Friday, June 9, 2023

Inkubator 4:34 (Kyle) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 1:51 (Matt) 


NYT 5:34 (Amy) 


Universal 5:13 (Jim) 


USA Today 4:59 (Darby) 


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

NY Times crossword solution, 6 9 23, no. 0609

I’ve never disliked a Robyn themeless. They’re just reliably good!

Fave fill: GREENPEACE, MUSICAL CHAIRS, modern slang DEETS (short for details), “TELL ME ABOUT IT!”, FIESTA BOWL, SOUP TO NUTS, SERIAL COMMA (I am firmly in the “yes, but stop putting on airs and calling it the Oxford comma, this is America” camp), “THAT’S A FIRST!”, and the DOG STAR.

Come along, friends, while I clamber up onto my soapbox to talk about DRYER SHEETs, which I hate with a passion. A package of little unrecyclable sheets made from petroleum, carrying volatile organic compounds and allergens. They’re not good for the environment or for people; my eyes get sore and water when neighbors are using dryer sheets. There are alternatives besides applying volatile compounds and chemical fragrances to your clean laundry!

Liked the little mislead of 41D. [Certain loophole], EYELET. A small hole in your shoe or corset, perhaps, that you might sort of loop a lace through.

I’m ready for the weekend! Four stars from me.

Em Handy’s Inkubator puzzle “Botanimal Garden” – Kyle’s write-up

Kyle here subbing in for Jenni on this week’s Inkubator puzzle.

I don’t see Em Handy’s name in the tags, so if this is indeed her publication debut, congratulations are in order! Em has a website where you can find her self-published puzzles, along with info about her other artistic pursuits.

As the title suggests, our theme is plants with animal names. Per the clues, all of these plants seem to be pretty nasty if ingested!

“Botanimal Garden” solution grid – The Inkubator – Em Handy – 06/08/2023

    • 16A LARKSPUR [Poisonous “avian” assassin in prairies and forests]
    • 24A BUCKTHORN [Laxative “cervine” invader among the shrubbery]
    • 39A WOLFSBANE [Toxic “lupine” killer in mountain meadows]
    • 51A FOXGLOVE [Lethal “vulpine” stalker of woody hillsides]

I liked the inclusion of the relevant adjectives avian, cervine etc. as an extra hint to the animals.

The grid offers a lot of longer bonus fill, including fun stuff like “OH I GET IT!”, FUN RUNS, BARREL ROLL, OLIVIA POPE, etc.

I needed to look up some of the shorter fill after finishing:

  • 27D NYAN [___ Cat (flying meme kitty with a Pop-Tart body whose name sounds like “meow” in Japanese)]. Someone who is more online than I am would probably not need the long parenthetical. As it were, I needed all the crosses to get this.
  • 46D ZORI [Japanese sandals]. Somewhat surprisingly, this word was not in any of my wordlists. Fixed that!
  • 51D FTL [Initialism for impossibly speedy space travel]. Faster than light.

Finally, some favorite clues:

  • 41A RAIN [Ironic wedding day weather, per Alanis Morissette]. As my wife and I were having our wedding photos taken in Chicago a few years ago, it started to rain. Fortunately, we had planned ahead and brought clear umbrellas. The photo of us together under our umbrellas under the Lake Street L tracks is one of my favorites.
  • 53A TREE [Questionable home for a Keebler bakery (can you be any more flammable?)] Ha! Never thought of that. What must their insurance cost?
  • 22D FUNRUNS [Events that may not seem as enjoyable as their name suggests (because of all the jogging)]. Amen.
  • 28D PLOW [Vehicle named Clearopathra or Han Snowlo in Minnesota] What, no love for Blizzo?

Thank you Em!

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Universal crossword, “To Be Continued”—Jim’s review

Leave it to AES to come up with something simple yet novel and elegant.

The theme consists of familiar phrases spread across three entries in one row each. But wait, there’s more. The second and third entries together in each row make up a valid word, and the third one is crossword-valid as well. Pretty nifty, eh?

Universal crossword solution · “To Be Continued” · Alex Eaton-Salners · Fri., 6.9.23

  • 13a. [With 15- and 16-Across, sporty shoes] CROS STRAIN ERS
    • 15a [With 16-Across, pasta prep devices] STRAIN ERS
    • 16a. [Hosp. areas] ERS
  • 23a. [With 24- and 26-Across, preschooler’s place] DAYCA REC ENTER
    • 24a. [With 26-Across, take five deep breaths, say] REC ENTER
      • 26a. [Go in] ENTER
  • 40a. [With 41- and 42-Across, conflicted feelings] MIXE DEMOT IONS
    • 41a. [With 42-Across, reductions in rank] DEMOT IONS
      • 42a. [Particles like Br-] IONS
  • 51a. [With 52- and 55-Across, shipments on certain brown vans] UPSDE LIV ERIES
    • 52a. [With 55-Across, special uniforms] LIV ERIES
      • 55a. [Great Lakes people] ERIES
  • 68a. [With 69- and 70-Across, ranch or vinaigrette] SAL ADDRES SING
    • 69a. [With 70-Across, delivering a formal speech to] ADDRES SING
      • 70a. [Perform in a choir] SING

I admit that I didn’t notice at first that the second and third entries in each grouping had their own clues. I was just proceeding down the grid filling things in based on the first clues. But once I caught on, I had that proverbial aha moment and marveled at how such a simple concept could be so satisfying.

I especially love how no word is duplicated in each of the various meanings. For example, IONS becomes part of DEMOTIONS and EMOTIONS. SING becomes part of ADDRESSING and DRESSING. CENTER and RE-CENTER are close in the second entry, but their meanings are totally different. Overall, that’s an elegant touch.

And if that wasn’t enough for you, there’s still some nice fill entries to enjoy like TEEN TITANS, IV DRIPS, BIONICLE, and OLD NAVY.

Clues of note:

  • 49a. [“Don’t u worry!”]. NBD. Short for “No big deal.” I don’t think I’ve seen this in a puzzle, but I have encountered it in real life.
  • 63a. [Superhero team with Starfire and Beast Boy]. TEEN TITANS. I know nothing about this comic book series nor the show of the same name except that Robin (of Dynamic DUO fame) is a member of the team.

Really nice puzzle! Four stars.

Natasha Erickson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 6/9/23 • Fri • Erickson • solution • 20230609

Took a few moments to see that the long down answers were the site of the theme entries, and that there were word reversals involved. I resisted the distraction of thinking about what linked them or why, so the revealer at 51d was necessary for my understanding.

  • 51dR [Positive personal transformation, in slang, and what the answer to each starred clue literally has?] GLOW UP. Oh, it seems I also didn’t notice those asterisks!
  • 18d. [*Small sign that things will improve] REMMILG OF HOPE (glimmer).
  • 5d. [*Possible symptom before a bad headache] MIGRAINE ARUA (aura).
  • 22d. [*Morning exhortation] RISE AND ENIHS (shine).
  • 10d. [*Quick-to-wake sorts] THGIL SLEEPERS (light).

Not a huge fan of this one, partially because I don’t care much for the revealing phrase,—though I have definitely seen it in the wild numerous times—and partially because I’m not convinced that the key words are good enough as synonyms for or examples of ‘glow’.

  • 14a [Natori Feathers undergarment] BRA. Not a reference I’ve seen before.
  • 22a [Softball stat] RBIS. Not recognizing ‘stat’ as an abbreviated term led me to put in RUNS here.
  • 26a [Toy company based in Billund, Denmark] LEGO. It contains the letters for b-u-i-l-d (plus n-l).
  • 36a [Serranos, e.g.] CHILIES. I was surprised to see the Ngram results showing that the plural spelling is vastly more commonly chilies than chilis.
  • 52a [Utah’s Capitol __ National Park] REEF. Another fresh reference for a rather mundane entry. “The park was named for its whitish Navajo Sandstone cliffs with dome formations—similar to the white domes often placed on capitol buildings—that run from the Fremont River to Pleasant Creek on the Waterpocket Fold. Locally, reef refers to any rocky barrier to land travel, just as ocean reefs are barriers to sea travel.” (Wikipedia)
  • 56a [ __ egg: vegan baking ingredient] CHIA. And another.
  • 60a [Blacksmith’s wear] APRON. Yet another. It’s certainly a defining feature of this crossword! There are plenty more to be found, but I’ll stop listing them here.
  • 50d [“You’re doing it all wrong!”] NO NO NO. A mood.

To recap: theme, meh; crossword as whole, yeh.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Vet Center” — Darby’s write-up

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer includes VET in the middle across two words.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "Vet Center" solution for 6/9/2023

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Vet Center” solution for 6/9/2023

  • 16a [“‘Can’t stay!’”] I HAVE TO GO
  • 31a [“Get outta Dodge”] LEAVE TOWN
  • 48a [“Its branch symbolizes peace”] OLIVE TREE
  • 64a [“Rush hour, to broadcasters”] DRIVE TIME

Standard theme here, but I appreciated all four theme answers, with the serene image conjured up by OLIVE TREE as my favourite. DRIVE TIME was also really fun. These were also spaced out really nicely within the grid. I had PRIME TIME for a hot minute, and I wished I’d been thinking more thematically because it certainly would’ve saved me some trouble. Alas, ENVOY did the job.

The symmetry of the grid was great, and it allowed for such nice open corners–a hard thing to do with four themers. SNAIL’S PACE and SERVICE DOG were all great. I particularly loved having TIRE SWING clued as 11d [“Swaying rubbery perches”], and 10d [“It might be boosted by a pregame pep talk”] TEAM MORALE gave me big Ted Lasso vibes. Also, just a fun fact based on 68a [“Stegosaurus or velociraptor, for short”], the stegosaurus is my favourite DINO, in case anyone was wondering.

Overall, this was a fun puzzle! It was clearly well VET-ted.

Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s recap

Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker crossword solution, 6/9/2023

Paolo’s puzzle plays on a common phrase in songs:

17a [High-school romance, say (fun.)] YOUNG LOVE
29a [Meetup while everyone’s home for the holidays, perhaps (Sister Sledge)] FAMILY GATHERING
49a [Information-age invention by Tim Berners-Lee (U.S.A. for Africa)] THE WORLD WIDE WIBE

And a revealer at 66a [Question asked by someone in a relationship … and answered, by the artists in parentheses, with the beginnings of 17-, 29-, and 49-Across?] WHAT ARE WE.

I love the theme set and the revealer works. The clue for the revealer is a bit of a doozy, but that’s a bit nitpicky. I like the progression of the theme set, as well – each “We are…” earworm is a little more evocative than the last to my ear.

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14 Responses to Friday, June 9, 2023

  1. Dallas says:

    I was really on the NYT wavelength today; liked the cluing for AISLE and just kept on going from there. Ended up with a PR for Friday, too. Good stuff, great lead-in to the weekend.

  2. rob says:

    NYT: A Robyn Friday puzzle with my morning coffee. Does it get any better than that? As Amy stated above, and I agree wholeheartedly, “I’ve never disliked a Robyn themeless”

  3. Mark says:

    Robyn W’s puzzle was great.
    I once found myself sharing an elevator with her at ACPT. She’s as nice as she is talented!

  4. Eric H says:

    LAT: I haven’t done the puzzle, but the photo of Capitol Reef National Park caught my eye.

    It’s not a big park, so it gets a lot fewer visitors than someplace like Zion or Arches. But it’s got some nice day hikes and one of the best campgrounds in any national park.

  5. JohnH says:

    Matt never did write up last Friday’s TNY, not that I’d know what he’s talking about if he did so now. I hope, though, he does so this time. I completed it quickly, despite Pasco’s usual mountain of trivia, but otherwise haven’t a clue and would like to hear more.

    • PJ says:

      Start with the base phrase, “We are” as a beginning to the answer to 66a.

      Add the first word of each theme answer.

      The result is a song title from the referenced artist. That’s why we needed the article at the beginning of 49a.

      I did not know until today that fun. is a band.

      • PJ says:

        or first two words of 49a.

      • JohnH says:

        I didn’t know any of that and Matt’s write-up didn’t help. All I could think even WITH his explanation was that somehow all these themers are songs I never heard of. But then nothing seemed to link them together or to the reveal. Didn’t help that I heard of only Sister Sledge, and there I kept wondering more about the connection. Did her “sister” somehow motivate FAMILY GATHERING?

        Not knowing that I was looking for bands or songs, I had tried several times this morning searching for FUN as word or an abbreviation, which made no sense to me, and it never turned up anything remotely helpful. I see now that if I search for “fun band” I get them. But puzzle totally wasted on me. Hate it. If you can’t get it even with Google and someone’s explanation, forget it.

        • Eric H says:

          “We Are Family” was #2 pop hit in 1979. Great earworm material.

          I also didn’t recognize fun. as a band. I like music, but between two songs I would just as soon forget and one I’d never heard of, the theme didn’t do much for me.

          • JohnH says:

            I do remember We Are Family. I just didn’t know who it was by or draw the connection, and I still don’t see an aging pop hit as pulling the entries together. I already said why I can’t see of them remotely together and which I don’t recognize at all. Infurating puzzle. Total junk.

            Pasco tried to New Yorker-ize even a recent Sunday cryptic. Thankfully, he failed. Cryptics, while also harmed badly by factual dependency since they depend rather on cleverness and since they can’t count on crossings, when several letters in each entry aren’t checked, also have some mechanisms to protect against it, since every clue can be read two ways.

            • Eric H says:

              PJ’s comment neatly summarized the theme:

              You’ve got three songs: “We Are Young” (by fun.), “We Are Family” (by Sister Sledge), and “We Are the World” (by USA for Africa). All were top hits. The revealer ties them together.

    • placematfan says:

      The thought of someone in a relationship saying, “What are we?” makes me smile.

    • Matthew Gritzmacher says:

      I should be more consistent soon, if not immediately. We’re moving overseas at the end of this month and the to-dos have been extensive. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – house was packed today and it’s basically only pet transport at this point.

      • Milo says:

        Congrats on the move, Matt, and happy travels! Perhaps you and the other reviewers — whose volunteer efforts I appreciate! — could have a group text/email to alert the team of those times when you’re swamped, so that one of the others might volunteer to fill in? Just a thought.

        I sometimes click on the tags for constructors I enjoy in order to track down their earlier puzzles and solve them. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. So it’s a double bummer when a puzzle goes unreviewed as those tags are never created, leaving an incomplete record of their work.

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