Friday, June 2, 2023

Inkubator 4:34 (Sophia) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker tk (Matt) 


NYT 6:26 (Amy) 


Universal 5:22 (Jim) 


USA Today tk (Darby) 


John Ewbank’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 6 2 23, no. 0602

It’s a deft touch that the tallest entry in this puzzle is that central peak with EVEREST BASE CAMP. There’s a STEEPLE nearby but, hey, it’s not even half the height of the EVEREST entry.

Fave fill: TIME TRAVEL (I did enjoy Source Code), ACHILLES (DENNIS DEYOUNG didn’t fit for the [Styx figure]), ARMORED CAR crossing the other AR*OR word, ARDOR, AGUA FRESCA, HIT SINGLES aptly near BTS, “IN THAT CASE…,” and FINAL OFFER. I was years past college by the time SPARKNOTES became a thing.

Did not know: [Police officers, in British slang], PLODS. That is indeed one of the definitions in the Collins English Dictionary.

Smooth fill overall. Four stars from me. Good night, folks!

Morton J. Mendelson’s Universal crossword, “Circle Back”—Jim’s review

Well, this is different. And definitely in a good way.

The first hint at the theme is 17a’s TWENTY-FOUR HOURS [Length of Earth’s rotation].

Then we come across what is probably the longest crossword clue that ever existed. That entry at 22a is the start of a series of two-word phrases and/or compound words that loops around the grid in a rectangle—Marching Bands-style—and ends right back at square 22.

Lastly, we get the cherry-on-top revealer at 61a: YOU’LL COME AROUND [Optimistic remark to the unpersuaded].

So what’s the deal with 22a? Glad you asked. Here’s the clue, which is really a series of sub-clues:

[Start of a loop] When the sun shines / Break in a game / Amount spent / Break in a trip / Meteoric, like success / Drink before bed / Culminating achievement / Masonry / Monday to Friday, say …

Universal crossword solution · “Circle Back” · Morton J. Mendelson · Fri., 6.2.23

It must be mentioned that since the answer to each sub-clue is a two-word phrase or compound word, the second word of a phrase is also the first word of the next phrase. Thus we have the answers to the sub-clues:

  • When the sun shines: DAYTIME
  • Break in a game: TIME OUT
  • Amount spent: OUTLAY
  • Break in a trip: LAYOVER
  • Meteoric, like success: OVERNIGHT
  • Drink before bed: NIGHTCAP
  • Culminating achievement: CAPSTONE
  • Masonry: STONEWORK
  • Monday to Friday, say …: WORK WEEK
  • (unclued): WEEKDAY

And notice that the words DAY and NIGHT at opposite corners of the rectangle are circled in an elegant representation of the 24-hour day/night cycle. Pretty nifty, eh?

Though I solved the puzzle relatively quickly, it still took me some time post-solve to piece it all together. And the more I looked at it, the more I liked it. This is really an impressive bit of construction to find the right phrases that allow everything to fit so tidily. Very nice!

There isn’t a lot of sparkle in the grid (BRYN MAWR is nice but HARD TASK is an eyebrow-raiser). But this grid is all about the theme, and I’m plenty impressed with its novelty in conception and smoothness of execution.

4.5 stars from me.

Joe Deeney’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 6/2/23 • Fri • Varol • solution • 20230602

The operative word for this theme is approximation. Familiar words and phrases are reframed in this context.

  • 18a. [Middle, approximately?] FUZZY NAVEL.
  • 27a. [Sequence, approximately?] GENERAL ORDER.
  • 35a. [Straight, approximately?] BALLPARK FRANK.
  • 44a. [Right, approximately?] LOOSE FITTING.
  • 57a. [Quarters, approximately?] ROUGHHOUSE.

Works well; I liked it.

Had a little trouble completing the lower right corner, but looking back on it now I don’t see anything particularly difficult. Mysterious!

  • 8d [Like molasses, vis-à-vis water] OOZIER. Because THICKER definitely did not fit.
  • 34d [Barely get wet?] SKINNY DIP. I can’t articulate it, but this feels cousin to the theme items.
  • 38d [Planner abbr.] FRI. Also today.
  • 45d [Letters before a fresh take] OTOH. One hopes.
  • 46d [Flip response to an ultimatum] OR WHAT. Nice clue/entry. 62a [Back talk, in slang] ’TUDE.
  • 49d [“Yes and no”] SORTA. Approximately-ish.
  • 23a [South American barbecue] ASADO. I guess the noun is masculine. So used to seeing the adjective, in carne asada.
  • 64a [“Inspiration Information” musician Shuggie] OTIS. Great song, but I’m spinning “Strawberry Letter 23” because I just had strawberries in my breakfast and, uh, the year is 2023?

Emily Alinder Flynn and Kate Hawkins’s Inkubator crossword, “Scoring on Skates”—Sophia’s write-up

This puzzle is co-written by Fiend reviewer Emily, so I’m especially hyped to review it today!

Inkubator, 06 01 2023, “Scoring on Skates”

Theme answers:

  • 17a [Quitting a corporate job to become a teacher, for example] – CAREER PIVOT
  • 29a [Device that interferes with cellphone reception] – SIGNAL JAMMER
  • 43a [Browser extension that stops unwanted ads] – POP UP BLOCKER
  • 59a [Indoor contact sport whose positions are found at the ends of 17 Across,  29 Across, and 43 Across] – ROLLER DERBY

Pivot, jammer, and blocker are all roller derby positions! Cool! I personally know very very little about the sport, so even though the title tipped me off as to what the theme might be, I still needed to get all the answers via their clues and crosses. Kind of funny that the two middle answers, SIGNAL JAMMER and POP UP BLOCKER, are both technology related.


Clue highlights: [One of three in a 1988 cult classic] for HEATHER, [Paris pain?] for BREAD, [“Ticket to ___” (board game)] for RIDE – this is probably my all time favorite game and I loved seeing it here!

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22 Responses to Friday, June 2, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: My inability to remember SPARKNOTES cost me a minute or so in the NE. I’ve seen it before, but it didn’t exist in my student days (heck, the World Wide Web didn’t exist during my student days). But otherwise, I zoomed through it and enjoyed the entries.

    • Dallas says:

      This is the second or third time I’ve missed SPARKNOTES… I suppose it’s time for me to finally commit it to memory… *grumble* I’ll file it next to BTS.

      Otherwise, a pretty fun Friday that came together in stages nicely.

    • JohnH says:

      I may know Spark Notes from the New York Public Library. NYPL has a not great search engine, and even if you specify in an advanced search that the term you entered is author and not subject, it’s likely to return Spark Notes. I can’t believe, in fact, that it’s used so much of its budget for that, especially its ebook budget. Surely teachers who don’t want their students relying on that would object. And yes, I know there’s plenty else a student could cheat with available online.

      I could swear, though, that when I was in high school Cliff Notes (derided by a teacher as “the ones with a zebra stripe”) did have a competitor. I just can’t remember what.

      I found getting a foothold in the NYT a tad hard, but then it was a quick and easy a Friday, as well as pretty good even for someone who might demand more. I had to overcome some wrong entries, such as PIANO MOVER crossing EVIL Empire, but I did, and my last to fall was REPS for promotes, new to me.

      • Mary+A says:

        The competitor to Cliff’s Notes that you’re thinking of may be Monarch Notes. As a high school English teacher for the past 30 years, I probably have seen almost all of these cheat sheets.

        • JohnH says:

          That’s it! (Long time ago.) Of course, at the college level the textbook publisher itself gives away or sells all sorts of help, like study guides and software. I worked in that business developing new texts and new editions, and I can say that whatever profits we had when I started out have long ago vanished. (Other factors were used, rental, and e-book texts.)

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I enjoyed this puzzle, even though I wound up with an error. I had gLOAT instead of BLOAT and just couldn’t see the problem at the end.
    I too wondered about PLODS. I read a lot of British mystery fiction, but it was new to me- always good to learn a new word or expression!
    CUPBEARER is one of those career paths that have disappeared… I guess it was a great honor and a sign of trust.
    Favorite entry: IN THAT CASE.

    • Dallas says:

      I had LIP instead of RIM (giving me SLAP instead of SLAM), and for a bit was wondering if the long vertical was supposed to be read up… but then I fixed it after I got CAMP at the bottom. I also had BLOOM instead of BLOAT too …

  3. Milo says:

    LAT: It looks like today’s puzzle is actually by Joe Deeney, and not editor Patti Varol?

    Nicely done, and an illuminating review, as per usual, from pannonica. Love that Shuggie song!

  4. Dan says:

    I tend to like Patti Varol’s puzzle editing very much.

    Joe Deeney’s puzzle today was an *especially* enjoyable solve. After getting “fuzzy navel” and a few other theme entries, I still hadn’t grasped the theme. I was almost 3/4 done filling the puzzle when the light finally dawned. I love when a theme is mysterious for a long time and then finally hits you. Nice one!!!

    • Eric H says:

      It wasn’t until I had the grid filled in that I made sense of the theme. It’s not as weak as some of the other commenters have said, and it’s definitely more interesting than yesterday’s LAT pasta theme.

      I had some trouble in the SW, between thinking that Palo Alto was SSW of Oakland, not knowing the author, and changing my original SUNOCO for CoNOCO.

      I can’t wholly dislike a puzzle with TOUCAN SAM. When I was about seven, I ate a metric fuck-ton* of Froot Loops in order to have enough cereal box tops get a stuffed TOUCAN SAM.

      *(That is a legitimate unit of scientific measurement, according to my friend the physics professor — who, coincidentally, earned his doctorate at Stanford, which is probably why I have even a general sense of where Palo Alto is.)

      • Dan says:

        It does kind of seem as if Palo Alto is SSW of Oakland. But the whole S.F. Bay is tilted lower right-upper left, which makes compass directions confusing.

        • Eric H says:

          That’s exactly what throws me off. I tend to think of the whole California coast as running north-south, but it doesn’t.

  5. Dave S says:

    LAT – Weak, strained theme.

  6. Andy G says:

    When I was in college, which was more than 50 years ago, Monarch Notes was the go to for help with book reports. Cliff Notes were definitely below in quality.

  7. John says:

    NYT: I might be dense, but I cannot figure out how “General motor?” yields ARMORED CAR… Like how does “general” imply “armor”? Military generals aren’t usually armored so I don’t really get it

    • Matthew says:

      I think the idea is that it is a car that a general would be motored about in.

      • John says:

        Ok yeah I guess that makes sense… I guess in my view the phrase “armored car” means a specific vehicle (like a Brinks truck used for transporting money or other valuables) and not just, like, any car with armor.

        • Eric H says:

          That’s what “armored car” means to me, t00. I assumed they were just going for a bit of wordplay with that clue.

          • dh says:

            During the GW Bush administration there was a lot of controversy over the armoring of the several thousand Humvees that were in Iraq. It was presented by some media as a political football, a wedge issue that stood between giving our troops what they needed vs holding out for some negotiation points. Other stories blamed the military, for not being able to figure out how to retrofit the poorly armored vehicles, and for not sending them over armored to begin with.
            I hope this doesn’t turn into a political discussion; that was not the intent. Just informational, and a reason that I understood “General Armor”.

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