Friday, January 14, 2022

Inkubator tk (Rebecca) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 12:33 (malaika) 


NYT 4:32 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today untimed (Darby) 


Matthew Stock & Sid Sivakumar’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 14 22, no. 0114

Great puzzle from Matthew and Sid! My fave fill includes MOUSE OVER, VERBIAGE, WIRELESS CHARGER, EVIL EMPIRE, World of WARCRAFT, my beloved AUTO-SAVE, OBSESS OVER, READ UP ON (but not the UP TO crossing’s overlap … I do like MET UP and at least it’s on the far side of the grid), CHILI DOG, and “SAME LOVE.”

Not loving ADD OIL as an entry. What do you think of it?

Five things:

  • 1a. [One playing second fiddle, perhaps], BANDMATE. Is that second chair violin in a symphonic band, or bluegrass fiddlers?
  • 16a. [“Cars 2” competitor ___ Bonn], OTTO. A Fiend commenter groused the other day about OTTO clues that suggest it sounds like “auto.” This Chicagoan definitely says Aht-owe for the name, awe-tow for the vehicle. Which way are y’all pronouncing them when you think they sound identical?
  • 19a. [They can be friendly while patronizing], GUESTS. As in restaurant patrons. Nice clue.
  • 40d. [Bath water unit], LITRE. This one confused me for a bit. It’s capital-B Bath, in England, and not a bath.
  • 3d. [Org. whose initials are found in “unsafe,” ironically], NSA. Please explain the irony here.

4.2 stars from me. NIGHT-NIGHT!

Joe Deeney’s Universal crossword, “Local Anesthesia”—Jim P’s review

Another Universal puzzle with circles, another set of painfully ungainly clues. It isn’t just that solvers who don’t have the circles in their grid must count squares (as indicated by the clue) to fully grasp the theme. It’s also that the rest of us who do have the circles still have to wade through those same ungainly clues.

The theme is this: Theme answers are familiar phrases where one of the words contains a 3-letter body part. That body part is ignored by the clue and by the crossing Down answers. The premise being that a local anesthesia (see title) has been applied and that body part it is now out of commission.

There’s an additional hefty, and confusing, clue at 1d: [*Caddie’s pegs (Hint: Each starred clue’s answer ignores its square in 14-, 22-, 34- or 43-Across.)]. “Its square”? I was told there would be no math. I had to reread that a few times, but the gist is that we skip over the square that contains a body part letter in the starred Down answers. I won’t list them here for brevity’s sake, but you can see them in the grid. (TEES is the answer to 1d, and it becomes TEEMS in the grid, e.g.)

Universal crossword solution · “Local Anesthesia” · Joe Deeney · Fri., 1.14.22

  • 14a. [One sketching part of a bird? (Hint: This clue’s answer ignores squares 2-4. Enter a body part in those squares to create valid, unclued Across and Down answers.)] W(ARM)ING DRAWER.
  • 22a. [Fire up Microsoft’s search engine? (… ignores squares 6-8 …)] LOAD B(EAR)ING.
  • 34a. [The “So What” singer went fast? (… ignores squares 6-8 …)] PINK S(LIP)PED.
  • 43a. [Extraordinary charged particle? (… ignores squares 1-3 …)] (LEG)ION OF MERIT.

Once I got to filling in actual theme answers, I realized I’d seen this sort of thing before, and all the time I spent trying to grok the clue hints felt like wasted time. But then I got to enjoy the theme, both in the actual theme entries and in the crossing Downs.

This must have been tough to construct with all its crossing constraints in every part of the grid. No doubt that accounts for the unusual grouping of blocks in the NW and SE corner. It also puts some limitations on long non-theme fill, but what we have is decent enough: PREGNANT, MIGRAINE, CONC(L)AVE, and LAPBOARD.

Other notables:

  • I like the 12a/13a succession of WEE ONE and GLASGOW.
  • The clue for 23d OTO is [Ear: Prefix] which crosses 22a which is the EAR entry.

In sum, the theme was great, the heavy-handed theme clues not so much.

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

LAT • 1/14/22 • Fri • Larson • 20220114

Words for film presentations as parts of re-parsed phrases.

  • 17a. [“Back to the Future”?] TIME RELEASE.
  • 29a. [“March of the Penguins”?] WALKIE-TALKIE.
  • 46a. [“Titanic”?] WATER FEATURE.
  • 60a. [“Star Wars”?] SHOW OF FORCE.

Okay, not thrilled here. Each of the clue/answer pairs seems to have one or more shortcomings.

TIME RELEASE: (1) vague connection of time-travel film to “time”, (2) answer is not a particularly compelling phrase.

WALKIE-TALKIE: (1) “talkie” seems like a woefully obsolescent way to describe a film

WATER FEATURE: same 2 issues as 17a

SHOW OF FORCE: (1) different construction from the other three theme answers

  • 1d [Stride pianist Art] TATUM. Yes, but he was much more than just a stride player.
  • 6d [“__ in”: “Jeopardy James” bet] ALL. Don’t know who Jeopardy James is. Don’t tell me.
  • 10d [Prime real estate?] EDEN. ‘Prime’ as in first.
  • 18d [Actress Salazar of “Maze Runner” movies] ROSA, 16a [Larter of “Resident Evil” films] ALI. Did not know either of these. ‘Movies” and ‘films’ appearances noted.
  • 22d [Allotted] DOLED. Usually used with out.
  • 38d [Lookout offerings] VIEWSLookout as a place rather than a person.
  • 47d [Price partner] FISHER. Took a while to hit on this one.
  • 1a [Name in Cold War news] TASS. Double-entendre there.
  • 35a [Butler’s last word] DAMN. Rhett Butler, in the film Gone With the Wind.
  • 51a [Sleep and Comfort] INNS.
  • 56a [Bear genus] URSUS. But it isn’t the only one. Also Ailuropoda, Tremarctos, Helarctos, and Melursus, among extant species.

Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Good morning folks! This puzzle was a work out for me, twice as long as my usual Friday times. The SE was the last to fall, although I am very proud that I got it without Googling any of that trivia.

Bullets below:

Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker puzzle

  • It took me so long to see PLANT-BASED… I was thinking of vegan leather and kept wanting “plastic.” That top stack is gorgeous.
  • Quite a bit of fill that didn’t thrill me here, like D-MINOR, ARA, TETE ([French bean?]… do people call heads beans??? Who does this?? Please tell me), DETS, ABCDF (especially with the D crossing D-MINOR), EST clued as Latin, and ONE A.
  • My policy on dupes is that I don’t like them when they slow me down. In this case, having ONE A crossing IN ONE PIECE with LANE ONE in the same corner realllly slowed me down.
  • I didn’t finish this puzzle because I had DuPAUL / ODuN. I completely guessed on AIME / AMYS / BLAH vs AIDE / EDYS / BLEH.
  • ICYMI stands for “in case you missed it” and FWIW stands for “for what it’s worth”
  • The Negritude Movement was developed by francophones in the 1930s
  • MAMMON is a new word for me. Apparently it refers to wealth in the Bible but like, in a sinister way.

Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword, “Wingspan”—Darby’s write-up

Editor: Amanda Rafkin 

Theme: Each themed answer breaks up the letters in WING so that they start and end the phrase, spanning the answer. 

Theme Answers

Amanda Rafkin's USA Today crossword, "Wingspan" solution for 1/14/2022

Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword, “Wingspan” solution for 1/14/2022

  • 17a [“Browsing the net”] WEB SURFING
  • 39a [“Free-roaming horse of the American West”] WILD MUSTANG
  • 62a [“Hitting the jackpot”] WINNING BIG

I love the game Wingspan, so I was immediately sold by the title. As I worked through it, I was not disappointed by the fill either. The theme was nicely encapsulated in the title, and the theme answers were creative. It was cool to see WING broken up differently in each answer. WINNING BIG was my favourite of three, especially since it aptly crossed 38d [“Paying to pay poker”] ANTEING UP

On that note, I loved the longer fill of ANTEING UP, 4d [“‘That’s just how it goes’”] C’EST LA VIE, 8d [“Athleisure made for posing”] YOGA PANTS, 10d [“Person with a Playbill collection”] THEATER GEEK, 25a [“‘Can you define this relationship, please?’”] ARE WE A THING, and 36d [“Late-night programming block on Cartoon Network”] ADULT SWIM. It took me forever to get C’EST LA VIE because I’m not up on my pear types so from 1a [“Pear variety”] BOSC, that was gonna be tough. ARE WE A THING was also incredible and made me laugh just imagining the dialogue between clue and answer. 

One thing I’ve noticed as a solver is that it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate when an answer will be NSA and when it will be CIA. I had the S and A from SEEKS and IKEA respectively, so this was a no brainer, but I was pleased to see that both 47d [“Cryptanalysis org.”] NSA and 49a [“Spy org.”] CIA also makes an appearance to give the more espionage-natured organization a clearer contrast to NSA in this case. I know there’s some overlap between what can be attributed to each, but I think it’s worth pointing out since both appear so frequently in puzzles. 

That’s all from me! A fun puzzle to start my weekend…and an added reason to play Wingspan the game with that bonus day off on Monday. 


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19 Responses to Friday, January 14, 2022

  1. stephen manion says:

    The purpose of the NSA is to keep us safe.

  2. David says:

    ADD OIL is one of the silliest entries I have ever seen. Fun puzzle other than that

  3. Cynthia says:

    Universal – Not sure what to think of today’s puzzle. It’s very different, especially for a Universal. On one hand it seemed impressive, and on the other it was a bit frustrating. Maybe it was just me, since I normally do Uni as a fun, quick “warm-up” in the morning, and I enjoy them better when they’re on the easier side. Looking forward to reading other opinions.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      +1 … I also prefer to rip through my first few puzzles of the day (Newsday, USAT & Uni) as a warm-up to the WSJ, LAT, NYT and TNY. I sometimes get unduly annoyed at verbose clues and though that was the case here at first, I managed to settle in and just enjoy the ride. It’ll mess up my solving stats a bit since I was well above my Uni average solve time, but what the hey.

    • Michael says:

      For accuracy’s sake, you can use local anesthesia to numb up a small part of your body, such as part of an ear or a lip. To anesthetize a whole arm or a whole leg you would have to use regional anesthesia.

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: MOUSE OVER, OBSESS OVER. I’m not over it. 12a, 24d

  5. AmyL says:

    NYT: Amy’s review is spot-on, as usual. Thanks for explaining the Bath litre. Fortunately, I didn’t notice the UP or the OVER duplicates–I generally don’t like those.

    As for Otto/Auto, I would need to hear you as I’m not following. As a native Pittsburgher, both words are exactly the same to me.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Really? Are AWW and AHH the same sound in Pittsburgh?

      • AmyL says:

        Yes, I really have no idea what you mean. They are identical! I know people in the northern parts of the country (Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo) pronounce their As differently, but it’s something I can’t replicate.

    • JohnH says:

      Of course, there was also the dupe of TRADE WAR and WARCRAFT. Not that I’m complaining. I think I’ll accept ADD OIL. My last to fall was SAME LOVE. Overall, a hard Friday for me, but it worked out once I just dedicated myself to it.

      In TNY funny but I must have heard of God and MAMMON a zillion times and I’m not even Christian. My DNF was AMYS / ICMY. Yuck. (Didn’t help that I couldn’t draw from memory AIME to go with the last name.)

      FWIW, I don’t pronounce Otto like “auto,” but lots of puns are groaners. Kind of goes with the territory.

      • David L says:

        This is an example of the cot-caught merger. Some people have the same vowel in those two words, some people don’t.

        I’m from England originally and still have a very strong contrast between cot/Otto and caught/auto.

        • AlanW says:

          I’m the commenter who groused about OTTO and AUTO earlier in the week. As David L says, linguists call this the cot-caught merger. Neither way–pronouncing the vowels differently, or pronouncing them the same–is better or more correct. They’re just variations.

          Here’s a YouTube video where you can hear the different pronunciations:

  6. Mike H says:

    Auto = Otto (and the same vowel sounds in “hot dog”) here in New Hampshire, as in “awe-tow”. All others are simply wrong. (Just kidding!)

  7. I balked at the identification of Tatum as a stride pianist and remembered a clue somewhere not long ago that had Fats Waller (who was a stride pianist) as a ragtime pianist. It makes me think of a musical version of the Great Vowel Shift.

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