Friday, May 5, 2023

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker tk (Matt) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim) 


USA Today 5:30 (Darby) 


Jacob McDermott’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 5 5 23, no. 0505

Lots of fun fill here! Here’s just a smattering of what I liked” FAN LETTER, WISECRACKS, FONDUE POTS, PULSE RATE (digging the [Vital concern] clue, as in vital signs), PLOT HOLES, EASY READ, DR. SEUSS.

Fave clue, as a 1970s kid who watched TV and appreciated Kojak’s lollipop habit: [Telly on the telly, once], SAVALAS. Memo to Gen Z, Gen Y, and Millennials: Telly Savalas played a detective named Kojak. Shaved head, appreciated a good sucker.

Not so keen on the green-paint vibes from ONE SOCK, or its overlap with BOOK ONE.

Name I didn’t know but appreciate learning: [Nellie Tayloe ___, first female governor of a U.S. state (Wyoming)], ROSS. Governor in back in 1925! Her husband was governor, he died and was replaced by another guy, and then Nellie won a special election against guy 2.

Overall, a nice mélange of topics and spheres are included in this smooth 66-worder. Four stars from me.

Benjamin McAvoy-Bickford’s Universal crossword, “Upside”—Jim’s review

Theme: Familiar phrases featuring geometrical shapes have that shape replaced with one that has an additional side.

Universal crossword solution · “Upside” · Benjamin McAvoy-Bickford · Fri., 5.5.23

  • 20a. [Unhip person from an Atlantic island?] BERMUDA SQUARE. Triangle->Square.
  • 37a. [The five-step, perhaps?] PENTAGON DANCING. Square->Pentagon. My first thought, though, was that somehow a line became a pentagon.
  • 53a. [Documents that view all six sides of an issue?] HEXAGON PAPERS. Pentagon->Hexagon.

Nice. Consistent execution, and I like the progression as we go down the grid. Well done.

Only three theme answers left me wanting more, though.. But there aren’t any common enough phrases featuring hexagons, and of course, there isn’t anything with just two sides…except wars, debates, and KFC family meals, amirite?

I’m liking the long fill today with SIREN SONG, BRASILIA, EXUBERANT, and especially GADZOOKS! With only three theme answers, you’d hope to see some good fill, and I for one wasn’t disappointed.

Breonna Taylor on the cover of OPRAH’s magazine

Clues of note:

  • 13a. [___ Felix Jr. (Disney character)]. FIX-IT. Okay, I had to do some digging to figure out why the character is a “Jr.”—a fact I heretofore had not known. It seems it stems from the game Donkey Kong Jr in which Donkey Kong is held captive by a villainous Mario, and DK Jr. must play the hero to rescue him. It’s somewhat akin to Wreck-it Ralph in which the traditional role of hero and villain are reversed.
  • 11d. [Woman on the cover of all but one issue of O]. OPRAH. That one issue featured Breonna Taylor, the Louisville woman who was shot dead by police in her own home.

Good puzzle all around. Four stars.

Francie Jones’ Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 5/5/23 • Fri • Jones • solution • 20230505

Here we go.

  • 57aR [1981 Top 10 hit for Soft Cell, and a feature of the answers to the starred clues?] TAINTED LOVE. It’s a cover; originally recorded by Gloria Jones in 1964. The other theme answers are also song titles that end with the word LOVE, but have had the first letters changed.
  • 17a. [*Game delay prevented by a chess clock?] ENDLESS MOVE (Endless Love).
  • 27a. [*Has anyone found our pigeon?”] WHERE IS THE DOVE (Where is the Love).
  • 45a. [*Completely hooked on swearing by a Roman god?] ADDICTED TO JOVE (Addicted to Love). By Jove!

The artists are Lionel Richie & Diana Ross, Black EYED (51a) Peas, and Robert Palmer.

A nice, tidy theme, well done.

  • 8d [Prefix with dilator or scope] BRONCHO. Can’t say I’ve seen this in a crossword before.
  • 28d [Gut bacteria] E COLI. Suddenly wondering whether it’s necessary to include a ‘for short’-type qualifier. On the one hand, many people don’t know that the genus name is Escherichia, but on the other hand it’s common practice to abbreviate a genus name to its first letter, and in the lay press it’s almost always called E. coli.
  • 48d [Flight risk?] JET LAG. Kind of a minor one.
  • 1a [Comment accompanying a dismissive hand wave] OH THAT. Nice, evocative clue.
  • 14a [Automaker with a six-star logo] SUBARU. “Subaru is the Japanese name for the Pleiades star cluster M45, or the ‘Seven Sisters’ (one of whom tradition says is invisible – hence only six stars in the Subaru logo), which in turn inspires the logo and alludes to the companies that merged to create FHI.” (Wikipedia)
    The Pleiades come from Greek mythology; they’re primarily known as the nymph-sisters that accompany Artemis on the hunt.
  • 32a [Aveeno grain] OAT. It’s foundational to many of the company’s products. The scientific name for the common oat is Aveno sativa.

Brooke Husic’s Inkubator crossword, “Bottom Energy”—Jenni’s write-up

This one is edgy in class Inkubator style. I didn’t find it particularly challenging, which is fine with me this morning.

All the theme answers go down, and there’s a reason for that (no, I didn’t really intend that like it sounded, and I’m leaving it in anyway).

Inkubator, May 4, 2023, Brooke Husic, “Bottom Energy,” solution grid

  • 3d [*”You’ll never please the critics”] is HATERS GONNA HATE.
  • 8d [*Social circle] is a FRIEND GROUP. I’m old. I just call them “friends.”
  • 20d [*Essayist who wrote the opinion piece “The Cruel Spectacle of ‘The Whale’ “] is ROXANE GAY. Just thinking about that movie makes me feel ill. Ugh. And no, I haven’t seen it and yes, I am judging it anyway and I’m good with that. The premise is horrifying.
  • 23d [*Line that’s difficult to trace?*] is a BURNER PHONE.

And the revealer: 10d [2018 Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic….and what the “bottom” words in the answers to the starred clues can each be said to be?] is ON THE BASIS OF SEXHATE SEXGROUP SEXGAY SEXPHONE SEX. Solid, consistent, amusing, and, as I said, edgy.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that HRT is sometimes known as “tittle skittles.”

Anna Gundlach & Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Torn Apart”—Darby’s recap

Editor: Anna Gundlach

Theme: Each theme answer splits TORN between its beginning and end.

Theme Answers

Anna Gundlach & Erik Agard's USA Today crossword, "Torn Apart" solution for 5/5/2023

Anna Gundlach & Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Torn Apart” solution for 5/5/2023

  • 14a [“Sweet, buttery movie snack”] TOFFEE POPCORN
  • 28a [“Went off course somewhere”] TOOK A WRONG TURN
  • 54a [“Boast about past triumphs”] TOOT YOUR OWN HORN

This was a classic USA Today theme, and I wish I’d given it a thought before I finished the puzzle since I was thinking along the candy lines when filling in TOFFEE POPCORN rather than a more typical option, though, in my defense, I’m not familiar with TOFFEE POPCORN. Also, I love the length of the theme fill here, with TOOK A WRONG TURN and TOOT YOUR OWN HORN.

Overall, this was a fun puzzle! Fave fill included 21d [“Had a heck of a blast”] WHOOPED IT UP, 9d [“National dance of the Dominican Republic”] MERENGUE, and 10d [“Workers often seen on C-SPAN”].

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16 Responses to Friday, May 5, 2023

  1. Seth Cohen says:

    NYT: Oof. Got naticked so badly in the SE: HANA/SAVALAS/NEVIS and the word in the VASES clue?? All of those were completely unknowable for me. Just had to look up those names to finish the puzzle.

    And then the bonus guess-a-letter cross in the NW of HANSARP (who?) and SOP (come on, no one uses that word, especially not with this definition). Had to look that one up too. My only thought was SOU, like, I don’t know, you give a SOU to someone, so you’re appeasing them? I don’t know. Kind of a bummer to have so many squares there was 0% chance of me getting without googling.

    • pannonica says:

      ARP has been a staple of crosswords since forever. The artist used the prénoms JEAN and HANS, so I needed to wait before completing that entry.

    • Eric H says:

      HANS ARP is better known as Jean ARP.

      I did not know that before yesterday. Combine that with misspelling TATOOINE (an answer I was very certain of) and tricky clues for HASHTAG and FAN LETTERS, and the NW took me twice as long as the rest of the grid. It also sucked a lot of fun out of the experience.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Ditto … I knew I was in trouble when I was greeted by a TikTok clue at 1-Across. My brain just sort of shuts down when it reads a clue like that. I’m well aware of what a HASHTAG is, but I don’t think I’ve ever used one. Many of them are pretty obvious, but I’ve never understood how people know what specific letter strings to use for them or what they’re useful for. Is there a sort of dictionary somewhere to look them up?

        I had everything in the grid except the NW corner in about a normal Wednesday solve time and ended up more than 40%(!) above my average Friday. So, it took me about half again as long to get the NW as it did the entire rest of the puzzle. The only bone that was thrown in my direction at all in that corner was ARP and I was certain that his first name was Jean. Wikipedia says his birthname was HANS, but that he’s mostly known as Jean in English. That probably explains it. Argh. I find solves that play out so unevenly like this to be very annoying.

        I thought there was a lot of good stuff in this puzzle and the cluing is generally pretty clever, but that NW corner really left me with a sour taste.

        • Mr. [just a bit] Grumpy says:


        • Eric H says:

          Your experience sounds identical to mine. The puzzle has a lot of good clues, but after spending so much time on the NW corner, I was too annoyed to really appreciate them.

          The reference to TikTok in the HASHTAG clue put me off, too. I have never used TikTok and am not interested in it. Maybe if they had simply used a less clever clue for HASHTAG, I’d have enjoyed this more.

          HANS ARP seems unsalvagable. You either know about his birth name or you don’t.

          Here’s the irony: I went to the Wikipedia article on Jean ARP to see if it mentioned “Impish Fruit” (a title that meant nothing to me) and skipped down to where the article discusses his work. I totally missed the stuff at the top of the page about him originally being named HANS.

        • JohnH says:

          John Russell in “The Meanings of Modern Art,” a full-length survey of Modernism, gives him almost 3 pages so eloquent that I wish I could quote them all, but this: “Arp for years called himself Hans Arp when in Germany and Jan Arp when in France, and in all his work there was a mixture of German lyricism with down-to-earth French logical analysis. This paladin of modernity never lost his hot-line to the German Middle Ages,” from folk songs.

    • David L says:

      The NW section was a struggle for me too. I tried ONSET before START, SPED before TORE, MATISSE before JEANARP before HANSARP. And I had TATTOINE before getting the spelling right (a pox on these endless Star Wars references).

      I don’t do any social media so I didn’t know that HASHTAGS were a thing on TikTok as well as TWITTER.

      Also, OTIS? GERTIE?

      I finished eventually but this was a tough one.

      • Eric H says:

        I made all these wrong choices in the NW except Matisse, where I had Picasso.

        I misremembered GERTIE as Tillie, though I can clearly picture her.

        OTIS was a gimme for me — one of my first fills. “Sex Education” is a very funny show.

        • Me says:

          Does the average person know about Gertie? I have to admit I never heard of her before this puzzle.

          I know the constructors are not responsible for placement of day of the week, but this seemed clearly a Saturday. A ton of proper nouns, and many like SAVALAS (crossing at the V with NEVIS), TATOOINE and HANSARP are not guessable. And there was a lot of tricky wordplay.

          I really don’t understand why there are SO MANY Star Wars references in NYT puzzles. It kind of reinforces an image of the NYT crossword that I would think Will Shortz would want the puzzle to move away from.

          • David L says:

            Last Friday’s puzzle was a misplaced Saturday too.

            I’m with you on the Star Wars stuff, most of which I know only from crosswords, the NYT in particular. I can offer two explanations: (1) Shortz and some constructors believe there is a crossword solvers/Star Wars fans nerd crossover market, and (2) Star Wars has supplied a lot of novel names that conveniently fill awkward spots in a grid.

            • Eric H says:

              Last Friday, I was a minute or so faster than average. Today’s puzzle took about twice as long as the average Friday, and that was with a cheat on the spelling of TATOOINE.

              I personally don’t mind the “Star Wars” references. I’ve seen each the nine movies in the main story at least twice. But it’s hard to know how to spell a weird name that you’ve only heard actors say.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: It was the kind of puzzle I appreciated after the fact. Lots of good entries and clever cluing. But it was quite hard for me to get a foothold, especially in the NW. Certain things clicked, like PULSE RATE and FONDUE POTS and opened up whole neighborhood, but in the end, I need to look up some things to finish. I surprised myself in figuring out FISTS from that clue and it made me chuckle.

  3. MattF says:

    NYT was fun but tough. Like ‘TIKTOK character’ was dismaying at first but actually obvious. I pushed through it, even though TATOOINE has a -lot- of vowels and looks a -lot- like a nearby entry.

  4. JohnH says:

    I liked the NYT and found it easier than most. My sticking point was toward the center, where it got really hard.

    Like Pannonica, I think of ARP as regular crossword fill. If you want an artist, it’s him, ONO, or maybe MIRO, much as a band calls for ELO or, in a recent streak, ACDC, and a musician calls for ENO (or maybe ONO again). I didn’t settle on that right away, as the work’s title is new to me, but then it was only a matter of finding a first name. But I realize my experience is usual since I knew his name as I don’t TV shows, between art history texts and the Museum of Modern Art. GERTIE wasn’t a killer for me either. I got GERT, and the ending was awfully likely.

    OTOH, for once I disagree with the ratings for TNY. I found this one filled with their usual name quirk.

  5. Greg says:

    Glad to see I wasn’t the only one who really struggled in the NW of the times puzzle. I even knew Gertie and Tatooine. I also thought Jean Arp was a gimme. Little did I know he was also known as Hans. That J really threw me off.

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