Lisa Grossman and Ada Lerner’s Inkubator crossword, “There Hugo Again!”—Jenni’s review
A double debut! Lisa and Ada are upstairs/downstairs neighbors. I hope we see more from them because this one is really good.
Each theme answer is a word or phrase amusingly clued – and we have circles.
- 19a [How an estuary with an inferiority complex might feel looking at the ocean?] is UNSEAWORTHY.
- 31a [What a director might do after her documentaries on width and depth?] is FEATURE LENGTH.
- 43a [Instinct to avoid getting lost on a mountain hike?] is a HEAD FOR THE HILLS.
- 57a [Key found on the way to the penthouse?] is the ELEVATOR PITCH.
And the revealer at 73a: [N.K. Jemisin series that won three consecutive Best Novel Hugo awards….and a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters] is BROKEN EARTH. Each set of circled letters breaks up EARTH differently. I love this theme. I love the pun in the title. I love the appreciation of Jemisin. I love the funny clues for the theme answers. So many layers, so much extra fun!
A few other things:
- HBCU shout-out at 8d, [End of a Spelman link, spelled] is DOT EDU.
- Since Lisa and Ada live “outside of Boston,” I’ll forgive them the reference to the CITGO sign visible from Fenway Park.
- I’ve never heard OPPOSABLE used to refer to anything other than thumbs.
- 49a would not appear in a mainstream crossword, would it? [Poor quality item, initially] is POS.
- And I don’t remember hearing HALCYON used to modify any noun other than “days.”
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ED BRADLEY was the first Black television White House correspondent. I’m horrified to realize that was 1976. I shouldn’t be surprised.
Matthew Stock’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s review
I enjoyed the heck out of this puzzle! Finding enough long answers I could pop into the grid instantly is always fun, isn’t it? We all like to feel smart, and puzzles full of stuff we don’t know can interfere with that (unless, say, it’s a Newsday Stumper we eventually triumph over).
Shout-out to my marathoner spouse for teaching me about 30a. [“Rabbits” in a race], PACE-SETTERS. Rabbits basically get paid to run their fastest for a portion of a marathon, going all out since they need not save energy for the last few miles, coaxing the (other) elite runners to amazing performances. Sadly, costume bunny ears and tails are not part of the gig.
Fave fill: INNER PEACE, “TAP, TAP,” MR. WORLDWIDE (did not know this was a 34a. [Sobriquet for international hip-hop star Pitbull], but I know he’s been huge in Latin music), MEAN STREETS, our TOP STORIES, DIDDLY-squat, “NERD ALERT” (response to “I run a crossword blog”?), EDELWEISS (my 1st-3rd grade school song was to the tune of “Edelweiss”), LOCAVORE, and FEEL IT. And Johnny WEIR!
Ten more things:
- 1a. [“I literally ___” (millennial’s overstatement)], DIED. This was such a fun 1-Across! And a great way to de-dismal DIED.
- 5a. [First country to discover water on the moon], INDIA. This must have been in the news but I think I missed it. Neat! (Save some thoughts for the people of India, facing such a terrible COVID pandemic. It’s so awful.)
- 37a. [“Minari” director ___ Isaac Chung], LEE. I still need to see this movie!
- 2d. [Covered, as by insurance], IN-AREA. Feels off-kilter to me. Do we see this term from 9d AETNA and other health insurance companies?
- 13d. [___ Spirit, winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby], MEDINA. Ugh, gross. First off, horse racing is brutal. Second, that horse’s trainer has already been suspended, and a formal decision on disqualifying Medina Spirit is coming up. MEDINA could be clued as the holy city in Saudi Arabia or via the 1989 hip-hop classic below.
- 23d. [Dish that can be prepared al pastor], TACOS. Good clue, ventures beyond “Mexican” or “Tex-Mex” or “snack” clue angles, and beyond the Taco Bell menu.
- 33d. [One studying for a bar or bat mitzvah, say], TWEEN. Another clue I like, hitting a specific culture rather than staying bland.
- 35d. [Studio with “Chicago” and “Chocolat”], MIRAMAX. Ugh, that Harvey Weinstein stink. Apparently he lied to a number of women, telling them that Chicago stars Zellweger and Zeta-Jones, along with Shakespeare in Love star Paltrow, had slept with him to advance their careers. May he rot in prison.
- 36d. [Start a stream, say], GO LIVE. Such as in a Twitch stream, or live-streaming on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Today I watched Deb Amlen and Sam Ezersky hosting SNL star Bowen Yang on Crosswords Live, and it was tons of fun! There are worse ways you could spend 46 minutes. Here’s the Twitch link for it.
4.5 stars from me. Keep them coming, Matthew!
Danny Reichert’s Universal crossword, “On the Road”—Jim P’s review
This puzzle is part of the Universal Pride Month series.
Theme: Road signs in phrases. The revealer at 61a is SIGN HERE [Instruction on many official documents, or a hint to the starred answers’ starts].
- 17a. [*Basis of some election predictions] EXIT POLL.
- 22a. [*Animated filmmaking technique] STOP MOTION.
- 38a. [*Somehow] ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. Can’t read this without hearing it in Debbie Harry’s voice.
- 53a. [*Graph of a bond’s interest rate] YIELD CURVE. Not a familiar term to me. I wanted YIELD CHART.
Hey, that’s a nice theme! I wasn’t paying attention until I got to the revealer, then I looked up and said, “Cool. That works.” Always nice when that happens.
On the negative side, there’s not much sparkle in the grid. In fact, I’m not seeing any entry longer than six letters apart from the theme answers. But there are a lot of 6s and some of them are quite nice: PERSIA, SIT-UPS, BOX TOP, MAÑANA, “MY DEAR,” and PURPLE. And there’s not much to gripe about beyond plural PSIS, so I’ll take a clean grid even without some long Downs, as long as the theme is good.
Clues of note:
- 65a. [Prop in a golf movie?]. TEE. No, no, no. They were polo shirts on the golf course. (That was a joke.) Good clue.
- 23d. [Tomorrow, in Tulum]. MAÑANA. What, Tijuana was busy? I kid, but I had never heard of this location. Wikipedia says Tulum is the site of a Mayan walled city on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Clean, fun puzzle. 3.75 stars.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
A 16×15 grid and left/right symmetry accommodates this vowel-shift theme.
Referring to the International Phonetic Alphabet, what’s going on is ɒ → ɪ. That is, an open back rounded vowel becoming a near-close front rounded vowel.
- 18a. [Monarch known for her sketches?] MARY, QUEEN OF SKITS (… Scots).
- 28a. [Lessons in sympathy?] PITY TRAINING (potty …).
- 48a. [“If you hate my work, make your own sweater!”?] LIKE IT OR KNIT (… not).
- 62a. [Like “Ode on an Eaten Apple”?] WRITTEN TO THE CORE (rotten …).
Each case necessitates an additional spelling change to a non-vowel part of the word, so we’ve got that consistency.
- 4d/11d [“Taste it”] TRY THIS, TAKE ONE.
- The long supporting legs of the bilateral grid are 28d [Make big, in a way] POPULARIZE and 33d [Study applicable to many sciences] GAME THEORY.
- Deft little touch cluing these back-to-back short entries similarly: 38d [Bubble __ ] TEA, 39d [Babble] YAK.
- Weakest links (literally) are the short French possessive SES and the abbrev. BKS linking the bottom corners to the central AREA (6d).
- Favorite clue: 57d [TV screen spots] is seemingly meant to trigger an ADS (too short) or PSAS response, as they’re rather common in crossword fill, but surprise! it’s SNOW. Not seen much these days, unless you’re using an analog antenna.
- 1a [Davis with two Oscars] GEENA? OSSIE? BETTE.
- 29d [“Last Call” singer Braxton] TRACI, 52d [Rap’s __ B] CARDI, 17a [Indication of further installments] PARTI.
Nothing amazing, but a perfectly serviceable and entertaining crossword.
Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker themeless crossword—Amy’s recap
I’m languishing today with a headache, so quick recap.
Fave fill: IN LA-LA LAND, MELLO YELLO, CARDI B, ON THIN ICE, SAGE ADVICE, SCOTTIE DOG, BEAR CUB (my aunt and cousins encountered some cubs in the Great Smokies this week!), “ALL KIDDING ASIDE,” BALLERS, Janet YELLEN, and “WAY TO GO.” Also appreciated BRA PAD in a puzzle written and edited by women. It’s a common thing! Just not a thing dudes generally pay attention to.
Four stars from me.
Rabbits are somewhat controversial figures. They run in all distances from the 800 up. In the marathon, Boston has never allowed them and New York and Chicago have more recently disallowed them. The other major marathons still allow them. They are not used to run as fast as they can, but rather to set a particular pace before fading or dropping out. Their purpose is to allow the main contenders to run with the pacers at a pace that will help the contenders achieve faster times, particularly in Olympic years where qualifying times in some events have to be achieved to enter in the upcoming biggest races.
Easy fun puzzle today.
Once in a while, rabbits win. With 10 miles to go and a two-minute lead in the 1994 L.A. Marathon, the rabbit, America Pilkington, decided to keep going and ended up winning the race by 39 seconds: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1994-03-07-sp-31105-story.html
Paul Pilkington, that is.
Did not know about rabbits in marathons. Instead, I know them from greyhound racing. A mechanical rabbit runs on a track ahead of the dogs. Suppose this is the origin of the marathon term?
I thought of the greyhound “rabbit” first on this clue, too. I’d bet that the dog-racing term predates the running term, though obviously both are predated by predators chasing rabbits.
It might be more fitting to call them hares, since they stop for a rest, allowing the (elite) tortoises to pass them by.
NYT: 15d [D.C.’s __ Stadium, opened in 1961] RFK is somewhat misleading, as it was renamed in honor of the slain Kennedy in January 1969. Prior to that it was the District of Columbia Stadium.
And it is about to be torn down, after languishing empty for quite a few years now.
I started with ECOLI at 28A, which seemed to be fine (MEDINI spirit – why not?) until I got to CEDS at 29D. Otherwise no real difficulty, although the NW corner was hardest for me. INAREA seems much less plausible to me than ‘in network,’ at least if we’re talking about health insurance.
Inkubator: I’m not sure I get the theme. Why are these common phrases clued funny? Is it connected to BROKEN EARTH, or just unrelated goofiness? Also, the HCL/ELUL cross is pretty ugly, as is a lot of the fill (ETS, MDS, PTS, and YDS, e.g).
I’m not sure either. I’ve read the Broken Earth trilogy and there’s no connection to any of the theme answers (beyond the circled letters spelling EARTH). I guess it’s just for fun – there are worse reasons!
Agree that HCL/ELUL is a tough crossing unless you know your Hebrew months, but those assorted 3-letter plural abbrevs aren’t too bad as that category goes—they’re better than plural interjections, for example—your OYS and EHS and OWS, etc.
I enjoyed the puzzle and look forward to seeing more from Ada and Lisa, together or separately!
That’s fair. I’m used to a little tighter work from the Inkubator, but it’s a good first effort and a good sign of what’s to come.