Friday, February 10, 2023

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 2:26 (Matt) 


NYT 4:22 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 3:32 (Darby) 


Karen Lurie’s Inkubator crossword, “Remixes”—Jenni’s write-up

The Inkubator team has decided that 2023 will be their last year as a subscription puzzle service. I imagine this was a difficult decision and I will miss these puzzles. I am so grateful that they had the imagination and determination to make this happen, and I’m glad they will continue to exist as a community of constructors and support for women-identified and nonbinary constructors. They make Crossworld a better place.

I found this puzzle more than lightly challenging, probably because my popcult knowledge failed me at several points. The theme answers start with anagrams.

Inkubator, February 9, 2023, “Remixes,” Karen Lurie, solution grid

    • 20a [Childish Gambino’s 2018 commentary on gun violence and racism] is THIS IS AMERICA. I knew this one, thanks to my daughter. If you don’t, it’s worth a look.

      • 25a [*Elite red-clad soldier of the Dark Side] is a SITH TROOPER. This is one of the place where my popcult knowledge failed.
      • 48a [*”C’est la vie”] is SHIT HAPPENS. I fumbled this one at first because I forgot that I wasn’t solving an NYT puzzle so I was trying to avoid typing SHIT.

And the revealer: 53a [Taylor Swift song off the “Lavender” edition of “Midnights”; or a hint to the first word of each starred answer] is HITS DIFFERENT. I have heard a number of cuts off that album (again thanks to my daughter) and had no idea about this one, so it also serves as “what I didn’t know before I did this puzzle.”

Kavin Pawittranon & Nijah Morris’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 2 10 23, no. 0210

Fun themeless with a fairly low word count (66) and a cool grid with lots of flow across the sections.

Fave fill, full of freshness: WORD SALAD, PARTY SCHOOLS, FREUDIAN SLIP, FARFALLE, SLAM DANCERS, CRAPLOAD (we would also have accepted SHITLOAD and either form of ___-TON), TERIYAKI, CHEAP THRILL, and PIEROGI (what’s your preferred filling? I like potato and cheese). I also like 49a ILY, [Sign of affection, in 28-Down], 28d being ASL. Outside of ASL, people also type “ily” as shorthand for “I love you” in various digital arenas.

Nope: EMAG. Stop trying to make EMAG happen. It didn’t really catch on in the mid-1990s when Slate and Salon started, and it certainly won’t fly now.

Four stars from me.

Sara Muchnick & Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 2/10/23 • Fri • Muchnick, Peterson • solution • 20230210

Each of the theme answers begins with a US state capital, ends with a consumer brand name, and showcases significant letter overlap at the nexus. During the solve I considered that a title  (LAT crosswords lack titles) involving capitalism would be apt, so I was unsurprised to see a revealer in the same vein.

  • 57aR [Good news for investors, as seen literally in the answers to the starred clues] CAPITAL GAINS. That is, those state capitals ‘gain’ additional letters.
  • 17a. [*Sailing-inspired sportswear brand based in Montana?] HELE{NA}UTICA.
  • 29a. [*Luxury watchmaker based in Washington?] OLYM{PIA}GET.
  • 34a. [*Athleisure company based in Hawaii?] HONO{LULU}LEMON.
  • 41a. [*High-fashion label based in Colorado?] DEN{VER}SACE.

Would have been a perfect progression if the final theme answer had had a five-letter overlap! An easy way to have achieved such a pattern would’ve been to start things off with a simple one-letter overlap, but that isn’t so special.

  • 9d [Don, as a corset] LACE UP. 43d [Apply carelessly] SLAP ON.
  • 34d [Skateboarding leap] HEEL FLIP, not the more common OLLIE that we’ve grown accustomed to.
  • 38d [Levi’s alternative] LEES. Isn’t it just LEE jeans? So LEE’S would merit an informally-type qualifier in the clue.
  • 45d [Ready to run, perhaps] AFRAID. Nice, slightly off-piste clue.
  • 28a [Long hoops shot] TREY. Was primed for this clue/answer having just solved today’s NYT crossword, where a similar formulation appeared.
  • 40a [Rolled up unannounced?] TPED. It’s a cute and clever clue, but does it really work? When a prankster is toilet-papering a house or whatnot, they aren’t doing any sort of rolling up. In fact, they’re unrolling their munition.
  • 60a [Golden state] UTOPIA. Minor misdirection in the clue, possibly prompting the solver to think of California—SACRA{MENTO}S, anyone? (Unfortunately that entry would be one letter too long to symmetrically complete the theme as I had proposed above.)

Nancy Serrano-Wu’s Universal crossword, “Nonvegetarian Sides”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Various meats are found bookending familiar(ish) phrases. The revealer is SLICED MEAT (62a, [Cold cut, or a hint to the word bookending each starred clue’s answer]).

Universal crossword solution · “Nonvegetarian Sides” · Nancy Serrano-Wu · Fri., 2.10.23

  • 17a. [*Open a champagne bottle] POP THE CORK.
  • 26a. [*Roaming Asian food seller] DUMPLING TRUCK. I’ve heard of dump trucks but not DUMPLING TRUCKs. I imagine these are only found in larger cities?
  • 38a. [*Use few words] BE BRIEF. I would like this better if the clue was a verbal instruction, such as [*”Keep it short”].
  • 46a. [*Notre Dame’s team] FIGHTING IRISH.

Fair enough. I don’t get a lot out of themes like this where it’s just a matter of finding phrases that have certain letter patterns, but it’s solid enough, and the theme does its job by helping out a solver if they get stuck. The phrases are all familiar—or at least accessible—and I like the consistency of all the meat words being four letters long.

We get some nice long fill to enjoy, my favorite being BATROPE [Climbing aid for the Dark Knight] (I tried BATHOOK at first). Also good: VERSACE, TILE SAW, CRAMMED, SNIFFS OUT, and INVENTORS.

Needed all the crosses for GARNI [Bouquet ___ (herb bundle)], but now I learned something new. Wikipedia says it’s “a bundle of herbs usually tied with string and mainly used to prepare soup, stock, casseroles and various stews. The bouquet is cooked with the other ingredients and removed prior to consumption.” So you get the benefits of the cooked herbs but don’t have them getting in the way when eating (and you don’t have to chop them up beforehand either). Nice. And it sort of goes along with the theme. Sorta.

Clue of note: 21a. [Tracks down like a bloodhound]. SNIFFS OUT. Not sure it was intentional, but I like the rhyming clue.

Solid theme and nice fill. 3.5 stars.

Adam Wagner’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s write-up

Adam Wagner’s New Yorker crossword solution, 2/10/23

Adam has found idioms that can be re-thought of as photography-specific when taking a little more literally. It’s fun:

  • 20a [Photograph a bolt of lightning?] SNAP THE STREAK
  • 28a [Photograph leaves on a blustery day?] SHOOT THE BREEZE
  • 45a [Photograph Old Glory?] CAPTURE THE FLAG
  • 54a [Photograph a photograph?] GET THE PICTURE

The theme clicked for me on SHOOT THE BREEZE, and I found the remaining entries successively more funny. Your mileage may vary, but I quite like that, as well as the meta aspect of [Photograph a photograth?]. I would like to see more of Adam’s puzzles — he’s had a steady handful of appearances in the Times as well a few at AVCX and the New Yorker, and has a great sense of accessible but colorful fill and tight theme sets. He also operates a daily mini game at if you want to flex your anagramming muscle.


  • 19a [Princess who takes on the alter ego of Sheik, in the game Ocarina of Time] ZELDA. I don’t game very much, and while the Legend of Zelda series is on my shortlist, I don’t when I’ll get to it. Can I call ‘spoiler alert’ on a 25 year-old game? No?
  • 59a [Unprecedented but technically possible final score for an American football team] ONE. It can happen! It requires an extra point attempt to go wrong for both sides, and has happened four times in Division I college football, but never in the NFL, and never in a game in which that was the team’s only point scored.
  • 61a [Home to Torres del Paine National Park] CHILE. This spurred me to finally look it up: “paine” means “blue” in the Tehuelche language and is pronounced PIE-neh. I will probably still think of the imposing rock faces as “the towers of pain” for a while until that sinks in.
  • 64a [Model Karlie] KLOSS. Admittedly I am not very up on fashion or models, but I haven’t seen Kloss outside of puzzles in a while. A “me” problem, as it turns out I’m just not watching Project Runway, where Karlie has replaced Heidi Klum as host. I do know that she is an advocate for getting girls into coding.
  • 27d [Girl Explaining, for one] MEME. Memes are interesting things that I’d love to learn more about. The common usage right now reflects an image macro with different text, but there’s more to it than that. I feel like the audio clips used as soundtracks for videos on TikTok and Instagram are meme-ish. And I marvel at how in slang and in the internet age and the rapid pace of change, that these things can receive a name that actually sticks. Anyway, this is Girl Explaining:

Kelsey Dixon’s USA Today crossword, “Blow Ya Mind”—Darby’s write-up

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme begins and ends with letters spelling out MIND, having “blown” it apart.

Theme Answers

Kelsey Dixon's USA Today crossword, "Blow Ya Mind" filled grid for 2/10/2023

Kelsey Dixon’s USA Today crossword, “Blow Ya Mind” solution for 2/10/2023

  • 19a [“Place reached when compromising”] MIDDLE GROUND
  • 33a [“Author of ‘Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy’”] MISTY COPELAND
  • 54a [“Onstage object”] MIC STAND

The theme became really apparent as I went through the puzzle. I had a feeling I was going to like it based on the fun apparent in the title, and I wasn’t wrong. I like that it’s a nice mix of metaphor, object, and person. I was unfamiliar with MISTY COPELAND (though I have a sneaking suspicion I’ve seen her mentioned in puzzles before), and so I was grateful to learn more about her through this puzzle. I initially wanted to put SET PIECE in at 54a, but the theme made that clear it wouldn’t be correct.

There were a number of fun things in this puzzle, but I’ll save some time by only touching on a few

  1. 4d [“Students with instruments”] BAND KIDS is very fun.
  2. This puzzle had a lot of language-oriented clues, from 2d [“Language spoke in Sri Lanka”] TAMIL to 29a HERMANO, 30a [“___ de los Muertos”] DIA, and 31a [“‘Mazel ___!’”] TOV.
  3. All three of the Down answers on the right edge of the grid could be drawn from the same letter bank: TED, DOT, DOTE.
  4. Finally – and best of all – I like that KELSEY included her own name, though in reference to 64a [“WNBA All-Star Plum”].
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19 Responses to Friday, February 10, 2023

  1. Dallas says:

    Had exactly the same feelings with the NYT Friday; I saw Slate, thought “can’t be EMAG” and then… it was. Loved ILY / ASL combo, and the long entries in this one. A fun Friday.

    • JohnH says:

      The puzzle felt really fresh, as well as difficult for me. I too first associated ILY with texting, and I was much surprised when the crazy amount worked out in the end to a bit of daring vocabulary. The pun on “majors” for PARTY SCHOOL is really nice but held me back, too. It took me while to realize, once I’d got it, that OFF and DOWN must be directions to a pet, and must admit I don’t know why a DATA PLAN is just for families. Oh, and didn’t know a three-pointer is a TREY.

      My last to fall was the NW, where I didn’t readily associate CERAMIC with cutting, didn’t know to take a phrase as an INSULT, and had to look up YAS after the fact to make sense of it. Oh, well, live and learn.

      • Eric H says:

        Nothing in the clue for DATA PLAN suggests it’s only for families.

        (My first answer there was “cell PLAN,” which wasn’t too far off.)

        There did seem to be a lot of fresh answers in this puzzle, but I didn’t find it particularly difficult — kind of on the easy side for me.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          The clue for DATA PLAN in the version I did is “A family’s might be unlimited”. Was it different on the NYT website or in the dead tree version?

          • sanfranman59 says:

            Never mind … I see now that you were responding to JohnH’s use of the phrase “just for families” in his post.

            • JohnH says:

              Thanks, and I’m sure you’re both right. All sorts of clues on a harder day of the week could make one say “but it’s not only that,” and that’s totally legit. Sorry. I guess I just wanted “family” in the clue to mean something, but my error.

  2. Harry says:

    NYY: How can a football team end a game with a score of one?

  3. billy boy says:


    QUAD is in the THIGH, not the leg, the whole thing is the lower extremity, the leg is from the knee down (3-letter Context, I know, but it’s still wrong)

    • Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

      Knee to foot is one definition of leg; “one of the paired vertebrate limbs that in bipeds extend from the top of the thigh to the foot” is another. I hope Merriam-Webster is a sufficient authority on the point for present purposes.

    • JohnH says:

      Maybe Billy has a background in medicine? I do see that the third definition in RHUD, which matches his usage, is labeled “Anat.”

      Still, if he’s right, I and everyone I know have been wrong in our use of “leg” all our lives (as are the primary dictionary entries, which equate it with simply lower limb, the counterpart to an arm). We should have been saying that a trouser leg doesn’t hold a leg, paradoxically, but a “lower extremity”? (Try teaching that bit of vocabulary to a smile child.)

      I very much liked the theme, but while a lot of entries were gimmes, others for me were the usual TNY trivia. No wonder ratings are all over the map.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I don’t know that anyone outside anatomy circles thinks the upper leg isn’t a part of the leg, the leg being the entire lower limb.

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni … DUMPLING TRUCK? I lived in San Francisco for 23 years and saw many different varieties of food trucks there, but I don’t ever recall seeing one that called itself a DUMPLING TRUCK. As Jim points out in his review, it conjures up images of a dump truck for me. It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to refer to their food business that way. That phrase sure doesn’t get many Google hits.

  5. John Morgan says:

    Slight quibble with the online NYT clue for 16A: “What no monarch wants to be” with the answer “EXILE.” Surely should be “What no monarch wants to be IN”, right?

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