Friday, October 8, 2021

Inkubator untimed (Rebecca) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 4:11 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (malaika) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 4:01 (Darby) 


Yacob Yonas’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 8 21, no. 1008

This 70-worder fell swiftly for me, just the thing at the end of a long week. Wait, what? It’s only Thursday night now? Sigh.

While I don’t like theme invasion of Friday and Saturday NYT puzzles, I don’t object to a mini-theme of two symmetrically placed, sort of related entries. Here, the first and last Acrosses are both clued with [Epiphanies], and the answers are AHA MOMENTS and EYE OPENERS, a nice 3/7 split for each.

Bit of a party vibe throughout the puzzle, with food and drink at a CATERED event complete with PAPER HATS. TOMATO SOUP, MARTINI, WINE (SNOB), TEA (TAX), CHIA SEEDS in your smoothie, Chrissy TEIGEN’s cookbooks, KEG STANDS and a TANKARD for the beer drinkers, roasted marshmallows at the FIRE PIT? “LET’S DIG IN“!

Five more things:

  • 40a. [Cry heard at a shoe auction?], SOLED. This pun is ridiculous. Of course I approve wholeheartedly.
  • 43a. [Shortening used in many recipes], TSPS. A word shortening, not a cooking fat.
  • 30a. [Musician on the cover of Rolling Stone, often], ROCK IDOL. Feels awkward. Pop idol, teen idol, rock star, rock god?
  • 5d. [Great Plains tribe], OTOE—and that name is hiding twice in 55a GO TOE TO TOE.
  • 13d. [Ballpark figs.], ERAS. As in pitchers’ earned run averages, and not ESTS. Had me fooled!

Four stars from me.

Claire Rimkus’s USA Today crossword “Starting Small”—Darby’s write-up

Theme: “Small” can be added to the beginnings of each of the theme answers to make up a phrase.

Theme Answers

Claire RImkus's "Starting Small" USA Today crossword 10/8/2021 solution

Claire RImkus’s “Starting Small” USA Today crossword 10/8/2021 solution

  • 16a [“Many a late night program”] TALK SHOW / SMALL TALK
  • 28a [“Sci-fi devices”] TIME MACHINES / SMALL TIME
  • 48a [“Button that gives a sneak peek of a hard copy”] PRINT PREVIEW / SMALL PRINT
  • 64a [“Local government building”] TOWN HALL / SMALL TOWN

Four theme answers is a change up, with a combo of two 13-letter themers and two 8-lettered ones. PRINT PREVIEW was definitely a fave for me, and TIME MACHINE just makes me want to do the Time Warp again, so that’s below if you want to join in.

The aesthetics of this grid are pretty mesmerizing, if you ask me., moving down diagonally from LIMO to TOONS to SOUL in the center three rows between the two longer themed answers. TOONS, clued as 39a’s [“Animated characters, for short”] and SOUL [“Genre for Mumu Fresh”] pair nicely together if you happen to have just done a puzzle referencing the Pixar animated film (as is my experience). I thought it was interesting that Claire included “for short” in the clue for TOONS, since it often isn’t cued with an abbreviation (or Abbr. for that matter). It is, of course, short for “cartoons,” so it makes sense, but it can also stand on its own.

Other Friday faves:

  • 8a [“Misjudges a push door”] – This was definitely a “okay, well just @ me next time” sort of clue for PULLS, and I loved every punch of the keyboard as I filled it in. We’ve all been there.
  • 20a [“The ‘Dark Star’ trilogy, for example”] – For some reason, I really wanted this to be SEGA, and while SAGA didn’t fulfill my wish (which makes sense), 56a’s [“Sonic the Hedgehog company”] had my back. Also – as I dug more into the Marlon James series referenced here, I also discovered that the author hosts a podcast with his editor called “Marlon and Jake Read Dead People,” in which they discuss classic authors. If you’re interested, check it out here.
  • 36a [“Olympic gymnast Moreno”]ALEXA Moreno is a gymnast who won the first medal for Mexico at the artistic gymnastics World Championships in 2018.
  • 34d [“Short fashion choice”] – I really wanted to point out that, aside from the themers, MINI SKIRT and LENT AN EAR (10d [“Listened sympathetically”]), at nine letters each, are the longest answers. It’s super ironic given the clue for MINI SKIRT, and I love it.
  • 41d [“Outfit for a bride”] – We love to see those gender binary busters in crossword puzzles, and this one was no different in the reminder that a bride can wear a SUIT too.

Overall, a really solid Friday puzzle. The four themers were all very fun, and I thought the fill as a whole was fun and moved quickly. No TSKs or UGHs from me today, except that it’s over!

Jennifer Lee & Victor Galson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 10/8/21 • Lee, Galson • Fri • solution • 20211008

The theme answers all share the same clue: [Call of the wild?]


On the surface these all seem consistent, but WEEPING WILLOW sticks in my craw. While the others are accurately describing AUDIO (63a) phenomena, this one ostensibly describes the tree’s drooping appearance. Further, someone can be visibly but silently weeping.

Unsolicited plug: a few months ago I purchased the excellent Environments app for my phone. I was a fan of the original record series from the ’70s and it’s a relative bargain to have the complete collection in a simple yet well-designed form. Streaming it to some decent speakers is great.

Side 2 of the eighth album is Country Stream—our BABBLING BROOK—in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. And number 11 is Alpine Blizzard, which combines HOWLING WIND  outside and a cozy ROARING FIRE inside a SKI (5d) chateau. As you can probablyyyy imagine, there was no such offering for a WEEPING WILLOW, sadly.

Have been trying to think of an adequate substitute but can’t come up with anything that’s the proper letter length. CLAPPING THUNDER, ROARING SURF could replace ROARING FIRE, but that accomplishes little. CRACKLING FIRE and CRASHING SURF don’t help as alternatives. It’s a pickle.

  • Hey fellow kids, are you UP ON (12d) the modern lingo in the longdowns? 11d [Casual parting ] TA TA FOR NOW (TTFN) and 27d [Catch up on, in a way] BINGE WATCH.
  • There are others too: a NOOB getting pwned, the NAE nae dance, a MIC DROP, et al.
  • Favorite clue: 28d [Relative challenge for some] IN-LAW.
  • 40a [Person who’s usually good?] EGG. Let’s run those numbers …

    Close! How about a simple Google search? “good egg” nets 6.8 million hits and “bad egg” gets 6.87 million. Hmm. Let’s just go with the constructors being optimists in regard to human nature, then.
    Incidentally, I recently learned of a connotation for a person who’s an EGG in the context of LGBT (26d) awareness. Wikipedia, as usual, has distilled the concept into a succinct definition: “a (suspected, if referring to someone in the present) transgender person who has not realized they’re trans yet; used by transgender people when aspects of one’s personality or behavior remind them of gender-related aspects of themselves before they realized they were trans.”

A nifty but slightly flawed in theme crossword.

Jake Houston’s Universal crossword, “Big Talk”—Jim P’s review

I love the title on this one. The theme consists of phrases that start with the sounds from the famous line from Jack and the Beanstalk: “FEE FI FO FUM.” The revealer is GIANT (65a, [Fairy-tale creature who says the starts of 20-, 35-, 43- and 59-Across]).

Universal crossword solution · “Big Talk” · Jake Houston · Fri., 10.8.21

  • 20a. [Period of intense competition] FEEDING FRENZY.
  • 35a. [Compensation to an intermediary] FINDER’S FEE. At this point I was pretty much convinced the theme answers were all two-word F.F. phrases.
  • 43a. [Panel that discusses a product] FOCUS GROUP. Oops, that wasn’t right.
  • 59a. [What a quarterback shouldn’t do] FUMBLE THE BALL.

Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!
I smell the blood of an Englishman.
Be he ‘live, or be he dead,
I’ll have his bones to grind my bread.

When my kids were young we’d listen to the Rabbit Ears Radio production of Jack and the Beanstalk, perfectly read by none other than Michael Palin. It came with a picture book to follow along. You can still find Rabbit Ears Radio stories on Amazon, but thanks to the magic of Youtube, here’s the story in question. If you have half an hour and a kid to prop up on your knee, it’s a good time. At the very least, skip to 12:14 for the GIANT’s entrance and enjoy Michael Palin’s delivery.

I for one like to see a fairy tale-based theme. Fairy tales and nursery rhymes make good puzzle fodder because they are so widely known, and just plain fun to boot. As I said above, I thought the theme was one thing, but it turned out to be something else.  It was nice to have that aha moment that the revealer provided.

In the fill, I love the petulant, “DO I HAVE TO?” Its counterpart is the solid TIME TRIAL. Surprisingly, both of these are in the Across direction. There’s also a resigned, “OH FINE” at 15d.

Clues of note:

  • 14a. [Sound within “Tabernacle Choir”]. ECHO. Meh. I was looking for the actual sounds of the word, not its spelling. Deceptive, but not in a fun way.
  • 52d. [Caption on a flattering picture, perhaps]. AFTER. Took me a few seconds to realize what this was. Contrast it with a caption that says “Before.”

Solid grid. 3.5 stars.

Catherine Cetta’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #24″—Rebecca’s review

Today’s puzzle is the 100th Inkubator puzzle! Congratulations to everyone on the team on this amazing milestone!

Inkubator, October 7, 2021, Catherine Cetta, “Themeless #24” solution grid

Clean and very well-clued themeless today that was fun from start to finish. I’m normally not a fan of answers like UNDER AN HOUR [Time goal for a 10K runner, perhaps] or ONE METER [Distance traveled by light in about 3.3356 nanoseconds], but the cluing here livened up the entries.

I loved seeing I’M COMING OUT crossing PRIDE. I’m also glad we have a new ENOLA [Fictional sleuth Holmes] to clue for, instead of the plane.

Favorite clues:

15-Across [Place to go in the country?] for OUTHOUSE

48-Across [Spot early on?] for PUP

12-Down [One in a lot] for USED CARS

Here’s Diana Ross singing a medley when she won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 AMAs

Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s writeup

Good morning solvers, apologies for the late review, my weekend was pure chaos. I always vibe with an Anna Shechtman puzzle, and today’s was no exception! Quick bullets:

Anna Shechtman’s October 10, 2021 New Yorker puzzle

  • I loved that giant plus in the grid, I see a lot of smaller plus-signs but not this larger kind
  • Dropped in NIGERIAN PRINCES (20A: What some email scammers pose as) with no crosses
  • Loooove the little volleyball shout-out for SET (24A: Volleyball action between a bump and a spike)
  • 34A, Spot for a mai tai: TIKI BAR
  • HAGS stands for Have A Good Summer (63A: Acronym in many yearbook missives)
  • 5D, Thoroughly enjoyed something: ATE IT UP
  • Weak fill for me was A RED (5A: Cezanne’s “Boy in ___ Vest”) and IN OT (57A: When some close games are won, briefly) and ISE (45A: British verb ending)
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35 Responses to Friday, October 8, 2021

  1. Eric S says:

    NYT: This felt like a Monday puzzle, save for a couple of snags in the SE. The great clue for TSPS totally misdirected me; that may be the best thing in this one. A bit disappointing after Wednesday and Thursday.

    • Me says:

      A bunch of commenters at the NYT website note that this was one of their fastest Fridays ever. I did slightly better than my usual Friday but found enough bite in it to make it pretty satisfying. One of my stumbling blocks was going down a LARD/LIGER path rather than a TSPS/TIGON one. For some reason, I’ve heard LIGER many times, but never heard of a TIGON until now.

      • Eric S says:

        I ran into the word TIGON about a year ago — around the same time I learned that “liger” wasn’t a fantastic beast imagined by Napoleon Dynamite.

        I don’t trust my fastest NYT Friday time; I think that puzzle was not meant to be particularly challenging. Today’s puzzle took me a few minutes longer than my best time.

    • JohnH says:

      I did, though, have a DNF at RITA/TEIGEN.

    • Rob says:

      Agreed. NYT puzzle was easy peasy!(Not that I’m complaining)

  2. Pamela Kelly says:

    I have to object to 15 across. Tomato soup is not a classic Warhol subject. The classic subject was the Campbell’s soup cans. The distinction is important.

  3. Billy Boy says:

    Very fast, indeed. My tablet gave a time like a hard Wednesday. I too felt tomato soup wasn’t really right, was my third try. TBSP clever, had lard first. 38A – wine poseur better answer, most of us snobs know the true role of a screw cap. We snobs just don’t waste time on boring wines …

    I liked this one a lot even if it was quick.

    Disappointed 19A wasn’t introitus, the proper medical term almost never used to describe her subliminal images – maybe one day in the New Yorker puzzle? Teach these folks some anatomy. Along the same line, I hardly think ACL needs a parenthetical qualifier any longer


    • cyberdiva says:

      Yes, as soon as I put in MARIN, I was sure that 19A was VAGINA, a more common term to describe her subliminal images. And that made me decide 1D (not straight) must be CURVY. I stayed with those answers for far too long.

  4. Art Shapiro says:

    Had no chance with the crossing of the cookbook author with the ice chain.


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The Italian ice chain is absolutely a regional thing (mostly Mid-Atlantic). Ms. Moreno, on the other hand, is nationally acclaimed.

  5. stephen manion says:

    Easy today.

    I was surprised some years ago to learn that females are far more likely to sustain ACL injuries than males.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      For the love of all that is good and right, can we please cease using “females” and “males” as human nouns? “Women and girls” and “female athletes” are just two options.

      • pannonica says:

        Not quite so bad, as it’s quasi-clinical, but even here it would have been better to be more casual.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Guess where I learned as an editor to use words like infant/child/girl/boy/woman/man/adult? In my medical editing career.

          • R says:

            It strikes me more as language from either police reports or biology experiments, both of which feel even ickier than clinical language. I can’t say I hate it as much as you do, but I get the dislike.

      • Zulema says:

        Re your post, I keep hearing on those medical advisories on TV, again and again the phrase “pregnant persons.” What’s with this?

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Hi, Zulema. In some couples, the pregnant partner is a transgender man who’s still got a uterus, or a nonbinary in. Saying “pregnant people” rather than “pregnant women” is more inclusive, as it covers anyone with a uterus.

        • dutch says:

          It’s this year’s version of “defund the police” – a super-progressive slogan that will be a major factor in Ds losing elections. When terms like “mother” and “woman” are branded as toxic by hyper-woke progressives, average voters are completely repelled. Have fun getting blown out at the midterms.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            *eye roll*

            I’m sorry that kindness and respect are not also Republican values.

            • dutch says:

              Not a Republican, but nice try!

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              I didn’t say you were a Republican. But the people who you think will win in the midterms are Republicans, the party that condones “grab them by the pussy” and so many other toxic attitudes.

              Please note that there are transgender people who read Diary of a Crossword Fiend. Would you say this “blah blah hyper-woke blah blah” to their face, or just anonymously online?

            • dutch says:

              There are plenty of transgender people who scoff at the hyper woke stuff. Don’t treat people like avatars of monolithic identity groups, treat people as individuals.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              Let me see if I’ve got this right. You’ll treat pregnant transgender men as individuals by deriding anyone who uses the phrase “pregnant person”?

            • dutch says:

              I’m happy to accommodate language changes to the ~0.4% of the population to which it applies. It’s imposing those language changes on the rest of the 99.6% of the population that I balk at.

              I’m not deriding anyone, I just think an attempt to scrub the word “mother” from the lexicon is an example of horrible political messaging that will only backfire on the people who are pushing it most passionately.

            • pannonica says:

              No one is attempting to eradicate the word ‘mother’ nor any other analogous terms from the language. Honestly.

            • Ch says:

              My, the woke scolds like to cherrypick on what to base their stereotype of an entire political party. Based on all the human trafficking and massive amounts of drugs coming in at the Southern border, causing untold human suffering due to this administration’s abysmal botchery, seems those values you ascribe to Republicans are wholly applicable to Democrats as well.

      • stephen manion says:

        The websites that discuss the issue use females and males. Here is a quote from 2020:

        “According to research, an ACL tear is one acute injury that female athletes are two to eight times more likely to experience than males. The ACL, a ligament in the knee that connects the femur to the tibia, is extraordinarily strong, yet has little elasticity, Dr. Gardner says.”

        You comment is way out of line.

        • Zulema says:

          I really don’t think the doctors on TV try to include non-binary people, but Amy may be right.

          • stephen manion says:

            I thought I was responding to Amy’s comment on my statement about ACLs, not your comment on pregnant persons.

        • pannonica says:

          Well really, it’s only the one instance. ‘Female’ is used as an adjective rather than a noun. And one can read the use of ‘males’ as an elided parallel construction.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          If you’ve been paying attention, this is an issue that bothers Jenni and me (among others) and I’m sure we’ve mentioned it multiple times. It falls in the category of dehumanizing language, which could be why it’s so popular among cops to use “male” and “female” as nouns, and why talking about “females” has sort of a frat-bro vibe to it.

          A web article with no byline is less impressive to me than a published study that adheres to standard medical editing style. The abstract for this one, for example, uses “female athletes” and “male athletes,” as I would expect:

          • stephen manion says:

            The clue was: ___ tear (sports injury). It is a common injury among all female athletes and it is wokeness run amok to make such a derisive response to a simple comment on the frequency of such injuries. Who else could I have possibly been referring to besides athletes? Women or girls or both( true for both)? How many of your readers were aware of how much more frequently female athletes sustain such injuries?

            • R says:

              If you react so badly to your ideas being criticized, maybe posting them on the internet isn’t for you. You can take the criticism or leave it, but digging in and fighting isn’t going to achieve whatever your goal is here.
              Also, most people know about those discrepancies in ACL injuries. I’m glad that now you do, too!

Comments are closed.