Friday, March 20, 2020

Inkubator 12:24 (Matt) 


LAT Grid:5:34 Theme: DNF (Jenni) 


NYT 4:15 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 9:05 (Rachel) 


Universal 5:25 (Jim P) 


Reminder: The Crossword Tournament From Your Couch takes place this Saturday online! Something fun to do for all these cruciverbalists in capitivity.

Also: Team Fiend is stretched thin at present, with all the current mayhem, so we appreciate your understanding when some puzzle write-ups are late or absent.

Wyna Liu & Paolo Pasco’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 20 20, no. 0320

Aaaaah! Two of my faves have teamed up on a themeless. And they’ve nailed the long fill. I love the 15s, “WHO WORE IT BETTER?” ([Tabloid question next to two people in the same outfit]—though this is also a staple in some pop culture magazines) and “CARE TO ELABORATE?” The stacks are also slick: POWER CORDS / ATHLEISURE / STOLE A KISS, and TWITTERATI / ZAGAT-RATED / ANN LANDERS! Plus there’s “OH, GREAT” and a baker’s EGG WASH, and “NO DUH.”

Let’s check out some clues and whatnot:

  • 53d. [Family name in New York politics], CUOMO. Current governor Andrew C. is getting raves from many people who appreciate his COVD-19 briefings and pandemic-related governance. Illinois’s J.B. Pritzker is also doing a solid job and communicating well.
  • 1a. [Needs to recharge, maybe], POWER CORDS. “Needs” as a noun, not a verb. Tricked me!
  • 21a. [They touch people’s funny bones], HUMERI. Stay six feet away, please. No touching.
  • 23a. [Icon of the small screen?], EMOJI. Terrific clue!

Not all of the shorter fill is wonderful, but nothing activated the Scowl-o-Meter. 4.25 stars from me. Be safe, be well!

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s write-up

First of all, *that’s* how you spell Meredith VIEIRA?? Learn something new every day, I suppose. Anyways, this puzzle was fun! Not a lot of long stuff, but plenty of scattered medium-long entries, including CELESTE NG, SYCOPHANT, BAR THE DOOR, WHITE WINES, PHASE OUT, and my favorite, WHOA WHOA. The layout of this grid, relatively unconstrained by stacks or marquees, allowed the fill to be really exceptional today. And the clues, while heavy on pop culture (and because this is a Natan Last puzzle, extra-heavy on music), are also fun and packed with the constructor’s voice.

Aside from those magnificent longer entries, some fun shorter ones made it in as well: KOAN, DR CLAW, two different ways of saying “Hell Yeah!” (I’M IN! and LET’S GO!), MCAT (happy Match Day, btw, to all “future G.P.”s and others!).

Some other notes:

  • The cross of SAYERS/OCHOA is a tough one; I didn’t know either person, but guessed correctly based on knowing of some other famous OCHOAs.
  • I was tripped up by the ambiguity of CHIS/pHIS and PRO/con, which slowed me down a good bit in the middle.
  • Favorite wordplay: Gives a raise? for EMBOSSES
  • Good misdirect on SAME SEX (Like some unions)
  • Was the reference to the SHOES story being apocryphal a bit of shade at the NYT or just a coincidence? ?
  • And just for posterity, here are all of the musical entries: LIL WAYNE, Eliades OCHOA, LIAM Gallagher, Cypress Hill’s INSANE in the Brain, BONO, The Mighty Might Bosstones of SKA, GASTON. Ok, that last one isn’t *technically* a musical clue, but…

Overall, I really enjoyed this puzzle. Plenty of fun and fresh entries and slightly sassy cluing and constructor voice means a pile of stars from me!

Christina Iverson’s Universal crossword, “Insert Coin Here”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Machines that end in V, or V-ENDING MACHINES (52a, [Dispenser of small items … or, when read as three parts, a hint to the starred answers].

Universal crossword solution · “Insert Coin Here” · Christina Iverson · Fri., 3.20.20

  • 20a [*World’s fastest commercial electric train] SHANGHAI MAGLEV
  • 26a [*It could be LCD or plasma] FLAT-SCREEN TV
  • 43a [*Nissan Rogue, e.g.] CROSSOVER SUV

This is really cool. Not only is the revealer clever, but as a constructor, I know how limiting it is to be forced into a situation where you have a word that ends in V; you really want to avoid it. In this case, our constructor says “bring it on” and finds three solid examples of machines that end in V. It’s tight, it’s constrained, and it’s well-executed. Brava!

Fill highlights include PEGGY LEE, PRIME CUT, CHURCHES, HAVE-NOTS, and the colloquialisms “NO CLUE,” “AH, I SEE,” and “NO SIREE” (small dupe there with the NOs).

Clues of note:

  • 36a. [American Eagle lingerie line]. AERIE. Did not know they had a lingerie line, but what a clever way to clue this oft-used word.
  • 41a. [Word with very different meanings after “dog” and “cat”]. NAP. Never realized this. More creative cluing in action!
  • 21d. [Colorful part of a match]. HEAD. You’ve all probably seen the recent video of the matches in a row, catching fire one by one, until one rebel steps out of line. Practice social distancing. Stay home. Wash your hands. Act as if you have the virus.

A really nice puzzle. 4 stars.

Stella Zawistowski’s Inkubator puzzle, “Cryptic #3” — Matt’s review

I used to solve a lot of cryptics back in the day, but in recent years I’m down to maybe one every six months. Let’s see if I can keep up with Stella Z. on her Inkubator puzzle.

I usually tackle a cryptic by giving each clue a quick look to pick up any low-hanging fruit — an easy anagram, a gimme hidden word, that kind of thing. I was pleased to find that 11 of the puzzles clues fell on this first run-through! Confidence-building.

6-A [Iraqi city of confused Arabs] = BASRA was first, a nice find from our constructor on the ARABS/BASRA anagram. Then it’s hard to miss [Wild pie orgies make savory dumplings] = PIEROGIES, since you’re only switching the O and R to make the anagram! (PIE ORGIES = PIEROGIES).

Next to fall were 16-A [Lit up strange Dutch flower] which is a TULIP (from LIT UP) of course, followed by the nice [Quaintly reeled off the letters in an ancient grain] which is a double meaning for SPELT.

My favorite clue was at 1-Across, which took me a while to understand even after I had the answer: [I’d back talented gentleman (he of “Luther” and “Cats”) = IDRIS ELBA. How? ID from “I’d,” then your “talented gentleman” is an ABLE SIR, which you reverse (“back”) to get the answer. Nice one!

I also liked 3-D [Citrus brand done for; it’s a mess] for SUNKIST, with the SUNK (“done for”) followed by “it’s a mess” meaning you anagram the ITS into IST.

Not sure I’ve ever reviewed a cryptic before, but enjoyed it and would do again! 3.75 stars. I should also add that I’ve been solving Stella’s themelesses this year at her new(ish) site Tough As Nails, where she posts a fortnightly freestyle. They’re very fun.

Robin Stears’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up

Thanks to Martin Herbach for explaining the theme. I was stumped.

The revealer is [Basic auto maintenance, and how each answer to a starred clue was created]: OIL CHANGE. Martin pointed out that each theme answer is an anagram of a type of oil

The theme entries:

Los Angeles Times, March 20, 2020, Robin Stears, solution grid.

  • 17a [*Bargain on the last day of Oktoberfest?] is STEIN SALE (essential).
  • 26a [*Singer Damone, vis-à-vis actor Morrow?] is OLDER VIC (cod liver). This one led me down the wrong path, because OLD VIC is in there.
  • 38a [*Snoopy’s specialist?] is a BEAGLE VET (vegetable).
  • 53a [*One who’ll talk your ear off about osso buco and saltimbocca?] is VEAL NERD (lavender). I love this answer without the anagram.

Clever theme, well-executed, and totally not in my wheelhouse. No matter how long I struggle through the Spelling Bee, I will never be a natural at anagrams.

A few other things:

  • 2d [Grind] is not the verb. It’s RAT RACE.
  • 13d [Says “There, there,” say] is a verb, but not a common one. It’s SOLACES, not SOOTHES, as I first thought.
  • 41a [Scratching post material] is SISAL. I presume this a cat thing?
  • 36d is [Authenticating symbol]. Do they still have the Good Housekeeping SEAL. of Approval? Kids, ask your parents. Or grandparents.
  • 42d [Baffin Bay hazard] is an ICE FLOE, not BERG.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ATTILA is mentioned in Dante’s Seventh Circle.

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22 Responses to Friday, March 20, 2020

  1. David says:

    Is it possible at all to give a hint to the Wall Street journal contest answer. I had been doing so well. I got four or five in a row but I’m stuck on this. I don’t need the answer. Just something to point me in the direction. I can’t bear to wait till Monday.

    • JohnH says:

      If it’s any comfort, I got nowhere with this theme. (I also first entered the wrong country singer, the only one by that name I knew.) But I think they don’t want us to share hints in a forum like this one.

    • Ellen Nichols says:

      No hints from me. But I found it incredibly easy, for a welcome change. Read all the clues.

      • David says:

        The clues or the theme answers? The only thing that seems odd to me is third place being show. And first episode could be a solution to a pilot program. I’m just stumped. I had just started to get the hang of solving this which makes me even more frustrated if you’re saying it was easy

        • Ellen Nichols says:

          Keep the title in mind. Read the clues. One of them unlocked it for me. A true light bulb moment. Then use that info to parse the “theme answers.”

  2. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Excellent puzzle.

    I guess any clue is ok if it leads to the answer. I can imagine responding “No, Duh” if someone missed a should have been obvious point and said “Uh, yeah!” but I can’t see how the expressions are synonymous.


  3. MattF says:

    I found the NYT to be quite tough for a Friday. Didn’t know GORDO, JOAN, so some guessing at the end in that area. Good puzzle.

  4. Phil says:

    I’m looking forward to the reviews, because even though I solved the Universal and LAT without difficulty I still can’t figure out the themes.

  5. Billy Boy says:

    Unique funds of knowledge really make a difference in Friday themeless NYT puzzles. My quickest ever no-cheat/Google Friday just because of that for the bottom 80%, then the upper left (My most common area to do so) was a real exercise in reasoning it out answer by answer, 1A!!! the last to be 100% certain, great misdirection clue.

    I can see this being a real bear for some because of why much of it was smoother for me. I am pretty sure I had seen the portmanteau ATHLEISURE before, but I still needed a prod for those last few letters. 17A had me thinking a more bawdy answer.

    A great example why Friday is my fave (AND a proper bone clue from WillS).

    I got scolded for a clue answer last Friday for WSJ, so no nothing from me today!

    Wash your hands!!!

  6. JohnH says:

    Definitely hard but worthy challenge in the NYT, especially the NW with JOAN, GORDO, and ATHLEISURE. (It took longer than it should have, and the last two letters from crossings, for me to wrest OSKAR from memory as well.) I, too, had to get over the part of speech in “needs” for power, but also in “fat.” I first thought of “lardo.”

    I can’t swear I’d ever use NO DUH, but I’ll trust that the puzzle is more up on idioms than I am.

  7. Nina says:

    I thought it was an easier than usual Friday, and also no Google for me! But I was also fooled by POWER CORDS in the same way Amy was. Weak entries for me: OH, GREAT and DAUBED for makeup.

Comments are closed.