Allison Uttaro’s Inkubator crossword, “Color Bands”—Jenni’s write-up
This whole theme was “What I Didn’t Know Before I Did This Puzzle.” Luckily, I didn’t have to know it to solve the puzzle, which was fun and well-constructed. Nice debut for Allison Uttaro! The Inkubator puzzles continue to bring us new constructors as well as themes and subjects that you just don’t see in mainstream, male-dominated puzzles.
Each theme clue is about a band:
- 20a [Top band: “Calling You” group] is BLUE OCTOBER.
- 26a [Second band: “Money” makers] is PINK FLOYD. This is the only one of the songs I knew because I am old.
- 44a [Middle band: “Seven Nation Army” musicians] are THE WHITE STRIPES. I’ve at least heard of the band, but only because we had a subscription to Rolling Stone when my brother was on their staff.
- 55a [Fourth band: “Every Night I Die at Miyagi’s” singer] is ARIEL PINK.
- 67a [Bottom band: “Downtown Lights” artists] are THE BLUE NILE.
So it’s a bunch of bands with colors in their names, arranged symmetrically – blue/pink/white/pink/blue. What does that mean? Allison tells us at 29d: [Pride sequence whose fourth letter is celebrated by this puzzle’s color bands], which is LGBTQ. The fourth letter is T for “trans.” I remained confused. Is there a trans flag? Turns out there is.
There are a whole lot of Pride flags I’d never seen before. So now I’m a better-informed ally. This is a good thing.
A few other things:
- 11d [Retro power blazer feature that’s making a comeback] is a SHOULDER PAD. Odd to see only one. They usually travel in pairs.
- 14a [Nevada’s neighbor and birthplace of “Gilead” author Marilynne Robinson] is IDAHO. If you haven’t read anything by Robinson, you should. Her work is remarkable.
- 34a [Kiss ‘twixt Harry Potter and Cho Chang] is the delighfully British SNOG.
- 40d [Roadrunner foil ___ Coyote] is WILE E, which looks wrong but is correct.
- 61a [It will ruin your photo] is the LENS CAP. Legend has it that there are no extant pictures of my father’s college graduation because my grandfather left the lens cap on. Kids, ask your parents.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: theme and four of the five songs.
Freddie Cheng’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
1-Across sent up a warning flare, like a pyrotechnic rocket. 1a. [Gum-producing plant], GUAR? Red alert! Red alert! There might be dusty fill ahead. And indeed there was, quite a bit of it. There were also good things, like SLEEP OVER (would have been more fun clued as the noun), FAT FINGER, IN A LATHER, FREECYCLES, and RETRO COOL.
The crosswordese vibe took over a lot of the puzzle, though. To wit: AEROS, LETTS (which would have been much fresher clued as playwright Tracy), ERTE, DELED, LOESS, ASE’S, and APERY. I also wasn’t keen on things like two RE- prefixes, LISPER (could’ve been Joseph Lister or an A-lister crossing the TSA, and STARS could be clued a zillion ways other than [A-listers]) beside LAME EXCUSE, and plural SILTS.
Four more things:
- 46a. [Fernando or Felipe, once], REY. Weird. Felipe VI is the current Rey de España. If this is referring to the medieval kings, Ferdinand and Philip, with their global colonization aspirations, well, that was Philip I, but that Ferdinand was somehow Ferdinand II and V, Wikipedia tells me. Happy Independence Day from a country with no monarchy!
- 9a. [Rush home?], FRAT. Cute li’l tricksy clue.
- 5d. [Like the role of Albus Dumbledore after the second Harry Potter movie], RECAST. Richard Harris died and Michael Gambon was tapped to fill his wizardly shoes. Did you see the miniseries Chernobyl on Netflix? The lead actor is Harris’s son, Jared. (Also, Chernobyl was created and written by crossworder Craig Mazin, who is a regular MGWCC solver.)
- 2d. [Openly confident], UNSHY. Lotta dictionaries don’t include this entry. Not wild about it.
2.9 stars from me. How’d the puzzle treat you?
Trent H. Evans’s The Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “The Craft of Crowdsourcing”–Judge Vic’s write-up.
I found this to be a clever and educational crossword puzzle, as I knew nothing about the key theme answer. Here’s the theme as the author laid it out:
- 17a [It undertakes a rescue mission for Pepperland, in a 1968 animated film] YELLOW SUBMARINE–Fun clue. Fun answer. Fun memory.
- 28a [Voting mechanism with clicks, say] ONLINE POLL–This came easily enough, but clued me not on where the theme was headed. Crowdsourcing?
- 45a [Desert nearly twice the size of Australia] ANTARCTICA–I wanted to guess this answer immediately, but shied away. Is anyone else afflicted with the weird feeling that icy places aren’t deserts?
- 59a [British research vessel that is essentially a 17 Across, was named by 28 Across, and is currently making climate-change discoveries in 45 Across] BOATY MCBOATFACE–Well, of course the public, via an online poll, would give a British research sub a name such as this! Read about that here. I, however, knew nothing of it until solving this puzzle.
Lots of other good stuff therein:
- 20a [Actions of panicked investors] SELL-OFFS–Both as a phrase and as a hyphenated word, this term appears in my 1979 Webster’s New Collegiate. One’s a noun, the other a verb. Dictionary support–always a good thing, not always available for multi-unit crossword entries.
- 55a [One plundering a colony, maybe] ANTEATER–A compound word, this, but I’d wager it began as a phrase, then went through a phase as a hyphenated word. No time to research that, though.
- 4d [Particularly revealing] TELLTALE–Another compound word, this can be a noun or an adjective.
- 5d [Diet for opponents of pasteurization, maybe] RAW FOOD–A phrase. But is it in the language? Does it have dictionary support? My Webster’s lists raw material, raw deal, and raw score, but not raw food. This entry has been in only two other crosswords (per Ginsberg), one of those a 1956 NYT (63 years ago, think about that!) IMO, RAW FOOD is fine for this puzzle. People say it, see it, hear it.
- 6d [“Come on … you’ll enjoy this!”] IT’S FUN–This commonly-spoken short sentence has been in 13 crosswords tracked by Ginsberg’s database. Moreover, it’s fun! But it’s not in any dictionaries.
- 40d [End of a crazy simile] LIKE A FOX–Reminds me of a song lyric: “Like a fox (like a fox, like a fox) … on the run!”).
- 44a [Click and Clack’s NPR broadcast] CAR TALK
Great job, Trent and Brad! 4.3 stars.
Ross Trudeau’s Universal Crossword, “Drop a Line”—Judge Vic’s write-up
In the title, what does drop mean, omit or go down? Let’s try to suss it out:
- 17a [Breakfast dish cooked with a timer (look down at the 8th square!)] SOFTBOILGGS—What does “look down at the 8th square” mean? Turns out it means go to the 8th letter in the answer, which will be an L, then find the letters EDE following. I knew I needed soft-boiled eggs and that this answer had too many letters to fit in the squares allotted for 17a. ‘Sup with this? Universal don’t do rebuses.
- 36a [Alexandria’s region (look down at the 3rd square!)] NILLTA–I was able to complete this answer, but its consistency with 17a’s answer did not click with me. Look down at the … square has two meanings: (1) Look at the square; (2) At the square, so to speak, look down from it.
- 39 Property owner’s document (look down at the 4th square!) TITLED–I completed this one, too, but did not figure out to find L’s and look downward from them. (TITLE DEED, btw, imo, deserves a spot in a redundancy theme.)
- 60a [Not emphasize an article’s main point, or a hint to this puzzle’s theme] BURY THE LEDE–On reading the reveal, I figured out the whole thing. And quickly finished.
This almost felt like a Times Thursday, with Wednesday clues. Fine for me, but this puzzle–in Arkansas’s daily newspaper–has a lot of solvers who are convinced they don’t like this type of gimmick.
Afterthought: Is LEDE really buried if the L is even with the surface below which it’s supposedly buried?
Quite a bit of good fill to enjoy:
- GO ABOUT
- SNOW TIRE
- LOVE KNOT
- NICE SAVE
- I TONYA
- SPY PLANE
- STEEL ROD
- SAND ART
- PICKLED EEL
- NIXON ERA
- ICE WRAPS
- I’M REAL
I enjoyed it, but it’s too hard for the venue, imo, even though the constructor and the editor telegraphed and cleverly clued the gimmick.
Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Jenni’s review
A classic Liz Gorski puzzle, perfectly pitched for the New Yorker Friday goal of an easier puzzle for the weekend. I had just under three minutes of pure fun.
- 1a [“Sorry if you were offended,” for one] is a classic NON-APOLOGY.
- Bowie sighting at 12d with a partial I didn’t mind, “Hot tramp, I LOVE YOU SO.”
- HEDY Lamarr remembered as an inventor as well as actor. She helped invent spread spectrum technology to help foil the Nazis (she came to the US from Austria). I read the Wikipedia entry and confess I still don’t really understand what it is, but it sounds important.
- 35a spans the grid with [Comedy club contagion?], which is the delightful INFECTIOUS LAUGH. That’s something I don’t mind catching.
- 48a [Big inspirations?] are DEEP BREATHS.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: anything about spread spectrum technology, not that I know all that much more now. I also did not know that EMILIA Clarke appears in “Game of Thrones.”
Liz usually sneaks a classical music reference into her puzzles. If it’s there, I missed it, unless you count the appearance of Yoko ONO.
Derek Bowman’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up
Today’s theme is centered (!) on the three grid-spanning entries in the middle of the puzzle.
- 32a [New York city with a historic race course] is SARATOGA SPRINGS.
- 37a [2015 Triple Crown winner] is AMERICAN PHAROAH.
- 38a [California race that’s a stepping-stone to Kentucky] is the SANTA ANITA DERBY.
I think that’s it. Did I miss something?
A few other things:
- 1d [Spot to drink] is not BAR, which I confidently filled in when I started solving. It’s “spot” in the British sense, and the answer is TEA.
- I enjoyed seeing MOE and MOI next to each other. Some days I’m easily amused.
- 23d [Slangy event suffix] is ORAMA, as in SkateORAMA, which used to be somewhere near here, or the BowlORAMA in NoCal that housed a Thai restaurant in the coffeeshop by the time we moved there. ORAMA feels very 50s to me.
- 30d [1930s Rhine/Zener experiment] is an ESP TEST. Rhine and Zener “proved” the existence of ESP. Wikipedia says, diplomatically, that the “original series of experiments have been discredited and replication has proved elusive.” Gee, I wonder why.
- 57a [Like Greenpeace, e.g.] is ANTI NUKE.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Tamara MELLON co-founded the Jimmy Choo line of shoes.