Friday, November 5, 2021

Inkubator untimed (Rebecca) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 8:05 (malaika) 


NYT 4:20 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 3:05 (Darby) 


Joseph Greenbaum’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 5 21, no. 1105

Not your usual grid layout for a themeless—the center of this 70-worder has a 15 and two 11s crossing two 14s and a 9, and them the corners are very seveny.


Six more things:

  • 11d. [Big adventure through the concrete jungle], URBAN HIKE. I haven’t seen this term before. Can I assume that any walk I take in my neighborhood fits this category? Definitely claiming URBAN HIKE for my walks henceforth.
  • 63a. [Budgeting class?], ECONOMY. Not a class like home ec, but a ticket class on a plane.
  • 65a. [Stingrays, often], RAGTOPS. As in Corvette Stingrays, which have sometimes had the soft convertible top called a ragtop.
  • 35d. [Zwölf minus elf], EINS. Looking at the English, Spanish, French, and German numbers up to 20, I gotta say, it’s hard to beat zwölf and elf for cuteness. (They’re 12 and 11.)
  • 44d. [Acorn, by another name], OAKNUT. Acorn is a perfectly serviceable and familiar word! Who’s out there calling them oaknuts?
  • 53d. [Lead-in to -graphic], TOPO-. You know what’s a tasty bottled water? Topo Chico, mostly sold in glass bottles. From Monterrey, Mexico. I’d be delighted to see TOPO clued via the water.

Liked the puzzle all right but didn’t love it. 3.9 stars from me.

Gary Larson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 11/5/21 • Fri • Larson • solution • 20211105

Familiar phrases unrelatedly containing homonyms of pieces of furniture couched as if they were indeed about furniture.

  • 18a. [Furniture for an angler?] WATER TABLE.
  • 22a. [Furniture for an efficiency expert?] SNAPPY DRESSER.
  • 49a. [Furniture for a military officer?] SERVICE BUREAU.
  • 56a. [Furniture for an event planner?] PARTY CHAIR.

Mildly entertaining stuff.

As for the rest of the crossword, the cluing seemed a little tougher and trickier than usual. Perhaps it’s a one-off, or perhaps the Los Angeles Times is making the end of the week a little more challenging, or perhaps it’s simply that I’m the one that’s off this morning.

  • 8d [ __ paper] CREPE. I mean, you can’t get much more open-ended than that. 53d [Mountain __ ] CHAIN is close.
  • 9d [“__ a bottle and an honest friend!”] HERE’S. Must be one of those traditional toasts. 31d [Short beer order] SAM, as in Samuel Adams.
  • 24d [Two-masters] YAWLS. Amazing that anyone was ever able to serve on one, right?
  • 47d [Yankee Don who pitched the only no-hitter (a perfect game) in World Series history] LARSEN. Alas, not the same guy who turned in a no-hitter while on LSD—that was Dock Ellis. Which is more impressive?
  • 50d [Letters after either Cowboy St. senator’s name] RWY. That’s R-WY, Republican-Wyoming. Hmm. If, say, Romney and Portman collaborated on a project … RUT–ROH, as Scooby-Doo would say.
  • 5a [Move unsteadily] LURCH. Also one of the worst manufactured songs from the dance-craze crazy ’60s, as much as I love The Addams Family.
  • 32a [Alphabetically fifth of Santa’s reindeer] DANCER. Seems their names are skewed to the beginning of the alphabet, never realized that. 1a [Simple starts] ABCS.
  • 45a [Gather dust] LIE IDLE. In the grid, it looks like an extreme German name.

Meet Julio and Ramón:

Colin Ernst’s Universal crossword, “Alternate Spellings”—Jim P’s review

Theme entries are words that come with rebus-type clues. The revealer is CHARACTER SKETCH (58a, [Certain description in literature … or the clue for 38-Across, 3-Down, 7-Down or 11-Down?]).

Universal crossword solution · “Alternate Spellings” · Colin Ernst · Fri., 11.5.21

  • 38a. [-8] HYPHENATE.
  • 3d. [X##] EXPOUNDS.
  • 7d. [,D] COMEDY.
  • 11d. [=II] EQUALIZE. I’m going to admit that I didn’t get this one until well after the solve. I got it from the crosses, and then went googling around to figure out what || meant. Double bar? Double pipe? I know I’d seen it in math classes back in the day, but couldn’t remember what it meant. The problem came down to Black Ink (the Mac program I use for solving) using a sans serif font to display these letter I’s. But they could’ve been lowercase L’s or, as I thought, two of these: |. Eventually the penny dropped.

Cute theme which didn’t take too long to grok when I got to HYPHENATE. But it sure felt like it was light in theme material with a 9, two 8s, and a 7, aside from the revealer. But looking at the grid, I see that every section is constrained by theme material, so maybe adding another entry just wasn’t possible without compromising the fill which is nicely clean as it is.


Clues of note:

  • 14a. [Word that summons a waiter?]. NEXT. A waiter as in someone who is waiting, not a server in a restaurant. As opposed to 59d. [What a waiter waits for?]: TIP.
  • 56a. [Like the child who often gets special privileges]. OLDEST. Is that true? That hasn’t been my experience, either as the youngest child in my family growing up or as a father of three. The oldest just gets to do more before the others simply because of age/maturity.
  • 4d. [Nickname within “Constance”]. STAN. I read this as looking for a nickname for Constance. I chuckled at the thought of calling someone named Constance STAN.

3.5 stars.

Wyna Liu’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Wyna Liu’s November 5, 2021 New Yorker puzzle

Happy Friday everyone! I have been suffering from November Ennui lately, but this puzzle was a nice respite from that. I hope you all had a lovely Diwali yesterday! Below are some puzzle highlights:

  • [Cosmic revolution] for ORBIT (15A) made me think of a scrappy bunch of rebels taking down some sort of large, organized, evil empire in space. Hmm, they should make a movie about that.
  • 18A: Cereal mascot whose schemes to obtain his own product are, in more ways than one, fruitless: TRIX RABBIT
  • 26A: Tweeting symbols? STATE BIRDS. Perfect, perfect clue.
  • 44A: Spot for bits and bobs: JUNK DRAWER
  • 8D: Manhattan and Cape Cod, for two: MIXED DRINKS. This clue felt more Wednesday-ish than Friday-ish. I typically hear people say “vodka cran” rather than Cape Cod.
  • 24D: Sources of extra cash: SIDE HUSTLES. (Crossword puzzles, for me! Love to accidentally monetize a hobby.)
  • Raise your hand if you saw [What a shin guard guards] and wrote down “shins” on autopilot. (The answer is TIBIA, 27D.)
  • I think AVANT GARDE (28D: On the cutting edge) is an apt entry for a puzzle from Wyna. Have you seen her art?

Sarah Imhoff’s Inkubator crossword, “Kitchen Spoons”—Rebecca’s review

Sarah brings us a fun food-themed spoonerism puzzle

Inkubator, November 4, 2021, Sarah Imhoff, “Kitchen Spoons” solution grid

  • 18A [Cause for concern on March 14?] LACK OF PIES
  • 26A [Unexpected prohibitions during high tea?] SCONE BANS
  • 48A [Explosive birthday fare?] BLAM CAKES
  • 61A [Poems inspired by a baker’s muse?] BUN SONNETS

Breezy solve with some fun finds for the themed entries. SCONE BANS was definitely my favorite, and BUN SONNETS stood out as more positive than the others, but overall a good set of answers if you’re a fan of spoonerisms.

Smooth fill throughout. Nice long downs with POLAR BEAR, UNTIL NOW, and DEAR ABBY.

Wendy L. Brandes’s USA Today crossword, “Got the Blues”—Darby’s write-up

Edited by Erik Agard

Theme: The first word of each themed answer combines with “blue” to form a shade of the color.

Theme Answers

Wendy L. Brandes's USA Today crossword, "Got the Blues"

Wendy L. Brandes’s USA Today crossword, “Got the Blues” solution for 11/5/2021

  • 20a [“Best possible poker hands”] ROYAL FLUSHES / ROYAL BLUE
  • 37a [“Joseph Kekuku’s instrument”] STEEL GUITAR / STEEL BLUE
  • 43a [“Device used to keep tabs on an infant”] BABY MONITOR / BABY BLUE
  • 55a [“Late time”] MIDNIGHT HOUR / MIDNIGHT BLUE

I enjoyed this theme, and it was satisfied to look at the colors afterwards. Clue-wise, I struggled with STEEL GUITAR because I wasn’t familiar with Joseph Kekuku, but this ended up being a great segue to learning more about Joseph Kekuku, the Hawaiian inventor of the instrument whose “unique sound provided an essential layer of yearning emotion that can be heard on hundreds of immoral country recordings.” Color-wise, I struggled with MIDNIGHT BLUE since I tend to think of that color as navy blue, but I love MIDNIGHT BLUE as more descriptive. It also happens to be one of my favorite colors.

Grid-wise, I enjoyed the shape of this puzzle. ROYAL FLUSHES and MIDNIGHT HOUR created some tight corners that made the middle sections of the top and bottom portions of the puzzle feel more secluded (I kind of love that WALL borders the bottom of the grid), but I thought that the diagonal movement through the center starting with TROLLS and ending with ANSWER was both aesthetically pleasing but also kept the grid interconnected.

Some Friday faves:

  • 2d [“Yellow citrus fruit, in Spanish”]LIMÓN was one of three clues referencing Spanish. The others were 17a [“‘___ Prohibido” (Selena song)”] AMOR and 29d [“Spanish for ‘other’”] OTRO.
  • 22d [“‘You too?’ as asked in ‘Julius Caesar’”] – I got a chuckle out of this cluing for ET TU, especially considering the context.
  • 53d [“Jazz pianist Blake”] – Along with Noble Sissle, EUBIE Blake wrote Shuffle Along, one of the first Broadly musicals written and directed by African Americans. We also had a few other musical clues in this puzzle with 30d [“‘Better in Time’ singer Lewis”] LEONA, 3d [“‘Mamma Mia!’” director Phyllida”] LLOYD, and 64a [“It can receive AM and FM transmissions”] RADIO.

This was a colorful puzzle that I skated through today, hovering right over three minutes, which is fast for me on a USA Today. Anyway, have a good weekend!

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24 Responses to Friday, November 5, 2021

  1. Eric S says:

    Amy, here’s the Topo Chico you ordered:

    I thought the puzzle was nice enough, but Thursday’s tour de force was hard to top.

  2. RHC says:

    NYT: a very difficult one for me! Can someone explain IOU for “cabbage alternative?”

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Either I’m getting better or Fridays are getting easier. I think two big entries being familiar phrases helped a great deal- And to me, there was something right about their combination: MAKE LOVE NOT WAR, DON’T OVERTHINK IT. See? Peace in the world and peace of mind intersecting.

    • Lise says:

      Very apt observation, huda!

      My friends tell me I have a PhD in overthinking 😄

      My husband had to explain to me the relationship between CHAMP and “belt”. I had no idea. I think of a belt as a level in kendo or karate. I googled “championship belt” and wow, some of those belts are huge.

      I enjoyed the solve – and the learning 💚

  4. marciem says:

    NYT: No problems with “lay open” and “Open sea”?

    I’m trying to remember a term we’ve seen recently about getting around a city in unusual ways (rooftops etc). I wanted that for what was “urban hike” instead. Does anybody know what I’m talking about?

    Edit to add: Found it! Parkour was the term.

    • David L says:

      Also STARDOM and SUPERSTAR. I guess these things don’t bother Mr Shortz too much.

      • Eric S says:

        Will Shortz has written that he doesn’t think most solvers will notice partial duplications.

        I think that unless one reads some crossword blog, one won’t know there’s a “rule” against duplications.

      • AlanW says:

        And ONSTAR!

        • marciem says:

          Yep. All they needed to make a theme of stars would be to grab the SeaStar from TNY :D :D.

          Oh that’s right, Fridays are themeless ;D

    • R says:

      I usually don’t notice partial duplications, but I left OPEN SEA blank for a while because I assumed that OPEN wouldn’t be repeated. Amy’s usually all over those, so that was a surprising omission.

  5. huda says:

    Re yesterday’s discussion about streaks in games that you know about and no one else cares:
    For me, it’s about channeling my competitive spirit away from competing with others and towards competing with myself. There’s still a sense of accomplishment but it isn’t at anyone else’s expense. Still, it’s fun and somehow meaningful. I know that it makes no sense to some other people, including my husband. He just smiles and thinks it’s one of my quirks.

    • Cynthia says:

      You’re not alone in this. I used to race myself every morning to beat my previous time and lower my average solve time. I quit when I realized I was doing the puzzle too fast to enjoy it, and that more often than not I’d get angry with myself if I failed. So now I just take my time and have a more enjoyable start to my day. (I still do wonder sometimes how some of these bloggers can solve hard puzzles in less than 5 minutes when it takes me 10 or more. But I have no interest in competing with them!)

      • steve says:


        i am enjoying puzzles much more not that i am not trying to better my saturday time or compete with speed solvers

        completing a difficult puzzle is reward enough for me at my advanced age

        i reckon when i can’t complete the saturday NYT or the monday new yorker or the stumper, i will know i am losing it, speed is for the young

  6. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: “Who’s out there calling them oaknuts?” Gotta be those a**hole Southern Live Oaks. They dangle them like truck nuts.

  7. Crotchety Doug says:

    LAT – I’ve heard of Dock Ellis, but not the no-hitter on LSD story. The Youtube clip Pannonica included was great!

  8. Mutman says:

    NYT: Pet peeve of mine: GUESSTIMATE should not be considered a ‘word’. We have ESTIMATE for that. What’s the point? Did someone think it was cute at some point??

    Trash it!

    • pannonica says:

      Fully support. Something is either an estimate or a guess. Or possibly an educated guess, which is an estimate of sorts.

      • MattF says:

        Old friend of mine used to refer to an ‘onageric estimate’, i.e., a wild-ass guess.

        • Gary R says:

          Doing some work with a corporate client several years ago, I kept seeing figures in PowerPoint slides labeled “SWAG.” When I finally asked, I was told it was a Silly Wild Ass Guess.

          • David L says:

            I’ve been hearing ‘guesstimate’ for as long as I can remember — and that’s a pretty long time by now.

      • Billy Boy says:

        My wife saying GUESSTIMATE is a pet peeve of mine, reasons well-covered above, OAKNUTS is kinda green-painty if I get it that term right, never sure if I do – but I’m not going to OVERTHINK IT as it was a pretty darned good Friday.

    • R says:

      Counterpoint: It’s great. It doesn’t mean the same thing as “estimate.” It distinctly means something with too much data/evidence for a “guess” but not enough for an “estimate.” It’s been solidly in the language for over a hundred years for a reason.
      Luckily, it doesn’t matter much because language doesn’t care what random people on the internet think should or shouldn’t be words. Words are what people use as words. Every single word is made up and arbitrary and, at some point, seemed pointless and annoying to someone.

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