Two-For-One Special

New York Times crossword March 25 / Constructed by Patrick Berry

Today’s puzzle was an odd one. And not just because I ended up doing it in red ink with a Darth Maul pen.

The theme by veteran constructor Patrick Berry involves letter-play that’s a little esoteric. Basically, you take the first word in each two-word answer — a word that contains two of the same letter — and double a different letter to get the second word. So a “Soft yet easily breakable ‘Star Trek’ creature?” is a BRITTLE TRIBBLE (50 Across).

Tribbles weren't really brittle in this famous 'Star Trek' episode.

To make it a little more confusing, sometimes the doubled letters did not appear together in the answer, as in DOMED MODEM (“Hemispherical computer add-on?” 66 Across) and RODEO ORDER (“‘Ride ’em cowboy!,’ e.g.?” 68 Across). Sorry if that’s not clear. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one having trouble articulating this “2-for-1” theme.

Others: TRIVIAL TRAVAIL (“Ordeal that’s no big deal?” 23 Across); BARREN BANNER (“Large cloth sign with nothing on it?” 27 Across); MATTEL MALLET (“Toy hammer?” 29 Across); SMALLER SLAMMER (“Big house that’s not as big?” 79 Across); ETHANE ATHENA (“Goddess of gas?” 99 Across); CORRAL COLLAR (“Get part of one’s shirt under control?” 102 Across); and PURSUES PERSEUS (“What the Gorgon Stheno does in Greek myth?” 108 Across).

When You Gotta Go Dept.: “Army heads” are LATRINES (33 Down). “Can of Newcastle” is LOO (80 Down).

English Lit Dept.: Shakespeare figures twice in this puzzle — “King of Naples in ‘The Tempest’” is ALONSO (16 Down), while “‘I hate the Moor’ speaker” is IAGO (84 Across), from “Othello.” And Charles Dickens — whose bicentennial occurred last month — is the author behind ROSA (“___ Bud, schoolgirl in ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’,” 82 Down). It was his last novel, left unfinished at his death.

I should have realized my free Darth Maul pen would write in red ink.

Silver Screen Dept.: “Hitchcock thriller set in Brazil” is NOTORIOUS (19 Across). “Phoebe of ‘Drop Dead Fred’” is CATES (49 Down). “What only one Best Picture winner has had” is an X RATING (73 Across), which of course refers to the Dustin Hoffman-Jon Voight movie “Midnight Cowboy.” And I’m going to throw in COMA (“Unresponsive state,” 9 Across) to this department, too, since we watched the depressing “The Descendants” at home last night.

Red Ink Dept.: I got a Darth Maul pen in my Cheerios as part of a tie-in to celebrate the apparent re-release of “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace,” this time in 3D. I didn’t realize it wasn’t a traditional blue- or black ballpoint until I started the puzzle, but I stuck with it anyway. Now looking at the grid is kind of hard on my eyes. Lesson learned.

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