Friday, December 22, 2023

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 6:50 (Amy) 


Universal 4:15 (Jim) 


USA Today 3:52(Darby) 


Brooke Husic & Brendan Emmett Quigley’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12/22/23 – no. 1222

Fun puzzle, lots of freshness, on the harder side for me for a Friday.


Three things:

  • 20a. [Big name in vegan cheese], DAIYA. Never tried it, but I’ve seen it a zillion times at Whole Foods. I appreciate the shout-out to our vegan friends.
  • 29d. [Course that may cover Dante and Ferrante, familiarly], A.P. ITALIAN. Can’t say I knew there was an Italian lit A.P. course and exam. Apparently it’s an “Italian language and culture” program, not just literature.
  • 39d. [Misselthwaite ___, setting of “The Secret Garden”], MANOR. Guessed it off the M. Never read The Secret Garden, but MANOR sounded plausible.

Gotta run. Didn’t love all the short fill (PST, CEE, etc.) but overall I liked the puzzle. Four stars from me.

Wendy L Brandes and Amie Walker’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 12/22/23 • Fri • Brandes, Walker • solution • 20231222

  • 57aR [Balances, or, phonetically, how to make 18-, 32-, and 39-Across match their clues?] EVENS OUT.
  • 18a. [*Place that experiments with soup recipes?] PHO{TO} LAB (two).
  • 32a. [*Curling team’s specialty?] PER{FOR}MING ARTS (four). After I’d encountered these two but before I saw the revealer, I quite reasonably thought we were dropping prepositions.
  • 39a. [*Penalty boxes?] TEMPER{ATE} ZONES (eight).

Note that the deleted sections—as pronounced in situ—are not necessarily homophonic with the numbers, but they are when extracted and read as independent words.

No six, as one would expect the ‘evens’ sequence to proceed. What we have here is technically a doubling series. (But they of course are also even numbers.)

  • 5d [Response in the kitchen] YES CHEF!
  • 9d [Press for time?] CLOCK IN. Cute. Maybe a little loose, but it does have that question mark.
  • 13d [Part of a mitt] WEB. Baseball.
  • 19d [Whatsis] THING. I was for a while perplexed how THINGY or THINGIE wouldn’t fit, not seeing the obvious. (Already had the T, so GIZMO/GISMO was out.)
  • 27d [“The Hundred Dresses” Newbery honoree Eleanor] ESTES.
  • 28d [Shovel pass, e.g.] TOSS. Football.
  • 32d [Pet-ty offense?] PEEVE. >groan<
  • 52d [Many Lego House employees] DANES. Because Lego originated in Denmark, and that’s where the original Legoland is located.
  • 15a [Ingredient replaced by applesauce in some recipes] OIL. Huh!
  • 30a [Gimlet need] GIN. 61a [Gimlet need] LIME. I’ve been seeing a lot of gimlet references lately, and not just in crosswords. Is the universe trying to tell me something?
  • 49a [“Eww!”] BLEH. This works. To me, bleh, bleah, and blah have distinct meanings. Not to mention blurgh. In the Ngram below, blah is not queried.

Benjamin Fink’s Universal crossword, “Another Way”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are things that aren’t “right.” The revealer is “IT JUST AIN’T RIGHT!” (55a, [“That’s so unfair!” … or a hint to 17-, 25- and 43-Across, in three other senses]).

Universal crossword solution · “Another Way” · Benjamin Fink · Fri., 12.22.23

  • 17a. [Political group on the left] DEMOCRATIC PARTY.
  • 25a. [It’s between 90 and 180 degrees] OBTUSE ANGLE.
  • 43a. [One may reduce your score on a game show] WRONG ANSWER.

Nice. There are variations of the the revealer in common parlance (“That ain’t right,” “Somethin’ ain’t right,” “It’s just not right”), but the grid-spanner we’re given feels common enough to me. And each theme entry uses a different meaning of the word, and they’re all different from the revealer.

I’m really liking the long fill today, too, especially TEARS OF JOY (way to make great use of that J in the revealer), SAND CRAB, AERIAL VIEW, TACTILE, and UNCANNY. Did not know LIMU (insurance mascot), but the crossings were fair.

Clues of note:

  • 63a. [Lower-fat hamburger meat]. BISON. Kind of a sad way to represent such a majestic animal.
  • 3d. [___ Emu (insurance mascot)]. LIMU. Apparently the word means “algae” in Hawaiian. LIberty MUtual is borrowing it for their avian mascot.
  • 23d. [Strangely amazing]. UNCANNY. I’d never heard the phrase “UNCANNY valley” before doing the Spelling Bee the other day. With the rise of AI and advances in robotics, we’re probably likely to hear it more and more.
  • 29d. [46-Down guitarist Buddy]. GUY. Damn right, he’s got the 46-Down.

Good puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Chandi Deitmer’s Inkubator crossword, “Nailed It!”—Jenni’s write-up

This is the last Inkubator subscription puzzle, which is very very sad and very very understandable. If Laura, Tracy, and their merry band had merely given us years of excellent and entertaining puzzles, dayenu! They have done so much more than that. They have opened the world of constructing to a wonderfully diverse group of constructors and proven that diversity is a strength. They also opened my eyes to how male-centric puzzles had been. I hadn’t realized how much of my own experience was missing from the puzzles I love. They deserve all of their well-earned rest, and we will all enjoy the fruits of their labor for many years to come.

If they have to go out, at least they go out with a bang. Yes, I went there.

All the theme answers go Down and I have to think that’s not accidental. As always in this post the circles will be played by orange letters. I’m listing them left to right in the grid, not in numerical order.

Inkubator the last, December 21, 2023, Chandi Detmer, “Nailed It!,” solution grid

  • 3d [Souvenirs from beyond] are SPACE ROCKS.
  • 39a [It makes a tiny vacuum] is a SUCTION CUP.
  • 21d [Tension-stoking trope in many an action movie] is a TICKING TIME BOMB.
  • 8d [Rippled potato side dish] is CRINKLE CUT FRIES.
  • 11d
  • 11d [“Come back later!”] is WERE CLOSED.
  • 43d [Heart’s longing] is TRUE DESIRE.

If you start from the bottom up (again, not accidental) the circled letters read SCORECOITUSBOINKFUCKSCREW, and RIDE. I could get fussy and point out that all but one can be read as verbs but the heck with it. I’m just going to sit here and enjoy the experience. So to speak.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of “Keep It!” or cohost IRA Madison III. Turns out it’s a podcast and it looks like fun.

And I can’t help myself.

Alice Liang’s USA Today crossword, “Living on the Edge”—Darby’s recap

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: A place one might live is found on the EDGE of each answer.

Theme Answers

Alice Liang's USA Today crossword, "Living on the Edge" solution for 12/22/2023

Alice Liang’s USA Today crossword, “Living on the Edge” solution for 12/22/2023

  • 20a [Casual businesswear brand seen in many malls] ANN TAYLOR LOFT
  • 29a [“Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Spirited Away” production company] STUDIO GHIBLI
  • 42a [Very quickly] IN NO TIME FLAT
  • 51a [Pants that come in a “mom” style] HIGH-RISE JEANS

This was a really cute theme. Finding HIGH-RISE JEANS and ANN TAYLOR LOFT were particularly fun, though I also enjoyed STUDIO GHIBLI and IN NO TIME FLAT. The last of these took me the longest to figure out, but I got there fairly on the crosses. I’m particularly grateful for GHANA, RAINCHECK, and FESSED.

I was really impressed by the sheer amount of long fill that worked its way into this very clean grid of this puzzle. From 11d [Reddish-brown burrito morsel] PINTO BEAN to 5d [“That wasn’t a joke!”] I MEANT IT to 38d [Pancake] FLAPJACK, I had a great time moving through. I also really liked the inclusion of 55a [___ It (toy with buttons, cranks and handles] BOP, 41d [If’s partner, in programming] ELSE, and 40d [Unlucky accidents] MISHAPS.

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21 Responses to Friday, December 22, 2023

  1. Nino H. says:

    PB for me today! Loving the online nature of a bit of the fill, especially MEMES, HARD RESETS, DOMAIN NAMES. Fell right along my interests :D

  2. Jeff says:

    [LAT] __ Hebrides INNER . Saw this clue on CrossWordle with additional info saying “These are sprawling array of islands off Scotland’s west coast. “. Crosswordle ( seems to have over half a million Crossword clues from NYT/LAT/WSJ but are mostly relevant to Trivia/General knowledge and hence it has scoring & leaderboard for bragging rights.
    Got most of the answers but didn’t understand Lauryn Hill Trio? clue. I know about Lauryn hill as Rapper but didn’t get the clue. Any thoughts?

  3. Mutman says:

    NYT: great cluing and entries today!

    Good challenge for me, but eventually got there!

    • JohnH says:

      Challenge for me, too, but agreed it’s a wonderful puzzle, even with so much I didn’t know (including some that others have listed). That Spanish count is so fresh for fill.

  4. sorry ever after says:


    “Note that the deleted sections—as pronounced in situ—are not necessarily homophonic with the numbers, but they are when extracted and read as independent words.”

    I have to call a foul on 18A as pho the Vietnamese soup is properly pronounced “fuh.”

    • pannonica says:

      Correct, but in that entry to is the operative word. I—and the puzzlemakers, presumably—consider any changes to the other parts of the theme answers subsequent to the dropping of the number homophone to be irrelevant.

      • sorry ever after says:

        You say irrelevant, I say inelegant. Let’s call the whole thing off. :-)

        The rest of the puzzle was clever and smooth, so not a big gripe really, just an observation.

        Thanks for posting that trippy Jon Appleton piece. Coffee for the ears.

  5. David L says:

    NYT was tougher than usual for me also. I didn’t know DAIYA or CYA (in the sense clued; it means something different to me), and I haven’t come across MEMES as a verb. Plus three Spanish clues/answers, which seems excessive.

    I gave up on BEQ’s free puzzles some time ago, because they all seemed to include rock bands I didn’t know and trendy internet/social media words and phrases that were alien to me, along with a lot of product/people names. This puzzle leans in that direction but was doable. Not my favorite kind of puzzle, though. YMMV.

  6. MattF says:

    NYT was slow work, but entertaining and generally fair. Initial guesses tended to be completely wrong, with some novel words.

  7. Eric H. says:

    NYT: Great puzzle that I found a little more challenging than other recent NYT Fridays. I love the clues for UNO DIS TRES and TE AMO.

  8. Dan says:

    NYT: This was a very enjoyable solving experience for me, much closer to a typical Saturday than a typical Friday. Many very cleverly deceptive clues that were always fair. The sprinkling of common phrases BACK SO SOON?, OR SO IT SEEMS, THANK ME LATER, HOW DO YOU DO IT?, I’M KIDDING! is a lot of fun in itself.

    (I’m not sure I understand why the answer to “Exactly the way you see me” is AS I AM.)

  9. Dan says:

    LAT: This solve started easily, but at about halfway done things got much, much slower as a struggled to answer the harder clues.

    I have to question the clue/answer “Out of bed” for ARISEN. (The only one for whom “He is out of bed” can be rephrased as “He is arisen” is Jesus.)

    I was also perplexed by YES, CHEF, which strikes me as an extreme example of two words that might be said together but without remotely being a phrase “in the language”.

    • pannonica says:

      “Yes, Chef” is the standard response in a commercial kitchen. I feel there have been enough films and shows for this to be recognized to be generally ‘in the language’.

      I was ok with arisen, as well. A sentence beginning with “Having arisen,” seems plausible and common enough, but perhaps I’m mistaken.

  10. Art Shapiro says:

    Minor correction to Jim’s Universal review: “UNCANNY” was in the Connections puzzle, not the Spelling Bee.

  11. sorry ever after says:

    Those of you who are into Wordle, Spelling Bee, etc., might enjoy the recent Vanity Fair article on the Times’ Games team. There are some interesting crossword tidbits, too.

    I tried posting a link to it here earlier but it never appeared, perhaps due to the URL. You can google it though, or find the link at the bottom of yesterday’s Rex Parker write-up. (Michael Sharp, aka Rex, is quoted in the piece.)

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