Friday, August 18, 2023

Inkubator tk (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 3:01 (MattG) 


NYT 6:03 (Amy) 


Universal 3:30 (Jim) 


USA Today 3:05 (Darby) 


Kameron Austin Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 8/18/23 – no. 0818

Is it my imagination or is this a Saturday puzzle masquerading as a Friday? Kameron’s definitely more of a Saturday NYT/Monday New Yorker tough constructor. Mind you, I did slow down my start by filling in GAPE for GAWP at 1-Down, which greatly complicated the 17a WINE BARREL ([The cask of amontillado, e.g.]). I love the Poe story by that name, but I don’t think I could enjoy a visual version of it, so claustrophobic!

Fave fill: The triple-stacked 15s in the middle are great: GIVE ME ONE REASON (I’ll bet you a dollar that Kameron originally clued this as the Tracy Chapman song rather than the stilted [“I need at least a little justification”]), ANIMAL SANCTUARY, and LIVING ON THE EDGE. PROXY VOTE makes me feel mildly guilty because I never open that mail and cast a vote for whatever corporation/fund I have stock in is asking. Classy LINEN PAPER. I always love PECANs and very much enjoyed tonight’s dinner, a salad with lots of pecans. IN EXTREMIS, JAZZY, athletes who are FREE AGENTS, and SAUERKRAUT also lend sparkle. Little boring bits like URAL AERO ELGAR ALP ERLE are also in the grid.

Neat word of the day: 28a SIGILS, [Symbols thought to have supernatural power]. If you watched Game of Thrones, you know sigils as the icons each familial “house” had on its flags and such. (I assume the George R.R. Martin novels make hay with the sigils but I’ve not read any.)

Four stars from me for this 72-worder. Just a tad surprised that Kameron opted for the maximum word count for his grid—he had a habit of making low-word-count themelesses.

Lewis Rothlein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 8/18/23 • Fri • Rothlein • solution • 20230818

Needed to reach the revealer to be able to go back and complete the other theme answers.

  • 53aR [Faded away, and what happened in 17-, 26-, and 42-Across?] DISAPPEARED, which in this case is parsed as DIS APPEARED, ironically stripping the negating prefix of its lexical meaning.
  • 17a. [Blackmailer’s ultimatum?] CASH OR DISCREDIT (cash or credit).
  • 26a. [Message such as “still looking for my golf ball in the tall grass”?] ROUGH DISPATCH (rough patch).
  • 42a. [Pawn shop, essentially?] HOUSE OF DISCARDS (house of cards).

Left-right mirror symmetry, to accommodate the varying lengths of the theme entries.

By far the toughest section—the only difficult area—for me to complete was the upper right corner, despite the incursion of tendrils like CREDIT and PATCH from themers. I did have 25a [Lobbying orgs.] PACS, but it wasn’t until 11d [Signs from above] ZODIAC snapped into focus that I was able to populate the other squares.

  • 6d [Summer term?] ADDEND. Fooled me, question mark notwithstanding.
  • 12d [Child’s play] A CINCH. Unexpected indefinite article!
  • 37d [Arts festival that calls itself “the other black experience”] AFROPUNK.
  • 44d [Almost dry] DAMP. 58a [Puts on the line, maybe] AIRS OUT.
  • 50d [Czech Olympian Ledecká who won gold in two winter disciplines] ESTER; the disciplines are snowboarding and alpine skiing. 32a [Washington state brewski] OLY.
  • 56d [Initialism for certain applications] SPF. Fooled again! I jumped the gun and tried EOE.
  • 4a [Pollen producers] STAMENS. 21a [Pollen collector?] PETAL. L’il tricky for part two there.
  • 14a [Kaplan of Yo La Tengo] IRA. A less-common-in-crosswords reference, but a welcome change.
  • 33a [Racket dampener?] SHH. Finally, a misdirection that didn’t catch me.
  • 49a [Genre that uses a caricature style known as chibi] ANIME. Common crossword entry, but with a bit extra in the clue.
  • 52a [Matchstick wood] ASPEN. Did not know this.

Brooke Husic & Kenneth Cortes’s USA Today crossword, “Countdowns”—Darby’s recap

Theme: The last word of each Down theme answer can precede COUNT in a common phrase.

Theme Answers

Brooke Husic & Kenneth Cortes's USA Today crossword, "Countdowns" solution grid for 8/18/2023

Brooke Husic & Kenneth Cortes’s USA Today crossword, “Countdowns” solution for 8/18/2023

  • 16d [“Toy Story 2” character voiced by Estelle Harris] MRS. POTATO HEAD / HEAD COUNT
  • 17d [Chain of posts on “the bird app”] TWITTER THREAD / THREAD COUNT
  • 23d [“Pineapple” is a common one] SAFE WORD / WORD COUNT

I had most of the Across answers filled in before I switched over to Down, so initially I thought that 15a [Kraken, e.g.] SEA MONSTER was a themer, but as soon as I switched to MRS. POTATO HEAD, it was abundantly obvious (the title obviously helped too). SAFE WORD was such a great themer, and I appreciate the great ignoring of “the bird app’s” new name in the cluing for TWITTER THREAD.

I moved really smoothly from top to bottom in this puzzle with only a few skips. 34a [A, in the NATO phonetic alphabet] ALFA threw me off because I really thought it would be ALPHA. You learn something new every day. The reflection in 7d [LIke 4, but not 5] EVEN and 68a [Like 5, but not 4] ODD was great as well. I just love when fill lets things like this happen.

Overall, I really appreciated the flow of this grid where none of the ZONES felt cut off from one another, and it all worked very well together.

Susan Gelfand’s Universal crossword, “Getting Even”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are certain professionals who attempt to achieve some sort of “balance.” The revealer is BALANCING ACTS (56a, [Attempts at achieving something that satisfies everyone … or what 20-, 31- and 41-Across are, in their own ways]).

Universal crossword solution · “Getting Even” · Susan Gelfand · Fri., 8.18.23

  • 20a. [Financial professional who specializes in government levies] TAX ACCOUNTANT. Balancing the books.
  • 31a. [Athlete who does axels] FIGURE SKATER. Physical balance.
  • 41a. [Expert in helping patients form healthy eating habits] NUTRITIONIST. Dietary balance.

Nice! Good play on words in the title, and I like the changes in meaning with each entry. My first thought with the second entry was that a trapeze artist or high-wire artist would be more apt, but that’s probably where we get the term “balancing act” anyway, so it’s best to find a different type of athlete. Certainly, figure skaters require exceptional balance as well.

RINGSIDE makes for a fun non-theme entry. Its counterpart MORTGAGE isn’t as fun, but it’s a fine entry. Other assets: “I’M LOST,” NOUGAT, GOATEE, ROM-COM, SIDNEY Poitier. Smooth fill all around made solving quick and pleasurable.

Clue of note: 24d. [Hebrew for “spring”]. AVIV. Oh, hey. I didn’t know this. Glad to learn it. “Tel” means “hill,” so Tel AVIV means “Hill of Spring.”

Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Andrea Carla Michaels and Jack Lechner’s New Yorker crossword—Matt G’s recap

Andrea Carla Michaels and Jack Lechner’s New Yorker crossword solution, 8/18/2023

Fun theme this Friday, that I didn’t see til the end, but is nicely tied up in a bow. We’ve got three themers and a revealer, all down-running, all two words:

  • 3d [Contents of the kitchen sink after cleaning up, maybe] DIRTY DISHWATER
  • 6d [Sweet, reddish jarful at a farmers’ market] STRAWBERRY HONEY
  • 9d [Festive gift for a party host] CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE
  • 14d [1966 Bob Dylan album whose title is a hint to 3-, 6-, and 9-Down] BLONDE ON BLONDE

Each word of each two-word themer is a type of “blonde,” thus we have three instances of BLONDE ON BLONDE.

I quite liked this! A number of entries, including the revealer, are out of my wheelhouse (looking at you, Richard AVEDON, who I’ve seen in puzzles before, but only in puzzles, and not often enough to learn, apparently), and I found the theme clues general enough to put up some resistance – welcome when the entries are so long and could unlock so much of the grid. And I think a debut for Jack – congrats!

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34 Responses to Friday, August 18, 2023

  1. Barnyard says:

    I think this was a fabulous puzzle that held together throughout. So many clever clues and so much joyful wordplay. Usually struggle with KAC wavelength and this gave up – for me – aha moment after moment. Made my evening. Not to sound like an old fart, but truly ambivalent about its inclusion. So beneath the erudition of the rest of the puzzle. But on the other hand, why not? SIGILS, NATAL, MANTIS, SWAMI, FART. Hmmm. Still torn. Loved the two post prayer play.

    • Eric H says:

      It was a really nice puzzle. I usually don’t have too much difficulty with KAC’s puzzles, but this one seemed like an especially smooth solving experience.

      • Dallas says:

        I had GAWK instead of GAWP, which made PROXY VOTE take a very long time for me to get. I was worried about the proper names, but it ended up being a smooth solve with a few guesses that were easy to check once more fill came together.

        • Eric H says:

          I had GAWk for a while, too.

          I’ve only heard IN EXTREMIS used in the sense of “at the point in death.” But that’s what worked there, and the X helped me get PROXY VOTE.

        • Michael Hooning says:

          According to Google search, GAWP is either British slang for “stare openly in a stupid or rude manner,” or the Georgia Association of Water Professionals. Of course, I had GAWK in there first. In my opinion, FART is an ordinary word, and there’s no reason for it to be excluded.

    • marciem says:

      truly enjoyed this puzzle. I always look forward to a challenge from KAC, and this was just enough challenge to make it fun and enough fair crosses to make it funner.

      Had gawk for gawp, and wanted exigency for extremis.

      Some of the clues were really cute and fun. (“wurst” side for instance).

      Nice puzzle all around, for me.

  2. Christopher Murray says:

    LIVING ON THE EDGE could have gotten some inspiration from an Aerosmith song ( from a couple years earlier.

    Might there be an ANIMAL SANCTUARY song from the early to mid 90’s out there?

    I mistakenly had GAWK at 1D, confusing the eventual PROXYVOTE as a last fill.

    Solid puzzle.

  3. JDivney says:

    Very quick Friday solve for me. Either I’m on the setter’s wavelength or the coffee was good this morning.

  4. Mutman says:

    NYT: surprised I breezed thru most of this. NW and N central was last to fall. Had Brain DUMP first, didn’t realize NYT went PG -13 here.

    Anyone else get Naticked on ASLAN/NIN??

    Fun puzzle all around. Great fill!

    • Eric H says:

      Those were both gimmes.

      Three-letter name? Eroticism? It’s *always* Anaïs NIN.

      My uncle and his family gave me some of the Narnia books when I was a kid. I never read them, but I remember who ASLAN is.

      • Mutman says:

        Give me Trent Reznor and I’ll give you NIN. I’ll have to remember the other one now.

        • Eric H says:

          I’ve probably seen NIN with a Nine Inch Nails clue, but the writer is just so common, at least in NYT puzzles.

  5. huda says:

    NYT: Agree that this was a fabulous puzzle. I did way better than usual, even not having any idea about SIGILS. I would have loved a Tracy Chapman clue, that song is one of my favorites. Your “Wurst side” clue cracked me up.

  6. David L says:

    One of the easier Fridays for me. I started with GAPE instead of GAWK, which led to the somewhat plausible PINEBARREL, but PROXYVOTE solved that problem. REN instead of REY initially, because stupid Star Wars names are not my thing. I had QORAN/MOMS and it took me a while to track down the problem. Not hiccups apart from those — smooth puzzle overall.

    I don’t understand Amy’s objection to ELGAR. He’s not an A-team composer but he wrote some good stuff.

  7. Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

    A fun New Yorker puzzle. And there was a very nice story about co-constructor ACM on the front page of the8/5 San Francisco Chronicle. She deserves kudos for more than her puzzles.

    • JohnH says:

      I’d never heard of CHAMPAGNE blond (or indeed STRAWBERRY HONEY), but I have to admit it exists, and a decent enough theme. I can’t figure out how a mob is a group of wise guys, but I must be missing something obvious. I’m not blaming the puzzle.

    • placematfan says:

      A long while back I saw some sort of biographical piece on Andrea. At at least four or five times during the video I thought to myself, Wow, that is badass. Alas, the only specifics I can recall are one bit about her teaching a community-center Scrabble class.

      • Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

        The Chronicle has run a couple of earlier articles on her focusing on her work in providing food to the homeless. Obviously a person with a big heart.

    • Eric H says:

      Thanks for the link. Interesting story.

      I enjoyed the New Yorker puzzle, too. I generally prefer harder puzzles, but a well-made easier puzzle doesn’t have to be boring for experienced solvers. My biggest mistake was putting “shoddy” for “cheap” without checking the crossings.

  8. dj says:

    I guess this was the debut of “fart” in the NY Times crossword?

    What a gas!

  9. Andrea Carla Michaels says:

    Re: NYT I LOVE Tracy Chapman! She lives here in San Francisco and we’ve run into each other on the tram. Yes they absolutely should’ve clued it that way!!!

    Re: The New Yorker Pls fo this puzzle it’s Jack’s and my NYer debut and one of my fave puzzles of all time

  10. JohnH says:

    I guess I’ll be the outlier, since I didn’t enjoy the NYT one bit, especially in the NW, my last to fall. I don’t play golf, so TEA time seemed totally plausible, or drive a car (like most NYers), so guessed Zero for a SAAB. I don’t watch Game of Thrones, so SIGIL didn’t sound supernatural to me. I, too, started with GAWK (much more familiar), but also REDO (which at least I’ve heard of), so wondered if maybe the wine cask couldn’t plausibly be a WIDE BARREL. I shied away, mightily, from FART.

    There were other things beyond me, like Yolanda, Luke’s trainee, and Little Birds (although a three-letter eroticist gave it away), and I’d have guessed that LINEN PAPER is actually light in weight (and wavered between EPS and LPS), but at least those sections seemed more or less fair.

  11. Eric H says:

    LAT: It’s got a fun theme and the theme answers are all amusing.

    It made me happy seeing the clue “Kaplan of Yo La Tengo.” They’ve been one of my favorite bands for the last 25 years or so. The usual clue for that answer is kind of boring. (Steve L, I’ll bet Yo La Tengo is the only rock band that has a song that name checks Butch Huskey!)

    The NE corner was a bit tricky, but completely doable.

    The ASPEN trivia was new to me, too. We like to visit Utah when the aspens have turned. They’re gorgeous trees.

  12. Mike H says:

    The Friday Newsday puzzles for quite a while now have been very entertaining. Today’s is an excellent and typical example with a lively theme and witty clueing. After that abortive effort at an less stumpy Saturday Stumper, Mr. Newman has found a sweet spot here.

    • Eric H says:

      Was that the one with the three “Settle down!” clues? I liked that theme, and all the theme answers were lively phrases. Nice puzzle.

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