Friday, December 23, 2022

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 2:08 (Matt) 


NYT 4:25 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 4:43 (Darby) 


Brandon Koppy’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12 23 22, no. 1223

Ah, there we go. This week’s Fri NYT hits exactly the difficulty level I was expecting.

I particularly like the intersection of a STARING CONTEST and FEELS SEEN. When would you feel more seen? Other fave fill: FLOAT TANK, EMU FARMS (I’d have guessed that emu ranch was the term of choice, but emu farm far out-Googles it), your BOTTOM DOLLAR (odd that top dollar isn’t its opposite), MUST-READS, TENSE UP, PODCAST, and RETINAL SCANNER (anyone watch South Side? in one recent episode, there’s a facility for frosting where you don’t scan your retina, you lick the security scanner!).

Most terrible fill ever: 11d. [Follower of an arctic blast], COLD SPELL. Here are some related weather terms for you: polar vortex, bomb cyclone, frostbite, winds gusting to 50 mph, wind chills of 20 to 40° below zero expected. Grr! But then, it’ll be 50° (above zero!) in a week.

58a. [Things not good to have next to one’s records], ASTERISKS. And here I was thinking of heat sources that would warp your stack of vinyl records. #OldEnough (The clue’s about, say, sports records held by athletes who were doping.)

Four stars from me.

Lewis Rothlein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 12/23/22 • Fri • Rothlein • solution • 20221223

  • 35aR [Pivotal element, and what each word in quotes in the starred clues literally is to its answer?] CENTERPIECE.
  • 17a. [*Begin to chase, with “off”] TAKE AFTER (take off after).
  • 24a. [*Try to delay, with “for”] PLAYTIME (play for time).
  • 47a. [*Gaining prominence, with “and”] UPCOMING (up and coming).
  • 55a. [*Do some creative accounting, with “the”] COOKBOOKS (cook the books).

In each case the original entry is also a legitimate phrase or word. It’s a rather elegant conceit. I guess it would be stronger if all the originals were single words, or if all the insertions were the same part of speech (we have an adjective, two prepositions, and a definite article), or if the inserted words spelled a message. But these suggestions are probably too demanding for a humble daily crossword.

  • Some understated misdirections: 9d [Intimate] IMPLY. 44d [Washed up, maybe] ASHORE. 54d [Place to ruminate] LEA. 20a [Illuminates] EDIFIES (40a [Illuminated] LIT).
  • 11d [“The Treachery of Images” painter] René MAGRITTE. Usually we see his first name in grids. This is the one with the caption, ceci n’est pas une pipe.
  • 12d [Early delivery] PREEMIE. 36d [Not post-] PRE-.
  • 18d [Cause of inflation] AIR. Cause, or agent? 
  • 27d [Leaves be] LETS LIELeave and let seem to have parallel but unrelated etymologies.
  • 35d [Tower for a pet who likes to climb and hide] CAT CONDO. 24d [Good vibrations?] PURRING. I recently installed a wall shelf, which I refer to as an aerie, for the furry critter that cohabitates with me.
  • 46d [Marrying sort?] PARSON. Glad it wasn’t PERSON, which seemed excessively broad.
  • 9a [1980s cloning target] IBM PC. Tricksy.
  • 23a [One ensuring accuracy on a grand scale?] TUNER. Pianos.
  • 39a [WWII Polish resistance hero Sendler] IRENA. Had IRENE, which made the idiomatic 34d [Impressive and then some] SCARY GOOD a little TOUGHER (52a) to perceive.
  • 50a [Revere alternative] BY SEA. Versus by land.

Michael Berg’s Universal crossword, “Downtime”—Jim P’s review

Theme: DROP-IN HOURS (58a, [Times to pop by, and a feature of the starred clues’ answers (hint: include two letters below them)]). The answers to the starred clues require the letters HR which are found in the entry below. Those answers (sans HR) still make valid—though unclued—crossword entries.

Universal crossword solution · “Downtime” · Michael Berg · Fri., 12.23.22

  • 14a. [*Persistent, as an ailment] C(HR)ONIC with 16a THE HIGH ROAD.
  • 31a. [*”Aw, darn!”] “O(H R)ATS!” with 35a JEWISH RYE.
  • 38a. [*Like roller coasters] T(HR)ILLING with 41a BIRTH RATE.

I enjoyed sussing out this theme and finding the needed HRs for each answer. The trouble for me is that I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the phrase DROP-IN HOURS. In my experience, it’s always been “office hours.” But I suppose the former provides the implication that an appointment is not necessary.

My other problem is that to me HR means Human Resources. So for most of the solve I was wondering why Human Resources was missing from the theme answers.

But those might just be my personal issues. Other solvers may not have had those hang-ups. If not, this was an enjoyable theme giving newer solvers enough of a challenge to scratch their heads at first and then (hopefully) have the light bulb come on.

Our long fill includes LOOKS AROUND, ALTERATIONS, MAHOMES, SHELTER, and RAIN OUT. A pretty nice set when you consider that each theme answer is actually a pair of answers stacked atop each other. Plus that central area has three theme entries in a stack. Those are more constraints than you’ll find in the usual grid.

Clues of note:

  • 40a. [Greek wedding cry]. “OPA!” Nothing against German grandpas, but I like this clue angle better.
  • 41a. [Statistic that may go up nine months after a World Cup win]. BIRTH RATE. All right, Argentina, we’ll check back with you in about nine months.

Nice theme mechanic and plenty of smooth fill. 3.5 stars. I hope everyone is staying safe out there!

Joanne Sullivan’s Inkubator crossword, “Holding Pattern”—Jenni’s write-up

I enjoyed this puzzle! I figured out what was going on in the NE corner, which made the puzzle easier. The theme was so much fun that I didn’t mind. And I can totally relate.

Inkubator, December 22, 2022, Joanne Sullivan, “Holding Pattern”

Each theme answer has one or two circles, and each clue gives the definition without the circled letters (-) and with the circled letters (+). So 16a [- Scottish cap; + Pack (down)] is TAMP. That’s TAM for the cap and TAMP for the packing. Since there are four sets of circles in the grid and each involves eight theme answers, that’s 34 total. I love you all but I’m not typing them all out.

In the middle we have 51a [Features often missing in womenswear (and in this puzzle’s grid when solving the “-” clues), but that women often want (and solvers get with the “+” clues)] and the answer is POCKETS – which is what the letters in the circles spell out, all in an appropriate shape. This is an amazing feat of construction and a very enjoyable solve, and I absolutely want MOAH POCKETS.

What I didn’t know before I solved this puzzle: that there’s a portrait of Cousin ITT at Nevermore Academy on the Netflix show “Wednesday.”

Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword — Matthew’s write-up

Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword solution, 12/23/2022

The New Yorker’s Year In Review week reaches sports with this breezy grid from Erik chock-full of highlights from the year. I was particularly glad to see Oklahoma softball star Jocelyn ALO in the grid – Alo is one of the greatest hitters the NCAA has ever seen and the career record holder for home runs. Oklahoma went a combined 115-7 in her final two seasons. I’m also thrilled to see the BRITTANY GRINER clue reference her detainment in Russia in the past tense.

Other notes:

  • 21a [China, for the 2022 Olympics, and Qatar, for the 2022 World Cup] HOSTS. I had forgotten there was an Olympics this year, and mostly boycotted the recent FIFA World Cup. Corruption is endemic within both the IOC and FIFA, and it’s harder to ignore sportswashing than it used to be.
  • 50a [Bright ____ Strong (organization that successfully lobbied for the full reinstatement of Jim Thorpe’s Olympic medals, in July 2022] PATH. I had been unaware that Thorpe’s medals and status as sole champion hadn’t already been restored, so thanks to Erik for including.
  • 2d [Paydirt Pete’s school, for short] UTEP. UTEP is of course a common find in puzzles. The school’s athletic teams compete as the “Miners,” which gives some context for the mascot’s name here.
  • 43d [Defensive linemen such as Vince Wilfork: Abbr.] NTS. The less-common-in-puzzles abbreviation is for “Nose Tackle,” a lineman who sets up directly across from the center. Nose tackles are rarer in NFL defensive schemes the last few years – Wilfork would probably be the first to come to mind for me, and he hasn’t played since 2016.
  • 45d [“Game Theory with ____ Jones” (late-night sports-show debut of March, 2022)] BOMANI. Jones is a shrewd commentator who was an ESPN staple for over a decade but never got much support from that network (in my opinion) to helm his own show. Game Theory is on HBO.
  • 52d [Island whos capital is Hagåtña] GUAM. Not for the first time, I’ll link a series of Guam-themed puzzles Jim Peredo and Alex Eaton-Salners constructed in spring 2021.

Li Ding’s USA Today crossword, “Split Ends”—Darby’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer ends with a synonym for “split,” making them “split ends.”

Theme Answers

Li Ding's USA Today crossword, "Split Ends" solution for 12/23/2022

Li Ding’s USA Today crossword, “Split Ends” solution for 12/23/2022

  • 18a [“Spicy cookie”] GINGER SNAP
  • 28a [“Degradation from regular use”] WEAR AND TEAR
  • 50a [“Version longer than a theatrical release”] EXTENDED CUT
  • 61a [“Bit of good fortune”] LUCKY BREAK

These were very fun themers, and I particularly enjoyed LUCKY BREAK and WEAR AND TEAR. I initially thought that we were supposed to look at the letters framing each theme answer, since GAP appears when putting together the beginning and end of GINGER SNAP.

The large open corners were really great, with great fill like SHADOWED, LEBANESE, ONCE A DAY, and ENTAILED. Plus, 54a [“Long period of time”] EON and 55 [“Long period of time”] ERA were fun to have right next to one another, especially given how close their clues usually are. I was thrown off in the SW corner with 47a [“Alley- ___”]. I initially had CAT, not noticing the hyphen, but ONRUSH and PSYCHE made it clear that it should be OOP instead. Finally, there was so much food fill, making me super hungry. From GINGER SNAP to MOCHA, BOK choy, OREOs, and BENTO boxes, there was an eclectic menu.

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16 Responses to Friday, December 23, 2022

  1. Gary R says:

    NYT: Not a bad puzzle overall, but 33-A/34-D – yikes!! A rap artist with one Top 10 record from 30 years ago, clued as a writer, crossing an actor you haven’t heard of if you’ve left behind the comic book phase of your life? YOUNG_C could be damned near anything, and _OMOA isn’t much help. I just ran the alphabet until the Happy Pencil showed up.

    • Dallas says:

      I thought it was a nice Friday; I still prefer a themed over a themeless, but this was a lot of fun to work over while the cold winds whip outside in east central Illinois :-) I don’t think MC for a rap name is such a hard one to figure out even if you don’t remember Young MC, but perhaps that’s me.

      • Gary R says:

        Is there a significance to MC in the rap world that I should know about? I’m not much of a rap/hip-hop fan. I’m familiar with MC Hammer, but there are so many initials and unusual (to me) spellings in the rap world – Jay-Z, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Cardi B, Ice-T, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Notorious B.I.G., DMX – that crossed with a name like MOMOA, I had literally no idea.

        • Eric H says:

          From Wikipedia:

          “In hip hop and electronic dance music, “MC” refers to rap artists or performers who perform vocals for their own or other artists’ original material. Such genres of electronic dance music where MCs perform on are house, drum and bass, and UK garage.

          ‘In the late 1970s, the term emcee, MC or M.C. became used for rappers and for their role within hip hop music and culture. Initially, MCs were those who introduced the DJs to the crowd and explained what was taking place during the event. Often these events were parties at locations including clubs or outdoor public spaces. The term is typically used as a term of distinction, referring to an artist with good performance skills. Many rappers have MC in their stage name, such as MC Hammer, MC Lyte, MC Ren, MC Shan or MC Eiht.”

    • Art Shapiro says:

      Precisely my scenario and remedial action as well. Crossing proletarian names should be considered a mortal sin.

    • JohnH says:

      That was my lousy crossing, too, in an otherwise very nicely challenging puzzle. I kept running into things I didn’t know but really ought to exist, so great. Say, do emus come with farms, and is that floatation tank properly called a float tank? Well, you know, they really should!

  2. Jim says:

    NYT: ASTERISKS — not just doping athletes, but any exceptional condition that may have influenced the outcome, usually but not always positively. Think of a tailwind during a race, high-altitude providing thin air and marginally reduced gravity, a strike-shortened athletic season, or a change in the number of games in a season.

  3. Eric H says:

    LAT: About the only thing I would add to Pannonica’s spot-on write-up is that it’s nice every now and then to see ORR clued to “Catch-22” and not the legendary Boston Bruin. And thanks for the Rutles clip; I hadn’t heard that one.

    Uni: Nice puzzle. I’m not sure the hint in the revealer is necessary, but I guess it’s helpful for inexperienced solvers. I enjoyed the factoid in the LOO clue.

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni: I’m with you on the revealer phrase, Jim. DROP-IN HOURS? For what it’s worth, it gets a decent number of hits with a Google search, but not as many as you might expect with a crossword theme revealer. Interestingly, all of the hits at the top of the list are from colleges and universities, so maybe it’s a term that’s used there these days. It’s been 40 years since I’ve needed time with a professor or college instructor. I think we just called them office hours way back then.

    I was tripped up by JLAW in this one (it cost me a shocking amount of solve time since it crossed one of the themers). Though I don’t read tabloid “journalism” or watch TMZ, I guess I should know by now that all celebrities and athletes in the last 10 or 20 years are referred to by their first initial followed by a few letters from their last name. There was a time when nicknames were generally much more creative than that. (Yes, I know … OK Boomer) If someone mentioned JLAW to me while we were discussing films, I’d think Jude Law and then probably be very confused by whatever the person said about Jennifer Lawrence. That’s another problem with nicknames like that.

    • Eric H says:

      I’ve been a fan of Jennifer Lawrence since “Winter’s Bone” (2010). I thought she was great in “Silver Linings Playbook” and hilarious in “American Hustle.”

      But I know the J-Law nickname only from crossword puzzles. I was glad I remembered it today.

  5. JohnH says:

    I found TNY thoroughly unenjoyable. Once I saw it had a sports theme, I was already expecting a trivia quiz that I’d never pass in a million years. It some ways, it was better than I feared. Our captive in Russia was in the news for non-sports fan, and Nathan’s hot dog contest is only tangentially sports — and easy enough to deduce for those of us in New York who don’t pay it the least attention. (I think of it as an event that exists only because it gives journalists an easy way to fill a news item.) SERENA WILLIAMS was easy, too. Want a tennis player somewhere in the news in 2022. Sure, she’ll do.

    Yet I still couldn’t finish, and in another regard it was even worse than expected. The clues mix routine giveaways that one can write down as fast as reading them, helpful with the trivia but also lousy for a puzzle, with yet more obscurity even beyond sports. Surely a proper name theme should oblige the setter to avoid such obscurity for the rest of the fill.

    No way I could work out the crossing of GRAY and OYA. And NTS just had me looking again and again to try to find my mistake. (There wasn’t one.) But in any case I still dislike most TNY themed puzzles because the theme is always something that unites themers without actually informing how one enters the themers or giving a smile.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      So why do you do them? It’s not as if they’re disguised as something else. I’m a very narrow sports fan – I only really know baseball – and I figured this one would have a bunch of stuff in it that was new to me. I solved it anyway because I love Erik’s puzzles. If it had been a different constructor I might well have skipped it. I don’t think anyone is forcing you to solve puzzles, John, and if they are please call RAINN, the domestic violence network.

    • Matt Gritzmacher says:

      Yep, not all puzzles are for all people, that’s for sure.

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