Friday, February 28, 2020

CHE untimed (pannonica) 


Inkubator untimed (Rebecca) 


LAT 5:54 (Jenni) 


NYT 4:02 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 6:55 (Rachel) 


Universal tk (Rebecca) 


Aimee Lucido’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 28 20, no. 0228

Crisp and breezy themeless from Aimee. I definitely felt her “grew up in Chicago” vibe with this one: 21d. [Driving hazards], POTHOLES. A total gimme for me with the second O in place—’tis the season of rampant pothole formation.

Fave fill: BINGE-WATCH (good clue, [See the seasons pass quickly?]), ESCAPE ROOM, DEATHTRAPS, EARTH-SHATTERING, MAKE IT RAIN, a pouty “I DON’T WANNA,” HEADHUNTER, SCREEN TEST, SHARKNADO, CO-PARENTS (which I think I see more often as a verb than as a noun), PLACEBOS, and SIXTH SENSE. RELIGHT feels like it’s completely a word when it comes to candles, but it does look weird in the grid.

Seven more things:

  • 17a. [Dress style], MAXI. Just once I’d like to see this clued via pads. Say, [Stayfree __ Pads with Wings].
  • 20a. [Something Winnie-the-Pooh lacks], PANTS. Scrooge McDuck is also pants-less, and at least one presidential candidate knows this quite well (see video).
  • 21a. [Equal ___], PAY. I feel confident this was Aimee’s clue, and I like it. Would have been good to have a different clue for 44a. [Pays (up)], ANTES, though. See also: light in the TWI clue when RELIGHT is in the grid.
  • 37a. [Stones that diffract light], OPALS. Science clue!
  • 8d. [Its scientific name is Bufo bufo], TOAD. One of my favorite reduplicative scientific names. There are a ton of other tautonymous names like that—check out the Wikipedia listing. Porpita porpita, Mephitis mephitis
  • 20d. [Controls, of a sort], PLACEBOS. As in the sham treatment given to the control group in a medical study.
  • 49d. [“Because of ___-Dixie” (2000 award-winning children’s book)], WINN. Did you know that Aimee is also a novelist writing for kids in the middle grades (the same age range that Because of Winn-Dixie is aimed at)? Aimee’s first book is called Emmy in the Key of Code, and she’s writing her second novel, which will touch on Jewish identity in a girl whose parents are Catholic and Jewish and which sounds like it will be terrific.

Four stars from me.

Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

It’s a double Lucido day! I made the mistake of doing Amy Lucido’s NYT and TNY puzzles back to back, so now in trying to review this (excellent) themeless, the two are running together a bit in my head. Oops. I’m starting to wonder if TNY is intentionally doubling up constructors with the NYT? In the past few weeks we’ve had double-Berry, double-Agard, and double-Lucido days, which seems unlikely to be coincidental given how many fewer puzzles TNY published relative to the NYT. [edit: I just remembered the the Double Berry involved TNY and I think WSJ, not NYT, so perhaps the likelihood of coincidence is a bit higher than I initially speculated]

The New Yorker crossword solution • Aimee Lucido • Friday, February 28, 2020

This puzzle gets off to a delightfully juvenile start, with whoopee cushions imitating FLATULENCE and a BANANA PEEL causing a slipup. Some classic gags in this NW corner! The other three corners have some solid long entries as well, with  ADAM DRIVER / TAKES A SEAT in the SE, OPEN SECRET / SPINAL CORD in the SW, and HOME AT LAST / ANESTHESIA in the NE.

The hardest section for me to parse was the SW, were I misread the clue for 31A (“Acronymically titled 1991 Naughty by Nature hit”) as “Palindromically” titled, which turned OPP (ick) into OPO and SPINAL CORD into the incomprehensible SoINALCORD. The very tricky clue(“Back channel?) did not help this situation.

Some other things:

  • I appreciated the array of current actress first names, one very well known (KEIRA Knightley) and two probably less well known but equally fair game: SHAY Mitchell, DEBI Mazar).
  • Love that the skewering of that PELOTON ad never seems to end.
  • Fill I could live without: STDS, OPP, ARTE, SANYO, SEP, AFBS
  • I don’t know that I agree that SKIM is an alternative to Almond (milk). Seems a bit apples/oranges to me.

Overall, I enjoyed the solve and especially the crunchy long entries. Doubly so, thanks to the scheduling coincidence that may or may not be a coincidence! Plenty of stars from me.

Jules Markey’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Exit Music” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 2/28/20 • “Exit Music” • Markey • solution • 20200228

As most of you know by now, this is the final CHE crossword, as its run is ceasing. So in many ways this theme is a fitting …

  • 53aR [Musical finish … as suggested by the five sets of circled letters] CODA. Indeed, eh?
  • 17a. [Take on a twisted shape] CONVOLUTE.
  • 24a. [Prominent part of the Toblerone chocolate logo] MATTERHORN.
  • 35a. [Puzzling question] CONUNDRUM.
  • 50a. [Building on a nickel] MONTICELLO. Only 5-letter theme element; the rest are 4s.
  • 58a.[Graceful Australian rival of Evert and Navratilova] GOOLAGONG.

Ausfahrt, verfolgt von Bär
(oder Bern)

Note that these tail-end instruments for the most part don’t share direct English etymological links with their host words (-cello has the same sense of ‘little’ in both Italian words, and Horn in German means ‘peak’ but derives from the same root as sheep/antelope/musical horns). Note also that the theme answers are all single words—that’s an unusual and nice touch of consistency.

By the way, I can’t begin to think of a single musical piece including LUTE, HORN, DRUM, CELLO, and GONG. Would be quite unusual, and I say this as someone who probably knows more than the average bear about eclectic music. Perhaps something from Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road project?

The crossword’s first entry meekly acknowledges its departure: 1a [Ask to be excused, with “off”] BEG. Soon after, though, the strident 9a [“Make like a tree and leave!”] SCRAM. Uh-oh.

  • 34d [Tall duo in “Magic Mike”] EMS, 65a [Beginning to solidify?] ESS.
  • 23a [Cheddar around Bologna, once] LIRE, 31a [Italian sub meat] SALAMI.
  • 25d [Ingredient in the Greek dish taramasalata] ROETarama means ROE in Greek.
  • 26d [Affirmative action] NOD. Nice clue.
  • 40d [When vampires retire] SUNRISE.

    (Settle in. It’s 90 minutes.)
  • 47d [Desert metropolis whose name translates to “gardens”] RIYADH, capital of Saudi Arabia. Nice bit of trivia.

And so we come to the end. It’s been a great pleasure having the Chronicle crosswords to solve and a deep privilege to write about them for Fiend. I know I won’t be the only one piquantly feeling the loss of this high-quality puzzle that filled an elevated, aesthetic niche in the cruciverbal landscape. Thank you for all your work, Brad!

2d [Objets d’art from far-flung places] EXOTICA.

Debra Hamel’s Inkubator crossword, “Sing, Goddess…”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: Theme answers start with characters of HOMER’S ILIAD

Inkubator, “Sing, Goddess…” Debra Hamel, February 28, 2020, solution grid

  • 19A [Where Julia Child learned to cook] PARIS FRANCE
  • 32A [Julie Andrews’s right-hand man in the “Princess Diaries” films] HECTOR ELIZONDO
  • 49A [She played a sex surrogate in the 2012 film “The Sessions” (or an apt alternate title for 81-Across)] HELEN HUNT
  • 62A [Heroically named ghost town 20 miles south of the Nebraska state line] ACHILLES KANSAS
  • 81A [Epic story that begins (in some translations) with this puzzle’s title, and what the first words of 19-, 32-, 49-, and 62-Across have in common] HOMERS ILIAD

As usual, a fun and lively offering from the Inkubator. To me, the best part of this theme/puzzle is the clue for HELEN HUNT as an alternate title to HOMER’S ILIAD. I keep literally laughing out loud thinking about it. Just perfect. HECTOR ELIZONDO was the hardest of the themers for me – needing all the crosses – but not unfair.

Outside of HELEN HUNT, my favorite clues were for NSFW [“Open after hours” label?] and ARSE [Bum in Notting Hill]. Plus a lot of really nice mid-length answers. I’m very fond of 17×17 grids in general. Big enough to give breathing room to the answers that can allow for really smooth grids, but small enough that I can’t get sick of a theme by the end.

I also appreciated the bonus mytholgy in the puzzle with NIKE [Greek goddess namesake of a sports apparel company] HELL [“Persephone in ___” (Rita Dove poem set in a modern Underworld)] and ARGO [Medea fled from Colchis in it with her future husband]. Great puzzle all around!

Mark MacLachlan’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up

Fun puzzle! Each theme answer takes a base phrase and removes BR from the beginning. Wackiness results.

Los Angeles Times, Mark MacLachlan, February 28, 2020, solution grid

  • 18a [Power of a Hummer?] is UTE FORCE.
  • 23a [Enormous card revealed at end of magician’s routine?] is ACE FOR IMPACT. This makes me think of “Card Sharks,” the old game show with giant cards. Remember?





  • 38a [Tattoo depicting the last woolly mammoth?] is INK OF EXTINCTION. This may be my favorite and this is where I figured out what was going on.
  • 47a [Avian mascot on a refueling vessel?] is a OILER CHICKEN. This one is also pretty funny.
  • 57a [Hotel employee who only works one day a month?] is an IDES MAID.

All the base phrases are solid, all the theme answers are funny, and it was an enjoyable solve.

A few other things:

  • It’s ridiculous how long it took me to realize that [Egg producer] was HEN. Duh.
  • 22a [Discreetly, in slang] is ON THE DL. Raise your hand if you started with ON THE QT. We can’t clue this as a baseball term any more; it’s now the IL, not the DL.
  • I enjoy clue/answer pairs like 19d, [“Ah, I see what you meant”] for OHTHAT.
  • And 48d, [“Grr!”] for IM MAD.
  • 59a [Acted greenly?] is REUSED. I was looking for something about envy.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Goliath wielded a SPEAR.

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18 Responses to Friday, February 28, 2020

  1. maxine nerdström says:

    Loved the NYT today. So much fun, fresh fill.

  2. MattF says:

    My fave tautonym is chaos chaos for an amoeba, although considered obsolete. Nice NYT, felt harder than it was.

    • RM Camp says:

      How could we gloss over the most basic one of all: Gorilla gorilla? My own favorite is the northern red salamander, Pseudotriton ruber ruber because it sounds cool and goofy at the same time.

      • ahimsa says:

        I’ve always had a soft spot for the Eurasian wren, troglodytes troglodytes. Such a tiny bird named with a word that most folks associate with something huge and monstrous.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    I did EXACTLY the same thing with OPP. Read it as “palindrome” and confidently filled in the O at the end. D’oh. So to speak.

  4. JB says:

    1-down in the New Yorker — the clue is singular, but the answer is plural. Does anyone proofread these things before they’re published?

    • Alan D. says:

      Someone sent me a job listing just today where the New Yorker is looking for a crossword editor, sooooo maybe soon?

  5. Billy Boy says:

    I liked the NYM Aimee better than the NYT Aimee. So much cleaner.

    nit first, I’m sure some will consider this off-base ehhhhhh
    0.4% NaCl in TBW of the human body? Is that free tablesalt or adding up all the Na+ and Cl- as well. Plain old NaCl in the human body? My brain broke on that one, ‘N’ made me thing NECK, that’s gruesome enough, I guess.
    -‘science’ gotta love it. I blame Will – appropriate HEALERS was in his AIMEE.

    Many Disney Characters have no pants, notably Donald AND Daisy, “I’ll show you mine if …” never mind

    B-SIX enriches, BRAN makes you poo softer and bulkier, it has no nutritional value it passes through the G.I tract undigested, so how is that enriching?

    Got confused and forgot I had already entered LOLITA, but it was in the NYM I did first …

    NYM ————
    Also misthought Palindrome when it was Acronym

    Two very nice puzzles, just one was a full star better

    p.s. Loved that Peloton tweet

  6. Trent H. Evans says:

    Thank you to Brad Wilber! You did a fantastic job with the CHE and I’m so very sad to see it go.

  7. Daniel Barkalow says:

    Highly amused by Friday’s Universal cluing something with an unused potential theme entry from Monday’s Universal by a different author.

  8. Zulema says:

    In the NYT, it took me forever to parse 20D, PLACEBOS, because I kept mis-parsing PLACE.

    • ahimsa says:

      I can relate. Some years ago I looked at ALIENTO for a *long* time, wondering what it was (some obscure Spanish word?), and then I finally realized it was ALIEN TO.

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