Friday, September 4, 2020

Inkubator 4:32 (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 5:51 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 4:15 (Rachel) 


Universal 5:46 (Jim P) 


Brian Thomas’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 4 20, no. 0904

Somehow hardly anything in this puzzle resonated with me. There was a sports thing that was unfamiliar to me, and just in general many of the clues left me hanging until I had some crossings in place. An odd experience!

The sports thing is 26d. [Going away], IN A ROMP. I wasn’t convinced that the IN A portion truly belonged there, but I guess it’s fine. This “going away,” though, I think is sportswriter slang, as in if a team wins a blowout victory, they won in a romp, they won going away. Go figure. Then you add gendered COOL DUDES clued as gender-neutral [Hipsters] and you’ve got me looking askance at the puzzle again.

Hipsters are also a cut of women’s underwear. Speaking of, 34d. [Underwear brand] clues JOE BOXER, which turns out to now be selling clothes, socks, and PJs as well as underwear (including hipsters!) at Kmart and Sears. When’s the last time you bought some JOE BOXER undies?

Fave fill: ROSA PARKS, DIET POP and CREAM SODA (I think that can of stevia-sweetened cream soda in my fridge might fit both answers!), JEANNETTE RANKIN, NOT SO FAST, CAT BURGLAR, and IVAN PAVLOV. Speaking of the latter, my mom fairly recently came to realize that when we talk about our mouths watering at the sight of some delicious food, we meant it literally. The diversity of human experience includes people who don’t salivate extra when they smell pizza!

Five more things:

  • 50d. [Wedding dress that’s often red], SARI. Terrific clue!
  • 28a. [First winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel, 1965], DUNE. Denis Villeneuve’s movie comes out this December, perhaps. If you’re intrigued, watch for the trailer to be released next Wednesday.
  • 33d. [In a mean way?], ON AVERAGE. Tricksy math clue.
  • 43d. [Expensive beer chaser?], SNOB. As in “person who chases expensive beers” and not “costly shot of liquor drunk after a beer.” The clue led me to trying a SHOT first, though the question mark suggested that wouldn’t be right.
  • 12d. [“Ta-da!”], “I’VE DONE IT.” This doesn’t feel like a solid enough phrase to be a crossword answer, does it?

Overall vibe I got from this puzzle lands at about 3.25 stars, since I didn’t have much fun with it. The fill and clues often felt like they were for a target audience I’m not part of. (Cool dudes, truckers, hockey fans, country music aficionados, and people who spell out letters of the alphabet and pluralize them?) Kind of an odd solving experience.

Debbie Ellerin’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #11″—Jenni’s review

The Inkubator team tagged this as “moderately challenging.” I didn’t find it challenging at all and I really enjoyed it, anyway. I’ve come to expect smooth, solid puzzles from Debbie, and this did not disappoint.

Natan Last had a piece in The Atlantic in March called “The Hidden Bigotry of Crosswords.” He doesn’t name the crossword editor who said that “MARIE KONDO wouldn’t be familiar enough ‘to most solvers, especially with that unusual last name.’ ” It wasn’t the first time I’d heard that story, and I don’t find it hard to believe. That’s the sort of nonsense that led to the creation of the Inkubator puzzles, so it’s fitting that MARIE KONDO shows up at 17a, amusingly clued as [Woman who’s made a tidy sum?].

Other things I liked:

Inkubator puzzle, September 3, 2020, Debbie Ellerin, “Themeless #11,” solution grid

  • 15d [Witt-y thing to do] confused me. I filled in SKATE from crossings and then realized the Witt in question is Katarina.
  • 19a [Good combatant] is a great clue for EVIL.
  • 22d [Some patches] refers to software, not blue jeans. It’s UPDATES.
  • 48d [Trenches and the like] is clothing, not warfare. The answer is COATS.
  • 61d [Code for bread, for short] is PIN, referring to the bread you get from an ATM.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Mama Quilla is the INCAN moon goddess.

Paul Coulter’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 9/4/20 • Fri • Coulter • solution • 20200904

Once you get past the randomness of the theme—food puns involving Star Wars characters—it’s a fine crossword.

  • 17a. [Solo’s favorite sandwiches?] HANBURGERS (Han Solo, hamburgers).
  • 27a. [Vader’s favorite treat?] DARTH CHOCOLATE (Darth Vader, dark chocolate).
  • 47a. [Wookiee’s favorite dessert?] CHEWIE BROWNIES (Chewbacca (‘Chewie’), chewy brownies).
  • 63a. [Hutt’s favorite beverage?] JABBA JUICE (Jabba the Hutt, Jamba Juice™).

Good balance in that there are two good guys and two villains, and also that there are two clues with individual names and two with races/species(?). Poor balance in that all the characters are male.

  • 1d [Far from ruddy] ASHY, 48d [Blanched] WAN.
  • Seeing the former crossing 14a [“Paint It Black” instrument] SITAR puts me in mind of the great Indian singer ASHA Bhosle. However, for a musical selection I’m going to go with Lord SITAR’s cover of Los Bravos’ “Black is Black”:
  • 4d [Unwitting test taker] LAB RAT. I’m not entirely convinced about ‘unwitting’, either literally or figuratively.
  • 10d [Revolutionary soldiers] REDCOATS. Little help here? The redcoats were the British, so the clue seemingly needs some sort of expansion: [Revolutionary War soldiers] or [Revolutionary era soldiers] or [Revolutionary soldiers’ foes], no?
  • 39d [Stay dry] TEETOTAL, as in avoid alcohol.
  • 70a [Brigantine’s pair] MASTS.
  • 45d [Wee hour] TWO. For me, a frequent wee hour of activity is three, due almost entirely to the NYT Spelling Bee schedule. >shakes tiny fist<
  • 40a [“Friendly Skies” co.] UAL, United Air Lines. It’s somehow disproportionately off-putting when the central element of a crossword is an acronym/initialism, especially an uncommon one.
  • 65a [No ally of Asta] FLEA. Odd clue. Am I missing some dimension here?
  • 68a [What “F” may mean] FULL. Of course I tried FAIL first. Of course I did.

Okay, I couldn’t resist. Here’s some folks being silly and having too much fun:

(The videos featuring the original film scenes for this are far too cheesy.)

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

Short writeup today because I’m running late, sorry! This was a quick solve from Patrick Berry, with some fun long entries, a few meh long entries, and a bit of a dearth of representation.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Patrick Berry • Friday, September 4, 2020

The long stuff today included: ALL NATURAL / TWO OF A KIND / EASTER EGG / SLIPCOVER / ANIMAL FARM / NINE TO FIVE / TENTPOLES / ART HOUSES / IN ANY CASE / SNAUSAGES. I wasn’t wowed by IN ANY CASE, which feels a little less of a thing than IN ANY EVENT (although they google equally well, so what do I know?). I enjoyed EASTER EGG and ART HOUSES.

A few more things:

  • Not particularly fond of PERP walk [__ walk (police tactic)] or this meaning of POUND [Dogcatcher’s drop-off spot].
  • Representation: Not a ton of propers in this lightly challenging puzzle, but the ones we do have are mostly white dudes [ELWAY, The Traveling WILBURYS, Eric BANA, George Orwell, Ludlum/Jason BOURNE.

Overall, stars for a well-made and fun puzzle (that I wish had a bit more diversity in it, but again, I have faith that Patrick Berry can and will do better on this front!). Please enjoy the musical stylings of Dolly Parton to forgive me for this very short post.

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Headwear-Turning”—Jim P’s abbreviated review

Theme: Phrases that have a hidden three-letter hat within them. Said hats are in circled letters and turn downward at the appropriate place in the entry. This is explained by the revealer AT THE DROP OF A HAT (59a, [Without warning, and where the starred answers get tricky]).

Universal crossword solution · “Headwear-Turning” · Paul Coulter · Fri., 9.4.20

  • 17a. [*Line about 23 degrees south of the equator (in each starred answer, look down after reading the circled letter)] TROPIC OF (CAP)RICORN. Do Universal solvers really need this much hand-holding when it comes to figuring out a theme? I find it quite jarring.
  • 32a. [*Flexible fee format] S(LID)ING SCALE
  • 42a. [*Numbers’ place] OLD TES(TAM)ENT

Ed. note: That’s as far as Jim got in the write-up before he lost wi-fi access in the wilderness.

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19 Responses to Friday, September 4, 2020

  1. maxine nerdström says:

    I found the NYT challenging today. The northwest corner was the last to fall. I like it more in hindsight because I just learned a lot about Jeanette Rankin. I had heard her name before, but had no idea what a fascinating and courageous woman she was. Learning about her life endeared the puzzle to me more.

    • Huda says:

      That’s a good way to look at it. I struggled as well, just not on the same wave length.
      But I did like IVAN PAVLOV and his clue, and ROSA PARKS crossing JEANNETTE RANKIN… Some interesting people mingling with those CAT BURGLARS and COOL DUDES in JOE BOXERS…

  2. Jenni Levy says:

    I presume “no ally of Asta” refers to the infamous dog of the Thin Man series, and that fleas are no allies of dogs in general….and I’m sure you knew all that, so maybe we’re both missing something. Or maybe that’s all there is.

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I finished the Berry New Yorker in 2:41! I’m not sure I’ve ever done a themeless that fast. Maybe one of the old CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge” puzzles that weren’t so hard? It helps that the New Yorker’s solving interface jumps you to the first open entry in that direction after you finish an answer, so you don’t have to arrow or tab through the grid. It has spoiled me for the .puz format, where you might tab through 10 filled-in entries before you reach the next incomplete entry.

  4. Huda says:

    Amy, as you know I’m in awe of the solve times you achieve. With my neuroscientist hat, I have a question (but I understand if you’re not comfortable answering it):
    If you went back ten years or so, would you say your times are, on average, holding steady or improving? We are told that some cognitive activities slow down as we age, but I’m curious how much immersion and practice can compensate. I know you’re an N of 1 but you actually have more data than most.

    • Huda says:

      PS. To be clear, When I say “as we age”, I am not implying at all that you are old… I am using it in the more biological sense to refer to the passage of time regardless of the starting point– e.g. between 2o and 30, or 30-40, etc…

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I don’t do nearly as many crosswords as I used to, so I’m slower than I used to be. I used to do maybe 3-6 crosswords a day, every day. Now it’s more like 1-2 a day, sometimes zero. Am I slower because I’m not doing so many puzzles, because I’m over 50, or because of all the meds I take? Perhaps a combination of these.

  5. Billy Boy says:

    Expensive beer chaser beer SNOB?
    Oxymoronic. No beer is worth more than a couple of bucks. Way better costly ways to consume alcohol.

    Amy, I was not on the wavelength of this puzzle either. I flat out didn’t like the last 20% I filled in as it was annoying rather than clever.

    I hope I enjoy the NYer more, I’m grumpy from a really hot day outside, but I still didn’t like that NYT in places.

  6. Steve Manion says:

    Tomorrow is the Kentucky Derby. TIZ THE LAW is the prohibitive favorite. There is no way to handicap the race and not come up with that horse, but you never know. I mention this because I most often associate the phrase “going away” with horse racing. My friend and I have been betting at Saratoga and when a closing horse connects with the leaders at the top of or in deep stretch then separates to win in a romp, the expression is that the horse won “going away” or “won for fun.”

    Tough puzzle today. Broad range of answers.


  7. Brenda Rose says:

    Surprised this site did not call foul on BLART & esp. when SIMP was derided vigorously of late. SIMP as slang, bad. SIMP in its original definition, ok. BLART is just plain fat shaming.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I was not as attuned to the issue of fat shaming when “Paul Blart, Mall Cop” was out, but I did like how the daughter was played by a girl who wasn’t a skinny blonde, and I liked that the initially hapless Blart went on to be the hero. I have not seen any use of “blart” outside of that movie character.

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