Friday, February 14, 2020

CHE untimed (pannonica) 


Inkubator untimed (Rebecca) 


LAT 4:37 (Jenni) 


NYT 4:06 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 6:35 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (Rebecca) 


Fireball 4:52(Jenni) 


Daniel Larsen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 14 20, no. 0214

Pretty quick solve, eh?

Fave fill: THE STOOGES (I don’t know any of Iggy Pop’s music, I confess, but this New Yorker profile made me adore him), HITCH A RIDE, “IN THAT CASE,” DEAD CALM (also a movie), AUDIOBOOKS (not for me), William BRENNAN, MICROCOSMS, HOME PLANET, SCHRODINGER’S CAT, and LA BAMBA.

Didn’t care for ONER, not one bit.

47a. [Superimposed], OVERLAIN?? I’m fairly confident I’ve never encountered OVERLAIN. If you didn’t have the N solidly in place when you hit this, you certainly went with OVERLAID first.

Five more things:

  • 52a. [Chummy], PALSY. I filled in CLOSE off the S and had to back out of it. We would also have accepted a medical clue for cerebral palsy, Bell’s palsy, or whatnot.
  • 43d. [Premium channel since 1980], CINEMAX. Are you old enough to remember early-’80s Cinemax? And the late-night softcore porn offerings that made the channel be known as “Skinemax”?
  • 11d. [“You’re doomed!”], “THERE IS NO ESCAPE.” I tried to get THERE’S NO ESCAPE to fit, to no avail. The phrase as presented in the puzzle feels short of the bar for crossword-worthy fill.
  • 25a. [Successor language to Common Brittonic], OLD WELSH. Whoa. Never heard of Brittonic, wasn’t necessarily aware that an Old Welsh ever existed.
  • 34a. [Basement feature], SUMP. The clue makes it sound like something a real estate agent would tout. “Finished basement with a wet bar and a working sump.”

3.8 stars from me. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Natan Last’s New Yorker Puzzle – Rachel’s writeup

I liked this a lot! The staircase in the middle is neat, there are some fun long downs, and the fill is almost all clean.

I’m always here for Olsen twin movies, and throwing in IT TAKES TWO with only a couple crosses broke open the NW and led right into the central staircase (although I do not recall HENRIETTA Pussycat, but I feel like I should!).

The New Yorker crossword solution •
Natan Last • Friday, February 14, 2020

The staircase consisted of SWEATS IT OUT / NATALIE COLEBECHDEL TEST, all of which are great entries on their own and seem to resonate as a unit as well. Although I’m not going to count, I’d guess this puzzle also passes Fiend’s modified BECHDEL TEST metric, given the prominent featuring of such women as NATALIE COLE, JACKIE Joyner-Kersee, the Olsen twins, Madonna (with her album TRUE BLUE), HENRIETTA Pussycat, and probably some others in the cluing. It’s worth noting that the actual BECHDEL TEST is more complicated than just counting women. Here’s a quote I read last night in this week’s New Yorker magazine about “Birds of Prey,” the Harley Quinn movie:

[Birds of Prey], peopled as it is by women who talk among themselves, with only fitful reference to men, doesn’t so much pass the Bechdel Test as ace it, while also ticking the profanity box, the ear-splitting box, and the bone-snapping box—every box, in fact, except for the tricky one that requires a motion picture to be good.

I lol’d. Anyways.

Other solid entries include: SPEED READERS  (cleverly clued as “They’re real page-turners?”; OF MICE AND MEN; MOB LAW (“Ochlocratic system” – I learned a new word!); I KNOW THIS and SO TO SPEAK, both colloquial but definitely in the language and perfectly clued.


  • Not sure how fair the ABE / ERES TU crossing is for people who aren’t fluent in crosswordese
  • TAG END is not a term I’ve heard before; is this a common phrase??
  • Fill I could live without : SRI and ALOU. Both valid, of course, but just kind of dated and played out.

Overall, plenty of stars from me!

Allegra Kuney’s Inkubator crossword, “Take the Plunge”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: The letters of the word BOOB have been cut off from theme answers and go down each SIDE of the puzzle

Inkubator, “Take the Plunge” Allegra Kuney, February 14, 2020, solution grid

  • 31A [Sticker location] BUMPER
  • 36A [“Turandot” or “Einstein on the Beach”] OPERA
  • 39A [Miranda with the best line in “The Return of the King”: “I am no man!”] OTTO
  • 42A [Genre for Astrud Gilberto]BOSSA NOVA
  • 27A [“Absorbent and yellow and porous” cartoon character] SPONGEBOB
  • 35A [Nobody or nothing] ZERO
  • 38A [Tweedy outfit?] WILCO
  • 41A [Place for life science experiments] BIO LAB
  • 53A [Effect of a revealing dress, or a clue to this puzzle’s theme] SIDE BOOB

Is February too early to declare a favorite theme of the year? I absolutely loved this puzzle. This theme is so clever and fun and funny and really really well executed. My first clue that something was up was coming across SPONGEBO – the answer was a gimme but lacking the letter space I continued to see if other themers would pop up and give a hint to what the next step should be. When I came across the revealer, SIDE BOOB, I was able to fill in the answers.

Outside of the theme, there are a lot of great answers in the grid. I’m a huge BSG fan so I was ecstatic to see GAIUS [Baltar of “Battlestar Galactica”] show up. And I’ll never not be excited seeing NAOMI [Osaka of tennis] in a puzzle. GREEN TEA, BLOGGERS, LEAVE OUT, and WISHBONE round out the puzzle connecting each section in a really smooth and enjoyable way.

Excellent debut from Allegra and I’m looking forward to all of her future puzzles!

Kevin Salat’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Divide and Conquer” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 2/14/20 • “Divide and Conquer” • Salat • solution • 20200214

Maybe a bit cynical (however, see discussion below) that this should appear on Valentine’s day, but as we all know available slots are limited as the CHE crossword ends its run in two week’s time.

36aR [Successful beginning … or what each set of circled letters represents on its line] HALF THE BATTLE. Accordingly, there are two 8-letter battles and two 6-letter battles, neatly halved as described.

  • 1a & 7a Contain HAST|INGS within [Horrified] AGHAST and [Burlesque-show threads] G-STRINGS.
  • 28a & 30a have VER|DUN in [“Can you hear me now?” sloganeer] VERIZON and [“Bonnie and Clyde” star, 1967] DUNAWAY.
  • 45a & 49a provide ODE|SSA from [Binge-watching installment] EPISODE and [Actress Kirby of “The Crown”] VANESSA.
  • We get NORM|ANDY via 67a [Movie with the 1979 Oscar-winning song “It Goes Like it Goes”] NORMA RAE and 68a [“Despite that …”] AND YET.

These days, pretty much anything can precede “… is half the battle”, but the idiomatic phrase dates back to the 1773 comedic play She Stoops to Conquer, by Oliver Goldsmith. Therein, a character observes that “the first blow is half the battle.”

What’s the context, you may ask. Nothing military or involving physical combat—in fact, it’s about courtship!  Two men wish to make a good impression on their host’s daughter. One says, “I have been thinking, George, of changing our travelling dresses …” and the other replies, “You’re right: the first blow is half the battle. I intend opening the campaign with the white and gold [waistcoat].”

And guess what? Who is this George who speaks the line? Why, it’s George HASTINGS, our first battle! Can’t help but wonder if all these connections were intentional on the part of the crossword constructor.

It’s all near the beginning of the play’s second act, which you can read at Project Gutenburg.

Moving on. Theme-adjacent: 20a [Culmination of a summit, perhaps] PACT. 52a [Public quarrel] SCENE. 3d [Multiplatinum Def Leppard album featuring “Love Bites” and “Armageddon It”] HYSTERIA. 20d [Forcefulness] PUNCH. 27d [Chess move relocating one’s king] CASTLE (the Hardcastles feature in She Stoops to Conquer).

  • 18a [Dunkable Italian cookies] BISCOTTI. Any fellow pedants who say biscotto for just one? (See also, panino.)
  • 15a [Hallmark of many Memphis-style barbecues] DRY RUB. I have no idea where the impulse to fill in DRY ROT here came from. Does allow me, though, to segue to 7d [Stink up the fridge] GO BAD.
  • 17a [World capital with the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque] MUSCAT, Oman. Now QABOOS would be useful crossword fill.
  • 65a [Fetching, say] OBEDIENT. Misdirection there.
  • IEH! Initialisms explained here. 6d [Nostalgic hashtag  for a designated weekday] TBT (throwback Thursday); 10d [GOP fundraising arm] RNC (Republican National Committee); 22d [Device for zapping commercials, briefly] DVR (digital video recorder); 60d [Genre chosen by a rave deejay: Abbr.] EDM (electronic dance music); 33a [Germophobe’s possible condition, for short] OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder); 57a [Hybrid business entity: Abbr.] LLC (limited liability company).
  • Favorite clue: 9d [Word after scratch or sniff] TEST.

Apologies in advance: (listen if you dare)

Alan Massengill’s Universal crossword, “Two Peas in a Pod”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: Theme answers include two Ps within the letters P-O-D

Universal crossword solution · Alan Massengill · “Two Peas in a Pod” · Fri., 02.14.20


  • 17A [*Bagel or dressing choice (in each starred answer, note three outer letters and a pair of inner ones!)] POPPY SEED
  • 19A [*Like a lethal arrow, perhaps] POISON TIPPED
  • 35A [*Caught some quick Z’s at work] POWER NAPPED
  • 53A [*Prepared for movie night, maybe] POPPED IN A DVD
  • 56A [*When a young boxer might start training?] PUPPYHOOD

Cute idea – and overall the puzzle is smooth – but a couple of the theme answers felt a bit forced – particularly POWER NAPPED – which I’ve never before seen in the past tense and POPPED IN A DVD which felt a bit archaic in the age of streaming.

Was slowed down a bit in the southeast because I had VIOLA before OSSIE [Actor and activist Davis] and definitely read the clue for SAHARA [Largest hot desert] as dessert instead of desert – but outside of that a smooth grid and fun solve.

3 stars


Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 135”–Jenni’s write-up

Two Fireballs in one week – actually within 72 hours! The downside is that there’s no FB next week. Nothing’s perfect.

In stark contrast to the last puzzle, this one left me wishing it were a smidgen tougher. It fell quite easily even though I didn’t know one of the three long Across entires in the NW. Let’s look at that corner, shall we?

Fireball crossword, February 14, 2020, Peter Gordon, “Themeless 135,” solution grid

  • 1a [“Married … With Children” child] is the gimme here: BUD BUNDY.
  • 14a [Not available for checking out] is ON RESERVE.
  • The one that made no sense at first was 17a [The entirety of Strickland Gillilan’s poem “Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes”]. I filled in ADAMHADEM from crossings and thought it was some guy named Adam Hadem. Um, no. It’s ADAM HADEM – microbes, that is. That made me laugh.

Other things I liked: ANGORA CATS clued as [Some longhairs], TESSERACT (which will always be associated with Meg Murry in my mind), ESCAPE PODSOVEN MITT, and DR DENTON.

What I didn’t like: 32a [Went to a better place] for PASSED ON. I’m not all that fond of euphemisms for “died.” They epitomize the American queasiness about the very idea of death, which in turn makes it much more difficult for people to have the conversations they need to have with their doctors about their wishes at end of life. For more on my thoughts about that, here’s my TED Talk. No, really. That’s not my real objection, though. DO NOT SAY someone “went to a better place” when they die. Just don’t. If you believe that and it brings you comfort, that’s lovely. I’m glad. Not everyone sees it that way and it can come across as dismissive of the grieving person’s pain. It hurts to lose a loved one. You can’t make that better. You can be present for their distress, but you can’t fix it.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Strickland Gillilan’s poem. I also had not heard of VEDIC as an early form of Sanskrit.


Garry Morse’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up

WSJ • 2/14/20 • Fri • Morse • solution • 20200214

Just under the wire (before dinner, that is). It’s a quote puzzle for Valentine’s Day. I’m not a big fan of quote puzzles. This one doesn’t change my opinion.

The quote, attributed to Charles M. Schulz, spread over five entries: ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE, BUT A LITTLE CHOCOLATE NOW AND THEN DOESN’T HURT. Can’t argue with that. Well, people who are allergic to or don’t like chocolate might argue with it.

I’m tempted to make a quote out of the long downs. Something about a TRIAL DATE for HANNIBAL, who might be the DARK HORSE for those who would otherwise be TSARISTS. Or maybe not.

I’m not all that fond of NEW AT  or SIT FOR, either. Maybe I’m just cranky because it’s cold out and I’m on call, or maybe this is a pretty “meh” puzzle.

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23 Responses to Friday, February 14, 2020

  1. Evad says:

    I had SEAM before SEAT for [Trousers part] and ended up with SCHRODINGER SCAM. Quite apropos, I thought after seeing the correct answer!

  2. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: “The phrase as presented in the puzzle feels short of the bar for crossword-worthy fill.”

    You didn’t complain the first time you saw it. :)

    That said, I tried THERE’S NO ESCAPE as well, even though I should’ve known better. D’oh!

    • JohnH says:

      I’d like to defend THERE IS NO ESCAPE. I can hear a sinister voice intoning it, although I can’t tell you the ultimate B-movie or whatever source of the meme, and that just isn’t so with the more idiomatic expression with a contraction.

      • Stephen B. Manion says:

        Agree. Darth Vader among others has used the expression. There is an intonation of dread that there’s no escape lacks.


  3. JohnH says:

    It looks like the same New Yorker puzzle as Monday is online. Indeed, for once it also appears in print. It’s labeled the anniversary rather than weekday puzzle.

  4. David L says:

    I was temporarily sidetracked by RIGA instead of EURO and IDOL instead of ICON, but otherwise this was a straightforward puzzle.

    ONER is just dreadful, I agree. I spent some time looking at the Wikipedia page for open set and I am not at all convinced the clue is correct without some further definition or restriction (see the diagram at top right).

    • MattF says:

      It’s an open set on the one-dimensional line— all the points between the values ‘x’ and ‘y’. There’s an implicit assumption that x<y, in order that the set be non-empty. Also, using ‘x’ and ‘y’ as the open interval endpoints is a bit misleading because it suggests the set is two-dimensional— but it’s not wrong.

      • David L says:

        Thanks. It strikes me as both obscure and vague for a general crossword. (x,y) could also be a location, a vector, or even just a pair of unknowns.

      • JohnH says:

        Works for me, although I was a math / sci major, so I realize not typical.

  5. RichardZ says:

    Loved Rachel’s quote from Anthony Lane’s review of “Birds of Prey” (in the 02/17 & 02/24 issue of The New Yorker). I guess every superhero / action movie needs to check off those boxes to be commercially successful, unfortunately.

  6. C. Y. Hollander says:

    New Yorker:
    TAG END is not a term I’ve heard before; is this a common phrase??

    It was not really familiar to me, either. As an item of mild interest, checking some dictionaries, I found that the phrases tag end, fag end, and rag end, can all refer to “the very last part of something”, as the clue put it. That might make the crossing difficult for those who have not heard of TAHITI.

    The appearance of both [TRUE] BLUE and BLEU in the crossword was too duplicative for my liking.

    • Gary R says:

      My Mom used to do a lot sewing, and she used the term “tag end” sometimes to refer to what I’d call “scraps” – “I’d really like to make another skirt of that material, but all I have left are tag ends.”

    • Ellen Nichols says:

      +1 one the BLUE/BLEU duplication!

  7. cyco says:

    Today’s Inkubator was an absolute blast! If you don’t subscribe already, it’s well worth the price of admission.

  8. Paulissmart1927 says:

    I thought today’s LAT puzzle is by Garry Morse.

  9. Joan Macon says:

    And where is the LAT grid?

  10. Joan Macon says:

    Thank you!

Comments are closed.