Friday, August 11, 2023

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 5:04 (norah) 


NYT 4:17 (Amy) 


Universal 5:26 (Jim) 


USA Today 4:03 (Darby) 


Kenneth Cortes’s Inkubator crossword, “Double Down”—Jenni’s write-up

The Inkubator team said this one was “lightly challenging.” I solved it quickly, and I hade  no idea what the theme was. I looked for a revealer. Nope. Finally I wrote to Brooke and she was kind enough to explain it to me. Does that mean it’s more than “lightly challenging?” You be the judge.

The theme entries are identified with asterisks. They are all Down answers.

Inkubator, August 10, 2023, Kenneth Cortes, “Double Down,” solution grid

  • 3d [*Collage made to manifest goals] is a VISION BOARD.
  • 9d [*Social event for the BDSM community] is a PLAY PARTY.
  • 25a [*Colorful, notoriously challenging Mario Kart course] is the RAINBOW ROAD.
  • 32a [*Expression of emphasis in drag culture] is a TONGUE POP.

Turns out that the first word of each theme answer can be preceded by “double”. Double VISION, double PLAY, double RAINBOW, double TONGUE. Since I’ve never heard of either double TONGUE (two-faced) or TONGUE POP, I’ll forgive myself for missing the point. (My husband points out that double TONGUE is also a reed instrument thing.)

A few other things:

  • 5a [Cupholder?] is a fun clue for CHAMP.
  • I am confused about 17a [Force = mass x acceleration] The answer is MASS. Huh?
  • Amazingly enough I was not involved in MODEL UN in high school. I know. You’re shocked.
  • 52d [“did not need 2 know all that!”] is the perfect clue for TMI.
  • 61a [Disturbs, as the bear] is POKES, which reminds me of the days when my kid was young enough to wake us up every early in the morning. Or rather wake me up since her father’s response was always “don’t poke the bear.”

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: double TONGUE. I also did not know that Ariana Grande recorded a song called “NEEDY.”

John-Clark Levin’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 8/11/23 – no. 0811

On the easy end of the spectrum for Friday NYTs, in my experience.

I liked the “Hey!” of encountering the NED clue, 64d. [World Cup team from Holland, on scoreboards], while watching the ESP-NED match-up. I think I know someone who’s at the match in Wellington, New Zealand, too.

Fave fill: “OK, GOOGLE” (I hope to never have a “smart speaker” device that can transmit everything said inside my home–my god, the privacy ramifications!), “THE SKY’S THE LIMIT,” “YOU WON’T REGRET IT,” BEAR HUGS, E STREET ([Locale in Belmar, N.J., that lent its name to a noted rock-‘n’-roll band]) because Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band played at Wrigley Field last night and will play again Friday night), and POMODORO (tomatoes! also, if you’re a procrastinator, look into the pomodoro technique).

Fun clue: 9d. [Star close to Venus?], SERENA. The Williams sisters of tennis, of course.

TV recommendation inspiration: 11d. [Like much land in Oklahoma], TRIBAL. On Hulu, Reservation Dogs is excellent. The show’s centered on a group of Indigenous teens in Oklahoma, but it’s not a teen show as it also focuses on elders and other adults. All the writers and directors are Indigenous (as are most of the cast members), so you’re getting perspectives that have been largely missing from U.S. TV. I’m on season 2 now, while season 3 is in progress. Give it a try! You won’t be sorry.

Four stars from me.

The New Yorker, “Comedy Bang Bang” by Kelsey Dixon and Brooke Husic — norah’s write-up; 5:04

THEME: Sex puns!

Theme entries:



  • HIGHSCORE 17A [Baked lay?]
  • CABLEHOOKUP 23A [Alternative to Netflix and chill?]
  • HULKSMASH 37A [Activity for someone who fancies Bruce Banner when he’s angry?]
  • EARLYACTION 50A [Quickie before breakfast?]
  • BUMPYRIDE 60A [Choppy shag?]


What a fun puzzle to get the day started! A hilarious theme, each entry a sparkler on its own. A bit on the easier side than other Friday TNYs of late. No revealer, all puns. Lots of bangin clues. ;) My kind of puzzle.

It’s packed full of the entries and clue stylings we’ve come to expect from both Kelsey and Brooke: modern, youthful, referential, and funny. A small sampling of such: GO US 47A [“We’re such an amazing team!”] (if this is not already on my wordlist, it will be shortly!), KGB 54A [“I’ve got more records than the ___” (line in M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes”)], IDOL 56A [Person with millions of Instagram followers, say], BLANKET 11D [Cape in a makeshift superhero costume], but honestly every single corner of this puzzle feels like them both. The extremely specific identical clues for EAR 12D and GOATEE 56A [Feature of “The Powerpuff Girls” villain HIM that ends in a point] is very funny.

I learned:

EARLYACTION 50A [Quickie before breakfast?]. Early Action is a type of admission process at some universities in the US in which prospective students apply in the fall of their senior year of high school and receive notification in January. Either this was not a thing when I went to school or I just didn’t know about it. Some schools including Harvard and Princeton have dropped all early admission processes on account of the fact that the early action decision pool can lack racial and socioeconomic diversity.

EASY 67A [“So ___ a caveman can do it” (Geico ad campaign)]. While I know the ad campaign and subsequent memes, I didn’t know this: the Geico cavemen spawned an ABC sitcom, “Cavemen” that aired 13 episodes in the fall of 2007, described by the network as “a unique buddy comedy that offers a clever twist on stereotypes and turns race relations on its head,” which in turn spawned a Super Bowl ad mocking their own cancellation in 2008.

Kelsey and Brooke have two puzzles together today; the other is at Kelsey’s site. And of course, Brooke is one of the masterminds behind Lollapuzzoola – see you there!

Thanks Kelsey, Brooke, and the TNY team!

Landon Horton’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 8/11/23 • Fri • Horton • solution • 20230811

Phrases have -DLE suffixed to them, with no rationale but wacky results.

  • 20a. [Table-tennis implement that lacks a partner?] BACHELOR PADDLE (bachelor pad).
  • 33a. [Combo deal of frankfurters, ketchup, mustard, relish, etc.?] HOT DOG BUNDLE (hot dog bun).
  • 40a. [Sketch of a crime-fighting canine?] SCOOBY DOODLE (Scooby-Doo).
  • 54a. [Gift for someone who loves the smell of potato chips?] PRINGLES CANDLE (Pringles can).

Diverting. I consulted the online Acronym Finder to see if DLE could signify anything, but the results were not impressive.

  • 1d [Duolingo alternative] BABBEL, playing on Babel and babble.
  • 10d [Obstacle] HINDRANCE, paired symmetrically with 33d [Bamboozles] HOODWINKS.
  • 44d [“His Dark Materials” heroine] LYRA, which is a nice but rather uncommon name.
  • 48d [Birling contests] ROLEOS. Oh is that what that activity is called?
  • 49d [“Tristram Shandy” author] STERNE. Famously unfilmable, although Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan, and Rob Brydon gave it a go with middling results. It did however lead to the more successful Trip series of movies.
  • 19a [Cohesion] UNITY.
  • 24a [Former NFLer Michael portrayed in “The Blind Side”] OHER. New to me. Or more likely, I’ve encountered the name as a crossword entry and forgotten it.
  • 29a [Once-common glove box item] AAA MAP. Not an entry I’ve seen before, but it’s legitimate for sure. 18a [Couple] ITEM.
  • 52a [Childish denial] ARE NOT, which is kind of fun to go along with 35a [Tuscan waterway] ARNO.

So, does anyone have ideas as to why -DLE might have been used, other than it’s a useful suffix?

Noelle Griskey’s Universal crossword, “It’s All Downhill From Here”—Jim’s review

Please bear with me this morning; my brain isn’t working quite right, even after a cup of coffee.

Theme answers are familiar phrases that…end in a Z? I think that’s it, unless there’s more to it. But I don’t see anything. The revealer is THE REST IS EASY (36a, [“You’re over the hump” … and a hint to the last letters of the words in 16-, 24-, 47- and 58-Across]).

Universal crossword solution · “It’s All Downhill From Here” · Noelle Griskey · Fri, 8.11.23

  • 16a. [Chopin piece also known as “Valse du petit chien”] MINUTE WALTZ.
  • 24a. [Pink gemstone thought to have healing powers] ROSE QUARTZ.
  • 47a. [Figure skating feat] TRIPLE LUTZ.
  • 58a. [Online trivia test] SPORCLE QUIZ.

First off, I had CIA as the [Secretive org.] at 32d. Never mind that that gave me CARCITAS as the Mexican dish; seemed plausible—what do I know? But the result of that error was the revealer looked like THERE IT IS EASY. I thought to myself, “That’s a phrase?,” then shrugged and moved on. When I finished with no happy pencil, I went back and changed CIA to NSA, but I still mis-parsed the revealer as THERE’S ‘TIS EASY. (This is the part where I remind you my brain isn’t working yet this morning.) Eventually, I saw the light and had my belated aha moment.

But then I thought, “Ending in Z is a theme?” The first three end in TZ, so I thought that was the theme. But the last one doesn’t. Often when we see “Easy” on a billboard or in ads, it’s replaced with the letters E-Z, so I wanted the theme answers to all end that way. (This seems like it might be doable with entries like “pince-nez,” “Joan Baez,” “Jennifer Lopez,” etc.) I’m not sure how you go from THE REST IS EASY to not ending in EZ. Of course, I may be missing something, so feel free to clue me in. Fun choices of theme entries, though.

The stacks in the corners are nice with DRAFT DAY, SELTZER, TERRIBLE, and RAT TRAP. I was happy to recognize CARNITAS after my initial error there and happy to re-familiarize myself with ANNEAL [Temper, as metal], which is a good word to know for Spelling Bee.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Potato holders]. SACKS. I had PEELS at first. I considered JACKETS (which is what they call ’em in the UK, but obviously it didn’t fit.
  • 62a. [Big Island coffee region]. KONA. The Big Island fires appear to be under control with no loss of life. If you’d like to donate to help victims on Maui, there’s the Maui Strong Fund or you can check out these other organizations.

Individually, the theme answers are fun, but unless I’m missing something, the theme is a little too loose for my liking. Ending in EZ would tighten it up and make sense to me given the revealer. 2.75 stars.

Edited to add: Cynthia in the comments below directed me to the first words in each theme answer which all end in E. So here’s the actual theme: Two-word phrases where the first word ends in E and the second ends in Z. That’s a much tighter, more satisfying theme which aligns with the revealer. (Although, it would have been clearer if the revealer clue said, “…a hint to the last letters of both words…”) Raising my rating to 3.5 stars. Oh, and this is a debut, so congrats are in order!

Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “Take the T.O.”—Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer is a two word phrase, with the first starting with T and the second with O, so they all take a T.O.

Theme Answers

Matthew Stock's USA Today crossword, "Take the T.O." solution grid for 8/11/2023

Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “Take the T.O.” solution for 8/11/2023

  • 17a [Big ask] TALL ORDER
  • 38a [Nocturnal bird with brownish-gray feathers] TAWNY OWL
  • 61a [“No problem at all”] THAT’S OKAY

These were all really cute and fun. Bird themers are a particular favourite of mine, so TAWNY OWL was great to see (though, admittedly, I filled it entirely on the crosses and didn’t realize until afterwards). THAT’S OKAY is such a calm and cute statement, so it just adds to this puzzle’s generally friendly vibes.

It’s only slightly asymmetric, with an extra black square added or taken away here and there, maintaining a generally pleasing aesthetic. It’s awesome how much great fill there was in this puzzle. I appreciated how smooth it was, going through, especially with the wide open corners in the SW and SE. Honestly, the SE has such a powerhouse of combos, from 36d [Pop-up-preventing plug-in] (hyphens for days!) AD BLOCKER, 37d [Racing video game with a Rainbow Road course] MARIO KART, and 41d [“I’m afraid it’s true”] SADLY YES. Additionally, having both 21a [Easy to hum along to] MELODIC and 31d [Musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma and Alisa Weilerstein] CELLIST also added a great musical element.

A few other faves

  • 64a [WNBA great Penicheiro]TICHA Penicheiro is a renowned point guard and was inducted in the WNBA Hall of Fame in 2019.
  • 3d [Midwest city with a renowned chess club] – This clue for ST. LOUIS was great, both for the chess/game reference and for seeing the city spelled out in its entirely, since we so often see STL.
  • 10d [Old-timey card file] – I honestly aspire to actually have a ROLODEX. I love the accessibility of having your contacts like this. How fun.
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22 Responses to Friday, August 11, 2023

  1. Martin says:

    Jenni (and her spouse): double tonguing (and triple tonguing) is used by brass players as well as reeds/winds.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Thanks! I play piano and guitar and he’s a couple of years into learning sax, so our experience is limited.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I really enjoyed this puzzle. I put down OCTANE but then needed to navigate away from the NW to get a foothold. Once I got going, it unfolded very nicely, which is always a great feeling. Loved the very familiar long phrases (YOU WONT REGRET IT and THE SKY’S THE LIMIT), and the cluing for SERENA. Interesting tidbit about the tsars called BORIS and lovely juxtaposition of OLIVE OIL and POMODORO.
    Tomatoes must have been a relatively new entry into the Arabic language- Egyptian Arabic calls them Tamatem (a distortion of tomato) and Syrian Arabic calls them Banadora, a distortion of POMODORO (there is no P in Arabic, so that sound becomes a B).
    Amy, thanks for the suggestion for Reservation Dogs. My husband’s grandmother was half native American from Oklahoma.

    • Dallas says:

      We love Reservation Dogs, though are a little sad that it’s too “adult” to show to our 8 year old just yet. Great show.

      I had the same path through… OCTANE got me very little, but the NE came fast, then the SE, and round to finish off the rest. A bit faster than my average, but I feel like that’s more my own experience now. I also liked the cluing for CD PLAYER.

    • Eric H says:

      It was enjoyable, if a bit on the easy side. The clues for HOES and CD PLAYER were pretty good.

      I liked the PAROLE clue, but it always makes me uneasy to see a jokey clue about the criminal justice system, given how messed up it is in this country.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        @Eric H: Yeah, PAROLE wasn’t fun.

        Illinois has a new law that’s aimed at improving parole practices. Per a news story, “In Illinois, 100,000 people are currently on probation, parole or mandatory supervised release, according to the governor’s office. More than 25% return to prison within 3 years due to non-criminal technical violations, such as missing a meeting with a probation officer.”

      • Seconded, re PAROLE and other CJ adjacent entries

      • Michael says:

        Re 16-Across: put in PERIOD, and PARDON before PAROLE.

    • David L says:

      Definitely one of my faster Fridays — I put in OCTANE and OKGOOGLE immediately, although now I think about it my phone and tablet seem to prefer that I say ‘hey, google.’ Not that I ever intentionally ask them anything. Sometimes they mishear and think I have summoned them.

      OAKS Park is pretty obscure. I’ve never heard of it, but it was easy enough to guess.

    • JohnH says:

      Agreed that it was really nice and, as Amy said, easy for Friday.

  3. JohnH says:

    I appreciate that TNY’s weekly themed puzzle for once takes its theme seriously, requiring real thought to get the jokes. But easy? Seriously? This has to have been my hardest Friday ever, with as many or more proper names, plus trending usage (or not trending, since I can’t think LAHI is up there), than in even a Natan Last Monday. On top of that, the usage extends to the themers.

    I felt lucky indeed to have completed the fill, although without understanding much of it. But I do realize it has its target audience, however representative of TNY readers, and no doubt that includes Norah, so more power to her.

    • Eric H says:

      We’re on the same page with this one. The only reason I “solved” it (in 17+ minutes) was that I looked up the two Asian culinary terms that meant nothing to me. (Asian foods are a weak spot for me.)

      Two references to Powderpuff Girls? That’s two too many for my taste. Either word could have been clued in a way that would have been easier for grumpy old men to get.

      I get the puns, but the theme was not much help to me in solving. I did like CABLE HOOKUP.

      I usually like Brooke Husic’s work, but this one made me want to throw my IPad across the room. That’s not why I do crossword puzzles.

      On the positive side: HARRIET Tubman. Shirley Chisholm. UMA Thurman (even if the clue didn’t really help me). OH HELL YEAH and I’VE GOT THIS.

  4. Cynthia says:

    Universal – Jim, I had the same experience solving this puzzle! It took me a while to get the theme, but I eventually realized that the first words in each theme phrase end in E and the second in Z. I also did the CIA/CARCITAS thing, and thought it was plausible given my very limited knowledge of Spanish. And finally, it took me a while to parse the revealer as well. My first reading of it was the same as yours. All of that added up to a lot of confusion for what turned out to be a fairly simple puzzle in hindsight.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      How funny that we had the same experience, except you manage to catch the actual theme. I think you’re right about the E’s at the ends of the first words. I’ll update my post.

    • Eric H says:

      When I got the revealer, I looked back at the theme answers, expecting them to end in -EZ. I took a second to notice that the first words all ended in E.

      It’s a solid easy theme, if not particularly innovative (but how many themes are?). Clean fill with some artsy elements: Chopin! Monet! Kevin Costner!

      Congratulations on a nice debut, Noelle Griskey!

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Same solving experience here. I did pick up the EZ theme post-solve. Meh, in my book, but after doing tens of thousands of themed puzzles over the years, I’m kinda over them and typically prefer themeless puzzles these days.

  5. Art Shapiro says:

    Universal: Perhaps this is a play on “Catch some Zs” to mean “resting”.

  6. PJ says:

    LAT – “So, does anyone have ideas as to why -DLE might have been used, other than it’s a useful suffix?” LA Times Crossword Corner gave no reason nor did the comments. But Moe did give us this:

    Recipient of
    Deceased man’s e-book reader?

    I know Lyra as Vega’s home.

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