Friday, August 4, 2023

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 3:10 (Matt) 


NYT 7:04 (Amy) 


Universal 6:24 (Jim) 


USA Today us (Darby) 


Wendy L. Brandes and Ayesha Agarwal’s Inkubator crossword, “Me Time”—Jenni’s write-up

This one lived up to its billing of “lightly challenging.” I enjoyed the theme (which could be part of the theme…)

Each theme answer has ME added to a base phrase. Wackiness ensues.

Inkubator, August 3, 2023, Wendy L. Brandes & Ayesha Agarwal, “Me Time,” solution grid

  • 17a [Credit cards in the Arctic?] are POLAR AMEXES. Polar axes.
  • 26a [Freezer at a genetic lab?] is a GAMETE KEEPER. Gatekeeper. “Genetic lab” sounds odd to me. I’d say “genetics lab.”
  • 44a [Falling under Zurich’s spell?] is SWISS CHARMED. Swiss chard.
  • 61a [Blouse decorated with large citrus fruits?] is a POMELO SHIRT. Polo shirt.

26a and 61a made me laugh and all of them are solid with base phrases (or in one case a base word) that are solidly in the language. Nice!

A few other things:

  • I enjoyed SHOE in the NW and SHUE in the SE.
  • 6d [“Nothing is really lost until your ___ can’t find it” (popular wisdom)] was definitely true in my house growing up and is definitely not true in my house now. Dad is the Finder of Lost Objects around here. He’s also the one who knows where things are in the refrigerator. We’ve been subverting gender norms since 1982.
  • 21a [Put on the calendar] fouled me up because I confidently dropped in SCHEDULE and then changed it to SET A TIME. The real answer is SET A DATE.
  • We bought a whole lot of stuff at REI before our epic National Parks adventure this past spring. We took everything including the kitchen sink.
  • There are a lot of AMCS in our area and I’ve been in two in the past week to see, yup, you guessed it, “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.”

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of “The Bubble” or LESLIE Mann.

Brandon Koppy’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 8/3/23 – no. 0803

What an interesting grid design today. Some lively long entries stacked in the corners, a mom/dad pair of 14s (MOTHER SUPERIOR and the PATERNITY TESTS she likely doesn’t need) in rows 6 and 10, and a scattering of 13 single blocks in the midsection breaking things up into workable pieces.

My solving time was more in line with Saturday expectations. Part of that was that I did most of the puzzle with the wrong setting, and every time I used an arrow key or mouse click to change direction, I ended up in an unexpected square and typed over things. Whoops. I also slowed myself down by trying ODEA for 3d. [Some theaters] (and scowling at it) before AMCS.

Fave fill: the PLAY MONEY / HOME ALONE / EL CAPITAN stack, pop culture’s ALAN MOORE and PET SOUNDS, ON TIPPY-TOE, TRIBAL NAME (we just resumed watching Reservation Dogs on Hulu, as season 3 is out and we’re still in season 1), chatty “YEAH, WHY NOT?” and “IF I WERE YOU…”, WET NOODLES, and BITTORRENT (parse that as BitTorrent).

Did not know: People call an alley oop just an OOP (26a.
[Flashy hoops highlight, for short])? New to me: 45d.
[Children’s writer Greenfield], ELOISE. Here’s her 2001 NYT obituary. She wrote prose and poetry aimed at bringing joy and pride to Black children. It’s really a lovely obit, peppered with excerpts of poetry—do read it.

3.75 stars from me.

Taylor Johnson & Christina Iverson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 8/4/23 • Fri • Johnson, Iverson • solution • 20230804

The theme clues are akin to the ‘container’ wordplay of cryptic crosswords.

  • 17a. [Op-ed column feature?] OPEN BORDER. The first three letters plus the last letter of “oped column” spell “open” and they form a border of sorts.
  • 25a. [Spa service feature?] SPACE CASE (spa service, where “space” is encasing the other letters).
  • 35a. [Free booze feature] FREEZE FRAME (free boozeframe).
  • 48a. [Lotus pose feature?] LOOSE ENDS (lotus pose, ends).
  • 58a. [Chocolate mousse feature?] CHOSE SIDES (chocolate mousse, sides).

These are good finds. Fun, fun.

  • 11d [Cry for attention] LOOK AT ME. It definitely is.
  • 18d [Jumper cable?] BUNGEE. Nice.
  • 35d [Blueprint] FLOOR MAP. Is this different than a floor plan? Is it a real term?
  • 36d [“Black Beatles” hip-hop duo __ Sremmurd] RAE. Quite obviously ear drummers with each word reversed.
  • 45d [Word game where the answer can be false, but not true?] WORDLE, because it’s always a five-letter word.
  • 21a [One of a kind] UNIT. Subtly tricky clue.
  • 27a [Mother clucker] HEN. Ooh, racy.
  • 51a [Lyric poem] EPODE. Latin epodos, from Greek epōidos, from epōidos sung or said after, from epi- + aidein to sing — more at ODE. (

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Sunny Side Up (Freestyle)”—Darby’s write-up

I’m so here for this Friday freestyle. It really highlights all of the fun things that you can do in an asymmetric themeless puzzle. The marquee answers include the following:

  • 4d [Egg dish with tortillas and salsa] HUEVOS RANCHEROS

    Rafael Musa's USA Today crossword, "Sunny Side Up (Freestyle)" solution for 8/4/2023

    Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Sunny Side Up (Freestyle)” solution for 8/4/2023

  • 7d [“I can handle the whole truth!”] DON’T SUGARCOAT IT
  • 19a [“This is a great development!”] WE LOVE TO SEE IT
  • 51a [“How to begin unpacking this?”] WHERE DO I START?

WE LOVE TO SEE IT is such a great use of a colloquial phrase. And HUEVOS RANCHEROS always makes me think of Breaking Bad, a useful connection since I’m not a big fan of eggs. WHERE DO I START was also really fun and evocative.

The NW corner made for a solid start. I wasn’t sure which text abbreviation to use for 1a [“i can’t believe u”] SMH, so I switched to down and was very satisfied with the SLAWMILEYHELLO TEAMWORK there. I also really liked TOP OUT and ICONIC in the upper right section of the grid. Generally, I found LINE UPS tough when I didn’t have DON’T SUGARCOAT IT yet, but it all fell into place eventually.

A few other faves:

  • 34a [Aesthetic with trademark brass goggles] STEAMPUNK
  • 64a [Invincibility power-up in Mario games] STAR
  • 38d [Word before “gift” or “reflex”] GAG

I also just love a puzzle book rec so I’m excited about 37a [“In the Country” author Alvar] MIA’s collection of short stories.

Sam Koperwas and Jeff Chen’s Universal crossword, “That’s How I Roll”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are phrases that feature two double-O bigrams and a separate O later on. The revealer is FIFTH WHEEL (62a, [Extra person on a double date … who’s depicted by the last O in 17-, 24-, 39- and 52-Across?)].

Universal crossword solution · “That’s How I Roll” · Sam Koperwas and Jeff Chen · Fri., 8.4.23

  • 17a. [Put a pin in it!] VOODOO DOLL. Nice clue and a solidly fun entry. I wonder if this was a seed entry for the theme.
  • 24a. [Car add-ons that reduce wind noise and glare] MOONROOF VISORS. Not as colloquial as the first one. Didn’t know that’s what these things were called.
  • 39a. [Plan that’s sure to succeed] FOOLPROOF METHOD. Solid.
  • 52a. [Writer such as Julia Child] COOKBOOK AUTHOR. Somewhat green painty, like the second entry.

Sure, the entries aren’t all as in-the-language as that first one, but it’s a really tight theme, so there aren’t that many phrases that are going to work here. I give the puzzle points for creativity to make up the difference.

The grid felt proper name heavy including a crossing in the NW corner: DEPP/PEDRO. Elsewhere we had KEN, ELBA, AIDA, IRMA, RAFA, HOMER, EDIE, TOBIAS / WOLFF, OGDEN, and KAFKA. A couple of those were clued unexpectedly (Lily-Rose DEPP and AIDA Rodriguez), which slowed things down, and the sheer number of these entries was noticeable.

Clues of note:

  • 18d. [(I’m a pig!)]. OINK. I doubt that’s the literal translation, but then again, the clue has parentheses, not quotation marks.
  • 54d. [Nash who said, “You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely”]. OGDEN. Words to live by.
  • 56d. [Pronoun pair for Ryan Gosling]. HE/HIM. Just wondering if the constructors/editors fact checked this.

3.5 stars.

Rebecca Goldstein and Adam Wagner’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s write-up

Rebecca Goldstein and Adam Wagner’s New Yorker crossword solution, 8/4/23

The lengthy revealer TWO STEPS FORWARD / ONE STEP BACK plays out on three theme entries, two of which contain TREAD and STRIDE, and one with contains ECAP – “pace” in reverse.

Fun color in this puzzle – COVID-era and still hanging on (like COVID) HARD PANTS, ACE OF BASE, and a colorful clue [Settings for bony labyrinths] for INNER EARS. Actually, a lot of fun clues in here, but I’m already a day late.

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25 Responses to Friday, August 4, 2023

  1. Steve says:

    NYT: I always thought that the ALLEY was the pass and the OOP was the dunk. But maybe that’s old talk anymore.

    • PJ says:

      I’m not near the sports fan I once was but I used to be totally immersed in basketball. Standalone OOP is new to me.

    • Mutman says:

      I’m calling a Flagrant 1 on OOP. Never heard it without the ALLEY.

      But a nice Friday challenge nonetheless!

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I watch tons of basketball and have for nearly all of my nearly 64 years. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use OOP as short for ‘alley-OOP’. Mutman’s being too lenient with the Flagrant 1. I would definitely eject this answer from the game.

  2. Angry says:

    This puzzle was terrible. Oop??? Have you ever watched basketball in your entire life? Junior mint was a horrible clue. AND HOW DO YOU GO WITH LOLA BUNNY??????????? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? It’s Bugs. Bugs is THE bunny. This seemed like a blatant and unfair attempt to confuse people. Overall score: F-, please find a new line of work.

  3. dh says:

    NYT – I have an issue with the definition for 44A. I get the pun, it’s cute, but “making someone pop” is more biological than a paternity test. Said test can only confirm or refute suspicion.

  4. Eric H says:

    NYT: Thanks, Amy, for the link to ELOISE Greenfield’s obituary. I hadn’t heard of her before. I particularly enjoyed the excerpt from “Honey, I Love.”

    In his constructor’s notes at Wordplay, Brandon Koppy says that his original clue for PET SOUNDS was “Classic album that features Coke cans, bicycle bells, and the theremin.” Does anyone recall seeing a similar clue in a recent puzzle in another venue?

  5. Martin says:



    There are lots more, but the site gets nervous if there are too many links in a post.

  6. MattF says:

    Well… I’m not so angry, but I had to look up LOLA bunny in the NYT, not one of my childhood toon friends. That was enough for me to finish the puzzle. NW corner was a tough one.

    • JohnH says:

      NW was hardest for me, too. Indeed, I found it hard breaking out of the bottom third, so hard for a Friday.

      I’d agree that LOLA is obscure, but puzzles do have strange things here and there. And it did bother me that, when I Googled “basketball oop” for an explanation of what that is, it defaulted to “basketball hoop,” and when I insisted on my search term, it gave hits for alley-oop. Still, I could put it down to my sports ignorance, and I admired a puzzle that could make me feel I’ll never solve it until I in fact do. So I’ll dissent and call it a nice Friday. I smiled at PATERNITY TEST and don’t see the least awful about it, other than that it’s a groaner as puns can be.

  7. Martin says:

    By the way, OOP is the difference between C and C++. I’d make a terrible editor.

  8. Eric H says:

    LAT: OK, I totally missed the theme. Now that I’ve read the explanation, I’m not sure I like it, but I don’t much care for cryptic puzzles. FREEZE FRAME is pretty good, though.

    But the puzzle was easy enough that I got most of the theme answers by getting a few crosses.

    Then I hit the SE, and the clue for CHOSE SIDES got me. It didn’t help that I had misread the clue for NOSES as “some perching spots” and entered NeStS instead. I know I have seen NIHAO in puzzles before, but so far, it hasn’t stuck.

    I did really like the WORDLE clue. I expect I’d have enjoyed the whole puzzle more if I had seen what was going on with the theme

  9. JohnH says:

    For me TNY has way too many names in that TNY way. I’d hope the weekly theme puzzle would be a relief from that.

    • PJ says:

      Can’t say I was thrilled with ANI, TESLA, and EVEL in a row with ESTEE following soon. But that’s more from crosswordese than obscurity. I knew a couple of the musical references and didn’t know a couple so that’s just fine for me.

      When I first heard the Jamie Tartt’s Baby Shark song I died. But you’d have to know where the Tartt character was at that point of the series to really appreciate it.

      • JohnH says:

        I actually entered that row right away. Not so TARTT. I don’t recall other fill of concern here, as I haven’t saved the puzzle.

  10. Brady says:

    This was probably the worst NYT puzzle I’ve ever done. A real 35A, if you will. Don’t get me started on the ‘non-english uncle’ clue. Hint: the creator’s pithy American viewpoint is showing. Badly.

  11. Zev Farkas says:

    Sam Koperwas and Jeff Chen’s Universal crossword, “That’s How I Roll”—Jim’s review

    Fun puzzle, Sam. Thanks.

    And thanks for the review, Jim.

    The expression, “green painty” is new to me. A quick googling didn’t get me anywhere. Care to enlighten me? (Back around 1963, when I was four, they guy painting our house jokingly threatened to paint my nose green, but I don’t think that’s what you were aiming at… ;) ).

    21A, Flake (on), also left me clueless as to how that gets to BAIL.

    • PJ says:

      A pretty good explanation is given in the first comments to this Crosswordfiend edition:

      • Zev Farkas says:


        So, to sum up your link, “green paint” is crosswordese for obscure, contrived, or “not a common expression the solver might be expected to know”, more or less, or am I still missing the point (or paint?).

        Any ideas on how 21A, Flake (on) gets us to BAIL?

        • Eric H says:

          BAIL can be short for the slangy “bail out.” Merriam-Webster has this illustrative quote: “Before the party moved elsewhere, I bailed, exhausted.”

          Hope that helps.

          • Zev Farkas says:

            Thanks. Makes sense. Although I would have expected the clue to be Flake (off) rather than Flake (on)…

            Maybe it’s a regional thing…

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