Friday, July 19, 2019

CHE 9:47 (Vic) 


Inkubator 5:40 (Amy) 


LAT 7:43 (Jenni) 


NYT 4:36 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 5:51 (joon—downs-only) 


Universal untimed (Vic) 


Rachel Fabi’s Inkubator crossword, “What’s Your Sign”—Amy’s write-up

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Rachel at the Indie 500 crossword tournament, and she’s delightful (as well as being a bioethicist who’s won Jeopardy!). So it’s not surprising that her puzzle is fun. She’s celebrating her birthday this week, so appropriately enough, the theme is centered on her astrological sign, Cancer.

Inkubator crossword solution, 7 19 19, “What’s Your Sign”

The theme is facilitated by the zodiac symbol for Cancer having rotational symmetry (only three of the 12 symbols do). The little enclosed circles, if you squint, or 2×2 squares in the grid, contain clued 2-letter answers, and read clockwise, they spell out MOON and CRAB, whose zodiacal relevance is spelled out in the clues: [… (or, full circle: lunar ruler of 36-Down)] for MOON, [… (or, full circle: crustacean symbolizing 36-Down)], CRAB. The two halves of the symbol drawn from the black squares are connected by two apt entries: 20d. [Astrological set of twelve], ZODIAC, and 36d. [20-Down sign visually represented in this grid], CANCER.

The puzzle’s also got some stuff that would be welcome in a themeless puzzle, what with those four corners of open grid space. My faves: the POTTERVERSE, gross SWAPPED SPIT, AYAHUASCA, SMACK DAB, the glorious SAMIRA WILEY, a quiet ONE-LANE ROAD (tangent: Team Fiend’s Jim Q is cycling in Britain now, and he’s encountered roads so narrow that they can’t accommodate both a car and a bicycle side by side … so a driver just motors along at 3 mph behind our intrepid uphill cyclist—his daily blog is entertaining as hell), NO NO NANETTE, HOT DATE, ARMISEN, and ISSA RAE. Given that the theme doesn’t entail a lot of content in the white squares, the juicy non-theme fill is much appreciated.

Seven more things:

  • 16a. [Fantastic setting for a snitch], POTTERVERSE. As in the Golden Snitch, the playing ball in the fictional game of Quidditch.
  • 35a. [Flirter’s reciprocators], SEDUCEES. I … don’t think that’s a word.
  • 53a. [Sketchy TV show], SNL. “Sketchy” because of comedy sketches, or sketchy because of, say, the eons of a dude-centric writers’ room?
  • 59a. [“OITNB” and “Handmaid’s Tale” actress (and dreamboat)], SAMIRA WILEY. The editorializing in the clue is not wrong. I haven’t watched Handmaid’s Tale because real life is hard enough, but in Orange Is the New Black, her character Poussey is a favorite and the actress made prison attire look good.
  • 1d. [Sexy companion… or any Arizona day in late July?], HOT DATE. Ha!
  • 26d. [Common features of nails and seas], BEDS. I was actually stumped by this clue and needed crossings.
  • 42d. [Ye olde gendered charity recipients], ALMSMEN. Meh. Pretty good to have a themed puzzle with all the grid openness and end up with just this and SEDUCEES making me roll my eyes. The short fill crossing the stacked 11s was all perfectly fine!

Four stars from me.

Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 719 19, no. 0719

It promises to be a good Friday puzzle when Peter’s byline pops up, and he doesn’t disappoint.

Did not know: 45a. [Hearty breakfast dish that includes potatoes], EGG HASH. That’s a thing? A cursory googling suggests it’s usually a “something and egg hash.” I think Chicago menus tend to call it a “skillet.”

Favorite clue: 17a. [What’s found above a tilde], ESCAPE KEY. I honestly was trying to envision some alphabet in which a tilde appears below a character rather than above it.

This clue—18a. [Orange half of an iconic duo], ERNIE—reminds me. The other day, a guy walked into a restaurant and his hair was shaved off all around the sides and up over the curve to the top of the head. His dark hair up top was gathered into a messy topknot—and the overall effect was that I was looking at Sesame Street‘s Bert from the back. It was a look.


Five more things:

  • 33a. [Disturbed states], DELIRIA. Because one is never enough.
  • 39a. [Bites harmlessly], GUMS. Raise your hand if crosswords have taught you that a little puppy NIPS.
  • 47a. [___ Games, company behind Fortnite], EPIC. Needed every crossing. Asked my son if he’d ever played Fortnite (yes, not much) and did he know the company that makes it (“no … Epic, I think?”).
  • 55a. [Mascot of the Winnipeg Jets], MOOSE. Nothing says aviation quite like a moose.
  • 11d. [Type least likely to turn up in a hospital], AB NEGATIVE. Blood type, not type of person.

4.2 stars from me.

David Alfred Bywaters’s Universal Crossword, “Bad Actor”—Judge Vic’s write-up

David Alfred Bywaters’s Universal Crossword, “Bad Actor,” July 19, 2019, solution

THEME: bad actor is a ham. This grid contains five hams. Each joins another term–a phrase, a hyphenated word, and three single words–creating things that can be punnily clued.

  • 18a [Soporific poem for summer afternoons?] HAMMOCK EPICSoporific means “tending to cause sleep.” An epic is a really long poem. Summer afternoons can feature serious heat.  Mock-epic is new to me. It’s a noun that’s interchangeable with mock-heroic. So, here our ham joins the first part of a hyphenated word and requires the hyphen be dropped.
  • 23a [Rodent not worried about individual glory?] TEAM HAMSTER–A ham in the Teamsters? Gotta love it! Here, ham just gets right in the middle of a word.
  • 39a [Results of clothes going unwashed for too long?] HAMPER MUTATIONS–I laughed at this one. Which features ham‘s attaching to the front of a word, requiring that the latter part of the word be separate.
  • 51a [Liver-based French crackers?] FOIE GRAHAMS–Yummy … not! Ham here joins 3/4 of the way into the phrase’s second word.
  • 62a [“Pound! Pound! Pound!”?] HAMMER CHANT–Another laugh! Ham pretty much repeats what it did in 39a.
  • 71a [Thespian who makes this puzzle’s theme entries corny] HAM–Was a reveal necessary? I had not thought so.

This puzzle’s ham moved more than yesterday’s Edam.

Thumbs up to WILD ANIMAL.

Not so much to THOUSANDTH. Or to

  • TRI
  • USDA
  • ALAI
  • DNA
  • TIS
  • SYNE
  • CTA
  • SECS
  • AMA
  • ALAR
  • ROI
  • EINS
  • PMS
  • WTO
  • TERA
  • AHS

Three or four–maybe even five–of the above, to glue good stuff into corners, would be understandable. But I found these more distracting than the ham.

2.5 stars.

Winston Emmons’s The Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Publishing Re-Deal”–Judge Vic’s write-up.

Winston Emmons’s The Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Publishing Re-Deal,” July 19, 2019, solution

THEME: A key word in the title of each of four well-known works of fiction sustains a shuffling of letters:

17a [Classic work about someone with seasonal affective disorder?] HATER OF DARKNESS–Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), at 144 pages, is generally called a novella.
31a [Classic work about agriculture in a tropical capital?] MANILA FARM–George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945), at 112 pages, is also called a novella.
39a [Classic work about Adam and Eve’s diet?] EATS OF EDEN–John Steinbeck’s East of Eden (1952), at 608 page, is a most ambitious novel.
54a [Classic work about leaving the Red Planet?] A FAREWELL TO MARS–Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (1929), at 355 pages, is likewise an ambitious novel.

The non-theme fill is adequate–no real clunkers, but not much sparkle either. We have

ABYSM, which is a good word to know;
MORTGAGE, which looks like two words, but isn’t;
HOSTELRY, another good word to know;
BIG EGO, which is always possessed by some other person;
FLORIDA, source of many a fond summertime thought or memory;
BONING ([Material used to shape a corset ]? Really? Okay, then);
AFL-CIO; and
OPEN-TOE (rhymes with CIO, kinda).

Nice job, all-in-all. 4 stars!

Erik Agard’s The New Yorker crossword—joon’s write-up

The New Yorker crossword, July 19, 2019

hello, joon here with the write-up of erik agard’s new yorker weekend crossword. this was a fun solve, not too difficult, but as we’ve come to expect from erik, full of terrific fresh entries. the new yorker is one of my regular downs-only solves, so let’s take a look at some down clues i enjoyed:

  • {Hattie with a mysteriously missing Oscar} MCDANIEL. i knew she won an oscar, but did not know this story!
  • {Leonine Beyonce film role} NALA. i initially read “leonine beyonce” as the first and last name of an actress i’d never heard of. once i re-read the clue it became a lot easier.
  • {“Thanks a ___!” (coffee pun)} LATTE. this is a fun clue.
  • {“Barbra Streisand,” “Tim McGraw,” or “Kid Cudi”} SONG. three songs i don’t know, but the punctuation helped me. in retrospect, i think i once knew that “tim mcgraw” was a taylor swift song.
  • {Holiday with egg rolls} EASTER. not the kind of egg roll you eat.

and i had trouble with these:

  • {Sorority founded at Howard in 1908, for short} AKA. felt like this could be almost any three letters, but this is a historically significant sorority so i’m glad to learn about it.
  • {___ Capital (male-dominated company in Pixar’s “Purl”)} BRO. i haven’t even heard of this film. (apparently it is a recent short.) the answer was guessable from the clue once i had the B.
  • {Activist ___ P. Johnson} MARSHA. another one i didn’t know but i’m glad to learn about.

looking over the across clues, i’m surprised to see 24a TORE clued as {Past participle of 28-Across}, referring to {Run at top speed} TEAR. this seems like it’s drawing attention to the dupe, instead of just cluing TEAR as {Eye drop} or whatever. i didn’t know {“Pose” actress named after a “Spider-Man” character} MJ RODRIGUEZ, or indeed even what pose was, but that’s on me, and the puzzle was constructed fairly enough that i was able to put it together from just the downs.

taken as a whole, this puzzle is an emphatic rejection of the idea that cis white men are the only group worth representing in a crossword. in addition to the clues i already mentioned referring to beyoncé, MARSHA p. jackson, MJ RODRIGUEZ, and AKA, you’ve got MAHALIA jackson (as played by ledisi in selma), aretha franklin in the AIN’T clue, KEIRA knightley, the trinidadian origins of LIMBO, the singer ASHANTI, john coltrane’s TENOR SAX, and a civil rights clue for BUSLOAD. in fact, pretty much the only white guy in the puzzle is {America’s finger-pointing, mean-mugging uncle} SAM. i appreciate the fact that erik’s puzzles are always full of not the usual people.

4.7 stars from me. have a great weekend!

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up

I liked the theme of the puzzle and enjoyed solving it right up until I was completely Naticked down at the bottom – you can see that I finally gave up and asked the computer to fill in the square. 59d [Mouse in Disney’s “Cinderella”] crossing 64a [Belgian expressionist James]? Really? OK, I guess GUS is the logical male name if you’ve got GU_, but it’s a Disney mouse so who knows if it’s a real name? /end rant

So the theme. Familiar phrases have a B added to the beginning. Wackiness results.

Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2019, Jeffery Wechsler, solution grid

  • 17a [That necessary morning cup of coffee?] is a BREWED AWAKENING (rude awakening).
  • 24a [Prepare some fish for frying?] is BREAD HERRING (red herring).
  • 44a [Good nickname for Stephen King?] would be BRAIN OF TERROR (reign of terror).
  • 58a [Part of the Hulk’s healthy diet?] are BRUTE VEGETABLES (root vegetables).

All the base phrases are solid, all the theme answers are amusing, and I like the fact that they all change the spelling of the first word. Very fun theme.

A few other things:

  • 2d [Sub] was obviously TEMP, except it was actually HERO. Where I grew up they were “wedges” – very local to Port Chester, NY.
  • 5a [Lawrence with an eponymous college] showed me how much I’ve internalized the patriarchy. I grew up 30 minutes from SARAH Lawrence, and have several friends and kids of friends who’ve gone there. I got it from crossings because I was looking for a male name. Duh.
  • 10d [Wee] is the charming PINT-SIZE.
  • 31d [Food often served with a mallet] is yummy yummy CRAB. Mmm. CRAB.
  • 50a [Truly enjoy something] is EAT IT UP, like me with CRAB.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: GUS and ENSOR. I also didn’t know that the quote was “YOND Cassius…” I always thought it was YON.

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10 Responses to Friday, July 19, 2019

  1. arthur118 says:

    Ratings must belong to a different day.
    New Yorker puzzle hasn’t even been published and it’s showing 27 ratings.

  2. e.a. says:

    today’s inkubator is one of those puzzles i’ll remember in a year

  3. cyco says:

    Enjoyed the NYT and TNY quite a bit today, but the Inkubator is fantastic. Fresh, lively fill all over and a nice theme that didn’t overbear. SWAPPED SPIT on top of POTTERVERSE is such a great stack!

  4. David Glasser says:

    NYT: very depressed that I needed 3/5 crossings to identify one of my favorite musicians with a very clear clue. Some classic human behavior.

  5. JohnH says:

    Re the NYT, curiously a recent Sunday Times Magazine “Spelling Bee” didn’t accept LOOFA, maybe because it’s not an alternative spelling in MW11C.

  6. Michael says:

    Inkubator’s rotational cancer sign also spells “69” on its side, which, coupled with MOON and tomorrow’s Apollo 11 anniversary, adds yet another (unintended?) layer to the theme.

Comments are closed.