Friday, February 4, 2022

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 6:06 (malaika) 


NYT 5:22 (Amy) 


Universal 4:01 (Jim P) 


USA Today 4:13 (Darby) 


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

NY Times crossword solution, 2 4 22, no. 0204

Interesting puzzle, with all sorts of fill that pops up rather seldom in crosswords. Among my fave fill: The new-to-me VERMONSTER oversized ice cream sundae, Bowie’s LIFE ON MARS, the Hippocratic “first DO NO HARM,” Mel Brooks’ SPACEBALLS, the dreaded ALGAL BLOOM, BACKRONYM, Anne MEARA, LOOSEY-GOOSEY, NOT TOO SHABBY (and I forgive the TOO TALL crossing because I enjoyed both entries), and UNDERSELL.

Least liked fill: past-tense verbing of an interjection in ARFED.

Five more things:

  • 11d. [“I can’t afford NOT to buy it!”], IT’S A STEAL! No, wait, SUCH A DEAL. No, sorry, try again: “WHAT A DEAL!” Took me three tries. What is this, Wordle?
  • 23a. [Issue with image quality, informally?], BAD REP. Great clue!
  • 45a. [Stop working for good?], TURN EVIL. Not sure I like this as an entry, but I like the clue’s “retiree” vibe.
  • 13d. [Online hookup], MODEM. Heh. Great mislead!
  • 32d. [“America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response” vis-à-vis Amber Alert, e.g.], BACKRONYM. Backronyms are made-up expansions of supposed abbreviations. For example, people insisting that posh means “port out, starboard home.” It doesn’t.

Overall assessment, NOT TOO SHABBY, 3.8 stars.

Ana Deros’s Inkubator crossword, “Change of Pace”—Jenni’s writeup

This a lovely debut puzzle from Ana and the Inkubator team! I hope to see more of Ana’s work, especially if they’re as smooth as this one.

Each theme answer has the letters PACE with the order changed.

INKubator, February 4, 2022, Ana Deros, “Change of Pace,” solution grid

  • 3d [Jarritos seal] is a BOTTLE CAP. TIL that Jarritos are Mexican fruit sodas.
  • 21a [Soiree with coworkers] is an OFFICE PARTY.
  • 34d [Tumble headfirst] is FACE PLANT.
  • 50a [Pleasant parcel to receive] is a CARE PACKAGE.

I didn’t realize until I typed that out that each PACE spans the two words. It’s a solid accessible theme, well-executed. Nice!

A few other things:

  • 1d [Fashionable, in a way?] is LATE. Is that still a thing? Not being late – that’s always a thing in some ways – but being fashionable late.
  • 6a [Staff leader?] is CLEF. Music staff.
  • 44a [Elevate to the Supreme Court, say] is APPEAL. Elevating the case, not the justice.
  • Not a big fan of breakfast TACOS. Burritos, sure.
  • Don’t put SPLENDA in your mint JULEP.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Jarritos. I also had never heard of LONI Love or Café Mocha radio. My whiteness is showing.

Susan Gelfand’s Universal crossword, “My Food Tastes Funny”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Two-word food items where one of the words is also a famous person’s comedian’s surname.

Universal crossword solution · “My Food Tastes Funny” · Susan Gelfand · Fri., 2.4.22

  • 17a. [Special barbecued beef entree for comedian Martin?] SHORT RIBS.
  • 59a. [Special starchy staple for comedian Betty?] WHITE RICE.
  • 10d. [Special pickled garnishes for comedian Minnie?] PEARL ONIONS.
  • 24d. [Special leafy side dish for comedian Sid?] CAESAR SALAD.

I guess I wasn’t paying too close attention to the clues, because I only just realized the comedian angle. At first, I just thought they were famous people in general, but this adds an additional layer of constraint that matches with the title better and makes more sense. It would have been nice if some more recent comedian names could’ve been used though.

Moving to the grid, it feels unusually open to me. This is verified by the fact there are only ten 3-letter entries which is quite low. Yet it’s still a clean, smooth grid. Highlights include TURNOVER, WHEREVER, STIR-FRY, and PICASSO. Also: GARGLE, JINX, and BRUTES.

Clues of note:

  • 50a. [Designer Paloma]. PICASSO. A new name to me, but she is known for jewelry designs for Tiffany & Co. and for her signature perfumes. Oh, and she also happens to be the daughter of a certain painter.
  • 64a. [Green Gables girl]. ANNE. I suppose it would have been confusing to clue this [“Interview with the Vampire” author] when the entry sits right below RICE.
  • 43d. [Feature of an open-and-shut case?]. HINGE. Cute clue.

A smooth, open grid with a pleasant theme and strong fill throughout. 3.75 stars.

Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker puzzle

Happy Friday, folks! Long fill was very lovely in this puzzle, and the only short fill I didn’t like was ERGS, ESSO, MAME, and EIRE.



  • FOMO for [Reason to hit the town on a Friday night instead of staying home in your p.j.’s]…. Damn Robyn, just @ me next time
  • I had bus instead of CAB for [Common sight in NYC (except for when you need one)] which gives you an idea of my lifestyle lol
  • I had Ari Grande instead of RIO Grande which I guess also gives you an idea of my lifestyle

Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today crossword, “Keg Storage”—Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer includes KEG in it, making each of them literal storage for a KEG.

Theme Answers

Stella Zawistowski's USA Today crossword, "Keg Storage"

Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today crossword, “Keg Storage” solution for 1/4/2022

  • 16a [“Noted World War II aviators”] TUSKEGEE AIRMEN
  • 24a [“Be extra-meticulous”] TAKE GREAT PAINS.
  • 41a [“Treats served over porridge”] SALTED DUCK EGGS
  • 54a [“Pelvic floor-tightening movements”] KEGEL EXERCISES

I’m a beer-lover, so I was sold on this puzzle because of the title alone. TUSKEGEE AIRMEN was a great themer, and I was thrilled once I got the T off of 1d [“___ out (distribute)”] METE. Both TAKE GREAT PAINS and KEGEL EXERCISES were clued very clearly, and SALTED DUCK EGGS rounded out this packed set of 14s really well. I did think that it was interesting that KEGEL EXERCISES was the only themer in which KEG didn’t span across two words though.

Much like yesterday’s USA Today grid, we have a diagonal pack of threes through part of this puzzle, but I appreciated the ways in which the themers opened it up so it didn’t feel super segmented. The tradeoff in having four themers that are 14 letters each becomes that there weren’t many answers over six letters.

Some Friday faves for y’all:

  • 36a [“Not-so-nice motivation”] – I nearly spat my coffee out filling in SPITE. We’ve all been there.
  • 43a [“Cleveland’s Great Lake”] – My little sister is coming to visit from Cleveland today, barring ERIE’s lake effect snow grounding her flight, so as always, I enjoyed the inclusion of my favorite body of water.
  • 28d [“Cake coating”] – The crossover between ICING and 4d [“Verb that aptly rhymes with ‘cake’”] BAKE was a fun one. Add the OIL of 46a [“Frying liquid”], and we have almost everything for a boxed mix.

Overall, the fill in this grid was really rich, and I enjoyed just thinking through each clue and answer even after I finished the puzzle.

Pam Amick Klawitter’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 2/4/22 • Fri • Klawitter • solution • 20220204

Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I’m not sure I fully understand the theme.

  • 60aR [“In Rainbows” rockers, and a hint to what changes four puzzle answers] RADIOHEAD. The other theme answers are portmanteau—well, let’s call them pseudoportmanteaux, as something else is definitely going on—words with an R affixed to the front. So is the R just the head of ‘radio’ and nothing more?
  • 16a. [Appreciation for Jay-Z’s music?] RAPPLAUSE. So that’s R+ APPLAUSE but the the R also creates RAP (never mind the PLAUSE part).
  • 24a. [Compilation of angry blog posts?] RANTHOLOGY. R + ANTHOLOGY; RANT/ANTHOLOGY.
  • 34a. [Jamaican drink garnish?] RUMBRELLA. R + UMBRELL; RUM/UMBRELLA.
  • 50a. [Deckhand unable to raise the sails?] RIGNORAMUS. R + IGNORAMUS; RIG/IGNORAMUS.

Is there a more concise and clear way to explain this theme?

  • Not quite counterbalancing the theme is 59a [Online cash-back deal] EBATE, which drops a leading R.
  • 32d [Survivalist Stroud] LES. Looks vaguely familiar. Here he is.
  • 52d [Devious] MEALY. Huh? … Oh, apparently this shortened form can be synonymous with mealymouthed. News to me, obviously.
  • 18a [Big name in Civil War fiction] O’HARA. I was indeed thinking of authors, such as Shelby FOOTE and Bret HARTE, rather than characters.
  • 22a [Kitchen address] CHEF. I highly recommend series 1 and only series 1 of the ’90s britcom Chef!
  • 42a [Disney bigwig] IGER. Time to update those clue databases. “On February 25, 2020, Bob Chapek was named his successor as Disney CEO. IGER continued to serve as executive and board chairman until he was replaced by Susan Arnold on December 31, 2021.” (Wikipedia)
  • 56a [One following a point] TENTH. A decimal point.
  • 58a [Penn in NYC, e.g.] STN. 40d [Turnpike reading] SIGNAGE. ‘Why are the signs at New York’s Penn Station so confusing?
  • Check out row 14: 62a Cubist Fernand] LÉGER, 63a [Lager alternative] ALE, 64a [Tee choice] LARGE.

A mildly confusing crossword, but a decent solve.

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28 Responses to Friday, February 4, 2022

  1. Dave says:

    Regular Boswords participants will be familiar with the VERMONSTER entry (as well as those of us who actually live in that state!)

    • Eric H says:

      Last fall’s Boswords was the first one I have done. If nothing else, it gave me VERMONSTER, which probably shaved five minutes off my time with today’s NYT puzzle.

      It seems odd that the Boswords clue was actually a little easier than the NYT one.

      • Me says:

        I had never heard of VERMONSTER before Boswords, either, and it was a nice gift today because I think I would have really struggled in the NW otherwise.

        I had never heard of “algal” before, and I was one who put in ALGAEBLOOM and EEL at first.

  2. DedieWinston1 says:

    If port out, starboard home doesn’t stand for posh…what does?

  3. Ned says:

    I had a slight objection NYT “Algal bloom” crossing with “Ell” since I put in Algae Bloom and Eel both of which somewhat fit their clues — a different clue for “Ell” would have been a little fairer IMO since algae bloom is, to my ears, a more common phrase than algal bloom.

    • Will says:

      I’m pretty sure “algae bloom” is the more common phrase. There’s no reason the grid couldn’t have been changed instead of just tinkering with the clues.

      • Lise says:

        I think an EEL-shaped studio apartment would be interesting, albeit uncommon. It would present certain challenges in furniture-arranging, but I’m sure Ikea has solutions.

        This is why I’m not an architect.

    • Ethan says:

      I had the exact same mistake. EEL is so common I don’t even think I checked the clue until I had to hunt for my error. From cursory Googling, looks like “algae bloom” and “algal bloom” have about equal purchase in the lexicon. Personally I think EEL has more evocative cluing possibilities than ELL but that’s just me.

    • pannonica says:

      In the literature, algal bloom is the more common and more correct phrase. It’s possible that you have been mishearing it.

    • JohnH says:

      Algal bloom sounds right to my year, but it takes all kinds. Besides, ELL was obvious to me, whereas an eel-like apartment doesn’t make much sense.

      Agreed, though, about the tough square at the head of VERMONSTER. I also had trouble toward the bottom.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    primum non nocere rarely ever gets said aloud as the oath, nor the English version either

    Coexisting in the grid with 40D where the correct answer is no longer MILEAGE but REVENUE (from the airlines POV) – IT is now the prime directive to earn status, the grid answer now almost irrelevant, perhaps doing double duty as private practice prime directive. I didn’t like that answer.

    Several proper nouns inducible, which helps when they are used or necessary

    apropos LIFE ON MARS – we watched the original BBC show on BritBox, with the Bowie tune just the night before last

    Fun puzzle made decidedly easier for me by what was hanging around in my brain’s RAM

    • Jenni Levy says:

      We definitely recited “Do No Harm” as part of the Hippocratic Oath when I graduated med school and I’ve repeated it frequently when I teach medical ethics. It hasn’t gone out of style.

    • marciem says:

      “I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgement, and I will do no harm or injustice to them.”

      Apparently, some schools do, some don’t, some have modified the oath, but “FIRST…” is not in the translation here, and the text above it says that it does not explicitly say “first do no harm”.

      Interesting .

  5. David L says:

    NYT: The crossing of 1D and 14A was a toughie for me. I don’t eat ice cream and I don’t know much about US high school terminology. I ran the alphabet and hit on V, because I do know that Ben and Jerry started in Vermont.

    • DH says:

      Me too. I Googled “AV Lab” and found zero references to high school facilities. Most of the hits predictably centered around “Anti-Virus”. Maybe the yearbook club is considering an article on vaccine efficacy.

    • marciem says:

      Pretty sure it stands for Audio-Visual lab.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    My apologies if people here thought I was unreasonable or inappropriate in my critique of yesterday’s USA Today puzzle (it sure seems so given a couple of the responses here on the message board itself and, believe it or not, in a couple of emails I received as a result ,,, how the heck do people get my email address out here in blog world if “your email address will not be published”??? This same type of thing happened after I posted messages on the Rex blog and at CC’s LA Times Crossword blog … hmm). I was venting frustration with a puzzle that I ordinarily find quite easy to complete but in this case was unable to even submit a solution. I guess I stepped over the line somehow, but, in my defense, I thought that the main purpose of this message board was to share thoughts and opinions about crossword puzzles. Apparently, for at least a couple of people out here, that’s only true if you like a puzzle and/or agree with their perspective. I’ll somehow try to keep that in mind when posting my opinions here in the future.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Nobody’s getting your email address from this WordPress site—if you have a Blogger profile that includes your email address, it would be findable on both Crossword Corner and Rex.

      It’s interesting that you said, in yesterday’s comment, that Enrico Caruso and Maria Callas would be gettable for “most people.” For whom, exactly? They’re probably not teaching the names in school, outside of college opera courses, so there’s really not much reason to think people would encounter the names. “Most people who have been doing crosswords for decades,” maybe, but not “most people.”

      It feels like it’s poor form to single out a tenacious, surviving language that could easily have been extinguished as being too obscure for you to concern yourself with. Is it the Navajo nation’s fault that their language isn’t the official language of their traditional expanse of the American Southwest?

      Surprised you struggled with WHOA and BERET, given their Across crossings. Heck, you’ve been around long enough to remember the Black Panthers circa 1970! (Check out the movie “Judas and the Black Messiah” for a look into the lives and goals of the Panthers, and the oration and killing of 21-year-old leader Fred Hampton.)

      • sanfranman59 says:

        If you say so. Maybe whoever is harassing me is following me around from crossword blog to crossword blog. I used the same handle at Crossword Corner and the Rex blog.

        I’ve spent the last half hour or so trying to compose a response to your other comments, but I fear that it will only serve to make me look even more foolish than I already do. I don’t seem to have a very good track record with posting things on the Wild, Wild World Wide Web and it’s probably best for me and the rest of the world that I cease and desist. So, I’ll just apologize for my poor form yesterday and promise that it won’t happen again.

        p.s. Just for the record, I know very well what the Black Panther Party was. I just didn’t particularly associate it with berets, though I can picture Huey Newton and Bobby Seale wearing one. I’ve also seen “Judas and the Black Messiah”. Believe it or not, I love history and having been a child during the 60s, I have a particular interest in the struggles of the Civil Rights Era.

        • Mr. [not always] Grumpy says:

          The Black Panther berets were iconic back in the 60s. I still remember their visit to our suburban Walnut Creek church back in 66? 67? when I was in high school. (I’d have to check Mom’s memoir for the actual date.) A meeting viewed with trepidation (on both sides) that resulted in a joining of hearts & minds the memory of which encourages me to this day.

      • dhj says:

        “…You said, in yesterday’s comment, that Enrico Caruso and Maria Callas would be gettable for “most people.” Then some blather about how opera isn’t taught in high schools.

        That’s not remotely the point he was trying to make.

        To quote: “But even if you don’t know who, say, Enrico Caruso or Maria Callas is, most people would recognize these names as names and would be able to at least make an educated guess at them. ”

        His comment contained views that could be challenged – they’re opinions, which people have a right to have and others have a right to disagree with. But at least don’t completely mangle someone’s opinion in a bad faith attempt to smear them.

        This is the frustrating thing about the USA Today conversation. The reviewers here seem to think there’s no acceptable critique of the puzzle, and those who push back against them are merely narrow-minded bigots. Good faith efforts to provide constructive criticism are shot down by bad faith actors who willfully twist arguments and imply that these critiques are driven by racist malice.

    • Elise says:

      To sanfranman59:
      I’m sorry you got that treatment. I have been noticing this type of thing lately.
      I wish it could be agreed that all opinions are respected and that it is not appropriate to tell someone that their opinion is wrong.

  7. Christina says:

    Loved loved loved the New Yorker puzzle today!

  8. Gloria Elizabeth says:

    I was delighted by the LAT theme entries sliding the first word over the second, but I don’t understand the Radiohead “hint to what changes four puzzle answers”. Is it just adding the “R” head of Radio? Favorite clue 56 Across: One following a point. It made me feel clever.

    • Derek says:

      LAT: The “head” letter of “radio” is an R, which is the letter added to the “head” of the four theme answers.

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