42 AM  

Relatively easy...and by "relatively" I mean everything except the NW with its CONKERS and INAMORATA. The latter being stuck in a loose leaf binder deep, deep in the recesses of my mind's Words I Know From Xwords file. Seriously. I have never used that word in my life...and yet...I know it, albeit barely.

I also didn't know MRDEEDS. But managed to somehow get that from the crosses.

My Boxing Day nit (which everyone ought to have) is SEATOFTHEPANTS. As much as I hate the "ones" addition to answers, this really should be SEATOFonesPANTS. I know, that makes it too long. Which only goes to show that Mr. Barry went with "the" because "ones" was too long.

You can do stuff by the seat of your pants, too. Seems like pants, in that sense, needs some ownership. Unlike say, "out of the blue," you stuff by the seat of your pants...not anyone else's, and not some generic, generalized pair of pants.

Someone help me with understanding how "Thrift" equals an S&L.

Now I am going to listen to ANGIE to get that earworm out of the head...which is to say MY head.

Susierah 8:54 AM  

I thought this was going to be a dnf . Those two long acrosses almost did me in! I kept at it, and bam, done! I still get so excited and proud to finish a Friday with no googles or errors!!! That feeling will never get old, or will it? I always enjoy Patrick Barry!

Teedmn 8:58 AM  

@NCA President, I agree on your nit. One wouldn't say "By the skin of the teeth" either. But it is a nit; it didn't affect the solve or the smoothness of this puzzle.

My only real hold up was the NE. Everything above DEEDS was blank. I had already put in TRESSES and then erased it because I expected 9A to end in D. Suddenly ANGIE appeared in my brain and after a brief flirtation with urGED, the rest fell.

Liked the clues for 10d, 14A, 19a, 33a and 57A. Like @ Rex, didn't like LONGIES, and "thrift" didn't equal SAVINGS AND LOAN for me either. I liked the mini theme involving tanning PELTs. Thanks for a nice Friday, Mr. Berry!

Unknown 9:02 AM  

Slog for me. Medium challenging. I am also not on Berry's wavelength. In retrospect there is nothing terribly challenging here, but I just couldn't put it all together. A blinding sinus headache didn't help, but that's not my excuse. Oh well, I still liked the puzzle.

MDS 9:25 AM  

Fyi there is a cooker championship at the village of Aston in Northamptonshire every October. Great fun to bash your opponents conker

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

"Easy"??! F*ck you.

Anonymous 9:32 AM  

Confidently entered "Romano" for 1D and it was off to the races with some really nice creative answers that fit beautifully. STUNG seems more like "hurt" than "offended." I suppose they often go together, but still...
Fun freakin' finished friday. Gimme FIVE.

Whirred Whacks 9:36 AM  

The clue "Letter's capital?" for RENT MONEY was worth the price of admission.

INAMORATA is always an enjoyable answer. The images it conjures up!

CATO's "Carthago delenda est" ("Carthage must be destroyed") was one of those Latin phrases I had to learn a half century ago. (Cato got his wish with Rome's utter destruction of Carthage in the Third Punic War 149-146 BC.)

Nice puzzle, Patrick.

Nancy 9:40 AM  

I found it pretty easy, too, but enough of a challenge to be fun. Very breezy and colloquial, no obscure words or names, the kind of puzzle I like.
A word about solving context. Yesterday's puzzle was a rebus, usually my most favorite thing, but I was solving on a bouncing train, after a holiday almost devoid of sleep, and in my car was The Brattiest Child in the World Possessed of the Loudest, Shriekiest Voice. Did I enjoy yesterday's puzzle, a really nice one? Not so much, to tell the truth.

You know 9:40 AM  

I may make a seat of the pants estimate. I've never made a seat of one's pants estimate. A sore loser, on the other hand, is not necessarily upset more than once.

JC66 9:40 AM  

@NCA President & @Teedmn

FWIW, per Google:

By the seat of ones pants 421,000 hits

By the seat of the pants 42+ million hits

John Child 9:45 AM  

Seat of the pants as an adjective is fine. An S&L is a thrift institution: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savings_and_loan_association

quilter1 9:49 AM  

Yeah, CONKERS was unknown but came out in the wash. I always know I can finish a Berry puzzle even if my first swing through produces little. I just have to get my head in his space. I disagree about LONGIES. That's what we always called them growing up. Must be regional.

jberg 9:50 AM  

Savings and Loan companies, along with savings banks and the like, are collectively referred to as 'thrifts;' it's short for 'thrift institutions.'

Unlike many, I thought CONKERS was a great entry -- I was just happy to see it in a puzzle. I believe CONKERS are what the Brits (or at least the English) call the nuts of the horse chesnut. We had them in my small town in Wisconsin, but our only game was to throw them at each other, which was enough to get me the answer.

@NCA President -- you navigate by the seat of your pants, but more adjectivally you can refer to 'SEAT-OF-THE-PANTS navigation."

My brother's late father-in-law flew supplies over the Himalayas in the Second World War. He was a terrific pilot, but rather casual about it (he had been known to hand the controls to one of his kids so he could take a short nap). My father learned to fly during the 1950s, and was more by-the-book about it. When they flew together, Dad would show up with aeronautical charts and Tony would say "I can't use those - don't you have a road map?"

Charles Flaster 10:01 AM  

Easy/medium with two writeovers . Letterman for CHAPPELLE and Smith for DEEDS.
Liked OPED crossing SOAPBOX as they are kissin' cousins. How about SEAT OF THE PANTS with SOFT SCIENCE? Loved it.
Liked cluing for CIGAR, SORE LOSER and RENT MONEY which could be the "aha" moment of the year.
Always enjoy PB and this went quicker than usual even with the preponderance of white squares.
Thanks PB.

Maruchka 10:03 AM  

Maybe it was the late martini last night, but today felt like patches of THICK SMOKE (good clue!) amid the clear sailing. Not always, not all at once, but more head scratching and googles (3) than is usual with the great PB . AKIMBO (another good one!) supplied CONKERS, but - who cares? Apologies to Brit Kids everywhere..

Fav of the day - SAVINGS AND LOAN. Remember the thrifty 80s?

@JuanV - It is a lovely, poetic book. I like Beryl Markham's West with the Night, too. Less poetry, more urgency.

Lewis 10:08 AM  

Factoid: In CONKERS, a horse chestnut (in its shell) held by one player dangles from a string like a pendulum, while the second player tries to break it by swinging his own conker on a string in an attempt to break the first player's. This is a serious sport, with world championships played the second Sunday of October every year.

Quotoid: "Okra is the closest thing to nylon I've ever EATEN. It's like they bred cotton with a green bean. Okra, tastes like snot. The more you cook it, the more it turns into string." -- Robin Williams

joho 10:10 AM  

Great write-up, Rex! You took the words, CONKERS and LONGIES, right out of my mouth.

@Anon. 12:33 a.m., I think "B" works well there. More obscure it could be a "Z" with the clue, "Screaming Yellow ------. But the more I think about it, we learned a new charming British term. Thank you, Mr. Barry for that and another wonderful puzzle.

Lewis 10:14 AM  

Classic DB cluing on RENTMONEY, OPED, SAVINGSANDLOAN, AHA, and CIGAR. This kind of cluing always brightens my day.

Some areas dropped quickly, others put up quite a fight. Learned CONKERS, never heard anyone say LONGIES. I'm guessing he did ACT instead of ABT because ACT is less junky. That CONKERS/INAMORATA cross gave me trouble.

Another PB delight.

Dansah 10:27 AM  

The first upset is losing (as in a loss to an inferior opponent). The second upset is the definition of sore (as in angry).

John V 10:33 AM  

I mean, PB puzzles are simply the best. They seem easy and fun because they're just brilliantly made. Lovely puzzle.

Ludyjynn 10:47 AM  

Interesting solving experience for me; NW and SE fell immediately, but it took quite a while to suss out the SW, Center and finally, the NE, making for an overall rating of med.-chall. I roared w/ laughter when I read that Rex solved in 6 minutes! That'll be the day!

Other than the awkward LONGIES, the puzz. was loaded w/ SCADS of lovely words. Perfect Friday.

Thanks, PB and WS.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:48 AM  


I just wouldn't give up MR SMITH, and even though I had CIGAR and EGGED ON and strongly suspected SWEPT, I couldn't see my way out of that NE corner.

And I have never, ever heard of ANGIE, so that could have been anything at all.

Other than the twenty squares in that corner, quite a nice puzzle!

BillyC 10:57 AM  

@Douggie ---

Arf, arf!,,

Now tell us again why you were relegated to flying C-130s (familiarly known as "trash haulers" by REAL AF pilots)?

Love, BillyC

Frank Lynch 11:01 AM  

I run a helluva Samuel Johnson quote site ( www.samueljohnson.com ) and I was shocked to come up empty on the SJ clue. I must be rusty.

Frank Lynch 11:02 AM  

Oh, and I see I also got thrown by "Longies," having settled on "woolies." Ugh.

Fred Romagnolo 11:06 AM  

Hands up for Smith over DEEDS. Otherwise no serious problems. Berry continues to overwhelm. I always say LONGIES and use "thrifts" as a plural noun. Learned CONKERS and ANGIE, but will I remember them? I still have some 78's, but without a GRAMOPHONE, I can't play them. Slight hangup because I thought Mercia was Alfred's kingdom.

Phil 11:13 AM  

woolies for LONGIES i go to Myanmar often so i think of the traditional long dress worn there by men and women.
Longies as a var. sp. would be a better clue. (Normal sp. is longyi)

Norm 11:17 AM  

Okay, CONKERS has been talked to death. Let's deal with MAYO. I say it's become a word in its own right and no abbr. hint was needed.

Phil 11:18 AM  

poorLOSER slowed me down as well

AliasZ 11:24 AM  

I wholeheartedly APPROVE of this excellent puzzle by VETERAN constructor PB the First. A delight from beginning to end, CONKERS notwithstanding. Besides, INAMORATA reminded me that love CONKERS all. Why is "conquers" spelled with QU? Nobody says "conkwers." It would be much more honest to spell it CONKERS.

My MR. DEEDS was John Doe at first, but I couldn't find a record holder to fit GRAJ_____.
I have no problem with LONGIES, I use both the word and what it describes whenever needed.
Of the two "Hide" and "Hides" clues I was sure at least one referred to an ANIMAL'S hide.
How many vixens did Santa have on his team? I forget.
A character as devious ASIAGO does not exist anywhere else in literature.
SEAT-OF-THE-PANTS management describes one in which you make and change your decisions ASIAGO.

Let us listen to the Christmas Cantata "Christum wir sollen loben schon" (we should already be praising Christ), BWV 121, by Johann Sebastian Bach, from his series of Leipzig Christmas cantatas. This one, composed for the Second Day of Christmas, was first performed exactly 290 years ago today. In this recording we hear the Collegium Vocale Gent founded by Belgian conductor Philippe Herreweghe in Ghent in 1970, who also founded the orchestra called La CHAPPELLE Royale in 1977. That should be "chapelle" with one P, of course.

Enjoy the leftovers.

Joseph Michael 11:30 AM  

For a themeless, puzzles don't get much better than this. Liked the aha moment that came with "LETTER'S CAPITAL" which was a clue that baffled me for a long time and the payoffs of GRAMOPHONES and SOFT SCIENCE. Too bad I thought Alfred the Great's kingdom was TESSEX which resulted in HOT for "TRENDY" and AHIMALS for "FABLED CHARACTERS."

Z 11:31 AM  

I didn't realize CONKERS was in the puzzle until I came here, so I'm thinking the crosses were fair enough. I also didn't figure out how RENT MONEY worked until post solve. I NAM. OR AT A was a WOE, but it looked vaguely familiar so I'm guessing it's been in a puzzle before.

Typical Berry. Lots of fun. Agree with Rex on LONGIES, I figured it's Maine thing, or a Georgia thing.

@Billy C - not that you probably care, but you come across as very jealous of Mr. Doug.

retired_chemist 11:32 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 11:34 AM  

6 minutes. Aren't you special.

Rules of talking Smack 11:37 AM  


Rule #1 - Don't talk smack if you've never played the game. You just look like a wannabe idiot.

mathguy 11:38 AM  

Whirred Whacks, Lewis, Maruchka: I join you in loving "Letter's capital." It belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Also, Whirred Whacks: Thanks for Carthago delenda est. One of my Latin teachers used that phrase often as an example of a certain Latin construction.

As I am writing this, I am listening to a Nat King Cole CD. The current cut has this line. "It's a Barnum and Bailey world, just as phoney
as it can be, but it wouldn't be make believe, if you believed in me."

BillyC 11:41 AM  

Mr Z --

Thanks you very much for your observation. After wrestling for a while on how to respond, let me say two things

- Douggie invited a response in his post; and

- many eons ago, I was also in the AF, and what I flee was a lot more fun, and took a lot more skill, and (at times) was a lot more dangerous than flying a trash hauler.

-- Bill

retired_chemist 11:43 AM  

Easy. Very smooth. Nothing much out of the ordinary and what there was (CONKERS and LONGIES, I'll give Rex) had pretty much rock solid crosses.

SLOOPS was a lucky guess - seems like there ought to be a bunch of five letter boats (xebec comes to mind) but SLOOPS stayed anyway. Nice factoid about the STEN gun, which I got from SLOOPS.

Bollixed up @ 45A for a while - knew it was F something, F two was clearly wrong, and the next three letter digit I thought of was ten (forgot six but that wouldn't have helped). That stayed far too long and made the SE slow.

MAYO is reported in my dictionary as a noun (informal) in itself and not necessarily an abbreviation, so I'm fine with 29D as clued. Not that I know what Marie Rose sauce is either.....

Thanks, Mr. Berry.

John Child 12:29 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
RooMonster 12:31 PM  

Hey All !
Cracked me up when I saw the easy rating! Seems others found it easy, also. Well, not me, it fell into the hard column for me. Did get the SE corner fairly easy, after sussing out SCIENCE. Next was SW corner, and after uncovering the three X's in the S, had flashbacks to the Meta Week puzzes. But then remembered this was PB1, not 2!

My big problem area was the NE. Had nothing forever, so had to look up Capra, which got me MRsmith. Still nothing, had to Goog ANGIE. After some more time, started to suspect smith was wrong, so reGooged Capra (as you see, I'm. not a big old movie fan), which got me DEEDS. Didn't help I had emItted for PAIDOUT. Wanted ____OUT for that clue, and also EGGEDON, but with the smith in there, nothing worked. Also wrote in turntables for GRAMOPHONES, which I knew was wrong because it didn't fit. But I solve on paper in pen on work days, so that sat there throwing me off for a bit. Sorted it all out with those three Googs. Whew!

NW corner put up a little fight, I was thinking INAMORATA had at least one set of double letters. INAMORrATA? INnAMORATA? INAMORATtA? Tou get the gist.... (Same with GRAMmOPHONE...)

So, liked, typical FriPuz hardness.


Unknown 12:44 PM  

Challenging. Ultimatley undoable. I was so totally and comfortably on the wrong wavelength that I went down very, very deep into the wrongness. Gave up after an hour with only the SE in the bag.

[Hides] skinS for VEILS
[Yuletide team member] cupid for VIXEN
[John Deere competitor] mack for TORO
[Inert gas whatnot] argon for XENON. 50-50 there.
[URL ender] ??? any universal resource locator three letter file or domain suffix will do. No help. NET was a disappointment. Was hoping for doc or ppt or xls or htm or gif or pdf or png.
[Page with many views] home for OPED
newhirE for TRAINEE
[Longtime] forever then eternAl for VETERAN
[Uninteresting] dull then dRy_ for ARID

Guesses that worked: PRECISE, SOFTSCIENCE, RENTMONEY, although I gave up on PRECISE to make cupid work, which forced me off skinS but got me a step closer to o_ _ MAIL for the Outlook takeover. oneMAIL? Never heard of it.

Don't doubt your native intelligence, guys. It came through for nearly all of you this time in a puzzle that was a lot trickier than maybe you noticed! Keep up the good work.

For my part, I'm sorry I blew a Berry. His puzzles are sooo nice, and with the exception of the URL clue and MOUE (which makes me do a moue) this was another great one. I guess I'll have to wait a month for my next try.

Steve J 1:01 PM  

I'm in the easy column as well. Everything pieced together smoothly, and even missteps (like many, I had Mr Smith, and I also had AveRage instead of APPROVE) were able to be cleared up quickly.

Like others, I loved clues for RENT MONEY, CIGAR, OP-ED.

I'm a bit surprised that LONGIES reads wrong for most. We said LONGIES all the time when I was growing up in Minnesota's long, awful winters. Maybe it's a regional term. Or maybe it was a 70s/80s thing.

Paul 1:12 PM  

Rex, when I was a student at Harpur (never can call it BU) I was both a psych and soc major for about five minutes each. They were SOCIAL sciences. What's with this soft science nonsense? See ya on Vestal Parkway.

'mericans in Paris 1:30 PM  

Medium difficulty for us.

Grew up in Maine but never herd of LONGIES. Nonetheless, could figure it out from the crosses. Spent some time in England, where we learned CONKERS and heard people speak of thrifts (always in the plural). Even SOAP BOX is NOWadays used more in London than New London.

Don't mind MAYO, but still don't get how SORE LOSER equates to getting upset twice.

Agree with the others about the brilliance of the cluing for CIGAR, RENT MONEY and AKIMBO.

A high FIVE to MR Barry.

Masked and Anonymo2Us 1:42 PM  

yep. Spot on, @63. I was just over 6 min., also. We did drive thru a time zone change, while solvin. Also, heartily agree: this would've been a real cinch, if accompanied by sword fightin and Twilight Zone episodes.

Very good themeless from the Berrymeister, but did lack three essential ingredients, normally required for the coveted M&A themelessthUmbsUp rating. Problems...

* Below average on vitamin U, the essential buildin block of all grid life.
* ARID supply of weejects. Sweet lil conversation starters.
* Insufficient palpable desperation. Preferrably in a corner area. LONGIE/CONKERS/RESENDS is a valiant effort, considerin their lengths, tho.

But take heart, Patrick. There are some other mitigatin qualities, that can pull a themelesspuz outta the tarpits of pewitism. A short samplin of top extra qualities...

* Hefty G-count. G (Scrabble lowly 1-pointer) is the Rodney Dangerfield of consonants. This doesn't get the press coverage it deserves. Alas, only 3 G's today -- thus, limited help, there. I'll give PB1 a pass, this time, since he may not have known yet about this requirement.
* Pot references. A popular ploy, lately. I'm gonna give this puz a high-enough vote... for its CONKERS entry.
* Pangram. Nope. But I admire the two Xed-out corner squares, so... close enough.
* Loopy grid patterns. I'll give this one a narrow pass, because of the cute flippers, on the sides.


Top little-known uses for nerf swords...
(Another time. I wouldn't wish to digress...)


BillyC 1:46 PM  


I worked in Paris (first in the Eighth (a short walk from the Etoile), then out at la Defense when our outfit got bigger than the 50-person limit. Did you live in the city? We lived out on the RER in le Vesinet -- lovely spot.

-- Bill

Unknown 1:51 PM  

On more: catv for FIVE. I got to high ground on that one, though.

Tita 1:57 PM  

Anyone else for Letter's capital = uppercase?
Waiting for my glaSSES to arrive so
that I can see again kept me from TRESSES.

This was a dnf - needed hints as to what letters were wrong to finish in the NW.
Love the misdirect for AKIMBO.
Also had newhirE.

I penciled in wOolIES, (hi @FrankL & @phil) knowing it had to be wrong, then thought "Could it be fOotIES?

I think we used to play CONKERS in New Rochelle. A neighbor had a horse chestnut. Though we conked each other's noggins more than w did each other's nuts...

Once at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, a gentleman dressed as a spandex devil was going on about how trees are taking our water from us - we need to eliminate the trees before they do the same to us. Maybe he had ben conked in the head once too often as a kid.

And liked the reference to the Beaufort Scale as a way to toughen the clue for FIVE. @RetChem - the F is for Force.

@Rex - sounds like an optimal family get-together!

@joho - what you said!
Thank you Patrick.

Z 2:02 PM  

"SOFT" as opposed to the "hard" SCIENCEs, I.e., those where measurement is easy.

If I left the idea that this was easy I should clarify. My time was around 30 minutes which is medium plus for me on a Friday, but I did the first bit late last night post-holiday cheer, so probably actually medium. I had some of the same missteps as @Casco Kid - skins, dull, and socks instead of soles. The X gave me XENON, didn't know enough to err with argon first. Was hoping for Patti Page when I saw the clue. PAID OUT, SAX and MOUE each went in and out a couple of times before turning out to be correct.

Melodious Funk 2:45 PM  


I was also an AF pilot during the late '50's early 60's. I don't usually admit it anymore. What you say is always spot on.

Only the dry-cleaner knew about the seat of my pants at the time. Nowadays my wife does.

M and Akimbo 2:55 PM  

@63: They evidently also offer:
* Nerf battle axes.
* Nerf maces.
* Nerf shields.
* Nerf crossbows.
* Nerf catapults.
* Nerf jousting lances.
* Nerf stockades.
* Nerf stretch-racks.
* Nerf iron maidens. (special order only)

Day-um, dude. Count yer blessins, that all them rugrats got was the swords! Altho... could put the stockades on yer next Christmas wishlist, maybe...?

har. Primo write-up. Twilight Zone rocks. See also Outer Limits creature-of-the-month offerings.


Last Silver Conker 3:18 PM  

* Nerf stockades: Ages 9 and under. Some bolting to floor required. Optional ipad holder.

* Nerf stretch racks and iron maidens: For small pet use, only. Fifteen pounds and under. See lengthy SPCA warnings, comments, and anecdotes, on side of carton.


ArtO 3:19 PM  

Always nice to find a doable Friday. Great cluing as already noted. But, if you can do this in six minutes, why didn't you finish higher than 63rd?!?

OISK 4:20 PM  

Ah, Patrick and I, as usual are SO on the same wave length. Started puzzle at Avenue M station ( Q line) and was done before Atlantic Avenue, pretty much fastest Friday ever. Something about the subway seems to stimulate my crossword brain. No product clues, no hip-hop slang, TV characters...never heard of "Goats head soup or Angie, nor of conkers, but that didn't matter, especially when we have a clue like "Letter's Capital" for "Rent Money." Oh, THAT kind of letter!! When I was majoring in chem in the 1960's we often referred to "hard sciences" vs. "soft sciences." Inamorata always reminds me of a film in in which a delicious young Shirley Maclaine sings to Jerry Lewis "If our lips could meet, Inamorata..." (Artists and Models. Dean Martin sings the song also.)

David from CA 4:37 PM  

Your English literature background is obviously sorely lacking! Suggest checking out the Modesty Blaise series by Peter O'Donnell. Once read one will never forget that Willie Garvin wins at Conkers by cobbling up a special conker made of lead and painted appropriately to conceal this fact.

For the finest use of the word "inamorata" in all creation check out: "The Hippopotamus Song" by Flanders and Swann:

Not sure how "trendy" equates to NOW. Eh?

evil doug 4:48 PM  

My wife always liked "the seat of my pants" in my flight suit. Glad to call you a comrade in arms. Evil

evil doug 4:52 PM  

What can I do, Z? He doesn't even like my cookie stories....

Mr. D

pfb 4:54 PM  

This was medium for me because of the NW corner (conkers?; never heard of it and I read a fair amount of Brit Lit and watch BBC shows). The rest was a pretty fast solve (but by no means six minutes; my distraction was MLB Network in the background, by choice). Liked AKIMBO, RENT MONEY, and SAVINGS AND LOAN.

Arlene 4:54 PM  

Today was easy for some folks - and really tough for me! I hate when that happens. I barely was able to get a toe-hold into this puzzle - had to Google just to get started. But I did finish - with a bit of Googling, but there's really not much to Google in this puzzle. So I finished mostly on my own steam - but no way would I call this one easy!

Mohair Sam 4:59 PM  

@David from CA. Yes! The Hippo song from Flanders and Swann has the best use ever of INAMORATA (one of my favorite words, btw). Thanks for the memory jog.

For it's mud, mud, glorious mud . . . . . . .

When we meet new people I frequently introduce my wife as my inamorata - she loves it (she says it beats being called 'The Little Woman').

wreck 5:26 PM  

Last night when I said it was "super easy," I DO mean "for me" on my own scale! (It still took me about 35 minutes!)
My first entry was "SKIVIES" for LONGIES - turns out I was mis-spelling them anyways!

evil doug 5:30 PM  

I'll try it, Juan. You ought to check out "Thud Ridge"--great flying account of F-105s in Vietnam. D

Benko 6:00 PM  

Iron maiden!
(plays air guitar)

I think G is worth two points in Scrabble though.

Jp 6:09 PM  

Easy? 6 minutes? Not me. I filled most of the bottom before I started googling. Still did not finish.

RooMonster 7:40 PM  

Yep, just looked it up, G is 2 points.


Z 7:47 PM  

I love today's OED WOD: Réchauffé. @Chefbea and @Chefwen - Lends the day after the holiday a certain je ne sais quoi, n'est-çe pas?

Speaking of which - @Evil - I am reminded of that old Hindu saying: "Baisez-les s'ils ne peuvent pas prendre une plaisanterie." (hopefully google translator got that right - also, not for the gentille amongst us)

Leapfinger 3:52 AM  

@Z, that may be the first time you've made a warmed-over statement, is it? Agreed that it has a certain jenny-say-coy.

otoh, I don't think that the French phrase is a direct translation of 'can't TAKE a joke'. Cannot, however, think of what the colloquiallism would be, tant pis.

Unknown 7:39 AM  

Our home delivery of the INYT being delayed by Boxing Day - Or December 26th as it's more commonly known - I asked my husband to print the puzzle from the web. He kindly obliged altough it was magnified to about 150% so it was basically huge. I thought this might have been why I found it so easy - Perhaps because I wasn't squinting to read the clues or it just looked like something out of a children's activity book. Having now read Rex's review however I know that it was just because it was pretty easy. Easy and enjoyable for me, not only because I know what 'conkers' is, but I also liked being reminded that Santa named one of his reindeer 'Vixen'. I'm considering blowing up all the puzzles from now on.

Teedmn 9:41 AM  

My French dictionary, for the phrase "can't take a joke" has "ne comprend pas la plaisanterie" ... Doesn't seem to have the correct sense of the word "take" to me but since when do I understand French?

Z 9:51 AM  

@Leapy and @Teedmn - computerized translators are notoriously bad at idiom, especially "Hindu" idioms - but I was trying to show some care for sensitive ears. I don't know if that particular phrase has a French analogue, but my French was never very good even when I was there.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

I didn't know the French joke. I thought they only snipe. I'm kinda of agreeing with anonymous who posted around 9 ami in terms of the bragging about six minutes. Even if I instantly got every clue I simply cannot write or type that fast. It makes me feel the same way I do when I go out to dinner with the dh to a very nice restaurant and order the tasting menu. He gobbles down even the most delectable of meals in about five minutes and watches me eat for the next hour. Spoils the pleasure in savoring every morsel.

Jon 4:51 PM  

Six minutes?
Yeah right. I took about two hours, on and off.
Got it done and thought I must be some kind of prodigy here.
Six minutes? (Shrivel shrivel)

Best, Jon

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

PB's recent puzzles have been disappointing and getting worse month by month -- and this from a huge PB fan! Always "clean and unforced" as Rex said, but why so easy? This one was full of gimmees. More like a Monday or Tuesday. My eyes used to light up when I say "Patrick Berry". We need the old PB back.

spacecraft 11:46 AM  

Gee, what happened, Stacy? Old man throw you out again? Oh well. That's spells for ya. They just don't last.

On to today, with that brutal center clue "Letter's capital?" I needed reminding that parsing "letter," and for that matter "number" can be tricky within the confines of the late-week NYT grid. However, the AHA! moment did arrive, and make me change liFeSCIENCE to SOFT.

I wouldn't call it easy, despite another gigantic kickoff gimme in CHAPPELLE. Cluing kept my brain on its toes: "Longtime" required thinking of VETERAN as an adjective. Quite OK--I APPROVE--but the word is a noun 95% of the time. The X-words (!) really helped in that area.

Nothing much to quibble about--is there ever in a PB?--but RESENDS did mildly disappoint. The right column, TRESSES WESSEX, seems crutchy. But these are nits. Let's say A-.

DMG 1:23 PM  

Places to go and things to do kept me from reading all the above, but did want to check in on the PB work. Like almost all his efforts, I found this one "impossible" until, suddenly it was done! Only had to check into see if CONKERS could possibly be right. sure someone explained it above, and will get back later to learn something. I love puzzles like this, a challenge, but doable if you just hang in there

rondo 1:55 PM  

What a difference a day makes! This is puzzle construction and cluing near its finest.
But 6 minutes?? Knowing all the answers now I don't think I could fill in the squares in 6 minutes. Much less read the clues, too. Took me considerably longer, but it was a really pleasant finish.

One write-over, urGEDON instead of EGGEDON, but quickly fixed.
GENA Rowlands a yeah baby in her day.

These days I could hardly be accused of being cool, with it hip, NOW, and wow. Nor trendy.
I still even use my HOTMAIL address.


sdcheezhd 2:22 PM  

They must have decided to give everyone an easy Boxing Day. LONGIES, boo, especially when LONGPJS fits.

rain forest 2:42 PM  

I'd call it "medium", with the entire North easy. Misspelling GRAMaPHONES held me up for a while until I forced myself to put in SHOES, which is weak, but OK.

Up here in Canada, we have never had S&Ls, so that LONGIE was tough for awhile.

PB is an amazing cluer (word?), as so many seem misdirective at first and then end up being perfect.

As a lad, I played CONKERS until a finger got broken, and then I decided to fight the bastard and broke a tooth.

Nice Friday.

Tita 3:10 PM  

To the syndication-solvers...thought you would want to know about the passing of Bernice Gordon.
She is eloquently remembered here:

From David Steinberg:

And from Deb Amblen over at Wordplay:

Ginger 5:21 PM  

Thank You @Tita, the tribute from David Steinberg was especially lovely.

One of the major problems in Syndiland, is that it's tough to be original or clever following the many outstanding posts by 'real timers'. Yet, that's the beauty of this blog, and all the characters that reside here.

This was not easy, but since it's a PB I knew that adding a letter here and a word there would pay off eventually. And it did. Thank You Mr. Berry.

Margaret G 6:44 PM  

Being a Brit, I got "conkers" immediately from just the initial c. At the time, I said "why would Americans know this?" No surprise, then, to see all the complaints about it when I came here. Loved the puzzle.

Florence Henderson 7:27 PM  

I'm sorry too that I blew Barry.

Waxy in Montreal 8:49 PM  

Thank you @Tita. A sad loss indeed.

Also played conkers as a young lad in Worcestershire but the regionalism there for it was obly obly onkers - no idea why.

Relatively easy Boxing Day special, only real complication for me other than MRSMITH arising in the cheese/ladylove area.


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