Friday, November 20, 2020

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 4:02 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 5:21 (Rachel) 


Universal 5:55 (Jim P) 


Kameron Austin Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 20 20, no. 1120

Ooh, a quick one from Kam this time. I really wasn’t expecting the solve to go so fast. I assume the whiz kids, like Stella and Erik and ’em, polished this off in under 3 minutes.

Fave fill: classical TROUBADOUR, funky GEODESISTS ([Experts in determining the exact shape and size of the earth]? I’ll take your word for it! I only knew the similar term geodesic dome, but appreciated learning this vocab), SNACKED (mmm, snacks), BARRAGE, TRUST EXERCISE, BIG YUKS, SAFE WORDS, TRAIL MIX, CUDDLE BUDDY, CHAIN LETTER.

Did not know 33d. [German philosopher Bloch], ERNST, nor 6d. [___ Barnes, W.N.I.T.-winning basketball coach], ADIA. She’s the head coach at University of Arizona, and lets cross our fingers that the team gets to NCAA March Madness in the future, to cement her crossword-worthiness. Much better to have a notable person than a song title for ADIA.

Five more things:

  • 39a. [Like presidents with Bibles, maybe], SWORN IN. I think it’s weird to bring religious books into government, personally, but look forward to watching a new swearing-in two months hence.
  • 51a. [Goes “Grrrr”], GNARS. One of those words I never use outside of filling it in when solving a crossword. I’m eyeballing some potential fill edits to replace GNARS but they include PUS at 41d and there are probably few constructors or editors who like to find PUS in the puzzle.
  • 11d. [Many workers on Wall Street, informally], I-BANKERS. Is that short for investment bankers? Not a term I recognize. Internet bankers? Organ and tissue bankers specializing in corneas?
  • 12d. [Slips and such], LINGERIE. The last time I wore a slip was most likely in the 1980s. Anyone still wearing a slip these days?
  • 29d. [Old English dialect], SAXON. It’s late, but I kinda want to look up some Saxon vocab now. Anyone have a favorite Saxon word?

Four stars from me. You folks hit any trouble spots here, or was it easier than most Friday NYTs for you, too?

Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

The New Yorker crossword solution • Wyna Liu • Friday, November 20, 2020

How is Wyna so good at this??? Seriously, what did I even just solve?! This is just some next-level puzzle crafting– it almost has the feel of an indie puzzle, with the longer clues and personal touches, but with the polish of a mainstream crossword. I’m not sure I can fully catalog the intangible feeling of all-around excellence I got from this puzzle, but let’s try:

First, the mini-theme of JOHN LEWIS and GOOD TROUBLE is lovely and timely, and this is definitely a case of necessary cross-referencing. Second, the other long entries: OUROBOROS, THUNDERDOME, PEEP SHOWS, PAPARAZZI, STREET CAR, POOL TABLE, DELINEATES, ZIPLOC BAG, APHRODITE, RASH GUARDS. All pretty fabulous on their own, but I think it’s the combination of the entries with the longer, editorial clues that really makes these entries shine. As in [Hemispherical arena where “two men enter, one man leaves,” in a “Mad Max” film]. Hemispherical! That’s how you know it’s a dome! [Voyeuristic fixtures of Times Square’s seedier past]. Such rich detail crammed into this clue! [Goddess born out of foam, after Uranus was castrated and his genitals were thrown into the sea]. Mythologically accurate and also so *vivid*! And it’s in clues like this that we can see another different between the New Yorker and the New York Times. The word count on clues for the NYT is definitely far lower, likely due in part to the constraints of the print edition. Since the New Yorker is only available online, the constructors can play around with these sorts of clues with no fear that they’ll be chopped down.

More things:

  • The clues are just so good! I’m going to keep listing them. And for once, my favorite clues are not the ones with ?s. They’re just witty, cute, original clues for things that get blah clues all the time!
    • [You’ll need brains for this test: Abbr.] for EEG
    • [Out on a limb, literally] for TREED
    • [Chestnut you can’t eat] for ADAGE
    • [Fluffy-looking floater] for CLOUD
    • [Two-jar sammies] for PBJS
    • [Act like a hot dog] for PANT
  • IPADS *are* awkward things to take selfies with! Have 100% seen people do this (back when doing touristy things was a thing one could do), and it always cracked me up
  • Another mini-theme with the MCA / DALAI Lama Tibet content

Ok I have to stop and go do my real job, but this puzzle gets all the stars from me. Wyna, please keep making puzzles just like this one. See you all next week!

August Miller’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 11/20/20 • Fri • solution • 20201120

The three sets of circled squares are an immediately evident indication that something unusual is going on.

  • 52aR [Lone survivor … and a hint to the puzzle’s circles?] LAST MAN STANDING. So it turns out that the tail ends of the longest entries take a 90° turn—that’s what the constructor is up to here. And those extra bits can precede “man” to reference superheroes.
  • 20a. [Deficient in a certain enzyme] LACTOSE INTOLERANTAnt-Man
  • 24a. [Brit’s “Don’t get upset, now”] KEEP YOUR HAIR ONIron Man. Is the phrase related to “don’t flip your wig”? Wait, is that even a saying?
  • 45a. [Hand-to-hand battle] UNARMED COMBATBatman. Lot of testosterone, feels like.

Can’t say it’s the most innovative theme or that it floats my BOAT (to use that word as a different metaphor than the one suggested by 40a [Situation, metaphorically]. I’m not one of the Fiendsters who typically tallies 0r highlights male/female and cis white/non-white ratios in the write-ups, but this one is particularly stark. Also, yesterday I read this interesting report, which is full of quantitative analysis of the subject; the subject is more in the forefront of my mind today.

Beyond that, I’m not keen on the use of a lesser-known Briticism as a key themer.

  • 17a [They have taxing jobs] IRS AGENTS, neatly crossing 15d [Fig. on a return] SSN.
  • 33d [School primer] ABECEDARY. Nice entry.
  • 35d [Still, as a day] CALM. Crossing the aforementioned BOAT, which would make for good circumstances for that situation.
  • 39d [Collapsible headwear] OPERA HAT. Also called a chapeau claque or—get this—a gibus. The latter is also derived from French; it’s the eponym of one of the hat’s inventors, Antoine Gibus.
  • 66a [2010 Ringo Starr album] Y NOT. Wow.
  • 36d [Whack] STAB. Pretty sure this is again metaphorical, here for ‘try’. But in the context of the theme and themer UNARMED COMBAT, plus other entries such as 5d [Blows up] GOES BOOM

Adam Aaronson’s Universal crossword, “Small Screen”—Jim P’s review

I like this theme a lot! Each theme answer is a common spoken phrase that ends in a word that is also the title of a recent movie. These titles also happen to be two-letter words hinted at by the revealer at 65a: SHORT FILMS [The movies at the starred answers’ ends, based on their titles’ lengths?].

Universal crossword solution · “Small Screen” · Adam Aaronson · Fri., 11.20.20

  • 17a. [*”This 2009 animated movie is too complicated!”] “I CAN’T GET UP“. Funny. Must be the talking dogs.
  • 23a. [*With 54-Across, “Don’t eat all your popcorn during this 2019 thriller’s first scene!”] “SAVE SOME FOR / THE REST OF US“. A fairly cumbersome clue, but there’s a good payoff, so it’s worth it.
  • 40a. [*”We gotta discuss this 2017 horror movie!”] “LET’S TALK ABOUT IT“. I still haven’t seen this one or its sequel. I did like the miniseries from the ’90s.

A fun theme. I especially like that all of these films are fairly modern, and they’re all two-letters long. What other short one-word films do you think might have been considered for this theme? Off-hand I can think of the old B-movie Them!, but I can’t come up with a phrase to make it work with the theme. And, at four letters, it’s twice as long as the others.

In the fill, I’m loving the brash “I WENT THERE” [“You heard me right!”]. FETA CHEESE and AIRPORT TAX make for good fill, too, but are decidedly less good in real life.

One clue of note: 49d. [View, as thou would]. SEEST. Shouldn’t that be “as thou wouldst”?

An enjoyable grid all around. Four stars.

Lita & Tass Williams’s Inkubator crossword, “She’s Fresh”—Jenni’s review

Sisters Lita and Tass Williams have teamed up to give us a fresh offering indeed. There’s a string of circles in a diamond shape in the middle of the grid. 1d and 55d tell us what we’re looking for.

Inkubator, November 19, 2020, Lita & Tass Williams, “She’s Fresh,” solution grid

  • 1d [With 55 Down, a string of “fresh” connections] – DAISY CHAIN.

So I figured the circled letters had to be a CHAIN of DAISYs. It took me a minute to figure out where to start even though it’s the obvious place – at the top. Going clockwise, we have

  • MAE from “Li’l Abner.”
  • FUENTES, the first Latina VJ on MTV and an international superstar.
  • RIDLEY, who plays Rey in the most recent “Star Wars” trilogy.
  • BUCHANAN, Jay Gatsby’s obsessive love interest.

Fun! I like the variety of reference points – old comics, classic American literature, 1990s pop culture, and current movies.

A few other things:

    • Ripped from the headlines: 20a [Carolyn Bourdeaux flipped one for Georgia on 11/3] is SEAT.
    • [Prefix with -pathy] is HOMEO. We would also have accepted “discredited 19th century non-scientific medical prefix.”
    • 47a [Crisp a pie crust in the oven before filling, perhaps] is PARBAKE. I have not heard this term before. I’m not sure if the “perhaps” means that there are other ways to crisp a pie crust or PARBAKE has other meanings. When I bake the crust before I fill the pie, I call it “blind baking.” Wikipedia tells me that parbaking is specifically partially baking something and then rapidly cooling it for frozen storage, and that it also applies to bread dough, not just pie crust, so maybe that’s where the “perhaps” comes in. That is analogous to “parboil” and makes sense.
    • I enjoyed seeing [Syrah stopper] as the clue for CORK because that was my father’s favorite varietal. He died in 2006 and we’re still drinking some of the syrah (and petite sirah, which may or may not be the same grape, depending on who you ask) that he cellared.
    • I’ve been watching a lot of “The Great British Baking Show” on Netflix so now I heard PLAIT in a British accent and think of braided bread.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: PARBAKE. I also did not know that AUDRE Lorde said “Revolution is not a one-time event.”


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28 Responses to Friday, November 20, 2020

  1. Mallot says:

    NYT: Though an important film (and drawn from a true story!), THE GENERAL is basically pro-Confederate and advances the Lost Cause myth. (See for more about the film in its historical context). Not an entry I’m keen to see. I know KAC has posted thoughtfully here — KAC, if you see this, I’d be interested to know your thoughts about this.

  2. Cole says:

    Banc crossing I Bankers seems like a problem.

    • marciem says: defines banc as : “the seat on which judges sit in court.” I didn’t dig deeper, other than to note French monetary institutions are also Bancs.

      But the clue referenced a court so I see no problem.

      • David L says:

        Banc and bank have a common etymology, which some people — not me, necessarily — think is a bad thing in crosswords.

  3. JohnH says:

    I found TNY much impossible for a Friday, but then I keep saying their difficulty has zilch to do with day of the week and all with the setter’s interests. No, its not about being open to learning. You either know it or you don’t. (Rachel, before repeating the “open to learning” line on Wednesday, btw, praised that puzzle for all the pop culture references that were faves of hers.)

    I didn’t know JONES, MCA, THUNDERDOME, SASHA, the Powerpuff Girls (although the answer is a crossword staple, so not hard to get), and more. RARIN’ seemed to need a signal to mark it as a contraction or informal, so I hesitated on that one for a while. I hate to admit it, but sammies for sandwiches isn’t my normal vocabulary either.

    But what eventually did me in was OUROBOROS crossing ROWR. Is the latter a word? It’s not in MW11C or RHUD. I first guessed ROWL, but that doesn’t exist either.

    • Rachel Fabi says:

      To be clear, the “learning” comes in when you figure something out from the crosses. I’ll grant that ROWR/OUROBOROS is not a crossing you can intuit if you don’t know OUROBOROS (although it’s not like that’s a pop culture reference), but everything else you listed has fair crosses! So, “you either know it or you don’t,” with the addendum that, if you don’t, you should try the crosses before deciding a puzzle is impossible.

      For instance, I didn’t know either of the Germans in KAC’s NYT today. But I still solved the puzzle… because they crossed things I could figure out. Isn’t that how this game works?? And now I know about ERNST and ERHARD!

      • JohnH says:

        I never, ever object to a clue I can get from crossings, although I do admit that a density created by lots of such things wears on me. I’m just saying that you don’t give the problem of crossings enough credit and don’t stick to your guns, since you so obviously prefer clues within your real of expertise. To you a good puzzle is one with lots of them.

        • Rachel Fabi says:

          lol k.

          I love being told what I prefer by men who don’t know me ?

          But also, if you read my reviews, which I gather you do, then I honestly don’t know how you’d come to this conclusion. To me, pretty much every puzzle is a good puzzle. It makes me a terrible critic, frankly, and I am grateful that Amy hasn’t thrown me out on my ear for it!

          • JohnH says:

            I’m just going by the entries that week after week you praise (today as “fabulous”) and those you hate (literature especially). I’m not saying you’re wrong to have your preferences. More power to you. I’m just begging for tolerance.

            It feels so much like there’s a club of your and Amy’s culture, and those who don’t belong must surely be narrow-minded and hate to learn. Please allow me in, too. Other tastes might even be mind expanding.

            • Rachel Fabi says:

              Look, I’m not one to get into fights on the internet. They’re rarely productive. I’m sorry my enthusiastic reviews of puzzles you dislike have made you feel excluded. But if the reason you feel excluded is that the people who write for this site enjoy puzzles with novel entries or entries/clues that come from outside white middle class dominant culture, I’m afraid that’s at least partially on you!

              As for telling me what I prefer or “hate,” I would ask you to point to me a single (1) instance of me saying I hate something for being “literature”! I just went back through my last 20 or so posts, and the only reference I could find to a preference regarding “literature” was when I praised Anna Shechtman for retaining her English lit flavor on an easy Friday puzzle.

              I would love to have you join our “club” (not going to unpack that one). Your opinions are welcome here, as long as you do not seek to tear down constructors for doing something outside of your normal comfort zone (as dear Norm did to KAC/Natan below), or the reviewers for expressing their opinions in their write-ups (as you did to me, above, and have done in the past).

    • marciem says:

      The ouroboros was completely new to me until just YESTERDAY when I read this article about grow-your-own-self-steaks

      Otherwise that area would have been a dnf for me what with rawr and malbecs as crossings.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Looking at the crossings for JONES (the clue gives a huge Quincy Jones hint), MCA, THUNDERDOME, and SASHA, the only spot that looks tricky is SASHA’s H in EHOW. Does it really matter if you’re exposed to names you didn’t know (some of them 30-35 years old, so hardly new pop culture) if the crossings are all fair?

      I don’t quite understand your recurrent complaints about answers you don’t know. Do you enjoy solving the crosswords all the same? Or do you dislike some of the New Yorker constructors’ styles so much that it would behoove you to quit doing their puzzles? Honestly, you make the same basic complaints week after week after week. It hasn’t gotten old for you? Maybe it’s grumbling as a treasured pastime.

      • Norm says:

        I personally detest KAC and Natan Last puzzles, but it doesn’t stop me me from trying to solve them. If they would offer some “fairer” [eye of the beholder, to be sure] crosses, I might feel differently about them, but both come across to me as egotistical sorts who want to demonstrate how clever they are and how much they know. I don’t complain here for the most part, but that does not make my feelings unreasonable.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          @Norm, that’s … a rather assholish take. I don’t at all view Natan and Kameron as “egotistical” show-offs. One thing they are both doing is making sure that their puzzle contents don’t overemphasize the straight white male contingent. They’re trying to make the crossword world a better, fairer, and more broadly representative place.

          I learn more new things from Natan’s puzzles than anyone else’s, since his world includes so many concepts and names that I’ve been unaware of. I appreciate learning them. I’m sorry you can’t open your mind to welcome such learning.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          And Norm, I can’t even tell which entries in this KAC NYT make you think he’s foisting arcana on you. Slamming two constructors while providing zero evidence to support your argument isn’t a good look.

          • David Steere says:

            NYT: Some awfully grouchy and mean male responses to certain puzzles today. I commented on Wednesday why I had problems with Natan’s and Nate’s puzzles on that particular day. I would never spout the negatives about KAC and Natan that burst out above. KAC’s puzzle today in the Times was terrific. Perhaps certain dark commenters today need a trust exercise or– as Kameron mentions below–a cuddle buddy. I loved OUROBOROS in Wyna’s fun and fine New Yorker puzzle today. Year’s ago I read ER Eddison’s fantasy novel, THE WORM OUROBOROS. I can still never remember how to spell it.

        • Pamela Kelly says:

          I think you just don’t know enough! And if your feelings are even close to detesting, then they are unreasonable.

        • Kameron says:

          It pains me that CUDDLE BUDDies are so far out of your wheelhouse, Norm, and I hope things look up for you soon.

      • JohnH says:

        See above. And again, I never, ever consider a puzzle unfair if I can get it from crossings.

  4. David L says:

    The only trouble I had with the NYT was that I confidently entered COWABUNGA at 1a. It even fits with ABE and ARSON. But apparently it’s not a Simpsons word. So much for my pop culture knowledge.

    • pseudonym says:

      I entered that first too

    • marciem says:

      me three. Didn’t last long but cowabunga was there for a minute.

    • scrivener says:

      My problem was not knowing how to spell AY CARAMBA, spelling it “carumba.” I was doomed from 1A, since I didn’t know the ADIA cross. I stared at the puzzle for days and couldn’t see my errors. Had to do a check grid .

      Fun puzzle, though.

  5. NYT: I got Natick’ed by the GABBANA/A&P crossing, which to me could have been any vowel. I’m surprised I’d never heard of A&P before as they look quite notable from their wiki page, but it was completely uninferable. Otherwise it was a very lovely puzzle for me.

  6. Phil says:

    I am always happy to see a puzzle by my fellow Nova Scotians, the Williams sisters. So glad they got into constructing. Fun Inkubator.

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