Thursday, February 1, 2024

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 3:22 (Gareth) 


NYT 12:08 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker tk (Kyle) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 7:44 (Emily) 


WSJ 6:06 (Jim) 


Note: This week’s Fireball puzzle is a (Patrick Berry!) contest. We’ll have a review once the submission period closes.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Vanishing Act”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that feature the letters INK. However, those letters are not used in the crossing Down answers even though those entries are valid words.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Vanishing Act” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 2.1.24

  • 17a. [Old kids’ TV show featuring Mr. Moose and Mr. Bunny Rabbit] CAPTAIN KANGAROO with crossers WA(I)TER, AC(N)E, and DU(K)E.
  • 28a. [Place to work on figures] ICE RINK. with crossers (I)RATE, (N)UKES, and (K)EELS.
  • 42a. [Like a nervous person’s stomach] IN KNOTS. with crossers SWAM(I), CAPO(N), and ALEC(K).
  • 56a. [Medium for secret messages, and a hint to making sense of 12 Down answers] DISAPPEARING INK. with crossers R(I)OT, A(N)TE, and S(K)EW.

A classic example of this kind of theme expertly executed as you’d expect from editor Mike Shenk. Fortunately for me, I was on the right wavelength and caught on with the first INK. (It also helped that I knew 17a right off the bat.) That helped smooth things over and gave me one of my speediest Thursday times ever. Lovely theme!

The BAT-EARED fox (Otocyon megalotis) is a canid of the African savanna.

Though there are only four main theme entries, the INK crossers are more constrained than other crossing words, so that adds to the overall grid complexity. And yet everything felt quite smooth. I especially liked CUTIE PIE, MADEIRAS, and RENT-A-CAR, but CONSIGNS, ABSENTEE, and CICERO are also assets to the grid. I wasn’t sure BAT-EARED [Like some African foxes] was a thing, but that’s actually the common name of the critter, so thumbs up from me.

We have an abundance of -ER words (WHALER, CAVER, SURER, and SCARERS). Two of those are fine and two are more iffy, but if that’s the worst of the fill, I’ll happily take it.

A dhow on the Indian Ocean

Clues of note:

  • 60a. [Do, say]. NOTE. Needed all the crossing to recognize this as a musical NOTE.
  • 2d. [Dhow sailor, generally]. ARAB. The dhow is a traditional sailing vessel used on the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

Very nice puzzle! 4.25 stars.

Simeon Seigel’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Average (12m08s)

Simeon Seigel’s New York Times crossword, 2/1/24, 0201

Today’s theme: LOOP DE LOOPS (Upside-down parts of a roller coaster ride — represented twice in the answer to each of this puzzle’s starred clues)


It’s an impressive feat of construction — each theme entry diverts on a loop (twice!) before rejoining the original course.  LOOP DE LOOPS is a fun revealer, although the layout had me thinking more about traffic circles than amusement parks.. then again, there’s one particular traffic circle in Tangiers which haunts my dreams, so maybe that’s just the PTSD talking.

Cracking: HOT YOGA, in which you feel the burn eleven simultaneous ways.  

Slacking: NEGAWATT?  Some neologisms are so cute, they’re smug.. case in point.  This one is pretty obscure to boot — about 300k hits — but at least it’s inferable (even if I’m narrowing my eyes while I’m inferring).

Sidetracking: “My SPIDEY sense is tingling!”



Chandi Deitmer’s USA Today Crossword, “In The Thick Of It” — Emily’s write-up

We’re in it today!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday February 1, 2024

USA Today, February 1, 2024, “In The Thick Of It” by Chandi Deitmer

Theme: each themer is contained within THI—CK or TH—ICK


  • 17a. [Recalls the past], THINKSBACK
  • 38a. [Early hunting weapon], THROWINGSTICK
  • 61a. [2017 Kumail Nanjiani film], THEBIGSICK

All of the themers in today’s set took me at least a few crossings but none more so than THINKSBACK since I was trying “remembering” or “memory” or “nostalgic” related phrases. THROWINGSTICK and THEBIGSICK came a bit easier though. Loved their commonality!

Favorite fill: MEDAY, AMI, and GOTIME

Stumpers: COMIC (got hung up on “comedian”), DEVOTE (took a few crossings), and PROP (“line” and “role” came to mind first)

What a gorgeous grid! And check out those bonus spanners plus the lengthy bonus fill. Wow! There is so much in this puzzle and yet it had great flow and my solve time was pretty speedy for me. Loved the clueing too!

4.5 stars


Emet Ozar’sLA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

Emet Ozar’s puzzle theme today may be a tad more subtle than most. The explanatory answer, SAMESEXCOUPLES, is front and centre. However, what that means is a little less obvious: each of four longer across answers have FF and MM buried inside their two parts. So:

  • [*Device sold with some sheets of hard candy], TOFFEEHAMMER. News to me. Kind of out of fashion, it seems…
  • [*Took from the top], SKIMMEDOFF. The only theme answer to dip into the ocean of ___ OFF answers.
  • [*”The Irishman” role for Al Pacino], JIMMYHOFFA
  • [*Teenage vampire slayer of film and TV], BUFFYSUMMERS


  • [Diner patron], EATER. I feel like Judges 14:14 is the most likely place for someone to see this word. It may just be because of the iconic syrup brand, Lyle’s, which may or may not be available in the US, though…
  • [“Wowza”], OHMAMA. Tm Johnny Bravo?
  • [Foolish one], DOOFUS. I like this answer considerably more than I first one, DOTARD.
  • [Public transit system in San Francisco, familiarly], MUNI. Not LA, but Calif. at least…


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27 Responses to Thursday, February 1, 2024

  1. Greg says:

    The Times: clever idea, largely ruined on the IPhone by the Times “helpfully” omitting the circles. Far from the first time.

    • Andrea Ojeda says:

      There was a note saying you should update the app in order to see the circles. I almost missed it myself!

    • MattF says:

      Worked on my iPad. Nice idea, took some trial and error to get the looping right. Also, I’ve generally seen DOXXING with two ‘X’s.

    • JohnH says:

      The circles came out only faintly when I printed from pdf as usual, making things harder. Oh, well. The whole fill somehow wasn’t on my wavelength, and I can’t explain why. I got the theme right away but just couldn’t seem to catch onto the execution. It happens.

      Loved the WSJ. The revelation came in stages, which I appreciated. At first, I caught a couple of instances of INK. Hmm, so it wasn’t disappearing, although some answers I hoped for wouldn’t work. And then it hit me. Nice extra touch that the inclusion of INK always formed words.

  2. KCL says:

    Updated app. Still no circles. Disappointed NYT. Again.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Loved the concept, admired the construction, but had some issues with the execution, especially in the middle. While two of the theme entries are wonderful and clearly in the language, that song from 1957 was news to me and took things from challenging to frustrating. I was lucky to know that TAJ means crown (It’s also true in Arabic) and JAMON means ham, but I can see it being a Natick for some. And it would have been helpful to somehow indicate that TCBY is abbreviated.
    Liked learning NEGAWATT!

    • Josh says:

      Agree 100%! I was enjoying things until trying to finish up the middle. Had TRAY instead of TCBY (like a desert tray is something only those with culture would select from). Couple that with an unfamiliarity with the song (although the title does sound vaguely familiar now that I know it) and it was just some guesses and judicious use of the “check puzzle” button. Seeing the circles would have helped. Thanks NYT for having me update the app but then not having the “show overlays” turned on by default. Sigh.

    • R says:

      TCBY not being clued as an abbreviation plus crossing ?AL Harbor and ?? MAN made it a borderline DNF for me. The clue (“Resolve”) for METTLE could have also worked for sETTLE, which made that whole section tough, and not in a particularly fun way.

      That said, the theme and themers were great and the rest of the fill was serviceable!

  4. Mutman says:

    NYT: I really liked the theme and how it came together.

    Not crazy about THREEPIO. First off, I’ve never seen it spelled out. And had a third ‘E’ in there. Second, ‘Artoo’ is a first name and ’Threepio’ a last name. A bit inconsistent for me.

    • PJ says:

      A ton of support for THREEPIO at –

    • Dallas says:

      I had this *exact* problem… and NET didn’t make sense for Head scratching, but eventually I figured out it had to be NIT. But boy did this spelling cause me trouble…

    • John says:

      “Second, ‘Artoo’ is a first name and ’Threepio’ a last name”

      This may be true, but both are the only shortened form of their respective names that you will encounter. Nobody ever calls them “Detoo” or “See” or “Seethree” or anything like that.

      As for the spelling-out of the names, I kind of agree with you. I’m familiar with them as an avid fan, but unless you’ve read the books or have captions on when watching the movies, you won’t ever see them spelled out like this.

  5. Eric H. says:

    NYT: I started it last night, when the app wasn’t showing the circles. Once I got the revealer, I figured out the trick in a few spots. But I expected the loops to all go up from the starred clues’ answers, so RAMA LAMA DING DONG (a questionable entry under any circumstances, due to its age and total lack of importance) and WHEN THE TIME COMES were almost impossible to figure out.

    I went to bed having spent almost 20 minutes on the puzzle, and I had about 10 squares unfilled.

    This morning, after I updated the NYT puzzle app, the circles were there and helped me finish up. But a typo or two or three took forever to find. I eventually cleared the grid and retyped everything.

    It’s a shame Mr. Seigel’s clever idea was ruined (at least for me) by the bad programming. I did enjoy clues like the one for ALI BABA, but I’d have enjoyed it so much more if the trick hadn’t been nearly impenetrable.

  6. CrotchetyDoug says:

    BEQ – took me the whole puzzle before I saw that removing the hidden games leaves a common phrase – doh! Loved it!

  7. Mr. [blunt, but not really] Grumpy says:

    WSJ: Not all mailed ballots are from ABSENTEE voters. More and more states are encouraging mail-in ballots from ALL voters. Minor nit here, but the validity and/or trustworthiness of such ballots is likely to be a Trump-ian issue when the liar/fraudster/bully/traitor loses [fingers crossed] in November.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      OT … This was true of my former state of residence (California), but definitely not of my current state of residence (Ohio). They make it about as difficult to vote as possible here. If you want to vote by mail here, you need to request it a couple of months in advance of every single election. The only place that you can drop off vote-by-mail ballots is at the county Board of Election office. Otherwise, you have to put it in the mail about two weeks before Election Day and cross your fingers that the USPS actually gets it to the destination on time (or at all). And don’t even get me started on how difficult it is to get objective information about the candidates and issues that are on the ballot. I sure miss the days when local media actually existed and covered local candidates and issues. Our local rag has been bought so many times over the years that it’s now down to about eight or ten pages (at most) and is about 75% advertising. Plus, we’re lucky if there’s more than one local story in it.

      [Stepping down from my soapbox now … somehow, Mr. Grumpy’s comment struck a nerve with me today]

    • JohnH says:

      Didn’t bother me in the least. I know this aspect of clue wording keeps coming up, but I didn’t take it to be saying that ALL mail ballots are from absentees.

      • Mr. [blunt, but not really] Grumpy says:

        I agree that it’s often difficult to ascertain whether a clue is positing an absolute or simply a potential. Ballot mailer could be the overlap of a Venn diagram. The clue felt more assertive than that to me. Regards.

    • Seattle DB says:


  8. anon says:

    NYT: NILS crossing NIHILO at 1a/1d – oof

  9. Philip says:

    Surprised nobody has mentioned the horrible cutesy cluing for 66A in the NYT. Ugh.

  10. Tom says:

    NYT: 39D, 1/3600th of a degree is an arc second, not a second. The former is a unit of angle. The latter is a unit of time.

  11. Bryan says:

    Very fun new game by Jeff Chen, if you haven’t seen it yet.

Comments are closed.