Friday, November 17, 2023

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker tk (Matt) 


NYT 4:41 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim) 


USA Today 4:14 (Darby) 


Steph Brown’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #49″—Jenni’s write-up

Fun puzzle! It’s not particularly challenging; I found it straightforward and enjoyed the fresh fill and and couple of grid-spanning entries I haven’t seen before.


Inkubator, November 16, 2023, Steph Brown, “Themeless #49,” solution grid.

  • 7d [Homecoming dates?] are ADOPTIVERSARIES. I prefer this to “gotcha day” for children. I know some people also use that language for pets.
  • 34a [Device one might use when trying to stay afloat?] is COPING MECHANISM. The ? in the clue told me we weren’t talking about lifejackets. I thought about financial instruments and then got enough crossings to see the answer. Made me chuckle. And yes, humor is one of my primary COPING MECHANISMs.
  • Mmm, SCONES. I prefer those to OFFAL. They have such a lovely AROMA
  • Who hasn’t had a CRINGEY moment in middle school?
  • 23a [Tick off?] is not about anger. The answer is ENUMERATE. And the symmetrical answer is FASCINATE. I find that pleasing.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Anne DONOVAN was the first woman to coach a WNBA championship team.

Hemant Mehta’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 11/17/23 – no. 1117

Wow, Hemant really packed this puzzle with lots of fresh and fun fill. Among my favorites: CHEETO DUST (which you can keep off your fingers by using chopsticks or Snactiv picker-uppers), LOTTO BALLS, WORD SALAD, STUDENT ID, FIELD GOALS, “AND I MEAN IT,” RED SOLO CUP (memorialized in a country song, in case you wondered if it’s too “green paint”), a weary “DON’T REMIND ME,” TORRID, MOBIUS STRIPS, and BLAMESTORM.

Clues of note:

  • 17a. [Focus of a get-rich-quick scheme?], LOTTO BALLS. For the vast majority of lotto players, it’s a scheme to relieve them of some cash.
  • 32a. [Fitness test with beeps], PACER. No idea what this is all about.
  • 47a. [What may be behind the curtain], TUB. The shower curtain. It’s eminently possible that Oz is taking a bath behind it.
  • 55a. [Canvas finish?], TKO. As in a possible ending to a bout on the canvas surface of a boxing or MMA ring. (Is MMA done in a ring?)
  • 6d. [Pot growers?], BETS. As in the pot for a poker game.

4.25 stars from me.

Jamy Smith’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 11/17/23 • Fri • Smith • solution • 20231117

The theme entries are two-word names and phrases that have omitted a letter to become wackified. More specifically, the first words of the original versions end in -EY but have dropped the E to become weird adjectives.

  • 17a. [TikTok videos made by athletes?] JOCKY SHORTS (jockey shorts).
  • 25a. [Small flute made from reclaimed farm wood] BARNY FIFE (Barney Fife).
  • 35a. [Beachcombers’ off-season hopes?] SHELLY WINTERS (Shelley Winters).
  • 48a. [Taverns in cloisters and abbeys?] MONKY BARS (monkey bars).
  • 57a. [Banquet celebrating Ottoman culture?] TURKY DINNER (turkey dinner).

I didn’t find these too entertaining, but the execution is consistent.

  • 1d [Arabic for “crown”] TAJ. Did not know this.
  • 3d [Core workout rep] AB CRUNCH. Effectively signals the slightly odd singular form.
  • 11d [Muppet bear in a pork pie hat] FOZZIE. In case you weren’t aware, his name is homage to the puppeteer and voicer of the character, Frank Oz.
  • 14a [Palindromic pop quartet] ABBA. 41a [Palindromic pop trio] AHA, or, more accurately, a-ha.
  • 15a [God often depicted with green skin] OSIRIS. “He was commonly depicted as a pharaoh with a complexion of either green (the color of rebirth) or black (alluding to the fertility of the Nile floodplain) in mummiform (wearing the trappings of mummification from chest downward).”Wikipedia
  • 23a [Spot for a donut] TRUNK. That’s a diminutive spare tire.
  • 29a [Slangy turnarounds] UIES. I refuse to accept the -ie spelling.
  • 40a [Bribes] BUYS OFF. Site of my only mis-fill, where I initially tried PAYS OFF, which … didn’t.

Jeffrey K. Martinovic’s Universal crossword, “I for One”—Jim’s review

Theme: Count the number of I’s in each theme answer then replace the string of I’s with one I and the spelled-out digit you got to begin with. The revealer is “I DIG IT!” (61a, [“Righteous, dude!” … or, parsed differently, a hint to parts of the starred clues’ answers]). The re-parsing is I DIGIT.

Universal crossword solution · “I for One” · Jeffrey K. Martinovic · Fri., 11.17.23

  • 20a. [*Complainer’s quality] WHIIIIIIIIISS. I count nine I’s, so replace them with I NINE to get WHININESS.
  • 34a. [*Not modern] OLD FASHID. One I begets I ONE, hence OLD FASHIONED.
  • 52a. [*Certain high-intensity exercise session] CROSSFIIRKOUT. Two I’s give you I TWO and thus CROSS FIT WORKOUT.

This…was not for me. Anything that has me counting squares seems like too much effort. I had to stare at it for some time post-solve to put it all together, and once I did, the payoff just wasn’t there. Hopefully some of you liked it better, but I got no joy from it.

I did enjoy some of the fill though, especially SKIP TOWN, FOG OF WAR, RED WINE, MACHETE, MIRANDA, ALARMIST, RAN RIOT, BUS TRIP, and EN FUEGO (though I admit this last one was difficult to put together).

Not so keen on GROANS AT [Reacts to, as a bad pun]. You know what else I groan at? Entries like GROANS AT. And is NERF HOOP an actual thing? I checked the Hasbro website, and they actually call it a “Nerfoop.”

Clue of note: 38d. [Pass that’s scanned]. E-TICKET. I suspect this entry is in most constructors’ wordlists because of the old Disneyland ticketing system. But Wikipedia has a page devoted to this modern usage of the term, so I guess it’s legit.

I found the theme to be ungainly with little reward, but there’s a lot of nice fill here. Three stars.

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Keep It Between Us (Freestyle)”—Darby’s write-up

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Marquee Answers

Rafael Musa's USA Today crossword, "Keep It Between Us (Freestyle)" solution for 11/17/2023

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Keep It Between Us (Freestyle)” solution for 11/17/2023

  • 11a [Ways to determine how people or places make you feel] VIBE CHECKS
  • 16a [“Happens all the time”] I’M USED TO IT
  • 64a [“Don’t tell anyone!”] IT’S A SECRET
  • 67a [Not going to change] SET IN STONE

I expected not to take as much time as I did on this puzzle because it was so smooth from the start, though I primarily moved through the Downs to fill VIBE CHECKS and I’M USED TO IT. I think I got stuck in enough small places, however, to slow me down, like learning about 20a [Indigenous people of Canada] CREE or having to think through 51d [Anticipate] AWAIT.

However, the puzzle itself was really smooth and had so much fun fill. 23a [“I expected more from you”] DO BETTER was great, as was the inclusion of 8d [Texting symbol that shows love] HEART EMOJI, 27d [What a user sees before entering their phone password] LOCKSCREEN, and 38d [Rooftop landing sites] HELIPADS. The last of these felt goofy, just because I can’t remember the last time it appeared in a puzzle. It brought be great JOY, though.

This puzzle also feels even lighter than usual for a USA Today on proper nouns, with only CREE, 15a [Philly ivy] PENN, 19a ELLA of [“___ Enchanted”], 52d [Rapper ___ B] CARDI, and 61d [Actress Headey] LENA. There were some specific references I needed help with, most specifically 54d [“The ___ of Ink” (The Used song)] TASTE, but most of these fell into place relatively easily.

Overall, a great puzzle!

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22 Responses to Friday, November 17, 2023

  1. Art Shapiro says:

    NYT: Amy asks if MMA is done in a ring. No. The action is usually in a caged structure rather than a three- or four-rope delimited ring. The biggest MMA institution, “UFC”, uses an octagonal cage called “the octagon”. Other organizations differ; I believe Bellator uses a circular cage.

    The clue was marvelous.

    • Dallas says:

      I kept going back and forth on the “stable diet” between HAY and OAT; I had the O of TKO first, then the K and then it was clear :-)

      I’ve not heard BLAME STORM before but it was evocative enough… made me think of the “We’re all trying to find the guy who did this” which isn’t quite the same.

      Some fun math-y fill with MOBIUS STRIP and the clue for SINE. Nice Friday!

  2. Steve says:

    The Pacer test is the highlight of my son’s year in PE! The class starts in a line on one side of the gym, and the teacher puts a recording on. At the first beep they all jog to the other side and have to reach a certain distance before the next beep. If you don’t make it by the beep, you’re out. Every student who’s still in then turns around and jogs back during the next pair of beeps which is a little bit faster. It starts easy and gets gradually harder, and of course the kids are getting tired as well. Eventually the kids are at a full sprint and they’re winded until one kid is the champion.

    I don’t know if this is true for all MMA, but the biggest brand UFC is done “in the octagon”. It looks like a boxing ring, but with fencing instead of ropes and it’s octagonal instead of square. Ok, so it’s not like a boxing ring at all. I don’t think it’s called a ring but I’m not an expert at all.

  3. Alex says:

    This is the third (?) or so crossword I’ve seen from Hemant and, man, he is a very good constructor. This puzzle was zippy but fun, the clues were fresh and clever… he’s quickly becoming a highlight for me. This puzzle was an absolute blast for my Friday morning pre work solve. Bravo.

  4. pannonica says:

    CHEETO DUST can also be kept off your fingers by avoidance altogether. Just saying.

    • PJ says:

      I had that thought, as well. Apt song for LAT. Bonus points for Tommy James and the Shondells

      • pannonica says:

        It’s actually named after the erstwhile Mutual of New York building.

        • Seattle DB says:

          pannonica continues to amaze us all with her knowledge of all things interesting, and including the YouTube link to Tommy James greatest hits brought back a flood of memories. The first 45rpm I bought was TJ’s “Hanky Panky” (I was 11 years old in 1966) on the Roulette label that looks like a checkered-dartboard.
          Thx for the memories, pannonica!

    • Eric H says:

      It’s been decades since I’ve eaten Cheetos. But I loved Ellen DeGeneres’ description of the dust.

    • JohnH says:

      Totally new term to me, in a N and NE that elevated the puzzle’s difficulty considerably. (I also didn’t know PACER or BLAME STORM, say, but that went fast.) Not my favorite corner, but then I don’t like Cheetos, and still a good puzzle.

  5. Ethan says:

    NYT: It’s a good puzzle overall and I can believe a BLAME STORM is a real phrase, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard it before.

  6. Lois says:

    New Yorker: The puzzle seems to be penalized for all those names, and I agree, but the main theme names are well known and the puzzle was highly doable. I enjoyed it and some special clues for me, though the large number of new names to me doesn’t encourage learning about any of them.

    • Eric H says:

      The theme names were easy enough to get, though I didn’t recognize most of the autobiography/memoir titles. The straightforward clueing of the theme answers was a bit surprising.

      But the really surprising thing for me was getting completely stuck in the NE. I couldn’t remember what vowel starts Ms. Ogunbowale’s name, and I couldn’t come up with either BIRTH or BAT, even though the clues are not hard.

      On the other hand, this was the second puzzle in the last two or three days with ASMR as an answer. I may have finally memorized the initialism. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to remember “autonomous sensory meridian response.”

    • JohnH says:

      I didn’t enjoy all the names, and no some were familiar to me. I didn’t enjoy having them as themers, and I didn’t enjoy that the puzzle then couldn’t leave them out of non-themers, especially intersecting ones.

      They also got in the way of my making sense of theme. Is the idea just that themers are stars clued by movie? Is anything else uniting them? I definitely don’t see in the course of the titles the stages in a life.

      On top of that, it’s one of those non-themed theme puzzles that TNY seems to specialize in, where you don’t have to think of the theme to fill the themers. No aha moment, nothing. It’s again for me as if TNY were saying, well, we hate themers, but since you want them, here’s the sop we’ll throw you once a week. I mean it to sound childish, because it is.

      • Eric H says:

        It’s a very straightforward theme: A list of autobiographies/memoirs for clues and the subject of each book for answers. Pretty old-school.

        I expect I got most of the theme answers by filling in a few crosses and then completing a name. That’s definitely how I got MUHAMMAD ALI.

  7. DougC says:

    NYT: I’m torn! This was both the most entertaining AND least challenging Friday puzzle in weeks. Lots of fun, but a near-personal-best Friday time for me. Shoulda been a Wednesday puzzle, I think.

    But bonus points for the relative lack of proper names (excepting Traci, whoever she is).

    • DougC says:

      PS: I highly recommend following Amy’s link to the Snactiv product page, just to read the customer reviews, which are hilarious! I’m kinda surprised by the number of people who gave or got one as a gag gift, only to decide that it’s really useful! And by the guy who was pleased to find he could eat his Cheetos in the car without getting grease on the steering wheel.

  8. Jeff says:

    Had loads of fun this time. It looks like I have improved considerably thanks to CrossWordle site that I have come across.

    Its a great mix of Crossword clues, Wordle and Trivia.

  9. Eric H says:

    WSJ: I know the write-up won’t be until Sunday, but I have to say that the meta was a lot of fun for me. Pretty easy, given that the answer is one of my favorite movies.

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