Friday, February 18, 2022

Inkubator untimed (Rebecca) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 14:58 (malaika) 


NYT 4:13 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 6:19 (Darby) 


Aimee Lucido’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 18 22, no. 0218

I really felt like I was struggling here, since I didn’t nail BITTER ENEMIES, instead stumbling to MORTAL ENEMIES and flailing at the crossings. But hey! Still finished in a quicker sort of Friday NYT time for me. I won’t podium, but I gave it my all and I’m proud of my performance.

What? Yes, I was watching women’s figure skating before getting to the crossword.


Five more things:

  • 3d. [Soft], PIANO. I feel like Aimee would have clued this as a noun.
  • 51a. [It’s bald on its face], NAKED LIE. Not 100% sold on this phrase as a crossword entry.
  • 45d. [Children’s character who asks herself “And what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?”], ALICE. Of Wonderland fame. Did somebody mention kids’ books? Aimee has (so far) published two middle grades novels (for ~8- to 12-year-olds): Emmy in the Key of Code is written in verse, and Recipe for Disaster is about a girl wrangling her yearning for a bat mitzvah. My BFF also grew up with interfaith parents and never had a bat mitzvah, and she loved this book!
  • 41a. [Latest gossip, in modern lingo], TEA. I want to know what the tea is among the Russian skating coaches and institutions with the whole Valieva situation! So messed up, all of it.
  • 5d. [Host], RAFT. Took me a while to remember the “slew/army/horde” sense of host and the non-flotation sense of RAFT.

Four stars from me.

Dick Shlakman & Fred Geldon’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 2/18/22 • Fri • Shlakman, Geldon • solution • 20220218

Today we have phrases with the structure x IN THE y but the gimmick is that the word ‘in’ is obviated by placing x between ‘the’ and y.

  • 20a. [Naivete personified, literally] THEBABEWOODS (babe in the woods).
  • 33a. [Abandoned, literally] THELEFTLURCH (left in the lurch).
  • 41a. [Low, literally] THEDOWNDUMPS (down in the dumps).
  • 56a. [Metaphor for a sitting-pretty situation, literally] THEMADESHADE (made in the shade).

Solid theme, nothing too fancy.

Quick spin through the grid:

  • 2d [Island exchanges] ALOHAS, 61d [Island greeting] LEI.
  • 34d [One who may go deep] END. This is football. I had a different thought and put in ENT. 59d [Like some pockets] DEEP.
  • 44d [Particle in a beam] sounds atomic but isn’t; rather it’s just a MOTE of dust in a beam of light.
  • 45d [“Sesame Street,” e.g.] PBS SHOW. Was going to cry foul, as the fact that it moved to HBO was quite significant several years ago. However, I looked it up to discover that it’s just first-run episodes on that channel, and they still have a home at PBS.
  • 55d [Oar fulcrum] THOLE. Oh yes plunked this in with no crossings.
  • 1a [Ketch pair] MASTS.
  • 10a [Damson or Mirabelle] PLUM. Took a few beats to place those names.
  • 52a [Presumes] POSITS. Not sure if these are quite synonymous.
  • 65a [Bridges of Los Angeles County] BEAU, the actor. Might have been neat if ‘Madison’ were worked into one of the clues for a neighboring entry. You know, like 68a [Lincoln or Jackson] CITY. Or perhaps that would have ruined the misdirection.

Ross Trudeau’s Universal crossword, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”—Jim P’s review

I just did this week’s (first) Fireball crossword right before this one. (Spoiler alert for that puzzle:) Imagine my surprise when the revealer from that puzzle shows up as the title for this one.

This puzzle’s theme is all in the clues, however. Each theme answer’s clue is “Turns” + a preposition.

Universal crossword solution · “Turn! Turn! Turn!” · Ross Trudeau · Fri., 2.18.22

  • 16a. [Turns off] DISENCHANTS.
  • 22a. [Turns on] STABS IN THE BACK. After these two entries, I thought we would have a repetition of the off/on pattern—like a kid playing with a light switch. I bet there are enough meanings of the two phrases to make a viable theme.
  • 29a. [Turns up] REAPPEARS.
  • 37a. [Turns down] DECREASES.
  • 46a. [Turns out] GOES TO THE POLLS.
  • 54a. [Turns in] HITS THE SACK.

Very nice. I like how the prepositions are paired with their opposites.  I do have to say I enjoyed the idiomatic entries much more than the standalone words.

Fill highlights include CHIVAS REGAL, TAX BENEFITS, PET SHOP, SAPPHO, and EROTICA. BAD NAME [Sullied reputation] is curious. Generally, you can sully someone’s “good name”; does that then give them a BAD NAME? I can’t say I’ve ever heard about or read about someone using that phrase. And there’s a bit too much duping going on between AAH, AHS, and AHA. Sounds like someone’s about to sneeze.

Clues of note:

  • 1d. [Group quarantining together]. POD. I feel like I’ve seen POD used in this context, but I see “cohort” more often.
  • 14d. [Windows fan, often]. PC USER. Are people who use PCs often fans of Windows? Not in my experience. But the clue had me thinking of those big box fans you stick in a window to quickly cool down a room, so good misdirection.

3.5 stars

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

Good morning, and happy Friday! This was a very, very hard puzzle for me! I did not finish on THREE squares, and had to run the alphabet while “check grid”-ing for all of them– the crossing of LADE / ARISTA, and BICORNE / ORRIS, and MONAMOUR / PRINTEMPS. Other entries where I needed every single crossing were TSAI, ELLIS, and HAYDN. STAR GATE, SUMERIA, and ALTO CLEF were also very hard for me, but I was able to infer some of the letters.

Wyna Liu’s New Yorker puzzle

There were also a handful of clues that felt too tricksy for a Friday– WILD ANIMAL clued as [Range rover, say] should have gotten a question mark, rather than a “say” in my opinion. (I guess we were supposed to notice the capitalization, maybe.) And I still don’t really get [They may be hurled at a heel during a wrestling match] for BOOS. Is the idea that a heel is just… someone you don’t like? The verb “hurl” is not one I associate with booing.

I played myself though, because I slotted in “The Rules” over NEW RULES and “masch” over BUTCH and in fact had started to compose a post in my head about how “masch” is the wrong spelling. Well yeah, duh!! Because it was wrong!! C’mon, Malaika!

What else? [Clean cut?] was a great clue for RADIO EDIT, [Screen writing?] was a great clue for BLOG POST, and WORK FRIEND is a great entry. Let’s fight about ONLINE CELEBRITY in the comments– I don’t think this is a thing anymore? Maybe ten years ago, but now a celebrity is a celebrity. Rachel Zegler was making YouTube vids and then got cast in a Steven Spielberg movie… and she’s still making YouTube vids!! Those “please don’t destroy” dudes are on SNL… Binging with Babish is pals with Jon Favreau. The lines have blurred, everything is online now so an online celebrity is just a celebrity.

Brooke Husic & Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today crossword, “Tree Trunks”—Darby’s write-up

Theme: The last word in each theme answer (the trunk of the answer) is a type of tree.

Theme Answers

Brooke Husic & Enrique Henestroza Anguiano's USA Today crossword, "Tree Trunks" solution 2/18/2022

Brooke Husic & Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today crossword, “Tree Trunks” solution 2/18/2022

  • 15d [“Chart-topping holiday song by Wham!”] LAST CHRISTMAS
  • 19d [“Queer friend group, e.g.”] CHOSEN FAMILY
  • 21d [“Assumption that there are two genders, e.g.”] FALSE BINARY

These were great theme answers. I love the queer connection between the three.  As I’ve said before, I love Down themers, so this was a treat for me and “trunk” was a really creative way of hinting toward the ending word of each answer as well.

Grid-wise, this was an interesting asymmetrical adventure. The upper left reverse stairway (as I like to call it) allowed for some fun answers like BANANA LEAF to span most of the upper section. Plus the diagonal black squares through the center played well with the themers while stilling allowing for a nice openness between grid sections. The three middle rows were a nice combination of answer lengths, and who doesn’t love seeing IDRIS ELBA welcome you into the lowest section of the puzzle?

Some Friday faves:

  • 55a [“‘Man! I Feel Like a ___!’”] – Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like a WOMAN!” is a classic bop. This immediately elicited an OMG from me, and the song has been playing on loop ever since I filled it in. I’m posting the link below so you can have a similar experience.
  • 4d [“Pu’er holder”] – Pu’er (or pu-erh tea) is also known as “black tea” comes from China, and its use dates back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220CE). It is post-fermented, which is a process that allows the leaves to remain fresh for up to fifty years, which is wild! I’m not a big tea drinker, but I’ll definitely keep this in mind the next time I fill up my TEA CUP. You can read more about the history, preparation, and varieties of pu-erh tea here.
  • 8d [“The Prophet’s birthday”]MAWLIDs can also refer to the birthdays of other holy figures within Islam in addition to the Prophet Muhammad. Since I study religion, I’m always interested in learning more about about them, and so this was a great way to educate myself, especially since this answer filled in so well on the crosses since I was previously unfamiliar.

Overall, a great Friday puzzle! A MUST-solve, if you ask me.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #28″—Rebecca’s review

Any day that I get to solve a Zhouqin Burnikel puzzle is a good day, and today’s Inkubator offering was no exception.

Inkubator, February 17, 2022, Anne Zhouqin Burnikel, “Themeless #28” solution grid

A lot of really nice entries here in the 8s and 9s that made each section of the puzzle fun to dig my teeth into. I loved seeing the puzzle kicked off with MISS MAJOR, which started a lovely stack when combined with IS THAT A NO and SWEET SPOT. Made for a great start to the puzzle, that continued smoothy through the finish.

Lots of talk-y answers, which I’m always fond of. I can almost imagine a story with IS THAT A NO, I SUPPOSE, BEATS ME, and I DARE NOT all working together to discourage action – until YOU GO GIRL comes in for a final bit of encouragement.

Favorite clues:

16-Across [Adjective often unfairly applied to assertive women] for BOSSY

17-Across [Perfect place to hit] for SWEET SPOT

14-Down [Many gamblers have them] for SYSTEMS

28-Down [Holland born in England] for TOM


Here’s some JO MARCH goodness – and the scene that gave us my favorite meme.


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8 Responses to Friday, February 18, 2022

  1. David L says:

    NYT was FFE (fastest Friday ever). I’m sure the world needs to know this. I got DAPS and DEBTS right off the bat and nothing much slowed me down. Didn’t know TONKATSU (although I’ve seen the KATSU bit before) but the crossings made it easy. And because I’m an astronomy/space exploration fan, I dropped in EDWIN (Buzz Aldrin’s real first name) without hesitation.

  2. Billy Boy says:

    BODICE RIPPERS made me laugh out loud

    Clearly new to me

  3. Hi says:

    If the argument against online celebrity being a thing is that some of them gained actual celebrity then online celebrity is a thing.

    (you said you wanted to fight about it)

  4. Cynthia says:

    Uni – Jim P, have you never heard Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a BAD NAME?” I think in terms of people, it’s an outdated phrase but I’ve definitely heard it. As far as those repetitious little fill words, I had the same reaction. And last but not least, I second your reaction to PC USER being a “fan of Windows.” Sometimes, not so much!

  5. Zulema says:

    I agree about how hard the NYer puzzle was. It would have been a very hard Monday. No explanation yet about BOOS, 46D. As for Sumeria, since I never heard of it, I entered BITCH instead of BUTCH. It was ok with me, considering the entry in the NYT for “mental goof.” It seems that an editor is still missing at the NEW YORKER puzzles establishment.

    • JohnH says:

      I have to agree and didn’t understand BOOS either, although I did guess BUTCH straight off. Maybe my experience was a little different, as there were spots where I was happily writing answers in without any crossings, like an unduly easy puzzle, and then, ouch, ground to a complete halt. It seemed to earn its ease or difficulty all the wrong way

      Unlike Malaika, I didn’t find the crossing of the Renais movie and Stravinsky music/dance a tough spot. Both were gimmes for me. The second, and the outrage that resulted, was a key moment in the origins of modern art and music. Nothing else so notorious and no other anecdote so often repeated in accounts.

  6. Joe Pancake says:

    Re: BOOS in TNY

    Heel is a specific term is WWE-style wrestling for the “bad” wrestler whose job is to get the crowd to hurl BOOS at them.

    Excellent clue, IMO.

    • David Steere says:

      TNY, etc.: I didn’t even think of WWE at all but just assumed a villainous wrestler was a “heel” and that he was to be “booed.” Loved the crossing of PRINTEMPS and MON AMOUR. Any crossing that can bring to mind Alan Resnais and Igor Stravinsky is great by me. Terrific Friday for puzzles: Aimee Lucido, Wyna Liu, Brook Husic/Enrique Anguiano, Zhouquin Burnikel, and a bit of a tough grid from Shannon Rapp for the AVCX. More, please.

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