Friday, September 22, 2023

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker tk (Matt) 


NYT 4:09 (Amy) 


Universal 5-something (on my phone) (Jim) 


USA Today tk (Darby) 


Jess Rucks & Ann Hagerty’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #47″—Jenni’s write-up

I found this more challenging than most Inkubator themelesses. That is most definitely not a complaint.

Inkubator, September 21, 2023, Jess Rucks & Ann Hagerty, “Themeless #47”


  • The two grid-spanning entries, SLEEPLESS NIGHTS and MULTIPLE ORGASMS. I’m calling that a mini-theme and I am here for it.
  • 21d [Attachment that has nothing to do with psychology] is a PDF.
  • 25a [Like some strong…drinks] is STIFF. Mini-theme.
  • We get MIDGARD and AESIR, which is fun.
  • 51a [Kiss (that you probs don’t need to tell about)] is PDA. Mini-theme.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never actually heard of MIDGARD. Also had never heard of Arizona coach ADIA Barnes, so I was grateful that the Sarah McLachlan song was included in the clue.

Rafael Musa & Michael Lieberman’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 9/22/23 – no. 0922

I enjoyed this fairly easy Friday NYT chock full of zippy longer entries that let me forgive the crosswordese beasties STOATS at 1-Across. Lots of zigzagging flow throughout the grid helps speed the solve.

Fave fill: CARROT CAKE, the film ROMA, OXYMORONIC “tough love,” SHOT HOOPS, “END OF RANT,” JAMES JOYCE, ACTS NORMAL, COLD FUSION (I feel like that should be a brand name of hard seltzer), LIFE OR DEATH, TOO BIG TO FAIL, SPACE RACE, SKI RESORT, “YOU HAD ONE JOB,” and POOL NOODLE.

But really, my favorite entry is ORGAN DONORS. Sign up on your driver’s license or other state organ-donor registry! Consider being a living donor of a kidney, a lobe of your liver, or some bone marrow. [Givers of priceless gifts], indeed.—Sincerely, your crossword neighborhood kidney transplant recipient

Two more things:

  • 34a. [Star Wars” prequel series], ANDOR. Starring Diego Luna (who has a supervocalic name, with A E I O U appearing once each). Nice to have an alternative to and/or for occasional use.
  • 40a. [Beer whose ads once featured a sinister penguin], BUD ICE. Seeing BUDICE in the grid keeps making me think of České Budějovice, the Czech town where the original Budweiser Budvar originated. (Penguins optional.)

Four stars from me. Would have been 4.25 but for STOATS asserting itself right off the bat.

Laura Dershewitz & Katherine Baicker’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 9/22/23 • Fri • Dershewitz, Baicker • solution • 20230922

  • 58aR [Frustratingly difficult, and an apt title for this puzzle] LIKE HERDING CATS.
  • 20a. [Big name in 1980s heartland rock] JOHN C{OUGAR} MELLENCAMP.
  • 32a. [Some suede kicks] P{UMA} SNEAKERS.
  • 45a. [“If I were King of the Forest” singer] COWARDLY L{ION}.

The bracketed ends of those cat names stray from the entries, but are rounded up—sort of—by the circled squares.

Many of you will recall that we recently had a little conversation about the origin of the concept of herding cats. To recap: surprisingly it seems to date only back to 1979.

Back to today. Despite appreciating the concept, I’m disappointed in this one. It feels underdeveloped. There are only three ‘active’ theme answers, and two of them are different names for the same animal: Puma concolor. I can’t help but think that this crossword would have benefitted by removing that grid-spanning revealer (excellent though it is) in favor of having an actual title, making room for a fourth regular theme answer. I don’t expect the Los Angeles Times to alter its format, but perhaps another publishing venue would have been more appropriate.

  • 1d [Japanese term whose similarity to “emotion” is coincidental] EMOJI. Wow, I had assumed that was the case! “Originally meaning pictograph, the word emoji comes from Japanese e (絵, ‘picture’) + moji (文字, ‘character’); the resemblance to the English words emotion and emoticon is purely coincidental.” (Wikipedia)
    So the real culprit here is the name emoticon, which sets up a false continuum.
  • 8d [“__ Nona”: Tomie dePaola picture book] STREGA. I only know Strega as the liqueur.
  • 34d [Sought-after fish] NEMO. Effective low-key misdirection in the clue.
  • 35d [Hundred-acre wood kid] ROO. A bit of cognitive friction for me, since kid is, in addition to a term for a human child, what baby goats are called, while young kangaroos are joeys. On the other hand, we’re talking about talking, anthropomorphized characters of children’s literature.
  • 9a [Bar codes?] LAWS. Nifty.
  • 17a [College chem course, informally] ORGO. Ick.
  • 28a [Not much] A BIT OF.
  • 37a [One who may be shorthanded at work?] STENO. Cute, but it’s feeling increasingly obsolescent.
  • 51a [Medieval Times prop] LANCE. So emblematic. I mean, it was the first thing that popped into my head, even though I’ve never been to one of those establishments. Probably the same would hold true had the clue referenced a Renaissance Fair.
  • 54a [Shot-putter?] NURSE. Okay, too far. This one is trying too hard. 48a [Oh so very] TOO TOO.
  • 64a [Established beliefs] DOGMA. In the cat crossword.

Dylan Schiff’s Universal crossword, “Disorderly Order”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose circled letters are courses of a meal in scrambled (dis)order. The revealer is CHANGE COURSE (47a, [Go in a new direction, or a hint to each of this puzzle’s scrambled meal parts]).

Universal crossword solution · “Disorderly Order” · Dylan Schiff · Fri., 9.22.23

  • 20a. [Deep emotions that may be tugged at (In this answer, note letters 2-8)] HEARTSTRINGS. Starter.
  • 29a. [Long-standing foe (… letters 4-9)] BITTER ENEMY. Entree.
  • 37a. [Puts on clothes (… letters 2-8)] GETS DRESSED. Dessert.

Ah, it’s the dreaded Universal square-counting two-step. You know, I’m tempted to not blog puzzles that tell me which letters to note. And once again I will suggest to constructors that if their puzzles need circles, then they should submit to other venues until such time that Universal can figure out how to print circles in their puzzles. (We however are fortunate enough to get a circled version online.) Note that this is not a dig on the editing team who I’m sure would love to dispense with the letter-counting.

Anyhoo, I solved this as a themeless, and it was quite nice. But then I realized I was supposed to unscramble these long strings of six and seven letters and I wasn’t too keen on that idea. The thing I appreciate the most is that the meaning of “course” doesn’t change with each entry. That would’ve been annoying. But having three courses of a meal is a big help to the solver. I figured out the last one first, and then the others fell in line. I like the fact that they’re in proper meal order. Unless you eat dessert first, in which case, kudos to you, you adult-child!

Nice long fill with PETE’S DRAGON (I remember seeing that in the theater as a boy and loving it), ROUNDHOUSES, TANTRUM, and EARSHOT.

Clues of note:

  • 23a. [Leaves abruptly, with “out”]. PEACES. It’s weird as a verb, but I think it would be weirder as a noun.
  • 5d. [Epidemiologist’s concern]. DISEASE. Keeping the clue scientific is a better approach than if the clues was something like [Diabetes, for one].

Nice grid. 3.5 stars.

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32 Responses to Friday, September 22, 2023

  1. Gary R says:

    NYT: +1 on Amy’s comment re: ORGAN DONORS.

    Nice puzzle.

    • huda says:

      Agreed re ORGAN DONORS! These people are the best of us.
      And Agree with Amy re all the great entries in the puzzle.
      The clue for OXYMORONIC gave me pause. I don’t quite think of tough love as oxymoronic.
      The DOLMA entry is inspiring me to make Yalanji Dolma this weekend. Early in our relationship, my husband learned that yalanji means liar in Turkish (it’s yalanji/lying because the dolma lacks the expected meat). Once in a while, someone will be making up stuff and my husband says: Yalanji! I always wonder whether people think he’s hungry or know what it means.

  2. Allen Krantz says:

    agreed also with Amy’s take except for her stoat issue. also a very clean puzzle I think.

  3. Dallas says:

    Fun and fast Friday. Even the short answers and clues were good (TIX stood out to me). Though I’m not sure why STOAT is bad, but ORYX is okay (even if they were the last things I filled in) :-)

    I like CARROT CAKE too; my Ph.D. advisor claimed it was a truly American dessert, because if you asked anyone from Europe or Asia about it, they would make a funny face to you based on the name alone.

    These past few months I’ve finally been making my way through JAMES JOYCE’s Ulysses (I think my last attempt was 10+ years ago) bit by bit at bedtime while my son reads his books… and I’m literally one 14 page sentence away from the end. I didn’t know much about the book, and it’s been an interesting experience… I’m not sure I’d exactly recommend it, but if its your kind of thing, it’s definitely worth it.

    And, while I generally try to stay away from picking nits… the clue for COLD FUSION (“Hypothesized type of nuclear reaction”)… hoo boy. The word “hypothesized” is doing so much work there it needs to get paid overtime. The initial claims for cold fusion came out shortly before I began undergrad, and were already well debunked within a year or two, but much later as a faculty member I would bump into it again while doing research on hydrogen in palladium (which I didn’t realize until later that they were looking at palladium hydride in their measurements). Anyway… it feels like trying to clue PERPETUAL MOTION with “Hypothesized engine type”.


    • David L says:

      I was going to make a similar comment. ‘Bogus’ instead of ‘hypothesized’ would have been fine.

      • huda says:

        I agree re emoji/emotion— that this comes as a cool surprise, but also that it’s a happy coincidence for making it stick in English.

    • pannonica says:

      There are numerous guides or keys to Ulysses that can enhance your enjoyment of the novel. I can’t speak for all or even most of them, but I thoroughly enjoyed Anthony Burgess’ ReJoyce.

    • huda says:

      “Hypothesized” comes directly from the Wiki entry on cold fusion. I looked it up after solving the puzzle because I too thought this was an odd clue. I’m not disagreeing with you, I’m just reporting :).
      It’s interesting that people are still dancing around the concept:

    • Eric H says:

      I read “Ulysses” over the course of a summer at a new job. I had literally nothing to do, and all my coworkers who had just been through several special legislative sessions were exhausted from overwork and had hundreds of hours of compensatory time to use up, so they were all on vacation.

      I’m glad I read it, but I’m not sure I would do it again.

      My copy of “Ulysses” was incorrectly bound, so when you read it, it looks like you’re holding it upside-down. That kind of sends a mixed message.

    • Jim says:

      “I’m not sure I’d exactly recommend it, but if its your kind of thing, it’s definitely worth it.”

      In other words, it’s something you’d like if you like that kind of thing. 😄


      • Eric H says:

        “For those who like that sort of thing,” said Miss Brodie in her best Edinburgh voice, “That is the sort of thing they like.”

        (From “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” by Muriel Spark)

    • Eric H says:

      And the blue and red lines represent?

      • pannonica says:

        Occurrences over time of the phrases in the corpus of printed material.

        • Eric H says:

          I’ll ask again. I’ve done the LAT puzzle and read your review, but I don’t understand which phrase you’re talking about.

          As an aside, I’m a little surprised that you didn’t know “Strega Nona.” That’s one of those things I know *only* from crossword puzzles. I was in high school when it was published, but I’ve seen it in at least two or three previous puzzles.

          • pannonica says:

            Aha. Maybe the image is cut off on your screen.

            There are labels on the righthand side. Red is “life and death” blue is “life or death”.

            • Eric H says:

              Yep, that was it. All I could see were unlabeled lines and the time axis.

              Thanks for coming back and clarifying it.

              “LIFE OR DEATH situation” sounds more natural to me, but if I heard someone say LIFE AND DEATH, it wouldn’t bother me.

              And for some reason, “It’s a matter of life AND death” sounds better.

            • pannonica says:

              To follow up on the follow-up, I believe that if you tap on the (interactive) chart, labels will appear underneath, if they are not already visible on the righthand side.

    • Gary R says:

      One of those situations where the more popular phrasing makes less sense (to me, anyway) most of the time. A bit like “I could/couldn’t care less.”

  4. Mary Flaminio says:

    Does anyone know why The Week’s crossword aren’t printable or even, for today, aren’t even available?

  5. Dan says:

    LAT: Overwhelmingly my least favorite LAT puzzle since Patti Varol began editing it in March or April of 2022. Way too much pop culture and way too many proper names for my taste.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I’m usually stymied by a glut of current pop culture, but I didn’t notice it much at all in this puzzle. Most of those clue/answer combos are pretty dated. Since I’m pretty dated also, they didn’t slow me down much at all.

  6. Dan says:

    pannonica wrote re the LAT puzzle: “[Japanese term whose similarity to “emotion” is coincidental] EMOJI. Wow, I had assumed that was the case!”

    It may be a coincidence in the Japanese word per se, but it’s no coincidence that the word stuck in English because of its similarity to the word “emotion”.

  7. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: Chicken PiX is a thing, right?

    Took me forever to find that. A HAT iN A HAT makes as much sense as A HAT ON A HAT, which I’ve never heard of.

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