Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014, Patrick Berry


It almost goes without saying, once you look at the byline, that this was a well-done puzzle. Things that seem difficult at first, like 27A: Into very small pieces (FINELY), 31A: It might be beneath your notice (BULLETINBOARD), or 1D: Basic thing (ALKALI) turn out to be the most basic things! And 35A: Put right on paper (INDENT)! And 18A: Observances of the law (STAKEOUTS)! And 15A: Commercial blockers (EMBARGOES)! …

There are also some things that are not so obvious, like GAMMON (3D: Decisive board game victory). This word, heretofore unknown to me (except in its more common combination form), has many colorful definitions, the first of which is used here. As a noun it is also a ham, and/or deceitful nonsense. As a verb it means to humbug (my favorite), or to fasten a bowsprit to the stem of a ship. "I had just gammoned Ol' Sully and was enjoying a bit of gammon when Rochester came down and told me that I was needed up top to help with the gammoning, but it turned out to be nothing but gammon … they had already done it!" … I know English has a lot of words, but sometimes it seems like maybe we could use one or two more.

Good colloquial fill in the SW with BIGBUCKS (31D: Amount in six figures, say), WIPED (34A: Really tired), and UPACREEK (32D: In dire straits). And I was all set to complain about DEMOB (6A: Discharge from the R.A.F.), but Frannie knew that one without hesitation, so I guess it's not completely uncommon. Especially, maybe, to those who read a lot of Trollope? Who knows? Colum?

Anyway, we say this a lot, but we'll say it again, Patrick Berry is one of the best. It's always a treat to see his name come up.

- Horace


  1. 26:38. Yes, I agree, another outstanding grid from Patrick Berry. Got in with FOURDOOR and DRY, and then entered MOOED (30A: Was bossy?) as a whim, but it turned out to be right. I'm not sure that "bossy" shouldn't be capitalized, but I love the clue anyway. Then it was down to the SW, where TSK gave me UPACREEK, and BBC (41A: English channel - another very nice clue). TENSOR was interesting, PANDA was a gimme, which opened up the SE with PENALTYSHOT. Finally I worked my way up and W, and the NW was the last to go. I spent a good 10 minutes of my time staring at that corner, even after I had ARMREST, THREEFOLD, LOOSELIMBED, and INN. I could not for the life of me figure out that "Basic thing," and I couldn't think of the Patel character - I was stuck on Piscine Patel from "Live of Pi". Finally ANGST went in, which broke it. Great pair of words at 1A and 1D!

    DEMOB is not a word that Trollope would have been familiar with - probably the thought of the R.A.F. would be astonishing to him. I have not come across the term in my life either. Can't complain though. Wouldn't be sporting.

  2. 23:45
    We got in with the above-pictured Archibald LEACH. But it was the entire East side that kind of just fell into place, starting with DEMOB, with which I, too, was not familiar, but Annie, like Frannie, seemed to be quite comfortable. DESTINATION came with just the D and S and that opened up INDENT, TODATE, and PENALTYSHOT and so forth. On the other hand, we really dragged through the West for some reason. OKEYDOKEY was unexpected, but EGAD hardly seems the right expression for that. I did like GAMMON, as I was not particularly familiar with its many definitions. And, yes, those long answers were great; accessible and well-clued.