Allegra Kuney’s Inkubator crossword, “Inner Goddess”—Jenni’s writeup
This one is on the easier side for the Inkubator puzzles. Each theme answer contains the name of a goddess. The clue tells us who worships her and the circles tell us where to find her.
- 20a [Refuge for some strays (Norse)] is an ANIMAL SHELTER. I did not know HEL, which isn’t too surprising since everything I know about Norse mythology I learned from Marvel movies. According to Wikipedia, she might be the daughter of Loki, or maybe not. That Wikipedia article also tells me that a) there is an Icelandic Naming Commission and b) said Commission ruled in 2017 that parents may not name their child Hel because “on the grounds that the name would cause the child significant distress and trouble as it grows up”.
- 35a [Psychoanalytic modality based on creative self-expression (Greek)] is ART THERAPY.
- 43a [Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard, some say (Hindu)] is LOOKALIKES. Indeed.
- 59a [Grammy-winning Childish Gambino track of 2018 (Egyptian)] is THIS IS AMERICA.
Four goddesses, four solid straightforward theme answers. A tight, accessible theme.
A few other things:
- NY pizza is the best pizza and I always BLOT it.
- How long do you take the pulse before you calculate the HEART RATE? I do 15 seconds. The pulse may not accurately indicate the HEART RATE because there may. be non-transmitted/non-contractile beats. The clue is still perfectly fine. I just can’t help myself.
- I remember when my father bought his first STEREO sound system. #amold
- To me, SCRIP is what you use instead of money at an amusement park and SCRIPT is what you put on an Rx.
- 67a [Top ingredients in Hollandaise and what Hollandaise often tops] is a cute clue for EGGS.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: HEL. I also didn’t know that CHER sang “Fernando” in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” and I’ve never heard of Yvonne ORJI.
Chase Dittrich and Jeff Chen’s Universal crossword, “Obscure Musical Acts”—Jim P’s review
I was expecting a revealer of “NO BS” or something similar. Instead we get the surprising COVER BANDS (58a, [Tribute groups, or a four-part hint to the starred clues’ answers]). The “four-part hint” is revealed when you re-parse the phrase as COVER B AND S. In other words, ignore those two letters (or cover them with your thumb, perhaps) to make sense of the second half of each theme clue and the crossing Downs.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get to the themers.
- 17a. [Often-braised meat dish –> *On the ___ (fleeing) + Actor in “Big” and “Forrest Gump”] LAMB SHANKS. The first half of the clue is satisfied by the entry as written. But the second half consists of LAM + HANKS. Thus, we’re to infer that we ignore the BS in the second half. Similarly, we ignore them in crossing REBEL [*Fishing spool] and SMILE [*Four laps on a track, say]. Note that these entries are still valid crossword words even with the B and S.
- 25a. [Graveyard sight –> *Male cat + Sound quality] TOMBSTONE = TOM + (BS) + TONE with crossers BRIDGE AND TSAR.
- 50a. [Some pickup spots –> *Mean dog + March 15, e.g.] CURBSIDES = CUR + (BS) + IDES with crossers VOCAB LIST and HISS. I like that VOCAB LIST/VOCALIST find.
Pretty nifty, yeah? Despite all the moving parts, it wasn’t too difficult to grok and it kept my interest throughout. Like I said, the revealer was surprising, but made sense once I broke it apart. Even the title needed an aha moment, requiring me to re-read it with “obscure” as a verb, not an adjective. Impressively put together all around.
With all that theme going on, there’s not a lot of room for extra sparkle, but GREAT IDEA is top notch. I also liked GOALIE, LUPITA Nyong’o, and JET LI. Everything else is fairly standard, but pleasantly crud-free. I even spotted my Wordle starting word at 15a.
Clues of note:
- 1d. [Bird that flies silently]. OWL. Is this a feature particular to owls? Because I would think most birds are fairly quiet when they fly. Obviously owls are predators, but so are a great many other birds.
- 56d. [Aircraft carrier?]. TRAY. You mean the seatback TRAY? Calling it a carrier is a bit of a stretch.
I found the theme satisfyingly meaty but still accessible. The smooth fill only adds to the overall experience. Four stars.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
The revealer spells it out.
- 49aR [Classic Looney Tunes tagline offering some “direction” in solving the starred clues] WHAT’S UP, DOC. Accordingly, that trigram appears in each of those answers, but heads northward in each case.
- 17a. [*Guide for Smithsonian visitors, say] MUSEUM DOCENT.
9d. [Indulge] CODDLE.
- 22a. [*Ken Burns specialty] DOCUMENTARY FILM.
16d. [Eccentric old guys] CODGERS.
- 42a. [*Southeast Asian colonial region dismantled in 1954] FRENCH INDOCHINA.
39d. [Fish-and-chips dish] COD.
I really enjoyed this theme. Not world-shatteringly new, but fresh enough and very competently executed.
- 4d [What a siren does] TEMPTS. 54a [Pro using a siren, perhaps] EMT.
- 25d [The Alamo, e.g.] FORT. 29d [Starting point of many modern missions] LAUNCH PAD.
- 38d [First Amendment concern] PRESS. As in, Freedom of. The founders knew how vital a free and functional press is to democracy.
- 1a [Earth, for one] ORB. 45a [Earth’s volume?] ATLAS. 57a [Earth opening?] GEO.
- 4a [Dred Scott decision Chief Justice] TANEY.
- 13a [Two-digit sign] VEE. As in fingers.
- 38a [Volcanic eruption sight] PLUME. I tried SPUME first.
Okay, regular readers will know that in my write-ups I tend to make a habit of collecting and reporting similarly-worded or otherwise aligned clues/answers—I’ve done so today as well. BUT, this crossword was so full of them it would have been weird to enumerate them all, or even most. So as shorthand I will limn some more here: 5d/52a ACURA/Legends; 7d/31a Combat/WAR; 7d/34a LINE/Line; 39d/41d chips/Chips; 46d/50d Brutus/Brutus. So, was I targeted?
- 31d [Unsettling] WORRISOME.
Evans Clinchy’s New York Times crossword—Matthew’s writeup
Matt here, filling in for Amy for the next two Fridays.
Neat grid from Evans Clinchy today, little more segmented in the middle than we’d typically see in a NYT themeless, but in large part due to 15s in the top and bottom connected by QUICK QUESTION [“I just need to know this one thing …”] running right down the middle of the grid.
I quite liked the clues in particular for the long stuff – I’ve already mentioned 16d, but there’s a diversity of voice in the clues, from the academic [15a- Adage attributed to Virgil’s “Eclogue X”] for LOVE CONQUERS ALL, to the glib [64a- Conceitedly dogmatic] for OVEROPINIONATED, to the mild editorializing of [17a- Not be completely open with everyone, to put it mildly] for LEAD A DOUBLE LIFE. I’m noticing strong, imagery-rich clues more often lately, across all puzzles, and while it’s probably just me rather than a sea change from editors and constructors, I like it all the same.
I had mixed experiences to the other clues in this one – lots of stuff where I saw the misdirection coming, and something in each corner that I couldn’t sort out for a good bit. [44d Something that’s thrown out while using it] ANCHOR was delightful to figure out, while I’m a little less certain about [66a What father knows best?] for PRAYERS. I get the angle, but I would like “Father” to be capitalized here. Altogether, though, a nice challenge to start the weekend!
- 27a [Where to see license plates that say “Greatest Snow on Earth”] UTAH. I haven’t seen these – only the ones with the Delicate Arch on them. But it was unlikely to be OHIO or IOWA even before getting a crossing.
- 31a [Alternative to an autocamp] MOTEL. AutoCamp is a new word for me, though I know the concept and figured out the entry in time.
- 48d [Key of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”] A MINOR. I think this may be the first piece of music I know the key for without any help, thanks entirely to crossword puzzles. Inefficient way to learn that specific piece of info, but I learned it all the same!
Hoang-Kim Vu & Angela Pai’s USA Today crossword, “At the Present Moment”—Darby’s writeup
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer begins with a word that is a step in the gift-giving process. They are in chronological order, moving from buying, wrapping, to giving, and then to opening.
- 17a [“Ask for an extension, for example”] BUY SOME TIME
- 29a [“Garment that became a feminist symbol”] WRAP DRESS
- 44a [“Quick one-two play in sports”] GIVE AND GO
- 57a [“Writings of protest”] OPEN LETTERS
What an awesome theme! I love that these are in order so that we get a full image of the moments of gift-giving. Four theme answers fitting in order like this is such a feat, especially given how open the rest of the grid is. I fill in BUY SOME TIME and then worked somewhat insularly through everything else, so it wasn’t until I was finished that I noticed the theme, which I at first thought might have more to do with TIME based on that first answer. This quickly changed when I looked more holistically at the theme answers.
Some Friday faves:
- 27a [“Capital where bun cha originated”] – Bun cha are Vietnamese meatballs that come out of HANOI. They look absolutely delicious , and this recipe will make your mouth water, so open with caution (but seriously do it). HANOI was also one of several geography answers, such as LIMA, MALAWI, and LAOS.
- 48a [“Predecessor of Apple Music”] – Weren’t times of trying to get your iPod to sync with ITUNES so much simpler? RIP ITUNES.
- 12d [“The ___ of Life (Chinese cooking blog)”] – While I was unfamiliar with this blog before, my pun brain quickly came to the rescue, and I can guarantee that I will be grinning and spending a lot of time on The WOKS of Life from now on. Also, this blog, with bun cha, has only added to my morning hunger, with other food-related mentions of AHI tuna, MEATLOAF, NAAN, RISOTTO, and EARs of corn.
A great puzzle that has left me starving but delighted! Also – this is Angela Pai’s debut!! What an awesome puzzle to kick it off with; I can’t wait to see more!
Good morning, everyone!
Entries that I liked: BLANK STARE, DONT BOTHER, CUTS CORNERS, THAT DOES IT, PROTEST VOTE, CATNAPPED
Entries that I didn’t like: I’ve never heard of LAIC and I’ve only heard of LIEN from puzzles. Them crossing is tough. I always prefer seeing DESI clued in reference to the Indian diaspora, but that’s just me.
Clues I liked: [One hired to improve a boxer’s performance] for DOG TRAINER and [What may help with bed-wetting?] for GARDEN HOSE. The clue for OEDIPUS, [Jocasta’s son… and husband], is one of my favorite types. I read it and thought “Jocasta? Who on Earth is that. This clue is impossible, I’ll get it from crossings” and then as the letters fell into place I realized.
Things I want to talk about:
- At work, I write code, and I frequently get notified by an Automated Code Checker that what I have written is ERROR PRONE. So now I hate that term!! Aarrrghhhh.
- I totally would not have guessed A CHORUS LINE was the longest-running musical and… Wikipedia seems to agree with me? It has it seventh, with Phantom first for Broadway musicals. Am I missing something?
- This puzzle writes “Fight for Fifteen” but I usually see it stylized as “Fight for $15.” Maybe they thought the dollar sign would give away minimum WAGE? This movement started in 2012– $15 of 2012 money is equivalent to $19 of 2022 money…. and we still haven’t even passed this at a federal level. Any law that lists a number for minimum wage rather than a formula that takes into account inflation, housing prices, gas prices, and the poverty line, is a poorly written law, in my opinion.