Friday, September 15, 2023

Inkubator 8:31 (Sophia) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 1:58 (MattG) 


NYT 7:02 (Amy) 


Universal 4:53 (Jim) 


USA Today 5:20 (Darby) 


David Rubin & Lee Demertzis’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 9/15/23 – no. 0915

This puzzle made me think it was Friday night rather than Thursday. Tougher than expected for you, too, or just me?

Interesting grid, with six 15s spanning the width. I like them all, too. LOWERCASE LETTER at the front of eBay (and occupying the last half as well, so weird clue). SENATORIAL SEATS is kinda boring. ALASKAN KING CRAB is a wild creature, and SNAKE IN THE GRASS could also be one but here it’s a [Backstabber]. The Magic 8 Ball response “SIGNS POINT TO YES” delights me, and then I’m hearing a stadium vendor walking the stands at Wrigley Field offering “ICE COLD BEER HERE,” except I think they just shout “CO BEER!”

Other crisp fill that caught my eye: Pablo ESCOBAR, KARENS (no offense to the lovely humans who happen to be named Karen!), GO BIG. Less keen on a biblicalese RESTETH, perhaps overly slangy “HELLS NO,” dry ODEA, clunky AT A DESK (not really idiomatic English).

Two more things:

  • 30a. [Some basketball venues … or players], CENTERS. For example, Chicago’s United Center is home to the Bulls and the Blackhawks.
  • 3d. [Something that people like to see break], DAWN. In theory, yes. In reality? I’m never awake and I’d rather just have my eyes closed when day breaks.

3.9 stars from me.

Stella Zawistowski’s Inkubator crossword, “Into The Groove”—Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Phrases where the first word is an adjective and the second word is a Madonna song, clued as a “remix” of the song in question.

Inkubator, 09 14 2023, “Into The Groove”

  • 17a [Partial remix of a Madonna hit?] – HALF FROZEN
  • 23a [Sapphic remix of a Madonna hit?] – LESBIAN EROTICA
  • 48a [Graeco-Roman remix of a Madonna hit?] – CLASSICAL MUSIC
  • 54a [Goth remix of a Madonna hit?] – DARK SECRET

So, I think of myself as a Madonna fan… But I have never heard of any of the songs mentioned in the puzzles. The internet tells me that they were all top ten hits, though, so I’ll chalk that up to me being behind the times. That meant that I basically solved this puzzle as “What adjective fits the clue? And then what phrase starts with that word?” The word “remix” made me think “anagram”, so I was very surprised that the theme didn’t have anything to do with them. As for the answers themselves, they’re all solid (well, except for HALF-FROZEN, which is the least both literally and metaphorically). LESBIAN EROTICA is probably the standout.

Fave fill: I like the pairing of SCI FI and MAI TAI, with ABACI and SO AM I for good measure.

Fave clues: [Make a big production of?] – STAGE, [“Are you there God? __ Me, Margaret”] – ITS

Write-overs: “Prada” instead of GUCCI, crossing “Pro” instead of NUN for [what a novice may become]

New to Me: That Edmonton has a football squad named the ELKS

Zachary David Levy’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 9/15/23 ‹ Fri • solution • 20230915

  • 53aR [“Without a doubt,” and a hint to 20-, 31-, and 41-Across] NO BUTS ABOUT IT. I’d  kind of understood the theme from the first of these, and was thinking it would be about NO IFS, ANDS, OR BUTS—which would have been out of order, though. By the time I got to the second theme entry, I saw the consistency and knew that it couldn’t be BUTTS OUT because that’s spelled with a double-T.
  • 20a. [Result of an overzealous stylist?] FLYING TRESSES (flying buttresses).
  • 31a. [Result of a “Moonstruck” actress converting to Judaism?] KOSHER CHER (kosher butcher).
  • 41a. [Indulge in many, many naps?] SNOOZE TONS (snooze buttons). As I always say, the first nap of the day is the most important nap of the day.

Works unconditionally.

  • 5d [Street racer] DRAG CAR.
  • 7d [ __ nous] ENTRE, 8d [Basic French verb] ÊTRE.
  • 21d [Air Force 1s, e.g.] NIKES. I was thinking about presidential airplanes, but of course I now see that that would have been written as Air Force One, rather than using the numeral. The shoes are not familiar to me.
  • 27d [Humid phenomena] MISTS. 63a [Like the lawn at dawn] DEWY.
  • 41d [Stitched together] SUTURED, 43a [Cut] TIE, 44a [Sever] CUT.
  • 47d [“__-daisy!”] OOPSY. Needed to wait for crossings to see which spelling we’d get.
  • 1a [Alluring] SEXY. 5a [One rocking a pocket protector] DWEEB. Sexy dweeb!
  • 36a [A whole lot (of)] GOBS. Proximate to that SNOOZE TONS themer.
  • 56a [“… or not”] WELP. For a hot second I thought this might be GULP.

Craig Stowe’s Universal crossword, “Pardon My French”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose first words are also words in French (with completely different meanings). Solvers are meant to interpret the first words as being French while the second words stay in English (hence the “Franglais” in the clues).

Universal crossword solution · “Title” · Craig Stowe · Fri., 9.15.23

  • 3d. [Cat cafe, in Franglais?] CHAT ROOM.
  • 11d. [Teaspoon, in Franglais?] THE SCOOP.
  • 42a. [Mother tongue, in Franglais?] MERE WORDS.
  • 47a. [Handshake, in Franglais?] MAIN SQUEEZE.

Note that the theme answers were chosen such that the clues could also be familiar phrases. This tightens the theme quite a bit by eliminating so many possible theme entries. Take for example, the phrase “Main Street.” If you were to interpret that as “‘hand’ street,” how could you possibly clue that without being too off-the-wall. Conversely, “hand squeeze” is perfectly clued as [Handshake]. I really like that one, even though I had no idea that “main” is “hand” in French.

And that brings me to my only nit with the puzzle. I knew “mere” and “the” were “mother” and “tea” respectively, but I didn’t know the others. So while I’m impressed with the theme answers and their clues, students of the French language probably enjoyed this more than I did.

One other thing: The theme answers have lengths of 8, 8, 9, and 11 letters. With the theme as tight as it is, there probably weren’t that many alternative theme answers to use here. But how to make a grid with that unlikely set when traditional rotational symmetry won’t work? The answer: Left-right symmetry with the even-numbered entries placed vertically. A clever solution, and it works. The grid sort of resembles a bell or an old rotary phone, but I still found the solve smooth enough (despite my linguistic challenges).

On to the fill. Gotta love the words SOJOURN and DEVOTEE, both of which happen to be from the French, coincidentally. Also good: SIZES UP.

Clues of note:

  • 5a. [Drink served with a thick straw]. SHAKE. Hmm. The drink is thick, but is the straw actually thicker than usual or just wider?
  • I like the symmetrical pairing of [Is down with] and [Came down with] for HAS and GOT in the top corners.

Impressive theme set, though it required a little more knowledge of French than I expect the average person has. 3.75 stars.

Emily Carroll’s USA Today crossword, “Hits Different”—Darby’s recap

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: Each theme answer begins with an anagram of HITS.

Theme Answers

Emily Carroll’s USA Today crossword, “Hits Different” solution for 9/15/2023

  • 19a [“Star Wars” antagonists titled “Darth”] SITH LORDS
  • 39a [1984 mockumentary about a fictional heavy metal band] THIS IS SPINAL TAP
  • 61a [“Subway Art” singer] TISH HYMAN

I now have “Hits Different” by Taylor Swift stuck in my head, which I’m not mad about. Anagram themes are always fun, and this had such a nice variety of themers. As a huge Star Wars nerd, SITH LORDS were easy to plop in, while it took me a bit longer for the spanner THIS IS SPINAL TAP and TISH HYMAN. However, they were really easy to catch on the crosses.

I appreciated the flow through the center of this grid, with 5d [Catches by surprise] STARTLES, 21d [Instruction before blowing out a birthday candle] MAKE A WISH, and 42d [“According to legend…”] IT IS SAID being some of my favourites. The NE and SW corners felt a wee bit pinched, but the fill in each of them (and around them) was very clean. I also thought that 24d [Word before “store” or “booth”] CORNER and 69a [Pumpkin bit that might be baked] SEED were cute.

Emily Carroll’s New Yorker crossword—Matt G’s recap

Emily Carroll’s New Yorker crossword solution, 9/15/2023

I have to be quick today.

Revealer is middle-grid: [Parameters for a construction project … or, read another way, what the last words of 17-, 23-, 49-, and 54-Across might be used for?] BUILDING SPECS

Playing on SPECS as either “specifics” in a project, or as slang for eyewear, our themers:

  • 17a [Places of worship for many Tibetans] BUDDHIST TEMPLES
  • 23a [Features of some margaritas] SALTED RIMS
  • 49a [Camera attachments with variable focal lengths] ZOOM LENSES
  • 54a [Structure that provides a direct pedestrian route between Chinatown and downtown Brooklyn] MANHATTAN BRIDGE

With TEMPLES, RIMS, LENSES, and BRIDGE being components of a pair of glasses. I was unfamiliar with this term TEMPLE, but it’s real! I have called those elements “arms” or “wings” without ever really knowing there was a word for them.

I found this puzzle quite quick, and the theme entries clued particularly gently. I’ve been seeing this usage of ANOINT [Designate, as one’s successor] at 47d more often in grids lately. It doesn’t strike me as wrong but certainly less common, no?

Oh hey, a double day for Emily, with this and the USA. Neat.

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41 Responses to Friday, September 15, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: It did seem challenging for a Friday, especially up top, where the he NW corner almost did me in. “Cocaine” and “drug war” before hitting on ESCOBAR (and I thought Wagner Moura was fantastic in that role). It took me way too long to get LOWER-CASE LETTER even after I had the end of it. (And now that I think about it, isn’t the distinguishing feature of the eBay logo that upper-case B?)

    I was also really slow to get SAL’S, even though I think “Do the Right Thing” is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen — funny, horrifying, and as relevant today as it was in 1989.

    SENATORIAL SEATS is kind of blah — and wouldn’t you just say SENATe SEATS?

    I liked the mirror symmetry and the absence of three-letter words.

    3.95 stars from me. Rounded up, of course.

    • T-Rav says:

      “And now that I think about it, isn’t the distinguishing feature of the eBay logo that upper-case B?”

      yes, that bothered me too. the clue was “eBay feature” not “eBay features.” singular would be upper case, not lower case.

      • Eric H says:

        I do have to say that the eBay clue successfully misdirected me. I was so focused on some bit of functionality of the website (which I have never really used) that I never considered the logo until I had most of the answer.

      • Dallas says:

        It messed me up so much as I had CAMEL CASE LETTER, corresponding to the B… I’m still not sure why “lower case letter” is an “eBay feature” … but yeah, the NW and even the SE took me a bit, but it ended up right at my average. An enjoyable if tougher Friday. We’ll see what Saturday brings!

    • Gary R says:

      This one felt a littler easier than the typical Friday to me – maybe just on my wavelength. None of the grid-spanners came to me without several crosses, but the necessary crosses came fairly easily.

      I also liked the grid – it’s actually mirror symmetry both vertically and horizontally (don’t know if there’s a name for that) – and the absence of three-letter entries.

      You could certainly make a case that the upper case “B” is a feature of eBay also, but since we usually expect company/product names to start with a capital letter, the lower case “e” also stands out – I thought the answer was fine. I would bet that Apple thinks of the lower case “i” as an important feature of their various product names that start with it.

      • Eric H says:

        The constructors’ notes on Wordplay mention the grid’s “supersymmetry,” but that’s not how I understand the term. (To be supersymmetrical, I think you’d have to be able to rotate the grid 90° and have it look the same.)

        It is a striking grid design, with both mirror symmetry and 180° rotational symmetry.

        • David L says:

          Supersymmetry is a hypothesis in theoretical particle physics that every boson is paired with a fermion and vice versa. In the low-energy world we inhabit, supersymmetry clearly does not hold, and no evidence for any of the proposed ‘superpartner’ particles exists.

          Tall order for a crossword grid, if you ask me.

      • Sophomoric Old Guy says:

        In agreement as far as not being “difficult”. Definitely a wavelength thing. So many that I was able to fill without having any crosses filled. I finished about a minute behind Amy and I am never that close.

        Congrats to constructors David A. Rubin and Lee Demertzis. Per Xword Info this was the debut NYT for each. I appreciate when constructors get their first puzzle WITHOUT collaborating with a well known constructor. This is the old school way.

    • DougC says:

      The NYT was definitely a Saturday-hard puzzle for me.

      I liked the bottom 2/3s a lot, with the exception of the MADEA/ANDRA cross, which was a complete Natick for me. OTOH, I can hear the vendors calling “ICE COLD BEER HERE!” and thoroughly enjoyed that aural memory, even as I mentally noted that those beers are poured from cans, in my experience, and are not drafts.

      That top third, though, hoo boy. That was just awful.

      I can think of only a single word in the English language that isn’t routinely spelled with LOWER CASE LETTERs, so cluing that as a “feature” of eBay is quite the stretch.

      SENATORIAL SEATS, and AT A DESK crossing KARENS, just bad, bad, bad. And HELLS NO is a construction I’ve never heard.

      So this was definitely a Tale of Two Puzzles for me.

  2. Douglas says:

    How does one view/print The Week crossword now? Do you need a paid subscription?

    • Douglas says:

      I loaded my browser without extensions. I see that one must install the Easy Games Tab & Custom Web Search extension and change your default search engine to Yahoo. Yeah, don’t think I’ll do that. Anybody tried this? Can you reset your default browser, or must it be Yahoo when you’re using the extension? Quality of the puzzle?

  3. Jordan says:

    LAT just made me sadder the further I got into it. OTS and ETS in the same grid. PEZ/SEZ had me groaning out loud. A pile of old trivia on top of some lumpy clues. All in service of NO BUTS ABOUT IT.

    Bold of them to put TEDIUM in there.

  4. David L says:

    It took me a while to get started with the NYT but I finished it in a pretty normal (for me) Friday time. NW was the last to fall, but ESCOBAR and OTOE sorted it all out.

    I resisted SENATORIALSEATS because no one says that, and the clue for LOWERCASELETTER is not entirely apt, IMO.

    Oh, and I put in ATTA immediately. Maybe this is the recency illusion at work, but it seems ATTA only appeared in crosswords a short time ago and now it’s an old dependable aka crosswordese. Handy set of letters, to be sure.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      We’ve had ATTA for years, in the “Attaboy!” and “Attagirl!” context. There was a brief time where animated ant Princess Atta made the cut. And yes, just recently the Indian flour entered the crossword scene.

  5. Karen says:

    Amy: Thank you! As soon as I saw the clue for 14D, I knew it, but refused to put it in, hoping it was something else. I am getting pretty annoyed that it’s not going away.
    Signed, your “ice cold beer” buddy.

  6. DJ says:

    Hi all – now that X word info is down, does anyone know where to get info on constructors, specifically, number of puzzles published and which days? I don’t think Wordplay provides that.


  7. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT … would someone please explain to me how WELP works with the clue ” … or not”? I feel like I spent about half my solve time in that little SW corner because of that clue/answer combo.

  8. Jim says:

    I immediately figured that between the presence of KARENS, and cluing SOROS as “philanthropist”, likely quite a few feathers were ruffled today.

  9. Eric H says:

    LAT: Solid puzzle, if on the easy side (slightly over my Monday NYT average). I got the “no BUTs” idea before solving the revealer, but it took long enough to figure it out that it was a bit of a challenge.

    It was fun to see QUASIMODO in a grid. He so rarely comes around.

  10. Dave says:

    NYT: 31A – Two days in a row for DOORONE. Yesterday it was from a July 4 midi by meatdaddy. I confidently entered CURTAIN. Didn’t make that mistake today.

    INKUBATOR: Like Sophia, I have never heard of any of the songs mentioned either. I’m familiar with Borderline/Materia Girl era Madonna. After that I’m out of songs.

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