Thursday, January 25, 2024

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 3:54 (Gareth) 


NYT 10:48 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:27 (Kyle) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 8:46 (Emily) 


WSJ 8:55 (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Deep Impact”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that start or end with letters that spell out a [Loud sound]. These loud sounds are placed on the row beneath the main theme entry, as hinted at by the revealer LOWERS THE / BOOM (56a/63a, [Deals a crushing blow, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Deep Impact” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 1.25.24

  • 23a [Loud sound] / 20a [Tactic to try to save one’s own skin]. BLAM / E-SHIFTING.
  • 40a [Loud sound] / 37a [Afternoon energizer]. POW / ER NAP.
  • 39a [It’s sticky on a stick] / 44a [Loud sound]. LOLLI / POP.

I enjoyed trying to suss this out. The penny dropped when I worked out POW/ERNAP thanks in part to my knowing who AL LEWIS was.

That said, I prefer the entries where the “loud sound” occurs at the ends of the phrase, because you actually step down a row to read it. The first two entries don’t quite gibe with the revealer to me, since you step up from the loud sound to read the rest of the entry.

AL LEWIS as Grandpa Munster

Moving on, fill highlights include DECEMBER, GAS GRILL, ECLIPSE, LATE SHOW, “SO LONG,” and AL LEWIS. I’m not sure why I remember his name; maybe because it seems like such a normal, nondescript name for a person who played the kooky Grandpa Munster.

I did not know RALLYE [Auto competition on public roads], and I wonder if that SE corner of EREBUS crossing URDU will trip some solvers up.

Clues of note:

  • 9a. [“What was that?”]. “AGAIN?” I had a hard time seeing this clue as anything other than someone asking what that was. Instead, it means, “Can you repeat that?”
  • 18a. [Boring thing]. BIT. How many of us put AWL here and then got royally screwed up in this section?

3.75 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 163” – Jenni’s write-up

This was one of the tougher FB themelesses in my recent memory.  Or maybe I’m just tired. The NE corner alone was a wealth 0f misdirection.

  • 1a [Anniversary of a death, for which Jews light a candle] was a gimme to me, although transliteration is always dicey. It’s YAHRZEIT.
  • 4d [People with cans in their vans] are RVERS. At first I thought this was beer and then I realized can = toilet.
  • 5d [Zany character in Oz] is ZED. Australia, not Munchkinland.
  • 17a [Hunter with a black saddle] is an AIREDALE.

Saddle on an Airedale


What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of NEODADAISM.

Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Easy (10m48s)

Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword, 1/25/24, 0125

Today’s theme: mercury poisoning

  • GLASS THERMOMETER (liquid mercury)
  • RETROGRADE (astral mercury)
  • WNBA FINALS (basketball Mercury)
  • BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (Freddy Mercury)

Went through this pretty quickly, considering it’s an oversized (16×15) grid.  And it could get even more mercurial — nary a peep about the Roman god, or the defunct Ford offshoot (and as someone whose first set of wheels was a seafoam green Mercury Mystique that lasted exactly one year, this is inexcusable.)  There was even (apparently) a Marvel character by the same name, although she just appears to be an oozier version of Mystique.

At 75 words, it’s bordering on themeless territory (for an oversized grid) — you don’t often see triple-stacked 8s in a Thursday puzzle.

Cracking: ACAI BOWL, rare appearance for the entire ensemble

Slacking: ASMILE, submitted without comment

Sidetracking: EUREKA California, close to the Oregon border and in the heart of Redwood Country, an hour south of Trees of Mystery — one of my favorite tourist attractions on the West Coast:

Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker crossword – Kyle’s write-up

The New Yorker solution grid – Thursday 01/25/24 – Caitlin Reid

Keeping it brief today: Lots of nice stuff in this grid with DAVID AND GOLIATH, MAKES WAVES, NEAT AS A PIN, EXIT POLLS, PETER PAN and CLIP-ON TIE among my favorites. Cute clues included [Ran out of clothes?] for STREAKED and [Activity for which one hopes to get a good deal?] for POKER GAME.

Apart from briefly forgetting the “Seinfeld” SOUP NAZI character, very little in this grid held me up, resulting in one of my fastest New Yorker Thursday times to date.

Thanks Caitlin!

Malaika Handa’s USA Today Crossword, “Down Payments” — Emily’s write-up

Be ready to cash in with this one!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday January 25, 2024

USA Today, January 25, 2024, “Down Payments” by Malaika Handa

Theme: each themer begin with a different currency


  • 3d. [Mexico’s most-streamed artist], PESOPLUMA
  • 7d. [Person selling houses], REALESTATEAGENT
  • 36d. [Baked good originally made with four sticks of butter], POUNDCAKE

Today’s themer set starts with PESOPLUMA, who is new to me but had fair crossings, then progresses to REALESTATEAGENT which slotted in easily, as did POUNDCAKE which is a tasty treat to end the set. With the theme, we get the currency: PESO, REAL, and POUND.


Stumpers: CLICKYPEN (“ballpoint pen” and “mechanical pencil” first came to mind), FLAK (needed crossings today), and ROPY (also needed crossings)

A fun and smooth puzzle today, though I did get tripped up on IMOLD–but I’m not that old, right? :/ Regardless, I enjoyed the grid design and flow, with lots of fun entries and lengthy bonus fill plus great cluing.

4.0 stars


Freddie Cheng’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Freddie Cheng offers up another intricate theme concept in today’s LA Times crossword. There are two layers – UP is inserted into three phrases, changing noun adjuncts into verbs and creating wackiness. In each case, a foodstuff is the base phase; both parts are covered in the final answer, FAREHIKES.

  • [Add bulk to cured meat?], BEEFUPJERKY
  • [Treat haricot verts to extra plant food?], BUTTERUPBEANS
  • [Give some oomph to pot stickers?], SOUPUPDUMPLINGS

Other notable entries:

  • [Half of an interrogation pair], BADCOP In TV cliches.
  • [Yogic spiritual center], CHAKRA in the body, allegedly.
  • [“The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo” airer], PBSKIDS. Cute show name.


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46 Responses to Thursday, January 25, 2024

  1. Dan says:

    NYT: The clue 30A is “Christmas party?” for the answer MAGI.

    This seems like a mismatch in number: The word “party” is singular but the word “magi” is plural (of “magus”).

    Or am I missing something?

  2. j says:

    Fireball: can anyone explain 47A—how “second-lowest stripe” = TEN?

    • Eric H. says:

      My guess would be pool. Every ball below the eight-ball is a solid color; the eight-ball is solid black; the nine-ball and higher-numbered balls have stripes.

    • Gary R says:

      I think it’s a reference to pool balls. The “solids” are 1-8 and the “stripes” are 9-15, so the 10-ball is the second-lowest (numbered) stripe.

  3. Ned says:

    To be a picky geek, Mercury in retrograde IS about the planet, referring to times when it appears to move in the opposite direction from its normal motion, due to it’s orbital position relative to the earth at the time. All the planets (appear to) have retrograde motion at times, which was difficult to reconcile with an earth-centered model of the solar system and led to the sun-centered Copernican model that proved to be correct.

    I was most surprised that there was no reference to the car … I was looking for some kind of “garage” or “car dealer” answer.

  4. RCook says:

    NYT: Either this is a coincidence, or someone just discovered ATTA WAY and likes it. This is its second appearance in a week.

  5. PJ says:

    NYT – Nice puzzle but I kept expecting Thursday to show up. It didn’t. Maybe better suited for Wednesday?

  6. huda says:

    NYT: The MAGI clue was subtle but my favorite clue in this puzzle.

    • Mutman says:

      Well if we’re going to be picky (the theme of most comments), the magi arrived a week later on the Feast of the Epiphany (typically 01/06), not Christmas.

      Just some Catholic lore here.

      • Dallas says:

        Giving us the twelve days of Christmas, no?

        • DougC says:

          In the traditional liturgical calendar, Christmastide runs from Dec. 25 to January 5, the latter being the twelfth day of Christmas.

          The day of Epiphany is a separate feast day and begins a new liturgical season.

          That being said, however, it’s also true that the events celebrated on Christmas Day and Epiphany (the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi) have long been conflated, so that you commonly see manger scenes with camels, kings and stars.

  7. MattF says:

    Liked the NYT, but I’m under the impression that PEEKABOO is a game for babies rather than toddlers.

  8. Mr. [oh so very] Grumpy says:

    I thought the clue for 49A in the Universal puzzle was one of the most stupid clues ever. Seriously? You cross-reference the entire set of clues? A cross-reference to a specific clue is annoying enough [one of my pet peeves]; this was ridiculous. And it’s not as though there are not a number of ways to clue the answer rationally. Do not do that again, Drew. Please.

  9. Erica VP says:

    Felt like a tremendous amount of gunk and too cute (or just bad) cluing in NYT today. Enjoyed the idea of the theme, but don’t quite know if it fits a Thursday or any day as presently constructed.

  10. placematfan says:

    That Gordon grid is really pretty.

  11. Galabria says:

    That one really made me stop and think.

  12. DougC says:

    NYT: Re 17A, “Mercury is in this”, sorry to say this is not usually true.

    Mercury might be in a GLASS THERMOMETER, but the vast majority actually contain red-colored ethanol, which is far less toxic than mercury, easier to read, and far more suited to most home uses. Mercury thermometers are found mainly in laboratories.

    • Martin says:

      You might be reassured to know that Will Shortz and his assistants all probably know this.

      There are many cluing conventions intended to keep things sparkling. One is that certain modifiers may be omitted from clues. You don’t need to call Obama a former president; president is fine. “Sometimes” is another modifier that may be implied. Often you don’t even notice. Today’s “Response to ‘Who’s ready?'” (I AM) didn’t bother you because it’s not the only possible response. In other words, you intuitively recognize that non-exclusivity is part of the clue “contract.”

  13. teevoz says:

    Zachary- actually ACAIBOWL made its debut on this past Sunday and now it’s repeated today. Remains to be seen if it’s rare!

  14. Zev Farkas says:

    If anyone can explain the theme of today’s Universal puzzle, it would be appreciated. Thanks.

  15. JohnH says:

    I liked both the WSJ and NYT better than the consensus. The first’s theme kept me working, and while I had the same feeling that the drop of row at right was better than the rise at left, it enables both left and right margins to contribute nicely. Then, too, think of reading from the center, so that at the left you’re dropping by reading from right to left.

    For the NYT, I liked it because, unlike others here, I found it on the hard side for a Thursday and appreciated the challenge. After all, the clues for the themers were vague and almost interchangeable, even though I noticed differences in wording and caps. They also consumed enough of the grid that finding a foothold was hard, repeatedly so, and much of the rest of the clues were vague enough not to define a unique answer as well. So generally satisfying, even if I had to remember some names to get the theme right.

  16. Steve says:

    BEQ: Anyone understand the theme? And can we get a new reviewer? Been months (maybe even a year) since Thursdays were reviewed. (Don’t look at me, everyone would hate me, haha)

    • PJ says:

      I have some of it but I don’t think I have it all

      Notice each theme answer has the same number of letters as the clue. Also the same pattern of letters. There is a code that will translate each clue to the answer. For CALVINISTS and PORTUGUESE, C=P, A=O, L=R, etc.

      I mapped all five theme answers and couldn’t identify an overarching connection.

    • Eric H. says:

      I only looked at SNOWNADO/MANDARIN in depth, but my guess is the same as PJ’s — each theme answer is a letter-swapping code for the clue (or vice-versa). Each pair seems to be unique.

  17. Wendy W says:

    Could someone please explain 47D in the Fireball (“Themeless 163”)? I had STOPS (F-stops). Thanks.

    • PJ says:

      I took the F to mean Fahrenheit. But like you, I started with STOPS after I filled in PORTAL.

      If I’m correct, it seems strained. But it is the Fireball so I expect these things

Comments are closed.