Friday, May 8, 2020

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 6:29 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 7:51 (Rachel) 


Universal 4:34 (Jim P) 


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

NY Times crossword solution, 5 9 20, no. 0508

So today I chanced upon a YouTube playlist of soft rock songs from the ’70s through the ’90s. It makes for a great soundtrack while working if you were a ’70s kid who liked those songs! Anyway, I found out the hard way that it doesn’t help one’s themeless solving speed to solve while singing along to Billy Joel and James Taylor. V. distracting, in fact.

I like the pretty pinwheel grid, with the stagger-stacked 11s filling the middle. Fave fill: the FAR NORTH (Minnesota, Canada, Scandinavia, etc. are Northern Lights territory), DID ONE’S PART (stay home if you can!), SUPERHEROES with a tricky clue ([DC figures], DC Comics rather than Washington pols or jocks), LITTLE ITALY, Jean HARLOW, ZAMBONIS, gorgeous DESERT BLOOM (loved the photos when the Mojave burst into flower a couple years back), race FINISH LINES (not sure when my husband will next have an actual in-person race to run…), and SLEEP LAB.

Six more things:

  • 51a. [___-choice], PRO. *nods*
  • 1d. [Magician’s cry], BEHOLD. Speaking of magic, I just backed a Kickstarter project that somehow incorporates magical illusions into the endgame of each of three 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles. I have no idea what that means, but count me in!
  • 37d. [Where capture the flag is often played], AT CAMP. Eww, I don’t care for this entry. AT HOME and AT WORK and AT SCHOOL feel more passable, not overly specific.
  • 39d. [One might keep you up at night], INFANT. Truth.
  • 42d. [Gardening tool], TROWEL. Huzzah! A [Gardening tool] clue that doesn’t lead to HOE or EDGER, for a change. I’ve used a garden trowel plenty in my life; never used an edger and very rarely ever handled a hoe.
  • 46d. [Franchise with the most victories in N.F.L. history], BEARS. My household sports fans here in Chicago did not know this one!

Four stars from me.

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

I flew through most of this puzzle, probably because I myself am EXTREMELY ONLINE and could keep up with most of the cultural references. I did slow down a bit in the SE, where I could not call up ATONEMENT for some reason (even once I had all the letters, my brain kept parsing it as “AT… ONE.. MENT..???”).

The New Yorker crossword solution • Aimee Lucido • Friday, May 8, 2020

I enjoyed the stacks of 9s in the NW (PLACEMATS / AUTOMATES / CROMULENT) and SE (BREAK IT UP / ATONEMENT / LIFE VESTS), as well as the long downs of MINI-SERIES / SLIDES INTO and  FIXER-UPPER / FETTUCCINE. All good, crunchy long stuff that gives this puzzle a voice, amplified by excellent clues (I particularly enjoyed “Builds a robot for” as the clue for AUTOMATES).

I did slow down a bit with the cross-referencing of AT EASE/ON EDGE and HERO/MINI-SERIES all being in such close proximity. On the one hand, their nearness made it easier to find the cross-referenced clue, but on the other hand made knowing the crosses even more important, since you won’t be able to get the one reference without (most of) the other. I have a love/hate relationship with cross-referenced clues because they’re usually quite clever (AT EASE/ON EDGE are great), but sometimes are just a tad superfluous (HERO/MINI-SERIES). Now, if the full name of the MINI-SERIES had been HERO, it would feel less superfluous, but since it wasn’t a one-to-one… Idk, it feels like just because you *can* write a cross-referenced clue doesn’t always mean you *should*.

  • Fill I could live without: the partial I LET A, SST, KEV (does he *actually* go by this nickname, or is it just… a possible nickname…because his name is Kevin?)
  • Grateful to Aimee Lucido for the excuse to embed a RUPAUL video in my post!

Overall, this puzzle felt fresh and EXTREMELY ONLINE and I enjoyed it a lot! Tons of stars from me. Happy weekend all— go put the bass in your walk!

Stu Agler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 5/8/20 • Fri • Agler • solution • 20200508

Change the first letter of a magazine title, make a professional pun.

  • 17a. [Magazine for masseuses?] ROLF DIGEST (Golf Digest).
  • 21a. [Magazine for nurses?] IV GUIDE (TV Guide).
  • 26a. [Magazine for golfers?] Speaking of 17a. PAR AND DRIVER. (Car and Driver).
  • 38a. [Magazine for beekeepers?] HONEY (Money).
  • 44a. [Magazine for crossword constructors?] PUNNER’S WORLD (Runner’s World). Quod erat demonstrandum.
  • 51a. [Magazine for pharmacists?] MEDBOOK (Redbook).
  • 60a. [Magazine for farmers?] HEN’S HEALTH (Men’s Health).

The new first letters don’t spell anything, nor do the replaced letters. But this isn’t a meta puzzle, and there are SEVEN of them in this 15×15 grid, so that isn’t a valid complaint.

I’d’ve preferred not to have a single non-theme invocation of another magazine – 56d [People Magazine’s 2018 Sexiest Man Alive] ELBA. Completely unnecessary to clue it that way. Either have no theme-adjacent stuff or go all the way and seed the whole grid and clues with references. One or two ‘bonuses’—especially avoidable ones—end up seeming inelegant.

  • Had trouble finishing the grid over in that central-right area. 43a TOE-IN for [Wheel alignment] eluded me, and I wasn’t seeing 36d [M’s favorite agent] BOND nor 34a [Hook partner] JAB.
  • 5d [Team with the longest World Series drought (71 years)] INDIANS. Looked at this for such a long time, thinking “Indiana doesn’t have any MLB teams, does it?”
  • 26d [Treat holders] PAWS. Weird clue, to me.

The theme-heaviness engendered a little too much unsavory short fill. Stuff  like -ANE, OEN-, ITER, NHRA, ARIL, NANU, A SECet al. Still, a good puzzle and a solid Friday challenge.

Mark McClain’s Universal crossword, “C Red”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Phrases whose first word is a shade of red starting with C.

Universal crossword solution · “C Red” · Mark McClain · Fri., 5.8.20

  • 17a [Southeastern Conference powerhouse] CRIMSON TIDE
  • 27a [Director Sofia’s Oscar-winning grandfather] CARMINE COPPOLA
  • 42a [Round salad ingredients] CHERRY TOMATOES
  • 55a [Any of a biblical septet] CARDINAL SIN

The set isn’t totally consistent in that some of the C-words change meaning (like “cardinal”) and some don’t (like “crimson”), but you’d be hard pressed to find a totally consistent set of four similar phrases that all behaved in exactly the same way. These work well enough in my mind to make for a solid puzzle theme. Nothing too deep or fancy, mind you, but enough of a gimmick to make you think, “Huh. I didn’t realize there were that many shades of red starting with C.” And the title is a nice pun on the phrase “see red.”

I didn’t know CARMINE COPPOLA, nor did I know that carmine is a shade of red, so that was a tough one for me. It turns out that the senior Coppola was a composer, not an actor, and won Best Original Score for The Godfather Part II.

The long fill entries aren’t exactly fun, but they are solid: STEREOTYPE, ARGUE A CASE, EYECUPS, INSEAMS, MRI SCAN, and STOMACH. On the short side, ATTY [Court fig.] is less commonly seen than ATT as an abbreviation for “attorney” (in crosswords, anyway), but it’s still common enough. And I just learned it’s also short for “atomizer,” the part of an e-cigarette that produces the vapor. Don’t be surprised if you see that clue before long.

Clues of note:

  • 32a. [Yeltsin who was Russia’s first president]. BORIS. We don’t get this entry that often in puzzles, so I find it curious to see it clued this way rather than with respect to a current world leader whose been in plenty of headlines of late.
  • 28d. [Appear before the Supreme Court, say]. ARGUE A CASE. Just don’t let a toilet flush stop you.
  • 41d. [Food processor?]. STOMACH. Yesterday’s WSJ had (almost) this exact clue, but with BELLY as an answer. I commented that it was a clue better suited to STOMACH, and here it is. *puffs up chest* Feel my power!

Nice puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Rachel Fabi’s Inkubator crossword, “Distance Education”—Jenni’s review

Anyone who thinks that quality is compromised when editors seek out crosswords by women and female-identifying constructors has clearly not been doing the Inkubator puzzles. They are consistently some of the best around. This one is way up there on the list of my favorite puzzles ever. When I saw the title, I thought “isn’t it usually ‘distance learning?'” I should have known there was a good reason it wasn’t. I loved this puzzle.

The first theme answer I ran into in the NW corner left me scratching my head. Eventually I worked my way over to the next answer in that row and the light dawned. I may have laughed out loud; I certainly chortled to myself.

Inkubator, May 8, 2020, Rachel Fabi, “Distance Education,” solution grid


  • The one I ran into first was 22a [Southern Gothic author], WILLIA. That makes no sense. The clue to its right, 23a, is [-] which means it’s a continuation. That says ULKNER. The missing letters to make WILLIAM FAULKNER are MFA. So the educational degree spans the distance. So cool.
  • 10a [Hitchhike] and 13a are THU RIDE. Add MBA and you get THUMB A RIDE.
  • 31d [Twofer] and 67d are PACKA EAL, which needs GED to make PACKAGE DEAL.
  • 60d [Original “it” couple] and 80d are ADA NDEVE. Put in MA and you get ADAM AND EVE. That would have been a great clue even without the theme gimmick.
  • 114a [Radioactive ore] and 115a are URANIU EPOSIT, which needs MD to be URANIUM DEPOSIT. Not sure that’s really a phrase in general use, but I’m partial to the degree, so I’ll take it.

Five theme answers doesn’t seem like much for an oversized puzzle until you realize there are actually ten and it’s a real construction challenge that is very well executed.

That’s it for me – I want to get this posted while there’s still daylight! ETA: I was in such a rush that I forgot to add the grid. Fixed.

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16 Responses to Friday, May 8, 2020

  1. David Steere says:

    Inkubator: I absolutely loved Rachel’s terrific puzzle–a joy from start to finish with a very cool theme hint at 66 Across. I am probably imagining a little romantic/old fashioned mini-theme (7 Down, 55 Down, 89 Across, 65 Down and even 14 Down) but a sweeter combination of clues and answers in one puzzle I haven’t encountered for awhile. Some wonderful cluing, Rachel. Thanks for this treat on a Friday…actually on a very late Thursday night.

    • Rachel Fabi says:

      Thank you, David, that’s very kind! The mini-theme was not intended, but maybe I am just a romantic/old-fashioned cluer!

  2. MattF says:

    NYT was relatively tough, especially the upper half. But doable, with no obscurities. Good puzzle.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    Totally fouled myself up in the NE of the NYT. I dropped in COOING for “billing partner” and EON instead of ERA and couldn’t see that either was wrong for a loooong time. Nice puzzle.

  4. Boston Bob says:

    NYT: What Jenni said. TNY: Didn’t know DM, SLIDESINTO, CROMULENT; never heard anyone say “EXTREMELY ONLINE.” So, a hard slog, and a slow time on both.

  5. Lester says:

    @Amy: It’s too bad that Stephen Bishop’s song “Little Italy” apparently didn’t come up on the YouTube soft rock playlist to help you along. It’s been my earworm ever since I finished the NYTX.

  6. Billy Boy says:

    Since Allan’s comment Tuesday, I’ve been doing the UNIVERSAL (It’s in my local newspaper!). I find it a series of well-made puzzles, with the occasional groaner in the themes, but clued rather easily by comparison to these other (what I call) ‘Elite’ puzzles under discussion here. I knew CARMINE (color) from Stamp Collecting and a/n (Man’s name) Italian co-worker …

    I suppose an EASY/HARD set of clues could be done to jazz up the solve for some, but I really like the quality of the fill. Anyone else want to chime in?

    Today’s NYT, I thought was rather easy with many fill-in-the-blanks for me from ANEROID and BEARS to SUPERHEROES and ZAMBONIS although I did SAND- before LAND- with what little STAR WARS I know. I got held up trying to think of a ‘Billing Partner’ related to “Collections” … (See Jenni’s COOING[sic] she must mean coDing?) Billing, coding, payment & collections – the Four Horsemen of Medical Practice Reimbursement …

    Oooops, I must go change my IP address to do the NYM puzzle, forgot it is Friday, my freebies are out already this month.


    • Billy Boy says:

      New Yorker Puzzle – Fun Nike fact, I did athletics (Track & Field) in all my school years. I was in college, they made their first running shoe literally with a waffle iron sole for runners in the Olympic trials. I was at U Florida (’69-’73) then and we had Gatorade® (duh) before anyone else. I remain a devoted Adidas man to this day.

      OK, wake up now, Cheers,

    • Gary R says:

      I think Jenni was referring to “billing and cooing” – displays of affection between lovers.

    • M483 says:

      I’d like to “chime in” on the Universal puzzles. I really enjoy them just as they are, but more importantly, I have been pro-actively providing people the link to this puzzle hoping to get them interested in doing crosswords, or to improve their pleasure in doing crosswords or, in our current situation of confinement, giving them more stimulation. If the cluing is made harder, these people will give up on crosswords altogether or go back to puzzles of a much poorer quality. I was recommending USA Today, but they are becoming more and more difficult and not for the beginner. We need quality puzzles that will introduce and keep newcomers. I’m speaking especially for those of us of retirement age and older who now have time to devote to puzzles and need the brain stimulation. We don’t have the knowledge of “pop culture” so we want very few of those references and very fair crosses for them.

      • Billy Boy says:

        Never heard of billing and cooing, yet another new thing learned.

        Re: Universal, I’m only saying the dual cluing because I saw that trick once for a Sunday (I think) NYT. I enjoy a good clean solve, they are generally excellent at Universal.

  7. RichardZ says:

    For anyone else who was unfamiliar with the phrase clued in 13D in today’s New Yorker puzzle, here’s an explanation:

  8. Dr.Fancypants says:

    I mostly found the NYT to be merely “good enough”, but I really liked seeing Firefly-alum Gina TORRES in the grid.

  9. Brenda Rose says:

    I applaud you advocating stimulation to compliment the joy in solving puzzles & making them more user-friendly. But like every learning process you start at 101 & elevate to 401, that is if you’re still interested in being in the class. There are plenty of easier puzzles out there & I submit that your friends do these first. I am 72 & never played a video game, seen any superheroes in comic books or on screen & had no interest in GOT. I have close to zero knowledge of any computer term & don’t know the difference between the ESC key & my car key. I committed these terms to memory by challenging myself so that I could go from 101 to the beyond. “Retired folks have no knowledge of pop culture?” Google is free, use it Grandma. My vote is no for dumbing down the crossword.

  10. cyco says:

    Way late to this one, but re: INKUBATOR

    Five theme answers doesn’t seem like much for an oversized puzzle until you realize there are actually ten and it’s a real construction challenge that is very well executed.

    Even better than that, Jenni, the themer at 66A is Six Degrees of Separation — so don’t forget 121A: Groo [MS] Men.

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