Friday, August 13, 2021

Inkubator untimed (Rebecca!!) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 5:30 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 8:02 (malaika) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 4:13 (Darby) 


John Guzzetta & Michael Hawkins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 13 21, no. 0813

Been distracted by The Suicide Squad on HBOMax. Focus!

Things I didn’t know:

  • That there’s a baseball feat called 11d. [Close-to-the-ground sports feat], SHOESTRING CATCH. Is it named because the ball’s down by the shoelaces?
  • That Greek mythology included 60a. [Father of Hecate], PERSES. Perses?? Perseus is far better known. If I were constructing this, I’d probably have had a MAVerick crossing some rap or poetic VERSES.


Five more things:

  • 21d. [Even more, perhaps], THIRDS. As in going back for thirds after you’ve had a second helping of, say, mashed potatoes. Wow, I wish I had some mashed potatoes handy for a midnight snack.
  • 36a. [Bit of metal texturing], KNURL. As in the textured grooves on metal. In my Crosswords With Friends coffee cup–cum–pen holder, have a multi-tool pen I bought from Duluth Trading Company. The pen grip is indeed knurled.
  • 44a. [Setting in Marvel Comics], ASGARD. Thor and Loki and Odin, Norse mythology. Weirdly, a character in the DC movie The Suicide Squad mentioned Jotunheim. Not paying enough attention to know why!
  • 1d. [Plants], SOWS. Reminds me of sowbugs, aka pillbugs, aka roly-polies. Why are there so many of them around now? They keep appearing in my home.
  • 61a. [Person who is willfully alone?], SOLE HEIR. “To my only descendant, I bequeath all of the bottoms of my shoes.”

3.75 stars from me. Good night!

Lindsey Hobbs’s Universal crossword, “Uppercut”—Jim P’s review

JUST A TRIM (20a, [Salon request that hints at the letters to write (or imagine) above the starred clues’ answers]) and A LITTLE / OFF THE TOP (39a, [With 59-Across, another theme-appropriate salon request]) serve as double revealers telling us that the tops of the starred clues’ answers have been lopped off.

Universal crossword solution · “Uppercut” · Lindsey Hobbs · Fri., 8.13.21

  • 2d. [*Put in the microwave, say] (H)EAT UP
  • 5d. [*Shared a border with] (A)BUTTED
  • 9d. [*Metaphorical lightbulb] (I)DEA
  • 12d. [*Deceptive schemes] (R)USES

As you can see, the missing letters spell HAIR, which is a very nice touch, and, elegantly, the remaining letters all comprise crossword-legal (though unclued) entries. Well done!

I will be honest though. Once I uncovered JUST A TRIM and the gimmick at the top of the grid, I was expecting a corresponding gimmick at the bottom of the grid. I realize that doesn’t jibe with the title, but during the solve, I hadn’t even seen the title. So I felt a little disappointed just to get a second revealer (although it is actually a little more on point than the first one).

Be that as it may, this is a tidy little theme, with a nifty gimmick that’ll get solvers to “think outside the box” as it were.

Top fill: TÊTE-À-TÊTES, LASER SHOW, BETA TESTER, TIN CANS. I’m not sure I’ve heard the phrase GOAT RODEO [Situation that’s really out of control], but maybe I have. Still, I needed almost all of the crossings. Is “HAS TO BE!” enough of a colloquialism to warrant crossword-worthiness? I’m on the fence on that one.

Clues are mostly served straight up, but there are a few clever ones. I like [Safe job, say?] for HEIST and [Low-tech mobile phones?] for TIN CANS.

A nice theme and grid that left me wanting more. Four stars.

Stella Zawistowski’s “Happy Endings” USA Today crossword—Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each themed answer ended with a synonym for happy.

Themed Answers:

Stella Zawistowski's "Happy Endings" 8/13/2021 USA Today puzzle solution

Stella Zawistowski’s “Happy Endings” 8/13/2021 USA Today puzzle solution

  • 16a [“December holiday spirit”] – CHRISTMAS CHEER
  • 35a [“Star of ‘The Queen’s Gambit’] – ANYA TAYLOR-JOY
  • 53a [“‘Bang-bang boogie’ song by Sugarhill Gang”] – RAPPER’S DELIGHT

I always feel an extra bit of joy on Fridays because we’ve reached the weekend, so this felt like a particularly apt theme. The theme clues and answers were solid, making for a smooth file. I couldn’t remember ANYA TAYLOR-JOY’s last name (though now I will certainly not forget it), so I filled in ANYA and kept going until the crosses did the work for me. It’s pretty nifty that her name ends with JOY for this puzzle, let alone in general! That said, the theme wasn’t something I felt I needed to finish the grid, but it made me smile afterwards nonetheless.

We also got a few furious clues/answers in here as well, which is funny in a “happy” puzzle. There’s 21a [“Anger”] that brings in just a short burst of IRE, as well as 36d [“Angry speech”]. I won’t got on a TIRADE, but I’m not a fan of the repeat angry/anger, personally. MALICE (51a [“Evil intent”]) was a nice SAT word to include here that is rage-adjacent.

Grid-wise, I thought that there were some nice longer words included. I’ve come to enjoy those symmetrical puzzles that have the quick hops between three- and four-lettered clues that we see in the IRE – NAS – HID – BAY and ACE – LAD – PET – RAG combos. It’s just a hop, skip (sometimes literally), and a jump through that feels refreshing.

My Friday faves:

  • 8a [“‘____ All That’ (Addison Rae movie)”] – Talk about an up to date clue! HE’S All That comes out on August 27th, so this clue is right on the Netflix 2021 movie pulse. It is a remake/twist on 1999’s She’s All That.
  • 14a [“Great Lake that borders Ohio”] – A puzzle has my heart every time it includes ERIE, whether it’s clued for the lake, counties, or small city in Pennsylvania since I lived near the lake for most of my life. Interestingly, the representative for Erie Council’s District 2 is Councilman André Horton, but not the SKIer of 56a [“Compete like Andre Horton”].
  • 39a [“Sacred bird in ancient Egypt”] – I had no clue on this one and depended on the crosses entirely. There’s so much on cats as revered in ancient Egypt that this was such an interesting fact. I also learned that the University of Miami supposedly chose the White IBIS as their mascot for its ability to survive through hurricanes, which is especially apt given that athletically, they are the Hurricanes. You can also learn more about this bird here.
  • 29d [“‘Have one!’”] – For any folks getting into crosswords, I love that TRY IT is at the center of the puzzle.
  • 31d [“Lose your cool”] – I’m using this as my opportunity to share that I found a PANIC! at the Disco parody bot account called “Emote! At the location” on Twitter.

That’s all from me! Have a good weekend!

Bryant White’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 8/13/21 • Fri • White • solution • 20210813

This 16×15 played tough until I got to the revealer and was able to make sense of the terse one-letter theme clues.

  • 64aR [Secret message technique … and a hint to four puzzle clues] INVISBLE INK.
  • 18a. [L] CHAIN SEGMENT (link).
  • 27a. [M] LUSTROUS FUR (mink). Unhappy with the clue framing for, you know, a living, breathing mustelid. Hasn’t the LAT gotten the memo that casual animal cruelty is passé?
  • 39a. [F] POLICE INFORMER (fink).
  • 56a. [R] SKATING AREA (rink).

Clearly, the letters -INK have been dropped from the clues. Or at least they’re not discernable to the naked eye.

And using we see that LMFR can stand for … absolutely nada. Feel free to make up your own. Like maybe, for real.

Good, mildly toughish crossword for a Friday morning.

  • 1d [Simple comparison] ABC. With the A in place, I figured it was AS A, as in a simile. Was confused by ABC until I realized that it isn’t the active part of the comparison but the subject: “it’s as easy as A-B-C”.
  • 4d [Like ignorance, at times] BLISSFUL. Per an old adage. 43d [Does as humans do?] ERRS. Per another old adage.
  • 9d [Half of eleven?] ONE. Thought it was going to be EEE, which would be an excellent alternative to the clues about shoe sizes.
  • 12d [Alphabetically penultimate zodiac sign] TAURUS. Rather than wracking my brain to recall the last one I just looked it up: Virgo.
  • 16d [Alaskan site of the only WWII battle on U.S. soil] ATTU. That’s quite a bit of trivia. “Operation Landcrab”! May 11–30, 1943.
  • 44d [Sprinkle, perhaps] RAIN. 7a [Rain unit] DROP.
  • 47d [Skin pic] TAT. Notably no mention of ‘ink”. There are ‘invisible’ tattoos that show up under blacklight.
  • 49d [Czar’s decrees] UKASES. Haven’t seen that one in a while. Along with some other tough-ish vocabulary (EMBARS (13d), anyone?) and frequent tricksy cluing, it elevates the difficulty of the crossword.
  • 62d [Daughter in “The Time Traveler’s Wife”] ALBA. Once upon a time I was keen to read that. Never got around to it, never saw the film.
  • 65d [Spoonbill’s bill] NIB. Huh?
  • 20a [Long order] SUB. Just a casually oblique clue. One of several in the puzzle. Here’s another: 33a [Range rover] STEER.
  • 31a [Dumbledore and Snape, in brief] PROFS. Anyone else extremely tired of Potter & Rowling? And I haven’t even read any of the books. Have seen part of one of the films, though.
  • 46a [“Circus Sideshow” pointillist] SEURAT. The painting in question:
  • 75a [It has a head and hops] BEER. Sounds like a reframed kiddie riddle, right?

Misremembered the John Hiatt/Neville Brothers song as “Invisible Ink” when it’s “Washable Ink“. So let’s find something else.

Elizabeth Jewlal’s Inkubator crossword, “Shark Attack”—Rebecca’s review

Another great debut puzzle from the Inkubator this week! Congratulations, Elizabeth!!

Inkubator, August 12, 2021, Elizabeth Jewlal, “Shark Attack” solution grid

  • 19A [Area of consecration] SACRED GROUND
  • 28A [Turkey brand] BUTTERBALL
  • 45A [Abstract expressionist portrayed in the play “Red”] MARK ROTHKO
  • 55A [Career for a “Hell’s Kitchen” grad, maybe] RESIDENT CHEF

Sharks are hidden in the circled letters of the the themed answers. I liked the shark choices here – with so many species to choose from, these felt well known enough to be interesting and allowed for a nice set of answers. I am also a big fan of themes where the themed answers seem to be completely unrelated – and this theme does that well too. If I’m being nit-picky I’d say the only thing I didn’t get was the ‘why’ of it – I don’t see a clear reason for the splitting of the sharks – unless that’s the attack part of ‘Shark Attack’?

Shout out to my nephew Joey, whose OBSESSion with sharks definitely helped my solve.

Overall the puzzle is impressively smooth. Not a lot of crosswordese which made every part of the solve fun. Good layout too for a nice flow from top to bottom.

A few other things:

  • As a proud theater nerd I loved the clues for MARK ROTHKO [Abstract expressionist portrayed in the play “Red”], DUETS [“For Good” and “Take Me or Leave Me”], and OUR [“___ Town”].
  • 40A [Pricey Hawaiʻian wood]. It’s nice to see a clue for KOA that isn’t related to camping.
  • 43A [“Dykes to Watch Out For,” for one] – I loved seeing COMIC clued for Alison Bechdel’s work – clues like this are why I adore the Inkubator so much.
  • 59A [Anne Bonny and Mary Read, for two] Who doesn’t love lady PIRATES?
  • 63A [Like many models] is DIE-CAST – this clue threw me – my brain did not see this definition of model until I had most of the letters in place.

On a personal note, I spent much of the last year with Long Covid symptoms that interfered with my solving abilities (yet another reason you should get vaccinated!) and I’m thrilled to be back on the team here at Fiend!

I’ll leave you with Aaron Tveit and Gavin Creel singing “Take Me or Leave Me” at one of my favorite theater events, MISCAST

Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker Puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Good morning, solvers! Today’s grid featured off-center staircases for a central stack, which is a grid layout that I love to solve. The top entry in the stack, LOVE LANGUAGES (31A) put a huge smile on my face. I love the love languages. Perhaps my love language is…. talking about people’s love languages. (Jk, in all relationships it’s quality time, and in romantic relationships it’s also physical touch.) (Comment your love language below ⬇️) I love knowing people’s love language because then I know how to make my friends happy!! If you are having a bad day, I want to know if I should give you a compliment or buy you dinner or whatever to make you feel better!! Everyone go take the love language quiz right now.

Anna Shechtman’s August 13, 2021 New Yorker puzzle

The lower entry of the stack, BOTTOM FEEDERS (36A: Opportunists, even more derisively) also made me smile because I associate it with an incredible lyric from “WAP” which I do not think I can write here AND Cardi B’s iconic tweet (NSFW) apologizing for said lyric. Those two entries definitely made up for the fact that CASE HISTORIES (35A: Freud’s “Dora” and “Rat Man,” for two) felt kind of blah. (I’ve never heard the term, I only know “case studies” but Google seems to think it is A Thing.)

Weak fill for me was ERI TU (7A: Classic aria from Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera”). I am just not convinced that any aria is “classic” enough to go in a puzzle. Although I’m sure there will be commenters below who have never heard of “WAP” and are about to have their lives changed. It’s all about your personal frame of reference. I also didn’t finish this puzzle due to the LEHMAN/DISPENSED crossing (I had DISPERSED) and the ASSUREDLY/LOMAN crossing (I had ASSURED BY).

Lots of great fill in this puzzle:

  • 20A: CLASS ACT: Admirable person
  • I don’t love cross-reference-y clues, but I loved EARTH (23A: Subject of the photograph “The Blue Marble”) crossing SPACE (1D: Where the photograph “The Blue Marble” was taken)
  • I like how PONY RIDE (49A: Children’s-birthday-party luxury) took me on a little journey as I thought about magicians and bouncy castles and ball pits and other extravagant options
  • 2D: HELLA: Very, in slang
  • SHOVE OVER (21D: Push aside) is one letter away from having The Ardbo Ardbo Property
  • 34D: AIR JORDAN: Sneaker featured in “Space Jam”
  • I’ll end by sharing this video of the two gold medalists for high jump, since COWINNER (35D: One sharing a prize) was in the grid. My love language might actually be “sending videos of sappy sports moments” now that I think about it.
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25 Responses to Friday, August 13, 2021

  1. stephen manion says:

    Tough for me.
    Shoestring catches are usually made by outfielders running in. They include all catches caught in the air where the fielder catches the ball near the ground.

    • huda says:

      thanks for the link. So cool to watch! such amazing coordination of perception and motion.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks, Steve! Great video; I wonder how many hours the film editor spent in putting this together. Fabulous!

      What I found interesting was the variety of terms for “the catch.” In addition to shoestring, I heard basket catch, shoe top, close to the shoe leather et al.

  2. Billy Boy says:

    NYT a-lite elimination is purely monetary, control over distribution.

    I found the NW ugly and inelegant today and I so despise when that happens

    • Jenni says:

      I’m also annoyed by the loss of AL – and I have to acknowledge that they have every right to control the distribution of their product. And it is a (very profitable) product. I think they handled badly and I wish they hadn’t done it all….but in the end it’s their football and they get to decide how it’s played with.

      • Martin says:

        I think they did it not to control distribution, but because it caused them lots of tsuris. Unlike most crosswords, the NYT puzzles are behind a paywall, so the monetization argument (“you must use our app because it presents you with ads”) is moot.

        More and more, crosswords have been including features that AL can’t support, and the team has had to spend significant time coming up with compromises that allowed the puzzle to even display and Notepad admonishments not to solve here. Even the character set limitation (AL is single-byte while the rest of the world uses Unicode to display the rich character sets we’re used to) created headaches. Bugs can be introduced in any phase of a puzzle’s production, and conversion to .puz was one more chance for introducing errors. As a test-solver, I reported many conversion problems. Furthermore, the very complex production cycle (first-run print, syndication, app, AL, …) meant that some steps were under time crunch. Again, as a test solver, I saw first hand that a clue correction I suggested could make it into the AL version or the print version, but not both. Solvers would wonder why AL had a different clue than the paper, and it was because the additional complexity that the AL version added to the production cycle just didn’t leave enough headroom.

        I also really miss the .puz file. I have tens of thousands of solved crosswords archived as these little files, and there’s no real replacement for that. I also have to test solve on paper now, which is not my favorite. But I have to admit the team suffered many headaches supporting AL, and having no possibility of improving it or adding capabilities made the decision inevitable.

        • Billposter says:

          It’s 2:45 Eastern and I just downloaded NYT in Across Lite! Change of heart?

          • Martin says:

            Puzzles are produced in week batches, Monday through Sunday. I would imagine that on Monday they are no longer there.

            • Michael says:

              Well, the official reason given here was to focus on editing more puzzles. Glad to know the editing team will no longer be tasked with creating these silly *.puz files and will now have all this free time to edit more content. It’s a win-win.

    • Judith Speer says:

      I have found the AcrossLite version of the NYT puzzle at, the same place I get the LA Times Xword. You have to sign up for an account but it is free. It is a great site, full of info and forums.

  3. David L says:

    NYT: Is a STARTURN really a ‘breakout performance’? I think of the former as being the headliner or main act, while the latter is a striking debut. M-W agrees, I think.

    • Eric S says:

      Except that one of the quotes Merriam-Webster uses for “star turn” uses the term in the way it’s clued. (The quote refers to Christian Slater’s breakout role in “Heathers.”)

  4. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: I’m ready for MEET CUTE to go on hiatus for a while.

    ROTC is clued [Where majors have majors, in brief?]. Um, if you’re already a major, you’re not in ROTC trying to earn your commission to become an officer. Yes, ROTC has a rank called “Cadet Major,” but you wouldn’t leave off the “Cadet” in that case.

    Amy, Jotunheim was the tower where the starfish did its STAR TURN (i.e. had its “breakout” performance).

    • Martin says:

      I figured the clue could squeak by by interpreting the first “major” as the student, as in “he’s a history major.” So imagine the chair of the history department saying, “three of our majors have majors.”

      Yeah, it’s hanging on by a thread, but for a cute clue on Friday there’ve been worse.

  5. Eric S says:

    LAT: Clever theme. It’s identical to the one in the NYT for July 2, 2015.

    Since I did that one about a week ago, it *seems* like a recent puzzle.

    I know it’s hard to come up with a good theme.

  6. Billposter says:

    NYT ice cream “HIC” for Ben and Gerry’s? What did I miss here?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Not ice cream. [Brand with the flavors Grabbin’ Grape and Blazin’ Blueberry] is the sugary drink Hi-C.

  7. Wally Walters says:

    Universal was one of the poorest I’ve seen. The theme was opaque and of the sort only shown at the end, not really helping in solving. Too many punny (?) clues. Whenever “Indian flatbread” makes an appearance it’s not a good sign.

    The term is GOAT ROPE, not GOAT RODEO.

  8. Elizabeth Jewlal says:

    Thank you for the review! To answer your question they are split because I wanted it to look like the entries were being “eaten by sharks”. Maybe not the most clever, but I love me my shark related everything.

Comments are closed.