Friday, December 17, 2021

Inkubator tk (Rebecca) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 6:31 (malaika) 


NYT 4:05 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 7:41 (Emily) 


Evans Clinchy’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12 17 21, no. 1217

I would’ve gotten under the 4-minute mark if not for a LPVELY typo! I’m accustomed to mistyping lively and lovely, but this was just rude.

Let me head off a gripe at the pass: If you’ve managed to avoid learning the first letter of BIBIMBAP and BOBA so the first square of the puzzle made you cranky, please be more open to Asian cuisines. Don’t ask crossword editors to strip grids of food culture.

Fave fill: IMPROV, HOT STREAKS, HOLY SMOKES, ITTY-BITTY, and who doesn’t appreciate a little VISIGOTHS action?

Five more things:

  • 40a. [Pleasantly flavorful], SAPID. Raise your hand  if you learned this word from crosswords.
  • 34d. [Draw counterpart], STUD. Ah, types of poker.
  • 13d GOT AT / 27d GOT OPEN. You’ve GOT a duplicate there.
  • 17a. [Towered over], BESTRODE. Is there anyone who filled this in without at least 5 of the crossings in place?
  • 5d. [Northern New Jersey county], MORRIS. Oof, deep cut for the non-NJ-area solvers. Wikipedia tells us, “Around 500 million years ago, a chain of volcanic islands shaped like an arc collided with proto North America. The islands rode over top of the North American plate. This created the highlands in western Morris County and the eastern section of Morris County.” It has a Great Swamp. And Parsippany is there. Still not sure there’s any reason to think more than 5% of solvers know this county’s name.

3.5 stars from me.

Gary Larson and Amy Ensz’s Universal crossword, “First Place”—Jim P’s review

This is a debut for Amy Ensz, so congratulations are in order. Congrats!

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose first words can also be synonyms for “nation” (I guess?). Entries are clued punnily.

Universal crossword solution · “First Place” · Gary Larson and Amy Ensz · Fri., 12.17.21

  • 17a. [United Kingdom, e.g.?] DOMAIN NAME
  • 27a. [National anthem, e.g.?] COUNTRY MUSIC
  • 44a. [Utopia?] STATE OF BLISS
  • 59a. [Local citizenry?] LAND MASSES

I feel like I’m missing an aspect of the theme because it feels very loose, and I had a hard time settling on what I thought the theme was. The title uses “place,” and so maybe the first words are intended to identify a place, but that feels way too broad. These places are (roughly) political entities (by their clues) and so it seems to me the first words are rough synonyms of “nation.” But if you catch something I’m missing, please let us know in the comments.

EMPTY SUIT and RELAY RACE make for lovely anchor points in the fill. Also nice: DÉJÀ VU, CICADA, HOOF IT.


Clues of note:

  • 9d. [Enjoyed some jajangmyeon]. ATE. The Internet tells me this is a Korean dish of noodles in a black bean sauce usually with vegetables and pork. Ugh. Now I’m hungry.
  • 31d. [It’s cracked when all the pieces come together]. CASE. Cute.
  • 59d. [Gymnastics champion Suni]. LEE. Surely this is not the first time we’re seeing her in a clue, is it? But I can’t recall any previous clue for her in any venue.

The grid is nice, but the theme didn’t coalesce for me. Maybe you fared better. Three stars.

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

LAT • 12/17/21 • Fri • Larson • solution • 20211217

Five theme answers reimagining familiar phrases as being about clothing, apparel.

  • 15a. [Outfits for climbers?] HIGH GEAR.
  • 18a. [His-and-her outfits?] BINARY NUMBERS.
  • 35a. [Outfits for tourist town natives?] LOCAL RAGS.
  • 56a. [Outfits for the masses?] COMMON THREADS.
  • 62a. [Outfits for dairy farmers?] MILK DUDS.

This is a simple but really strong theme and all the clues/answers are very good.

From the repetition in the clues, I’m reminded of the upcoming film The Outfit, which I initially thought—and hoped—would be an adaptation of the Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) Parker novel, a better one than the 1973 film. Instead, it has to do with a London-trained tailor in Chicago who gets mixed up with organized crime. Might still be good, just not what I was expecting.

  • 2d [Handel’s “__, Galatea e Polifemo”] ACI. That’s a bit rough for a clue that the solver is bound to encounter early in the solve.
  • 3d [Poisonous plant reputed to repel canines] DOGBANE. Sure, I tried the too-long WOLFBANE first.
  • 16d [White alternative] RYE. Sure, I had RED in there for a while.
  • 28d [Leaves for a spot] TEA. I’m not sure what the misdirection of the clue was intended to signify; I can’t really parse the clue’s superficial sense.
  • 1a [Follower of Jefferson] MADISON. Third and fourth US presidents.
  • 8a [Turn on] START. 50a [Turns on] BETRAYS. Nice.
  • 13a [Polluter’s crime] ECOCIDE. Maybe that should be used more often; it sounds more appropriately dire.
  •  25a [Typographical ornament] DINGBAT. Dang! This was just in Wednesday’s Universal crossword and I can’t recall seeing it in crosswords with that context before. Maybe it’s just the recency illusion.
  • 34a [Polynesian capital] APIA. Okay, with this one I’m going to call out some of the weak short fill that mars this otherwise great crossword. The aforementioned ACI, plus 6d ODEA, 64d SDS, 52a DBA, and 60d plural AKAS.
  • 46a [Belafonte #1 album on which “Day-O” was the first track] CALYPSO. Makes sense. Also, how could it not be the first track, with that iconic opening?

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

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker puzzle

Good morning everyone! I hope you are staying safe. Today’s grid from Patrick Berry has my favorite type of layout– pinwheel-ed stacks of three long entries. AND we get a bonus spanner across the middle!! I love long entries in themeless puzzles. (While I definitely respect low-word count grids that have to rely on large amounts of six and seven letter words, they are not my favorite types to solve.) This was a super breezy solve for me, filling in many of the long answers with no crossings, but I actually couldn’t finish due to the crossing of BRIO (Vivacity) and OSTER (Brand that makes Beehive Blenders) and SUDSER (Western: oater :: soap opera : ___). I kept trying to get “Estee” in there and also have never heard of the word BRIO.

Notes below:

  • I was listening to LANA del Ray while I solved this puzzle! Specifically “Dealer” from her new album.
  • A picket-line crosser is someone who does not respect a strike, aka a SCAB. Please make sure to respect the Kellogg’s workers, who are striking for fair wages and benefits right now.
  • Kaiju is a genre of Japanese film featuring a giant monster– so “Godzilla,” for example. Thus, CREATURE FEATURE.
  • I believe I have seen the clue [Standing order?] for PLEASE RISE a few times now, but I don’t care. It’s delightful every time!
  • [Sex work?] for KAMA SUTRA is a brilliant clue!!
  •  I don’t know where my mind was this morning, but I tried to fill in “escort” instead of SITTER for [Date-night hire].
  • A CUBA LIBRE, or rum and coke with lime, is my go-to dive bar order so it was nice to see. I absolutely hate “The Big Bang Theory” but there is a good joke where Sheldon tries to order a Diet Coke at a bar and they tell him to get a drink, so he orders a “virgin Cuba Libre with no lime, and make it diet.”
  • I’ve seen ARE WE GOOD in a few puzzles now, and always mix it up with ARE WE COOL. (Or vice versa.)
  • I liked the clue [Clothing industry’s bottom lines?] for HEMS. Usually I see something that’s just [Fashion lines] or etc, so this was a nice update.

Rebecca Goldstein’s USA Today Crossword, “P2P“ — Emily’s write-up

Covering again today and so glad to be doing so!

Fun clues and entries, a two-layered theme with a great set of themers making for a great Friday puzzle!

Completed USA Today crossword for Friday December 17, 2021

USA Today, 12 17 2021, “P2P” by Rebecca Goldstein

Theme: each themer starts with the pattern “p…p”


  • 17a. [Celebrity photographers], PAPARAZZI
  • 25a. [Chain of amino acids], PEPTIDE
  • 35a. [Little twerp], PIPSQUEAK
  • 52a. [Movie theater snack], POPCORN
  • 60a. [Early feelings of affection], PUPPYLOVE

Although unsure of exactly what to expect from the title today for the theme hint, PAPARAZZI was easy fill for me so picking up on the main pattern “p…p……”. I had to come back around for PEPTIDE, as “protein” was my first instinct but wasn’t right. PIPSQUEAK is a term that I haven’t heard used in a while but had the perfect cluing for me to get that one right away as well. The classic POPCORN as well as PUPPYLOVE filled in easily too. While it’s a mix of entries for this set, there’s a secondary pattern to this theme that connects them all together. h/t to Sally’s post today for also catching a secondary pattern, that the themers proceed through the vowels: a, e, i, o, u. Given today’s title, I wanted to double check that I wasn’t missing anything for the theme and am glad to have headed over to her website to verify.

Favorite fill: NOVA, ENERO, and SPEEDUP

Stumpers: OTOE (new to me, glad to now know it), ELMTREE (stuck on “gum tree” until had some crossings), and SLATE (clue to open for me to narrow it down without crossings)

Thoroughly enjoyed today’s puzzle, especially the variety of entries and great clues. It’s a fun collection, in addition to the delightful set of themers.

4.75 stars


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18 Responses to Friday, December 17, 2021

  1. Eric H says:

    I did not know MORRIS County, NJ.

    But give me _ORRIS and I have a pretty good idea of what the first letter is.

    • Godot says:

      So do I. And it’s NORRIS. What, they named a county after some guy named Morris? How likely is that? This was a really bad cross.

      • huda says:

        haha, a toss up…BIBIMBAP saved the day.
        THAT HIT THE SPOT (without the S) is what first came to mind..
        And I never heard of FREEGAN…

      • Eric H says:

        For some reason, I never considered NORRIS, which is a logical guess.

        I couldn’t bring up BIBIMBAP from memory, but I have seen the word before, and I knew it had the M.

    • Rob says:

      NYT: I live in Morristown NJ, which is in Morris County so that was a gimme for me. But this clue would be a stretch for the rest of the country!

    • Mutman says:

      Counties/County Seats — I think they are all bad fill. Why would any non-local know them.

      I can think plenty of ways to clue MORRIS.

      Why not “SEPTA route 29 eastbound street”? Give us Philly people an easy one and have the rest of the solvers scratching their heads?!?

      • Billy Boy says:

        That’s why there are crosses, as I said BERGEN came to my NJ-familiar mind


        TWO THUMBS UP for Korean food, but it’s pretty much MIA in SC

  2. Billy Boy says:

    I do 17A personally at nearly two meters tall and I needed a lot of crossing letters. However the puzzle was otherwise pretty quick and straightforward, yet enjoyable.

    Had BERGEN before MORRIS overthinking it

    I loved the 😇 exotic crossing of 1A & 1D


  3. David L says:

    BIBIMBAP/BOBA crossing: not a problem for me, as I’ve heard of or seen both words. I have only a vague idea what the former is, and I’ve tried the latter once and didn’t care for it. Tea with lumps? Who wants that?

    But I don’t understand, Amy, why you think food names should be exempt from the usual rule of not crossing words that may be unfamiliar to many readers. If 1A/1D were a Korean politician, say, crossing a Chinese artist, there would be many objections, and rightly so. What’s different about food? Not everyone lives in urban environments where such names might be fairly commonly seen, and not everyone is a foodie who salivates at the opening of a restaurant featuring a novel cuisine.

    In short, I don’t think this was a particularly bad cross, but I can see why some people might not know it, and I don’t think they are to be blamed for not knowing food culture. We all have our likes and dislikes.

    • Martin says:

      Reaction to obscurities is subjective, of course, but it boils down to whether the solver feels that learning a new word (or two) was worthwhile. There’s a continuum from “any crossing I don’t know is unfair” to “I am always glad to have learned two new words on any topic whatsoever.” One solver’s Natick is another’s continuing education.

      Most of us are in the middle and find some areas of knowledge more worthwhile to be “topped up” than others. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to feel that international cuisine ranks higher than, say, 19th-century Chinese politicians. But that is HIGHLY subjective. As a solver I’m probably way further on the “Yay, I learned something new” side of the spectrum than many, but think it’s fine that a reviewer expresses his or her opinion on the spectrum.

      • Mr. [VERY] Grumpy says:

        The B crossing did not bother me; the M pissed me off — even though it seemed the most obvious guess linguistically as the easiest to pronounce. But … come on. There aren’t other ways to clue MORRIS than to resort to some effing eastern county?

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          There’s Morris dance (arcane niche), old TV commercials’ Morris the Cat, country singer Maren Morris, “New Girl” actor Lamorne Morris, “The Best Man” actor Morris Chestnut, original “SNL” cast member Garrett Morris, Pulitzer winner Wesley Morris, “Saved by the Bell” character Zack Morris, musician Morris Day … yes, there are other ways to clue MORRIS! You could be excused for thinking the county couldn’t be MORRIS because it’s a needlesslly obscure clue for the entry, and certainly the county is there because there’s no other way to clue, say, BORRIS or SORRIS.

  4. Art Shapiro says:

    I knew BIMIMBAP only because it was a bizarre (to me) entry in the Spelling Bee a few months ago. Puzzles seem to have a fetish for rather arcane Asian dishes. I greatly enjoy and am familiar with Indian foods, but those Korean or Indonesian entries are tough to remember.

  5. Jason M Chapnick says:

    That is the sad part of “slights.” They are so often not really intended, but a reflection of cultural prejudices. We have too many negative adjectives that seem to be used very often, IMHO. Not knowing Korean or Thai or Bangladesh food is not a failing. Puzzles have taught me so much and helped prepare me for my marriage to a wonderful Thai woman who is a chef. Puzzles should not be about competition but about entertainment, sharing and learning, IMHO.

  6. AlanW says:

    LAT 28D: Tea leaves for a spot of tea.

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