Friday, July 31, 2020

Inkubator 3:37 (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 4:48 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 4:20 (Rachel) 


Universal 4:36 (Jim P) 


Claire Rimkus & Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s review

NY Times crossword solution, 7 31 20, no. 0731

Is this Claire Rimkus’s constructing debut? Apparently yes, at least in the venues blogged here. I thought she’d had a few already, but I might have been thinking of Claire Muscat. (You can never have too many Claires.) It’s a great themeless! Keep ’em coming, Claire and Erik.

First up, I don’t understand this clue: 31d. [Like 50 U.S. senators], HALF. The answer feels nouny while the clue screams adjective.

Fave fill: ELASTIGIRL (who gets to do all the rescuing in The Incredibles 2, while Mr. Incredible wrangles the kids back home), tasty LAYER CAKES (if you’re looking for good cake on Chicago’s North Side, check out Jennivee’s for classic cakes and cupcakes with a Filipino vibe), HIS AND HIS sets for the two-husband household, “AMEN TO THAT!”, MICROBLADING (a Facebook friend had this done and posted a video she took while being microbladed—it’s a little bit like getting brow hairs tattooed, but I think less permanent than a tat), and CRINGEWORTHY.

Clues I liked:

  • 1a. [Ball in a gym, maybe], PROM. Oh, that kind of ball.
  • 44a. [Some like it hot], CIDER. Also workable: [Some like it hard].
  • 45a. [Lead-in to amorous], POLY. 
  • 3d. [Crush something?], ORANGE SODA. I saw right through this clue!
  • 13d. [Hilton ___, Pulitzer-winning critic for The New Yorker], ALS. I don’t read all the articles in the New Yorker, but Hilton Als is always a good read. He had a Personal History piece a month ago (“My Mother’s Dreams for Her Son, and All Black Children”) that you should check out.
  • 24d. [Groin pulls?], LUSTS. *wry smile*
  • 27d. [Gymnastics eponym of a double back somersault with three twists], BILES. I was trying HIS AND HER for 31a, but realized it was wrong when that E made Simone BILES impossible.
  • 40d. [Cold brew], ICED TEA. Step aside, beer and ale, this is the ICED TEA and CIDER puzzle.

Great representation in the puzzle—I don’t think there were any clues or entries that hinged on straight white men. 4.25 stars from me.

Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

Hello and welcome to “holy s**t how is it August already?!”. I’ll be your host, the academic who has not sufficiently prepared her courses to be fully online because it feels pointless to do something so sensible while the world is crumbling around us so instead I blog about crossword puzzles! Let’s dive in.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Robyn Weintraub • Friday, July 31, 2020

Fortunately, none of that existential angst is present in today’s thoroughly delightful puzzle form Robyn Weintraub. As this week’s lightly challenging puzzle, this one was a breeze, but packed with fun entries and some of the most playful cluing I’ve seen in a New Yorker puzzle.

This puzzle started on the perfect note for where I’m at emotionally with [Like a snuggly blanket] for COZY, and continued to feel like a puzzle hug with a reminder of Mr. Rogers, my hometown hero [2018 documentary “___ You Be My Neighbor?”]. Not to wax rhapsodic (probably too late), but the tone of the clues throughout just ushers you through the puzzle with joy and an obvious love of the craft. Making clean, easy puzzles is actually super hard, and I’m just in awe of the palpable love in this puzzle. Ok, actual review:

The long entries included UPPED THE ANTE / BRAIN TEASERS / ZEROES IN ON / PIRATE SHIP / OPENS DOORS / LOBSTER POT / ORION’S BELT / RINGS A BELL. All excellent, in-the-language phrases that were clued foe ease without sacrificing wordplay. For instance, we had the clever and oblique cross reference on the crossing pair of LOBSTER POT / SAUTÉ PAN [Crustacean trap that sounds like a cooking vessel] / [Vessel for cooking shrimp scampi]. A similar non-cross-referenced cross-reference was also present in the short fill, with ESE [Suffix for Vietnam] right next to PHO [Noodle soup from Vietnam] (which, in keeping with the trend of this puzzle, is also my favorite comfort food).

A few more things:

  • [Material no longer sourced from kangaroos by Gucci] for FUR – Well… I mean, good! How was that a thing??
  • Even the fill I didn’t particularly like (e.g., A SET) had perfectly written clues that made up for it [Play ___ (words to describe a tennis round or a night club gig)]
  • Representation: this is a Friday, so we are light on proper names (and also light on that New Yorker feel of being culture-heavy generally). Most of the names we do have are great! [CHER/ROSIE/JETT/RAE] (we can set Alito and his anti-lgbtq anti-abortion bullshit to the side).
  • Normally don’t like seeing guns in crosswords, but PISTOL clued as a Hamilton prop feels like the best possible way to do it

Overall, so so many stars from me. Honestly, this puzzle (and Claire Rimkus/Erik Agard’s excellent NYT above) felt like a balm for the pandemic-weary soul and I’m just grateful to have started my morning with this excellent pair of themelesses.

Jennifer Nutt’s Inkubator crossword, “Froot Loop”—Jenni’s review

I haven’t eaten Froot Loops in years, and now I want some. There are pieces of fruit scattered all over the puzzle.

Inkubator, July 31, 2020, Jennifer Nutt, “Froot Loop,” solution grid

  • 18a [Tiny gem] is a SEED PEARL.
  • 23a [Extreme skin treatment] is a CHEMICAL PEEL.
  • 52a [Liquid diet backed by questionable science] is a JUICE FAST. That would actually be “no science.” You’re better off eating the actual fruits and vegetables than drinking juice, and your body is self-cleansing, at least internally.
  • 61a [Fibrous stuff] is PAPER PULP.

And, as you can see in the grid, we have a loop of Os to finish it off. Fun theme!

A few other things:

  • Can we retire ETAIL? Please?
  • My trainer insists that a crunch is not the same as a SITUP. He can’t explain the difference and they feel the same to me. Ouch.
  • 42a [Bit of a strain?] is a NOTE. As in a strain of music.
  • I misread 48a as [Wedding type] instead of [Welding type] and could not figure out what an ARC wedding was. Duh.
  • The blades of ice skates have EDGES.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Las Pachucas wore ZOOT SUITS. I’d never heard of Pachucas before. Now I know more about the history of racism in the US and the role of fashion in challenging gender stereotypes. Fascinating. Seriously, click the link and read the article. You won’t regret it.

Stella Zawistowski’s Universal crossword, “Final Exam”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Phrases whose last word can precede “exam.”

Universal crossword solution · “Final Exam” · Stella Zawistowski · Fri, 7.31.20

  • 17a. [Chocolate-coated ice cream treat] KLONDIKE BAR. Did you know they make mini-sized versions of these? It’s true! There’s even some with mint ice cream.
  • 26a. [Toni Morrison’s first book] THE BLUEST EYE. There were probably a good number of phrases ending in “eye” that Stella could’ve gone with, but I like that she chose this one. I didn’t know the book, but am glad to have learned about it. The novel is about a young black girl wishing she had blue eyes because of their perceived beauty (and symbol of whiteness) to counteract her own perceived black ugliness. I
  • 47a. [It’s not the main way in] SIDE ENTRANCE.
  • 62a. [Actors’ foundation, e.g.?] STAGE MAKE-UP. Good clue.

We’ve all seen words-that-can-follow-other-words themes many, many times. But as long as the phrases are well-known, the theme entries are interesting, and the conceit (in this case a “final exam”) is solid, it still makes for an enjoyable ride. Add to that plenty of clean fill, and you’ve got an entertaining puzzle.

“We are from the Planet DUPLO, and we are here to destroy you!”

Top hits in the fill: SULTAN, TOILETTE, PARLAYED, SERENE, ADOPTEE, and DUPLO. I can’t look at DRIVES BY [Cruises past] without imagining violence, so we’ll leave that one alone. Although, actually, now we have drive-by birthday parties and the like, so maybe that’s an avenue (haha) for potential cluing. END-ALL [Ultimate goal] looks weird without being attached to “be-all,” which of course couldn’t be used in the clue due to duplication. And I didn’t know the phrase IN VIVO [Like some lab testing] which is testing done on a living organism in contrast to in vitro testing.

My daughter graduated from Macalester College a couple months ago, but somehow I didn’t hear about this: 15a. [Former president who gave a virtual commencement speech in 2020]. OBAMA. This speech wasn’t addressed to any one school in particular, but to all college graduates this year. “America changed, and has always changed, because young people dared to hope.” Imagine having an inspiring president! I’ll be forwarding this to her later on. And here is Michelle Obama’s corresponding speech.

Nice puzzle. Four stars.

David Alfred Bywaters’ Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 7/31/20 • Fri • Bywaters • solution • 20200731

Belated, brief write-up of this on Saturday, as I completely forgot about it yesterday. Apologies to all.

Revealer as the final across: 68a [Remain unsettled, or, read as two words, what five of this puzzle’s long answers have] PEND, or rather P END. That is, a P is suffixed to wackify each theme entry.

  • 17a. [Really cool traffic sound?] KILLER BEEP (killer bee).
  • 29a. [Reaction to an impressive flower?] GREENHOUSE GASP (… gas).
  • 37a. [Summer getaway for a young Peter Parker?WEB CAMP (web cam). PP, aka Spider-Man.
  • 45a. [Waterproofer’s guarantee?] LONG TIME, NO SEEP (… no see).
  • 60a. [Part of a bad restaurant review on Yelp?] DINING CARP (… car).

Not also that those six added Ps, including the one in the revealer, are the only appearances of that letter in the entire grid. A nice touch.

Fill is solid throughout, some nice longdowns with the stacked SENGALESE/WATCHSTRAP (cute clue!) and GET ROLLING/RESONATING, the latter pair setting up –II–, –NN–, and –GG– crossings.

8d [“Bye now”] SEE YOU.

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19 Responses to Friday, July 31, 2020

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I like…
    Speaking of RESIDENTS, I’m really worried about all those in healthcare, especially on the front lines. They’re stressed and exhausted. NYC did a great job of recognizing them and showing gratitude during the height of their crisis. But I wonder whether we’re starting to take these healthcare workers for granted. To those walking around blithely ignoring the pandemic, please remember that there are worn out, over-stretched humans who are trying to save lives but may be reaching the end of their rope. Have pity!

  2. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Simone Biles has four moves named after her. The one described in the clue, which I have watched numerous times, is the second floor exercise move named after her and is now known as the Biles II. She has one on vault and one on beam. They are just called Biles. I would put her on the Mt. Rushmore of greatest individual athletes with Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. Lots of worthy candidates for the fourth. Mine is Jesse Owens.

    Excellent puzzle.


  3. jj says:

    I remember coming across HISANDHIS in an indie puzzle somewhat recently (can’t remember where – anyone know?), having fallen for the HISANDHER trap. So I was a step ahead this time around.

    The LUSTS clue was the last to fall, and I reacted with a wince rather than a wry smile. Seems kinda leering/creepy to me. Overall though I thought it was a pretty good puzzle.

    • MattF says:

      HISANDHIS is a cute entry, but… how do you tell which towel belongs to which person?

      • Martin says:

        The clue says they’re monogrammed. I guess the his and hisness is subtle — we assume you know who’s behind the monograms. (I wouldn’t called towels labeled HIS and HERS/HIS monogrammed.)

        But what happens if both partners have the same initials? Things are so complicated these days.

    • Jeff L says:

      I agree with your comment about LUSTS. So creepy I didn’t think it could be the answer.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    Gymnastics seems to have become a bit CRINGEWORTHY as it has lost much of its grace in this more athletic era. These athletes, as with Winter O figure-skaters seem to have lost joy in their performances. Whereas Usain Bolt seems the most joy-filled athlete (and arguably most outstanding) I’ve ever seen. Athletics was my University thing.

    @Huda – Residency is historically Hazing Central. It’s not pretty. They are always stressed, exhausted and often abused; absent COVID-19, much of it is linearly perpetuated and from top down.

    I thank them deeply as well.

    • Stephen B. Manion says:

      The great thing about Bolt and Phelps is that they won their races. In figure skating, there was a point trading scandal in pairs in the Salt Lake City Olympics that forced changes in the scoring and rules, but even with the changes, how to explain Sotnikova winning gold at Sochi over the elegant and ethereal Yuna Kim. Still, that loss pales in comparison to Roy Jones, Jr.’s boxing loss to a Korean in Seoul whom he utterly demolished.
      Grace and elegance are often in the eye of the beholder. For me. Simone Biles is Secretariat in the Belmont better than all other gymnasts who have ever competed.


    • Gary R says:

      Joyless gymnasts? You need to Google a video from last year of Katelyn Ohashi from UCLA.

    • M.Gritz says:

      Ooh, ouch. I ask you to reconsider that “grace” comment. It strikes awful close to comments European gymnasts and coaches have made about other athletes in the past that are … pretty explicit. Not sure if links are allowed, but google David Ciaralli.

      • Lois says:

        NYT: Loved LUSTS. Good puzzle. Amy’s remark that there can be too many Claires, though normally OK, as my middle name is Claire, reminded me that so many are now abusing the name Karen. Nice name, and I have known so many fine Karens! Don’t use names in a hurtful way (though that hasn’t been done in this column as far as I’ve seen).

      • Billy Boy says:

        All I can say is when I watch, it’s much more grunts and groans than smiles..

        I offended, completely unintentionally, sorry, truly.

        • Jenni Levy says:

          So women aren’t allowed to work at their athletics. They have to be skilled, strong, coordinated, fearless and conventionally feminine so they don’t trouble your oh-so-masculine sensibilities. Got it.

          Unintentional sexism and racism is still sexism and racism. I know you’re not interested in reflection or growth on the subject, but at least you can’t say no one told you.

          • Gary R says:

            I disagree with Billy Boy’s critical assessment of the state of high-level gymnastics and figure skating (joy vs. raw athleticism), but I’m hard pressed to see anything sexist or racist in his comments.

  5. Billy Boy says:

    I don’t think there has ever been a New Yorker so silky as today

    Loved ORIONS BELT, but I thought he drank Bruichladdich? rim-shot

  6. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Gymnastics used to be rated on a 10.0 system. Who can forget Nadia Comaneci. Now it is based off of a difficulty score. The difficulty score is alphabetical. As the letters go higher, the potential score goes higher. Simone’s triple double is a J difficulty, the highest there is. She elected not to do a double double dismount in the finals of the beam because it was not also given a J value, which logic and history suggested it should have. She complained about it loudly. She was not given the J rating allegedly for safety reasons, but most believe it was to potentially give other gymnasts a chance. The upshot of these ratings (all of the elements in a routine are rated and a composite difficulty score is determined) is that Simone starts out with a potential score on vault, floor and beam that can be a point higher than her competitors. If their performances are substantially identical, Simone wins because she starts out at a higher number. In reality, Simone also makes fewer mistakes, so she often wins by huge margins. The resentment that has developed is based on the fact that powerhouse performers are capable of performing and are rewarded for performing more difficult routines.

  7. EddieHot says:

    Yes, I found :)

  8. Joan Macon says:

    Pannonica is usually so reliable, but her LAT for today is missing; I hope she doesn’t have any health problems with this stupid virus!

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