Friday, August 6, 2021

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 4:52 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 11:44 (malaika) 


Universal 6:26 (Jim P) 


USA Today 4:22 (Darby) 


Rebecca Goldstein’s Inkubator crossword, “Keep the Change”—Jenni’s review

This is Rebecca’s debut and it’s a good ‘un! The revealer tells us what to look for. 57a [Improvise like Nicki Minaj, or a hint to this puzzle’s theme] is DROP A VERSE. Each theme answer is a common phrase with VERSE removed.

Inkubator, August 5, 2021, Rebecca Goldstein, “That’s a Rap!” solution grid

  • 17a [Celebrity swindler?] is a CON ALLSTAR (C0nverse All-Star).
  • 25a [Subject line about a lady with a lasso?] is RECOWGIRL (reverse cowgirl. If you don’t know what that is, don’t Google it at work).
  • 36a [Perfectly aligned sushi order?] is PARALLEL UNI (parallel universe).
  • 46a [Influx of elected officials ignited by Danica Roem?] is a TRANS WAVE (transverse wave). Danica Roem is the first out transgender person to be elected to the Virginia State Legislature.

Fun theme! All the base phrases are solid and all the resulting entries are amusingly wacky.

A few other things:

  • 2d is [Like the New York Times declaring the crossword craze was “dying out fast” in 1925]. I’m not sure IRONIC really fits. Discuss.
  • 3d [Nuclear codes?] is a GENOME. Nucleus as in cell, not atom.
  • LONGO at 30a is not Frank, unfortunately. It’s LONG O,  clued as [Crow’s sound?].
  • 38d [Harness attachment] is STRAPON. Don’t Google that at work, either.
  • 49d [Spoiler alert?] is VROOM – the noise a car with a spoiler makes.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’d never heard of Kigurimi, apparently part of Japanese street style – pajamas or ONESIEs.

Seth Abel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 6 21, no. 0806

I enjoyed this puzzle so much! That lattice of six intersecting 15s really hit the sweet spot for me. You might think “LAH-DI-FRICKIN’-DAH” is weird or contrived, but if you remember Chris Farley’s “Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker” sketch, it’s golden. There’s also the Siri line “HERE’S WHAT I FOUND,” the Blondie song and lyric “ONE WAY OR ANOTHER,” and AS THICK AS A BRICK.

The long fill pulled my focus off fill like SLOE AGAR LOAMS (a most unpromising top row!)

Five more things:

  • 14a. [Element next to iron on the periodic table]. MANGANESE. I swear to you, when I was maybe 12 or 13, I had this great set of markers in maybe 36 different colors, many dark or murky, and one of them was called manganese. So I have a soft spot for this element! I did just buy a set of eight mechanical colored pencils (erasable!), but there are no creative names for the colors.
  • I like the EGADS/LAWDY crossing.
  • 20a. [“___ has poor memory”: Gabriel García Márquez], SHAME. Explain, please.
  • 39a. [Poster impostor?], BOT. As in the spambots that try to post dozens of spammy comments a day here at Crossword Fiend. Thank you, spam filter!
  • 12d. [Longtime N.B.A. head coach Nate], MCMILLAN. Never heard of him. Wikipedia tells me he played for the Seattle SuperSonics and has been coaching in the NBA since 1998. He played against the Bulls in the NBA finals, so maybe I did see his name back then, but forgot it.

Four stars from me.

Erica Hsiung Wojcik’s Universal crossword, “Dig Deeper”—Jim P’s review

Theme: The trigram DIG appears in each theme answer (in the Down direction) but at a lower and lower position as we move across the grid.

I present the entries in left-to-right order.

Universal crossword solution · “Dig Deeper” · Erica Hsiung Wojcik · Fri., 8.6.21

  • 13d. [Certain frozen foods with crusts] DIGIORNO PIZZAS.
  • 4d. [Notable New Orleans necklace] MARDI GRAS BEADS.
  • 15d. [Claim you had no idea] PLEAD IGNORANCE.
  • 8d. [Question a college-bound senior might ask] “WHERE SHOULD I GO?” During the solve I somehow interpreted the clue as what a newly-arrived freshman is wondering when they are trying to figure out what they should be doing on campus. I could really relate to that. But re-reading the clue, I see it’s a question for someone deciding which school to attend. As someone who didn’t get into his first choice, this wasn’t a question I ever asked myself.

Maybe it’s not fair, but it’s hard for me to encounter one of these “moving” types of themes and not compare to the Guizzo-Chen classic, THE DESCENT OF MAN. In that one, there are five entries and the trigram MAN steps down methodically from left to right, top to bottom. It was masterfully done with all grid-spanners.

Here, yes, each DIG is “deeper” than the previous one, but I wanted some regularity in the positioning. As you can see once I highlighted them, there isn’t the uniformity that I look for. With the middle two entries, the starting D is across from the previous entry’s G. But the final DIG is much lower down.

No, having such regularity isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s an elegant touch. And it certainly depends on the trigram being used and the number and quality of potential entries.

But getting past that, I do like these entries, and I like the image of someone digging, digging, digging deeper as the puzzle moves along.

Since the outer theme entries are 14 letters in length, they couldn’t go in the 3rd/13th columns, therefore everything is pushed into the center. The fill doesn’t suffer terribly because of this—and that’s a sign of the constructor’s skill at smoothing out the grid—but it does lessen the potential for sparkly fill. As such, only SPOTLESS and THRONGED hold the marquee spots. I do like TIN GOD and “I’M HOME” on the shorter side.

Clues of note:

  • 17a. [Indian garment worn with a choli]. SARI. Taking from Wikipedia, a choli is “a blouse or a bodice-like upper garment that is commonly cut short leaving the midriff bare.”
  • 32a. [German for “the”]. DAS. Well, it depends on the gender of the following noun. DAS is for neuter, “der” for masculine, and “die” for feminine nouns.
  • 41d. [Cabbage type often used in kimchi]. NAPA. Apparently, this has nothing to do with the California valley. Again, taking from Wikipedia, “The word “napa” in the name napa cabbage comes from colloquial and regional Japanese, where nappa refers to the leaves of any vegetable, especially when used as food.” Good to know!

Though I felt the theme was executed a little unevenly, it’s still a solid grid with smooth fill. 3.5 stars.

Jerry Edelstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 8/6/21 • Fri • Edelstein • solution • 20210806

Even after encountering the revealer it took me a few beats to figure out the theme.

{Placeholder paragraph for layout purposes}

  • 66aR [Learn … and, in four parts, a hint to 17-, 37- and 58-across] FIND OUT. That’s to be parsed as ‘F’ in, ‘D’ out. So it’s just a letter substitution theme.
  • 17a. [On teaching tchotchke-making?] FRILLING INSTRUCTOR (drilling instructor). An Ngram of ‘drilling instructor’ versus ‘drill instructor’ is damning. Further, I don’t think of tchotchkes as either frills or frilly. While both tchotchkes and frills are unnecessary extras, they connote very different ideas, at least in my mind.
  • 37a. [Overly blunt?] FRANK TO EXCESS (drank to excess).
  • 58a. [Missives warning about ’30s gangster Dillinger?] FEAR JOHN LETTERS.

These new phrases are …okay. Mildly entertaining?

  • 11d [Place for bats] RACK. 44a [More than brushed back] BEANED. 7d [ __ McClain, last MLB pitcher with 30+ wins] DENNY. Too much baseball!
  • 8d [Three-in-one vaccine, familiarly] DPT. Diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus.
  • 18d [Namesake of a popular club] SAM. Club needs some quotes here, right?
  • 23d [“You __ not?”] IN OR. Telling that the quote used ‘not’ instead of ‘out’ (which would have duplicated a key element of the theme revealer).
  • Too much crosswordese filler for my liking. Stuff like aforementioned DPT, other abbrevs. incl. BFF, IRR, MTG, STDS, EOE, STS, SSN. Plurals like SATS, SRIS, STDS, STS. Vocabulary such as ERN, OTO. Fill-in-the-blanks/partials such as (but not limited to) GAI, GRATA, KATS, SIE, BON. Cumulatively, these soured my solving experience.
  • Conversely, I appreciated learning the Dickinson quote/title “There is No FRIGATE Like a Book” (65a)
  • 26d [“Dynasty” villain] ALEXIS.

Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Intent”—Darby’s review

Theme: Every themed answer begins with “T” and ends with “ENT,” placing the rest of the letters “in tent.”

Themed Answers:

Erik Agard’s “Intent” solution, 8/6/2021

Erik Agard’s “Intent” solution, 8/6/2021

  • 19a [“Topic in the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”] – TRIBAL CONSENT
  • 36a [“2018 Helen Hoang novel”] – THE KISS QUOTIENT
  • 51a [“One-fifth”] – TWENTY PERCENT

Editor Erik Agard steps into the ring for this puzzle, which I was delighted to see this Friday morning, and this puzzle did not disappoint. I thought the grid had a nice structure, with a nice blend of three-, four-, and five-letter answers in the corners and center sections of the puzzle that flowed nicely as I loved through. As is customary in Erik’s puzzles (and USA Today more broadly), there was a great diversity of clues, pulling from knowledge of TV network logos (10a [“Channel with a three-face logo”] PBS) to economics (46a [“The ____ Collective (group for Black women in economics] SADIE).

As I combed through the answers in preparation to write this, I was surprised to notice that this puzzle doesn’t require the solver to have much pop culture knowledge, out of the reference to THE KISS QUOTIENT, The SADIE Collective, ANITA Baker (more on her below), and MEMEs more generally. It was mostly wordplay with synonyms and fill-ins. That’s not a knock on the puzzle; I personally enjoyed the break. However, it is worth noting.

Now, onto my Friday faves:

  • 13a [“Big brawl”] – For those Nintendo fans out there, 13a gives us not just one, but two descriptors of Super Smash Bros. games. Super Smash Bros MELEE (and where I learned what a “MELEE” was) came out in 2001 on the GameCube (talk about an OLDIE but a goodie). Super Smash Brothers Brawl arrived in 2008 for the Wii. If only “ultimate” appeared in the puzzle somewhere, we’d have a hat trick.
  • 19a [“Topic in the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”] – This document is especially relevant, given the recent news of the discovery of 215 Indigenous children’s remains at a residential school site in Canada. It was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2007, with 144 votes in favor, 11 abstentions, and 4 against. Those voting down the resolution were the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Since then, all four of the opposing countries have lent their support to the declaration.
  • 10d [“Liquefy in the kitchen”] and 11d [“Liquefy in the kitchen”] – Twin clues like this are so fun. I’ll have some moments of frustration with them on occasion when I didn’t know the answer to the first one, so figuring out the second is that much more difficult, but in this case, I already had most of BLEND (11a) when I filled in PUREE (10a).
  • 32d [“Centers of operations, for short”] – For some reason, I’ve been waiting for HQS to appear in a puzzle, to the point where I’ve mistakenly filled in as an answer in at least three puzzles. It felt good to put it in this one and satisfy that craving.
  • 34d [“‘You Bring Me Joy’ singer Baker]ANITA Baker is an African American R&B singer that began her career in the 1970s, gaining fame after the release of her second album, Rapture, in 1986. Coincidentally, the name of the song referenced in the puzzle sums up how I feel about it.

Overall, I’d say this puzzle was more than OKAY (43a [“Sure”]), from my GASPS ([15d “Surprised breaths”]) of shock and COOs (22a [“Pigeon’s murmur”]) of affection directed in its direction. See y’all Sunday!

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Patrick Berry’s August 6, 2021 New Yorker puzzle

Good morning! Today I write in pure bliss because I am staying with my aunt who has a tomato garden… at any hour of the day (11pm, 9am, whenever), I can just eat the ripest, juiciest most perfect tomato in the entire world plucked straight from the vine. I have never been happier.

Today’s puzzle felt like it had lots of names, although usually that means that it had the same amount of names as normal, but I didn’t know any of them. As a result, this puzzle took me longer than usual. I had not heard of:

  • 59A: Activist Ayaan Hirsi ALI. I love activist Isra Hirsi, so I was curious if they were related. They are not, but I think that name “Hirsi” is Somalian.
  • 56A: Murphy’s “48 Hrs.” co-star: NOLTE. Once I got it from crossings, I vaguely remember removing the name NOLTE from my word-list, because I had never heard of this actor.
  • 57A: “Crimes of the Heart” Oscar nominee TESS Harper
  • 6D: “Vanity Fair” protagonist Becky SHARP. I know that “Vanity Fair” is a magazine, but I had no idea it was also a novel.
  • 7D: IONE Skye of “Say Anything”

I had a phase during Pandemic when I did the Sporcle map quiz everyday, and got all of the countries pretty consistently. To remember all of the -stan countries, I came up with TAKTPUK. (The first letter of all of the -stan countries.) So I knew that TURKESTAN (29D: Historic Asian region traversed by the Silk Road) was a region, not a country. (Though it does have a very similar name to one of the T-stan’s.)

I had JUMP SHOTS before HOOK SHOTS (15A: High-arcing two-pointers that were a signature of Kareem Abdul-Jabar), which slowed me down a decent bit. I liked the clue for TRIWEEKLY (2D: Roughly seventeen times a year… or a hundred and fifty-six times a year), which pokes fun at how we never know if that means thrice a week, or once every three weeks. I liked it enough that I did not linger too long on whether “triweekly” is actually an in-the-language term. I think I was supposed to like ADORKABLE (31D: Charming by virtue of being awkward), but that term feels weirdly…. dated?? to me. I associate it with The Zooey Deschanel Era, which was about a decade ago.

Favorite entry was definitely IN A NUTSHELL (49A: Succinctly summed up), and I don’t think any clues stood out to me enough that I had a favorite.

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40 Responses to Friday, August 6, 2021

  1. David Stone says:

    Loved the NYT, esp’ly LAH DI FRICKIN DAH and the lame parent mantra, “I mean it this time”. Fun stuff. I didn’t know the Marquez quote, but it makes sense if you think about our prez, I guess it fits :)

  2. huda says:

    I totally took a stab at the LAH DI FRICKIN DAH bit and laughed in surprise when it turned out to be correct.
    That quote about Shame is interesting. I interpret it to mean that we repress things that make us ashamed, trying to forget them as soon as possible.
    This interpretation seems compatible with another quote from Marquez:
    “The heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good.”

  3. huda says:

    I apologize if this has been discussed before and I missed it. But since the NYT will no longer support Across Lite, do you all have suggestions for user friendly alternatives? I use a Mac…

    • J says:

      It’s been a while since I’ve used it, but the Puzzazz app might be a good option

    • MattF says:

      I use Black Ink:
      Solid app, does the job.

      • huda says:

        Many thanks for the suggestions! I shall experiment.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Black Ink uses .puz files and the NYT is discontinuing its provision of .puz files. Black Ink will try to find a way to continue giving Mac users a way to solve offline.

    • Judith Speer says:

      I’m a Mac user and I too am confused. I have been using Black Ink, but doesn’t that require a .puz file? And will the NYT supply that?

    • Jenni Levy says:

      None of the alternatives will work without a .puz file, which they won’t be supplying. Our choices are print the PDF or use the online interface. Ugh.

      • Joel says:

        I solve on my Kindle using a legacy app called crossword-plus. It works great but won’t work after Aug 10. I am very disappointed as the NYT solving app is slow, small, and wonky. I think all .puz solvers should rise up in protest

    • Bryan says:

      The NYT crossword app works really well on my iPhone and iPad. I’ve never used the web interface on the NYT crossword website. I’ve just always used the NYT crossword app from the Apple AppStore, and it has always worked very well for me. I’ve never had an issue. And I enjoy the cool bells and whistles they can program into the app, like certain puzzles that have animation that pops up at the end (like connecting the dots or squares that change color, etc.) to complement the puzzle’s theme.

  4. Me says:

    NYT: 3 possible Naticks today:

    -haL/mcmiLlan; I got caught on this one, thinking this was another Star Wars reference, so I put han/mcminlan



  5. Jbuzz says:

    I had JAMES Cameron for a while, messing me up.

    • cwm says:

      Same here. And even when I realized it wasn’t, I then had BRISK instead of CRISP for a while which left me with BROW_ for the director. BROWN seemed plausible enough.

  6. e.a. says:

    inkubator revealer clue – is that improvisational? i thought it meant like recording a guest part for a song, which i would typically expect not to be freestyled. loved the puzzle otherwise

    • Rebecca says:

      The idea for this puzzle came to me in the heights (ha!) of Hamilton on Disney+. I constantly swap the verbs in “Aaron Burr, give us a verse, drop some knowledge,” and thought my swapped version would be a great revealer. I googled around to make sure the revealer is in fact an in-the-language phrase and found usages that suggest recording a guest part on a song (see also: lay a track) but also usages of improvisation or freestyling in a rap battle setting. Maybe using Nicki Minaj in the clue invokes the image of the former a little too much, and something like [Improvise, at a rap battle, or…] could’ve been smoother.

  7. SC says:

    NYT: I’m 74. After I filled in 31 across (Sirhan) I abandoned this puzzle. It was no longer fun.

    • Eric S says:

      I’m 62 and remember Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination clearly. 5didn’t like seeing that answer, but it wasn’t enough to make me ditch the puzzle.

      I was surprised to see that this was the fifth or sixth time that’s been in the NYT puzzle.

    • Zulema says:

      I felt the same way as SC, but I kept on, of course.

  8. Mutman says:

    NYT: I liked the unintentional music-themed long downs:

    THICKASABRICK (Jethro Tull)
    ANIMAL(s) (Pink Floyd)

  9. Crotchety Doug says:

    LAT – I loved this puzzle. And the video at the end of Pannonica’s review is still playing. Didn’t know Alexis Cuadrado, but as a bassist myself (Fender) I enjoyed learning about him.

    Incidentally, 17A is FRILL INSTRUCTOR.

    • pannonica says:

      It is! I was rushing because I had an appointment to get to this morning. I must have been fooled by the FRILLIN sequence. So disregard that complaint in my write-up, everyone.

  10. MattF says:

    I knew MANGANESE in the NYT because in grad school I once confused manganese with magnesium and my advisor, a famous metallurgist, was -deeply- irritated. A good puzzle, the SE quadrant was… challenging.

  11. Me says:

    LAT: pannonica, I agree with you that tchotchkes and frills aren’t the same thing at all.

  12. Kameron says:

    Longs in NYT so great today. If not for the AS, the pairing of ONE WAY OR ANOTHER + (AS) THICK OR A BRICK woulda made for a cute music pairing of Blondie and Jethro Tull. (Didn’t stop Jethro from coming to mind though, as apparently that phrase immediately evokes the song for me — something I did not know myself.)

    This would’ve gone a lot faster for me if I’d not wanted LAH DI to be LAH DE.

    No insight into anything about SYMS or TETHYS, but my usual strategy of guessing likely letters worked out on the first try.

    SIRHAN SIRHAN’s story is interesting and worth looking into. Intrigued that it didn’t inspire an entire “Where do we draw the line on bad people?” discourse in certain quarters, however.

  13. Pamela Kelly says:

    I agree with SC. Having Sirhan in my puzzle just made me sad and a bit depressed. Awful memories of that day.
    That area should have been torn apart and redone.

  14. placematfan says:

    NYT: I wonder why LOAMS/LOSE instead of ROAMS/ROSE.

  15. Zulema says:

    How are “stirrups” BONES? NYT. I went through every definition on line but none helped me.

    • MattF says:

      Bones in the ears.

    • Bryan says:

      Known as the stapes, but commonly referred to as the stirrup, it’s the smallest bone in the human body. It’s one of three bones known colloquially as the hammer, anvil and stirrup.

    • JohnH says:

      Took me a while to remember, in part because I had trouble with crossing BONET, which I didn’t know. I first guessed Binet, stuck no doubt on the Stanford-Binet scale. And my personal first wrong guess for CRISP was “fresh.”

      I loved the grid with its six widely-spaced and prominent placed spanners. After that, it felt hard to go wrong, although such constraints can often produce lousy fill. Here it worked fine.

      I didn’t know the variant on “Well, lah-di-dah,” and somehow after many listens back in the day to Jethro Tull, it never occurred to me to ask what “thick as a brick” actually says. (Well, they weren’t a band you went to for profundity.)

      Remembering Sirhan Sirhan is painful, and I still think the murder was one of those rare outlier events that changed history, disastrously so. But I didn’t find it at all inappropriate.

  16. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: A year ago I called for the clue [“Well, ___-di-dah!”] to be changed to [“Well, ___-di-frickin-dah!”]. Lo and behold, here it is, not just as a clue, but as an entry. Loved it!

  17. Zulema says:

    Thank you to all who helped me on the “stirrups.”

  18. Diana says:

    The SHAME seems relatable to me. I think it’s along the lines that you get intoxicated and act in a way that you are shameful of the morning after and swear you’ll never do that again. But then you do it again.

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