Friday, January 3, 2020

Inkubator untimed (Rebecca) 


LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 4:33 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 5:42 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (Rebecca) 


Will Treece’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 3 20, no. 0103

Standard Friday difficulty level for me. And you?

Fave fill: BINDI, RITZ CRACKER (although who ever heard of just one single cracker?), A CHORUS LINE, WE THE PEOPLE, CROP CIRCLES, THE FORCE (are you more Jedi or Dark Side?), GRANDKID, and “HELL, NO.”

Least favorite: B-TWO. Nobody ever spells out vitamin numbers. (Doing so makes one look like a MANIAC.) Also not keen on the plural ANEMIAS ([Weaknesses], my ass) and BRUTALITIES, or –IOR.

Bechdel balance feels good on first glance. Let’s tabulate: Shakespeare’s OPHELIA, Alice MUNRO, Hindu women in the BINDI clue, classical Greek literature’s ISMENE, mythical Cassandra the SEERESS, Wonder Woman in the OSS clue, ETTA James, and Issa RAE; vs. Peter LORRE, fictional ZORRO, and a generic THANE, REY, and UNCLE. That’s 8 vs 5, a +3 win. Nice!

Four more things:

  • 43a. [Bees make it], HUM. I don’t think of the HUM sound as an “it.” Does this work for you? Am I missing some angle?
  • 54a. [Baseball or basketball, but not football], ORB. Nice clue for a word that’s hard to clue with any sort of flavor. My favorite ORB usage is in the movie (haven’t read the book) Cold Comfort Farm, where our plucky heroine Flora is an aspiring writer who meanders about the farm trying to write, and calls the sun “the golden oooorb.”
  • 2d. [Program that started as SoundJam], ITUNES. Trivia I didn’t know.
  • 35d. [Article of furniture first used for medical purposes], WATERBED. More trivia I didn’t know.

3.75 stars from me.

Kevin Conway’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up

The theme is solid and the answers are amusing. The revealer (which wasn’t necessary) makes absolutely no sense to me. We didn’t have a tag for Kevin Conway. Is this a debut?

Each theme answer has an L inserted into a phrase. Wackiness results.

Los Angeles Times, January 3, 2020, Kevin Conway, solution grid

  • 17a [Lawyer’s missing text?] is LOST CLAUSE.
  • 22a [Offer from one unwilling to negotiate?] is STICKLER PRICE.
  • 44a [Military directive?] is BATTLING ORDER.
  • 54a [Another name for the five-second rule of dropped food?] is MORSEL CODE.

And then this: 35a [Calendar period that 17-, 22-, 44- and 54-Across are celebrating?] is L WEEK. What the heck is that? Google was no help and the resident teenager is still asleep, so I can’t check with her to see if this is something the kids say. If they wanted a revealer (which, again, is unnecessary) L WORD would have been at least comprehensible.

A few other things:

  • 1a [Sports headwear retailer] is the mall staple LIDS. That’s where I got the cap with YANKEES spelled out phonetically in Hebrew.
  • 34a is [Hot __] MIC. I did a puzzle recently that had HOT MIKES as an answer, and that threw me because I’m accustomed to seeing MIC.
  • At first I was annoyed because SIGN is in the grid and I thought it was a dupe for a clue. Turns out that clue was in today’s NYT. Too many puzzles. Not enough coffee.
  • [Indigenes] is not a word I’ve seen before. I didn’t have any problem coming up with NATIVES for the answer.
  • The SE gave me fits because I put in ON IT for 51d, [“Already taken care of”]. Turns out it’s I DID, which I’m not too fond of but which does fit the clue better and of course makes the rest of the corner work just fine.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: still don’t know what L WEEK is.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

Ah, the regular New Yorker themeless is back! How I missed thee! And true to form, this puzzle was packed with lovely long entries, some of which I had never heard of (INSPECTOR BUCKET?), some I know and love and could drop right in (ADA LOVELACE, YOSEMITE SAM, GOGO DANCERS), and of course at least one opera (IL TROVATORE). All of the long entries were fabulous, and the fill mostly holds up. Have I mentioned how much I love this publication?

A few notes:

The New Yorker crossword solution • Elizabeth C. Gorski • January 3, 2019

  • I have not read “Bleak House,” so didn’t know INSPECTOR BUCKET at all, but that won’t stop me from making an “INSPECTOR BUCKET? I ‘ardly know ‘er!” joke.
  • I love the clue on PALINDROMES. I have never read/heard of “So Many Dynamos!”, but the beauty of this clue is that, with a little reflection (ha! literally), you can infer its subject. Splendid clue.
  • It’s always nice to see the full names of people with crosswordese first names in the grid; we see a lot of ADA, so it’s fun to get the full ADA LOVELACE here.
  • Names I didn’t know: John TESH, SOL LeWitt, CHERYL Hines, DAG Hammarskjöld/Solstad, GERT Fröbe. Between those last two, we can add +2 to the running diaeresis/umlaüt count (yes, it’s combined).
  • Fill I could live without: DVII, SHU, TGI, SPH, OTB. Not too many! I still have no idea what OTB is, so the crossing with the opera I didn’t know was a straight guess, but it worked out. Ok, I googled. Off-track betting? I mean, ok. Not a fan. I also hate Roman numeral math. Regardless, if this is the price of admission for all those lovely long entries, consider me willing to pay.

Overall, loved this puzzle. Lots of stars from me!

Side-note unrelated to the puzzle itself: I got the following cartoon as my “congrats on solving!” image, and it just felt terribly timely and also IS NOT WHAT A CROSSWORD PUZZLE LOOKS LIKE:


Andrea Carla Michaels’ Inkubator crossword, “Check Your Calendar”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: Women with months for first names

Inkubator, “Check Your Calendar” Andrea Carla Michaels, January 2, 2020, solution grid

  • 17A [Singer raised in “The First Family of Country Music”] JUNE CARTER
  • 25A [Actress who portrayed Betty Draper in “Mad Men”] JANUARY JONES
  • 44A [Skin care guru with a “Blue Cocoon” beauty balm] MAY LINDSTROM
  • 60A [Fictional character played by Issa Rae in “The Hate U Give”] APRIL OFRAH

I enjoyed this solve – but found difficulty level a little inconsistent – with JUNE CARTER and JANUARY JONES gimmes, and MAY LINDSTROM and APRIL OFRAH much less known to me. The crossings for everything were really fair, so lack of familiarity didn’t prevent solving enjoyment.

This puzzle also lives up to what I expect from an Inkubator puzzle in terms of cluing. So many women-centric things going on here – including a lot of my favorite pop culture things. I’m always going to be excited by mentions of Regina King, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Ever After and where I think the Inkubator goes above and beyond is making space for exciting and inclusive cluing in words that generally don’t get that level of attention. ESSENCE [Magazine whose December cover featured Regina King], HATS [Oft-featured accessories in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”] and EVER [Drew Barrymore’s “___ After”] are great examples of this.

This puzzle also solved my eternal “which AMY do I use?” cluing dilemma by including three of the best – Poehler, Schumer, or Sedaris – plus appearances by GAL [“Wonder Woman” actress Gadot] and JENJI [“Orange Is the New Black” director Kohan]- so much to enjoy.

I also loved the twin cluing for SPAM and TARO [ Popular ingredient in Hawaiian cuisine] and found overall this grid was super smooth – for me there were no sticking points and I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish.

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Making Connections”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: Objects that hold things together are hidden and split between adjacent answers

Universal crossword solution · Paul Coulter · “Making Connections” · Fri., 01.03.20


  • 17A/18A [Make a member/Part of a sound system, once] INDUCT / TAPE
  • 25A/29A [Committee head/Barbershop that either cheats you or gives you what you paid for?] CHAIR / CLIP JOINT
  • 46A/49A [Story surprise / Layers] PLOT TWIST / TIERS
  • 61A/64A [Small talk / It’s bashed at some bashes] CHITCHAT / PINATA

I enjoyed this puzzle, but most of the enjoyment I had came from the overall grid and not necessarily this theme. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cute theme and it’s well executed – but it didn’t add much to the overall solving experience, as most of the answers around the theme are pretty great on their own. For me it felt like an easy themeless and I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on with the circles until examining the puzzle after the fact.

What a theme like this does to the grid is also great because there is a lot of opportunity for really standout mid-length answers all over the place. In addition to the ones that make the theme, we got STARSHIP, TAKE HOME, OIL BARON, DOSSIERS, BELL JAR and OSTRICH which all made for a really lively and fun solve.

Favorite clue absolutely goes to ZEDS [London drizzle features?].

3.5 stars

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17 Responses to Friday, January 3, 2020

  1. Peter A. Collins says:

    Did anyone else have OtHELlo where OpHELia should go? It’s pretty weird that they share four letters in the same locations. That and ELLA before ETTA made the top of the grid tough for me.

    SEERESS? Is that really a word?

    • Stephen B. Manion says:

      I had Ophelia and Ella, which put me on the wrong wavelength for STAGFLATION and TARTARE. Even when I realized it had to be ETTA, I have only had STEAK TARTARE and did not know any other tartares, but the fact that it was four letters made TUNA inferrable. It couldn’t possibly be PORK, could it?

      NW was tough. The rest fell quickly.


    • pseudonym says:

      Yep, OTHELLO was first

  2. Cynthia says:

    Really enjoyed the Universal today. Lots of interesting fill and a fun theme.

  3. kathleen McLennan says:

    Maybe L week is reference to children’s tv show with “Letter of the Week” event. Here the letter of the week is “L.”

    • Jim Quinlan says:

      Would that be considered a “calendar period” as per the clue? I’m with Jenn- no clue what L Week is and can’t find a way to Google it. It’s driving me nuts!

      • RunawayPancake says:

        I looked at two other reputable blogs that review LAT crosswords. Neither were able to decipher LWEEK.

    • PJ says:

      The best I can do is a Cockney pronunciation of Hell Week.

  4. pseudonym says:

    LAT revealer is L weak

    • Lemonade says:

      Very amusing comment pseudonym. I agree that it is ‘L week – representing Hell Week, I just have no idea why. Kevin has to come out to play even with his debut mainstream puzzle publication. I am surprised hs was graded so badly overall, as the puzzle had many fresh clue/fill combinations. The unnecessary reveal may clang, but the puzzle rang.

  5. scrivener says:

    NYT: I love it when I think I’ve got an early jump on long answers, then have to erase part of it and work it out. I got hit twice here, committing early to REDSOLOCUP (a fun answer) and SODACRACKER (less fun than RITZ). 19:54 for me, a few minutes ahead of my Friday average.

  6. Brenda Rose says:

    Amy dear, I must tell you that my doctor ordered blood tests when I told her I was weak & they proved I was anemic. Weakness & lameness aren’t derogatory words. They’re just easy terms for us lay people to convey our disability to medical specialists.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Okay, but I’ve been anemic for 4.5 years (ever since my kidney transplant) and it’s not about weakness! It’s just that some of us don’t manufacture as many RBCs. The clue is too reductive and it irks me.

      • Billy Boy says:

        Amy – Hope your kidney is otherwise functioning well. I, too have just one, the other one might have killed me if we’d left it in place.

        I’m with you on this one for even more reasons – weaknesses is not even close to ANEMIAS.

        Weakness can be a clinical symptom of ANEMIA (ANEMIAS is soooo awkward without categorization) but the two are not equivalents, except it appears far too often as paired clue/answer.

        Arrrrrrgh. This is a nit of mine.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          (Technically, I have *three* kidneys, but only one is really worthwhile.) Thanks for your support on the anemia ≠ weakness issue, Billy Boy.

  7. GlennG says:

    For those that want it, I finally came across a cogent explanation of the LAT revealer. What is meant is likely “Noel Week”. In some Christmas traditions, the whole week is celebrated (Dec 24-Dec 31). Hence No-L Week. The problem with it though is the wackiness that results in the fact that the L is *added* and not subtracted (it would have been far better as “Noel Week” and a subtracted L theme). So the revealer got made to be “L Week” instead with a clue consistent with “Noel Week”.

    Still bad, and IMO (one *) a puzzle that should have never been published.

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