Patrick Berry’s Sunday, 12/8/13 crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)

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December 8, 2013 by manvspuzzle

Title: TWO OUTS

Theme: Each theme entry has two circled letters.  *With* the circled letters, the entry reads as one word.  When those circled letters are removed (“two out”), the entry reads as another word.  The clues are written to take into account both words, ?-style, and it’s all just hilarious.

Theme Entries (circled letters in bold):

  • 20-A: Red wine drinker’s paradise? SHANGRILA (SANGRIA SHANGRILA)
  • 22-A: Employee at the Ron Paul archive? LIBERTARIAN (LIBERTARIAN LIBRARIAN)
  • 24-A: Pitch that fixes everything? CURVEBALL (CUREALL CURVEBALL)
  • 26-A: Dollar bill featuring a portrait of Duran Duran’s lead singer? SIMONLEBON (SIMON LEBON SIMOLEON)
  • 47-A: The one puppy that can read? LITTERMATE (LITERATE LITTERMATE)
  • 53-A: Creator of perfect whirlpools? MAELSTRO(MAELSTROM MAESTRO)
  • 83-A: Minor-league championship flag? PENNYANT(PENNYANTE PENNANT)
  • 86-A: Alienate a New Jersey city? EASTORANGE (ESTRANGE EAST ORANGE)
  • 109-A: Begat a soft place to sleep? FEATHERBED (FATHERED FEATHERBED)
  • 113-A: “Charge!,” to Duracells? BATTLECRY (BATTERY BATTLE CRY
  • 117-A: Satisfying finale coming to pass? HAPPYENDING (HAPPY ENDING HAPPENING)
  • 119-A: Labeled idiotic? BRAINDEAD (BRANDED BRAIN DEAD)
© The New York Times

© The New York Times

***

Sweeeeet.

I could talk about how Patrick Berry is my favorite constructor, but that would be lame.  It’s like claiming  the Yankees as your favorite baseball team, but you live in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  They’re just your favorite because they’re always so darn good.

But still — I love Patrick Berry.  He’s definitely a crossword rock star.  So I was happy to solve this this morning (full disclosure: in my past, non-blogging life, I would often skip Sundays cause they take so frickin long).

On to the puzzle:

Just great.  Berry’s hallmark, as seasoned solvers know, is his unbelievably clean fill, and I’d add his special attention to clean *short* fill.  This puzzle is no exception to that.  What’s the worst entry in this puzzle?  Maybe IRINA?  EERO?  But look at the 3-letter entries.  Is there really anything there that the average person wouldn’t know?  I just re-scanned and found nothing.  Seriously, I know from experience how difficult it is to construct a 21×21 puzzle without a single 3-letter stinkbomb.  It’s a sign of care, experience, hard work, and talent.  You may or may not know this, but the payment for a NYT Sunday puzzle is $1,000; the Times got way more than its money’s worth on this one.

Regarding the theme: loved it.  I didn’t know what was going on for the first half of my solve and had a great “aha moment” when it all finally clicked.  Really unique, and a neat way of using circled letters.  I’m hoping that the upcoming Christmas vacation I’ll be taking will be something a 20-Across (my favorite entry).  Lots of theme to chew on here, and they were all fun little puzzles on their own.  Very cool.

Yesterday, Emma Stone was immortalized with her full name in a puzzle; today, Huguenot rock star SIMON LE BON.  He’s had is convenient last name in puzzles before, but never the whole thing.  I assume that wherever he is today, he’s glowing.

One more thing about Berry before I’m done: have you ever noticed how he’s 10 times better than almost everyone — way more talented than and deserving of the big bucks than most people, way more in a position to openly discuss the strengths/flaws of any particular puzzle venue and/or editor, and yet never complains and never talks smack (at least not publicly)?  In fact, I never really see him saying anything, ever.  He just consistently produces great work.  Most of us could probably learn something from that, me included.

Today’s constructor/editor power duo quietly let their work speak for itself.  Awesome.  Thanks, guys!

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