Grace Whitney’s Inkubator crossword, “Doctoring the Recipe”—Jenni’s write-up
I think a steady diet of Spelling Bee and my recent foray in the world of cryptics has improved my anagram ability. That helped today. This is Grace Whitney’s world debut! Welcome to Crossworld. I look forward to seeing more of your work!
Each theme clue is an anagram of a spice.
- 3d [*Carried on] is CORIANDER.
- 17a [*Curse my bra!] is SUMAC BERRY. The clue is very on-brand for the Inkubator, and very funny.
- 24a [*Sedate drums] is MUSTARD SEED.
- 36d [*Arise, ants!] is STAR ANISE.
- 50a [*Bananaville] is VANILLA BEAN.
And the revealer: 63a [Masalas, e.g. …or what the starred clues in this puzzle are] is SPICE MIXES. Nice! Also tasty. We’re cooking for Pesach so the SPICE MIXES around here are heavily weighted toward salt and garlic with a bit of cinnamon and ginger for the charoset.
A few other things:
- Don’t ask me how I knew that [Sauron’s soldiers] are ORCS. I’ve never read LOTR but I’ve done a lot of crossword puzzles.
- 30a [Renaissance : ____ :: present day : gray sweatpants] is the funniest FITB clue I’ve ever seen. The answer is CODPIECES.
- 32d [Negroni liqueur] is CAMPARI. The things you learn when your husband takes up craft cocktails as a retirement/pandemic hobby….
- 23a and 60d tie RDA and IRON together. Post-menopausal people don’t need as much. This is why I love the Inkubator. People menstruate. They acknowledge that as if it were an everyday occurrence. Which it is.
- 71a [Spelt alternative] is RYE. I say it’s chametz and I say the hell with it.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of a thirst trap before.
Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
A lotta long answers in the 7- to 15-letter range, a lotta 3s, and also an awful lot of X’s. I didn’t see a ton of the clues for the 3s so never noticed dull KOP and ELS, but certainly did take note of fave fill X-RAY EYES, XOXOXOXO (I usually stop at xoxoxo), XYLOPHONE MALLET, TEXTBOOK EXAMPLE, OLIVE OYL, SOLAR PLEXUS, the goofiness of the YOO-HOO/YO HO HO pair, the ARMY-NAVY game, ELIXIR (one of my favorite words), and FALL EQUINOX (what, the editors couldn’t run this 7 months ago or 5 months from now?).
Five more things:
- 37d. [Place to pick up litter?], PET STORE. I misread this as referring to a litter of puppies and thought “Nooooo!” (try a rescue or a reputable breeder, not a pet store) but it’s kitty litter you’re getting.
- 30a. [Florida city in the middle of “horse country”], OCALA. A friend in Tampa reports that Ocala’s area is also kinda Confederacy/militia country.
- 53a. [Fictional narrator whose first name is a fruit], FINN. Friends of mine have a dog named Huckleberry, but I assume it’s after cartoondom’s Huckleberry Hound rather than a Twain character.
- 7d. [Beautiful and rare], EXOTIC ] / 25d. [Rarer than rare], TARTARE. Nice play on the disparate meanings of rare. The closest thing I’ve had to a TARTARE dish is carpaccio … zucchini carpaccio. So good!
- 8d. [Chaz, to Cher], SON. I know I’m not the only one who appreciates it when the crossword is inclusive. There are a zillion ways to clue SON, and it makes me happy to see Chaz Bono (who is transgender) get a little cruciverbal love.
3.9 stars from me.
Blaire Bas & Bruce Haight’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
This one played harder for me than most LAT Fridays. Rather than filling it from one section to the next, I ended up making disparate inroads here and there before I was able to see enough of the the theme answers to understand them, and then slowly draw it all together.
Feels as if the clues were a bit more obscurant than usual?
Back to the theme. We’ve got silent-K homophones of words beginning with N, and appropriately wacky clues.
- 18a. [More desirable entanglement?] BETTER KNOT (better not).
- 23a. [Political upheaval around the castle?] KNIGHT SHIFT (night shift).
- 39a. [Need something warm and fuzzy?] HAVE A KNIT TO PICK (have a nit to pick).
- 52a. [Something small, sad and a-pealing?] LITTLE KNELL (Little Nell).
- 61a. [Understood the routine?] KNEW NORMAL (new normal).
I would be surprised if this isn’t territory covered by one or more previous crosswords, but that doesn’t diminish my enjoyment here.
- 27d [Standing] ERECT / 28d [Flattens] DECKS.
- 32d [Activity with castles] CHESS. Some cognitive interference—at least for me—with themer 23-across.
- 34d [Banquet offerings] TV DINNERS. This contains a veiled capital for the brand name.
- 48d [Holed up] HID OUT. My mistake here was to go with HIDING. 67a [Worked around home?] UMPED disabused me of that notion.
- Least favorite clue/answer: 63d [Atmo- kin] AER-. The plural ETDS is a close second (43a).
- 22a [Like some ice cream holders] CONOID. Was not expecting such a precise mathematical term here.
- 46d [1862 battle site] SHILOH.
A welcome minor workout today!
Taylor Johnson’s Universal crossword, “It’s All Pretty Standard”—Jim P’s review
Theme: CENTRAL TIME ZONE (59a, [Region for Bismarck and Montgomery, and a hint to the middle three letters of 17-, 27- and 45-Across). The other theme answers are familiar phrases with abbreviations for the other time zones found in their very center.
- 17a. [Competition winner] LAST ONE STANDING.
- 27a. [Temporary retailers] POP-UP STORES.
- 45a. [Trances] DREAM STATES.
I didn’t know what was going on until I got to the revealer. Then I went and searched out those middle three letters to find the other time zones. I have to admit I was underwhelmed. Having to find a TLA in a theme answer doesn’t feel like much of a theme, especially when the letters in question are very common ones. It also would have been nice if they were presented in geographical order, either east to west or west to east.
I do give props for the constraint of having the abbreviations in the exact center of each phrase. I’m sure that limited the selection pool quite a bit.
On the other hand we do have some meaty long fill to enjoy. A BITE TO EAT and PARTY LINES top that list along with GLEE CLUB and “LET ‘ER RIP!” There’s also teen ATTITUDES and IDEALIZED. I always like seeing USENET [Early online forum] and wonder how many solvers today ever actually used it (I did).
Clues of note:
- 23a. [Record for later]. TAPE. Do people actually still say this? I generally say “record” when referring to taking a video or saving a TV program.
- 31a. [Diet soda discontinued in 2020]. TAB. Huh. I thought it was gone long before that.
- 35a. [Address that’s gender-neutral in “Battlestar Galactica”]. SIR. Despite my self-proclaimed geekery, I never watched that show (the new one). I like the clue though.
- 62a. [“Go Hang a Salami! I’m a Lasagna Hog!” palindromist Jon]. AGEE. I met Jon AGEE and his wife at the ACPT in 2017(?) when Will Shortz ran the palindrome championship concurrently with the crossword tournament. He didn’t win, but it was fun chatting with them, and now it’s fun seeing him in a crossword from time to time.
- 11d. [What you may legally grab at the mall]. A BITE TO EAT. I found this clue strange. Is it a reference to something? There are a lot of places where you might grab A BITE TO EAT.
- 51d. [___ Likely (annoying caller ID)]. SCAM. Hmm. My iPhone will say “Possible Spam,” so I thought SPAM might go here, but I knew it was elsewhere in the grid (at 47d). I guess T-Mobile phones use the phrase “SCAM Likely.”
A very nice grid, but the theme was on the tepid side. 3.25 stars.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Triple H”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer includes three consecutive words that begin with H for a “triple H” combo.
- 16a [“1982 hit song by Arrow”] HOT HOT HOT
- 38a [“Enthusiastic cheer”] HIP HIP HOORAY
- 60a [“Trio in some bios”] HE HIM HIS
I loved this set of themers. They’re so fun and Friday appropriate. As the week ends, I definitely feel the HIP HIP HOORAY vibes. Plus, I love the continued normalization of pronouns in the USA Today puzzles, so I was delighted to see HE HIM HIS as a themer today.
This asymmetric grid has some fun black square patterns, and it all works well with the fill. Having EXIT ONLY, HABANERO, OVER HERE, and IT’S MAGIC made for a lively grid. I think it’s one that stands even without its clues (though that would make for an extra difficult solve).
Some Friday favs include:
- 19a [“Bird attracted to grape jelly”] – ORIOLEs are not the only bird with a craving for your favorite Schmuckers flavor; woodpeckers, tanagers, and others also enjoy it. I definitely recommend taking a minute today to google “oriole grape jelly feeder,” which auto-filled when I went to search for more information on this.
- 30a [“Treme’s city, for short”] – Treme is a show that premiered on HBO and ran from 2010-2013. It centers on the lives of NOLA residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Many of its cast members are from New Orleans themselves, adding a cool layer to the series.
- 57a [“Foamy coffee drink”] – I definitely under-caffeinated yesterday, so I was pumped to see both LATTE and its variation 65a [“Chocolaty coffee drinks”] MOCHAS.
Would recommend this puzzle over and over again. You should check it out – 12d [“‘Otherwise…’”] OR ELSE.
NYT: What fun!!
I’m perplexed by FALLEQUINOX at 12D. I wanted the answer to be midsummer or midwinter, ie one of the solstices. I’m not aware of the equinoxes being an occasion for Druidic meet-ups, and it seems the people in charge of Stonehenge don’t know about it either.
There are a lot of references if you Google Stonehenge equinox, so it looks legit,
Hmm, I’m not sure if that’s legit history or modern tourist bait…
FWIW, here’s a link that doesn’t seem tourism-related … https://druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druid-festivals
I didn’t find it very hard to find references to Druid festivals related to the equinoxes. I didn’t study it enough to determine if their more tourism related or not, but given the number of references, it seems pretty legit to me.
Ugh … I just re-read my post and I’m embarrassed that I committed a cardinal grammatical sin. Of course, I meant “determine if they’re more tourism related or not”, not “their”. The anal perfectionist in me wouldn’t let that pass without correcting it.
I looked again at the page I linked to earlier, and found this statement:
“There is no evidence to suggest that the people who built Stonehenge marked the midpoints between the solstices in spring and autumn. Although people today gather at the equinoxes at Stonehenge to watch the sunrise, archaeo-astronomers think it is unlikely that the equinoxes meant anything to prehistoric people.”
So the idea that the equinoxes had some significance to the druids of long-ago seems to be a modern fancy, pushed by people today who have co-opted and added to druidic traditions for their own hippy-dippy purposes.