Friday, June 14, 2019

LAT 6:32 (GRAB) 


NYT 5:55 (Amy) 


Universal 7:07 (Vic) 


The New Yorker 7:02 (Jenni) 


Caitlin Reid’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 14 19, no. 0614

This is my first time blogging a puzzle by Caitlin Reid—Jenni had the pleasure of reviewing her previous themeless, an Inkubator puzzle I liked (and also her prior NYTs). I actually like this one even more. So much good stuff in the grid! And the clues were spot on.

My favorite entries are many: “I GOT DIBS!” “…NO REASON.” PREGGO. “CAN’T WIN.” BAD P.R., SHAM MARRIAGES (the [Actors’ unions?] clue is about a couple pretending they’re in love rather than actual thespians), and SEA LIONS. NOT DONE clued as [Simply taboo]. “WINK, WINK.” DEAD SEXY. “CAPISCE?” “HARD PASS.” A delicious MARG. EGO BOOST (nice little clue, [“I” lift?]). I like it when the puzzle talks to me in zippy language. (Note: Not a fan of spoken fill like SO AM I and AM TOO.)

Least favorite entries: Only MOUE popped out as one of those words I almost never see outside of crosswords. DAT is usually hardcore crosswordese, but here it’s clued [Informal object], a slangy “that.”

I don’t think I knew that [Pro QB Manning, by birth] was ELISHA rather than Eli. And I definitely did not know that [Reading Fightin Phils, e.g.] were an AA TEAM.

Five more things:

  • 28a. [The key to making a quick exit?], ESC. Cute clue for a keyboard key.
  • 59a. [Get down], MASTER. As in “Caitlin’s really got this crossword constructing thing down now.”
  • 12d. [Pill bug or wood louse], ISOPOD. A.k.a. sowbug or roly-poly, or whatever you call those buggers where you grew up. If you want to freak yourself out, do a Google image or video search for giant isopod.
  • 23d. [Mrs. Flintstone], WILMA. Instant gimme for me, and somehow I typed WELMA in the puzzle, which made CAN’T WIN hard to put together. Cost me some time.
  • 26d. [Group who Mao Zedong famously said “hold up half the sky”], WOMEN. Only half? Hmm.

Overall assessment, this pupper earns 4.5 stars from me.

Erik Agard and Wyna Liu’s Universal Crossword, “Lending a Hand”—Judge Vic’s write-up

Erik Agard and Wyna Liu’s Universal Crossword, “Lending a Hand”–6/14/19, solution

Erik and Wyna  are spreading synonyms through unrelated ILSA’s. Take a look:

    • 17a [*Rave scene] CLUB CULTURE
    • 23 [*Salsa scooper] TORTILLA CHIP
    • 40 [*Likeness illustrator] PORTRAIT PAINTER
    • 51 [*Undiscovered knack] HIDDEN TALENT
    • 63a [Assistance from a tutor, say … or a hint to the starred answers’ circled letters] OUTSIDE HELP

That’s a lot of theme. Other than that, these items are noteworthy, two strong vertical ILSA’s:

  • 11d [Places of interest to ufologists] CRASH SITES
  • 29d [Shift for special occasions, say] PARTY DRESS

4 stars.

Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword—Jenni’s review

Team Fiend’s own Erik “Slicks” Agard has today’s New Yorker puzzle. I did not find it easy and in fact had to resort to Google for one crossing, so yes, it’s another New Yorker puzzle full of names. This is their brand, and it fits their content. No complaints from me; I enjoyed it.

I would have known this was Erik’s even without the byline.

My sticking point was the crossing of 38a [Sparks power forward who was named W.N.B.A 23-Across in 2016]. 23-a is MVP. 38a is NNEKA OGWUMIKE. 39d was my Natick: [Actress Fox or rapper Thee Stallion]. I now realize I’ve heard of MEGAN Fox, and I’m blaming the post-op pain meds for my inability to figure it out even after running the alphabet. I do love Erik’s passionate WNBA fandom, which regularly shows up in his puzzles and his sartorial choices.

Some of what I liked about this puzzle:

New Yorker puzzle, 6/14/2019, Erik Agard, solution grid

  • The two grid-spanning Down answers: LAST BUT NOT LEAST and LET ME ASK YOU THIS. So breezy and conversational!
  • OMAR clued with Representative Ilhan rather than the old poet.
  • 20a [Unlikable protagonist] is an ANTIHEROINE.
  • Learning that zeal is the collective noun for ZEBRAs.
  • 41a [Like a movie review that gives away all the twists]: SPOILERY.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: ZEAL and NNEKA OGWUMIKE. Also DORIS Payne, a real-life jewel thief and all the references to rappers.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I found the bottom answers first, which misled me slightly as to the theme. I thought it was merely “add a B sound” based on EITHER(B)OR(E), however it’s a little more intricate. The central entry is (B/E)SIDES, and you encircle the final word of each answer with a B and and E. It is a refreshing variant on the frequently encountered letter addition trope. The best change was actually first, with RULE becoming BRULEE. The other two are RIB to BRIBE and RUT to BRUTE. THESAMEOLD(B)RUT(E) feels a hair made-up as a base phrase, but probably just lands on the positive side.

  • [Grainy side], PILAF. I’ve only made it as a main, but I’ve seen it as a side in restaurants…
  • [Big improvement over a mop, for short], WETVAC. I’m not 100% sure what this is. I might own one??
  • [Westernmost Aleutian island], ATTU. A pretty insignificant island, but forever embraced by the cross-world.

3,75 Stars

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26 Responses to Friday, June 14, 2019

  1. e.a. says:

    nyt was a whole meal

  2. Will Nediger says:

    NYT and New Yorker both really excellent, a great day for crosswords already!

  3. Phil says:

    Is there a review of yesterday’s Inkubator coming?

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    The Reading Phils are the AA team because the AAA team moved to Allentown and is now the Iron Pigs. We go to at least two games a year – it’s a fun stadium and it’s about ten minutes from our house, as we are reminded every time they have fireworks.

  5. Pseudonym says:

    Great NYT. Hardest Friday for me in recent memory.

    Super LAT theme. Another excellent puzzle.

    TNY was fine as well but Fridays are just way too easy.

  6. Ethan Friedman says:

    That NYT was a DEAD SEXY puzzle. what a treat.

  7. Norm says:

    I really thought YES DEAR and WINK WINK would get appropriately chastised here for the dated sexist tripe they are. Didn’t care for the clue of SHAM MARRIAGES either, for that matter: acting and sham are not close enough cousins for me to accept that one.

    • Martin says:

      I guess WINK WINK could be sexist tripe with some context, but to me it means exactly what’s clued, as when Camilla set the world abuzz with her wink to the press while trailing Trump. It’s very much the same meaning as when a Brit touches his or her nose, and not gender-related at all.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        You realize that YES DEAR isn’t strictly something men say to women, Norm? That both members of couples of any/all genders can say those words with a roll of the eyes? And that anyone can insinuate some innuendo?

        • DD says:

          You’re right that YES DEAR can be said by any gender to any gender, but fwiw I’ve encountered it only as one of those phrases supposedly spoken by a long-suffering husband to his nagging wife — so I kind of hate it and would prefer that it not be used. Just one perspective.

          This is a great blog btw — thank you.

  8. DD says:

    Judge Vic: The plural ILSAs doesn’t need an apostrophe. All major style guides (Chicago, AP, NYT) concur on this: The apostrophe implies possession, so it would be included only to avoid ambiguity.

    (To the best of my knowledge, the only possible ambiguity with the plural of a freestanding letter arises when writing about the letter grade A, plural, at the beginning of a sentence: “As have become far more common because …” and that can be avoided by rephrasing.)


  9. JohnH says:

    So glad I managed a copy of the Times. An unusually fresh fill, with lots of its language new to me. I enjoyed encountering that. Of course, then also unusually hard for a Friday for me, which is fine.

    • JohnH says:

      OTOH, TNY for me was one quiz question about a name after another, so totally awful, and I never finished given the cross between MEGAN and an athlete that might have been random letters of the alphabet for all I could see. I guess I just don’t belong to the right club, which has declared me incurious for not memorizing its password.

      • Paolo P. says:

        what’s up! saying the name of a well-established and successful athlete “might have been random letters of the alphabet,” presumably because the name is foreign, is Never A Good Look. fwiw, i didn’t know the name myself, but thought it was crossed v fairly (and the MEGAN crossing you cite has two entry points, and you’d have to do a lot of stretching to convince yourself that ?EGAN could be, say, TEGAN or something). this seems like less of a “elitist club of crossword solvers” thing and more of an easily adjusted solving attitude thing.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          It doesn’t take an elitist to know the name Megan Thee Stallion. She’s new, but she’s definitely been getting some radio airplay recently with “Big Ole Freak.”

  10. RSP64 says:

    Will there not be an Inkubator write up? I always like to read about things I missed in my solve.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Rarely do we blog off-schedule bonus puzzles, such as the AV Club crossword has a few times a year. Team Fiend may have a lot of people on it, but our free time is not unlimited!

  11. jj says:

    TNY: Jenni writes “it’s another New Yorker puzzle full of names. This is their brand, and it fits their content.”

    My main problem with TNY puzzles since they launched is not their overabundance of names, but that the names they’re referencing *don’t* fit the content of the magazine. When I think of The New Yorker, I think of highbrow arts and culture, written from a particularly east coast, Ivy League perspective. When I think of The New Yorker, I don’t expect to find coverage of the WNBA (or any sports, really) or rap music (or any pop music, really). I certainly don’t expect to read about NFL TRADE RUMORS or WWE SUPERSTARS either (two actual entries in TNY puzzles from earlier this year).

    Last week I struggled with the central entry, the writer VIET THANH NGUYEN, but that’s an example of an entry that feels like it belongs in The New Yorker crossword – a Pulitzer winning writer who I could definitely see being featured (or even published) in the pages of the magazine, and I’m glad to have learned about the writer. That’s the kind of entry that I thought would be standard in TNY puzzles. While I personally have no problem with rappers or WNBA stars appearing in crosswords, they just feel out of place in a New Yorker product. TNY is a very specific brand that they’ve developed and cultivated over several decades; the crosswords that they feature often strike me as contrary to that brand. Just my two cents.

    • DD says:

      Your assessment of TNY’s content/readership is apt, but I suspect that the puzzles — which appeal to a broader demographic — might be a way of trying to draw in additional readers. Come for the free puzzle (well, 3 free per month), and then get drawn into some other content, and then maybe decide to subscribe.

    • David A says:

      “I don’t expect to find coverage of the WNBA (or any sports, really) or rap music (or any pop music, really).”

      Funny, their music and sports essays are part of the joy of the magazine for me. Their reviewers very much cover modern pop and rap music, and they’ve had short pieces covering the NBA finals this week (although not in the sense of reporting box scores or play-my-play).

  12. Doug C says:

    TNY: So, I’m definitely not a trivia fan, and yet found this puzzle startlingly easy. The names I didn’t know, including the talented Ms. OGWUMIKE, seemed easily “getable” from crosses, and I imagine that’s the trade-off being made by TNY editors: fill the puzzle with magazine-content-related “names you ought to know,” but make them easy to work out if you didn’t. In this case, way too easy. So I’m with @Pseudonym above. Friday puzzles need to put up a little more resistance.

    • mr.ben says:

      This one was easy enough for me as well, and I’m saying this as someone whose native language is not English. All the names are crossed fairly that I didn’t have any long pauses. No need to Google anything at all.

      Friday for TNY though is supposed to be easier than their Monday fair. This is the second weekend TNY puzzle from Erik that I flew through. The other constructors’ Friday… not so much :)

  13. Bob Goodman says:

    Yes, way too easy. My wife and I finished in 22 minutes and we were drunk

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