Friday, October 14, 2022

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker untimed (Matt) 


NYT 5:13 (Amy) 


Universal 3:30 (Sophia) 


USA Today untimed (Darby) 


Beth Rubin & Robyn Weintraub’s Inkubator crossword, “Keep It Down!”—Jenni’s write-up

I love seeing Robyn’s name on a puzzle! I know that no matter the difficulty level it will be smooth, solidly constructed, and a joy to solve. After this I will also look forward to Beth’s work. The Inkubator staff had it right when they said this one was lightly challenging.

I figured out what was going on with the second the theme entry so I didn’t need the revealer for an explanation. It still added to the fun.

Inkubator, October 13, 2022, Beth Rubin and Robyn Weintraub, “Keep It Down!” solution grid

  • 17a [*Double-reeded woodwinds with a deeper sound than oboes] are ENGLISH HORNS.
  • 27a [*Whirlybirds often heard whump-whump-whumping in a hit ’70s-’80s TV show] are MASH HELICOPTERS. This is the weakest of the theme entries. It’s still fine, but I don’t think anyone called them that. If you missed the recent NYT piece on the 50th anniversary of the show, it’s worth reading.
  • 44a [*Commuter’s daily grind featuring beeps and honks] is RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC.

And the revealer: 58a [“You’re going to wake the little one with all the noise around here!” — or a plea for quiet hidden in the starred entries] is BABYS NAPPING. Each theme entry contains the string SHH. Cute!

A few other things:

  • “Montblanc” is the PEN. Mont Blanc is the Alp.
  • 2d [Cycle with four pedals] is a great clue for TANDEM.
  • 11a [Butt] is CIG. If this were the NYT, that would have been a gimme; in an indie crossword I’m never quite sure which sense of “butt” we’re looking for.
  • 28d [Flavored frozen drink] is a SLUSHIE, not a SLURPEE (my first answer).
  • I feel like we see “smart ALEC” more often than today’s “smart ALECKS” which is the spelling I prefer. Google Ngram agrees with me.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Tori AMOS is a spokesperson for RAINN. For those who don’t know, RAINN is the National Sexual Assault hotline. Info here. The number is (800) 656-4673 and they have chat available at

David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 10 14 22, no. 1014

In brief–


Not sure if I like PJ TOP.  I generally say “pajama top” or “pajama bottoms,” with the PJs abbreviation for the complete set or a one-piece sleepwear.

Fave clue: [Washington, Jackson, or Ford] for MOVIE STAR. Denzel or John David, Glenda or Samuel L., Harrison.

4.25 stars from me. Some of the long fill was clued so clearly (not tricky enough for my taste!), it really didn’t feel tough at all.

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Outlandish”—Jenni’s write-up

Editors: Anna Gundlach and Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer’s outer letters at the beginning and end together spell LAND.

Theme Answers

Rafael Musa's USA Today crossword, "Outlandish" solution for 10/14/2022

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Outlandish” solution for 10/14/2022

  • 19a [“Doesn’t keep up”] LAGS BEHIND
  • 36a [“The unofficial end of summer”] LABOR DAY WEEKEND
  • 52a [“Eleventh hour”] LAST SECOND

While literally outlandish in their spellings, these themers were really solid. I started to fill in FALL SOLSTICE instead of LABOR DAY WEEKEND at first but quickly realized that that didn’t make sense before putting in LABOR DAY WEEKEND. LAGS BEHIND also fell into place easily, but I had LAST MINUTE instead of LAST SECOND at first. Funnily enough, it was EDGES that fixed it for me, a nice reminder of the need for the answer’s EDGES to spell LAND. 

I was kicking myself for not remembering MSN from the start, but I usually flip to Down answers if I don’t get 1a right off the bat. As a result, the crosses filled in the NW corner pretty smoothly. I was sporadic throughout the rest of the puzzle needing some confirmation on 28a [“Bewilder”] because ADDLE didn’t feel right at first. High School Musical immediately started playing in my head as I filled in 40a [“‘___ all in this together’”] WE’RE, and that will ECHO throughout my head today. 

A few Friday faves

  • 3d [“Job that involves looking into leaks and leads”] – This was the most difficult of the NW Down answers for me to fill since I wanted it to be JOURNALIST, which is obviously too short. However, the mid-section stack of RAMSADVERBTRIP helped out quite a bit. I also loved NEWS REPORTER’s symmetric counterpart, 21d [“One of the foundational elements of hip-hop”] BREAK DANCING.
  • 9d [“‘Girl, ___, Other’ (Bernardine Evaristo novel)”] – Who says you can’t build your entire life based on crossword recommendations? Here I am, thinking of High School Musical and feeling excited to READ Girl, WOMAN, Other, which looks and sounds like a beautiful book. I’d also planned on getting THAI food for dinner, and so 5a [“Cuisine seen on the YouTube channel Pailin’s Kitchen”] feels like the universe is affirming my decision.
  • 29d [“Comforter fluff”] – It wasn’t until after I finished solving that I saw DOWN in the answers, and it’s just fun to me that DOWN is a DOWN answer.

This puzzle would definitely 27d [“Pass the ___ check”] VIBE for me. I’m currently at a conference in Chicago, so it was a great way for me to PAUSE for a minute to catch my breath.

Christina Iverson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 10/14/22 • Fri • Iverson • solution • 20221014

We have a bunch of short entries with the same clue: [Feeling under the weather?]. They are each situated directly beneath a segment of a longer entry that can be parsed as weather phenomenon.

  • 17a. [Cozy spot to read a book, perhaps] BAY WINDOW. And FEAR is below WIND.
  • 33a. [Spot where soap scum may accumulate] SHOWER DRAIN, with LOVE under RAIN.
  • 41a. [That’s hardly a surprise”] IT’S NO WONDER. HOPE beneath SNOW.
  • 58a. [Expenditures that can’t be recovered] SUNK COSTS. SUN above IRE.

Couldn’t help noticing: SHOWER is also a type of weather, 65a TRAIN contains RAIN, SNOW PEAS crosses IT’S NO WONDER, and that three of the four sets are four letters long, and one is but three letters long. Mostly these are distracting than dingworthy.

In a rush today, so I’ll just hit a few notes:

  • 23a [Fencing move] THRUST. 48a [Practice of slicing open a bottle of champagne] SABERING.
  • 52a [City east of El Paso] ODESSA. Better to clue it this way; for the original place in Ukraine, the preferred spelling is now ODESA.
  • 14d [Double daggers, in printing] DIESES. Did not know that name.

Andrew McIntyre’s Universal crossword, “Take a Number” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: All the theme answers “take” their clue number as the first word of the answer.

Universal, 10 14 2022, “Take a Number”

  • 8d [With this clue’s number, billiards game] – [8] BALL POOL
  • 10d [With this clue’s number, banknotes with Hamilton’s picture] – [10] DOLLAR BILL
  • 24d [With this clue’s number, gym chain] – [24] HOUR FITNESS
  • 40d [With this clue’s number, sprint at a football tryout] – [40] YARD DASH

Sophia here filling in for Jim on this lovely Friday! I liked the puzzle’s concept (felt like a much much simpler version of Francis Heaney’s Lollapuzzoola crossword this year, iykyk). I wish the answers themselves had been a little snazzier – there’s only so much fun you can have with TEN DOLLAR BILLS – but as a constructor I know how ridiculously annoying it is to build a puzzle around specific answer numbers, so it’s a very minor ding as all the theme answers are very legitimate things.

Quick hits on the rest of the puzzle:

  • [Rachel of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”] for BLOOM was a complete gimme for me because “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is one of my favorite shows ever. She’s currently in a show called “Reboot” that I’m excited to check out too.
  • I forgot that LUKE Evans exists, and when I remembered I thought that he was related to Chris Evans (he is not).
  • 47d [Lightweight boats] for CANOES – how lightweight is a canoe? I thought this was going to be “kayaks” but I was wrong.
  • Things that were new to me: [Pianist Myra] HESS, [The “C” of C.P.E. Bach] for CARL, the six-ACT play “The Inheritance”

Kyra Wilson & Sophia Maymude’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s write-up

Kyra Wilson & Sophia Maymudes’ New Yorker crossword solution, 10/14/2022

A lovely theme for a Friday, with cocktails reminiscent of the animal kingdom united by the revealer ANIMAL SPIRITS. My usual Friday afternoon spot has a “Russian Donkey” on the menu – a play on MOSCOW MULE, with bourbon instead of vodka, but I didn’t order that today. Back to the puzzle, briefly, because it’s been a week and I have a 6:00 AM flight:

The clue is more straightforward today, but does anyone else feel that ETAIL is the new ELOPE? Lots of angles for cute clues, but they’re all kind of easy to see and enjoy without tearing your hair out until the misdirection clicks. By contrast [Free (from)] for EXEMPT is an angle I’ve seen more frequently, and my brain hasn’t yet accepted that meaning of EXEMPT to put it in without crossings. I’m unfamiliar with the Junaluska community [53d], but I much prefer Boone and the surrounding area to Asheville, so I’ll learn up before our next weekend getaway to that part of the state. Grateful Kyra and Sophia for introducing me.

Have a great weekend!

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16 Responses to Friday, October 14, 2022

  1. Gary R says:

    NYT: I give the clue for 11-D a 33-A.

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: I agree that the clueing could have been a little more challenging. But the puzzle was still fun, as David Steinberg’s puzzles usually are.

    • JohnH says:

      Of course, what’s natural for one person may not be so for another, but I found the puzzle interesting and mostly deceptive. The SE and neighbors was hardest.

      I rally don’t like fill like LONG U either, but I fear it’s here to stay.

      • Gary R says:

        It’ll never be a favorite, but I don’t have any fundamental problem with “LONG U” as fill. But where I come from, you won’t find a LONG U in the center of Pluto.

        Seems like Mr. Steinberg and/or the editors could have come up with something interesting (and more accurate) using “universe” or “universal” or “uniform” in the clue.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          What, do you pronounce it “plutto” with a short U or something? I’m mystified as to how else it would be pronounced besides ploo-toe.

          • Gary R says:

            Amy – My understanding, going back to my last phonics class (58 years or so ago) is that a “long u” sounds like the “u” in uniform or universe. That’s not the sound I hear in Pluto or boot or toot.

            But maybe they’ve changed the definitions of such things since I was in third grade.

            • R says:

              No, you’re (understandably) misremembering the rule. The long U sound is (and always has been) an ‘oo’ as in “Pluto.” Words like “uniform” or “cute” have an extra ‘y’ sound in them which is conveniently ignored by phonics instruction. If the rule you’ve remembered were actually the rule, there would be no standard term for a very common vowel sound and phonics would be even more laborious to teach and learn.

  3. Eric H says:

    LAT: “52a [City east of El Paso] ODESSA. Better to clue it this way; for the original place in Ukraine, the preferred spelling is now ODESA.”

    I agree. But I was ready to complain that ODESSA is ENE of El Paso until I checked a map. I guess my Texas geography isn’t as good as I would like to think is.

    We stayed in a really cool 19th century railroad hotel in ODESSA five or 10 years ago. I don’t think it’s there anymore. That’s too bad; we had a humongous room for a pretty low price.

  4. Seattle Derek says:

    David Steinberg and his parents are quite accomplished. Here’s a ten-year-old story:

  5. Seattle Derek says:

    Here’s a good column by Matt Gaffney that explains why Timothy Parker (former USAT editor) came up with similar-themed puzzles w/o plagiarizing them. Maybe Evan Birnholz can make a comment?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I feel like many of us said what we had to say on this topic over a decade ago. Why are you seeking comment now?

    • Sure, I have three comments.

      First, the column you linked to doesn’t even mention Timothy Parker. It was about how Matt Gaffney independently came up with almost the exact same theme for a puzzle that Mike Shenk did. They landed on the same idea and were working with a limited theme set, and even Merl Reagle used a couple of the same theme answers when asked. That was a case of “great minds think alike.”

      Second, the Slate column by Matt that maybe you were thinking of is this:

      … and it makes the exact opposite point, that Parker almost certainly did plagiarize several crosswords. The examples Matt gave showed there’s virtually zero way Parker could have come up with 100% identical theme sets multiple times, often with identical theme clues, without having taken them from previous puzzles.

      Third, if the reason you’re asking me to comment is because of Thursday’s NYT, I thought I’d already made it clear I don’t view that as plagiarism at all. Lewis Rothlein never saw my puzzle from 2018 and he came up with the same idea on his own, with a couple of the same theme answers. It happens; great minds think alike, and all that. It’s not nearly in the same universe as what Timothy Parker did.

  6. Tina says:

    Can anyone explain the Lat theme? What does FEAR have to do with WIND? Seems so arbitrary. I don’t see any connection with any of the four theme answers.

    • pannonica says:

      WIND is a weather phenomenon. FEAR is a feeling, and it is positioned literally under the word WIND. Hence, it is a feeling under the weather.

      The same arrangement exists for the rest of the theme material.

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