Friday, December 29, 2023

Inkubator untimed (Jenni) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 3:44 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 4:35 (Jenni) 


Universal untimed (Jim) 


USA Today tk (Darby) 


Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12/29/23 – no. 1229

Closing out the year of Fridays with a breezy themeless from Robyn. It’s been a long year, so why not go the easy route now?

Fave fill: GLUE STICK, ELBOW ROOM, COEXIST, “I DON’T MIND,” SNOWBALL FIGHTS (Chicago’s in an El Niño winter and we have no snow now, whereas we did get sticking snow on Halloween!), STUMP FOR (dreading the coming campaign season, less than three months till Illinois’s primary), OSCAR THE GROUCH (the most relatable Sesame Street Muppet in my book), and OOZES CHARM.

Three things:

  • 20a. [Pie accompaniment?], CUTIE. As in “cutiepie,” though I’m sure there are some pie varieties that would pair well with Cuties brand mandarin oranges.
  • 14a. [“Seriously? I guess I’m the only remaining holdout then”], “NOT YOU, TOO?” When everyone else in your social circle has shaved their heads and you alone have hair. Feels a little awkward to me as a crossword entry.
  • 48a. [Like the Gwyndodeg and Powyseg dialects], WELSH. Welsh words just plain look cool.

Four stars from me.

Tracy Bennett and Laura Braunstein’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #50″—Jenni’s write-up

This is a bonus puzzle and the very last Inkubator. I am sad. It was also one of the toughest Inkubator themelesses in my memory, which makes me happy. And it’s only fitting that Tracy and Laura send us out since they had the idea that invited us in to begin with. I solved with a melancholy sigh.

It’s a 16×15, which gave them room for two great grid-spanning entries.

Inkubator the really last, Tracy Bennett and Laura Braunstein, December 28, 2023, solution grid

  • 20a [Rallying cry for supporters, friends, and families of a vulnerable youth population] is PROTECT TRANS KIDS. The current climate for trans kids is terrifying. Shameless family plug for Are You OK? by my cousin Jesse Freidin. And for The Trevor Project. Gender-affirming care is health care. Gender-affirming care for kids saves lives. This shouldn’t be a controversy. And let’s just ignore the irony that it’s the party that styles itself as “pro-life” that is criminalizing life-saving care. See also abortion care.
  • And for something completely different, 51a [Channel your inner monster, so to speak] is RELEASE THE KRAKEN.
  • Because I have a weird medical brain I thought 18a was the brand name of a drug. It’s not. [Up on, with “in”] is VERSED.
  • 26a [Laundry, cat box, groceries, driving child to badminton practice, etc] are TASKS. I wonder if Tracy or Laura has a badminton player in the house or if they thought “badminton” was a funny word. Which it is.
  • 54a [Courtney love?] is KURT, as in Cobain, and a nice woman-centered clue for a man’s name.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of DARK ACADEMIA, clued as [Aesthetic that could be described as goth/prep]. For some of us, this just looks like – college.

Stella knows.

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

LAT • 12/29/23 • Fri • Levy • solution • 20231229

I wasn’t paying close attention to the theme clues, but I did at least notice that they seemed somehow inapt or inadequate. Turns out that that’s because they contain anagrams of the associated entries. There’s some finagling and compromise going on.

  • 17a. [The worst description of poor purses?] PROSPEROUS (poor purses).
  • 25a. [Completely unlike a docile man?] DEMONIACAL (docile man).
  • 36a. [The furthest thing from tidier rooms?] DORMITORIES (tidier rooms).
  • 50a. [The opposite of one who is not against?] ANTAGONIST (not against). This one is especially convoluted, with the double negative.
  • 59a. [Treated with a decided lack of due respect?] PERSECUTED (due respect).

So, the clues make enough sense, but they all understandably feel weird. Note that the words to be anagrammed always appear at the end of the clue.

  • 4d [Astrological delineation] CUSP. 7d [Sign of spring] BLOOM. Fake-out!
  • 12d [Bottom line] NET GAIN. Anagrams to ANTIGEN. Guess I’ve been primed.
  • 29d [Liverpool lav] LOO. Since lav is in the clue, there was no uncertainty which three-letter L– word would be the answer.
  • 51d [Hong Kong politician and social activist Chow] AGNES. Haven’t seen her evoked in a crossword before.
  • 16a [Shiny sticker?] ÉPÉE. Good feint.
  • 46a [Consists of] HAS. 44d [Equal] ARE.
  • 48a [Spartan] AUSTERE. Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin austerus, from Greek austēros harsh, severe; akin to Greek hauos dry — more at SERE (m-w)

Not too much of a challenge today. On to the rest!

Will Pfadenhauer’s Universal crossword, “No Chill”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are pairs of entries in specific rows of the grid. Remove the letters COOL from the first word to get the second word. The revealer is LOSING / ONE’S COOL (52a, [With 55-Across, becoming angry … or a hint to the pairs of entries in rows 3, 5 and 10]).

Universal crossword solution · “No Chill” · Will Pfadenhauer · Fri., 12.29.23

  • 16a. [Cuddles and caresses] / 18a. [South American mountain range]. CANOODLES / ANDES.
  • 23a. [Taught] / 27a. [Backyard building]. SCHOOLED / SHED.
  • 46a. [___ effect (what determines the direction hurricanes turn)] / 48a. [“How the Other Half Lives” muckraker Jacob]. CORIOLIS / RIIS. Phew! Some $5 words here.

Nifty theme! It took me a few beats after the solve to fully grok what was going on here, but then the penny dropped and I enjoyed the aha moment. It’s too bad that third one is wildly outside the arena of common knowledge (relative to the other two), but straightforward crossers helped out a lot there, and I didn’t mind so much.

Note the grid has mirror symmetry along the NE/SW axis. I love it when a constructor does something different to make the theme entries fit. Well done!

Fill highlights include MOUSE OVER and WOLFGANG with honorable mentions to SNO-CONES and MAINSTAY.

Clue of note: 13d. [Failed to start a sing-along]. SOLOED. I didn’t get the joke the first time around, but now I’m imagining someone trying to get chorus going, but everyone else decides to opt out.

Clever theme and smooth fill. 3.75 stars.

Natan Last’s New Yorker puzzle – Jenni’s write-up

This is the final (I think) holiday crossword from The New Yorker and today we’re covering news and politics of 2023. Nothing much happened, right?

There’s a lot of theme material. I think I got it all.

New Yorker, December 29, 2023, Natan Last, solution grid

  • 9d [___ balloon (type of flying object shot down by the U.S. in February, 2023)] is SPY.
  • 10d [Mayor whose phones were seized as part of an F.B.I. investigation into whether his campaign had conspired with the Turkish government (November, 2023)] is ERIC ADAMS.
  • 11d [___ Three (name given to the lawmakers who were subject to expulsion votes for protesting in support of gun reform, in April, 2023)] is TENNESSEE.
  • 16a [Georgia protest movement from which dozens of activists were charged with racketeering, in a move condemned by the A.C.L.U. (September, 2023)] is STOP COP CITY.
  • 19a [Congressman who was expelled from the House of Representatives following a months-long ethics investigation (December, 2023)] is SANTOS.
  • 24d [Foursome filed against Donald Trump (March, June, and August, 2023)] are INDICTMENTS.
  • 36a [Moniker for the period of widespread labor activism that began with the W.G.A. walkout (May, 2023)] is HOT STRIKE SUMMER.
  • 59d [Republican Presidential hopeful whose national polling average fell by approximately twenty points between January and December, 2023] is RON DESANTIS.
  • 63a [Animal species responsible for boat sinkings off the Iberian coast in May and October, 2023] is ORCA.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of STOP COP CITY. Also am not familiar with supermodel Agyness DEYN, who apparently retired from modeling in 2010.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Friday, December 29, 2023

  1. PJ says:

    NYT – It didn’t get off to a good start for me with just another way to clue OWE, OWES, OWED, but that start was soon forgotten. I particularly liked the long (8+) downs. The long acrosses were pretty good, too. The puzzle didn’t put up much of a fiight, though, 8:23 with zero mistakes is a pretty easy solve. 4*.

    • JohnH says:

      Felt easy for a Friday to me, too, but I have to say I enjoyed it.

    • Gary R says:

      I enjoyed this puzzle, and I thought there was a lot of good clues and fill, but it went fast for me, too – about half a typical Friday solving time. I’m sure that it helped that I got both of the long downs off of just a couple of crosses.

  2. Katie says:

    Aha. I think this was the puzzle featured a while back for a BBC podcast/piece with Robyn, about creating crosswords. Here’s a link, if you missed it back in September…

    (Oh, also – nice puzzle!)

  3. Eric H. says:

    NYT: Some of Robyn Weintraub’s NYT puzzles from the past year have made me feel like her clueing style was becoming a bit predictable. But this one felt a little fresher, and I enjoyed it a lot.

    And I’m with Amy on OSCAR THE GROUCH.

    • Katie says:

      +1 on Oscar

    • JB says:

      Care to elaborate about the clues?

      I’m pretty dubious, because Will Shortz and the assistant editors rewrite half the clues anyway.

      • Eric H. says:

        I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. (As I said, today’s clueing was fine.)

        It’s mostly that I read a “tricky” clue and instantly know what the answer is, instead of having to ponder it for a few seconds. When a puzzle has clue after clue like that, it starts to feel like a Monday puzzle.

        I will say that the clue for SNOWBALL FIGHTS was great.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          Maybe you’ve just learned Robyn’s cluing style over the years. I know I have. The same could be said of Patrick Berry and Liz Gorski. every now and then I come across a puzzle by one of these three that seems off my wavelength, but it’s a pretty rare event.

          • Eric H. says:

            You’re probably right, I’ve just become very attuned to her clueing style.

            I don’t want to leave the impression I don’t enjoy Robyn Weintraub’s puzzles, because I do.

      • Martin says:

        As constructors become experienced, clue rewrites become much less extensive. I have no idea where Robyn, or this puzzle, falls on the continuum, but I do know that some puzzles get very little clue editing.

    • Dallas says:

      Fun and breezy Friday; went pretty quick. I pinged my metal-head friend, but he hadn’t heard of “Red, White & Crüe” but I got that from the crosses. Final Friday of 2023!

  4. Nino H. says:

    NYT: Wow! What a nice and pleasant puzzle from Robyn. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been doing some of her puzzles in TNY but there seems to be something about her cluing style that makes it a bit easier to get ahold of!

  5. MattF says:

    When I finished the NYT, I thought “That was enjoyable— must be by Robyn”, and sure enough, it was.

  6. Mutman says:

    Another solid Robyn puzzle!

    I like those Welsh names too! I live in Bala Cynwyd PA (the latter pronounced KIN-WOOD, not SIN-WID as people reading my address on phone attempt to pronounce it).

    Also loved the OSCARTHEGROUCH entry.

    Great SNL skit if you haven’t seen it.

    • Eric H. says:

      We lived in Berwyn when I was in the eighth grade, so I learned how to pronounce Bala Cynwyd (a skill I haven’t needed much in the last 50 years).

  7. Jenni Levy says:

    Love Robyn’s puzzles! Unlike Amy I enjoyed “Not you, too?”

  8. anon says:

    Inkubator: perfect challenging end to a great run. Sorry to see you go!

  9. Boston Bob says:

    TNY -?-

    • Mr. [far from] Grumpy says:

      Wondering the same thing. I’m usually not a fan of Natan’s puzzles, but I really, really liked this one and was looking forward to the opportunity to give it a high rating.

      • Jenni Levy says:

        You can still rate it!

      • JohnH says:

        I wasn’t so fond of it, although I found it mostly solvable. Even with a news theme, he couldn’t resist his usual run though his cultural favorites, not at all this year’s alone, and at least two crossings were no more than wild guesses to me. I’ll take the reference to Monty Python as a clever misdirection rather than a poorly fitting clue, but otherwise bah.

        For that matter, the news choices seemed eccentric, with items that didn’t really make national headlines, even in the NY Times. Besides whether it caused difficulty, if also felt less like a wrap-up of this year’s politics (although Trump’s indictment and de Santis’s rise and fall are obviously worth noting) than a wrap-up of Last’s politics. I may share his PC sensibility, but that didn’t make me like the entries any better.

Comments are closed.