Friday, January 29, 2021

Inkubator 2:53 (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannnonica) 


NYT 4:21 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 5:10 (Rachel) 


Universal 4:56 (Jim P) 


Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

Finally! The first NYT themeless by a woman in something like five weeks. I sure hope the rest of the year isn’t 90% of Fri/Sat puzzles made by men.

NY Times crossword solution, 1 29 21, no. 0129

My single most beloved thing in this puzzle is 31a. [Bar exam?], PUB TRIVIA. A great entry with a twisty li’l clue—what’s not to love?

Other fill that pleased me: SLEEPER CAR on a train, the TROMBONE my husband and son both played, an ACCENT RUG, CRISIS MODE, EXTRA SPICY, ZERO CHANCE, BERT AND ERNIE, SECRET RECIPE, OVER THE TOP, and PICKY EATER. You realize, of course, there is zero chance that the picky eater will be excited to try your extra-spicy secret recipe.

It’s kind of a weird grid design, isn’t it? Each corner has a double stack of 10s instead of a triple stack, and those 8s, 9s, and 12s criss-cross them hither and yon.

Six more things:

  • 7a. [One might be forever], STAMP. There are some gorgeous designs for the forever stamps available from USPS. Ooh, I think Fruits & Vegetables is a new design. Sorry, I abandoned this blog and spent some time shopping for stamps. The Chinese New Year stamps for this year come out next week, featuring the Ox. I’m in!
  • 38a. [Material harvested for its hydrophobic properties], CORK. I needed all the crossings here. When I think of cork, “hydrophobic” isn’t the first word that comes to mind. For Old Yeller, sure. But not cork.
  • 46a. [“The weapon of the powerless against the powerful,” according to Molly Ivins], SATIRE. If you’re punching down instead of up, it ain’t good satire.
  • 5d. [Desertlike], SERE. Okay, so there’s one fusty bit of fill as the tradeoff for 14 good long entries.
  • 28d. [Unlikely member of the “clean-plate club”], PICKY EATER. My paternal grandmother really pushed the clean-plate club, but this was a woman who cooked Polish food that was alien to this erstwhile picky eater. Why couldn’t I have grown up in my husband’s Filipino family instead, where you “leave some for the spirits”?
  • 52d. [What you might say after reading a tricky crossword clue], HMM. We would also accept a lot of other three-letter interjections. AHA! OOH. AHH. HUH? D’OH! HEY …

4.25 stars from me. A good start to the last weekend in January.

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

LAT • 1/29/21 • Fri • Larson • solution • 20210129

  • 55aR [Paperback designed to simulate animation … and a hint to the answers to starred clues] FLIP BOOK. I hadn’t immediately realized that the inverted phrases were all books, but did perceive so by the time I got to the revealer.
  • 17a. [*Reference work for canine lovers?] DOG GUIDE.
  • 21a. [*Instructional work for expectant mothers?] LABOR MANUAL.
  • 33a. [*Fictional work about a pick-up artist?] APPROACH NOVEL.
  • 49a. [*Illustrated work for bullpen pitchers?] RELIEF COMIC.

This is a very good theme with an inspired revealer. Quite well done on that front. The ballast fill, too, is of fine quality.

  • 1d [Cat, say] MAMMAL. Wondered for a time that this might be MEOWER, which led to other uncertainties in the northwest section. But it soon sorted itself out.
  • 7d [Group that blends well] CHORUS. Nifty clue. Haven’t seen that approach before.
  • 24d [Cruciverbalist Reagle of “Wordplay”] MERL gets a nod.
  • 42d [Saturate again] RESOAK>squints<  Okay, I guess.
  • 43d [“Hang on ___”: 1965 #1 hit] SLOOPY. A wee bit of snooping suggests that the nominal inspiration for the song was jazz pianist Dorothy Sloop.
  • 51d [Dinnertime draws] ODORS. Great! A neutral cluing of this. 47a [Chanel product] SCENT. I’m a fan of some of the harder-to-get fragrances, like 31 Rue Cambon and Bois de Iles, but have not possessed any in years.
  • 40a [There are lots of them] NEW CARS. Indeed.
  • 61a [Written reminder] NOTE, 50d [Signed] INKED: not part of theme.
  • 62a [“The Spanish Tragedy” dramatist] Thomas KYD.

… and a further grim coda to that:

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

The New Yorker crossword solution • Patrick Berry • Friday, January 29, 2021

It’s Friday, team! And we have a lovely puzzle from Patrick Berry that demonstrates the New Yorker’s range, drawing on entries and clues that are (mostly) excellent but also (mostly) less-current than some of the other puzzles we see from the publication. Which, arguably, is a good thing! There’s something for everyone in the New Yorker crossword, and although some of these references may be less familiar to younger solvers (e.g. TEENA MARIE, STAR SEARCH, the fact that Matthew BRODERICK was the voice of Simba), the puzzle still feels fresh and smooth.

Long entries today were TEENA MARIE / HARD PALATE / CARRY-ON ITEM / PARTING GIFT / AT GUNPOINT (yikes) / STAR SEARCH / IN THE FUTURE / PALINDROMES / ACCEDED TO / BRODERICK / APPLE CORE / TELETUBBY. All of these are pretty solid, although IN THE FUTURE, I personally would prefer not to see the entry AT GUNPOINT because that’s pretty gruesome for a first-thing-in-the-morning solve. This puzzle also raised a lot of questions for me: Are the TELETUBBies still on television? Why is it called a HARD PALATE? What is NITER? All questions answerable by google, for sure, but I’m in a rush so I leave them as an exercise for the solver.

A few more things:

  • Serena Williams is indeed the GOAT
  • For some reason I really enjoyed the alliteration of [Actor Alan of “Argo”] with the entry ARKIN
  • Re: 1-down [Money put up by a bondsman] for BAIL, please check out The Bail Project, which is working to eliminate cash bail.
  • Favorite clues:
    • [Coffee-shop freebie] for CUP – for some reason this cracked me up. Imagine being at a coffee shop and being like, “oh the cup is 5 cents extra? Ok, I’ll take the coffee, no cup, thanks”
    • [Delicious leftover?] for APPLE CORE

Overall, pretty good end to the week! Plenty of stars from me – wee you on Monday.

Meconya Alford’s Inkubator crossword, “City Women”—Jenni’s review

Let’s give a big crossworld welcome to today’s debut constructor! The Inkubator crew is amazing. They publish really good puzzles with feminist/woman-focused content, promote equity in crosswords in general, and mentor new constructors as well. I don’t often finish puzzles in less than three minutes, not being Stella, and when I do I rarely enjoy them this much. This was fun!

Each of the theme answers is a woman with a city in her name.

Inkubator, January 28, 2021, Meconya Alfrod, “City Women,” solution grid

  • 17a [Law professor turned senator turned 2020 presidential hopeful] is ELIZABETH WARREN.
  • 41a [NBC’s “Today Show” co-host] is SAVANNAH GUTHRIE.
  • 64a [Founding member of the Supremes] is FLORENCE BALLARD.

But wait, there’s more! Not only did Meconya find three city-named women with 15-letter names, she intersected each theme answer with the postal abbreviation of the relevant state: NJGA, and AL. Very cool!

A few other things:

  • I enjoy the word KAPOW. Must be all the time I spent reading my brother’s comic book collection when we were kids.
  • I also love WORRYWARTS. I mean, I love the word, and I also love some people who fit the description.
  • ECARD is in common usage, unlike its cousin E-TAIL.
  • Second day in a row I’ve seen OMAR clued with reference to Rep. Ilhan Omar rather than Mr. Sharif. I like this.
  • Rest in power, Cicely TYSON.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the UK’s movie org. is BAFTA. I also did not know that the last name of RAJ on The Big Bang Theory is Koothrappali. I watched ten minutes of that show a few years ago and found the racial and gender stereotypes appalling.

Erik Agard’s Universal crossword, “High Numbers”—Jim P’s review

The revealer is STATHEADS (33d, [Data whizzes, and a hint to the starts of 6-, 11- and 28-Down]), a phrase I’ve never heard before, but it’s easy to infer its meaning. The three vertical themers all start with letters that spell out one of the common averages in statistics.

Universal crossword solution · “High Numbers” · Erik Agard · Fri., 1.29.21

  • 6d. [Like a poorly paced plot] MEANDERING. Mean.
  • 28d. [Cuban sandwich often eaten as a midnight snack (hence its name)] MEDIANOCHE. Median.
  • 11d. [Debate runner] MODERATOR. Mode.

I was never one for stats and I always got these mixed up. But here’s a good, clear explanation I found on

“The “mean” is the “average” you’re used to, where you add up all the numbers and then divide by the number of numbers. The “median” is the “middle” value in the list of numbers. To find the median, your numbers have to be listed in numerical order from smallest to largest, so you may have to rewrite your list before you can find the median. The “mode” is the value that occurs most often. If no number in the list is repeated, then there is no mode for the list.”

Got it? There will be a quiz tomorrow.

Cuban MEDIANOCHE sandwich

As for the theme itself, well, (1) I never heard of the revealer phrase and (2) when all your keywords mean “average”, it’s hard to get too excited about it.

MEDIANOCHE is a fun entry though. Here’s a recipe. Seems like a lot of work for the middle of the night (let alone the health issues of eating so heavily and then going to bed).

Looking at the fill, there’s a lot to like: FRYBREAD, AMSTERDAM, COLLARDS (though I’m used to hearing “collard greens”), TOTE BAG, TRAP MUSIC, SNAPBACK, MERMAID, and KODIAK, plus theme-adjacent LESS THAN.

Clues were on the straightforward side, so I will end here. A solid theme, but I found the fill more interesting. 3.5 stars.

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6 Responses to Friday, January 29, 2021

  1. Lise says:

    The NYT was a lovely puzzle, smooth and MINTY. There were lots of interesting entries, like PARENTHOOD, and TERRA COTTA, a warm and friendly color. We painted our kitchen that color.

    I slept in a SLEEPER CAR when I was a small child, and I can still remember how comforting the motion of the train was. I hope to do that again one of these days.

    • STEVEN says:

      a train trip across america was one of my favorite trips of all time

      ny to chicago to santa fe to la to sf
      just fantastic
      newspaper in the morning, shower, breakfast

      thinking about it, i would love to do this again!!

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Wow, I zipped through this baby in Tuesday-Wednesday time. I started with that tarboush clue (my grandfather wore one jauntily, and I have the photo to prove it) and was off to the races.
    I think this puzzle is a thing of beauty. Look at it after the fact… just chockfull of expressions and phrases and no weird, contorted or obscure entries.
    PUB TRIVIA felt nostalgic… not that I have done it myself, but just the thought of such an event.
    And that stack of PARENTHOOD and CRISIS MODE rings sadly true. One hope on the horizon beyond vaccines: Some treatments that might be much better that what we currently have…

  3. JML says:

    So funny how life works! I learned the clue for PATENT (NYT, 15-Down) only yesterday thanks to this Veritasium video:

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    NYT: After a couple of disappointing days on the NYT puzzle front, it’s Robyn Weintraub to the rescue! I usually find her puzzles to be easier than I’d like, but only because I always seem to be on her wavelength and regret that they’re over too soon. Amy hits all the highlights with her review. I think the only thing that made me wince was being forced to recall EMU {34A: Creature in Liberty Mutual ads}. Gawd, I hate those ads, and I hate even more that they’re doing their job well because I remember that I hate them. F&@# you, Madison Avenue! I’m telling myself that Robyn clued it without the commercial reference and Will changed it.

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