August 17, 2020


Constructor: Erik Agard

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
PARASITE (19A: 2019 film with a "metaphorical" rock)
COLLECTOR'S ITEM (26A: Part of a sought-after set)
OR DOES IT EXPLODE (44A: Last line of the Langston Hughes poem "Harlem")
VISITED (58A: Stopped by)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer holds the letter string S-I-T-E. There's a revealer in the lower left corner as a reminder that SITE is a (51D: Place). Therefore, each theme answer is a PLACEHOLDER.

And now a word from our constructor:
Erik: I’m indebted to my colleague Brooke Husic for her pioneering work with diagonal symmetry.

Things I learned:
  • SPAR (1A: Practice like Claressa Shields) Claressa Shields is a boxer who won gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics in the women's middleweight division. She was the first American boxer to win consecutive Olympic medals.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • SHUI (9A: Feng ___) I knew this answer, but wasn't confident about spelling. The practice of feng SHUI involves situating buildings and furniture in specific orientations in an attempt to increase harmony between individuals and their environment. The Chinese term feng SHUI translates to "wind-water" in English.
  • WON'T (15A: "They ___ Go When I Go" (Stevie Wonder song)) Stevie Wonder performed this song and "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer" at Michael Jackson's memorial service in 2009. 
  • ANGIE (17A: Novelist Thomas) ANGIE Thomas is the author of the YA novels The Hate U Give and On the Come Up. Maybe you remembered reading about ANGIE Thomas in Matthew Stock's guest blog post last Tuesday
  • OR DOES IT EXPLODE (44A: Last line of the Langston Hughes poem "Harlem") The first line of the poem asks, "What happens to a dream deferred?" You can read the entire poem here
  • THE FIRE NEXT TIME (8D: James Baldwin book whose title comes from "Mary Don't You Weep") As the clue indicates, the book's title comes from the spiritual, "Mary Don't You Weep," which contains the lyrics, "God gave Noah the rainbow sign/ No more water, THE FIRE NEXT TIME." This 1963 nonfiction book contains two essays: "My Dungeon Shook: Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation," and "Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region of My Mind."
  • UNMUTES (11D: Gets ready to talk, on a conference call) It took me much longer to decipher this answer than it should have considering the Zoom chats I've participated in where the speaker has forgotten to UNMUTE.
  • ON END (27D: Consecutively) I filled this answer in from crossings and my brain spent quite a long time attempting to figure out what ONE ND meant. 
Geography review:
  • NESS (33A: Loch with a supposed monster) Loch NESS is a large, freshwater lake in the Scottish Highlands. It is the second largest loch in Scotland and is best known for supposed sightings of the Loch NESS monster.
  • ASIA (Guangzhou's continent) Guangzhou is the capital of the province of Guangdong in southern China. It's been a little while since we've seen the crossword-friendly continent. Nice to see you, ASIA!
  • TEL (46A: ___ Aviv) TEL Aviv, Israel is situated on the Mediterranean Sea. It's full name is TEL Aviv-Yafo.
As Erik mentioned, this puzzle has diagonal symmetry. If you run a diagonal line from the top left corner of the puzzle to the lower right corner, the puzzle has mirror symmetry along this axis. From a constructor's standpoint, one advantage of diagonal symmetry is allowing theme answers that are not paired in length. For example, today's theme answers have lengths of 8, 14, 15, and 7 letters. Puzzles constructed with the more traditional 180-degree rotational symmetry (If you turn the puzzle upside down the grid looks that same as it does right side up.) require theme answers to be paired in length. The same is true when using left-right mirror symmetry. From a solver's standpoint, if a puzzle is well-constructed,  you might not even notice the symmetry of the puzzle. With today's puzzle I did wonder if the layout might cause some confusion about which answers are part of the theme, since there are non-theme Across entries longer than VISITED. Overall I think diagonal symmetry creates some interesting grid layouts. In today's puzzle it allowed for the vertical stack in the upper right of HOT DATE, UNMUTES, and IT SEEMS, and the corresponding stack of across answers in the lower left of MISTAKE, IT'S OPEN, and DEAREST. I also appreciated the long, non-theme bonuses of RAISE THE STAKES and THE FIRE NEXT TIME. 

I found this puzzle slightly more challenging than usual. There wasn't a particular area that gave me difficulty, just enough answers spread through the grid that weren't immediately obvious and required extra effort to discern. A challenge is not a bad thing, particularly if it's enjoyable, as this was. A delightful solve to get my brain in gear on this Monday morning!


  1. A fantastic take on a fantastic puzzle!

    Like when you read an amazing book that you love, and then you read an amazing critical review that shows you it was more amazing than you realized.

    Thanks Sally and thanks Erik! I'm swooning

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the puzzle and my write-up!

  2. What a sloppy puzzle. Non-theme 14 and 15 letter answers included along with 7 and 8 letter theme answers? SITE isn't "held" inside the entry in PARASITE like the other three, it's at the end of the entry. I had to come here to confirm there wasn't something I was missing with the puzzle because I didn't think it could have been as sloppy as I thought it was. No, it was just that sloppy. Not a very accessible easy puzzle either, my time was closer to Thursday level range due to the large amount of obscure proper nouns and references. I just recently started to do these puzzles, but probably won't do them much longer, hard pass from me so far.


Post a Comment