Friday, March 4, 2022

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 7:48 (malaika) 


NYT 6:02 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today untimed(Darby) 


Rasa Guarnaccia’s Inkubator crossword, “Pup Squad”—Jenni’s writeup

This adorable theme is composed of puppy-based puns. I really enjoyed Rasa’s solo debut and can’t wait to see more of her work!

Inkubator, March 3, 2022, Rasa Guarnaccia, “Pup Squad,” solution grid

  • 18a [Pup who listens to intense punk music?] is a HARD CORGI.
  • 24a [Pup who really likes science fiction and crossword puzzles?] is a WEIMARANERD. I struggled with this one because I apparently did not how to spell WEIMARANER, having never realized they come from WEIMAR. Duh.
  • 36a [Pup who knows all the hot gossip?] is a CHATTERBOXER.
  • 49a [Pup who enjoys dressing up like her favorite pop star?] is a WANNABEAGLE.
  • 57a [Pup who is sweetly socially awkward?] is a LABRADORK. This is my favorite, since our last dog was definitely a LABRADORK.

All the theme answers work well and they’re all cute as can be. Fun!

A few other things:

  • LOLO Jones is a hurdler and bobsledder who has competed in both the Winter and Summer Olympics.
  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve acquired equipment for a home gym. This does not include BARS for pull-ups. I’m OK with that.
  • Bhimbetka is in central India and features some of the oldest CAVE ART in the world.
  • 42d [Went at it] is HAD OUT. This is not incorrect, but it doesn’t roll trippingly off the tongue, either.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of Bhimbetka. Did not know that RYAN Coogler directed “Black Panther.” And I’d never heard of Gladys MAE West. I should have.

David Distenfeld’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 4 22, no. 0304

Fun puzzle, but it felt more like a Saturday puzzle to me. Did you all find it harder than expected, too?

Fave fill: ICED LATTE, MRS MAISEL and MR SANDMAN flanking an ESSENTIAL WORKER, ONE-TERM, LOSE FAITH, SAD SONGS (they say so much—and wow, I hadn’t remembered how much the Elton John video was an exploration of hats), BRIE LARSON, NO BONES, and “ASK ME LATER.” Lots of good stuff here.

Five things:

  • 51a. [Like those celebrated with an annual Day of Visibility on March 31], TRANS. We see you and we appreciate you, trans crossworders!
  • Didn’t quite know DOCUSOAP was a word, but here it is clued as 6a. [Genre for “Jersey Shore” and “The Real World”].
  • 55a. [Woman’s nickname that sounds like its first and third letters], KATIE. Missed opportunity to mention an actual woman of note—there’s Rep. Katie Porter, Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky, TV journalist Katie Couric…
  • I suspect this puzzle was submitted in October or November when a Pug named Noodles became a TikTok star via daily videos showing whether Noodles would stay up when his person sat him up each morning, or slump right back down into his comfy dog bed. Sitting up, it’s gonna be a Bones Day. Back to bed, it’s a No Bones Day. Who among us cannot relate to this framing? Heck, the entire month of January was a No Bones Month for me. NO BONES feels like a fun crossword entry to me in that context. But instead, probably with a view towards solvers doing this puzzle in a page-a-day calendar 15 years from now, we get 23d. [Lack of objections, in a phrase], as in “make no bones about it.” In that usage, though, NO BONES just doesn’t work as an entry, since the making and about it parts are essential.
  • 18a. [Spots where you might count sheep], LEAS. I had BEDS first. The word lea is just not something that’s in regular use in American English! And yet, it’s in crosswords pretty often. Cruciverb’s database shows me six “grassy expanse” sort of LEA(S) in January and February 2022 alone. Quit trying to make “lea” happen.

Four stars from me.

Bryant White’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 3/4/22 • Fri • White • solution • 20220304

  • 34aR [Incapacitating agent of pulp detective and sci-fi novels … and a hint to solving this puzzle’s starred clues] KNOCKOUT GAS. To wit, the letter sequence G-A-S is dropped from those entries (but not the crossing ones).
  • 17a. [*Throw for a loop] FLABBERgasT. This one was the hardest to figure out the placement of the trigram.
  • 18a. [*Traditional jack-o’-lantern sources in the British Isles] RUTABAgas.
  • 52a. [*Adele and Cher, e.g.] MEgasTARS.
  • 55a. [*Buffet variety] SMORgasBORD.
  • 24a. [*Gourmet] gasTRONOME.
  • 26a. [*World’s second-largest island country] MADAgasCAR.

I appreciate how the various instances are distributed in different parts of the host words: beginning, middle, end.

  • 2d [Beat the draft?] ENLIST. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?
  • Grid-spanner with 7d [Studiers of human ancestry] ANTHROPOLOGISTS.
  • 12d [Picture puzzles] REBUSES. The theme of this puzzle is sort of the anti-version of a typical crossword rebus.
  • 53d [LAX tower service] ATC. Air-traffic control. Haven’t seen that initialism in a while.
  • 1a [With 41-Across, “Cloud Shepherd” Dadaist] JEAN | ARP.
  • 19a. [Worthlessness metaphor] FIG. As in, “I don’t give a fig what you say” or something to that effect.
  • 39a [Blanket __ ] FORT. Briefly thought this was a legal thing and tried blanket TORT.
  • 45a [Nickname of NBA great Peterson] BIG “O”. I have the sense that I’ve shared this song before in the same context, but anyway …

That’s all I’ve got. Fun theme, works well. I slight change of pace from the norm. Going to finish up with two more songs, for a total of four (!). First, something from  Squonk Opera’s Bigsmörgåsbørdwünderwerk—because how could I not? And then something that’s a bit of a KNOCKOUT.

Adrian Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Crunch Time”—Jim P’s review

Theme: MIXED NUTS (61a, [Hiking snack found in 16-, 23-, 39- and 50-Across?]). The other theme answers are familiar phrases that hide anagrams of common types of nuts.

Universal crossword solution · “Crunch Time” · Adrian Johnson · Fri., 3.4.22

  • 16a. [Parting words at mass (In this clue’s answer, unscramble letters 4-8)] GO IN PEACE. Pecan.
  • 23a. [Widely known individuals (… letters 7-12)] HOUSEHOLD NAMES. Almond.
  • 39a. [Stress-free laundry machine (… letters 9-14)] AUTOMATIC WASHER. Cashew.
  • 50a. [Government-funded medical center (… letters 5-13)] PUBLIC HOSPITAL. Pistachio(!)

Earlier today I was on Onelook (an online search site that many constructors utilize), checking out its new ability to search for anagrams embedded within other words and phrases—exactly the sort of thing going on here today. I’m really impressed with that pistachio find, which turns up when you do the anagram search at Onelook. (Basically, you go to and type “*//pistachio//*” in the search bar without the quotes and it will find instances of where those letters show up in other phrases in any order.) In addition to PUBLIC HOSPITAL you get another hit with “psychiatric hospital” and—also impressively—”sophisticated,” with only four extraneous letters. Fun stuff.

The theme entries here are well chosen, and I like that all the nuts are at least five letters long. (Of course, there aren’t really any common one-word nuts that are shorter than that.) So even though I didn’t readily figure out the anagrams without the revealer, I enjoyed the aha moment it provided.

STAR ANISE tops the fill today. Its counterpart is “MORE LATER” [“I’ll tell you the rest in a bit”]. Is this something people say? I can’t say that I’ve encountered it very often. The other long entries are a candy bar WRAPPER and REBECCA Black of “Friday” fame. Remember her?

Satanic nightjars

Clue of note:

48d. [Satanic nightjar or nightingale]. BIRD. “Satanic nightjar”? For some reason, I’m envisioning Satan wearing facial night cream. But apparently a nightjar is a type of bird, and the Satanic part comes from the sound the bird reportedly makes. Per Wikipedia, “the bird makes a ‘plip-plop’ call like dripping water, which locals have also likened to the sound of the bird pulling out a person’s eye.” Yeah. I don’t know what that sounds like exactly, but I guess I’ll take their word for it.

A smooth, clean puzzle making for a fine Friday solve. 3.5 stars.

Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker puzzle

Good morning, friends! I didn’t finish this puzzle correctly because I had “Ariadne” over ARACHNE, but I did eventually get there. Entries I liked were LOOK OUT, SPEAK OF THE DEVIL, ALL RISE (clued as [Order in the court?]), TOP HATS, CORNUCOPIA (although I would have liked a little “Hunger Games” reference in the clue), ROLE MODELS, and GODIVA. I liked FRITTER as an entry, and would have preferred a clue that referenced the delicious fried treat rather than the “fritter away” angle.

A predictably lovely puzzle, thanks Caitlin! Also worth noting that I went word by word through the grid and could not find a single piece of fill that I found to be glue-y, which is so, so impressive. (SLOE and GRE were the closest, but I consider those completely valid.)

Kate Chin Park’s USA Today crossword, “End Notes”–Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer ends in a word that is a type of note.

Theme Answers

Kate Chin Park’s USA Today crossword, “End Notes” solution 3/4/2022

Kate Chin Park’s USA Today crossword, “End Notes” solution 3/4/2022

  • 19a [“Like humid summer air”] HOT AND STICKY / STICKY NOTES
  • 36a [“Book series featuring teenagers Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield”] SWEET VALLEY HIGH / HIGH NOTES
  • 56a [“‘Enchanted’ or ‘Encanto’”] MOVIE MUSICAL / MUSICAL NOTES

I thought that this was a really fun Friday theme. I felt like these were very creative themers. I was not familiar with the SWEET VALLEY HIGH series, but the crosses filled it in pretty easily. Plus, it was easy to infer some of this fill as well. I sat for a bit with 17a [“Bright, gas-filled tubes”] NEON LIGHTS and 60a [“Strategy for getting out”] ESCAPE PLAN, wondering if they were also part of the theme, but generally, I loved how they stacked here.

This grid is symmetrical, and it has such rich fill. OREO OS, the 2d [“Cookie-flavored cereal brand”] was another one of those OREO-centered answers that I couldn’t help but laugh at. I also really enjoyed 42a [“Atlantic ___ (period of Aretha Franklin’s career)] for ERA. Overall, I thought that this was a really smooth fill with some great references.

Some other Friday faves:

  • 47d [“Wood that becomes a type of vinaigrette if you add a ‘mic’”] – I fully expect BALSA to be included as a set of theme answers centered around MIC drops in the near future. Someone get on that, please.
  • 49a [“___ Awareness Day (Mar. 29 cat advocacy observance)”]DECLAW Awareness Day is coming up. You can learn more about why it’s important not to declaw your cat here.
  • 50d [“State name from the Unangam Tunuu ‘alaxsxaq’”] – Unangam Tunuu is a branch of the Eskimo-Aleut language. ALASKA takes its name from this language’s term “alaxsxaq.” You can learn more about this history here.

That’s a WRAP on my thoughts for this one. Have a good weekend!

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12 Responses to Friday, March 4, 2022

  1. Jenni Levy says:

    Definitely harder than expected. I put in DUCK instead of PEEL at 13D and MARA instead of RITA at 15d so that corner was a mess and took me quite a while to unravel. Agree about NO BONES and now I have to go look for that pug on TikTok.

  2. Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

    LAT was delightful — and the theme + revealer were much more logical in this solver’s opinion than yesterday’s adding invisible water in the NYT.

  3. Adrian Johnson says:

    Hi Jim, thanks for the great write up. FYI my initial proposal did have SOPHISTICATED paired w the single HOUSEHOLD NAME. The serendipitous PUBLIC HOSPITAL find came after David said yes but wanted all themers split across words- glad he pushed me.

  4. Elise says:

    USA TODAY: 24D crossing 35A and 28D crossing 26A are not really fair crosses.

  5. R says:

    Inkubator: Fun puzzle and great theme, but including NEAR and NEARER is not ideal.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Often a constructor will uncover such a dupe in the cluing process. I wonder if there was a late editorial change to the grid that created the dupe?

      NEARER could have been DEARER (not a great entry) crossing BIRD crossing SIP. Or NEAR could become NE’ER-do-well crossing MEH. Always handy to use the Compiler or Crossfire tool to check for duplicated letter strings, because it is so easy to miss dupes otherwise.

      I would advise the constructor to be wary of entries like EAGERER, word forms/inflections that are little seen in actual conversation or writing. That is the sort of entry I call a roll-your-own word—take a common word, add an affix like RE- or -EST, and create a word that feels a tad jarring to the solver.

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