We have a good feeling when we see Patrick Berry's name. I believe Frannie once called one of his puzzles "Berry clever," and today he didn't disappoint. It went down a little fast for a Friday, maybe, but at least we had a smile on our face while doing it.
Right off the bat, I tried "Quick" for 1A: Milk additive (BOSCO), but I couldn't make the Q work. Oddly enough, there was an "un-U'd Q"(Look, Colum! Now I've written it, too!) just a little ways away in that same quadrant! And it was in the NW that we started (albeit erroneously) and finished today. I don't know why, but the name AXTON (14A: Hoyt who wrote "Joy to the World") actually fell out of my head after we got a few crosses. URI (21A: Altdorf's canton), however, was entered only because OXNARD (2D: City that hosts the California Strawberry Festival) sounded plausible and a little bit familiar.
Other than that, though, there were no real trouble spots. I liked seeing JACKLORD (6A: TV actor who lived, appropriately, in Hawaii) in there, and I loved seeing OVALTINE (11D: Milk additive). Mmmm.... malty.... I think maybe Mr. Berry had "Quick" in mind when he put NESTLES (20A: Gets ensconced) into the grid, thinking about the milk trifecta, but then the clue got changed. OK, maybe not.
ABOUTFACE (17A: Reverse order?) was nice, 33A: On-deck circle? (LIFEPRESERVER) - also good, and what about 55A: Light-reflecting shade (WHITE)? Very nice. But the best might have been 58A: Unwelcome benchmark? (WETPAINT). Brilliant. I'll gladly trade a few ULNAE, URI, and STADIA for entries like those. I hated SLUMDOG (35D: Title sort of person in 2008's Best Picture), but DENEUVE (23D: Star of Buñel's "Belle de Jour") makes up for it.
Would it be too much to ask for puzzles like this on Wednesday? How about just three days of themes, Mon, Tues, and Thurs, (ok, and Sunday), and three days of themeless? It would open things up a bit, maybe, and Wednesday could shake its stigma of "red-headed stepchild."
p.s. We read in the Wordplay blog that yesterday marked Will Shortz's twentieth anniversary as editor of the NYT Crossword. We each learned his name before we knew each other's. We both had subscriptions to "Games" magazine when we met, and for many years we each kept our own personal subscription, just so we didn't have to share the crosswords. Sometimes we would race each other, but mostly we each just wanted to enjoy them for ourselves. Eventually, we consolidated into one and learned to share, but sometimes, especially with a fun puzzle like this, one is left waiting, hoping, that the other will hit a substantial roadblock and be forced to hand it over.
Thanks, Will, from both of us, for so many years of quality puzzles.