Friday, August 2, 2019

CHE 10:27 (Vic) 


Inkubator 5:03 (Jenni) 


LAT 4:15 (Jenni) 


NYT 4:54 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 8:19 (joon—paper) 


Universal untimed (Vic) 


Ori Brian’s The Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Product Placement”–Judge Vic’s write-up.

Ori Brian’s The Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Product Placement,” Aug. 2, 2019, solution

THEME: In spots where the word times otherwise would be appropriate, Brand X has been placed:

  • 17a Stuck in yesteryear BEHIND THE X
  • 25a Its first issue sold for a penny in 1851 THE NEW YORK X
  • 36a “Party hearty, everyone!” LET THE GOOD X ROLL
  • 48a As a remembrance FOR OLD X SAKE
  • 57a Harry Styles megahit of 2017 SIGN OF THE X

Very nicely done. Not a lot of splashy stuff elsewhere, but no clunkers either. Consider: IMPASSE, PEN NAME, WIDTHS, ENTREE, PIGEON, I’M SET, GO STAG, PAWNEE, EKE OUT.

4 stars.

Andrew Ries’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 2 19, no. 0802

At first I thought, Whoa, Andrew has strayed from his usual stagger-stack layout. And then I realized the trio of staggered 11s run Down rather than Across this time, so it’s just as expected: a stagger-stack in the middle, lots of interesting fill, and super-fresh clues.

Fave fill: The ESTATE LAW/TAX EVASION pairing, MEZZANINE, BUZZARDS, RANCOR, STEGOSAURUS (Illinois has no state dinosaur, but we do have a state fossil, the Tully monster), MURSE (that’s a man/purse portmanteau), SELENA GOMEZ, a golf WATER HAZARD (the [Green protector] clue mystified me till my husband explained that golf is a battle between the player and the course, and the water hazards are protecting the green from its enemy, the golfer), and THE MUSIC MAN (frankly, 76 trombones is at least 70 too many).

TITIAN – Venus Anadyomene (National Galleries of Scotland, c. 1520. Oil on canvas, 75.8 x 57.6 cm)

Clues of note:

  • 13a. [Locks that might not be totally secure?], TOUPEES. Now, hair replacement surgery is more secure than wigs or combovers. Are you old enough to remember when Joe Biden got hair plugs? I am.
  • 16a. [Put on the line, perhaps], AIR-DRIED / 34a. [Put on the line], WAGERED. Nice two-fer.
  • 36a. [Character raised in “Rosemary’s Baby”], APOSTROPHE. The one between “Rosemary” and “s”.
  • 48a. [BBQ offering], BURGER. No. No, no, no. If you have people over to the yard and you’re grilling burgers, you are having a cookout, not a BBQ. If you’re calling it a BBQ or barbecue, you’d better have a smoker on the premises.
  • 32d. [Titian’s “Venus Anadyomene,” e.g.], NUDE. Culture!
  • 47d. Zymurgist’s interest], BEER. How many zymurgists are also deltiologists?

4.25 stars from me.

Fred Ohles’s Universal Crossword, “Going in Reverse”—Judge Vic’s write-up

Fred Ohles’s Universal Crossword, “Going in Reverse,” Aug. 2, 2019, solution

THEME: Theme answers start with back or up, depending on whether they are Acrossers or Downers. And, of course, they go in reverse.  To wit (and see answer grid):

  • 30a Facing reality again, literally? (Hint: Enter this answer “back”ward!) HTRAE OT NWOD. [BACK] DOWN TO EARTH
  • 48a Give no way out, literally? (enter “back”ward) RENROC A OTNI. [BACK] INTO A CORNER
  • 59a Lawn trimming tools (Bonus diagonal clue: Extra power source, literally? [enter from this answer’s 3rd letter to 20-Across’ 4th letter]) EDGERS. (The diagonal answer, which goes from lower right to upper left–I guess that’s doubly in reverse, is GENERATOR.)
  • 9d Still uncertain, literally? (enter “up”ward) RIA EHT NI. [UP] IN THE AIR.
  • 40a Causing mischief, literally? (enter “up”ward) DOOG ON OT. [UP] TO NOT GOOD.

Other stuff, pro and con, includes:

  • 20a Use as a starting point GO FROM
  • 22a Trojan War figure with a loud voice STENTOR
  • 24a Rather challenging TOUGHISH
  • 53a Exacts revenge GETS EVEN
  • 55a Famous print maker? BIGFOOT
  • 68a Lunch box in Kobe BENTO

I started a thread in the review of last Saturday’s puzzle. I mentioned a vocal element in the solving community in my geographical area that

    • do not like this type of puzzle,
    • cannot scale the “Thursday Wall,”
    • resist anything resembling weekend themeless puzzles, and
    • pretty much want straightforward themes 100% of the time.

Me? I want the Universal Crossword to be liked and consumed by this group, who do not see themselves as rebels. They do not like seeing something like RIA EHT NI in their solution grid. And I bet it’s fair to say that, as is the case with my local paper, Universal is often paired with the NYT, so that solvers can rely on early-week difficulty level from at least one puzzle per day.

It’s a moot point by now, I fear, as these folks, whose complaints to the local paper are passed along to me, are going to lose their hard-copy paper in the near future. Kudos to the paper for a compensating move–it is giving iPads to subscribers and providing basic instructions on how newbies should use them to access the lay-out version of the paper.  If this group, which I estimate statewide to number in the thousands, get together with iPads, they could opt for the Thomas Joseph 11 x 13, as it, the Universal, and a couple others are available in the online edition.

This puzzle today is probably a debut for Fred Ohles. It undoubtedly represents hours of work. And there is nothing wrong with the puzzle per se. It’s cleverly conceived and competently executed. The non-theme fill is not bad at all.

Although, after several hours, I still don’t get the significance of the diagonal generator entry. 2.5 stars.

Joanne Sullivan’s Inkubator crossword, “O! Whatever”—Jenni’s write-up

I love it when my friends make crosswords! I especially love it when they’re fun crosswords, and this one is.

O tempore! O mores! All the theme answers are phrases that start with “O” and are re-divided to start with “O,” as if they were odes. Wackiness results.

Inkubator, August 2, 2019, Joanne Sullivan, “O! Whatever,” solution grid

  • 19a [Ode to a cowgirl’s sweetheart?] is O, RANGE CRUSH.
  • 24a [Ode to and] is O, BS CURES. That one took me a while to figure out and was totally worth the effort. Best AHA moment in a long time.
  • 38a [Ode to Porky and Petunia’s nuptials?] is O, PEN MARRIAGE.
  • 53a [Ode to a vintage Times Square sign?] is O, NEON ONE. This is my favorite.
  • 60a [Ode to a new pâté recipe?] is O, LIVER TWIST.

All the base phrases are solid, all the resulting theme answers are funny, and I’ve never seen anything like it. So fun.

As we’ve come to expect from the Inkubator team, there are lots and lots of women in the clues and the grid. Nicole Kidman and Kylie Minogue as the representative Aussies for 1as G’DAY; Serena Williams; PEARL Buck and Bailey, Corazon AQUINO, the original ENIAC programmers, ROSITA the Muppet, AMELIA Earhart, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mia Hamm, Alice in Wonderland, EDIE Falco. Love the representation of WOC as well.

A few other things:

  • 15a [Across ___ (free no-frills software for crossword solving)] is inside baseball. It’s LITE. Of course.
  • 16a [Food with negative calories, apocryphally] is CELERY. This also reads to me as a woman-centric clue, since it’s mostly women who collect weight-loss “secrets” such as the myth that it takes more calories to chew celery than the vegetable contains.
  • You won’t see EMO clued as [Music genre criticized for its androcentrism] anywhere else.
  • Myth crossing myth: EL DORADO and ROC
  • 68a [Mad] is not angry, it’s INSANE.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that St MARK is represented by a winged lion and that the yellow in Mauritania’s flag represents the sands of the SAHARA.

Patrick Berry’s The New Yorker crossword—joon’s write-up

The New Yorker Weekend crossword, 19.08.02

hi, joon here with the writeup of patrick berry’s new yorker weekend crossword. did you know that this is a 66-word grid with zero, and i mean zero, abbreviations? there are only four three-letter words in this grid, and they are all common words. no obscurities, no awkward inflected forms, no partials, no weird foreign words… just a whole bunch of familiar words, phrases, and names. from a technical standpoint, about the only negative thing you could say about this grid is that there are a bunch of places where two plurals share their terminal S. that makes things a little easier on the constructor, but the payoff in this case is a ridiculously smooth grid and fun solve. the fill in this puzzle is so clean you could eat off of it.

my downs-only solve meant that i actually did not see any of the four clever ? clues, all of which were in the acrosses:

  • {Casting choices?} SPELLS.
  • {Picture books?} SCRIPTS.
  • {Game where contact isn’t made?} PHONE TAG.
  • {Tool that leaves something unfinished?} BELT SANDER.

oops. i guess this happens sometimes. you know what they say: {“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the ___”: Katharine Hepburn} FUN.

i thought i was going to crush this puzzle when i had all but two entries filled in within a few minutes. but i got pretty seriously stuck on the side-by-side pair of 3d {Required wear for some labs} LONG PANTS and 4d {Clearance-sale descriptor} YEAR-END in the upper left corner. i’ve worked in a lot of labs, and many possible answers came to mind: safety goggles, lab coats, closed-toed shoes, hard hats, radiation badges, … LONG PANTS was not going to come to me. i did spend some time considering whether “labs” meant labradors (because crosswords), and what dogs might be required (!) to wear in some cases. and for YEAR-END, i was thinking about descriptors of the items for sale in a clearance sale, rather than a descriptor of the sale itself. so that took a good long while to piece together. i had EGG ROLLS, GLANDS, AFT, and BE SERIOUS, giving ___G_A_TS for 3d and ___R_N_ for 4d. what broke it open for me was trying -ING for 4d. despite the fact that both of the letters (I and G) i was putting into the grid turned out to be incorrect, this gave me RINGS at 26a, which was enough to suggest LONG PANTS, then OBOE, and finally i was running the alphabet at 1a DAL_ to finish _EARING or _EERING. i could only come up with DALE, DALI, and finally DALY; putting the Y in made it easier to see the two errors.

that’s all from me. lovely puzzle as always. if you solved it with the across clues, you probably had an even better time than i did, but i enjoyed myself quite a bit anyway. have a great weekend!

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

Sorry this is so late! Let’s get right to it. The theme is cricket, and all the theme answers are 15-letter grid-spanners.

Los Angeles Times, August 2, 2019, Jeffrey Wechsler, solution grid

  • 17a [Cricket] is GAME WITH WICKETS.
  • 25a [Cricket] is a WIRELESS SERVICE. We get ads for this service here in eastern PA – is it national? The website looks as if it is.
  • 45a [Cricket] is DISNEY BUG JIMINY. Jiminy Cricket is a major character in the Disney film “Pinocchio.”
  • 59a [ [Crickets] ] is AUDIENCE SILENCE. I don’t mind the variation because it’s such a great clue/answer pair.

I enjoyed this theme! It was original and fun to solve, and all the entries seem solid to me. I suspect some might quibble with DISNEY BUG JIMINY but I liked it.

A few other things:

  • 1a [Center of the Milky Way?] is not referring to the galaxy or the letters in the words. It’s the candy bar, and the answer is CARAMEL.
  • 8a [Calder creation] is STABILE. They didn’t move.
  • 15a [First state, in a way] is ALABAMA; the “way” is alphabetical.
  • 36a [They might help you change your position] is WANT ADS. Get your mind out of the gutter.
  • 50a [Wheat species that’s also a British past tense] is a delightful clue for SPELT.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that DYNASTY was the top-rated TV show of 1984-’85. I was in residency. I was not watching TV.

I leave you with DISNEY BUG JIMINY.

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23 Responses to Friday, August 2, 2019

  1. If you like Pina Coladas says:

    The GENERATOR in the Universal is going back and up like the themers, so it’s a BACKUP GENERATOR

  2. David L says:

    My only ding on the NYT is that AISLEWAY seems silly. Is it any different from a plain old AISLE?

    • Mary A. says:

      Great minds think alike! An obvious and irritating redundancy.

    • Martin says:

      There’s a subtle distinction. “Aisleway” implies traffic, while “aisle” is the architectural entity. During takeoff, the aisle is there but the aisleway is not (no traffic allowed). Yes, we can usually understand what’s meant if we just say “aisle,” but I wouldn’t say that having a nuanced meaning is silly.

  3. Chip says:

    NYT: Just reminiscing with my wife this past weekend about a production of The Music Man I worked on decades ago. I was doing tech stuff . working a spotlight in the booth . for a community theater production in Princeton NJ. It was the first time I had seen the show on stage. Let’s face it, the plot is corny, and the music is of a time and period. Not much of it crossed over to the popular performance world. 76 Trombones ? Barbershop quartet ? But what I remember most and was telling my wife was how good the show itself was . and is. The music and the book are seamlessly integrated, marvellously cohesive, and I’d go to see The Music Man again “at the drop of a hat.”

    Aisleway ? I kept putting off filling it in . saying it can’t be. But yes. Additional proof to the uninitiated like me that there are parallel universes out there.

  4. Ethan says:

    NYT: The clue for 56A doesn’t really click for me. I’m having trouble thinking of a sentence where the clue would be substitutable for the answer.

    • M483 says:

      Some sources list “pledge to” as a synonym for assure. I pledge to you I will be faithful. I assure you I will be faithful.

  5. Martin says:

    Three “No”s for burgers at the BBQ seems a bit harsh. I often serve ribs and burgers. The ribs are smoked and the burgers aren’t. We don’t feel too wrong in calling the get-together a “barbecue.”

    (I don’t have a dedicated smoker, but use the grill. The ribs get smoked a few hours and then finished with honey and brown sugar, wrapped in foil, and finally unwrapped and sauced. That’s the time I toss on the burgers.) I think I need to do this again before summer’s gone.

  6. Billy Boy says:

    NYT Points:

    By pledging big bucks to PBS, I assure them that I will send the money. (And they assure me of a 25 CD Pat Boone Collection of Greatest Hits appearing at my doorstep).

    BBQ (Think as in ‘The Barbie’) means a lot of things to different people. The smaller your world, the less likely you can cook burgers (on)/in a /the Barbeque. So is it a conceptual noun or a physical one? I pledge/assure (to) you can cook damn near anything on a BBQ grille, even an amazing meatless burger [puke].

  7. Pinchy says:

    Anyone else bothered by “deluxe pizza” in NYT. I don’t think that’s actually a thing.

  8. Carl says:

    NYT clue for 36A is particular devilish as ANTICHRIST fits and is what I first entered.

  9. John says:

    Inkubator…. finally got to it. Jenni is right, this is a real fun solve. Plenty of crunch along with some genuine smiles. Nice job Joanne.

  10. Noam D. Elkies says:

    CHE: 57A SIGN_OF_THE_X can also work (with a different clue) as “sign of the cross”. The entry SIGNOFTHEX also appeared in a memorable(*) NYX puzzle by fellow mathematician Kiran Kedlaya, where X was a rebus in four theme entries but with a different reading in each (strike, cross, ten, times)! But SIGNOFTHEX was “sign of the times” there too. Both puzzles contain no non-thematic X (though this is not hard to achieve); today’s gets a small ding for including an unnecessary X in a clue: 49D:OMAHA clued as the birthplace of Malcolm X.


    P.S. (*) I see that it’s been 20+ years! Thurs., 27 Nov 1997; so indeed memorable.

    P.P.S. Hm, NYXXWORD . . .

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