Friday, September 17, 2021

Inkubator untimed (Rebecca) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 5:02 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 16:59 (malaika) 


Universal 4:15 (Jim P) 


USA Today 4:13 (Darby) 


Matthew Stock’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 17 21, no. 0917

This 70-worder is mighty smooth! Oh, hey—just realized it doesn’t have standard rotational symmetry but instead mirrors across the NW-to-SE diagonal. Cool.

Fave fill: LEGO MOVIE (everything is awesome), WALL-TO-WALL clued as [Jam-packed], GLITTER BOMBS, MELTING POT, the SELASSIE/RASTA pairing, and the classic “DO NOT EAT” of a desiccant packet. And, of course, the CHICAGO BEARS, ridiculously clued by way of [Team whose song “The Super Bowl Shuffle” earned a Grammy nomination] because, honestly, the Bears haven’t done many impressive things since that 1985 season.

Did not know: 51a. [Monkey head mushroom, by another name], LION’S MANE. I have so little interest in mushrooms. I did just wonder about the etymology of the word, though! And it’s weird.

Ten more things:

  • 1a. [Group whose name means “the people of the waters that are never still”], MOHICANS. I believe some Minnesota tribe/nation names also have to do with water. I reckon many others do, too, though maybe not so much in the desert Southwest.
  • 24a. [Musicians are often on it], TOUR / 29a. [Criticize, with “on”], RAG. My eye sort of led me to the “musicians are often on the RAG” menstrual angle because these answers were stacked together. Just me? :-D
  • 44d. [Portmanteau for a messenger bag], MURSE. Man + purse. Some use this portmanteau for man + nurse, though lots more men are going into nursing careers these days and I love it!
  • 32a. [Ground shaking stuff?], PEPPER. The peppercorns are ground, and the ground pepper may be dispensed from a pepper shaker. Seismic!
  • 39a. [Breaks off], DETACHES. This word has lost meaning in the grid. “My det aches, pass me the Tylenol!”
  • 59a. [What may be considered worse when done well], STEAK. Clever clue.
  • 11d. [Actor Sebastian ___], STAN. I wonder if he has any really rabid fans …
  • 26d. [Wind on the water?], REEL. Wind up the fishing line, reel it in.
  • 33d. [Sharper image co.?], P.R. AGENCY. PRAGENCY looks bizarre in the grid, doesn’t it? As for the Sharper Image, I believe that’s just an online vendor now, and no longer a mainstay of shopping malls.
  • 40d. [Ones who are sent packing?], HIT MEN. As in “sent on a mission to kill someone, they’re packing heat.”

Four stars from me.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Universal crossword, “Matching Pairs”—Jim P’s review

Each theme answer in today’s grid is DOUBLE-SIDED (38a, [Like some tape … and each starred clue’s answer, based on its first and last two letters?]), that is, each one starts and ends with doubled letters.

Universal crossword solution · “Matching Pairs” · Alex Eaton-Salners · Fri., 9.17.21

  • 17a. [*Leslie Odom Jr.’s Tony-winning “Hamilton” role] AARON BURR. I wonder if this was the impetus for this theme. What a unique characteristic for a name.
  • 26a. [*Marine plant that grows in beds] EELGRASS.
  • 50a. [*Rib cook-off need] BBQ GRILL.
  • 62a. [*License to drill?] DDS DEGREE.

It’s a nice theme, I just wish there were more entries like the first two. Relying on abbreviations feels a little bit like a cheat, but in reality, there can’t be that many phrases that have this feature, so the entries with abbreviations were probably inevitable.

The fill doesn’t wow, but it’s clean and gets the job done. The SE corner is nicest with DUE NORTH and ICE BEER.

Clues of note:

  • 6a. [Monitor for TV?]. FCC. Why not clue this [TV monitor?]? That sounds more natural and seems just as correct.
  • 53a. [Some weight lifters]. CRANES. I needed nearly all the crossings, so fooled was I.
  • 11d. [Run out of pants?]. STREAK. Ha! I can only think of the “Where are my pants?” line from The Lego Movie which my kids love to reference at appropriate times. Coincidentally enough, you can find LEGO MOVIE elsewhere on this page.
  • 40d. [Straight up?]. DUE NORTH. Another simple but very nice clue.
  • 45d. [Pizza Hut competitor]. SBARRO. Really? I don’t think of these as competitors. I’ve only ever seen a SBARRO at a mall whereas Pizza Hut has its own restaurants.

Clean puzzle with a gettable theme and fun clues. 3.5 stars.

Annemarie Brethauer’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 9/17/21 • Brethauer • Fri • solution • 20210917

  • 48dR [Steamed … and like five answers in this puzzle?] TEED OFF. The letter T is dropped from the beginnings of entries.
  • 1d. [Platform for primates?] APE DECK (tape deck).
  • 18a. [Guitar connoisseur?] AX COLLECTOR (tax collector).
  • 36a. [Cabdriver’s pickups during a storm?] RAIN FARE (train fare). Why pickups plural yet FARE singular? Also, strong and unnecessary dupe with 8d [Arrange local transportation] CALL A CAB.
  • 41a. [Savings for replacing old tools?] RUST FUND (trust fund).
  • 62a. [One with a lofty greeting?] HIGH SLAPPER (thigh-slapper). Minor stretch to cast slapping as a generic greeting, but I’ll allow it.

It’s a fine theme. So, does ‘tee off’ extend idiomatically from golf and baseball, or is it derived as an initialed form of the ‘annoying’ sense of tick off?

  • 12d [Previously] AGO, 61d [In olden days, once] ERST.
  • 37d [Curly-haired “Peanuts” girl] FRIEDA. Yet 54d [Painter Frida] KAHLO, who was partnered with 16a [Muralist Rivera] DIEGO.
  • 63d [Real resentment] IRE. Theme-adjacent.
  • 29a [Coopers’ creations] CASKS. Enjoyed the alliterative clue/answer.

That’s all I’ve got on this rushed morning. Good crossword with a few easily avoidable dings.

Nate Cardin’s USA Today crossword, “Ten-Four!”—Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each themed answer in this puzzle is two words, with the first composed of ten letters and the second of four, making each one a “ten-four.”

Theme Answers:

Nate Cardin's "Ten-Four" USA Today crossword solution, 9/17/2021

Nate Cardin’s “Ten-Four” USA Today crossword solution, 9/17/2021

  • 20a [“Theater and dance, for example”] PERFORMING ARTS
  • 25a [“Bit of footwear for Layshia Clarendon”] BASKETBALL SHOE
  • 42a [“Piece of leverage in a negotiation”] BARGAINING CHIP

I thought this was a neat theme! The theme answers were each very different (like every good theater kid, I got 20a right off the bat). As I’ve been slowly dipping my toe into constructing water, I’ve been thinking a lot about word lengths, and so I thought that this was also a nice pull back of the curtain because it drew specific attention to individual word count in the theme, even if it wasn’t referring to the total of fourteen letters in each themer.

The grid design on this was also really nice! I lowkey love seeing the diagonal zig-zag in the middle of a puzzle, and I thought Nate’s cluing was spot-on, especially in answers like 27d [“Part of a wedding dress”] TRAIN right after 26d [“Place to exchange vows”] ALTAR. It was a perfect excuse to clue TRAIN this way rather than as a mode of transport or within an educational context for that nice matrimonial one-two punch. I felt similarly about the trio of 21d [“Acorn sources”] OAKS, 28d [“Disney deer”] BAMBI, and 29a [“Colorado town named for a tree”] ASPEN. While OAKS were clued explicitly as trees, I loved that ASPEN referenced the town through its tree name, making it a close echo with an additional fact.

Other Friday faves include:

  • 36a [“Secondary social media accounts”] – I had not heard of ALTS as backup social media accounts, though I’ve seen the more platform-specific Finstas (“fake Insta”). The existence of these accounts are an unfortunate reminder of the pressures of having social media and the need to portray our mental health/interests/brand in a certain way.
  • 40a [“Saint Regis Mohawk, for example”] – I hope that Nate’s puzzle encourages its solvers to learn more about the Saint Regis Mohawk TRIBE because I think that references like this can be a great gateway. Here’s a link to their website.
  • 13d [“Dr Helen Nash’s city, for short”] – I didn’t know about this STL great, so thanks Nate! Dr. Helen Nash was the first African American doctor at St. Louis Children’s hospital and was especially known for her work with children, working both in the hospital and with local politicians to provide safer and healthier environments for them. The Women in Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine also features Dr. Nash in an online exhibit that can be found here.

Okay, I’m DONE (15a [“Finished!”]) for now. Have a great weekend!

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

Good morning folks! I wrote this post while listening to Leon Bridge’s tiny desk concert, which is a stunning set of music. Feel free to listen while you read.

Over the last few months of solving / reviewing The New Yorker’s puzzles, I’ve found that I am not really on Patrick Berry’s wavelength, especially in comparison to the other constructors on their roster. (I think I vibe with Anna Shechtman the most.) Obviously this does not mean his puzzles are bad (he’s a legend lol), just that I flounder a lot while solving. A typical Friday New Yorker takes me about seven minutes; today’s took me seventeen.

Patrick Berry’s September 17, 2021 New Yorker puzzle

A lot of the entries were just totally outside my frame of reference: Cars (ALTIMAS: Midsize Nissan models) and American football (GINO Marchetti in the Pro Football Hall of Fame) and BENNY HILL (British comedian whose TV show usually ended in a high speed car chase) and Star Wars (ENDOR) and ballet (SWAN: Odette’s form after Rothbart’s magic spell, in a Tchaikovsky ballet). The entry / clue pairing of BOGIE (Bacall’s onscreen and offscreen love, familiarly) meant truly nothing to me, even once I had all the letters in.

But I’m okay with not knowing trivia in puzzles. Sometimes, that’s just how the cookie crumbles. My main problem was that many of the longer entries felt dull. When I make themeless puzzles, I want the first long across answer to really dazzle solvers. EBB TIDES (Backflows at the beach) did nothing for me, and AREA WIDE (How weather warnings might be broadcast) and IN PLACES (Here and there) felt similarly meh.

The good stuff was mainly in the downs: entries like KIDS MEALS (Menu options at McDonald’s and Burger King, but not Taco Bell), TOSTADAS (Small, round Mexican snacks), and EGO BOOST (One giving you a lift?). I liked the entry GIN FIZZES, but the clue bugged me, because the majority are not served in Old Fashioned (or rocks) glasses, they’re served in highball glasses, as you can see on Google images.

I’ll close with the truly spectacular clue [Evening in one’s workshop?] for PLANING. I said “Nice!” aloud to myself when I got that one.

Hannah Slovut’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #23″—Rebecca’s review

Inkubator, August 16, 2021, Hannah Slovut, “Themeless #23” solution grid

I really VIBEd with this puzzle – clean and lots of fun. For me, enjoyment of a themeless puzzles are so dependent on the author and I loved this one.

The long answers really hit it out of the park. REDUCTRESS, EMILY’S LIST, and LENA WAITHE were all gimmes, which helped this be a speedy solve for me. Really all the 10s in this grid were fantastic.

8s were great too with LATTE ART, PEN NAMES, and BAD DATES making the center of the grid sing. Not to mention how appropriate it is that BAD DATES crosses TINDER BIOS.

I also enjoyed the talky aspects of this puzzle with WE’RE ON and OH NO REASON.

Favorite clues:

58-Across [Makeshift flyswatter, perhaps] for SHOE – only partially influenced by the mosquito I finally vanquished.

7-Down [Jazz fan, maybe] for UTAHN – I know Jazz and Utah related things are clued together more often than not, but I get a kick out of it every single time.

49-Across [Components of a cage] for RIBS

I’m off to check on my long-neglected NEOPETs – I’ll leave you with this recent REDUCTRESS post.

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12 Responses to Friday, September 17, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Yes, lovely!!!
    It went very smoothly until I finished with some unknown error. Took a while to locate it– I had REED in lieu of REEL (It sort of made sense) and GOADS instead of GOALS…
    I think this puzzle hit the right balance of unknown little tidbits, clever cluing and straightforward entries.

    • Ch says:

      Same here, REED instead of REEL — figured a reed in an orchestra, but they grow in marshes….

    • Anne says:

      I made that exact same error! Good puzzle.

    • marciem says:

      Me three or four on the reed/reel error, and I was thinking what a clever clue it was, and how smart I was to suss it out, with the same reasoning as Ch … HAH! Goads looked fine so I didn’t re-read the clue.

      Was almost at the verge of googling the word PRAGENCY to see what company Sharper Image owned or was owned by, but then it jumped at me. That was a clever clue/ans. pairing!

      Really enjoyed this puzzle, a perfect Friday IMO.

    • Mutman says:

      Interesting that I figured out GOADS was wrong and corrected it,

      I didn’t fare as well when I had LIONSMATE crossing SESTITAS — never heard of either, but seemed plausible.

      Fun puzzle and appreciated the different symmetry as well!

  2. Bryan says:

    NYT: Love the diagonal symmetry! I’m a big fan of unusual symmetry and unusual crossword puzzles in general. Also, though I appreciate GLITTERBOMBS as an answer, I detest glitter with every fiber of my being. The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and I’m already dreading the glittery cards. Anyway, I would love to see more unusual grids like this one in the NYT.

  3. Joe Pancake says:

    NYT: Hand up for the REED/REEL error. I figured GOADS was some sort of new social media thing in which you goad your friends into living their best life or whatever. I thought, Well if that’s what the kids are doing these days…

    TNY: I’m always on Patrick Berry’s wavelength in terms of solving the puzzle, but I don’t think I’m on it in terms of constructing philosophy. His grids are *too* clean, IMO. I’d rather see some more glue to get some more exciting entries in there.

    It’s a matter of taste, obviously, but I prefer a little more personality in my puzzles — after all, as Jules Winnfield says, “Personality goes a long way.”

    • huda says:

      Haha, I too went through some convoluted logic re GOAD…
      Interesting that the clue for REEL evoked all these REED responses.

  4. Crotchety Doug says:

    NYT (sigh) – Today all the comments so far are about the NYT. Now, using enough browsers and computers, I can get every puzzle every month from the New Yorker mag. But I can’t seem to find a way to download the NYT unless BEQ posts his NYT puzzle link on his site. Does everyone here that does the NYT puzzle subscribe to “The Gray Lady”? Or am I missing something? Thanks for any help :)

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