2021 Puzzle 8: “2 State the Obvious” Solution

The August MMMM challenged solvers to find the puzzle’s missing fifth theme entry, a musician in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The grid contains four obvious theme entries: PATTI SMITH, JACKSON BROWNE, REGINA SPEKTOR, and JOHN LEGEND. The puzzle’s title, “2 State the Obvious,” suggests the next step. Each of these musicians’ names contains the abbreviations for exactly two states, as shown in the graphic to the left. What now?

The next step to solving is to look at the clues (always a good idea if you’re stuck!). Exactly 10 clues begin with the name of a city, such as [Portland-based shoe company] for KEEN. Furthermore, each of these cities is in a state whose abbreviation appears in one of the theme entries – e.g., for Portland, it’s OR, which is in REGINA SPEKTOR. As you can see in the table below, two states, RI and LA, don’t appear in any of the theme entries. So we must need to find a musician in the Hall of Fame whose first and last name contain RI and LA. A little searching finds the thrice-inducted (and currently controversial) rock superstar, Eric Clapton.


 TOM  “Philadelphia” co-star Hanks  Pennsylvania  PA  PATTI
 BETH  “Detroit Rock City” B-side, initially  Michigan  MI  SMITH
 GLEN  “Wichita Lineman” singer Campbell  Kansas  KS  JACKSON
 D-DAY  Omaha Beach event  Nebraska  NE  BROWNE
 OVAL  Indianapolis 500 racetrack shape  Indiana  IN  REGINA
 KEEN  Portland-based shoe company  Oregon  OR  SPEKTOR
 PETE  Cincinnati Red Rose  Ohio  OH  JOHN
 COEN  “Fargo” director Ethan or Joel  North Dakota  ND  LEGEND
 ACELA  Providence is on its route  Rhode Island  RI
 ANNE  New Orleans Rice?  Louisiana  LA


Solvers who whiffed this month fell into one of two traps – some didn’t check the clues and found one of the many artists in the Hall of Fame who fit the pattern. ALICE COOPER and BILL WITHERS were the most common incorrect submissions. (I would have picked Withers over Clapton, except his song “Lean on Me” was a meta answer earlier this year.) The other common trap was to find Chris Blackwell, whose name fits the pattern, is in the Hall, but unfortunately isn’t a musician.


Meta Song:

The Kindred Souls took a break from our recent summer tour to record this in an Airbnb in Michigan. Stay for the outtakes, if you like that sort of thing.


Selected Solver Comments:

Evan   I wonder how many people are going to guess LARS ULRICH because he also has LA and RI in his name? But Clapton only has those two state abbreviations in his name like the other theme answers, and LARS was unfortunate to have Arkansas as a third state.

Louis D   I really dislike Eric Clapton, but good meta.   I created this puzzle before learning about some of his demons. He appears to be a complicated soul.

DrBob   Look at the clues! Always the last thing I do.

MinionVale   Really Nice Construction!   Thank you!


Alternative Music Clues:

Evan suggests cluing NOT as [“___ Gon’ Cry” (Mary J. Blige hit)].

jagoandlitefoot suggests cluing SNOW as [“After the ___” (Modern English album that featured “I Melt With You”)].

Steve Blais suggests cluing RENO as [“All the Way to ___ (You’re Gonna Be a Star)” (R.E.M. song)].

pbfrommn suggests cluing MALL as [“Let’s Go to the ___” (Robin Sparkles song)].

Brainbow suggests cluing DUKEDOM as [“We’ll walk through my ___” (classic ’60s song lyric)].



stmv   I LAughed, I cRIed searching for a RRHoFer with the right letters.

EliSelzer   Probably wise to leave him out of the grid; don’t want a super-spreader puzzle.

AWise   Did the grid with a slow hand.

mattyx   reAL tRIcky! How do you find these things??!

Rocklouder2424   Sometimes I feel like I need the hand of Providence to help me solve these tough metas! They are definitely not [the big] Easy!

FrotzNPL   I guess using Buffalo Springfield in one of the musical clues would have caused a few problems for this meta. 

Spelvin   An eNJoyable crosswORd!


A total of 221 solvers found their way to the correct answer this month. The average rating for the puzzle was 4.29 stars out of 5, and the average difficulty rating was 3.31. This month’s randomly chosen winner of an MMMM coffee mug is John Cordes from Tucson, AZ. Thanks to Matt Gaffney for blogging the puzzle at Crossword Fiend, where you can rate the puzzle (thanks!) and/or leave a comment.

Thanks for playing and see you next month!