Friday, November 24, 2023

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker tk (Matt) 


NYT 4:56 (Amy) 


Universal 3:13 (Jim) 


USA Today 3:47 (Darby) 


Manaal Mohammed’s Inkubator crossword, “Regional Cuisine”—Jenni’s write-up

Appropriately enough for the day after Thanksgiving, the Inkubator gives us something to eat. And drink.

  • 17a [Main course in Richmond, maybe] is VIRGINIA HAM.
  • 26a [Dessert in Dallas, perhaps] is TEXAS SHEET CAKE. This one was new to me. Apparently it’s a sheet cake made in a full-size jelly roll pan. The name comes either from the size or from the first publication of the recipe in a Texas newspaper. The Internet is divided on the subject. Either way, the pictures look yum.
  • 43a [Cocktail in Birmingham, possibly] is an ALABMA SLAMMER. This one I’ve heard of but never tasted. I’m good with that. Southern Comfort, amaretto, sloe gin, orange juice. Yikes.

And the revealer: 56a [We’ll get the bill tonight!”…or, when reparsed, a hint to 17-, 26-, and 43-Across] is DINNERS ON US which can also be DINNERS ON U. S. since all the spots in the theme answer are in the USA. Fun theme!

I have a quibble with the fill. Actually it’s a gripe, which is bigger than a quibble. As you can see from my grid, I had to reveal a letter at the crossing of [Former frontman Kurt of indie band “The War on Drugs”] and [Lil Peep listener, maybe]. Never heard of Kurt VILE or the band. I’ve heard of Lil Peep from my daughter but the term EBOY is new to me. This was an entirely avoidable Natick since VILE could have been clued in many different ways. I don’t mind names in my puzzles. I enjoy learning about new things and I don’t think my knowledge base should limit the entries in someone’s grid. I do think names, especially niche or obscure names, should be crossed with something accessible.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above. Also didn’t never heard of EARL Sweatshirt and I’m embarrassed to admit that I did now know that TSAI Ing-Wen is president of Taiwan.

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

LAT • 11/24/23 • Fri • Levy • solution • 20231124

  • 39aR [Conclude with, and a phonetic hint for the answers to the starred clues] END IN. Not too substantial a revealer, but it’s apt. Common words and phrases have /-ɪn/ suffixed; spelling is altered as necessary.
  • 17a. [*Obstacle encountered at dawn] EARLY BURDEN (early bird).
  • 24a. [*Plot where blue bars of soap grow?] COAST GARDEN (coast guard).
  • 47a. [*Time when tall, thick grass covers a golf course?] ROUGH SEASON (rough seas).
  • 58a. [*Shoutout to a ride-hailing app?] UBER MENTION (übermensch). My pick for the seed entry.
  • 11d. [*Everyone’s favorite fire-breathing monster?] MAIN DRAGON (main drag).
  • 29d. [*Controller part that gets worn out playing “Mortal Kombat”?] KICK BUTTON (kick butt).

So that’s six theme entries, plus a central revealer. A lot packed into a 15×15 grid! Distribution of spelling changes among the themers is 50-50.

  • 2d [Not quite round] OVAL. 3d [Round number?] ZERO. Weird, perverse pairing, as in the vast majority of typefaces the ZERO is not a circle but an oval.
  • 13d [But I don’t wanna do my homework] GROAN. Had AW MAN first, leading to filling in 19a [Letters before a take] as HMM rather than IMO.
  • 24d [Jaguar, for one] CAR, not CAT (as I had for a while).
  • 39d [Large deer] ELKS. I almost want the clue to read [Large deers].
  • 60d [UFO aviators] ETS. I feel as though my acceptance of the many clues like this is inconsistent with my gripe in the comments about a clue in this past Wednesday’s New York Times crossword.
  • 32a [Certain cross-country traveler] SKIER. Minor misdirection.
  • 52a [Soup container] CAN.

    (This is not the most approachable Can song—but it is a nominally appropriate one—so please don’t dismiss an excellent band based on listening to this alone. Perhaps try “Mushroom” or “Halleluwah“.)
  • 57a [Avocado discard] PIT. If it were me, it’d be the whole thing. Don’t care for ’em, and their environmental impact is rather heavy (monoculture, copious water requirements). 62a [System starter?] ECO-.
  • 64a [Center of Renaissance art] ITALY. Of course, the Northern Renaissance shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • 67a [Anti-anxiety drug] XANAX. Ending in a flourish.

Drew Schmenner’s Universal crossword, “Organ Music”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are popular songs that feature a body organ.

Universal crossword solution · “Organ Music” · Drew Schmenner · Fri., 11.24.23

  • 19a. [Survivor hit featured in “Rocky III”] EYE OF THE TIGER.
  • 24a. [Rihanna hit about a partner thinking of only one thing] LOVE ON THE BRAIN.
  • 43a. [Toni Braxton hit about an anguished ex] UNBREAK MY HEART.
  • 48a. [Beyonce-led hit from 2019’s “The Lion King”] BROWN SKIN GIRL.

Pretty straightforward and a quick solve. Oldsters like me might only recognize one of the song titles, but it was all still easily inferred.

I’M TIRED and EAT WELL (as in heartily, not necessarily healthily) seem appropriate for today, and perhaps they explain the general malaise on the site. (Some of us are also heavily distracted by the MST3K Turkey Day marathon still ongoing.)

Clues of note:

  • 24a. [Rihanna hit about a partner thinking of only one thing]. LOVE ON THE BRAIN. I wonder if that one thing is the MST3K Turkey Day marathon.
  • 51d. [___ monster (type of lizard)]. GILA. Oh hey, one of the episodes from the MST3K Turkey Day marathon last night was The Giant GILA Monster. (And if you’re so inclined, you can help contribute to their 14th season here, though the outcome is very much in doubt.)

Smooth puzzle and clean fill. 3.5 stars.

Rafael Musa’s New York Times crossword-Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 11/24/23 – no. 1124

Oops, Thanksgiving cooking and feasting felt like enough duties for the day and I entirely forgot about crosswords and blogging Thursday night. On the bright side, though, pecan pie adapting my late dad’s recipe, with so many pecans that you get nuts all the way down and not just floating atop goo. Dammit, I just now realized that maple syrup would’ve been a nice addition. Next time!

Unusual grid layout, with a central 13 and no stacks of same-length entries. The opening corner was foreboding, with KENO and ARAL suggesting oncoming blahness, but there was plenty of fill to admire: CHANGE OF PLANS, Inspector CLOUSEAU, HELP LINE, FEELING IT, FAKE MEAT, TURN PRO, SOUL PATCH, and O.R. NURSES. I especially love that last one, as it’s my son’s career goal.

It felt a little weird to have NERDFESTS and EGGHEAD in one grid. The doubling-up sort of made the terms feel pejorative to me, but themeless NYT crosswords are nothing but nerdfests for eggheads, eh? Let your wordfreak flag fly!

Six more things:

  • 34a. [Double-texted, say], NUDGED. “Double-text” is not a term I’ve ever encountered. Do you use it?
  • 38a. [Present-day vehicle?], SLEIGH. I watched the fun movie Elf last night at puzzle time. Plenty of Santa sleigh action in that.
  • 53a. [Kids acting out?], DRAMA CLUBS. I feel like there’s probably interpersonal drama that fits the “acting out” category better than the actual thespian efforts do.
  • 57a. [What might cover a lid], EYESHADOW. My first thoughts were container lids and “lid” as slang for a hat, but the clue is actually pretty straightforward.
  • 25d. [Facial hair also known as a “mouche”], SOUL PATCH. Mouche?? Not sure how long this usage has been around; Merriam-Webster’s site doesn’t have the word.
  • 31d. [Celebration over the end of W.W. II, informally], V-DAY. Generically covering VE Day and VJ Day? Merriam-Webster lists V-day as a “day of victory.” Can’t say I’m familiar with that usage, but kinda feel like people use “V-Day” for Valentine’s Day.

3.25 stars from me. The short fill offered less flavor than I prefer.

Hoang-Kim Vu’s USA Today crossword, “Thanksgiving Leftovers”—Darby’s write-up

Editor: Jared Goudsmit

Theme: The final word of each themer is a food that is typically associated with Thanksgiving.

Theme Answers

Hoang-Kim Vu's USA Today crossword, "Thanksgiving Leftovers" solution for 11/24/2023

Hoang-Kim Vu’s USA Today crossword, “Thanksgiving Leftovers” solution for 11/24/2023

  • 19a [Fail to keep a secret] SPILL THE BEANS
  • 25a [“Zombie” band] THE CRANBERRIES
  • 47a [Down, polyester, or memory foam, e.g.] PILLOW STUFFING
  • 54a [People who might watch a lot of TV] COUCH POTATOES

These themers were really cute, and it was great how they were obviously so separate from the actual food item that they’re referred to, making for good theme fill. I thought SPILL THE BEANS could’ve been SPILL THE TEA, but length obviously made it clear that beans were being strewn about metaphorically. THE CRANBERRIES took me a minute, as did PILLOW STUFFING, but with the help from a couple of key crosses like TROPIC and SHERRY for the former and PAL and COMPEL for the latter, they were no problem.

Some fun stuff I particularly enjoyed:

  • 46a [Champion swimmer ___ Thomas]LIA Thomas is the first openly transgender athlete to take home an NCAA Division I national championship title.
  • 27d [“___ This Land” (Joy Harjo poem)] – Joy Harjo is a former U.S. Poet Laureate whose work frequently celebrates her Mvskoke heritage. You can read “BLESS This Land” here.
  • 49d [Like the roller coaster El Toro] – El Toro is a WOODEN roller coaster at Six Flags in New Jersey. As someone raised on Cedar Point, I have a lot of love and respect for WOODEN roller coasters. It’s just wild to me how they operate.
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15 Responses to Friday, November 24, 2023

  1. JohnH says:

    TNY print solvers better have good eyesight today. The print is really small. (Looks like a Hollywood quiz, with no wordplay, as well, but never mind.)

  2. Philip says:

    I believe at least one other Fiend reader will be annoyed by 21D in the otherwise enjoyable NYT. “The majors” generally refers to Major League Baseball. Unless they are coming straight out of college, players going to the majors are not TURNINGPRO. Minor league players are professionals. They are mostly poorly paid, sure, but they are pros. Irks me that this inaccuracy keeps showing up.

    • Craig N. Owens says:

      Didn’t notice this error in clue terminology till you mentioned it, but you’re right: It is annoying. So many possibilities for cluing this correctly, it would seem.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I think you may be referring to me in your post, Philip, and yes, I am annoyed. Constructors and editors: Please take this type of cluing out of your word lists! It’s just flat-out wrong.

      “Majors” pretty much only applies to baseball, particularly when used in the context of a “call up”. (Yes, yes, I know … there’s also Major League Soccer and Major League Lacrosse, but I’m pretty sure that they don’t have “call ups” in either of those sports or anything akin to the professional minor league system in baseball.) As Philip says, when a player is “called up” from the minor leagues in baseball they are most definitely not “becoming” pros or “turning pro”. They already are pros, albeit pros who are paid a heck of a lot less than Major Leaguers. Sheesh.

  3. ZDL says:

    @pannonica: original version actually had IN THE END as the revealer, and EARLY BURDEN was the genesis entry

  4. MarkAbe says:

    LAT: 2D “Not quite round” is not just weird, it’s flat wrong. Ovals are round, just not quite circles.

  5. WhoFarted? says:

    It wasn’t me.

  6. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: I like movies a lot, and read about ones I have no interest in seeing. So I should have liked this puzzle, even though the only movie I saw this year was “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

    Instead, I found it challenging but not particularly interesting.

    Maybe if there had been more to it than just movie trivia, about half of which I know. The clueing for the non-theme answers lacked any real wit. Were the straightforward clues supposed to help us get crosses for the unfamiliar movie stuff?

    I do give it credit for covering all kinds of movies. I doubt many people who are not film critics have seen, say, both “Mayhem” and “Showing Up.”

  7. Tom Steele says:

    I wish that with the advent of apps and social media – we could choose to ignore certain puzzle creators. I come to the crossword puzzles to escape the annoyances of the world.

    I don’t want to be second guessing what kind of “dog whistle” or hidden (or not so hidden) messages there are in a puzzle. I just want to enjoy the puzzle.

    Some puzzle creators apparently enjoy jabbing at players who do not care for their political bent. That’s FINE. I just would like an easy way to spot them and skip those puzzles.

    I don’t enjoy puzzles like USA Today’s Thanksgiving leftovers and the southeast corner that was polarizing and annoying. Again, their prerogative, but I would like to exercise mine and avoid that puzzle maker going forward so that I can enjoy my puzzles without activism.

    I am in the trial period of USA Today’s crossword and I have paid/subbed to NYT games for over a year. I doubt that I will sub the USA Today puzzles.

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