Monday, July 5, 2021

BEQ 3:09 (Matthew) 


LAT 2:26 (Stella) 


NYT 3:10 (Jenni) 


The New Yorker untimed (Nina) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


No WSJ crossword today, as it’s a holiday for them.

Peter Gordon’s New York Times puzzle —Jenni’s write-up

I’ve written about a lot of Peter Gordon’s puzzles in the last few years. Oddly enough, this is the first non-contest puzzle in which the theme has eluded me. When I checked out Rachel’s column in Wordplay, I realized that once again I have been misled by the limitations of AcrossLite. I regularly look for puzzle notes for Evan’s WaPo puzzles. I don’t bother with other puzzles, especially not the Monday NYT, so I missed this: “In the print version of this puzzle, all of the squares preceding circled squares in the Across answers have been shaded.” I filled in the grid on the Times puzzle page so you could see it as it was intended to be solved.

Each circled letter is preceded by a word that carries the letter’s sound.

New York Times, Monday, July 5, 2021, #0705, Peter Gordon, solution grid

  • 17a [Marine inhabitant that’s an animal, not a plant, despite what it’s called] is a SEA CUCUMBER. That’s about as close to a Trademark Peter Gordon Very Long Clue as we can get in a puzzle that is published in an actual, physical paper.
  • 27a [Angry shout to a miscreant] is WHY YOU LITTLE. I love this entry.
  • 41a [Sobriquet for Simon Bolivar] is EL LIBERTADOR.
  • 54a [Observation satellite] is the EYE IN THE SKY.

That’s the whole theme. It’s consistent and solid and certainly on a Monday solving level. I didn’t have all that much fun with it.

A few other things:

  • We ATE IN tonight and did not have a home-cooked meal; it was takeout (Chinese for me, sushi for him, same restaurant).
  •  I am surprised to see BEA ARTHUR clued as [Co-star of TV’s “Maude”]. Ms. Arthur was a co-star on “The Golden Girls.” She was the star of “Maude,” full stop.
  • 28d [What can barely give hoot?] is a cute clue for OWLET.
  • I know TOY SHOP and TOYOTA is not really a dupe. Still looks odd to see them crossing.
  • I’ve read every Nero WOLFE novel because I’m old and I’m a bit obsessive. I wonder if anyone under the age of 40 has ever heard of him. They are definitely not on my nostalgic re-read list – way too much casual misogyny. I could overlook it (or not even notice it) when I was a teenager and young adult. Not any longer. I downloaded the audio version of a John D. MacDonald book from the Travis McGee series and couldn’t get through the first half hour. Horrifying. See also Kurt Vonnegut’s “Player Piano,” which we read for book group a few years ago. Wow.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that BARCELONA is the only Spanish city to have hosted the Olympics.

Andy Wang and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Looks like we’ve got (half a) debut in the house. Huzzah!

LAT 7/5/21 by Andy Wang and C.C. Burnikel

LAT 7/5/21 by Andy Wang and C.C. Burnikel

We’ve also got some circles in squares. What’s going on? Head down to the revealer at 63A [Overtime round, e.g. … and what a black square acts as for the circled words?] TIE BREAKER, and you’ll see that the circled squares each spell out a type of TIE.

  • 17A [Gibberish] is MUMBO JUMBO; 19A [Passed-down stories] is LORE; the circled squares at the end of 17A and the beginning of 19A spell out BOLO, a skinny tie whose pricey Prada version apparently celebri-dudes were wearing a lot of in the Before Times.
  • 28A [“Just as I thought!”] is AHA; 29A [Tax evader’s comeuppance] is an IRS AUDIT; the circled squares between them spell out HAIR. HAIR TIEs are something I have (figuratively) kicked myself for many a time in the last few weeks for forgetting to bring with me, given that oppressively humid weather and hair touching my neck are things that just don’t go together.
  • 47A [One who scoffs at Bud, perhaps] is a BEER SNOB; 50A [Dominate in competition] is OWN; the circled letters spell out BOW. Here’s Lena Waithe looking great in a BOW TIE to pick up her Emmy in 2017.

When I see the name of Burnikel, I expect a nice easy ride, and it felt that way while I was doing the puzzle, which is why I was surprised to look up and see that my time was 2:26, which is more to be expected on Tuesday or Wednesday. I guess there were more proper names than I normally expect on Monday, although I’m never gonna cry when one of them is Idris ELBA, and I enjoy seeing ELIE clued as the designer Saab. (His couture line is to die for!)

Kristian House’s Universal crossword, “Coming Out on Top” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 7/5/21 • Mon • House • “Coming Out on Top” • solution • 20210705

The theme today is the (32a) HAND game roshambo, but with a twist—the item that would normally complete each phrase is replaced by the item that wins against it in the game.

  • 17a. [Going for a jog alongside actor Hudson?] RUNNING WITH SCISSORS ROCK.
  • 38a. [Place to get a latte and work on a challenging thesis?] HARD ROCK PAPER CAFE.
  • 60a. [People who aggressively sell to hair salons?] PAPER SCISSORS PUSHERS.

It’s a very tidy theme, and I appreciate how the items appear in the order it’s most often heard: ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS. Notice, too, that each answer is a three-word phrase and each item appears in a different position (third, second, then first)—it seems to befit the cyclical nature of the theme.

  • 10d [Forest florae with fronds] FERNS. Definitionally correct, but since flora is Latin for ‘flower’ and ferns famously forgo flowers, it’s faintly funny.
  • 19d [Adjective for back legs] HIND; 49d [Parented] REARED. Good job avoiding duplication.
  • 32a [Horse height named for a body part] HAND.
  • 30a [Word with “floss” or “insurance”] DENTAL. 35a [Teething relief brand] ORAJEL.
  • 44a [Letters between names] AKA, 55a [Word between names] NÉE.

In general the ballast fill is competent but not too exciting, which is (42d) PAR for the course on a Monday. A very nice crossword.

Erica Hsiung Wojcik’s USA Today puzzle —malaika’s write-up

Hey besties, it’s great to meet y’all! I’m Malaika, and I’ll be blogging Monday’s USA Today puzzle for the foreseeable future. I’m so SO excited that I get to write about this refreshing (this is a normal adjective to use for crossword puzzles, right?) puzzle! If you’re new to the USA Today puzzle, you should expect subtle/light themes, ultra clean fill, and fresh (but straightforward) cluing angles. I’m thrilled that I get to exist in the same category (the category here is “USA Today Crossword Blogger”) as Sally Hoelscher– she’s been providing a review every day for over a year now on her blog! I hope it is fun for y’all to compare our thoughts.

USA Today solution July 5, 2021, “Perfect Match”

Anyways… on to the puzzle!

Title: Perfect Match

Theme: The word “perfect” can precede the first word of each of the theme answers

  • PITCH BLACK / “perfect pitch”
  • SQUARE MEAL / “perfect square”
  • WORLD FAMOUS / “perfect world”
  • STORM CLOUDS / “perfect storm”

This is a very classic USA Today theme. I prefer when the title indicates which part of the theme answers is being used. (Like if “first perfect” happened to be a common phrase, but of course it’s not.) Laying the theme answers out in a pinwheel like this means that none of the fill needs to cross more than one of them.

I loved the two longer non-theme answers, PEP TALKS and LIP SYNCS– they both immediately put a picture in my head. It was also nice to get a SONIA Sanchez clue, and I love any PETER Piper reference because it reminds me of the Run-D.M.C. song, which was one of the first songs I memorized the lyrics to.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s “Themeless Monday #627″—Matthew’s write-up

Hi all! Another newbie to Team Fiend here. Diary of a Crossword Fiend has been a huge resource to me over the years, and was part of the inspiration for the Daily Crossword Links newsletter I run, so I’m beyond thrilled to join the blogging team.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s blog crossword solution, 07052021, “Themeless Monday #627”

Fun grid from BEQ, with marquee entries A FEW BAD APPLES, I HAVE QUESTIONS stacked in the top, and MARE OF EASTTOWN and ANOTHER CHANCE in the bottom. Plenty of 6+ letter entries throughout the grid, too.

Other clues and entries of note:

29a – The VOLS [UT Athletes] play in Tennessee, not Texas. My first instinct was to consider possible abbreviations of “Longhorns.” Almost ten years after her retirement, legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt is still my first thought when I think of the Tennessee Volunteers.

47a – I needed all the crosses for [“The Ballad of the Goodly FERE” (Ezra Pound poem about the crucifixion)]. I am… not very well-read, but I’ll add this to my list!

19d – I filled in TWOLS ([Experienced law students, for short]) from the crossings, and gosh it looks weird in a grid if you didn’t see the clue. In my experience, “two-L” and “three-L” are just as common in the real world as “one-L”, so it’s nice to see, once I got over the double take.

32d – [Carnival’s location] had me running through Brazilian possibilities before landing on SEALANE – I was thinking the holiday, not the cruise line.

11d – OSSIPEE ([New Hampshire town named after an Algonquin tribe]) also claims to be where the snowmobile was invented. TIL!

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker puzzle –– Nina’s write-up

Satisfying New Yorker puzzle today. This was chock full of great entries, with sparklers.

New Yorker solution, July 5, 2021

13a. [Original candy company?] –– What a clue for WERTHERS! Amusingly deceptive, and exciting to see it so close to WONKA.

40a. [Title shared by a Bob Marley song and a Patti LaBelle song] –– Interesting bit of trivia that inspired me to give both songs a listen.

5d. [Creator of Ish and his magic Ish wish dish] –– DR SEUSS has become a controversial figure as of late, in light of the racist images included in several of his books. Though this was an easily gettable entry, I was surprised to see his name appear.

9d. [Word that inspires you to go on?] –– My first instinct here was ALSO, which, unfortunately, fits the bill and shares a letter with SHOO. Served as a minor stumbling block for me.

16d. [Vehicles that go downhill fast] –– Oh how I wish this entry was ELECTRIC SLEDS! (So much so that I stubbornly refused to part with it long after it stopped making sense with the surrounding fill.) I confess that I’d never heard of SOAPBOX RACERS before today, but I’m now dying to try one out.

39d. [Ticket collector?] –– Fun clue for SPEEDER, turning what could have been a slightly contrived entry to a highlight of the puzzle for me.

45d. [Spectrum] — GAMUT is one of those quirky words that puts a smile on my face whenever I see it, and today was no exception.

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21 Responses to Monday, July 5, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Yeah, I stared at the circled letters wondering if they are connected somehow… the C YL started me thinking about CYCLE, but no E and there’s an I… Then I thought: It’s a Monday, it must be easy, and I looked for a note…
    They are all a good find, though the theme is bewildering without the shaded bit, for a Monday.
    I too was a fan of Nero Wolfe… From him, I learned to cook scrambled eggs very slowly for a special taste. And he liked orchids, my favorites. But I haven’t been back to look of late. However, I have had that experience of rereading something and realizing how much our values have changed.

  2. JohnH says:

    There’s no WSJ puzzle online, so I’m guessing the paper is taking Monday off in place of July 4, so there’s no review t/k.

  3. Me says:

    NYT: One thing that really elevates the theme is that the first part of the theme answer does NOT begin with the letter in question:


    There aren’t a whole lot of other examples of that. Peter Gordon’s examples on Wordplay of additional theme possibilities include a lot like, “BeeBalm” and “PeaPods,” so I don’t know if he subconsciously chose the more intriguing examples for the final puzzle. But I think the non-repeating answers elevate the theme from “meh” to worthy of the NYT.

  4. Billy Boy says:


    Cleanest Monday ever, for fill. I was disappointed the circled letters didn’t spell anything, but that was it. Written out homophones, that’s the theme. Pretty obvious. Nothing wrong in just having a Monday challenge, it’s a holiday, you have an extra minute. A very good puzzle.


    Markets closed.

    Now, get offa my lawn, YOU LITTLE …

  5. RunawayPancake says:

    BEQ – Welcome, Matthew! And thanks for your take on yet another BEQ gem.

  6. Alexander Quinn says:

    I’ve been doing the USA Today (2:27) puzzles every day (well, 6 days a week) for over a year, and I’m very glad you’re starting to cover them. My only criticism of the USA Today and Universal (2:45) puzzles is that they don’t get harder during the week.
    The New Yorker (7:41) is the only puzzle I know of that gets easier during the week.
    I agree, the LA Times (2:44) was more at a Tuesday or Wednesday level today. I had to undo six or eight of my answers.

  7. paolo p. says:

    @malaika thx bestie

  8. Me says:

    I also found the LAT puzzle to be harder than the usual Monday. I had my worst Monday time in over a year on this one.

  9. Philip says:

    Am I the only Fiend reader who lives down the road from a sea cucumber processing plant?

  10. R says:

    NYer: The read I have on DR SEUSS’s standing is that his foundation proactively discontinued a few of his books with problematic imagery, and that has he has not been, in fact, cancelled, despite what right-wing media has tried to say. I hope we on the left can keep a rational view that anyone who has done something controversial but taken action to rectify it should not appear in crosswords and/or public discourse.

    • dhj says:

      Doesn’t seem likely. I’ve seen multiple crossword spec sheets recently that explicitly say to avoid putting people in grids who have *allegations* of wrong-doing against them. Not wrong-doing that has been verified – the allegation is all that counts. Due process is a quickly eroding consideration, in real life and apparently in the minds of a few crossword editors now. The words “rational” and “the left” appear to be quite oxymoronic these days.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Ah, you’re ignoring the terrible conviction rates for rapists. Heck, the majority of rapes don’t ever result in criminal charges being brought, even. So the victims too often get no “due process” that brings their attackers to justice.

        I mean, were you really gonna stand up for Harvey Weinstein right up till the moment he was convicted?

        • dhj says:

          Nice straw man. Here’s another:

          Joe Biden should be removed from office, right? Remember, all that matters is the allegation, and if you support him you’re ignoring the terrible conviction rates for rapists.

    • pannonica says:

      Again, the brouhaha about the retrospective actions taken by Geisel’s own estate have been reasonable, moral and rational. Manufactured outrage by rightwingers seeks to mischaracterize and exploit the phenomenon.

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