Friday, October 2, 2020

Inkubator 6:20 (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 3:51 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 4:56 (Rachel) 


Universal 5:16 (Jim P) 


Debbie Ellerin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 02 20, no. 1002

I think it’s been months since I finished an NYT Friday in under 4 minutes. While 3d stymied me for a while, a lot of the other answers just rolled right into place. Aah!

The grid’s technically a pangram, using each letter of the alphabet at least once, but Debbie hasn’t jammed in an excess of the rarer letters so it didn’t scream “look at me, I’m a pangram!” Lots of zippy entries here. We’ve got ZEN MASTER, SCOOTERS (rental scooters are all over my neighborhood now; I haven’t tried one because I’m afraid I would crash and break myself), the great verb SCUTTLE, QUID PRO QUO (we all have the same reference point for that now, don’t we?), TEST SCORES (which many colleges are not requiring for applicants this year, and when they discover they can assemble a great class of incoming students without them, will SAT/ACT hegemony wither away?), PRECEPTS like honesty and kindness, JAILBREAKing a phone, BINGO NIGHT, THIRD PARTY (nice example, the Socialists!), and LIVESTREAM.

Least favorite part of the puzzle: 36a. [“Seems likely”], “I’D BET.” Feels like an awkward entry to me. Would be better clued via fill-in-the-blank, something like [“___ my last dollar”].

Six more things:

  • 22a. [Reason for a donation] CAUSE. My cause now is politics! I’ve been supporting numerous Senate and House candidates, as well as postcarding for some state legislature candidates via Sister District. Anyone else sending postcards to voters?
  • 38a. [Ending with Black or brack], ISH. Now I’m envisioning a sitcom called Brack•ish and wondering what it would be about.
  • 44a. [Possible uses for Bundt pans], MOLDS. As in Jell-O molds. My Aunt Kathy made a decent black cherry Jell-O mold with sour cream in it, if I recall correctly. I didn’t go near sour cream as a kid, mind you. And now I’m off the Jell-O.
  • 4d. [“Take heed, ___ summer comes or cuckoo-birds do sing”: “The Merry Wives of Windsor”], ERE. As they said on Game of Thrones, winter is coming. Take heed!
  • 29d. [Air on Twitch, say], LIVESTREAM. The Boswords Fall Themeless League is using Twitch for its video component. I missed last night’s shakedown cruise with a dry run of how the competition will go starting on Monday. Did you folks take part? How was it?
  • 55d. [Late justice known for powerful dissents, for short], RBG. May her memory be for a blessing.

Four stars from me. TGIF!

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

Gooddddd morning, team! I’m always excited to see Robyn’s name in the byline because she never fails to deliver smooth, high-quality grids and fun, accessible clues. These lightly challenging Friday puzzles are the perfect showcase for Robyn’s talents, and this puzzle was no exception.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Robyn Weintraub • Friday, October 2, 2020

The long stuff today includes a staircase of RUN HOT AND COLD / HOLD ON A SECOND / LOOK AT THE TIME, as well as some longish downs like FAR AND AWAY / STOCK PHOTOS / WINE TASTING / HARD CIDERS. All good, but I particularly love the staircase, which is colloquial AF, and all given pitch-perfect clues.

A few more things:

  • Favorite clues:
    • [A piece of one’s heart] for VENTRICLE
    • [Bouncer at the U.S. Open?] for TENNIS BALL
  • Although I am a Central New Yorker, I have yet to go on a WINE TASTING in the Finger Lakes
  • Representation: For one of these Friday grids, which tend to play down proper nouns in favor of smooth and interesting entries, this one sure had a lot of women in it! Particularly liked seeing Susan RICE, which demonstrates a clear choice and intention to include a woman of color (as opposed to, say, a cereal grain).

Overall, all the stars from me. This is a perfect example of how to make an easy themeless that is accessible without sacrificing fun/exciting clues and entries.

Mary Lou Guizzo’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #12″—Jenni’s review

I really really wanted to love this puzzle. The cluing is challenging without being obscure or unfair and some of the entries really sparkle. As we’ve come to expect from the Inkbuator team, the grid and the clues are full of female energy. I really wanted to love it. Unfortunately, the center of the grid got in my way.

Let’s start with the good stuff:

Inkubator puzzle, October 1, 2020, Mary Lou Guizzo, “Themeless #12,” solution grid

  • I liked seeing SHIITAKE at 1a even though it always looks like a typo to me.
  • We get SHANE clued as [Katherine Moennig’s role on “The L Word”] rather than Alan Ladd’s oater role. 21st-century TV vs mid 20th-century movie? I’ll take it.
  • The row of three-letter words starting at 27a made me laugh because I imagined it punctuated: ASK AOL? MEH.
  • We had gerbils as PETs when I was a kid. That was my first introduction to animal cannibalism.
  • Love seeing KATIE LEDECKY.

What I didn’t like so much:

If you have to resort to [___ Roast Beef (sandwich chain found in BRAXTON)] to clue RAX, you have a problem. I’m not opposed to cryptic-ish clues in straight crosswords. This is more along the lines of [Title fish character (OMEN spelled backwards] (and yes, I did once see that clue in the execrable puzzle our local paper runs). I suspect this happened because the A in RAX crosses JACINDA ARDERN. I was delighted to learn that she was the second elected head of government to give birth while in office. I knew her first name but could not have accurately spelled her last name. That center stack is terrific – PM Ardern sits between ENTERED A PLEA and TO SOME EXTENT – and even I can see that there was no way to change it without scrapping the whole grid. I’d never heard of RAX Roast Beef, which is a regional fast food chain in the midwest and southeast of the US. In their heyday they apparently had outposts in Guatemala and Alberta, Canada. Their heyday was 30 years ago. So yeah, I needed the help and yeah, it still bugged me.

Mary Lou gives us another clue in that format at 51a: [“Star Trek: The Next Generation” character Tasha (in LANYARD)], YAR. I still don’t like it.

Overall I still enjoyed the puzzle, and as promised it was more challenging than most Inkubator offerings. I really appreciate the way they vary the difficulty level.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: RAX. I also did not know that TAIPAN means “big shot.”

Gary Larson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 10/2/20 • Fri • Larson • solutioon • 20201002

Another minimal write-up from me today. No slight intended to the constructor.

  • 39dR [Total alternative … and a feature of the answers to starred clues?] SPECIAL K. Silent k prefixed to existing words and phrases, forming legit but wacky new ones.
  • 3d. [*Tree trunk?] KNOT HOME (not home).
  • 18a. [*Minimum number of jousters allowed in a Ren faire tournament?] KNIGHT CAP (nightcap).
  • 37a. [*One who really, really knows how to spin a yarn?] KNIT WIT (nitwit).
  • 61a. [*Excelled at filling in historical timelines?] KNEW YEARS (New Year’s).

Totally fine theme.

  • Slightly tougher cluing than usual, so I guess that’s appropriate for a late-week offering. Examples: 48a [High-scoring club?] for MENSA, not mentioning any type of scoring; very general 1a [Twinings product] for specific PEKOE; obscurio 27a [One of 26 in the Maldives] ATOLL; 30d [Wet blanket] DEW.
  • 2d [Deco master] ERTE. I swear, I feel like making a crossword just so I can include Art Deco proponents other than {Romain de Tirtoff}. LEPAPE, BAKST, GESMAR, LAWRIE, KENT, et al. These are all crossword-amenable names.
  • 24d [George Eliot, e.g.] PEN NAME. Publisher Baileys earlier this year announced the admirable ‘Reclaim Her Name‘ campaign, but it did not go off completely smoothly.
  • 59d [Not-cute fruit] UGLI. Who’s to say?
  • 47d [Short jacket] BOLERO.

Matthew Stock’s Universal crossword, “Dance Around”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Dances are found in the circled letters on the outer edges of well-known phrases.

Universal crossword solution · “Dance Around” · Matthew Stock · Fri., 10.2.20

  • 19a. [Type of joint in the shoulder] BALL AND SOCKET. Ballet.
  • 32a. [“No worries,” per “The Lion King”] HAKUNA MATATA. Haka. As a Pacific Islander, I’m embarrassed I didn’t know this Maori war dance, but am so glad to learn its name. See video below.
  • 40a. [Responded in kind on Twitter] FOLLOWED BACK. Folk. Meh. That entry doesn’t feel like a very strong in-the-language phrase, and also, it feels less elegant to have a dance that is also a kind of music or is just a regular word. Better to have a word that is only a dance (like the previous two).
  • 55a. [Batting like a versatile slugger] SWITCH HITTING. Swing. Similar to the last entry, but at least swing dancing is more well-defined than folk dancing which varies from region to region.

Nice theme, and I especially liked the haka/HAKUNA MATATA combo. That entry made me think of the hula and I found that HUGH MASEKELA (the South African trumpeter) would fit in the grid.  Can you think of any other potential entries? I’m surprised to find TANGOS at 49d which seems like it has potential as a theme answer.

In the fill, the highlights include the show ATLANTA, Ash KETCHUM of Pokemon fame, HEATH BAR, the WEST END, and a CHAT-BOT. I struggled with the last letter of AL PASTOR [Pork taco style] which crossed PURL [2018 Pixar short whose title is a knitting term]. Thankfully I barely remembered both terms enough to get the R, though I admit I tried an L first. The Pixar short is definitely worth a viewing for its take on contending with office bro culture.

Speaking of bros, I leave you with some Maori bros performing the haka: “Behold the hairy man!” (Also worth a viewing is Jason Momoa performing the haka with cast-mates and his kids at the Aquaman premiere.)

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11 Responses to Friday, October 2, 2020

  1. Maxine Nerdström says:

    The Brack•ish sitcom would definitely about a community of understandably grumpy merpeople who are spearheading covert ocean clean-up campaigns, because pollution is forcing them from their natural habitats. Maybe they get occasional help from human environmentalists and/or marine biologists who have stumbled across their pod. Maybe a young local lobsterwoman falls into a cross-species romance with a merperson who has never quite fit in with their merfamily. I’m picturing more of a dramedy, and I definitely want to watch it.

  2. Will says:

    It’s not every day there’s three great themeless puzzles, but I really like NYT, the New Yorker and the Inkubator today!

  3. MattF says:

    Agree that the NYT is a good, not-difficult puzzle— my time was a bit over my best for a Friday. But it managed to be pretty crunchy, pangrammatic in a natural and unstressful way.

  4. golfballman says:

    Yesterday’s WSJ too cutesy for its own good

  5. RSP64 says:

    Ironic that the NYT and New Yorker both have ANKLE BONE (clued almost identically) and I BET/I’D BET on the same day. I whole-heartedly agree with Amy’s comment on the clue for I’D BET.

    • Billy Boy says:

      Coincidental but not mathematically significant.

      Such coincidences are seen as omens by those so inclined in all sorts of things, but unless specified beforehand are not unusual. Mathematics tells us that we only need 33 people in a room for two people to have the same birthday. not a specific birthday, but any birthday in common. Two specifically with 29 February is a big number …

      Given that crosswords favour some words over others, it is even more likely, we all know that some clues are code for certain fill, some call it crosswordese, I prefer to classify it as rote learning.

      Wasn’t TALUS in another puzzle earlier in the week? As of this moment, I haven’t looked at today’s NYer, but as a former bone & joint guy, Talus or Tarsal are gimmes, although I prefer the specificity of the former.

      • MattF says:

        Actually, the number of people you need to get a 50-50 chance of the same birthday is 23. The statistical truth here is that rare events may be rare individually, but as a class, not so much.

  6. Billy Boy says:

    I do love Friday NYTs.
    GNAR looked funny but is totally legit, a slight pause in a first ever Friday finish before my Nespresso was gone! Lovely clean puzzle if a tad easy, why complain? Only initial mistake was MAIN ENTREE for MAIN COURSE but all good Francophiles know an ENTRÉE is a first course to a + plat + dessert. So no need to point out by thinking American one gets lost in translation.

    Now to see what NYer has on offer, WSJ done last night must wait until Monday.

  7. RichardZ says:

    In today’s LAT, the answer (COLOR) to 55A (Sportscast embellishment) seems awkward. It might make sense if the clue had added “in the 1950s”. My guess is that the constructor or editor had in mind “color commentator”:

    but “color” by itself makes little sense.

    • Gary R says:

      I probably watch too much sports programming on TV, but “color” used this way seems entirely natural. In describing a color commentator’s job, it’s not unusual to hear, or see written that the person does color. “Troy Aikman does color for Fox NFL broadcasts.”

      • RunawayPancake says:

        Absolutely agree. This usage of the word “color,” standing on its own, is quite common in the context of sports broadcasting. Usually, a team of broadcasters consists of a main commentator who does the detailed play-by-play coverage of the gams. The rest of the broadcast team includes one or more additional commentators (usually former coaches or athletes) who provide “color” – i.e.relevant background, stats, anecdotes, history, and occasionally a little levity.

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