Friday, January 15, 2021

Inkubator 4:21 (plus some to grok the theme) (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannnonica) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


The New Yorker 6:50 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


Josh Knapp’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 15 21, no. 0115

Solved with the timer off because this past week has just been so distracting. And then I wasn’t inspired to actually start solving and then start blogging for a while. I’m sure many of you can relate! Procrastination and dampened motivation are at epidemic levels.

New to me: 48a. [Complete loss of self-identity], EGO DEATH. Did not know this term.

New to me, and I like it: 34d. [Fashion designer’s portfolio], LOOK BOOK.

German vocab I didn’t know: 2d. [Fruits that are the basis of Marillenschnaps], APRICOTS. Are these cookies?

Person I didn’t know: 23d. [Model Boyd who inspired the songs “Layla” and “Wonderful Tonight”], PATTIE.


Clue corner:

  • 20d. [Spilled the tea, so to speak], DISHED, as in “gossiped.” Have we seen TEA clued in that respect?
  • 35a. [Shower heads, perhaps], MAIDS OF HONOR. Hosting a bridal shower, that is. Great clue.
  • 9d. [Prominent part of a pump], HEEL. Women’s shoes! Remember that weird clue a few months ago that pertained to men’s shoes, but a lot of men had never heard of it, either? This feels much more accessible.
  • 51a. [Where one might hear a call for action], MOVIE SET. Aww, I wanted this to be related to, say, social justice rallies.

I enjoyed the puzzle, and it felt like a smooth solve—at one point I noticed that three quadrants of the puzzle were entirely filled in and the last one was completely empty, meaning I hadn’t gotten stuck anywhere along the way. 4.25 stars from me.

David Steinberg’s Universal crossword, “Prankster’s Refrain”—Jim P’s review

All right. You got me, David Steinberg! I hope you enjoyed that.

Did you all get RICKROLLED, too? In case you’ve been living on Mars for the past decade, rickrolling is the bait-and-switch Internet meme where an unsuspecting user is tricked into clicking on a link to a video of Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up.” This puzzle doesn’t have a link to the video, but it does the next best thing; it disguises the song title at the starts of the theme answers. The revealer is clued [What you’ll be after reading the starts of the starred entries?]. Edited to add: According to my 12-year-old, this is “genius.”

Universal crossword solution · “Prankster’s Refrain” · David Steinberg · Fri., 1.15.21

  • 17a. [*”Once was enough”] NEVER AGAIN. A common response to getting RICKROLLED and having that song stuck in your head.
  • 25a. [*”Rocky” theme song] GONNA FLY NOW. Oh, thank goodness! This is a much better earworm!
  • 31a. [*Approve officially] GIVE THE OK.
  • 43a. [*”See what I’m saying?”] YOU FEEL ME?
  • 50a. [*Like a rising star] UP AND COMING

I love all the theme answers; they’re lively and in-the-language. As to the theme itself, nobody really enjoys being pranked, so I won’t subject you to the song. Besides, a case has been made that rickrolling is “sexist, racist, and transphobic.” So I think I’ll just leave it alone.

That issue aside, the fill is very nice all around. HOVER OVER is just okay, but PARTY GAME, MILD SALSA, and EMPANADAS sounds like a good time waiting to happen (though I’ll take the spicy salsa). “I JUST ATE” is nice as well. I don’t follow futbol but I think I must have heard the name MARADONA [Soccer move involving a spin] at some point. The eponymous Argentinian who gave the move its name just past away in November. But the move itself involves dribbling the ball, stopping, spinning, and moving off in a different direction to shake off your opponent. Here it is in action.

The only scowl-worthy bit of fill was AL MVP which was difficult to parse.


Clues of note:

  • 66a. [Perfectly pitched]. NO HIT. Ah! Not musical pitch, but a baseball pitch.
  • 68a. [When Caesar said “Et tu, Brute?”]. IDES. I wanted ACT{whatever}.
  • 32d. [Fried Spanish street food]. EMPANADAS. We Guamanians have our own version of the empanada with chopped chicken, onions, and cream of rice. It’s so unhealthy but oh so good!

And that’s all I have for this fun “tricky” puzzle. Four stars.

All right, fine. If you really want to hear the song, here it is:

Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

The New Yorker crossword solution • Anna Shechtman • Friday, January 15, 2021

Hello and welcome to Friday, March 321, 2020! Today we have a lightly challenging puzzle from Anna Shechtman that took me slightly longer than most New Yorker Fridays, mostly because I spelled CHUMBAWAMBA wrong and then spent about a minute searching for my error.

This grid has an interesting shape, with some tetris-looking blocks in the middle breaking this grid into 4 sets of 11-letter stacks. And what stacks! We have CHUMBAWAMBA / BUSTED APART / SHE’S ALL THAT in the N; SPIRAL JETTY / ALL ABOUT EVE / PALM SPRINGS  in the W; A CHORUS LINE / THE ONCE OVER / FEEL THE BERN in the E; and IAN MCKELLEN / ANTIHEROINE / SOONER STATE in the S. Whew! Those are all so good!

I enjoyed the 90s kid gimmes like CHUMBAWAMBA and SHE’S ALL THAT, and was delighted to learn that SHE’S ALL THAT is based on Pygmalion. My favorite genre of rom com is “modern adaptations of classic texts” (see also: She’s The Man, Clueless, 10 Thing I Hate About You, etc). I also enjoyed learning about (and then reading the Wikipedia page of) SPIRAL JETTY.

A few more things:

  • Fill I could live without: LIA, ENTO, CET, HEE
  • Favorite Clues:
    • [1999 rom-com based on “Pygmalion”] for SHE’S ALL THAT (excellent trivia)
    • [Eye exam?] for THE ONCE OVER

Overall, tons of stars from me for this ambitious and thoroughly entertaining grid. Have a good weekend everyone!

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

LAT • 1/15/21 • Larson • Fri • solution • 20210115

In the theme phrases, a J sound is converted to a soft CH sound. Technically, this is the voiced postalveolar affricate (ʤ) becoming a voiceless postalveolar affricate (ʧ).

  • 16a. [ Levi’s alternatives in the bargain bin?] CHEAP WRANGLERS (Jeep Wranglers).
  • 23a. [Bright red semi?] CHERRY RIG (jerry-rig). Are you team jerry-rig or team jury-rig or team jerry-built, or some combination thereof? See’s discussion here and a proxy Ngram chart here.
  • 36a. [Dog collar for obedience school?] PRACTICAL CHOKER (practical joker). You’d better believe I have an issue with uncritically invoking an inhumane device here. I’ll just quote the collars page of the Humane Society of the United States: “As the name implies, this collar … is designed to control your dog by tightening around your dog’s neck, an often painful and inhumane training tool. Unlike the martingale collar, there is no way to control how much the choke chain tightens, so it’s possible to choke or strangle your dog. It can also cause other problems, such as injuries to the trachea and esophagus, injuries to blood vessels in the eyes, neck sprains, nerve damage, fainting, transient paralysis and even death. It is very easy to misuse choke chains and with all the humane, effective collars on the market, choke chains are unnecessary and should not be used.”

    Berthe Morisot – Jeune femme en toilette de bal (1879)

    This is especially unwarranted as there is a significantly less controversial application of the term choker.

    Roping in another element of the theme—voicelessness—I’ll mention another discussion on the above-linked page: so-called bark control collars. While not exactly inhumane, they fail to address the causes of the unwanted barking and are thus largely inappropriate.

  • 48a. [Kibbles ’n Bits?] CHUNK FOOD (junk food).
  • 57a. [Inept patsy on water skis?] CHUMP IN THE LAKE.

So aside from the—in my view—egregious central entry’s clue, these are pretty good and comprise a decent theme.

  • 2d [Spa emanation] AAH. Aha, not from the spa itself, but presumably from a client of such a place. 52a [Relaxation] EASE.
  • 3d [Title Marx Brothers setting] THE OPERA. Perhaps forgotten among the memorable anarchy, the film A Night at the Opera (a box office SMASH [Huge hit] (7d) for MGM in 1935) climaxes with a performance of Verdi’s Il trovatore.
  • 9d [Niger neigbor: Abbr.] ALGeria; 46a [Mogadishu  is its cap.] SOMalia. Two of these is at least one too many.
  • 13d [Private aye] YES SIR. Cute.
  • 27a [Song heard in the film “Marley & Me”] ONE LOVE. Prior to this, I was aware from posters that the film stars Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston and a puppy, either a golden labrador or a golden retriever. I now know something else about it. Yay? Further speculation: a plot point is that the dog is 65a [Taken in] ADOPTED and somehow affects their relationship?
  • 31a [Sign of success] VEE, followed immediately by 32a [Sign of success?] SRO.

Martina Waluk’s Inkubator crossword, “Hello, Kitty”—Jenni’s review

The Inkubator editors describe this as a “gentle” puzzle to start their new subscription year (and if you haven’t subscribed yet, here’s the place to go). I solved it easily and enjoyed it, and had absolutely no idea what the theme was until I started reading the theme entries out loud to my husband. Aha!

What did the cat say?

Inkubator, January 14, 2021, Martina Waluk, “Hello, Kitty,” solution grid

  • 17a [Homer and Marjorie’s eldest] is BARTHOLOMEW. I missed the signal in the clue and put in BART SIMPSON first.
  • 24a [If Des Moines was in Greece, this would be its airport code] is DELTA SIGMA MU. Aha! I thought. It’s something to do with expanding things that are usually shortened. What does that have to do with cats? Hmm.
  • 46a [The NHL’s #1 draft pick in 1984] is MARIO LEMIEUX. I was officially confused. I’ve never heard him referred to by a nickname or a shortened form of his name. I’m not a hockey fan specifically, but my dad was and I used to watch with him.
  • 56a [Dionne Warwick’s #1 single with the Spinners] is THEN CAME YOU.

I scratched my head. I didn’t see cats hidden in the entries. I don’t know of any cats named MARIO. And the song title made no sense. So I started reading the theme answers to my husband – and we both realized that they all end in the sound MEW. You know, like the cat says. This is not my favorite theme, in part because THEN CAME  YOU requires a stretch to hear the MEW. It’s solid, though, and was fun to solve.

A few other things:

  • Additions to the theme: CATS at 1a, REAR LEGS clued as [Litter kickers], PUSS in boots, DOMESTIC clued as [Like many short flights and felines].
  • Not-quite-equal time for canines: ASTROHEELS clued as [Obeys, as a dog would], and I guess [Litter kickers] could apply to either.
  • I enjoyed [Zin kin] as a clue for CAB.
  • And of course the Inkubator clues RAY as [Dixy Lee ___, Washington’s state’s first female governor]. Side note: am I the only one who would capitalize “state?” I know the editors have serious language chops so I’m sure I would have been wrong.
  • This puzzle used almost my entire German vocabulary with STURM und drang and NIE.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that OPRAH was a typo on her birth certificate.

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36 Responses to Friday, January 15, 2021

  1. Ch says:

    Well if nothing else, I learned the word “interrobang.” Had never come across such a thing.

  2. F Grant Whittle says:

    Pattie Boyd Harrison Clapton. She left George Harrison for his good friend Eric Clapton. Awkward!

  3. F Grant Whittle says:

    Marillenschnaps is a fruit brandy, so slightly less wholesome than cookies!

    • Martin says:

      Marillenschnaps is my absolute favorite white alcohol. The best comes from Bavaria or Austria. Interestingly, you’ll know right away that it’s from that part of the world if it’s labeled “Marillenschnaps.” In the rest of Germany, the apricot is Aprikose so it’s brandy is called “Aprikosenschnaps.” For some odd reason, the southern and western German speakers have a different word for the same fruit.

  4. davey says:

    NYT: fun misleading cluing and smooth fill – great friday if on the easy side for me at least! didn’t know SQUATTERS’ RIGHTS was considered colloquial.

  5. Kevin says:

    Sorry to say that for the first time ever, I really didn’t enjoy the Inkubator puzzle :( Hopefully I was just having an off morning and others have a better time with it!

  6. arthur118 says:

    NYT Friday Puzzle- Doesn’t get any better than this one!

  7. Mary Flaminio says:

    Anyone else notice Gaffney’s The Week puzzle hasn’t been updated in a few weeks. Wondering if they dropped Crossword puzzles?

  8. Billy Boy says:

    Re: Marillen-SCHNAPS – Schnapps it’s not just for peppermint any more, maybe your Großvater’s tipple of choice? Apparently an Austrian Brand Name, how about that one?

    First 6/7 or 7/8ths of the puzzle went so fast, the SE felt like a wall.
    NW “This puzzle brought to you by NYT and AAPL”.
    SW fill-in-the-blanks
    Middle well-stacked – no duds.

    I missed my usual Friday challenge, this was a odd combo, but not OUTRÉ


    • Lois says:

      Billy Boy, your point about Apple in the NW is funny! I bombed in that corner despite my working in Safari a minute ago. I could only figure out ICON and APRICOTS. On the other hand, I found the rest unusually easy, including the SE, but I always take a long time.

  9. David Glasser says:

    New Yorker: I too spelled CHUMBAWAMBA (an otherwise easy write in) wrong at first, as CHUMBAWUMBA. I swear this must be some sort of Mandela Effect thing: I am finding the real spelling hard to believe!

  10. pannonica says:

    Excellent links today, Jim P!

    • David L says:

      I have to say, I was skeptical about the inherent sexism, racism and transphobia of RickRolling, but the articles Jim linked to were surprisingly persuasive.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Thanks! I figured people needed to know the truth!

      • dutch says:

        You realize that the “article” which made the case that Rickrolling was “problematic” was a joke, right? Meant to make fun of the internet’s chronic problem of defining everything under the sun as racist/sexist/transphobic?

        I’m asking because I’m sincerely not sure if you know it was a joke, since this very blog has dabbled in the “[insert harmless thing here] is racist/sexist/transphobic” game time after time after time. I mean, you’ve got bloggers here that tally up crossword entries by race and gender, which ought to be what an Onion-style satirical version of a crossword blog does. And wasn’t it you that led the crusade to force Mike Shenk to stop using constructor pseudonyms?? That’s the kind of online “activism” that this article is lampooning, so it’s a nice own-goal on your part, intentional or not.

        • Jim Peredo says:

          Oh wow. I should have realized it was a joke. Thanks for your insights!

          We do sometimes lay it on thick. As for the pseudonym issue, I recognized I maybe went overboard, and I did make an apology a couple years ago. Here it is again, in case you missed it.

          • dutch says:

            Hilarious! I suppose the joke’s on me, as it appears the insane wokery regularly on display on this site has just been satire this whole time. Whew! I feel a little better for humanity, as all this woke identity baiting is only causing societal divisions to grow larger and everyone would be wise to resist it. But you know that of course. Good to know it’s all just a fun meta-joke around here!

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              You can biff off with the gripes about “insane wokery” because it’s here to stay.

              Technically, all the rest of it is in reaction to the societal divisions wrought by white/male/straight/cis hegemony, and if you don’t think white supremacists storming the Capitol are inherently divisive and identity-obsessed, I don’t know what to tell you.

            • dutch says:

              Hahahaha! Great one Amy! I think I may have woken up my neighbor laughing to hard. Such good satire. Though I’d suggest using something like “ciswhiteheteronormativity” or something else over 20 letters long, those frankensteined wokeisms always slay me. Love the new woke-mocking angle here, put me down as a fan!!!

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              Wait, did I say “biff off”? I meant …

              Honestly. This “anti-woke” bullshit is so tiresome, so dull, so last decade. Y’all think you are bringing something incisive, but it’s just a bore.

            • dhj says:

              “Biff off?” What century is this?

              Oh yeah, the century where racist identity politics has emerged, where judging people based on skin color and gender has risen from the dead and taken on a new shiny postmodern “progressive” form. Keep on viewing people in terms of their most immutable biological characteristics and nothing else! Like the first progressive era, the one in which eugenics went mainstream, this current “progressive” era will lead to nothing but social ruin.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              I don’t think “biff off” is from any century. I just thought it sounded gentler than “fuck off.”

              Complaints about people who aren’t straight white men paying attention to the various and sundry biases they face in this culture are so damned disingenuous when a large cohort of straight people, white people, male people attempted a motherfucking coup against our democracy. It’s the Pro*d B*ys and their ilk that you should be criticizing, not their opponents.

            • RunawayPancake says:

              I hope we can agree that reducing everyone to convenient cultural stereotypes based on race, sex and gender is uniformly wrong.

  11. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni: I guess I’ve “been living on Mars for the last decade”. Am I the only one? If so, it wouldn’t be the first time. I tend to be pretty oblivious to things sometimes.

    I definitely know who Rick Astley is and I remember the song very well. It’s hard to imagine that anyone my age who was exposed to Western culture in 1987 doesn’t. But I had no idea that there was an “internet prank” called “Rickrolling”. Huh. If you say so. I didn’t notice until after I Googled RICK ROLLED post-solve that the first words of the answers to the starred clues spell out the song title. I tend to avoid clicking on links unless I’m pretty darned sure they’re safe. Maybe that’s why?

  12. Frank says:

    Mario Lemieux’s nickname was Super Mario, so no cats there.

    “Winfrey was born Orpah Gail Winfrey; her first name was spelled Orpah (not Oprah) on her birth certificate after the biblical figure in the Book of Ruth, but people mispronounced it regularly and “Oprah” stuck.” -from Wikipedia

    Doesn’t seem like a typo.

  13. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT: On the bright side, the “choke your dog” clue for PRACTICAL CHOKER gave pannonica the opportunity to give readers of this page a public service announcement. Thank you, pannonica. I’ve never owned a dog as an adult but we had several of them in our household when I was kid and I’ve always loved dogs (all animals, for that matter). I have never understood why such a device was ever thought of as a good way to control one’s (presumably) beloved dog. Good grief! My neighbor uses one of those shock collar devices to keep her admittedly very, very barky dog from barking. She’s a very sweet person, but I really hate that she uses that thing.

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’ve been Bobrolled!

  15. Kelly Clark says:

    I been Norman Mailered, Maxwell Taylored
    I been John O’Hara’d, McNamara’d
    I been Rolling Stoned and Beatled ’til I’m blind
    I been Ayn Randed, nearly branded
    Communist, ’cause I’m left-handed
    That’s the hand I use, well, never mind…

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