Chandi Deitmer’s Inkubator crossword, “Count Down”—Jenni’s review
The Inkubator team gives us a seasonally appropriate crossword featuring a scary character. No, not that one. I’m looking forward to more puzzles from Chandi after this excellent debut!
The circles in each theme answer spell out a series of items.
- 3d [Forecast on the 5, perhaps] is HOURLY WEATHER (holy water).
- 10d [Where you may find the pretty horses] are CAROUSELS (cross).
- 24d [Frills and trims and extraneous things] is the delightful FRIPPERIES (fire).
- 27d [With 62-Down, a famously friendly guy] is MISTER/ROGERS (mirror).
- 42d [One way to get in the house] is GARAGE CLICKER (garlic).
- 46d [Armed weapons?] are SLINGSHOTS (light).
- 60d [Ununiformed participants at some sporting events] are STREAKERS (stake).
And the revealer at 86a, in case you haven’t figured it out: [Halloween horror each theme entry has a hidden ability to defend against]: VAMPIRE.
I enjoyed this theme! The base entries are all solid and it was fun to decode.
A few other things:
- We get an extra vampire at 4d: LESTAT.
- 2020 certainly is an ANNUS horribilis.
- I can’t be the only one who plopped in EARTH for [Eco-friendly ____ Day] at 9d, can I?
- 52a [Pepper’s precedent] is SGT. Beatles, not spices.
- I enjoyed the crossing of MII with ATARIS (although the plural is infelicitous).
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that VIOLA Davis is one short of an EGOT. She’s missing the Grammy.
Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Okay, I didn’t want to have the Inkubator puzzle spoiled by Jenni’s review above, so after solving the NYT, I tackled the Inkubator. Yes, I now realize I could have just drafted my review in a separate window and avoided the spoilers, but Inkubator editor Tracy Bennett had hinted that Chandi Deitmer’s puzzle was gonna be a good one. So I solved two puzzles in a row and the second one was tremendously fun and it dislodged my NYT puzzle thoughts from my head. Let us try to recreate my thought processes from 15 minutes in the past, shall we?
Okay. Puzzle felt a little harder than most Fridays, but not excessively so. Weird to see NO DRAMA with an Obama clue because I just saw that entry in another crossword with a pop music clue (there’s at least one song with “don’t want no drama” in the title). Entries that caught my eye in a good way: DEEP SIGH, KALAMAZOO (this summer I did some postcarding on behalf of a Kalamazoo candidate for Michigan’s state house—good luck on Tuesday, Christine Morse!), BASELESS [Like wild accusations] (you know—like every bit of heinous nonsense from QAnon), the ZAMBEZI, ELEANOR Smeal, ISABELLA Rossellini, EMERSON College (friend’s kid just started there), and Mitch HEDBERG.
- I decided to include a Mitch HEDBERG clip to supplement his joke in the clue: 13d. [Comedian Mitch who said “I haven’t slept for 10 days, because that would be too long”]. The very first video I clicked on made me laugh at pretty much every joke. Enjoy!
- 20a. [Way to get around in Chicago], EL TRAIN. Go ahead. Come to town and tell locals you wish to take the “el train.” They’ll think it’s quaint and wonder just how far you traveled to reach Chicago.
- 57a. [10-year-old boy of comics with glasses and blond hair], JASON FOX. Meh. From the comic strip Foxtrot, but there are so many comic strip characters we don’t really think of by their full names.
- 40d. [Flow down a mountain], HOT LAVA. Flow as a noun, not a verb. Lemme ask you this: Is the HOT part redundant? Is it still lava when it cools? I need a Hawaiian geologist to weigh in.
- 36d. [When it’s light], DAYTIME. This puzzle should have been held till springtime, when the DAYTIME hours grow longer, and not now, when “fall back” is nigh and it’ll be night time at, like, 4:30 in the afternoon. It’s too depressing!
Overall vibe, GOOD JOB, four stars.
Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
Quick write-up today! This was a fun, lightning-fast lightly challenging puzzle from Caitlin Reid that I enjoyed and almost wish had lasted longer! Caitlin’s clues are always a delight, and while the long entries today weren’t exactly groundbreaking, most were still interesting.
The grid shape didn’t create a ton of opportunities for long entries, but the ones were got were 9s and 10s including: FIRE EATERS / TIT FOR TAT / I DON’T KNOW / EASTER EGGS / E-CIGARETTE / SO LAST YEAR. I particularly enjoyed SO LAST YEAR [Like, way passé] and EASTER EGGS [Hidden bonuses], a reference to hidden bonuses in video games or movies rather than literal eggs. I particularly did *not* enjoy E-CIGARETTE, but I’m a public health person and have a visceral negative reaction to them — it’s obviously totally valid for a puzzle!
A few more things:
- Favorite clues:
- [Cut the cheese, perhaps] – GRATE. Such a good fake-out!
- [Marriage counsellor getting a divorce, e.g.] – IRONY. I don’t know that I necessarily agree that this is IRONY, but my understanding of what constitutes IRONY has been warped by Alanis Morissette’s use of the word ironic (and the backlash against Alanis Morissette’s use of the word ironic).
- Representation: minimal proper nouns in this easy Friday puzzle means there are fewer opportunities to bring in people who may otherwise be underrepresented in crosswords, but I loved the clue for AIN’T [“___ I a Woman?” (1851 Sojourner Truth address)].
- I can live with all the fill!
- Favorite clues:
Overall, I DIG IT. Tons of stars from me for a fun puzzle that flew by. Happy Halloween!
Ria Dhull & Paolo Pasco’s Universal crossword, “A Different Breed”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Dog breeds clued wackily.
- 17a. [Tennis ball collector, after an encounter with King Midas?] GOLDEN RETRIEVER
- 27a. [Some rooms in Wonka’s factory?] CHOCOLATE LABS. Unfortunate that this needed to be pluralized for symmetry’s sake, but it’s my favorite entry of the lot.
- 44a. [One preparing the table in London?] ENGLISH SETTER
- 59a. [Parts of a Stuttgart nativity scene?] GERMAN SHEPHERDS. Also plural, but it doesn’t feel as out of place since there are often multiple shepherds in nativity scenes.
Cute and consistent. And I believe this is a debut for one of the constructors, so congratulations are in order.
Plenty to like in the fill here: LOVERS’ SPAT, OIL RESERVE, SET PIECE, and maybe my favorite entry in the grid: “HIDE ME!” None of this is MEDIOCRE. Also, THE MOB and new-to-me NORMIE [One sticking to the status quo, in slang]. Kids these days! And what’s not to like about TAXES crossing SAXES at the X in the center of the grid?
Nice puzzle, especially for all you dog lovers out there. 3.9 stars.
I leave you with Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Room.
Sean Biggins’ Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Can’t recall a theme like this before, where only some of the relevant squares are circled and the solver is asked to do the rest.
- 59aR [Unrestricted city expansion … and what begins in the circled letters (and ends in uncircled ones for you to find)] URBAN SPRAWL.
So. The circles are in alternating squares and the pattern continues through the row. The circled letters comprise the standard three-letter abbreviation for a city, and the uncircled ones complete the full name.
- 16a/17a [ __-country] / [Realize one’s apprenticeship goal] ALT | LEARN A TRADE. The circled letters are ATL and the name is completed as ATLANTA.
- 22a/25a [In the best way] / [“I do” sites] IDEALLY | ALTARS yields DAL and DALLAS.
- 38a/40a/41a [Heaps] / [Fight (for)] / [They’re shifted] LOADS | VIES | GEARS = LAS|VE|GAS. Oh I guess LAS isn’t the abbreviated form of Las Vegas. So much for that assessment.
- 50a/52a [Connection] / [Rested, maybe] HOOKUP | SAT DOWN = HOU and HOU|STON.
I like the theme and think it’s quite clever, but it could have been a bit stronger and more elegant were it more consistent. (1) Three of the four start with the standard abbreviation, one does not. (2) Three of the four use all the letters from the grid entries, while “Atlanta” ignores the final E in TRADE; had the pattern continued to the end—as it does in the other themers—the word yielded would be ATLANTAE.
I don’t mind at all that LAS VEGAS uses three entries for assembly. It is after all in the center row, and as such has no symmetrical partner.
- As ever, I acknowledge that not all editors and solvers are irked by duplications. But I do feel that most agree that duplications of relatively unusual words are to be avoided. So I feel it must be due to editorial sloppiness that we see 51d [Mtn Dew sister brand] PEPSI and also 60d [Pepsi alternatives] RCS.
- 8d [Yiddish word meaning “little town”] SHTETL. Oh yes, I can see that. Something like shtet is a cognate to the the Germanic Stadt and then the l at the end is a diminunizing suffix.
- 12d [Serve opening?] PRE. And I thought it was going to be ESS. Perhaps I’d seen 14d first? That’s [Sinuous ski races] SLALOMS.
- Another fake-out with 36d [Gives a hand] DEALS and 32d [Part of a hand] CLAP.
- 35a [Coconut candy bar] MOUNDS, proximate to themer component [Heaps] LOADS. I liked that.
- Not thrilled, however, with all the directional abbrevs. in the right flank area: Austin’s SXSW Festival crossing NNW (from Seattle to Vancouver). Wonder why I feel so differently about this pairing but not the other? Maybe it’s the abbreviation aspect, maybe it’s the tacit duplication of WEST crossing WEST? (31d, 45a)
- Lastly, another bit of thematic inelegance, with 70a [Red Wings, on scoreboards] DET; that’s too close to the whole circled trigrams thing. Even the minor modification from 53d OARED to the ‘roll-your-own’ OARER, thus making RET[ired] seems an improvement to me. Or, let’s see, how about (I’m just doing this quickly):
with the pretty awful SED being the abbreviation for sedimentation? I don’t know. A little more work and something better should be achievable.
- 28a [Latin rock band Los __ ] LOBOS.
Anyway, this is an interesting and enjoyable theme, but the whole crossword could have been a little tighter.
I don’t get the clue for 19A: “Put a sock RAMI!”? (Inkubator)
That looks like an error in the PDF. The clue in the PUZ and JPZ files is [Freddie portrayer Malek].
How odd that the LAT and WSJ both used the same 4-letter state abbreviation today! I don’t recall seeing it in a puzzle before.
XWordInfo shows it as occurring in the NYT approximately once every two years in the Shortz Era (and not since 2017), and even less frequently before that.
C’mon, LAT. Even if you’re easy-going about dupe, having PEPSI as the answer to 51d and part of the clue for 60d is just bad. I didn’t like the puzzle even before I got to that.
The Inkubator was great today. Fun seasonal theme and I laughed out loud at a bunch of the clues.
Maybe the easiest NYer ever, but a wee nice puzzle.
NYT instead of tacking felt like pulling teeth.
Working n WSJ Meta
Over at LA Times Crossword Corner, they pointed out that the filled-in circles are the airport abbreviations, and the unfilled ones are the rest of the city name. It’s not clear to me whether that was intentional or just coincidence, because DAL and HOU are not the big airports for those cities. I don’t see any obvious link between URBANSPRAWL and airport abbreviations.
I’ve never seen “only circle the first 3 letters” before, but I liked it because it showed you the way but you still had to do some discovery yourself.