Monday, August 29, 2022

BEQ 6:20 (Matthew) 


LAT 2:01 (Stella) 


NYT 3:09 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 5:28 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Chase Dittrich and Jeff Chen’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up

Hi folks and happy Monday! I’m coming off a “probably as good as I’m ever going to do” 55th place finish in the Lollapuzzoola online division so I’m happy to be solving a puzzle that’s a little less complex than those ones (although they were all incredible and I really encourage folks to get their hands on them if they can!)

New York Times, 08 29 2022, By Chase Dittrich and Jeff Chen

Theme answers:

  • 18a [Environment that reinforces one’s biases] – ECHO CHAMBER
  • 24a [Major thoroughfare] – TRAFFIC ARTERY
  • 50a [“Similarly …”] – IN THE SAME VEIN
  • 60a [Precautionary device in a pneumatic machine] – SAFETY VALVE
  • 38a/41a [With 41-Across, classic love song suggested by the ends to 18-, 24-, 50- and 60-Across] – PIECE OF MY HEART

I liked this theme a lot. First of all, the song is great, and has been covered by basically every artist you can think of. It was originally recorded by Erma Franklin (remember her for future “Erma” clues!), but made famous by Janis Joplin. Some other notable covers are by Faith Hill, Shaggy, Beverly Knight, and even ETTA James (who makes an appearance in this puzzle).

But enough music history! Each of the theme answers stands alone fairly well, and do a good job of changing the meaning of the heart parts. I wouldn’t say “obscuring” necessarily – by the time I had gotten ECHO CHAMBER and TRAFFIC ARTERY I had an idea what was going on – but getting the revealer still felt satisfying. Speaking of satisfying, I love how neatly the 14-letter revealer is broken up across the middle of the puzzle. Also, there aren’t any notable heart parts missing, which helps the set feel more complete.

Given that there are 5 (technically 6) theme answers, there’s a lot of constraints on the fill. And yes, the NW and SE corners are quite closed off, which is one of my pet peeves in grid design. But look at everything else! I mean, ABBEY ROAD and LETS IT FLY both cross three different theme answers, and RIOT ACT and LA SCALA both cross two. There’s almost nothing in here that I think is unreasonable for a Monday – mayyybe YURI or ALTA, but that’s it. There are some non-thrilling words like SHH, STET, and both OHO and OHOH, but hey, it’s a Monday crossword, folks have to learn their crosswordese sooner or later.

Favorite clues today:  [Blinky, Pinky, Inky or Clyde, in Pac-Man] for GHOST and [Wonderstruck] for AWED – congrats to Taylor Swift on her VMAs triumph (iykyk).

Andrea Carla Michaels & Doug Peterson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hair Care”—Jim P’s review

Theme: SPLIT ENDS (59a, [Concern for a stylist, and what’s found in the circled letters]). Theme answers are familiar phrases whose outer letters spell out a synonym of “end” (i.e. behind, derrière, tuchus, buttocks, gluteus maximus).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Hair Care” · Andrea Carla Michaels & Doug Peterson · Mon., 8.29.22

  • 17a. [“Who’s on First?” comedian] BUD ABBOTT
  • 23a. [Like off-the-rack garments] READY-TO-WEAR
  • 34a. [Ranch worker] HIRED HAND
  • 50a. [Approve as a matter of routine] RUBBER STAMP

It was pretty clear what was going on with the theme answers by the time I got to the second one, but I still couldn’t tie it to the title. I needed the revealer for that aha moment, then it all made sense. I wonder what a new solver thinks when their first theme answer leads them to the word BUTT.

Moving on…plenty of interesting, albeit shortish, long fill today. Highlights include MAUDLIN, MID-EAST, MASTODON, TACO BELL, FLANNELS, TRAPEZE, BEAMS UP, AD BLITZ, GUARDED, and BAD LIE. Some tough-for-Monday fill includes British author Eric AMBLER, SIOUAN (language family), and EID crossing UTICA.

Clues of note:

  • 44d. [Plant bugs, e.g.]. SPY. It took me a while to realize the first word in the clue is a verb, as is the entry itself.
  • 47d. [Duffer’s problem, to be honest?]. BAD LIE. A cryptic-esque clue. Nice one.

Solid Monday offering from two constructing veterans. 3.5 stars.

Fred Piscop’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 8/29/22 by Fred Piscop

Los Angeles Times 8/29/22 by Fred Piscop

I have been known to beat the drum of “not every themed puzzle needs a revealer.” This one, though, I think could have used one.

  • 17A [John Steinbeck novel set in the Salinas Valley] is EAST OF EDEN.
  • 27A [Fourth film in a series starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour] is ROAD TO UTOPIA.
  • 47A [Epic poem by John Milton] is PARADISE LOST.
  • 61A [Grammy-nominated Keyshia Cole hit song] is HEAVEN SENT.

What they all have in common is PARADISE, or a synonym thereof: EDEN, UTOPIA, PARADISE, HEAVEN. But because the theme words are inconsistently placed — two at the end and two at the beginning of their respective theme entries — the theme takes a little more time to suss out than I think a Monday should. Also, with a 1952 novel, a 1945 film, and a 1667 epic poem in the mix, the theme set felt a little musty, the 2007 Keyshia Cole song notwithstanding.

Taylor Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Waste Conservation” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 8/29/22 • Mon • Johnson • “Waste Management” • solution • 20220829

I’ve circled the relevant squares in the grid.

  • 58aR [Destination for bottles and cans, and a hint to the word scrambled in each starred clue’s answer] RECYCLING CENTER. That’s a very literal reading of ‘recycling’ and it works.
  • 16a. [*Some social media influencers] CONTENT CREATORS.
  • 27a. [*Where to connect over drinks?] INTERNET CAFE.
  • 43a. [*Wall fixture in a den] FLATSCREEN TV.

Interesting that all of these involve digital technology.

Would be fun if I could assert that this theme has been used before, but I have no recollection of such a one.

  • 28d [Zellweger of “Chicago”] RENÉE, which of course means ‘rebirth’. There’s also 24d [Fix] REPAIR lurking nearby.
  • 34d [Folded foods that may be made with ahi] TUNA TACOS. This is like a crossword trifecta.
  • 59d [IT exec] CTO. Essentially a duplication of what the T stands for.
  • 19a [Yellowish envelope type] MANILA. Going to quote from Wikipedia here: “Manila paper was originally made out of old Manila hemp ropes which were extensively used on ships, having replaced true hemp. The ropes were made from abacá or Musa textilis, which is grown in the Philippines; hence the association with Manila, its capital city. Abacá is an exceptionally strong fibre, nowadays used for special papers like tea bag tissue. It is also very expensive, being several times more expensive than woodpulp, hence the change to that fiber for what is still called Manilla—usually with two Ls. More recently new woodpulp has often been replaced with a high proportion of recycled fibers. True Manila hemp folders would have been much tougher and longer lasting than modern folders.” Nowadays manila paper is made from semi-bleached wood fibers.
  • 25d [Video art pioneer Nam June] PAIK.
  • 56a [Change for the better, say] EVOLVE. This would be a non-biological definition.

©Joel Sartore

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

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 8/29/2022

I’ll have to come back later to flesh out a review of this lovely 66-worder. I had a lengthy conversation with Sid Sivakumar at Lollapuzzoola this weekend about my love for 66- and lower-word count puzzles. This one had a mix of gimmes and tough stuff, but much like another themeless I solved this weekend, I chunked it off making use of crossings.

Brendan has some nice variety in how he generates difficulty in this puzzle: I suspect your experience will vary based on how well you see through a handful of misdirects; I simply couldn’t make sense of [41a Stars realm] for SHOWBIZ or [38d Monday night program with a prominent ring] WWE RAW until I’d spent a minute or two in that corner trying to wrap up. “Cheviot” in the clue for [42d] and “Eclogue] in [14d] were both words I knew I’d heard, but not well enough to move quickly on.

Ada Nicolle’s USA Today puzzle, “Met in the Middle”– malaika’s write-up

usa today– met in the middle

Good morning, folks! Congrats to Ada for her win at Lollapuzzoola over the weekend! Today she gives us a puzzle that has three long entries with the letter string M-E-T exactly in the middle: WITH TIME TO SPARE, MIXED METAPHOR, and SHIVER ME TIMBERS. All of these are great answers, but the clue for the second made me smile the most (“You can put all your eggs in one basket, but you can’t make them drink,” e.g.).

It felt like a lot of fill-in-the-blank clues in this puzzle– or maybe that was just because there was a little run of four all close to each other during the acrosses. Beyond that, I am trying not to interpret CLEAN ROOM as a personal attack (I was supposed to do it on Friday, and then I was supposed to do it yesterday, and now I am supposed to do it today), and I liked seeing a shout out to “Kim’s Convenience.”

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up

New Yorker crossword solution, 8/29/22 – Natan Last

The puzzle was easier than I expected for a Monday New Yorker themeless.

til (today I learned): GOLCONDA means [Source of great wealth].

Natan’s had a professional (and perhaps personal) interest in refugees, so it’s not surprising to find GAZAN clued as [Resident of the Shati refugee camp, e.g.].

Fave fill: HARRIER (because it also means cross-country runners, not just a bird or a plane), CABERNET, SKIP A BEAT, WEIMAR ERA, NET CARBS, LIP-READS (fun clue, [Watches one’s mouth?]), RED DIAPER BABIES, FAN ART, CIGARILLO.

Three more things:

  • 4d. [One abroad], EINE. Nope. EINE is “a” or “an,” and “one” is EINS. Unless this is about some language other than modern German …
  • 41a. [Frustrated to the point of making unwise decisions, in poker lingo], ON TILT. Like a pinball machine?
  • 42a. [Interviewer who asked Buzz Aldrin if he was “ever jealous of Louis Armstrong”], ALI G, the Sasha Baron Cohen persona. Until this very moment, it hadn’t dawned on me that Louis Armstrong was in the quote because Ali G would have been trying to provoke Aldrin by saying that name instead of astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Four stars from me.

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15 Responses to Monday, August 29, 2022

  1. marciem says:

    WSJ: I also needed the revealer to tie the theme to the title… good one! (I won’t talk about what went through my mind when the themers revealed “BUTT” & synonyms, and trying to tie it to that title…LOL).

    I never have and probably never will be able to spell SIOUAN correctly on first try, so even though I knew the answer from the S, I needed the crosses… and they were all fair, I thought.

    Nice puzzle!
    Question: Is the WSJ on the same schedule, difficulty-wise, as NYT, or are difficulties random?

    • JohnH says:

      Close to the same schedule. The Friday contest puzzle is set apart only by its meta, the fill’s difficulty varying.

      I found Monday’s WSJ fill less than sparkling. Right off, on entering AMMO, APB, A LA, ADO, ONO, ACER, SRO, etc. etc. I kept wondering: what is this, crossword greatest hits? That is not to say that it was all a giveaway, just that it could have used more imagination.

      • marciem says:

        Thanks, JohnH… that’s one reason why I asked the question. A “Monday-level” then, containing what you term “xword greatest hits” (LOL!) might be gimme yawners (the x-word greatest hits words, not necessarily the entire puzzle) for those of us longer-term solvers, but not so much for Monday-level learners, no?

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Yeah, Marcie. Crosswordese is wildly inaccessible to new solvers. I learned theater SRO from crosswords, for example.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: An excellent example of a very good puzzle that is misplaced, IMO. The cluing felt more geared towards a Tuesday.
    I liked the theme and its execution.

  3. Mister [Not At All] Grumpy says:

    I liked the LAT precisely because it did not have a revealer and thought that the two in front and two at the end was elegant symmetry rather than inconsistency. A Monday puzzle doesn’t necessarily have to hit you over the head with the theme. In the same vein [see what I did there?], I applaud today’s Universal for not using circled letters to expose the recycled centers.

  4. Taylor Johnson says:

    Hey all, hope you enjoyed my Universal puzzle today!

    Also, I wanted to take a minute to plug my crossword project I just launched called “Lemonade Disco”. The first round of puzzles will be released on September 17, and I’m actively collecting submissions for round two! I would encourage all constructors of all experience levels to please participate! This is a great opportunity to hone your skills and get your puzzles out there to be seen!

    You can find more about Lemonade Disco here –

    Thanks all!!

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    NYT … I don’t think arteries and veins are PIECES OF THE HEART, are they? They’re certainly part of the cardiovascular system and run to and from the heart, but PIECES OF THE HEART? I’m a data guy, so I could very well be wrong about this, but I spent most of my 35 year career in health science research and had a good bit of education and training in anatomy and physiology (though not so much the heart), so I feel like I’m pretty well-versed. Maybe it’s close enough for hand grenades, jazz riffs and crossword puzzle themes?

    • sanfranman59 says:

      p.s. I promise that I didn’t read the Rex Parker review of this puzzle until after I posted my message here. Please don’t accuse me of plagiarism.

    • Martin says:

      Tell someone having a coronary artery bypass that it’s not a piece of his heart. Or the surgeon.

  6. marciem says:

    TNY: Amy, TIL also about Golconda… very interesting! And thanks for explaining the “Louis Armstrong” quote… I’m totally unfamiliar with anything Ali G (other than the name of the character) so I didn’t get the joke. This is also the first time I’ve seen Gazan in a puzzle or print, but it was totally inferable and a good reference. Also never heard the term Red Diaper Babies!! I could figure the Red and Babies, but the diaper needed crossings. at 54a, I wanted Calif. at first for SoCal but knew nobody calls it that :D :D.

    Lots of new stuff for me. Tough but fair TNY, IMO.

    • JohnH says:

      It started out easy for me for a Monday, especially one from Natan Last, who always seems to be writing from another planet. ISAAC, SO CAL, ELIA (not that I had heard of the documentary), and OSRIC were gimmes, and WEIMAR, RED DIAPER BABIES, OEDIPUS, CABERNET, and PALS, among others, were close, so I had a huge foothold.

      But then the top two corners were harder, especially where I’d no idea about HARRIER (I guessed warrior), GOLCONDA (not at all familiar), and ROMIJN close together, with HOT MIC crossing them clued indirectly.

      But it’s really the SW that proved impossible. I didn’t have a single letter way down, where I knew neither book, don’t recognize Shati, and the interviewer could have been almost anyone, even given the snide question and four letter length. WEB __ left a lot of possibilities, too. Even A-GAME was new vocabulary for me. So I didn’t come close to completing, and the crossings just didn’t seem halfway fair.

    • Gary R says:

      I didn’t notice the by-line until after I had solved, and was surprised to see it was Natan Last. I typically struggle (mightily) with his puzzles, but this one seemed to fall relatively easily. GOLCONDA was new to me, as was ON TILT. I finished with an error at the crossing of ARBUS and OSRIC. Basically, all things Harry Potter-related are mysteries to me, and I think I conflated Osric and Yorrick, and came up with Orric.

      I had the same thought as Amy, re: eine vs. eins. My best guess was that “one” here was being treated as an indefinite article – “one member of the group” – as opposed to the number one. (But I probably know all of about 20 words in German, so …)

      • David L says:

        Yes — eine Kartoffel could mean a potato, but you could also say eine Kartoffel, zwei Kartoffeln (one potato, two potatoes)

  7. melissa says:

    WSJ “Hair Care” 8/29/22:
    I have to say I am still baffled by how the circled letters tie into theme “hair care” .
    I know 59A is SPLITENDS, but how does that tie into BUTT, REAR, HIND, and RUMP?

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