Friday, July 21, 2023

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 1:56 (Matt) 


NYT 4:45 (Amy) 


Universal 4:45 (Jim) 


USA Today 3:39 (Darby) 


Spencer Leach’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #45″—Jenni’s write-up

This is one of the tougher Inkubator themeless crosswords in my memory. They said moderately challenging which just goes to show that I am not on their wavelength about such things.

I’m sure some of my struggle came was due to my advanced age. [Taylor Swift hit with the line “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me”] was undoubtedly a gimme for many of you. I know the line – I’ve seen TikTok! – and did not know that the title of the song is ANTI-HERO.

A few other things:

Inkubator, July 20, 2023, Spencer Leach, “Themeless #45,” solution grid

  • 1a [ABBA song with an ABAB rhyme scheme chorus] is my era and I didn’t even try to figure it out without some of the crossings. It’s MAMMA MIA.
  • 8d [Comes after] is ASSAILS which is perfectly fair and also a good misdirect. It had me thinking along the lines of ENSUES rather than ATTACKS.
  • 37d [Sugar substitute?] is HON.
  • 43a [Modern thing to spread during a pandemic] is a ZOOM LINK.
  • 41d [New York hockey player] is SABRE because Buffalo is in New York.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Taylor Swift. And I’ve never before seen the phrase HES A TEN BUT which is clued as [Start of a modern criticism]. Needed every single crossing and had to stare at it for a while to figure out how it made words.

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

NY Times crossword solution, 7/21/23 – no. 0721

Speak of the devil! I met up with constructors Rich Proulx, Adam Aaronson, and (Team Fiend member) Kyle Dolan Tuesday evening, and we talked about the breezy Thursday New Yorker themelesses often made by Robyn or Caitlin Reid, and how these women excel at making smooth, easy themeless grids that still have plenty of juicy fill. Robyn’s Fri NYT isn’t as easy as one of those, but it is pitched right to the expected difficulty level here. (We also discussed supervocalics–Adam and I dig them–and of course Robyn Weintraub contains exactly one of each vowel including Y.)

Fave fill: ANATOMY LAB, FONDUE POTS, GRETA Gerwig (director of the critically acclaimed film Barbie, and I am dead serious), NANCY DREW, PET PEEVES (no verb+AT entries in this grid, yay!), SNOW DAYS (remote learning has really cut down on snow days off school), TALENT POOL, SLEEPWALKER, “YOU GUESSED IT” (not keen on the [“Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!”] clue, which feels way too excited, but I’m blanking on a way to clue the “as you suspected” angle without being able to use the word “you”), NAVY SEALS, DATA-MINES, PLAY PHONE TAG, and American football’s TEN-YARD LINE. This is a wealth of zippy entries! A big reason I love Robyn’s themelesses.

Two clues:

  • 23A. [Woman’s name that becomes a country when its vowels are swapped], MILA. Also woman’s name that becomes a world capital when its consonants are swapped.
  • 40A. [Possible result of a major fall], SNOW DAYS. My first thought was of concussions, but no.

4.5 stars from me.

Wendy Brandes’s USA Today crossword, “Geez”—Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer is a two word phrase or name in which both words start with G.

Theme Answers

Wendy Brandes's USA Today crossword, "Geez" solution for 7/21/2023

Wendy Brandes’s USA Today crossword, “Geez” solution for 7/21/2023

  • 17a [“Large, but sweet, creature”] GENTLE GIANT
  • 27a [“Feature of a May-December romance”] GENERATION GAP
  • 48a [“Gun control advocate and former congresswoman for whom a naval ship is named”] GABBY GIFFORDS
  • 64a [“Acting award that may foreshadow an Oscar win”] GOLDEN GLOBE

The cluing on each of these took a great angle that was definitely a step beyond how these themers could have been clued. I had never heard of this use of GENERATION GAP, but I thought it was an interesting approach, one that I was easy to fill knowing the theme. I also appreciated the parsing out of what a GOLDEN GLOBE might mean ahead of the Oscars.

A few Friday faves:

  • 2d [“Soccer game cheers”] – The Women’s World Cup began yesterday, and the United States plays their first game tomorrow at 9pm ET. I’m sure there will be many OLES heard in the stadium.
  • 29d [“What 65-Down is used for”] – NAVIGATION was a nice long answer, and I liked the link between a longer answer and the short GPS.
  • 63a [“Organic chef Phyo”] – I appreciated a different ANI appearance in this puzzle. Also, a fun fact: ANI Phyo and I share a birthday.

Jess Shulman and Shannon Rapp’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 7/21/23 • Fri • Shulman, Rapp • solution • 20230721

Today we’re dropping some letters, specifically C-O.

  • 57aR [Business retreat, and an apt title for this puzzle?] COMPANY OUTING.
  • 20a. [Melt down in response to some trash talk?] PANIC AT THE DIS (Panic! At the Disco).
  • 36a. [Talent for sliding into someone’s DMs?] PING SKILLS (coping skills).
  • 43a. [Little cat with a beachy vibe?] CALI CAT (calico cat).

Keeping it manageable with only four total theme entries.

  • 32d [“Ish”] GIVE OR TAKE. Paused at this only because I would have expected the clue to read [-ish], but now that I consider a bit more, it’s legit because people—myself included—do sometimes say it as a standalone word.
  • 33d [Noisy bird] MACAW, not MYNAH. 30a [Noisy bird] MAGPIE.
  • 35d [Element of a margarita manicure] SALT SCRUB. I wouldn’t mind thinking about a cocktail during a manicure, but not so much vice-versa.
  • 45d [“Don’t change a thing”] NO NOTES. 6d [Address plot holes, perhaps] EDIT.
  • 52d [Comeback] RALLY. My only misfill, for which I initially answered REPLY.
  • 55d [“The Unbearable Lightness of Being” novelist Kundera] MILAN. Recently deceased (11 July 2023).
  • 58d [Norse city name that can be translated as “meadow of the gods”] OSLO. We learn so much about OSLO from working crosswords. 15a [God attended by Valkyries] ODIN.
  • 18a [Compact __ ] DISC. Little, ah, disconcerting seeing this so close the the DIS{CO} themer.
  • 19A [Like some seals] EARED. They would be the Otariidae, whereas the Phocidae are considered ‘true seals’. There are of course numerous other differences between these two families within Pinnipedia.
  • 25a [AED pro] EMT. AED is new to me. Casual search tells me it could be either ‘automated external defibrillator’ or ‘antiepileptic drug’. I’m thinking the former is more appropriate in an emergency situation? Would an epi-pen or similar be considered an antiepileptic drug?
  • 42a [ __-garde] AVANT. Been meaning to investigate this special issue of The Drift (although realistically I probably won’t since I don’t have a subscription). The issue title is “Publicists, Manifesto Pushers, Propagandists​ | What Happened to the Avant-Garde?”

Emily Carroll’s Universal crossword, “Cool Head”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are words and phrases whose starts sound like “Brrr.” The revealer is COLD OPEN (61a, [Sketch that kicks off “SNL” … or a phonetic hint to the start of 18-, 29-, 37- or 49-Across]).

Universal crossword solution · “Cool Head” · Emily Carroll · Fri., 7.21.23

  • 18a. [Sounding like a stream] BURBLING. I solved for time and finished in 3:30…except I then had to spend a minute and change to realize this wasn’t supposed to be BUBBLING (and which I originally wanted to be BABBLING). I don’t think I’ve ever encountered this word, and it’s only because of the theme that I found it. (Sure, I could’ve gotten it by the crossing, but I was pretty certain of BUBBLING.)
  • 29a. [Comfy clog brand] BIRKENSTOCK. I didn’t know they made clogs. I only know them for their sandals.
  • 37a. [Bustling New Orleans thoroughfare] BOURBON STREET.
  • 49a. [Rich French wine sauce] BEURRE BLANC. When it comes to French, I can never be sure of pronunciation. I needed all the crossings for the spelling and then I just had to take the puzzles word for it that the first word sounds like “Brr.”

I like the theme and the COLD OPEN revealer and the fact that the “Brr” sound is spelled differently in each case. My problems with the theme were mostly my own, and I don’t blame the puzzle. That’s not to say I’m ever going to use the word BURBLING (babbling or gurgling would be my go-to words), but it’s apparently a real word. Also, good title, but “cold” and “cool” come from the same source, so it’s a bit of a dupe between title and revealer.

Grid highlights include starting off with “I’M SOLD!” as well as EVA PERON, BARKER, SCYTHES, and STYX‘s Mr. ROBOTO. SCENARIO’s a fun word as well.

Clue of note: 5d. [“A ___ of Their Own” (1992 film)]. LEAGUE. Who else hears Tom Hanks squawking “There’s no crying in baseball!” at the mere mention of this title?

Nice puzzle despite a couple difficulties for me. 3.75 stars.

Adam Aaronson & Billy Bratton’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s write-up

Straightforward theme, with phrases that rhyme with “-ake” sounds. Seems like kind of a constrained set, no? I’m not going to invest a lot of time in it, but another option isn’t coming to mind easily, let alone one of a usable length.

Lots of juicy stuff in the clues and fill, as I’ve come to expect from Adam (with apologies to Billy, who I’ve seen plenty – in the Times, Spyscape, and elsewhere – I don’t know that I have a finger on his style yet). I quite liked HUNDO, GO AHEAD ASK, and PRANK CALLS, as well as recent(-ish) developments in slang ASS [Low-quality, in slang] and DOG [Animal that someone tough has in them, per a meme] (“He’s got that dog in him”).

Melemele Island, a Pokemon location based on Oahu

A few notes:

  • 14a [Full one-eighty] UTURN. My utter joy at not having to wait for crosses to determine UEY or UIE.
  • 20a [___ butter (moisturizing substance)] SHEA. For any soccer fans out there, highly recommend the Shea Butter FC podcast both for coverage of women’s soccer in general, and of the World Cup, which has started this week in Australia and New Zealand.
  • 61a [Restaurant that once offered a seven-patty burger for seven dollars and seventy-seven cents] STEAK N SHAKE. Well now I’m hungry.
  • 12a [Inspiration for Melemele Island, in a Hawaii-inspired Pokemon game] OAHU. Image included from Pokemon Sun and Moon. You can see Diamond Head, Waikiki and Honolulu, Hanauma Bay, and the Ko’olau Range in particular. Fun fact for Pokemon fans: “melemele” is Hawaiian for “yellow” – each of the in-game island names correspond to the color of Oricorio available on that island.
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18 Responses to Friday, July 21, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Very smooth, lovely puzzle with some great entries. Went faster than my usual Friday.
    FONDUE POTS brought back memories of the 70’s when we had Fondue parties, that some might remember… We had multiple pots, not only with classic cheese fondue, but with hot oil for dipping meats or veggies, and the ever popular chocolate fondue.
    In French “fondu” or “fondue” are adjectives deriving from “fondre”- to melt or cast (as in foundry). But the fondue we eat has been turned into a feminine noun: “La fondue”, not to be confused with the masculine noun “Le fondu”, which means the fading effect in movies, as one image melts into another.

  2. JohnH says:

    One of those non-themed themes, to be borne passively, that TNY loves. Also one of those ixes of too many gimmes and too much effort to be hip and obscure.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      When the older of the two constructors is a recent college grad and the other’s an undergrad, does it occur to you that they’re not “trying to be obscure,” they’re just including things that are wildly familiar in their generation? Heck, I’m straight-up middle-aged and everything was familiar to me. Your perspective is not a universal one!

  3. David L says:

    Nice NYT but I disagree with Amy’s comment that it’s pitched at the expected difficulty level. I thought it was much easier than many Fridays. Or maybe it was just on my wavelength. None of the ‘tricky’ clues tripped me up.

    I didn’t care for the clue for ANATOMYLAB, which makes a SILLY joke about a serious matter.

    • Papa John says:

      I agree David. I thought it was not only distasteful but also incorrect. No one is dying to get into a lab. They die for many other reasons but not that.

      • Milo says:

        Lighten up, guys. The clue does specify “some people.” Plenty of folks choose to donate their bodies for such uses, no?

      • JohnH says:

        I think it’s the nature of the joke that it doesn’t mean people want to die or to be on display in anatomy class. Quite the opposite. All it really means is that people must die in order to be there, and we can pun on that. Propriety there is no doubt subjective. There are an awful lot of punning themed puzzles that turn me off.

    • JohnH says:

      On the easy side for me too, slowed up only by entering CACTI for the xeri- garden, which cut off that whole section. (I don’t mind the jokey clue at all.)

    • DougC says:

      One more vote for “very easy for a Friday.” But also very smooth and enjoyable!

  4. Dallas says:

    Got caught on CACTI instead of ALOES, RIMS instead of LIMO (this was my last one to go in!) and I wanted TEE instead of TAU (I don’t think the Greek letter tau is the shape of a cross, either… but yeah). Loved all of the long entries; good stuff!

  5. janie says:

    TNY — the title of the puzz is “backaches” and each of the themers has two “-ake” or “-eak” (“ache'”) words in “back” of the opening letter(s). seems like some solvers may have overlooked the title to fully grok how the theme works.

    it happens!!


  6. Stephie says:

    Thanks for that!

  7. Eric H says:

    LAT: I’m fairly sure the AED in the EMT clue refers to an automated external defibrillator. I see them in public places like airports and shopping malls.

    And I don’t think an epipen is antiepileptic drug, since they’re used to treat anaphylaxis.

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