Friday, June 16, 2023

Inkubator 5:26 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 4:37 (Matt) 


NYT 7:31 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim) 


USA Today 4:41 (Darby) 


Natan Last & the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 6/16/23, no. 0616

Oof! I mired myself in the opening corner of this puzzle by Natan and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class in NYC. (A themeless from the JASA students? Usually their crosswords are themed.) Was thinking more physical for that AD SPACE, [You can buy it by the inch]. Thought of shellfish for the [Shell stations?] that turned out to be TACO BARS. Jumped at SHOT for [Small drinking glass, as for liquor] but it turned out to be PONY, not at all in my ken. And I didn’t read 16A. [___ National Monument, landmark in New York City’s West Village] carefully enough to think of the historic STONEWALL Inn. (Side note: Just learned this week of Milwaukee’s old Black Nite gay bar, where in 1961 a Black trans woman rallied other patrons to fight off some Navy servicemen who intended to beat up everyone there–and the Black Nite crowd won the battle.)

The rest of the puzzle was more pliable for me. Fave fill (in addition to STONEWALL): PLOTZES, DOOMSCROLLING, CANCEL CULTURE, WHITE RUSSIANS, a SCHMEAR of cream cheese, EGO BOOSTS, SKIDMARK, “WHAT FOR?”, the tawdry DAILY MAIL, LIMERICK, SLUSHIE, and BOOK FAIRS. What a lively mix!

I appreciate the intended play on the term “foreign relations” in the [Some foreign relations] clue for TIA, but do we need to pretend that the tias in someone’s family tend to be “foreign”? Latin Americans (both Spanish and Portuguese), Filipinos, Spaniards … lots of people in the US or abroad have tias in the same country as them. (Side note: My husband’s aunts on his mom’s side are called tia, pronounced more like “cha,” while on his dad’s side, they’re titas.) Raise your hand if you have American aunts you call tia!

Four stars from me.

Josh Kaufmann and Katie Hale’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 6/16/23 • Fri • Kaufmann, Hale • solution • 20230616

  • 58aR [John Milton epic, and a hint to how four long answers in this puzzle were formed] PARADISE LOST. I’d already recognized that the theme entailed the final letters were dropped from existing phrases, but hadn’t kept track of what they were. So I was pleased to see that they indeed spelled something, and that turns out to be E-D-E-N.
  • 19a. [Victory that has a real shine to it?] SPARKLING WIN (sparkling wine).
  • 29a. [Environmental law that targets hair ties?] ELASTIC BAN (elastic band).
  • 37a. [Fish that’s only on an unofficial menu?] SECRET COD (secret code).
  • 49a. [Provide spiced tea?] SUPPLY CHAI (supply chain).

Theme holds together, checks out.

  • 3d [Readied, as a baking pan] GREASED. Editing question: why isn’t the clue simply [Readied a baking pan]?
  • 47d [Put faith in] TRUSTED. Easy to be misled into thinking it’s a present-tense clue.
  • 62d [Use a surgical beam] LASE. 41d [Functionality] USE.
  • 15a [Mammal also called a scaly anteater] PANGOLIN. Also one of the most—if not the most—heavily trafficked mammal in the world. I believe all of the species are now endangered, primarily for demand in (ineffective) traditional Asian medicine. It isn’t enough that we’re polluting the planet, destroying natural habitats wholesale, and conducting a robust trade in ‘exotic’ pets, eh? </soapbox>
  • 54a [Jia Tolentino piece] ESSAY. Was unfamiliar with the author, so here’s the link to her Wikipedia page.
  • 63a [Painting featured in Marcel Duchamp’s “L.H.O.O.Q.”] MONA LISA. “Elle a chaud au cul.”
  • 66a [Garbage tech] E-WASTE. Amusingly ambiguous clue, and answer.

Stu Ockman’s Universal crossword, “Headstand”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar(ish) words and phrases “upside-down”.

Universal crossword solution · “Headstand” · Stu Ockman · Fri., 6.16.23

  • 22a. [*Quick vacation for newlyweds (Hint: Do a headstand to understand the starred clues’ answers!)] NOOW-INIW. Mini-moon.
  • 24a. [*Gilligan’s boat] MONNIW .S .S (something like that). S. S. Minnow.
  • 38a. [*Burger order specification] NOINO ON. No onion.
  • 41a. [*”Despicable Me” spinoff] SWNOINIW. Minions.
  • 52a. [*Sound of Cookie Monster eating] WON WON WO. Om nom nom.
  • 56a. [*Buckeye State pageant winner] OIHO SSIW. Miss Ohio.

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this theme in a different venue in the not too distant past, but I can’t find it with just a cursory look. I came across the Gilligan’s Island clue first and was able to resolve it without grokking the theme. I could see all the letters there for “Minnow” but couldn’t make sense of it. Thankfully, the helpful hint in the first starred entry put things to right. I enjoyed the theme even though I felt I’d seen it recently.

MAHI MAHI and NOT SO HOT make for fun fill. I also liked seeing POW-WOWS and PAGODA.  WACKO immediately followed by WACO is a humorous coincidence.

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [“I get that ___”]. A LOT. I don’t think I’ve seen this cluing angle before. Feels fresh.
  • 20a. [Enjoyed fettuccine from the fridge, say]. ATE IN. I’m picturing standing in front of the fridge eating cold pasta straight from the storage container.
  • 3d. [Kryptonian or Tralfamadorian]. ALIEN. I needed to look up Tralfamadorians to learn they are inventions of Vonnegut in several of his books.
  • 7d. [“That’s apparent to me”]. “I CAN SEE.” I think people would normally say, “I can see that.” I wonder if this was originally clued with respect to having a blindfold or eye bandage removed.
  • 26d. [Apt letters missing from “leave a_ _o_ _ded”]. STUN. Meh. I don’t think this works so well when the quoted phrase isn’t something people commonly say.

Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Carly They Themsen and Kate Chin Park’s Inkubator puzzle “Themeless #44” – Erin’s write-up

Inkubator solution 6/16/23

Inkubator solution 6/16/23

Hello lovelies! Erin Milligan-Milburn subbing for Jenni on this week’s Inkubator, which is a wonderful themeless by Carly They Themsen and Kate Chin Park. We’ve got math jokes. We’ve got Big LGBTQ+ Energy. We’ve got fresh cluing voices. I could go on, but instead I’ll go through some of my favorite entries:

  • 18a. [Exclamation upon realizing that one of your humble constructors is a physics geek] NERD ALERT.
  • 20a. [Infinitely many calc teachers walk into a bar and order 1 beer, 1/2 neer, 1/4 beer, and so on. The bartender pours 2 beers and says, “You all really ___!”] KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Reader, I snorted out loud at this corny as heck joke.
  • 50a. [“why all the hot girls from the same country? like where even is ___?” -@eevee tweet] TRANS FLAG EMOJI. Seeing the tweet really helps here.

    Trans flag emoji tweet

    Trans flag emoji tweet

  • 45d. [*accordion music plays while a couple strolls along the bank of the Seine*] L’AMOUR

And some things I learned today:

  • 26a. [French word for a sibling’s daughter] NIECE. Techically nièce but since we usually ignore diacritics in crosswords it’s the same answer as in English.
  • 26d. [One of  more than half a million, for the Green Bay Packers] OWNERS. The Packers are the only United States professional sports team owned by public shareholders.

Until next week!

Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Duty Calls (Freestyle)”—Darby’s recap

This was a really fun themeless that was also bananas tight in terms of having a low word count and also great fill. It took me a wee bit longer than usual, which tells me that, at times, I might depend on the shorter, three- and four-letter fill to help bolster my solve. I usually move between Across and Down, and I certainly did today, but there were a few places I got stuck. Still, though, the fill itself is incredibly wide-ranging and fun, and I love LET THERE BE LIGHT coming in right down from the middle, crossing both 14a [“Advice for someone who’s in the middle of deeply embarrassing themselves on social media”] PUT DOWN THE PHONE and 33a [“Not permanently”] FOR THE TIME BEING. Both were excellently clued and just great as marquee answers.

Other elements I noticed:

Erik Agard's USA Today crossword, "Duty Calls (Freestyle)" solution for 6/16/2023

Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Duty Calls (Freestyle)” solution for 6/16/2023

  • 1a [“Celebrate”] – I feel like REVEL wasn’t the only celebratory/competitive fill here. There’s also 18a [“Boasts”] BRAGS, 11d [“Peak condition”] TOP FORM, 13d [“Up your game”] GET GOOD, and RAT RACE.
  • 13a [“I love us!”] – I frequently say “GO TEAM” to end a meeting, so this really spoke to me personally.
  • 23a [“John Lewis said it’s ‘not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest’”] – I love that this quoted clue for FREEDOM was right in the center of the grid.
  • 1d [“Colorful name for bison calves”] – Learning that bison calves are nicknamed RED DOGS was super interesting, especially since I love bison! (What did the buffalo say to his son when he left? Bi-son). It was also nice to have three animal clue/answers right nearby, with 12d [“Animal’s tunnel”] BURROW and 10d [“Competitive, repetitive lifestyle”] RAT RACE, without having them feel like repeats.

Michael Lieberman & Kate Chin Park’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s recap

Michael Lieberman & Kate Chin Park’s New Yorker crossword solution, 6/16/2023

Quite a challenge this week! This puzzle is a really great example of something I tell solvers a lot: You know the things in the puzzle. If something really, really doesn’t make sense, poke around for a theme.

For the sake of brevity, let’s jump right to the revealer:

52a [“I had nothing to do with it!” … or how to make sense of twelve of this puzzle’s clues] DON’T LOOK AT ME

Hopefully that direction helped solvers revisit tricky areas and find the a-ha moment. Clue-answer combos that didn’t make sense at first blush need to have the letter string -ME- removed to fit together:

  • 14a [Aimed for the stars] AGENT. “Aimed” > “Aid”
  • 15a [Homely accessory, perhaps] HALO. “Homely” > “Holy”
  • 20a [Place to get charmed] PRODUCE AISLE. “Charmed” > “Chard”
  • 32a [Dreamed about reaching great heights] ACROPHOBIA. “Dreamed” > “Dread”
  • 42a [Amex user] LUMBERJACK. “Amex” > “Ax”
  • 56a [Like a boomer] RUDE. “Boomer” > “Booer”
  • 66a [Big seller of games] ESSO. “Games” > “Gas”
  • 11d [Remedial subject, perhaps] CRUSH. “Remedial” > “Redial”, as in you might call your CRUSH often on the phone.
  • 29d [Friend of Romeo] POOH. “Romeo” > “Roo”
  • 37d [Ate meat] IRKED. “Meat” > “At”
  • 42d [Company known for its pomelos] LACOSTE. “Pomelos” > “Polos”
  • 59d [Where comets can be found] INN. “Comets” > “Cots”

I love themes like this, because working in the clues allows for a more theme-dense puzzle without necessarily sacrificing fill. I also think the constructors and the New Yorker team did a great job in honoring the general Tuesday-Wednesdayish difficulty of these Friday themed puzzles while accommodating a trick and producing an a-ha moment. Some of the -ME-s are elegantly hidden, while others stick out and are clearer indications that something strange is up: [Place to get charmed] is a bit unnatural, as is a hypothetical [Company known for its pomelos]

Lots of noteworthy stuff outside the theme, too:

  • 10a [Does extra work?] ACTS. A simple, but deft, misdirect.
  • 28a [OEuvre] OUTPUT. Gotta love the New Yorker typographical style bleeding through there. We must have the ligature!
  • 41a [“What ___ God wrought?” (first telegram sent in the U.S.)] HATH. A new piece of trivia for me. Would that there was such public concern about so-called AI nowadays.
  • 58a [Circular gasket] O RING. I (read: my mechanic) recently solved a two-year issue with my car’s air conditioning by identifying a leaky O RING as the issue. Only after replacing every other part of the system, unfortunately.
  • 64a [Montana or Rice, familiarly] NINER. In reference to Pro Football Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, each best known for their time with the San Francisco 49ers, where they won two Super Bowls together.
  • 34d [Vodka alternative] SOJU. I was going to write that I would never order vodka if I wanted SOJU and the latter were unavailable, but I see that SOJU is exempted from certain laws in New York and California and thus has spun up as an alternative for mixed drinks. So this is (tongue somewhat, but not fully in-cheek) a New York City-bias-in-crosswords clue in disguise.
  • 48d [MacDowell of “Sex, Lies, and Videotape”] ANDIE. I, *very unfortunately*, really only know Andie MacDowell and Audre McDonald from puzzles. So naturally I put a third name, “Angie” here, and had to work around THAT issue.
  • 50d [Tropical evergreen cultivated for its seeds] CACAO. First thought: I didn’t know this was an evergreen! Second thought: maybe most tropical plants are evergreens, given, you know, the tropics.
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29 Responses to Friday, June 16, 2023

  1. MattG says:

    NYT: I thought this day would never come – I beat Amy’s time, and by almost a full minute. I’m usually happy if my time is less than twice hers.

    • AlexK says:

      Well done! I came very close to beating her time, but alas she eked me out again. I was definitely on the constructors’ wavelength for this one. I also felt some strain in the opening corner, but it ended up falling nicely with an early ‘Stonewall’ which it appears Amy missed on first pass. Fun, smooth puzzle!

    • pannonica says:

      Very, very close to two full minutes for me, and that almost never happens. Amy was definitely off her game last night.

  2. MattF says:

    NYT was tough for me, but entirely fair. Hard to get a foothold, but got into the quadrants one at a time— last to fall was NW.

    • Dallas says:

      Same here; got the SE right before that… required making some guesses to see how it looked, and really came together well. But because of the spiral grid, I’d get a corner worked out and briefly feel good but then realized it didn’t help me with the rest of the puzzle :-) Anyway, great Friday.

      • Eric H says:

        The SE was tricky — “rite” instead of POMP slowed me down for a bit.

        Still, it was fast for a Friday (if not as fast as last week’s Robyn Weintraub puzzle).

        All the Yiddish words in the grid amused me. It’s such a colorful language.

        • JohnH says:

          It was slow for me, after a couple of corners went quickly. It took a while for me to venture a guess that cracked the center and even longer to finish the SE. I had EGO- and then just couldn’t come up with an ending.

          All told, though, I liked the challenge and appreciate that, maybe because of JASA or the more hands-on editing at the NYT than at TNY, Natan Last did seem to rely on hard clues rather than obscure answers.

  3. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: In Chamorro, “aunt” is “tiha” (but could also be TIA). “Uncle” is “tihu” (or “tiu”). But I’ve only ever used “auntie” and “uncle” (result of the Americanization of my generation).

    I do like the Chamorro “Tun” for “Mr.” and “Tan” for “Mrs.” often used with just the first name. My grandfather was known as “Tun Antonio.”

    • JohnH says:

      I don’t get it. TIA appears, but where’s the mistake? I don’t see the clue as saying it’s Chamorro (a new word to me that would have raised the difficulty level many times over).

      • Jim Peredo says:

        Amy was asking about the usage of TIA in America. I was responding to that, not to anything directly in the puzzle. The language of Guam is called Chamorro. Guam is a U.S. territory, ergo I responded.

  4. marciem says:

    NYT: Nice Friday puzzle for me. I don’t time myself, but I got through it step by step, and that’s unusual for me with a Natan Last puzzle. :) .

    I translated “foreign relations” (once I got it) as meaning “non-English word for certain relatives (Aunties)”, not foreigners. As such I thought it was a cute clue.

    • Eric H says:

      I imagine most of the Natan Last/JASA collaborations are predominantly the work of the students in Mr. Last’s class. The collaborations don’t seem to have as many obscure-to-a-lot-of-people proper nouns that Mr. Last’s New Yorker puzzles are often criticized for.

      • marciem says:

        I’m sure you’re right since the byline is “J.A.S.A class”… and those students would be people over-55, so more in my wheelhouse than his usual NYT puzzles (which I also enjoy, but they stump me frequently.)

        • Eric H says:

          I usually enjoy Natan Last’s puzzles, both in the NYT and the New Yorker. But they are usually a bit more challenging than his JASA class collaborations.

  5. PJ says:

    NYT – I also hesitated on PONY. I knew PONY as a seven ounce Miller High Life in the 70s.

    I also really enjoyed TNY’s theme and grid.

    • pannonica says:

      Rolling Rock still—aptly—makes pony bottles, but as far as I know they’re all derivatives of pony glasses.

      • JohnH says:

        How strange. I don’t recall any of these brands coming in something called pony bottles, and Googling for that term comes up with only a scuba tank that’s both larger and differently shaped. Meanwhile PONY glass, a new term to me, appears to be a shot glass with a stem, generally 5-oz., which obviously Miller and Rolling Rock don’t use.

        Of course, whatever memories of Miller I may have had I’ve done my best to put out of my mind.

        • PJ says:

          I searched for ‘Miller Ponies’ and got a lot of hints like the one –

          An interesting thing in that article is what it has to say about the origin of the name. It says it isn’t related to the glass.

          Small beers are often referred to as “ponies” because the term originated in the United Kingdom in the early 1900s when drinkers would ask for a “pony” when they wanted a smaller serving of beer. At the time, the standard measure for beer was a “pint.

          • JohnH says:

            Ah, thanks. You still sometimes see bottles or cans smaller than 12 oz. I encounter them occasionally at gallery openings, where they are trying to save money and to take into account that visitors are just passing through rather than drinking it all in. Not that I can name the brand.

            In drafts, I usually see 10 oz glasses rather than pints for strong beers, like double IPAs. Or when they too are trying to save money.

  6. David L says:

    NYT: Good Friday puzzle, and I learned something — I had long thought that ‘to plotz’ meant ‘to break down sobbing.’ Not a word I have come across very often and I inferred the (wrong) meaning from context.

    • JohnH says:

      I associate it more with exhaustion, but dictionaries suggest that the puzzle’s usage is as valid as mine.

  7. dh says:

    I got “Doomscrolling” right away with no crossings – it was a guess but it fit. Sadly, simply reading the news today is often just naturally doomscrolling. I thought maybe I was in sync with this puzzle when I was certain that 36A was a “Dirty Martini”, but my plan B was “Cosmopolitan”. Harumph. I remembered “pony” from going out to dinner with my parents back in the 1960’s, and my mom liked a “Creme de Menthe Pony” as an aperitif. I couldn’t imagine what that was, but I was disappointed when I found out. I also had no cultural issues with “Foreign Relations”, it’s a pretty common clue construction, no? Like “French Connection” – slyly referencing a foreign language in the clue.

    I found this puzzle to be very culturally broad – in addition to “Tia” there were Yiddish terms like “Plotz” and “Schmear”, the Christian reference to Lazarus, the Hindu Siva, and others, including the Stonewall monument. Even the shape of the puzzle is a swastika, which before it was appropriated by evil, was recognized as an ancient religious symbol (and this one was fortunately an inverted version of the Nazi one). Say the wrong thing about any of these cultures and you may find yourself a victim of an ardent 35A.

  8. marciem says:

    TNY: I really enjoyed this one, with the theme slant being on the clues not the answers. Took me a minute or 5 to get it, but it was fun.

    • Eric H says:

      It was a fun theme, but even after I figured the trick out, I kept reading the “me” in the clues.

    • Milo says:

      It was fun seeing a phrase I find myself saying often — DON’T LOOK AT ME! — used here as a literal imperative. But gosh, the NE corner was tough with those out-there clues for DRIP and CRUSH. I accept the drip clue, grudgingly, after looking it up, but still don’t get [Remedial subject, perhaps] for crush. Anyone?

      FWIW see next two paragraphs for a repeat of my comment from last Friday, which got buried pretty quickly. Perhaps Amy and crew will see and share some thoughts…

      / / /

      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.

      • JohnH says:

        I still don’t get DRIP or CRUSH. What is that about? I also have, I forget but think it was SOJU. Help?

        BTW, yes, I know we can’t criticize late reviews since people here are all volunteers and doing us a favor. Still, if Matt is never going to deliver a TNY review over the course of something like 4 weeks now, maybe he doesn’t want the assignment, and it shouldn’t be assumed he has it?

      • Matt Gritzmacher says:

        Hi Milo,

        Indeed on this comment, I made sure to get back and get a review in even a day late today.

        We do share a space for communication and it usually works (Amy is very good at keeping subs and the need for subs top-of-mind), but of course we’re all volunteers. I should have been more realistic about my capacity this spring and asked for a full-on switch rather than “please cover it if you are able and see that I haven’t gotten there,” and I will be quick to pull that switch if the time zones aren’t working once July comes.

        • Milo says:

          Great, thanks!

          That is interesting, what you pointed out about soju. In a perfect world, Japanese places without a liquor license would take note and use it instead of sake in their “martinis.”

        • JohnH says:

          Ah, thanks. I should have done a better job of Googling for DRIP STYLE and SOJU, I guess, and I appreciate the explanation of how CRUSH could be a “redial subject,” but it’s a stretch for sure.

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