Friday, May 10, 2019

LAT 8:15 (GRAB) 


NYT untimed (Vic) 


The New Yorker 11:13 (Vic) 


Universal 6:41(Vic) 


CHE 12:17 (Vic) 


Inkubator  5:40 (Jenni) 


Helen T. Verongos’s Inkubator crossword, “A Rite of Spring”—Jenni’s write-up

Inkubator • 5/9/19 • “A Rite of Spring” • Verongos • 050919 • solution

A little birdie told me that this is a debut crossword! Welcome to the land of published constructors, Helen! There’s no sign of first-timer jitters in this smooth grid.

All the theme answers have hidden words, which are easy to spot in the circles. For tonight’s performance, the role of the circles will be played by orange highlights.

  • 17a [Britten’s operatic tale of a fisherman] is PETER GRIMES.
  • 26a [Like the eyes of a Casanova] is SMOLDERING.
  • 38a. Text preceders are (or were) INSTANT MESSAGES.
  • 50a [Cosmetics and textiles, for two] are INDUSTRIES.
  • 57a [Eco-friendly] is SUSTAINABLE.

GRIMEMOLDMESSDUSTMESS, and STAIN are all addressed in the rite of spring cleaning. I’ve never heard of 17a; Wikipedia tells me it premiered in 1945 and had a “landmark” production at the Met in 1967. It is frequently performed at the Royal Opera. I’ll leave it to our opera fans to opine on its obscurity or lack thereof. All the other theme answers are securely in the language, and the opera title was easily inferrable from crossings; even if you didn’t know KUROSAWA, you could guess the name had to be PETER. All in all a strong theme. Question for the group: who actually does a spring cleaning? We do not, aside from cleaning out the cabinets before Pesach.

A few other things:

  • As we’ve come to expect (and appreciate) from the Inkubator, many of the clues reference women when they could have referenced men. SAM is clued as [Nickname on “Bewitched]. PARIS references Josephine Baker. We have Jamie LEE Curtis instead of the general or the safer side of a sailboat. We are reminded that the OBE has been bestowed on Judi Dench and Zoe Caldwell. There are also a number of women’s names in the grid. This is worth commenting on until it’s so common that we stop noticing it. We’re not there yet.
  • There’s no wordplay in the theme, but 11d [Pungent holey order?] for ONION BAGEL made me laugh.
  • 25d [Last two weeks of Lent for some Christian sects] nearly tripped me up. It’s PASSIONTIDE. I am not Christian. I know that the Passion refers to the last days of the life of Christ and I initially filled in TIME instead of TIDE. The crossing is 64a [Potential election triangulator, in the U.S.] and that took me a while to parse. It’s IND (for independent). Ah.
  • I liked 35a [“I’m guessing that’s ___?”] for A NO rather than the Mexican year or the Wheel of Fortune purchase.
  • I also really liked 58d [What’s a Grecian ___? (dad joke intro)] for URN. My dad would have told that joke. I think he did, more than once.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Patricia Saunders co-designed the ARIAL font in 1982.

Andrew J. Ries’s New York Times crossword #0510—Judge Vic’s writeup

Andrew J. Ries’s New York Times crossword, 5-10-19 #0510, solution

So, I was just sitting around casually solving Andrew’s themeless monster here, finding the upper left to be totes impossible. Finally pulled it all out in 37:06, but who’s keeping time, right?

And then it dawned on me that I had volunteered to review this item. So, with a second hour now starting to pass since it came out, I am scrambling. Bear with me.

This was a very enjoyable puzzle. The highlights for me were these:

  • 5a [Trip … or start a trip] SET OFF–I love this kind of dual-definitional clue. And, of course, the answer is a coveted short ILSA. Another Team Fiend member recently footnoted this word in one of my writeups. I coined it years ago as an acronym for “in-the-language stand-alone.” It encompasses phrases, hyphenated words, and compound words. Not included in its ambit are words that are no more than a root and a suffix or prefix, such as …
  • 18a [Release from a dock] UNMOOR–This was the worst clunker in the bunch, imo. YMMV. You may say, “Excuse me while I go unmoor my dinghy.” I don’t say it. Or hear it. Or read it.
  • 22a [Captain Morgan competitor] RON RICO–Being unfamiliar with either of these brands of rum, I learned something.
  • 26a [Resting spots?] BED SORES–Doesn’t pass my breakfast test (Mel Rosen once rejected a puzzle of mine because urology was one of the answers), but it’s an 8-letter ILSA and fair game, objectively.
  • 30a [Classic battleground] PURPLE STATE
  • 33a [Decades-old synth-pop group named for a fashion magazine] DEPECHE MODE–I was not familiar with this answer, so more learning for me.
  • 35a [It’s pulled by students before graduation] SENIOR PRANK–This came with a little effort, as I did not know this was enough of a thing to have generated its own term.
  • 46a [Diamond in the rough?] SAND LOT–Clever clue here! I grew up hearing of sand-lot baseball and, before researching the term, discovered that I was playing it every weekend. There does not have to be literal sand in the area. Any vacant lot will do.
  • 3d [One might sense bitterness] TASTE BUD–I forget now why this one gave me so much trouble. It’s a great clue, though.
  • 4d [Arpad ___, eponymous creator of an international ratings system] ELO–This I’d never known of, and it was a key stumbling block for me in the upper left. It’s nice to have a clue for this answer other than the Electric Light Orchestra.
  • 8d [Certain shoe inserts] ODOR EATERS
  • 9d [Outdoor security system component] FLOOD LAMP
  • 23d [Queens neighborhood with a floral name] ROSEDALE–My preferred clue for this would be [Mississippi Delta home of ***] and I’d insert the name of a girl who stole my heart when I was 12.
  • 31d [Glinda’s portrayer in “The Wiz”] LENA HORNE
  • 37d [Sheikh-down of the F.B.I.?] ABSCAM–Great clue here!

Superb work, Andrew and Will! 4.5 stars!

Brian Thomas’s Universal Crossword, “East Coast”—Judge Vic’s write-up.

Brian Thomas’s Universal Crossword, “East Coast”–5-10-19, solution

Another synonym theme, I think … with a long reveal. Though, at this moment, I cannot reconcile the title with the theme. Maybe taking a closer look will help:

  • 16a [Fraudulent accusation] TRUMPED UP CHARGE–The third word here is key, as are synonyms for it coming up. And they all are to the far right in the phrase of which they are a part; could that be the east coast angle?
  • 26a [Top-notch] FIRST RATE–So, we have charge and rate. Followed by …
  • 36a [Fish and chips, e.g.] PUB FARE–…fare. And I just had an aha moment. I’ll share it in a second.
  • 45a [“These are the exact words …”] AND I QUOTE–Cute ILSA here. I was thinking it might be a first-timer, but nope. Looks like it’s been used thrice before. So, we have charge, fare, quote, and rate, and about each it might be said that …
  • 60a [Showcase Showdown show, and a hint to 16-, 26-, 36- and 45-Across] THE PRICE IS RIGHT–…they are synonymous with price and they are indeed on the right end of their phrases (and if those phrases were maps …)

Good stuff elsewhere includes


Fun! 3.5 stars.

Will Nediger’s The Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “A Study in Scarlet”–Judge Vic’s write-up.

Will Nediger’s The Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “A Study in Scarlet,” 5-10-19, solution

I like this puzzle, even though its theme is easily guessable quickly. Best way to illustrate this, plus my like for it, is to look at the theme entries:

  • 20a [When 52 Across becomes stigmatized?] RED LETTER DAY–YMMV, but when I saw that someone was stigmatized in a puzzle with Scarlet in the title, my mind went straight to “Hester Prynne puns.”
  • 28a [Shocking consequence for 52 Across?] GETTING AN A–I was a tad disappointed with this clue, as it just felt like something electrical was called for. Getting an A is not shocking to everyone.
  • 34a [What 52 Across becomes after giving birth?] MOTHER OF PEARL–The literality of this clue-answer combo (Hester’s child was in fact named Pearl) justifies my disappointment with the previous one. IMO, of course.
  • 41a [How 52 Across might refer to her marital bond?] ROGER AND ME
  • 52a [Puritan protagonist of an 1850 novel] HESTER PRYNNE


3.5 stars! Nice going!

Rich Proulx’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

“Dot to dot” Grid art is fairly common, though not in the more “everyman” LA Times crossword. However, today features a TBIRD, a bird shape made out of all of the Ts in the grid. It’s a clever piece of wordplay, but it means one aha for the entire puzzle. I can see this theme being somewhat polarizing.

The execution of this theme seems to have resulted in a lot of annoying short answers (and some medium), particularly ones with T’s in, unsurprisingly. To wit: [Native of Riga], LETT – no indication of it being obsolescent; [Early smartphone], TREO – really short shelflife, bygone technology models; [Bars in court], ESTOPS; [Three-engine plane], TRIMOTOR.

Tough names: [FCC chairman Ajit __], PAI – newly crossworthy? Because I haven’t met him till now; [Wyatt of “People of Earth”], CENAC.

[Confidentially informs], BCCS. No indication of abbreviation – must be Friday!

Most unusual answer pair: excellent BEERME, coupled with similar BITEME.


Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword—Judge Vic’s writeup

Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword, 5-10-19, solution

Today’s New Yorker was a comparatively breezy solve for me – just over eleven minutes. Let’s look at the highlights:

1a [Competitive expressions] GAME FACES
15a [Romantic’s credo] I LOVE LOVE
17a [Lost tourist’s aid] STREET MAP
20a [Ghanian fabric that became a Pan-African symbol] KENTE CLOTH
40a [Whenever you require] AS NEEDED
45a [“What does your lost item look like?”] DESCRIBE IT–This one, more than the others, has a green-paint feel, imo.
52a [Crocheter’s frilly creation] LACE DOILY
56a [Devoid of mistakes] ERROR-FREE
58a [Totally boring event] SNOREFEST
12d [Universal plasma donor’s blood type, often] AB POSITIVE
27d [Tennis feat named for a Williams sister] SERENA SLAM

Great work, Erik! 4 stars.

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17 Responses to Friday, May 10, 2019

  1. Lise says:

    NYT: I have seen UNMOOR used in a metaphorical sense, meaning the feeling of being disconnected from reality. That it was clued literally, where it is less often used, was ironically a big help in my solve.

    This was a difficult puzzle, but I enjoyed chipping away at it. I appreciate the challenge, which seemed appropriate for a Friday.

    • R says:

      I feel like that’s usually in the passive/adjectival form of UNMOORED, as in “feeling unmoored in a new city” or “unmoored from responsibilities.” A quick search found many examples of UNMOORED compared with very few examples of UNMOOR, UNMOORS, or UNMOORING.

        • R says:

          The passive use would be tagged in any corpus as a verb, as in “He is unmoored from his responsibilities,” even though its use is nearly identical to the adjective sense. The uninflected UNMOOR is far below either of those uses and has been for decades.

  2. Dave G says:

    The NYT flowed very smoothly for me. I love how there was not one iota of crosswordese in this puzzle. I think it may have been my fastest Friday ever at 13:49 (I’m not sure because of a false “best” time recorded on the NYT stats – has anyone else encountered this particular webpage failure?).

    • Michael Tong says:

      Yes! Apparently my fastest saturday time is 6 minutes… that one’s gonna stay for a while

      (I have an email thread with myself where I keep a running record of my actual fastest saturdays)

    • CR says:

      Ditto. I had the issue with the phone app, but I attribute it to living in China at the time and requiring a VPN to access the app. My best times are ridiculously impossible (for me). Especially Friday and Saturday, both under 4 minutes.

  3. pannonica says:

    NYT: “ROSEDALE–My preferred clue for this would be [Mississippi Delta home of ***] and I’d insert the name of a girl who stole my heart when I was 12.”

  4. Trent H. Evans says:

    Universal title is “East Cost.” I read it as Coast in the beginning also.

    • Trent H. Evans says:

      And by the way, I enjoyed the Universal puzzle. Simple and well-done. Learned something new at 4-down. It was no IMPEDIMENT to my solve thanks to fair crosses. Then it was off to Google to learn about a place in the world I’d never heard of. AND I QUOTE and PORK BARREL were nice bonuses.

      NYT and New Yorker were absolutely outstanding. Expert craftsmanship and lots of fun to solve. What a great day for puzzles today!

    • Judge Vic says:

      Oops! My bad. Thx for catching that.

  5. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Inkubator: Yes, PETER GRIMES is absolutely legitimate. As Wikipedia puts it (citing The Viking Opera Guide (1993)): “A landmark in the history of British opera, this work marked Britten’s arrival on the international music scene.” It’s one of the 93 operas (from all time — there are only a handful from 1900+) to appear on every one of the “nine lists of great operas, created by recognized authorities in the field of opera” that were the source of Wikipedia’s list of important operas.


  6. Carl says:

    Initially thought answer to NYT 28D was LITTLETOES lol

  7. Gareth says:

    I still can’t believe UREA gets rejected on breakfast test grounds: I have literally served it for breakfast before (to sheep, but still).

  8. Steve Faiella says:

    Inkubator: Loved this puzzle! Lots of good entries and clueing as mentioned in the review. Funny (well, to me, anyway) crossword “guess the answer” moment for me. For 12D (great long non theme answers BTW), I had FULL G__ER_L. I stared at it for a while, then confidently keyed in FULL GONERIL. I mean, hey, it’s the Inkubator! Woman power! Of course, my crossword app didn’t give me the “all correct” signal, so I eventually figured it out, but my silly guess (and thinking of what going Full Goneril might look like) gave me a chuckle.

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