Monday, May 30, 2022

BEQ 3:14 (Matthew) 


LAT 1:57 (Stella) 


NYT 3:54 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 4:07 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


Note: No WSJ puzzle today due to the Memorial Day holiday.

Alexander Liebeskind’s New York Times puzzle– Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer’s first syllable is a different spelling of NEW

New York Times, 05 30 2022, By Alexander Liebeskind

  • 18a [Nutty candy offering] – NOUGAT BAR
  • 23a [Ultradense galactic body] – NEUTRON STAR
  • 53a [Soba servings, for instance] – NOODLE BOWLS
  • 58a [Top dog] – NUMERO UNO

and the revealer:

  • 37a [Fresh starts … or, when said aloud, what 18-, 23-, 53- and 58-Across all have?] – NEW BEGINNINGS

Cute, simple theme today. Are there other NEW spellings that weren’t in the puzzle? I can’t think of any off the top of my head…. I think what makes this puzzle stand out is the high quality of the theme answers themselves. NOODLE BOWLS is my favorite, and I like how NOUGAT BAR and NEUTRON STAR rhyme. It’s also elegant that none of the answers actually use the word “new” since it’s in the revealer. I don’t think of nougat as being particularly nutty?? But it was easy enough to puzzle out from the “candy” part of the clue.

I felt like I was moving very slowly on today’s puzzle but I still ended up with an average time, so I’m curious how other people’s times were. GENEROSITY and FRONT LAWNS are both nice but neither one blew me away, and then I misread the clue for the former from [Grassy areas near driveways] to “Grassy areas near freeways” and I kept trying to make medians or something work. I also struggled with [This is not good!] for SPOILED, which felt like a tricky clue for a Monday? But I enjoyed it nevertheless.

Other notes:

  • It felt like there were a lot of….not cross references exactly, but cluing call backs? For example 2d [Breakfast beverage] TEA and 30a [___ Grey (variety of 2-Down)] for EARL, 7d [Music subcategory that’s a vowel change from 8-Down] and 8d [Australian bird that’s a vowel change from 7-Down] for EMO/EMU, and 6d [Yellow fruit] and 12d [Fruit with the name of its color] for BANANA and ORANGE.
  • Overall the fill in this puzzle is really strong! The only complaints I have are that there are a fair amount of boring three letter abbreviations like LGA and APR, but that’s very minor.
  • I’m spending Memorial Day weekend in Minnesota, aka the home state of Suni LEE!

Hope everyone in the US is having a happy holiday weekend!

Catherine Cetta’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 5/30/22 by Catherine Cetta

Los Angeles Times 5/30/22 by Catherine Cetta

Cute and green theme from Catherine Cetta today. The revealer at 55A [Nature lovers, and what the answers to the starred clues literally are] gives us TREE HUGGERS, and if you take a look at the circled squares in each theme entry, you’ll see that they each spell out a type of tree. In two of the three cases, the tree names include letters from each of both words in a two-word theme answer; in the third, the theme entry is a single word and the tree name appears wholly within that word (but across the break of a compound word, which is better for theme consistency than if it were contained in a non-compound word).

  • 20A [*Mahalia Jackson’s genre] is GOSPEL MUSIC, with ELM in the circled squares.
  • 29A [*Colorful top with a tropical design] is an ALOHA SHIRT, with ASH in the circled squares.
  • 45A [*Trial figure who can give a firsthand account] is an EYEWITNESS, with YEW in the circled squares (and, as mentioned, crossing the break of the compound word).

Nothing to trip you up in the grid, so I didn’t notice the FLIT/FLAT juxtaposition at 1A and 5A until after the fact. Fun!

Zachary David Levy’s Universal crossword, “Not So Fast!” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 5/30/22 • Mon • Levy • “Not So Fast!” • solution • 20220530

To be contrary, this will be a quick précis.

  • 40aR [Initially sluggish … or like 17-, 26-, 52- and 66-Across, in a sense?] OFF TO A SLOW START.
  • 17a. [Alternative to a basement] CRAWLSPACE.
  • 26a. [Backpacker’s snack] TRAIL MIX.
  • 52a. [Event for hot rods] DRAG RACE.
  • 66a. [Where you should be awake while sawing logs] LUMBER MILL.

crawl, trail, drag, lumber. Of these, trail feels slightly off, being a relative descriptor, while each of the others SEEMS TO (50a) convey the required meaning on its own.

However, I’ve just consulted m-w dot come and this definition is given for sense 2:

so I guess that settles that.

Completely irrelevant but I noticed that an S can precede the first and last entries to make scrawl and slumber.

  • 18a [Arizona city with a chapel built into red rocks] SEDONA. I guess that’s kind of interesting, but I prefer the natural splendor of Cathedral Rock.
  • 42d [Opposite of whither] WHENCE. OH SO (25d) quaint.
  • 49d [Puffy reminder of a scuffle] FAT LIP.
  • 1a [Ribbons, bow ties and the like] PASTA. Didn’t fool me for a second!
  • 47a [Jazz phrase] RIFF.

I riffed on riffs!

Finally, speaking of slow starts:

Zhouqin Burnike’s USA Today puzzle, “Fall Short”– malaika’s write-up

Good morning everyone! I hope your weekend has been sunny, restful, and filled with friends and grilled food items. Today’s puzzle plays on how “shy” can mean “falling short.” Vertical theme answers (hinted at by “fall”) contain this letter string: THATS HYSTERICAL (“LOL”), I WISH YOU WELL (“Good luck!”), and OH GOSH YES (“Of course!”). Cool how these were all clued in a similar style.

Fall Short– USA Today

Since the theme answers were vertical, we got some fun across stuff, like GET LOST and HAIR STYLE. Thoughts on INSTANT TAN? I’ve seen this in lots of puzzles– it’s length + friendly letters + evocative image make it nice fill, I suppose. I’m harsher than most when it comes to phrases that I think don’t *quite* appear in the language (I believe I’ve complained about “internet bot” and “NBA MVP” on here before), and to me this is one of them. I’ve heard “fake tan” or “spray tan” (although this clue discusses bronzer, which wouldn’t apply to the latter) and not much else.

That’s all from me! I’m off to the beach with a Swell bottle full of mezcalita.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday puzzle– Matthew’s write-up

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday blog solution, 5/30/2022

Pretty breezy as BEQ goes today, in my opinion. I was helped by XOLO [2d Mexican hairless dog, familiarly], which I’d seen recently in a Brooke Husic puzzle. SUCKS WIND [9d Breathes heavily] is a colorful entry that brought a smile to my face.

Unusually, I didn’t get a ton of pop from the 9-stacks — punny clues are de rigueur for POP UP MENU and the like. Today, it’s [Window frame?]. I was similarly on the scent for [62a Current event?] for OCEANTIDE. On the other hand, I quite liked [12d Toys for people who solve mechanical puzzles fast] for SPEED CUBES, and [28d Place that sells a lot of keys] for PIANO STORE. In general, a nicely connected grid, and while there were some entries (mostly proper nouns) I wasn’t sure of, there was plenty of lower-hanging fruit to help out.


  • 20a [Common fundraiser] TEN K. I thought I was done failing to parse entries like this (ASAMI has tripped me up for years), but this got me today. “What the heck is a TENK?”. It set me up to see ONE D lower down more easily, though. RED A, even further down, got my again in turn. Ah well.
  • 39a [Gronk, e.g.] BUC. This refers to popular football player Rob Gronkowski, a long time teammate of Tom Brady in New England who currently plays with Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, aka the BUCs.
  • Two entries I’ve learned purely from crosswords in the early downs: [8d Nabokov book about a Russian professor] PNIN and [10d John Wayne movie whose name means “danger”] HATARI.
  • 26d [Drummer Neil nicknamed “The Professor”] PEART. I picked up a love for Rush from my father, who passed in 2016. Peart’s death in 2020 hit me harder than any celebrity death before.

Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 5 30 22 – Gorski

Pretty grid, no? This 62-worder has a frame of 11- and 13-letter entries that intersect at the corners. This was nowhere near as hard as I expected for a Monday TNY puzzle—played like an easyish Fri NYT to me.


Do people really use GRASS PLOT? Feels off to me.

Fave clue: 27a. [ Makeup of Pando, a grove of more than forty thousand trees connected by a single root system], ASPENS. I knew about interlinked aspens but not Pando.

Four stars from me.

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9 Responses to Monday, May 30, 2022

  1. J says:

    NYT: The only alternatives I can come up with involve silent letter spellings – ex. is pneumonia considered a different new beginning from neutron? Or gnu/numero? Certainly not different enough to warrant subbing in for any of the chosen themers imo

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: Monday is my least favorite day in the NYT puzzle week, but I enjoyed this one. The theme answers are all interesting and fairly fresh, and most of the fill is fine. (I’m not crazy about AMMO in the grid, even when it’s clued as peas.)

  3. JohnH says:

    Oops. I’ve always pronounced NOUGAT the same as “nugget,” but looks like I’ve been just plain wrong. No dictionary support whatsoever. So I learned something. (It seems nutty enough, though, per both MW11C and RHUD.)

    I know I keep saying that setter is a far better predictor of difficulty in TNY than day of the week. But sure enough, the Gorski puzzle felt easy as can be, or rather it did until I reached the SE quadrant, which slowed me down almost to a halt. Still, easier for me than some of their writers whatever day they choose.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      My thoughts exactly re TNY in general and today’s puzzle specifically. TNY is generally my favorite puzzle, but I think they need to either reassess how they evaluate puzzle difficulty or abandon identifying puzzles as challenging, medium and easy altogether. I see that they generally don’t use those descriptors in the blurbs on their main puzzle page any more, but they still have the same cartoon owls that suggest the expected level of difficulty.

      The SE section of today’s puzzle prevented me from posting a record solve time (or near it).

    • Gary R says:

      TNY: Seemed like a NYT Thursday or Friday to me, difficulty-wise. I don’t have enough experience with TNY to know what they mean by “challenging,” but this certainly isn’t Natan Last challenging. I’m sure at least some of it is “wavelength” – Last just includes a lot more stuff that is obscure (to me).

      I enjoyed the solve – thought it was very smooth. I got slowed down in a few places, but never felt stumped. FearMONGER seems more familiar to me than SCAREMONGER, but Google ngram says no. Only thing I didn’t care for was GRASS PLOT – doesn’t seem very in-the-language to me.

    • JohnH says:

      Agree with yo u both for sure, although for me this was closer to NYT Wednesday. But I appreciate the sympathy. I sure got taken to task last week for suggesting that the puzzles depend so much on the setter that they need an editor.

      FWIW, too, the Sunday cryptic just would not print halfway acceptably in their utility. It cut off the grid midway, and while one clue landed on a second page (not for need of space), the rest of the grid did not. Fortunately (and thanks so much again for those who suggested it) Crossword Scraper did fine. Amy was ever so kind enough to get a response from TNY on its printing, saying that they didn’t want to move to the standards of other organs since some people need large type. But the type size isn’t generally the issue, and when it was that one day last week, it printed way too small. The problem seems to be the grid . . . and the utility. I’ll stick to my guns: they just don’t have their act together. I don’t like Liz’s work any less for it, but they don’t.

  4. Eric H says:

    USA Today: That seems like an opaque theme for a Monday puzzle. Thanks, Malaika, for explaining it, because I couldn’t connect the theme answers at all — actually, I wasn’t really sure which answers were supposed to be part of the theme, though it seems obvious now. (Do USA Today puzzles often lack symmetry? Or is this one symmetrical in some way I can’t see?)

    I don’t remember ever seeing or hearing INSTANT TAN in real life. Oddly, the only time it’s been in a NYT puzzle was 2016, and one of the constructors was Zhouqin Burnikel.

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