Friday, November 18, 2022

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 4:50 (Matt) 


NYT 4:40-ish (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 3:23 (Darby) 


Madeline Kaplan’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #37″—Jenni’s write-up

This is a fun puzzle! Plus I learned something, which is always good.


Inkubator, November 17, 2022, Madeline Kaplan, “Themeless #37,” solution grid

  • 3d [Issue you may hope to leave behind you in adulthood] is BACNE.
  • Haven’t seen the two grid-spanners in a puzzle before and I liked both COCHLEAR IMPLANTS and I COULDNT TELL YOU.
  • 39a [Having sex outside?] is a great clue for ADULTERY.
  • 42a [Dying art form?] is ELEGY, not BATIK.
  • 57d [Rolls around on the lawn?] are TPS. I always figure the TP is in the trees, not on the lawn.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ANASTASIA has a song called “A Rumor in St Petersburg.” I also did not know that POTATO QUALITY means “poor quality.”

Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 11 18 22, no. 1118

I always enjoy a Weintraub themeless! Not in a mood for enjoying anything at the moment, though, with a pesky headache, so I’ll be extra-brief.

Fave fill, much of it chatty: THANKS A LOT, ALL OVER THE MAP, HERE WE GO AGAIN, POMERANIAN, LAKE HOUSES clued as [Superior dwellings, say] (meaning Lake Superior—and we just marked the anniversary of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald), MONSTER MASH, SKYDIVE, COPY THAT, CARE PACKAGE, TRASH PANDA.

Proper Friday NYT difficulty level, lotsa fresh clues, terrific fill. Four stars from me.

Zachary David Levy’s Universal crossword, “Behind Bars”—Jim P’s review

Theme: THE BIRDCAGE (64a, [1996 film in which Robin Williams plays a drag club owner, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]). Types of birds are visually depicted with letters I pretending they’re bars of birdcages.

Universal crossword solution · “Behind Bars” · Zachary David Levy · Fri., 11.18.22

  • 17a. [Visual depiction of a watchful feathered friend in an enclosure] IIHIAIWIKI
  • 27a. [Visual depiction of a gobbling feathered friend in an enclosure] IITIUIRIKIEIYII
  • 48a. [Visual depiction of a talkative feathered friend in an enclosure] IIPIAIRIRIOITII

Phew. I definitely needed the revealer to make sense of this even though I got the pattern down by the third entry. But I was rewarded with a nice aha moment which I enjoyed. If I were to pick a nit, it would be that you’re unlikely to find a turkey in what we normally think of as a birdcage, but that really doesn’t bother me at all. (Although it would be neat if Tweety Bird could somehow be worked into the theme.) I’m all for something different when it comes to puzzle themes (every once in a while), and I like the creativity here.

Top bits of fill include SAFETY BELT, TELEPORTED, SNO-CONE, and SEABEE. You know, I never knew why they’re called Seabees so I finally decided to look it up. As you might expect—since the military likes its initialisms—Seabees comes from “CB” which is short for “Construction Battalion.” And now you know…

All those I’s in the theme answers must have made filling this grid a challenge, especially where the I’s come at the beginnings or ends of entries. And so we get some weirdities like OUI OUI and IS ONTO, etc. But on the whole, given the sheer number of I’s in the grid, the fill is smooth enough. Old crossword standby I. M. PEI makes himself useful yet again with both I’s centrally placed in theme answers. Thanks for your contributions to crossworddom, my friend!

3.5 stars from me.

Mikkel Snyder & Brooke Husic USA Today crossword, “Tag Team”—Darby’s write-up

Editor: Anna Gundlach

Theme: Each theme answer is clued as “Person doing some tagging,” and so the three answers together form a TAG TEAM.

Theme Answers

Mikkel Snyder & Brooke Husic USA Today crossword, "Tag Team" solution for 11/18/2022

Mikkel Snyder & Brooke Husic USA Today crossword, “Tag Team” solution for 11/18/2022

  • 20a [“Person doing some tagging”] RETAIL WORKER
  • 38a [“Person doing some tagging”] GRAFFITI ARTIST
  • 55a [“Person doing some tagging”] FIRST BASEMAN

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this theme when I first opened the grid, but it quickly became clear and I started to think of all the folks who might tag things. It’s great that each “team member” tags differently, which just illustrates a precision in approach to the theme that works well with the device of using the same clue for each answer.

This was one of my quicker solves, finishing in under three and a half minutes. I loved how smooth it was. I filled most of it based off of the Down answers because I switched over early, and I think that the longer 4d [“‘Just be ___!’”] YOURSELF and 9d [“Where errands are checked off”] TO DO LIST offered a lot of structure moving through. Having GRAFFITI ARTIST as a 14, spanning almost the whole grid was a challenge only in that I couldn’t remember how many Fs were in it.

Some other Friday faves:

  • 26d [“Prefix for ‘normal’ or ‘graph’”] – I thought that this was such an interesting confluence of PARA words, unless, of course, you’re reading a ghost story, which is filled with PARAnormal PARAgraphs.
  • 27d [“Moves like a dreidel”] – I thought that this was a super cute and creative clue for SPINS.
  • 44d [“‘Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.’ writer-director Adamma”] – One of the selfish reasons that I love crosswords is that is that I regularly teach a Religion & Popular Culture class, and I’m always on the hunt for contemporary references, and I’m pumped up to watch this Adamma EBO-written and directed film to discuss religion, capitalism, and popular culture. Speaking of movies, I’m always always excited to see 69a [“‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ star Michelle”] YEOH mentioned in a puzzle. 34d [“‘The ___’ (movie franchise that inspired ‘Cobra Kai’”] KARATE KID was also a nice bonus.

Overall, as a dork myself, I loved all the DORKY references in this grid and thought that the theme itself was very precise and varied.

David Alfred Bywaters’ Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 11/18/22 • Fri • Bywaters • solution • 20221118

Today we have phrases composed of pairs of words that are the same save for an absent U.

  • 17a. [Grammarian?] USAGE SAGE.
  • 29a. [Aspen, in the Rockies?] POPULAR POPLAR.
  • 43a. [Nodding, e.g.?] AUCTION ACTION.
  • 59a. [One inept at data storage?] CLOUD CLOD.

This is one of those mildly inspired, treading-water type themes. Neither good nor bad, merely adequate. I spied an errant U at the crossing of 26d GLUTEN and 36a LURE; save for that one they appear only as one part of the theme answers. On the other hand, would eliminating all ‘extraneous’ Us be so significant?

  • 22d [Warns, with “off”] TIPS. Surprisingly difficult to see.
  • 29d [Give a ring?] PIERCE. Didn’t really detect the direction of this one until it was filled in. Perhaps I was influenced by the nearby 18d [Weds without ceremony?] ELOPES.
  • 44d [Droopy perennials?] IRISES. Wouldn’t occur to me to describe them as droopy but I suppose that’s an interpretation.
  • 9a [Béla Fleck’s instrument] BANJO. This is the closest I could get. Drops the T rather than the U, but on the other hand we get a palindrome:
  • 37a [Rich soil] LOESS. Sure but I tried LOAMS.
  • 51a [Apollo 11 lander] EAGLE. NASA is finally getting the moon mission more correct with Artemis. It’s a small step. Will those missions have landers as well? If so will they be named after deer or something? Owls are more of an Athene thing.

Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker Crossword—solution grid

Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker crossword solution, 11/18/2022

Themers move the letter C down the line from its initial position in common phrases, e.g. “Creation Myth” > REACTION MYTH. OCTILLION DRESSES (“cotillion dresses”) was a particular highlight for me. It all comes together with the revealer CARBON OFFSET.

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20 Responses to Friday, November 18, 2022

  1. Dallas says:

    NYT: Agreed; really great themeless. I still prefer a fun theme, but am getting to enjoy the Fridays and Saturdays more and more; probably due to practice, but this was a fun one. I really liked all of the long entries, the clue for 50A was a nice surprise (I originally had PEN). Good stuff.

  2. Katie+M. says:

    TNY: beware, the clue for 39A doesn’t come out right in .puz
    I had to look at it on the website to make sense of it.
    Good puzzle.

  3. Kent says:

    Today’s Universal Crossword was the most idiotic puzzle I ever worked. Yuck! I solved it, but it made no sense to me at all. Barf!

    • Eleanor says:

      Question for Team Fiend: Why are you okay with comments like this? When I read some of the comments here, I find myself hoping that newer constructors never learn of this blog’s existence. What a terrible thing to say when someone has put in all the hard work it takes to make a crossword puzzle.

      • Kent says:

        Woke, woke, woke.

      • ZDL says:

        I actually don’t mind. As I’ve said many times, once you put something out in the world, it belongs to everyone. I also don’t think newer constructors should be “protected” from harsh reviews and told that every idea is great, every theme entry is great, all the fill is great, etc etc etc.

        • e.a. says:

          i feel like “we should lie to constructors and tell them every single aspect of their work is great always” and “we should avoid being cruel” are two very different things that are being conflated here. i’m not really seeing the toxic positivity anywhere (though there are certainly some spaces/circles that focus mainly on positives) but i am increasingly seeing people go past constructive critique into viciousness and ad hominems. i don’t remember it being such a regular feature of the fiend comments 5 years ago

          • Me says:

            I agree with Erik. Negative comments can be overboard in their phrasing, a lot more than before. While I don’t think the comments should be policed to protect the constructor about these type of comments, and I think negatives often stick out more to solvers than positives, I hope that some comments wouldn’t be phrased in that way in a face-to-face conversation with a stranger. I think it’s easy to forget that there’s a person on the other end.

          • ZDL says:

            Erik is probably right. I’m simplifying the positions and I’m sure my own streak for self deprecation plays into what I expect from others.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Kent, behave yourself or risk being deplatformed. You can critique a puzzle without coming off like an unruly 12-year-old. Not sure what you hope to achieve by going low.

      Hollering “woke, woke, woke” suggests maybe you can’t abide a theme centered on a movie about a gay couple?

  4. GlennG says:

    LAT 29D. [Give a ring?] PIERCE. The meaning and intent of the whole clue and answer is as clear as mud.

Comments are closed.