Exciting news from the Inkubator team! “If you want a little more Inkubator in your life, pick up the latest copy of Marie Claire magazine! Starting with the Fall 2020 issue, we are collaborating with Marie Claire to publish dynamite puzzles by women. Our debut puzzle is ‘Good as Hell’ by Juliana Tringali Golden. This issue also features Chrissy Teigen on raising women’s voices, a closer look at guaranteed income, and the female execs making work-from-home happen.” Congrats to Inkubator Crosswords and Marie Claire magazine!
Caitlin Reid & Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
What a fun puzzle! Any time Erik is in the byline, you expect some juicy cluing, and New Yorker constructor Caitlin’s themelesses are always good, too.
Lots of terrific fill. My faves are SUCKED FACE, FASHIONABLY LATE, ESCAPE ROOM, MANGO LASSI (though I confess I’m not a big mango fan), SLEEPYHEAD, BLACK MAGIC, CASH ON HAND (totally familiar, rarely seen in crosswords), and “OH, FORGET IT.” I also like the connected WHOLE / BLOOD, even with an x-ref.
Clues of note and other things that caught my eye:
- 1a. [Fans of the Bible?], PALM FRONDS. Fun clue!
- 11a. [It’s hardly a breath of fresh air], SMOG. My heart goes out to all the West Coasters suffering under the orange sky, smoke, and wildfires. It’s terrible how widespread the fires are throughout the various western states.
- 22a. [Bobs and weaves], DOS. As in hairdos.
- 23a. [Phone-unlocking option], SCAN. With facial recognition. (Hard pass on that. My iPhone 8 opens fine when I’m wearing a mask, since it uses my fingerprint. Does that count as “scanning”?)
- 27a. [“Auntie,” on the telly], BBC. Entirely unknown trivia/reference for me. What’s the derivation of that? I know some of you know this (without Googling).
- 45a. [Cicely ___, 2020 Television Academy Hall of Fame inductee], TYSON. She’s 95 years old and has been working steadily as an actress since 1956 (that’s 64 years ago). Her latest projects, both with 2020 releases, are series regular on Ava DuVernay’s OWN show, Cherish the Day, and a supporting role in Tyler Perry’s Netflix movie, A Fall from Grace. F*ck Mike Tyson and Tyson Chicken. Long live Cicely!
- 50a. [Right columns?], EDIT. Terrific clue!
- 66a. [One who’s about ready to go out?], SLEEPYHEAD. As in “go out like a light.”
- 3d. [Unfortunate thing to be out of], LUCK. Quite literally.
- 12d. [Something that might be sacrificed at the altar?], MAIDEN NAME. Yeah, it is a sacrifice, isn’t it? Your identity, your connection to your family and origins.
- 29d. [Liquid paper?], CASH ON HAND. Liquid as in liquid assets, paper as in paper money. Were/are you a Liquid Paper or Wite-Out fan?
The closest thing this grid has to bad fill is KOLA and I PASS, which are fine. The fill really is remarkably smooth, isn’t it? Add to that the sparkle in the clues, and you’ve got yourself a quite nice, 4.5-star puzzle.
Amy Schecter and Christina Iverson’s Inkubator crossword, “Play by Play”—Jenni’s review
An extra-large Inkubator! The theme answers are mashups of two play titles.
- 23a [Heavenly United States metropolis?] is CITY OF ANGELS IN AMERICA.
- 46a [High honor for a femme sex worker?] is PRETTY WOMAN OF THE YEAR.
- 69a [Delighted exclamation from someone in a thruple?] is SHE LOVES ME AND MY GIRL.
- 95a [Build-up to professing one’s attraction to SNL star McKinnon?] is PRELUDE TO A KISS ME KATE.
- 120a [Iberian instrumentalist?] is THE MUSIC MAN OF LA MANCHA.
Fun theme! 69a is my favorite, and even if the number is purely a coincidence, it added to my amusement.
A few other things:
- 3d [Shape a shift, say] is ALTER. A shift is a kind of dress.
- 41d [“Calls are tough while I’m homeschooling my kids, so please ___”] EMAIL ME. #cluesof2020
- YOM Kippur is coming up in a few weeks. I’m chanting Kol Nidre over Zoom. That should be – interesting.
- 89d [Head for the backcountry?] is an OUTHOUSE. In my (limited) backcountry experience, you “head”ed for a tree. OUTHOUSES were in the country, not the backcountry. But it’s cute.
- My grandparents had a Zenith FlashMatic with an ANTENNA.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that LEONA Barker is a boxer. I also did not know that GEODE wedding cakes were a thing, and I’m grateful they were not a thing 35 years ago when I married a geologist. One of his graduate school friends’ had a wedding cake that was a scientifically accurate 3-dimensional representation of the Klamath Mountains. The surface was a relief map and when it was cut into, it was a cross-section. One particular section was, um, enhanced. It was the 80s. In California.
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Happy Friday, all! Today’s puzzle from Patrick Berry is well-made (of course), but it suffers by comparison to today’s NYT themeless, which I found significantly more enjoyable to solve. I think I left this puzzle feeling like I was not its intended audience, given my relative unfamiliarity with things like cognac brands, regattas, Tom Jones, and MIMEOS. That said, there is a lot of good stuff here! It just left me a little cold.
The long entries today included stacks of 9s in the NW and SE, and long downs connecting them to other sections. We have SHOOT ‘EM UP / LUNCH MENU / OSCAR BAIT / THE RIALTO in the NW, BRASSIERE / YACHT CLUB / ESMERALDA / SHE’S A LADY in the SE, and REMY MARTIN and MINCED OATH making up the long downs. I like OSCAR BAIT, MINCED OATH, and ESMERALDA best of these (and had no idea Demi Moor voiced ESMERALDA in the movie!). I did not know what REMY MARTIN was, but I infer that it is named after rapper Remy Ma. (jk).
A few more things:
- Fill is impeccable, as always!
- Dupe on TOM / Tom Jones (doesn’t bother me, but I feel like if a dupe is blatant enough that *I* notice it, I should at least point it out)
- Representation: I’m not convinced that ELLA Baker, Spike LEE, and the OLSEN twins fully balance out the cognac/ YACHT CLUB/ MENSA vibe of this puzzle, but YMMV.
All that to say, this is a solidly made, well-clued, perfectly adequate puzzle! I’m still hopeful that Patrick Berry will turn his unmatched talents to making more inclusive puzzles in the future. Stars from me for the construction, fill, and MINCED OATH. Here’s some REMY MA(RTIN) to close out the post!
Brian Gubin’s Universal crossword, “Shaken or Stirred”—Jim P’s review
How many puzzles have used MIXED DRINK (or its plural) as a revealer? I’m betting quite a few (though I’m not going to check at the moment). But there are multiple ways to use that revealer, so at least there’s still some variety to be found.
In this grid, our constructor has used names and phrases in which the letters DRINK can be found consecutively in various sequences.
- 18a. [Team-building meal (unscramble each set of circled letters!)] WORK DINNER. I find the parenthetical hand-holding to be somewhat off-putting, so I pretty much ignore it and everything’s fine.
- 27a. [14x NBA All-Star from Germany] DIRK NOWITZKI. Yeah, sorry. I don’t know this name. Maybe if he’d made it to 15x..(though probably not).
- 37a. [Tyrion Lannister portrayer] PETER DINKLAGE. This name I know having read all the Game of Thrones books and having seen all of the TV show.
- 46a. [Rhyming message from Blockbuster] BE KIND REWIND. Hey kids! Back in the day we had these things called videotapes and we could record movies onto them. You needed a special device called a VCR (video cassette recorder) to view these tapes and as you watched the film the tape would advance in the cassette. When you were done watching the film, it was common courtesy to rewind the tape for the next person, but of course, not everyone was so courteous.
A fun take on the MIXED DRINK motif, especially the last one which was a cute blast from the past. I imagine if you didn’t know either proper name, you probably enjoyed this one less.
In the fill, spelled-out ELM STREET and MINIONS are fun, though IGNITABLE is less so. Having a G as the second letter (due to a theme entry) limits one’s choices I suppose. Tennis’s OPEN ERA, JITTERS, and WOMBAT are nice as well. I don’t recall seeing NBD [“Don’t worry about it,” in textspeak] in a grid, but I have no problem with it (it’s short for “No Big Deal”).
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
One of those easy-to-understand-but-circuitous-to-explain themes. Each of the theme phrases ends in a 5-letter word with alternating consonants and vowels, and the two vowels (positions 2 and 4) are swapped to wackify the original phrases.
- 16a. [Yuletide decorations at a beach cottage?] CHRISTMAS CORAL (… carol). There may not be Christmas corals, but in coral reefs one can find Spirobranchus giganteus polychaetes, also known as ‘Christmas tree worms’, embedded into corals.
- 29a. [What many skyscrapers in Houston and Dallas represent?] CORPORATE TEXAS (… taxes).
- 35a. [Opera group supported by a ’70–’80s sitcom family?] JEFFERSON DIVAS (… Davis).
- 53a. [Denim’s golden age?] DAYS OF OUR LEVIS (… Lives).
These are mildly chuckle-worthy. 2d [“That’s sorta funny”] HEH.
As for the rest of the crossword, I found myself more often than is typical to be on a different wavelength than the constructor. Among my missteps:
- With WANES [Drops off] in place at 43a, I answered 43d [“1917” subject as WWI rather than WAR, and 35d [Mystery woman], second-letter-A, was obviously going to be MADAME X, right? Well, with 46a [“The Martian” novelist Weir] then shaping up to be DD–– I knew I was IN A MESS (39d). The correct answers were JANE DOE and ANDY.
- 4d [World atlas spread] ASIA MAP. Answer feels like an awkward construction.
- 52a [Mountain cat] PUMA. Despite the names mountain lion and catamount, the cougar has one of the most cosmopolitan distributions of any feline, occupying a vast swath of habitats in its historic range of basically all of the Americas, save the Canadian north.
- 59a [How a leaf blower operates] NOISILY. Though not awkward, I simply found the clue/answer combination to be a little weird. Not disparaging them, just citing it as another example of my being out of step, which to my mind is distinct from being misled by an especially clever clue.
And now the standard tour of ballast fill, or what remains of it to be discussed:
- 10d [Most 1990s Prizms] GEOS. Were the others GMCs?
- 12d [River between two Great Lakes] NIAGARA, 18a [Michigan, e.g.] LAKE. Really??
- Isn’t there some sort of unwritten rule against having ERTE, ERNE, EFTS, and ESAI all in one crossword? (6d, 27d, 47a, 51d)
- 41d [“Is that __?”] A NO. Was sure this would be ALL. This could be included in the ‘wavelength’ section. And as I try to parse what difference there is between this and NOISILY, my premise begins to fall apart, so it’s best for me not to dwell on it further.
- 48d [High pipes] FIFES. I checked; there are no skyscrapers in Laredo. Tallest building is the 12-story Hamilton Hotel, at a whopping 151 feet (46 meters).