Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2016, Patrick Berry


I'm always happy to see Patrick Berry's name on the crossword, and today's did not disappoint. It's been a while since a theme answer made me actually guffaw out loud, and that happened not once, but twice in this puzzle.

The theme is a straightforward one: take a phrase where one of the words begins with the letter A, and split that word into two, such that the A becomes the indefinite article. Reclue the resulting new phrase, and voila. And yes, my favorite came at 46A: "Conger eel? Au contraire!" (THATSAMORAY). Completely ludicrous! I love the clue, with the snooty French phrase, and the flip of the song title is brilliant.

My other favorite came at 114A: "Major shopping centers aren't among the prizes!" (YOUCANTWINAMALL). Also very amusing. This is the only answer where the original phrase does not have the letter A in it. Otherwise, there is a nice consistency to all the candidate phrases in that in each one, the A of the original phrase is an "uh" sound, so the transition to the article is not jarring. The only possible exception is CHANGEOFADRESS, where if the emphasis is on the first syllable of "address", it doesn't work. But since the other pronunciation is also common, I don't have an issue with it.

None of the other theme answers had the same level of "aha!" on figuring them out, but they were still enjoyable. And the rest of the puzzle is pretty clean, befitting Mr. Berry's style. There aren't any real sparkling entries. I liked the pair of poets, both with quotations (PLATH and ELIOT). The two toy companies was also fun (KENNER and MATTEL). I've never heard of ROGERMUDD, but his name was inferable from the crosses.

1A: Tired runner? (CAR) - it almost works. I understand a car "runs". Still, it's a good attempt to liven a 3-letter answer, so I'll give it a B.

If you haven't seen Deus Ex Machina (6D - AVA), I highly recommend it. It's a really interesting movie, and the performance by Alicia Vikander is worth the price of the rental on its own.

- Colum


  1. 57:48
    APATCHYHELICOPTER was one of my favorites, being former military and having once stood on a hill while an Apache helicopter rose over it, very, very close to me with its nose pointing in my direction; quite an impressive site, and I'm glad they're on our side. Excellent theme and well-done without much junk at all. One note I can offer is that I filled in from crosses the __RKA at 84A Down-filled garment and couldn't stop thinking "burka," even though I'm pretty sure they're not down-filled. That slowed me down a bit, but I still finished in my 45-60 minute preferred Sunday time frame. I didn't love ARIVALDATE too much, but all of the others were excellent.

  2. I also loved THATSAMORAY, partly because it uses those two pieces of crosswordese in its clue - conger and eel. Hah! The rest are all pretty good. RESISTINGAREST... it's funny because it's true! Guffaw...

    "Trig term" is such an odd clue for ANGLE. Why not "geometry term?" Or, really, anything else?

    Loved "Colonial home, you might say" for HIVE. Also enjoyed SIDLE, SPARTAN, and the pair of "Land line?" (COAST) and "Continental divides?" (OCEANS).