Friday, January 7, 2022

Inkubator untimed (Rebecca) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 8:41 (malaika) 


NYT 16:48 (malaika) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 5:09 (Darby) 


Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Good evening folks! A Robyn Puzzle… I said it best in a tweet.

Robyn Weintraub’s 1/7/2022 puzzle

I filled in the entire left side in minutes (which is surprising for me, Fridays frequently take me longer than thirty minutes). I got the perfect beautiful little stack of CHOCOHOLIC and NONAPOLOGY off of just 1-across which filled me with an embarrassing amount of adrenaline. (I’ve been isolating for six days now, and excitement is hard to come by.) Then I absolutely ground to a halt, filled in nothing for about seven minutes, and ultimately had to “check puzzle” once to break into the right side.

I’ll use the Oreo method (hehehe) for today’s review.

Clues that I liked:

  • [Something you may want to clear up] for ACNE
  • [ID seen at the post office] for IDAHO
  • [Numbers not meant to be shared] for SOLOS
  • [Secretly unionize?] for ELOPE
  • [Story that goes over your head?] for ATTIC
  • [Broadway show where everyone knows the ending?] for LIMITED RUN

Things I didn’t like: SRA, WMD, TON clued as a French word rather than an English one, the clue [Friendly introduction?] for ECO, which is a specific type of crossword wordplay (crosswordplay???) that I dislike because I think it alienates new solvers and isn’t even that clever, EZRA being clued as a Bible reference… I feel like it’s always this, or that one poet…. Give me some Ezra Miller please!!

I should have pointed this out earlier, but there’s no reason for TIGER LILY to be clued as the racist caricature that was in the Peter Pan movie.


I hope everyone has a chill Friday and a restful weekend! New York squad please stay safe, I keep getting text messages from my energy company about a snow storm.

Christina Iverson and Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 1/7/22 • Fri • Iverson, Chen • solution • 20220107

I had a stutter or two but figured out the theme quite early on (40-across [*Sandie ingredients] PECANS) is the entry that helped the most for that).

There are four strings of circled letters running down in the grid, and it turns out that they aren’t counted for the across entries that would normally be intersecting them. The grid-spanning revealer—touching all four of those vertical elements!—elucidates: 38a [*Makes splashes at the shore … and what each answer to a starred clue does] SK○IP○S ST○ON○ES (skips stones).

You see, the circled letters are names of famous people with the surname STONE: Emma, Sly, Sharon, and Matt. (IN A DILEMMA, SLYTHERIN, “MY SHARONA“, MATTERHORN. Tiny ding for SHARON and SHARONA being essentially the same, but what’re ya gonna do?

The answers to the asterisked clues look a little weird as they’re going in the grid, until the solver understands that the circled letters should be ignored for the acrosses. There isn’t anything tricky or a particularly interesting about those entries, so I see no point in regurgitating them here.

A very clever and well-executed theme; much more engaging than I was expecting.

It speaks to the universality of the pastime of skipping stones that there are dozens of regional names for it, from “ducks and drakes” and “making little frogs” to “making the dog lick” and “the way a dragonfly skips across the water” to “throwing a sandwich”.

Okay, let’s do the tour.

  • 1a [TV show featuring both blood cells and jail cells] CSI. Inspired idea, but I would have left that ambitious clue on the cutting room floor. Tries too hard.
  • 18a [Green card offerer] AMEX. Nothing to do with visas.
  • 28a [Work position with little mobility?] DESK JOB. Including this because I want to replicate the weirdness of the two letters to be ignored: behold DESRKJMOB in all its glory!
  • 45a [OutKast chart topper with the lyric “My baby don’t mess around”] HEY YA. Handy link if you need to hear that ultra-catchy song now.
  • 60a [Ones taking advantage of suckers to get by?] OCTOPI. Another cutesy clue that’s trying too hard and fails. 55a [One crossing the line?] ROAD HOG, ironically, goes right up to that line but doesn’t cross it. I also liked 2d [Bat signal?] SONAR.
  • 1d [First hominid in space] CHIMP. Couldn’t make ENOS fit.
  • 21d [Stranger things] EXOTICA.
  • 31d [Swiss peak] MATTERHORN. Yes, but. It straddles the border of Switzerland and Italy, where it’s called, less famously, Cervino.
  • 39d SNEER: Gratuitous second reference to the Harry Potter character, which is tiresome. The first one (36d) was necessary as it’s unique to the mythos and critical to the theme.
  • 50d [One of a buck’s four] HOOF. Well, no. Cervids, being even-toed ungulates, have more than one hoof per foot. They all have at least two, which is not even counting the dewclaws. Conversely, their feet are often described as having a cloven hoof, so I guess one could make a (weak, in my opinion) argument that four can be accurate.
  • 58d [1-Across evidence] DNA. Nifty callback as the last clue references the first.

Drew Schmenner’s Universal crossword, “Block Parties”—Jim P’s review

Theme: POCKET PROTECTOR (64a, [Stereotypical nerd accessory, or a punny hint to the football positions at the ends of 17-, 28- and 47-Across]). The other phrases end in an offensive line position in American football.

Universal crossword solution · “Block Parties” · Drew Schmenner · Fri., 1.7.22

  • 17a. [Place that accepts plastic] RECYCLING CENTER.
  • 28a. [Worker with a stop sign] CROSSING GUARD.
  • 47a. [Hook, line, sinker, etc.] FISHING TACKLE.

That works. There are five offensive linemen. The center, left and right guards, and left and right tackles. What doesn’t make sense to me is why a position on the offense would be called a “tackle” since it’s the defense that is focused on tackling the player with ball. If an offensive lineman is tackling a defensive lineman, wouldn’t that result in a penalty?

Whatever the case, the theme works nicely and I like its punniness (including the title) and choice of theme entries.

PICNICKERS is a fun entry to have in the fill. AGGREGATOR isn’t quite as fun, but it has a modern feel with its clue [Site with content from many sites]. RIPSAW, CELLIST, ALPACA, and “OH GEE” are also nice.

Clues of note:

  • 37a. [“Wowzers!”]. “OH GEE.” Someone must have watched a lot of Inspector Gadget.
  • 51a. [Keanu’s role in “The Matrix”]. NEO. Has anyone seen the latest film? Reviews are not that great.

Enjoyable grid. 3.75 stars.

Mark Valdez and Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword, “Power Series”–Darby’s write-up

Edited by: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: The first word in each theme answer can precede POWER.

Theme Answers

Mark Valdez and Brooke Husic's USA Today crossword, "Power Series" solution for 1/7/2021

Mark Valdez and Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword, “Power Series” solution for 1/7/2021

  • 20a [“Aromatic wreaths worn on the head”] FLOWER CROWNS / FLOWER POWER
  • 37a [“Symbol of Judaism”] STAR OF DAVID / STAR POWER
  • 54a [“ABBA hit with the lyric ‘All I do is eat and sleep and sing’”] SUPER TROUPER / SUPER POWER

When I first finished this puzzle, I embarrassingly dug waaaay too deeply into the theme being like “is this a series of steps? Like a crown went on David and then he became super?” Not my proudest moment, but Sally’s blog snapped me back to reality. Now that my mental processor is somewhat bug free, I thought that this was a fun theme. “Series” in the title is what threw me off the scent a bit, I think.

This also felt like such a fresh and contemporary grid to me, from 4d [“Photo taken with a front-facing camera”] SELFIE, the 27a [“‘Butter’ group”] (which is also a hysterical clue) BTS, and 25d’s [“No-water-needed hair products”] DRY SHAMPOO. The latter of these paired very well with 11d [“Structures that cross moats”] DRAW BRIDGES. There was something incredibly satisfying about both of these answers starting with DR for some reason.

Some Friday faves:

  • 36a [“Festival celebrating Radha Krishna”]HOLI is sometimes called the “festival of love,” and it spans a full day at night, beginning with the lighting of a bonfire one day before the day of Holi. It celebrates a number of legends, including the story of Radha-Krishna, which you can read here.
  • 39d [“Racket”] – In contrast to my above point, I felt like DIN is an older term, but I liked it here 1) because I had no trouble filling it in (which always feel good) but also 2) because it’s one of those vocabulary-expanding terms that can easily be caught on the crosses in meeting with 41a [“‘Sure’”] FINE and 46a [“___ shui”] FENG.
  • 47d [“Esther Martinez’s language”] – Esther Martinez (1912-2006), also known as P’oe Tswa (Blue Water) worked to preserve the TEWA language of the Northern Pueblos of New Mexico, publishing the San Juan Tewa Dictionary – the first Tewa language dictionary – in 1982. The year she passed away, the Esther Martinez Native American Language Preservation Act was signed into law, which gives grants to support Indigenous language-learning. This post from the National Trust for Historic Preservation offers a great background to Martinez and an interview with her grandson.
  • 62d [“Chipsi mayai ingredient”] – Chipsi Mayai is a popular Tanzanian street food, and mayai means “EGG” in Kiswahili while chipsi refers to “chips” or “French fries.” Fried chips or French fries are put in a frying pan with an omelette on top, and it is served with a salad called Kachumbari. Here’s a recipe if you’re interested!

A long one from me today, clearly, so thanks for holding on! Overall, a POWER puzzle from Mark and Brooke.

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

Patrick Berry’s TNY puzzle

Hey it’s me, back at it again, flailing my way through a Patrick Berry puzzle with little to no idea what’s going on. I was already not thrilled to uncover ATOM BOMB and would have stopped solving when I got to RICK PERRY (whimsical clue be damned) but I had a review to write, so fought til the end. Had to guess letters for STARKIST crossing KALB crossing TYDBOL.


This puzzle mentioned eighteen people (Slim Pickens, Dr. Strangelove, Lucky Luciano, Louisa May ALCOTT, Adele, FDR, Marvin KALB, TY D’BOL Man, KASEY Chambers, Kenny Loggins, Sam COOKE, RICK PERRY, Renee Zellweger / ROXIE Hart (I’ll count them as one person), David MAMET, LOIS Lowry, Tina Fey, ALEC Baldwin, and John TESH) and SEVENTEEN of them are white!! C’mon y’all. I’m so bored of this.

Lee Taylor’s Inkubator crossword, “It’s Their Thing”—Rebecca’s review

Fun smooth puzzle today, reimagining common things with famous women

Inkubator, January 6, 2022, Lee Taylor, “It’s Their Thing” solution grid

  • 17A [Cash for a beloved “golden girl” of situation comedy?] WHITE BREAD
  • 10D [Palace fit for a gender-defiant novelist?] SAND CASTLE
  • 27D [Woodsy getaway
    for a disco diva?] SUMMER CAMP
  • 62A [Tonic for an iconic
    abolitionist?] TRUTH SERUM

I very much enjoyed the solve, and the cluing of this puzzle. I didn’t quite see the reason behind these particularly choices, as I don’t see a connection between Betty WHITE, George SAND, Donna SUMMER, and Sojourner TRUTH, but that didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the puzzle. I liked the placement of these themed entries that utilized Acrosses and Downs, as it made for an interesting grid that was fun to weave through.

Here’s ONE from A Chorus Line

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12 Responses to Friday, January 7, 2022

  1. Billy Boy says:

    I was really surprised the first few NYT votes were super high, I did this 11 pm. I found it was far too easy with too much transparency in the clues for a Friday, a hard Wednesday? Only a couple extra minutes needed for Señor Slow. Several long answers were nearly write-ins or with very few crosses in place make them so, needed more resistance, yet this atheist needs crosses for bible and torah kind of stuff to even slow me a bit.

    A modicum of few letter words indicated crosswordese so things like acne eco ural ogle went right in. Anemia finally clue correctly! Yay

    Nice little puzzle, way too easy, but I do drink port and speak French and Spanish, watched star trek as a kid, remember the debut of the two letter post codes for states, maybe the puzzle is geared old?

    I think most will like, but I want more Friday (CAPN) crunch, sorry.


  2. huda says:

    NYT: Well done! Lots of fun stuff in there.
    Puzzles that skew easier tend to rate higher. My neuroscience takes puts it under the rubric of “Prediction Error”. We’re always trying to predict outcomes in life, and what we get is exactly what we predict, it’s relatively motivationally neutral. If things falls short of our expectations, it feels negative and if things exceed our expectations they feel positive. The neurotransmitter dopamine in a specific brain regions tracks our prediction accuracy. Dopamine release is inhibited when predictions fall short and is increased when the outcome is better than expected. This little jolt of reward makes us feel better about the puzzle… ergo higher ratings.
    But if part of your calculus is that you need to struggle for it to feel like an accomplishment, then that modifies the nature of the prediction– hence the folks who only enjoy it if it’s crunchy.
    Sorry for the nerd factor this morning…

  3. anubis says:

    Blatantly racist caricature TIGERLILY in today’s NYT goes unremarked-upon?

    • malaika says:

      My apologies, I should have addressed this last night. Post has now been updated.

    • Boston Bob says:

      So not offended.

    • Billy Boy says:

      Everyone’s sleeping in from last night’s protests? Is that why un-remarked? I wrote this comment this morning and let it sit while I played (offensive?) g0lf.

      Applying 2022 standards to 1904 works can be fraught with credibility. (A dittohead is a dittohead) Yes, by today’s standards she is grievously offensive character to many, and some are totally clueless. Yet there is a continuum of revisionist history (the podcast of that same name wavers all over the line of various people’s tolerance of P.C. , no?) wherein one needs to take full stock before turning blue from holding one’s breath and work towards much better understanding. 100 years ago, Native Americans were marginalized and treated very badly prior to that. It’s our job to understand the past and not hide it and make a better world going forward. Too strong an offense loses a listener. Come on, lets unite, not divide.

      Shold the clue include a qualifier “(historically offensive) character” … Is that what we want? Cluing as a cookie is certainly would cause some ?????

      NRA as National Rifle Association (I am far from pro-gun, trust me) is a fact of life, banning it from one’s life and puzzles does not make it go away by using FDR related cluing. NRA for guns is by far dominant in Bing and Google search results. That’s easier to understand, this is a bit of a stretch and borders on signaling. I think most here don’t need prodding.

      Go ahead, attack me, I’ve been participating in internet discussion for 30 years, I can take some ad hominem.

  4. JohnH says:

    Funny, but I didn’t find the NYT easy, although also my difficulty was the opposite of Malaika’s. I did the right side first and had to work on the left. I’d comment on the racism of TIGER LILY but it’s one of the things I don’t recognize. The only female entity that I (vaguely) remember from Peter Pan is Wendy. It, LAMAR, and CARLE were my last to come together.

    • Mr. [not so] Grumpy says:

      CARLE has been in various puzzles so often of late that he’s finally entered my mental glossary.

  5. Boston Bob says:

    So not offended.

  6. Martin M. says:

    Re: LAT…. The plural of octopus is octopuses!

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