Friday, December 10, 2021

Inkubator untimed (Rebecca) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 8:57 (malaika) 


NYT 5:43 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 5:53 (Darby) 


Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 10 21, no. 1210

Fave fill: IN DIAPERS, SHOOT CRAPS, HEART RATE, RUNNER’S HIGH, ANTIFA, RAPINOE, GO TO THERAPY (not a great phrasal entry, but going to therapy can be a very good thing!).

Most terrible crossing: 10a. [Cheek-related], MALAR, medical/anatomical terminology that I’ll bet many/most solvers don’t know, intersecting with 12d. [Mandrake the Magician’s sidekick], LOTHAR. Oof.

Now, I do know my medical terminology, so SACRAL would have been a lot easier for me if clued via the tailbone than with 41d. [Of holy rites] (I tried SACRED). Wonder how many solvers struggled here with needing to guess the first letter of CHIRASHI, 48a. [Japanese dish of raw fish and vegetables over rice].

Five more things:

  • 53a. [Untrained, perhaps], IN DIAPERS. Love the clue! Potty-training is the focus here.
  • 60a. [Beat reporting?], HEART RATE. The reporting of the number of heartbeats, sure.
  • 1d. [___ esprit (gifted person)], BEL. Not sure I’ve seen this phrase before.
  • 11d. [2019 rap hit whose title follows the lyric “How much money you got?”], “A LOT.” A total gimme for me.
  • 35d. [Largest college sorority by enrollment (380,000+ members)], CHI OMEGA. *shrug* Is this something people are supposed to know? The only sororities I know are Alpha Kappa Alpha and, from SNL, Delta Delta Delta.

3.25 stars from me.

George Jasper’s Universal crossword, “Natural Inclination”—Jim P’s review

Too Rye Ay! This puzzle made me want to don a pair of overalls and remove my shirt.

EILEEN is the revealer at 70a [Name that sounds like a self-description of each starred clue’s answer]. Theme answers are things that lean.

Universal crossword solution · “Natural Inclination” · George Jasper · Fri., 12.10.21

  • 17a. [*Slanted text] ITALICIZED PRINT.
  • 36a. [*Structure that tourists “hold up” in photos] TOWER OF PISA.
  • 45a. [*Column with an angle] OP-ED ARTICLE.
  • 65a. [*Piece of equipment with rungs and sliding sections] EXTENSION LADDER.

I wasn’t quite sure of the theme until hitting the revealer, and then I enjoyed a fun little aha moment. The only nit I’ll pick is that three of the four entries are things that physically lean while one has only a figurative lean.

As for the Tower of Pisa photo, I know I’ve got one somewhere of my kid making the pose, but it must be on an archived hard drive. Let’s see your Pisa photo if you’ve got one.

The grid is nearly bisected which is not something you commonly see, but there’s still some sparkle to be found, especially GUITAR LICK, TWIN SISTER, and “BE STILL.” I like when a grid starts off with an interesting word like CORNEA, too. That’s a nice touch.

A chuckle-worthy theme. 3.5 stars.

Hmm. Can’t embed the overall’d video of this song, but you can watch it here. We’ll have to be satisfied with just the tune.

Malaika Handa’s USA Today crossword, “Odds & Ends”—Darby’s write-up

Edited by Amanda Rafkin

Theme: Each themed answer ends in a word that is a synonym to “odd,” making it both “odd” and an “end.”

Theme Answers

Malaika Handa's USA Today crossword, "Odds & Ends" solution for 12/10/2021

Malaika Handa’s USA Today crossword, “Odds & Ends” solution for 12/10/2021

  • 23a [“Marvel character portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch”] DOCTOR STRANGE
  • 37a [“‘Move on before this gets awkward’”] DON’T MAKE IT WEIRD
  • 59a [“Website with ‘4 Levels of…’ cooking show”] EPICURIOUS

As an odd human, I really enjoyed this theme. DOCTOR STRANGE felt fun because I’m always so thrown when Benedict Cumberbatch does an American accent. I’m so used to him in Sherlock. Plus, DON’T MAKE IT WEIRD – an incredible grid-spanner that I may or may not be often on the receiving end of.

Some Friday faves:

  • 44a [“Prof’s helpers”] – Today is the last day of the class that I’m one of the TAS for, so it’ll be sad to say goodbye to our students, but I’m looking forward to teaching my own class again in the spring! If anyone has some good resources on religion and popular culture, hit me up on Twitter.
  • 6d [“Louisiana ___ (Creole religion)”] – Speaking of religion, Louisiana VOODOO is so interesting. It first arrived in Louisiana when enslaved West Africans arrived in New Orleans and merged elements of their traditional religious practices with elements of Catholicism. Louisiana VOODOO practices centers around Bondyé and spirits and utilizes rituals. There is so much more to it that this, so I would definitely recommend learning more.
  • 35d [“Creature that rolls into a ball when threatened”] – Is it just me or have we seen a lot of ARMADILLOs lately? (In puzzles, I mean). I’m not mad about it; it’s a nice nine-letter answer, and I think they’re cute.

THIS was a nice break from a paper I keep drafting and re-drafting, so thanks to Malaika for this puzzle. I had a good TIME. Have a great weekend, y’all!

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

Happy Friday solvers! Tons of stuff I didn’t know in this puzzle, but I scraped by (I tried “Eric” and “Erik” before finally getting ERIQ, I just couldn’t parse BBQ BRISKET in the down direction.) Bullets below, let’s learn things together:

Wyna Liu’s New Yorker puzzle

  • I have never seen SAAB clued as anything beyond just an old car company– apparently they are now an aerospace and defense company.
  • The SoCal NFL-er is a Los Angeles RAM. After finally getting the letters here, I Googled “LaRam,” thinking it was the name of an individual player.
  • Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter are both characters in the movie The Silence of the LAMBs, so that may have tipped you off here. I have never seen that movie because I only watch heist films and comedies.
  • ERIQ La Salle has done many things– I’ll note that here that he was in Coming to America since I’ve seen that film.
  • HOT TIP is great fill
  • [Sound sleepers?] strikes me as a very Wyna-y clue for SNORERS
  • OshKosh B’GOSH is a clothing company that’s very fun to say. This might have had some tough crossings for people, with BIS (an abbreviation I’ve never heard of) crossing GWU (a proper noun).
  • It took me a bit to parse the grammar in [Dukes without gloves] cluing BARE FISTS. “Dukes” here is a verb, and I believe the entry can also be a verb. (Let me know if I got this one wrong in the comments.)
  • Brilliant, fresh, fun spanner in I WOKE UP LIKE THIS. (I wanted “outfit of the day” here at first, but that was too short.) This hashtag is sometimes (though not always) paired with a photo where the person is wearing make-up or has their hair done, and clearly did not wake up like that.
  • [Stick with it!] is an incredible clue for SUPER GLUE.
  • Farrar, STRAUS, & Giroux is a NYC-based publishing company. I had to guess on the cross, since I didn’t know that an ankle bone is a TALUS— but I did get it on my first guess! The letter combinations felt inferable.
  • What a rush of nostalgia with the entry STREGA NONA!!! This book is such a classic.
  • An ENOL is a type of chemical compound. The -NOL might have been inferable if you know words like ethanol or propanol.
  • TORY Burch makes “preppy boho luxe” fashion, according to the Wikipedia page. I read that and thought “Oh, so like Gossip Girl vibes?” and the next sentence on the page is “Tory Burch styles are popular with women of all ages, including the viewers and fans of the television show Gossip Girl, where they were often featured.”
  • Nadine Gordimer’s name was familiar to me, but I didn’t know any of her titles. She is a South African author and anti-apartheid activist who won a NOBEL prize.
  • Kepis and kufis are both styles of HATS 
  • ARLES is a city in Southern France that is featured in many of Van Gogh’s works.
  • The clue for MATH GEEK contains a joke about the mathematician Benoit B. Mandelbrot. He did a lot of work with fractals (he invented the term!), which are designs that contain versions of themselves. Hence, the “B” in his name standing for… his name. I adore fractals (I owe this to ViHart, probably) and could easily turn this bullet point into a 5000 word thinkpiece, so I’ll force myself to stop now.
  • The word GUT was clued as coming before “flora.” “Gut flora” is another term for all the little microbes that live in your intestines and keep things running smoothly.
  • [Sole sexual interest?] for FOOT FETISH is clue-of-the-year material, goddamn. Another reason why I love TNY puzzles– I don’t think the Times would ever run that term.
  • The first four inductees into the Robot Hall of Fame (a thing that I did not know existed!! Apparently it was started by my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University) were HAL 9000, R2D2 (ARTOO… I’m never convinced that that is a real spelling when it shows up in puzzles) Sojourner, and Unimate.
  • IONIA is a region in what is now Turkey. Remains of the Temple of Artemis are still visible there.

Phew, that was a lot!! Props to Wyna and the editor(s?) for making a puzzle that was still ultimately solve-able despite all the trivia that I didn’t know! Making a breezy themeless puzzle filled with references is a tough task, and I think this puzzle did it well.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 12/10/21 • Fri • Wechsler • solution • 20211210

The bigram CK is inserted into various phrases to wacky effect—in one case, extremely literally.

  • 18a. [Tinker Bell’s play ender] FAIRY TACKLE (fairy tale). Got a bit confused as the allusion is to a football play, while Peter Pan is a stage play.
  • 24a. [TV channel with bizarre humor?] WACKY STATION (way station). As I said, literally.
  • 37a. [Harbormaster’s income source?] DOCKING BUSINESS (doing business).
  • 48a. [Unreliable origami practitioner?] FICKLE FOLDER (file folder).
  • 59a. [What an education budget provides?] SCHOOL BUCKS (school bus).

So why CK? There’s no revealer, no explicit rationale. I also thought that there might be additional rigor to the construction in that those two letters are eschewed in the rest of the fill, but on closer inspection I noticed several other Cs in the grid.

Acronymfinder dot com suggests more than several strong possibilities but none stands out to me.

  • Computery stuff in the northwest: 1a [Bookmarked item] URL, 3d [Mouse activities] LEFT CLICKS.
  • 4d [One whistling often] REF. Like at the end of a play?
  • 6d [“… a tale told by an __ …”: Macbeth] IDIOT, signifying nothing. Kind of like the theme here?
  • 8d [Immunization letters] DPT. Diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus.
  • 10d [Grasped by few] ARCANE; 35d [Things few understand] ESOTERICA. Still in search of a reason.
  • 12d [Hang loosely] LOLL, my Spelling Bee bane.
  • 21d [Keep from scoring] SKUNK. Not familiar with the word in that context, but ok.
  • 46d [Dress, as in a  particular costume] RIG OUT. m-w lists the hyphenated noun form as a Briticism. Can’t say the verb formulation is something I knew either.
  • 55d [Atlantic fish commonly called a porgy] SCUP.
  • 15a [Discussion-ending word] PERIOD. Or at least the speaker hopes it is.
  • 43a [“__ War”: Jules Verne-based game] NEMO’S. Guessable with a few crossings.
  • 66a [Meter creators] POETS. Slightly tricky with the crossing of 55d SCUP.

Ashleigh Silveira’s Inkubator crossword, “Think Twice”—Rebecca’s review

Great debut by puzzle today! We’re asked to “Think Twice” and the puzzle replaces the word ‘double’ in the themed entry with a doubling of the word.

Inkubator, December 9, 2021, Ashleigh Silveira, “Think Twice” solution grid

  • 17A [*Betray in a duplicitous way] CROSS CROSS
  • 7D [*City tour bus that’s on a whole nother level] DECKER DECKER
  • 13D [*Fastest growing Hilton brand since 2007] TREE TREE
  • 20D [*Score multiplying square in Scrabble] LETTER LETTER
  • 31D [*Wrigley brand once advertised by twins Jayne and Joan] MINT MINT
  • 54A [*Spy working both sides] AGENT AGENT

With each themed answer, I was able to suss out the second word easily, but until I had the ‘aha’ moment of the gimmick, I kept trying to think of different synonyms for ‘double’ and that wasn’t working. Once I got what was going on the puzzle was smooth sailing. There was a really impressive amount of themed answers here as well, at six and all fit the theme perfectly.

The amount of themed squares here led to a non-traditional grid layout which also added some fun to the solve. I found myself jumping around the grid about as I solved which made for a nice change and kept me on my toes.

Here’s an early Double MINT commercial featuring Jayne & Joan

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22 Responses to Friday, December 10, 2021

  1. David Monahan says:

    “Chi o, chi o, it’s off to hell you go”, chanted by the sorority’s supporters when Ted Bundy was convicted. It was a news item back then.

  2. JohnH says:

    The Friday TNY is playing like a Monday for me. Another setter, like Natan, in a fact-filled and different universe.

    • Zulema says:

      I agree. An editor is definitely needed, who can figure out what is difficult and what is less so. And to help out David L., I used to read comics with Mandrake the Magician when I was 10 or so, loved them, but after 80 years could not remember his Pal without crossing letters.

  3. David L says:

    NYT: Lots of obscure (to me) stuff in this one. That MA_AR/_OTHAR crossing was two unknowns (I don’t know who Mandrake the Magician is, let alone his sidekick) but I went with ‘L’ and it worked. Does that make it a fair cross?

    Didn’t know CHIRASHI either but the crosses were fair. I hope the NYT puzzle is not feeling the need to compete with USA Today by putting at least one exotic food item in every puzzle. (I like the USA Today puzzles, for the most part, but they do seem to have a weird food obsession).

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Remember that “exotic” is a loaded term. What is exotic to you is probably an everyday food to millions of people, and common American or British food dishes can be wildly exotic and strange to people in other cultures.

      For example, over a billion people began their lives as toddlers eating Indian food.

      • David L says:

        Of course. There was an article in the Washington Post a while ago complaining about the word ‘exotic’ being used of food and clothing and so on, as it if was somehow a derogatory or demeaning term. I thought it was very poorly argued. When I was growing up, garlic was an exotic food item. I persist in thinking that CHIRASHI will be unknown to most solvers of the NYT puzzle, therefore exotic. What other word usefully applies?

        • Leah says:

          Other words that indicate a player’s likeliness to know a word: uncommon, rare, specialties. Though these don’t necessarily fully address Amy’s excellent point, they may help with connotation: exotic = strange or foreign = weird = bad. Would love to see other suggestions, though!

          • David L says:

            The implication that exotic = bad is bizarre to me. If I go to a restaurant that is offering a cuisine I’m not familiar with, I expect exotic food and I expect it to be interesting and worth trying. I may not like it — lutefisk, anyone? — but that’s a different matter.

            • marciem says:

              I have to agree that I don’t see “exotic” as pejorative in the least. My asian-american nieces LOVE it when they’re told they look ‘exotic’ (very few pick them for Japanese-Anglo) … exotic food to me is something I don’t eat everyday and may have to try to see if I like it. To date, exotic fried insects haven’t hit my
              bucket list :D but that doesn’t mean they’re “bad”
              Amy’s point IS excellent in that many families see what is exotic to me as ho-hum another Sunday dinner to them.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              @Marcie, there are plenty of non-white women who consider it deeply racist to be called “exotic.” It says “you are other, you don’t fit in here.”

              @David, “unknown to most solvers” assumes, what, that most solvers are white people and those who aren’t are “other”? “Exotic” foods are not exotic, they’re just cuisines you haven’t bothered to learn anything about. Using the word “exotic” centers the white Western perspective as the one that matters, and I object to that. Especially when it comes to food, which is such a basic and deeply felt part of any culture. We oughtn’t tell people who have always known of a particular food that it is “exotic” and strange. You know what’s strange? Twinkies.

            • Gary R says:

              @Amy – re: “unknown to most solvers”

              So, is it your contention that CHIRASHI is, or should be, known to “most solvers” of the NYT?

              If CHIRASHI showed up in a Monday NYT puzzle, would you be okay with that? And if not, would it be because Monday puzzles are only for White western solvers?

              I understand that “exotic” can have negative connotations, but I didn’t see anything in @David’s comments to suggest he meant anything other than “unfamiliar,” which CHIRASHI almost certainly is for “most” NYT solvers.

    • Billy Boy says:

      Obscure is the good word

  4. marciem says:

    TNY: I think the “Dukes” are nouns, as in ‘put up yer dukes’ challenge to a fistfight. I’ve never heard “bare fists” as a verb.

    I always object to Artoo spelling for the robot, his real name is R2(two)D2(two) so I think the nickname should be spelled Artwo or Aretwo . JMO, obviously I’m alone in this :) .

    Thanks for the great write-up, Malaika! (and for keeping it short on your math-geekiness, which lost me at about oh, the first fractal :D :D )

    • marciem says:

      ((and for keeping it short on your math-geekiness, which lost me at about oh, the first fractal :D :D ) <<< no disrespect to you at all intended. I still don't get the joke, so that's on ME :) .

  5. pannonica says:

    NYT: 8d [Albert Camus or Isaac Asimov, religiously] ATHEIST.

    Incorrect phrasing in the clue. This topic was last discussed at some length at DoaCF 23 Jan 2019 .

  6. Vega says:

    TNY: what do people typically misunderstand REDHERRING to be? I was confused by that clue. Otherwise: great puzzle; great analysis. And thank you for explaining the fractal joke!

    • Sheik Yerbouti says:

      That’s what a red herring is — something that is (initially) misunderstood by the reader because it’s planted there to mislead. The clue doesn’t mean that you are mistaking the crossword answer “red herring” for something else — it refers to the definition of red herring.

  7. Vega says:

    “Exotic” almost always hits me the wrong way. For one thing, I don’t know how it can be unloaded of its history (and current reality) of being used to fetishize and objectify API women, among other ways that it’s loaded. And when non-South Asian people talk about how food I grew up with and take for granted (to Amy’s point) is “so exotic,” it’s a reminder that (again, to Amy’s point) I’m “other” and don’t belong, or at least don’t *fully* belong, here in the US.

    I too don’t equate exotic to “bad,” but I do equate it to “strangely, inscrutably foreign,” specifically in a non-Western, non-white way. It’s rare indeed to refer to “white-people” food, or women, or rugs, or culture, as “exotic.” It’s a word that too often alienates. It would be so nice to retire it from use for humans or cuisines.

    • David L says:

      Thank you for that. Your argument is persuasive. I still think I might describe a strange Bulgarian dish (to pick a random example) as exotic, but I understand that the word has a long and unfortunate association with far-off Asian lands and the like.

    • stephen manion says:

      I do the Spelling Bee every day and almost always get QBABM. The only ones I have missed are “unusually spelled” foods like COLCANNON, BIBIMBAP and a few others that are all but impossible to intuit.

      As to people, my ex-wife is half-Japanese and half Italian and is not offended in the slightest (just the opposite) by being called exotic. Neither is my current wife, born in Macau.

      Today, I asked one of the women in my workout class if she was offended by “exotic.” She is from Eritrea. Her daughter, who sometimes, joins her mother, looks like Iman.
      The mother said that in her life’s history, she has never heard of an African being offended by being called exotic or exotically beautiful.

      I represented a beautiful white woman born in Siberia. My friends described her as exotic because of where she was born.

      The mother of my oldest child is black. She was once featured in ads for her company She considers exotic to be a compliment.

      I do agree that people should not go out of the way to offend anyone. An article in Glamour described a women of partial Iranian descent who called herself not a snowflake, but nevertheless very offended by being called exotic. I don’t usually use the word exotic, but think the overwhelming number of people are flattered.

  8. RM Camp says:

    I wanted to put buccal in for MALAR because at least that’s /sorta/ common, but noooo, there weren’t ‘nough spaces in for that.

    I am the rare millennial (Xennial, anyway) who knows who Lothar is though.

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