Friday, September 8, 2023

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 4:07 (MattG) 


NYT 4:42 (Amy) 


Universal 4:42 (Jim) 


USA Today 3:50 (norah) 


Rachel Fabi & Ken Stern’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 9/8/23 – no. 0908

Fun puzzle from two fun people! Right in the Friday NYT sweet spot of “not too easy but not too hard, either.”

Fave fill: CLEAR AS MUD, TORTELLINI (I let the crossings help me out–I have only now learned that tortellIni and tortellOni are both legit, with the -Oni being bigger than the -Ini), EARLY BIRDS at 4:30 dinner, THE LITERAL WORST, the word IMPRIMATUR that so perplexed me as a teen, SPOONERISM (clued via one a day and Dunaway, nice!), HERDED CATS, a CLAWFOOT / TUB, TORPOR, the MIRENA IUD, UNDEAD, and TED LASSO. I feel like Ken (who’s worked for a standardized testing company) was responsible for getting RAW SCORE into the grid.

I appreciate the unembarrassed inclusion of MIRENA and PADS with an [Always at the drugstore?] clue, Always being a brand of pads and pantyliners. The [Rx pickup] clue for MED feels a little off to me, though. The prescription pickup at the pharmacy, where you get your MED?

Four stars from me.

Patti Varol’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 9/8/23 • Fri • Varol • solution • 20230908

I figured out the gimmick well before reaching the revealer, which I erroneously speculated might have something to do with the psyche.

  • 54aR [Demand from a suspicious bartender, and an apt title for this puzzle] LET’S SEE SOME ID. Short for identification.
  • 19a. [Matchmaker who’s popular in all 50 states?] AMERICA’S CUPID (America’s Cup).
  • 27a. [Barriers on the ocean floor?] DEEP SEA DIVIDERS (deep sea divers).
  • 48a. [Tearing the felt while attempting to put spin on the ball, e.g.?] ENGLISH ACCIDENT (English accent).

In each case, the bigram ID is inserted into a familiar phrase.

  • 8d [Westernmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands] BALI.
  • 9d [Yoga backbend also called Setu Bandha Sarvangasana] BRIDGE POSE. Perhaps had I noticed ‘backbend’ in the clue I might have guessed the answer sooner.
  • 14d [Hybrid breaking pitch] SLURVE. Have never seen this before, but it’s obviously a portmanteau of slider and curve.
  • 21d [Genesis name] PHIL. As in PHIL Collins, of the band Genesis. Sneakily laconic clue, trucking in the way we see such clues for biblical names all the time.
  • 37d [Lousy start?] MAL-, as in malodorous, which wouldn’t need to be a word if ODOR meant ‘bad smell’, as crossword clues often imply. Am pleased to report that in this puzzle the clue for that word at 34-across is the neutral [Scent]. You all know this is a hobby horse of mine.
  • 43d [Requests from] ASKS OF.
  • 50d [Fabric named for an Asian capital] DAMASKDamascus.
  • 61d [Electric key] FOB. Electric? Electronic?
  • 35a [Travels to an away match?] ELOPES. Bit stretchy. Echoes themer 19-across.
  • 41a [Pacific Rim nation] PANAMA. Were you also thinking of the western Pacific?
  • 52a [UPC kin] SKU, stock keeping unit.

Solid crossword.

Emma Lawson’s Inkubator crossword, “I Know It When I See It”—Jenni’s write-up

I agree with the Inkubator editors that this one is lightly challenging. It was also fun! I knew where it was going pretty much immediately, which was OK with me.

In this blog post the circles in the grid will be played by the color orange.

Inkubator, September 7, 2023, Emma Lawson, “I Know It When I See It,” solution grid

  • 17a [“My feelings are similar to yours”] is ITS MUTUAL.
  • 25a [Routine checkups on people with vaginas] are PELVIC EXAMS.
  • 51a [Remains in one’s home and community as one gets older] is AGES IN PLACE. This is near and dear to my heart. Hit me up if you want to talk about advance directives and ways to make it easier to stay put.

And the revealer: 63a [Utterance or act that offends the prevailing morality; or, a hint to what’s hidden in 17-Across, 25-Across, and 51-Across] is OBSCENITY. I appreciate the comment about “prevailing morality” which acknowledges that one community’s obscenity is another community’s humor or personal expression.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of fashion historian Valerie STEELE.

Greg Framke and Olivia Mitra Framke’s Universal crossword, “A Good Walk Spoiled”—Jim’s review

OMF has had numerous published grids over the last few years, but this is a debut for Greg Framke. Congrats!

The title is a reference to a quote popularly ascribed to Mark Twain (though apparently he wasn’t the first to say it, if he ever did). George Carlin had a famous bit that took that idea many steps further. Now there’s a thought: I’d pay money to see Twain and Carlin having a chat. Hey Universe! Make it happen!

Anyhoo, theme answers are familiar names and phrases that end in a word that doubles as a golf club. The revealer is PAR FOR THE COURSE (37a, [Expected result … or what the ends of the starred clues’ answers help you achieve (on a good day)]). {Aside: I don’t play golf and don’t care to. Why would getting par be good? Shouldn’t your goal be to beat par?}

Universal crossword solution · “A Good Walk Spoiled” · Greg Framke and Olivia Mitra Framke · Fri., 9.8.23

  • 16a. [*Actor who plays Anakin Skywalker’s grandson] ADAM DRIVER.
  • 23a. [*Hot rod?] CURLING IRON.
  • 46a. [*French fry alternative] POTATO WEDGE.
  • 59a. [*Olympian who throws a heavy ball] SHOT PUTTER. Change in pronunciation here.

A fine theme, and it works as long as the pronunciation change in the last entry doesn’t bother you. But I have to say the revealer isn’t the most apt for this set. I’d expect the revealer to mention “clubs” in some way. Same with the title. Both of those are just golf phrases whereas the theme answers are all about golf clubs.

I loved “THIS IS NUTS!” as a marquee Down answer. SAFE HAVENS and ROAST PORK are nice entries as well. Did not know RYU [Street Fighter protagonist], but at least I figured RYE was unlikely. Down below, I tried KONA for [Maui’s ___ Highway] even though I knew those are on different islands. When that didn’t work out, I dug deeper and was able to come up with HANA as my second guess.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [“You’re gonna need a bigger boat” boat]. ORCA. From Jaws, of course. Fun start to the puzzle for me. To this day I still can’t believe my parents took me to see that film in the theater when I was just seven years old. Of course it terrified me and I couldn’t bear to watch the scene when Quint became fish food, but damn I do love that movie!
  • 23d. [Nickname that drops “line” or “lyn”]. CARO. Hmm. This seems dubious to me. Would anyone shorten those names that way? I would think it’d be more typical to go down to one syllable (i.e. “Care” or however you want to spell it).

3.5 stars.

USA Today by Darby Ratliff and Matthew Stock: “Last Call”

THEME: Entries that end with types of “call”s

Theme entries:

2023-09-08 USAT ratliff-stock

2023-09-08 USAT ratliff-stock

  • EARLYBIRD 16A [One who gets the worm, in a saying]
  • ROCKANDROLL 27A [Genre for Tina Turner and Heart]
  • HARRYSHOUSE 48A [Album with “As It Was” and “Satellite”]
  • FLIPPHONE 62A [The Motorola Razr, for example]


Hi folks, I’m filling in with the USAT review for Darby, who co-wrote today’s puzzle! And what a cute theme! We have BIRD CALL, ROLL CALL, HOUSE CALL, and PHONE CALL. Four distinct kinds of CALLs, and fittingly per the title, they come last in their entries.

In semi-regular USAT fashion, we have the slightest touch of asymmetry — which I still haven’t totally decided if I’m personally a fan of, but if it allows for a cleaner fill and a smoother puzzle then I’ll take it.

Other clues and entries I enjoyed: TAILS 55A [Squirrels’ bushy body parts], 17D [Dog ___ (age measurement)], ERIE 14A [Great Lake with the most abundant fish population]. It’s always ERIE, of course, but I enjoy so much how we’re always finding new trivia facts for it.

I learned:

Spider-Man Noir 8D [Brimmed hat worn by Spider-Man Noir] an alternate noir-themed Depression-era take on Spider-Man.

Joy Harjo POETS 19A [Writers like Joy Harjo, Tracy K. Smith, etc.]. I listened to this recording of her poem “Once the World Was Perfect”

HARRYSHOUSE 48A [Album with “As It Was” and “Satellite”]. The third studio album from Harry Styles released in 2022. The most popular track is “As It Was.”

Thanks Darby, Matthew, and the USAT team!


Chandi Deitmer’s New Yorker crossword — Matt G’s write-up

Chandi Deitmer’s New Yorker crossword solution, 09/08/2023

A three-part revealer makes everything clear after the clear answer PICK ME PICK ME [Cry from an eager student, say] doesn’t fit, very early in the solve.

That revealer is MAKE A / LONG STORY / SHORT, and invites us to crunch synonyms for “story” into three rebus squares around the grid. PICK ME PICK ME fits into nine squares if you put [EPIC] in a single square. Elsewhere, [TALE] makes the crossing of SMART ALECK and FATAL ERROR work, as does [SAGA] for GUESS AGAIN and CARL SAGAN.

For me, the first rebus was the toughest to see, as PICK ME PICK ME crosses EPICUREAN. It’s harder to see a rebus pre-revealer when it’s in the beginning of the entry, and if you misspell AEGEUS [Mythological figure said to have drowned in the sea now named for him], as I did, it’s even harder. Makes the a-ha moment a little bigger of a payoff, though.

Outside of the theme, I liked the clue for KPOP, which asks solvers to place the 2018 Olympics in Korea and the entry PHONE IT IN. The plural RKOS, clued to multiple films by the studio, raised my eyebrow, but early as it was, and with such a challenge identifying the rebus, it didn’t linger in my mind.

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21 Responses to Friday, September 8, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: I knew what IMPRIMATUR meant about 30 years before I learned how to pronounce it.

    Fun puzzle. Menstrual products and birth control options are not part of my world, so I had to do an alphabet run for the crossing of PADS and MIRENA. Fortunately, it was a short one.

    HERDED CATS will always make me think of the 1990’s Senate majority leader Trent Lott. Not one of my favorites, but I do appreciate his introducing me to that colorful analogy.

    • Dallas says:

      I can’t remember where I first heard “herding cats” but it is such an evocative phrase for any cat owner that it’s stuck with me for a long time. I was completely delighted when I got SPOONERISM, almost as dismayed when I realized I was going to have to spell IMPRIMATUR correctly… And it was fun to learn what TORTELLINI means too. Great Friday, even if the SW took me a long time…

      • pannonica says:

        From the opening scene of The Life of Brian (1979):

        SHEPHERD #2: You know, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than watch sheep.

        MORRIS: Mmm.

        SHEPHERD #1: The only other animals that I would be remotely interested in watching would be cats.

        MORRIS: They don’t have flocks of cats.

        SHEPHERD #1: No, I– I’m not saying they do, Morris.

        MORRIS: Can you imagine a herds of cats waiting to be sheared? Meow! Meow! Woo hoo hoo.

        (thanks to various internet sources)

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Great, fun puzzle!
    I could hear some of these expression in real life… I’m thinking of a committee I chaired a while back, where the mission felt CLEAR AS MUD. I mostly HERDED CATS, and the conflicts ran deep. It was THE LITERAL WORST. The only missing expression was: “Divide and Conquer”. I split people up into subcommittees, where members didn’t despise each other, and we actually managed to come up with something good.
    Interesting clue for OCEAN!
    Well done!

  3. DougC says:

    NYT: Some entertaining answers, but way too much trivia for me. Singers, actors, writers, playwrights, swimmers, not to mention two feminine product brand names. If these are all part of your cultural milieu, I’m sure you enjoyed this more than I did.

  4. Stephie says:

    This will sound more snarky that I mean it to be, but if your cultural milieu doesn’t include the arts, literature, or sports, then what does it include?

    • Mutman says:

      It does sound snarky, but it’s a great line!

    • JohnH says:

      Mostly, a puzzle’s milieu includes TV that I’d never watch in a million years and movies that an organ like the NYT or TNY routinely pans or ignores, like Marvel comics series, but crosswords thrive on. The arts and literature, near as I can tell, are almost completely absent, apart from ONO being convenient fill

  5. Rick Narad says:

    Loved today’s NYT.
    Please note that more extreme than herding cats is herding cats on ice.

  6. Martin says:

    I learned Mirena from this crossword. I love when that happens. I truly don’t get people being somehow insulted when a puzzle includes something new to them.

    Just got home from LA, where we met our hours-old first grandchild. We’ll be walking on air from here on out.

    • JohnH says:

      I don’t think it’s fear of the new that made some dislike not just having to learn Mirena, but having to deduce it from a crossing name. Again, I hate a huge bloc of us being tarred with narrow-mindedness when all we want is fewer proper names and so fair crossings. Nor is it sexism. I have an easy time with the perpetual fill of ATRA, but I’m not looking for proper names to suit me.

      I understand that some solvers, like Amy herself, rate favorite clues as about favorite things. So maybe it’s hard to imagine that objectors don’t want more of THEIR supposed favorite things, even if in reality we are not mired in the 1960s and men’s sports. But please, please take the objectors are our word. For once. Seriously!

      • Martin says:

        I certainly didn’t mean to ascribe any agenda, narrow-mindedness or otherwise, to not liking unknown entries. So of course I take you at your word. Take me at mine. I’m just surprised that my subjective reaction to learning a new obscurity is not shared by all. I get it, accept it, don’t wish to imply it’s a flaw or think it’s an inferior way to experience a crossword. I am just surprised that people approach these differently. I would never tell anyone how they should enjoy solving.

      • Lois says:

        I don’t think there was a crossing name, except Always. The name REY doesn’t cross MIRENA. But the crosses were too difficult for me too. Sometimes we should allow ourselves some Googling to increase our enjoyment, I guess. I wish I would have gotten CLEAR AS MUD. I’m fond of the phrase. It brings back funny memories of a co-worker I had a few decades back who used the phrase a lot, but incorrectly, to mean “clear” if you can believe that.

  7. Seattle DB says:

    TNY: 31A: “Irma Vep” is an anagram of “vampire”.

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