Nova Qi’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #34″—Jenni’s writeup
This themeless did indeed feel moderately challenging, so for once I agree with the editor’s assessment. When there’s a Game of Thrones reference running all the way through the middle of the puzzle, I’m in for at least a bit of a struggle. Everything I know about GoT, I learned from crosswords. This is also true of The Simpsons and many of the “prestige dramas” of the past few years.
Despite my stumbles, I enjoyed the puzzle! It was satisfying to see it all fall into place – eventually.
- I didn’t have to get [Title for Daenerys] completely from crossings. I was able to infer MOTHER OF DRAGONS because I do know that there are DRAGONS in GoT. I know this largely because we spent some time in Croatia in June. Split and Dubrovnik are definitely cashing in on GoT-related tourism and there were lots of dragons.
- The other 15 was a gimme. 34a [Method used by Rosalind Franklin to visualize 56-across] is X–RAY DIFFRACTION. Always love seeing Franklin recognized.
- I also enjoyed 12d [“Um, I mind”] for CAN YOU NOT?
- 46d [Chain where you might order “wooder ice”] is RITA‘S. IFYKYK. For more real PA content, check out John Fetterman’s Twitter feed. And don’t say “crudité.”
- Props to Nova Qi and the Inkubator team for using [2020 Olympic all-around gymnastics champion Sunisa] to cue LEE.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: MOTHER OF DRAGONS. I also did not know that Lorde’s debut album was PURE HEROINE, that Viola Davis is a LEO, or that Brie Larson starred in ROOM.
Patrick John Duggan’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Sorry about all the shorter-than-usual write-ups this week. Work is extra-busy these days, just trying to keep other obligations to a manageable size.
Fave fill: FIJI, “SMOOTH MOVE, EX-LAX,” TIP JARS (great clue, [They’re open to change]), SWAHILI, ATHEIST looking askance at neighboring ST PETER, “I WON’T MINCE WORDS,” JEOPARDY!, FOXHOLE (the ATHEIST could well be in there, though). Not keen on: abbreviated MAIN ST.
TOKES and POT USER are timely since I did the puzzle a few minutes after complaining that someone’s skunky weed fumes were wafting through my window. I miss the old days when pot smelled like pot and not skunk juice.
[It’s not your fault] a tricky clue for LET SERVE, meaning the tennis court umpire doesn’t call a fault when your serve hits the net. Didn’t know that LET SERVE, as opposed to just LET, was in-the-language. Is it?
Four stars from me.
Rebecca Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
We’ve dropped a trigram from the themed entries.
- 35aR [“You can’t deny it,” and a good question about the answers to the starred clues] WHERE IS THE LIE.
- 18a. [*Sounds when Dad is on the roller coaster?] POP’S WHEES (pops wheelies). The original phrase is, as Amy sometimes says, roll-your-own.
- 24a. [*Football official who makes the absolute worst calls?] DISASTER REF (disaster relief).
- 47a. [*Extremely poor student?] LORD OF THE FS (Lord of the Flies).
- 56a. [*Woefully inadequate crust on a steak?] SORRY CHAR (sorry, Charlie).
After recounting the themers, I see that the first one is an outlier not just because it’s a weak original phrase. It’s also the only one that isn’t presented as a negative, extreme negative at that—”absolute worst”, “extremely poor”, “woefully inadequate”.
Overall the cluing has a freshness that imparts a real liveliness to the puzzle. Some very notable examples: 59a [Single-sex group of experts] is the portmanteau MANEL, 65a [Study __ ] SESH gives us no question mark or qualifier, 5d [“Well done, you!”] GOLD STAR, 27d [A throw] EACH.
- 6d [Hawk in a duet] OSPREY. Duet is the collective noun for ospreys. I found a facebook post asserting that it’s a fitting name because (1) the birds are mostly solitary, only pairing up only during the breeding season, (2) males and females have distinct vocal ranges, so when they call to each other there is a duet quality.
- 26d [Flat bread?] RENT. 54a [Bread served with saag paneer] ROTI.
- 38d [Kitchen counter?] EGG TIMER. Great clue.
- 58d [Gardener’s tool] HOE. It’s always a HOE. Just too useful in crosswords, I guess.
- 20a [Tower of note] AAA. The ol’ homonym misdirection.
- 23a [Adjective on taco truck menus] ASADA, which means ‘roasted’. Hey, wanna know what that translates to in French? rôti!
- 28a [Start to cycle?] TRI-. Whenever I see clues like this, my first thought is never tri- or uni-, it’s epi-. The reason is that I have a few shorthand concepts from history that I feel explain human behavior and the notion of astronomers persisting in postulating more and more epicycles to explain the orbits of the planets is one of them.
- 15a [Underwhelming] SO-SO. 46a [Response from the underwhelmed] MEH. 40a [“I hate it”] UGH. 61a [“Yeah, don’t think so] UM NO. Narrative arc?
Doug Burnikel and Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal crossword, “Insect Sound”—Jim P’s review
Despite the title, the theme has nothing to do with buzzing or clicking. Instead, we have familiar phrases where one of the words is a homophone for an insect.
- 16a. [“There’s just no way”] “IT COULDN’T BE!” Bee.
- 59a. [Informal addition to the Fab Four] FIFTH BEATLE. Beetle.
- 10d. [“Secrets of the Zoo” network] NAT GEO WILD. Gnat.
- 28d. [Run away] FLEE ON FOOT. Flea.
Hmm. Not my favorite Burnikel theme. For starters, in the two Across answers, the insect is the last word, so I was casting about high and low for other phrases with insect homophones at the end. It took me a while post-solve to find the two Down ones where the insect comes first. Asterisks marking the theme answers would’ve helped in this case. Second, “Beatle” is clearly already a pun on “beetle,” so it feels like an outlier. Lastly, FLEE ON FOOT feels a bit artificial; why not replace it with AUNT (somebody}? AUNT SALLY (of “order of operations” fame) could be paired with NAT TURNER.
But aside from those nits (haha) in the theme, the grid is wonderful with the likes of ALONE TIME, NO-BRAINER, “ARE WE OK?,” GALILEO, “TOLD YA!,” ELF HAT, and “BAD DOG!” I had a fun time solving the grid as a themeless.
In sum, a lovely grid, but the theme felt like a rare miss from Team Burnikel. Three stars.
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today crossword, “Codebreaker”—Darby’s writeup
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer is bookended by lettings spelling out CODE, literally breaking CODE up.
- 20a [“‘It’s a beautiful day – join us!’”] COME OUTSIDE
- 38a [“Video game setting that might give you infinite lives”] CHEAT MODE
- 60a [“Breaded seafood patty served with tartar sauce”] CODFISH CAKE
The variety in these themers were prime. They were each very different and really fun. COME OUTSIDE felt very summer-appropriate, and CHEAT MODE was extra fun, I think, since it sounded so much like CHEAT CODE (which of course would’ve been too much of a dupe to have be a themer). COD FISH CAKES threw me off since I wanted the answer to just be COD CAKES, but I got there eventually.
This grid had a really tight center that allowed for those great open corners. I loved NO NOTES, DOG PARK, and SAMOSAS especially, but the longer fill here was really stellar.
Some Friday faves:
- 1d [“Desert of Chile”] – The ATACAMA desert is the oldest desert on the planet, having been arid for 150 million years. It is approximately 50,000 square miles in area. According to this Live Science article, there’s a possibility that studying the conditions in the ATACAMA can help us understand life on other planets.
- 24d [“Churrasco alternative”] – ASADO is a pork shoulder dish most associated with Pampanga in the Philippines, and it looks delicious. You should check out the recipe here and then work on putting some in your 3d [“Belly”] STOMACH immediately.
- 38d [“Bagel-shaped music holders”] – I still have a small collection of CDS in my car, and I always love seeing this description of them.
I’ve got to ADMIT that I felt a bit like a spy codebreaking throughout this puzzle. In the words of 11d [“‘It’s perfect as-is!’”] NO NOTES.
Peter Gordon’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s recap
We’ve got five themers today from Peter. That in itself isn’t wildly uncommon, but I like the placement of them in this left-right symmetric grid: two long downs, two (stacked!) acrosses in the bottom, and then one broken up across two down clues in the upper middle.
- 3d [Total lack of culpability, anatomically speaking] CLEAN HANDS
- 6d [With 8-Down, fear of committing to a course of action, anatomically speaking] COLD FEET
- 11d [Openness to bribery, anatomically speaking] ITCHY PALMS
- 49a [Tendency to blab, anatomically speaking] LOOSE LIPS
- 53a [Propensity to steal, anatomically speaking] STICKY FINGERS
Fun theme set! I’ll admit that by the end I was tired of hand-related options, but that feels a small nit to pick. The fill flowed easily for me, particularly for 74 words and five themers, but was also gentle enough that it’s possible I missed something during the solve that would have felt odd. But I don’t see anything particularly gluey now! It’s just a nice puzzle, and a nice indication that there may still be a solution for constructors when a theme set doesn’t fit nicely into rotational symmetry.
Lots of tennis in this grid! EMMA Radacanu, Monica SELES, NAOMI Osaka. Peter is not shy to put sports in the grids. Seles and Osaka will be familiar to solvers by now from their appearance in grids if not their fame, and Emma Radacanu is a rising star for whom this is not the first nor last grid appearance.
I’m not sure I’m fully up to speed on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” but ALEX Borstein is the highlight of the show for me. I see now that she is also the voice of Lois Griffin in “Family Guy,” a show I have very little interest in.
NYT: Generally wonderful clueing that overcame the EX-LAX reference. I’ve either never heard the insult or have blocked it from my mind, having spent a miserable road trip circa 1972 that involved heavy EX-LAX usage (not by me!).
Ha! That does sound like a particularly unpleasant experience. Great entry, though, and this puzzle had several more.
Like others I’m not a fan of LET SERVE — I’m wondering if the clue submitted was something not even related to tennis — but luckily, as you say, there was enough fun wordplay elsewhere to eclipse that clunker.
NYT: This has been addressed previously, but not recently. If the clue for ATHEIST is going to be [One in a state of disbelief] it should at least have a question mark. There is a difference between disbelief and nonbelief.
Agree. My belief is that there is no God.
Also, thank you for including Bjork — always welcome!
The clarifier for me is that strong atheism is saying, “I believe there is no god,” and weak atheism is saying, “I don’t believe there is a god.” So weak atheism is a rejection of an assertion, and not an assertion inandofitself. Strong atheism is syllogistically problematic in that 1) the burden of proof has been adopted and 2) it’s nigh impossible to prove that something DOESN’T exist. I unfortunately underwent a “militant atheist” phase–which I eventually abandoned after I realized I was proselytizing about not being proselytized to–but I’ve softened over the years and now I view my atheism as a symptom of skepticism and critical thinking.
I agree that neither I nor anyone else can prove there is no God, and I make no such claim. My firm belief that there is no God is just that — a belief.
I wouldn’t describe myself as a militant atheist. I don’t go around trying to convince others of what I think, and I detest beyond words Dawkins and Dennett.
Did not mean to imply you were coming off as militant. Didn’t think that at all. I find Dennett pretty meh, but Dawkins is definitely a hero. I would be curious to know what you find repulsive about Dawkins.
My beef with Dawkins is that he claims to argue against religion but makes not the slightest effort to understand what religion is and why many people adhere to various forms of it. He regards religion as nothing more than a primitive form of science, and finds it wanting. Big surprise! Then he explains to religious people (I think this is in “The God Delusion”) that they are all misguided and credulous and insufficiently rational, and is surprised they don’t all immediately see the light and come around to his point of view.
In addition to what David said, Dawkins is also disgustingly Islamophobic. In 2013 he bashed Muslims by saying they hadn’t been awarded Nobel Prizes but “did great things in the Middle Ages, though” and, earlier in the same year, said that “Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world today.” He just tries to dress up his bigotry as rational skepticism (and fails at it, imo).
Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t go along with you folks. To me disbelief in X is no more than “I don’t believe in X,” and that’s quite as strong as “I believe there is no X.” Unbelief is entirely common a usage in ordinary speech, too. And neither is equivalent to agnosticism, which might lie somewhere between “I can’t swear to X” and “I don’t know what to believe.”
It’s not at all parallel to the real distinction between “I can’t prove X” and “I can prove there is no X,” similar in syntax as they are. Rather, it depends not on syntax but on the meaning of the words. Indeed, the definition of “atheism” in RHUD uses “disbelief,” while MW11C has “a lack of belief or strong disbelief,” where “strong” clearly isn’t playing the role it does in Placematfan’s clear statement. (I’m using X not from a Jew’s fear of speaking the name of God but to generalize in order to focus on the terms that matter.)
The dictionary also agrees with you, John, about what “disbelieving” means in general.
I think the simplest way to explain atheism is thus: it’s just the prefix “a-” (meaning “against” or “not” or whatever, like in “asymptomatic”) + “theism”. Theism is an assertion that God exists; atheism is a rejection of that assertion. David L’s above post is very pertinent in that belief and knowledge are different, and comprise their own branches of logic, ontology and epistemology. Knowledge is a subset of belief.
It means “without”.
One of the funnier ways that I’ve heard people describe this distinction is that atheism is a belief in the same way as not collecting stamps is a hobby.
That’s pretty good.
Rebecca, I do not understand the clue and answer “tower of note = A A A” Could you please explain?
Triple A (AAA) is known to tow a lot of vehicles, making them a tower of note :) .
TNY: Must say it’s been disappointing to see the New Yorker dumb down their Friday themed puzzles. This one might just be the nadir so far — not even Times Monday-level, it’s more like the Penny Dell claptrap you see in supermarket checkout lines. Bleh.
I’ll grant you that it was not a hard puzzle, but I enjoyed the collection of idiomatic phrases — especially the apposition of clean hands and itchy palms. Very clever.
Yeah, I should clarify that I didn’t dislike the puzzle itself, just wish they would consider offering a more challenging themer in addition to the easy one. Surely four themeless/week could be pared down to three? Would make for a more rounded mix at any rate.
While I’m here though, one nit: What’s with all the tennis players populating the grid? I felt like I was *at* the U.S. Open!
You want a challenge? Try the Sunday Cryptic. And TNY is nowhere near as hard as the “real” [Brit] thing.
Didn’t feel like a Monday Times puzzle to me. It has a double life, you might say, because of the TNY addiction to trivia. So right off you think you’re getting a pushover with 1A/1D as NEARS for approaches and sodium chloride for salt. But in time wherever I tried to get started, I was hitting yet another proper name. Ugh.
Not that I can assign it a place in the NYT day of the week scale. The Times just doesn’t earn its difficulty the same way. Of course, too, many other than I will find the names their life.
Also bear in mind that the Friday puzzle doesn’t promise a difficulty level at all. The Monday to Thursday progression is over, with Friday as united only by having a theme (an overly modest one by far, if you ask me). Last week it was hard, and another week it might be easy even for pop culture haters like me.
Rebecca, Never mind (as I slap my head)! ugh!
You have to love these misdirects… tower, flower, shower etc. :) .
I raised an eyebrow at LETSERVE. Google finds quite a few examples of it, often in the form of questions — ‘what is a let serve?’, for example. The answers generally refer simply to lets or service lets. LETSERVE strikes me as unidiomatic, if you know anything about tennis or other racket sports, but it’s out there.
I thought I was a tennis fan from a tennis family, but I balked at LET SERVE, too.
NYT: 24 across. I can’t see the connection of the clue “The drinks are on me!” with the answer
The bar’s printed menu will typically list some of the available cocktails.
I understood it, but I didn’t like it. I think the only places I’ve ever seen something called a “bar menu” is where they don’t serve the full menu of food at the bar (vs. tables). Otherwise, it’s a “drink menu” or a “cocktail menu.”
I have tried for 15 minutes to get the answer to KenKen 4 x 4 on August 19 and I am unable to access the answers. Very frustrating. I also clicked on “how to open a can without a can opener” and nothing came up about how to do this. Your website seems to be useless.