Thursday, February 8, 2024

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:16 (Gareth) 


NYT 8:38 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:24 (Kyle) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 7:08(Emily) 


WSJ 9:44 (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Howard Neuthaler’s Fireball Crossword, “Rocky Raccoon” – Jenni’s write-up

I enjoyed this puzzle, and not just because I did it while I was listening to a required training (ssshhh).

The theme answers do not appear to make any sense at all.

Fireball, February 7, 2024, Howard Neuthaler, “Rocky Raccoon,” solution grid

  • 17a [*Deliver word for word] is APPRECIATE.
  • 26a [*Customs] are PANORAMAS.
  • 35a [*Ordeal, in a phrase] is WRAPPING PAPER. I mean, that could be….
  • 49a [*Solitary place] is A CAPPELLA.

The revealer explains it all to us. 57a [Raccoon, in slang…or, if read as four words, a hint to the answers to the four starred clues] is TRASH PANDA which gives us TRASH P AND A. So if we remove the indicated letters from each theme answer, we get RECITE, NORMS, WRINGER, and CELL. Nice! I don’t remember seeing anything like this, at least not recently, and it was a very satisfying aha! moment.

A few other things:

  • We had a lovely long weekend on the ISLA of Puerto Rico last month. Highly recommend. Hit me up for restaurant recs.
  • 18d [It’s often the right way when planning a route] is EAST. On a map. Kids, ask your parents.
  • Am I the only one who filled in PASTOR instead of RECTOR for [Flock leader] at 40a?
  • 37d [Get high while on vacation, maybe] is PARASAIL. Also highly recommend.
  • I had to think a bit to understand 43d. [Cough drops?] are VAPORS which are the drops expelled with a cough. Ick.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ERIKA Christensen appeared in “Cheaper by the Dozen.” Also did not know that PWBOTHA was known as the “Great Crocodile.”

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “High Approval”—Jim’s review

Theme answers come in top/bottom pairs with the bottom entry donating its P to the top entry. Both are clued as if the P is where it really belongs, but both altered entries are still crossword-valid. The revealer is PRAISE (72a, [Express approval of, and, if reparsed, a hint to making sense of five pairs of answers]). That’s P-RAISE or P RAISE after you mentally re-parse it.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “High Approval” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 2.8.24

  • 1a. [Judges wear them] / 14a. [Bishop, e.g.]. PROBES / RELATE. Robes / prelate.
  • 15a. [Abandon one’s principles] / 18a. [Like the cheetah, among land animals]. SPELL OUT / SEEDIEST. Sell out / speediest.
  • 27a. [Escape character in many programming languages] / 34a. [Be parsimonious]. BACKSPLASH / SCRIM. Backslash / scrimp. Never heard of a SCRIM so I looked up the M-W definition post-solve.
  • 49a. [They’re parallel to the equator] / 52a. Lt.’s superior]. PLATITUDES / CAT. Latitudes / Capt.
  • 61a. [Topographical map depiction] / 68a. Gutter attachment]. TERRAPIN / RAINS OUT. Terrain / Rain spout.

Wow. Some really impressive pairings here, especially those three sets that align with each other exactly, and most especially that last one where the P is down towards the ends of the entries. To have them align exactly according to the P placement, to have them be legit phrases with or without the P, and then to still be able to come up with sensible crossings is no small feat. Sure we get ETRE and IUM down there, but neither of those is beyond the pale considering the constraints. Very impressive.

That said, I had a tough time on that left side where I’d never heard of SCRIM (nor E-CRIME) and I had IPAS instead of ALES. I couldn’t see OKINAWA for the life of me, and some opaque cluing on ABSORB and BYES really stymied me. Oh yeah, and SMAJ is in there as well. Guess what, there are zero hits for SMAJ (sergeant major) in the Cruciverb database. So yeah, a much tougher section than the rest of the puzzle, IMO.

Highlights include CLUB SODA, BARE SKIN, ISSA RAE, the aforementioned OKINAWA, and SHE-CRAB. That last I learned from another crossword within the last year I think, so it went in more easily. BTW, here’s why SHE-CRAB soup has its name.

Lowlights include SMAJ and partial ENDSA. Didn’t know UAR (United Arab Republic) either.

Clues of note:

  • 11a. [Political Victory Fund org.]. NRA. That’s two clues this week for NRA that ignore its current troubles, and this one feels almost celebratory. Bleh.
  • 36d. [Research task]. TEST. I’m missing something on this one. Feels like it should be “testing,” But what does testing have to do with research anyway? Help me out here.

Impressive theme. Four stars.

Samuel A. Donaldson’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Easy (8m38s)

Samuel A. Donaldson’s New York Times crossword, 2/8/24, 0208

Today’s theme: OPPOSITES ATTRACT (Dating axiom … or a hint to interpreting four pairs of answers in this puzzle)

  • PASSOVER (overpass) and UNDERGO (go under)
  • ORDER IN (in order) and OUTLAYS (lays out)
  • HANDOFF (offhand) and ON LEAVE (leave on)
  • PAT DOWN (down pat) and UPCHARGE (charge up)

Nice.  The “opposites” in each horizontal pair are attracted to each other, i.e. pulled towards the center of the row, rearranging each of the two common phrases to form two different common phrases.  Dropped the revealer in the first 2 minutes, and the theme clicked in short order.  I came, I saw, I filled in the little squares.  I stayed on the halal side of the Rubicon.

Cracking: OH BEHAVE, pummeled by the vernacular but still fun to see it as fill.

Slacking: TESTEE, not tasty, and definitely a homonym for my reaction.  And if there were twain, those two TESTEEs wouldn’t amount to a hill of scrotes in this crazy world.  

Sidetracking: NACHO

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

The New Yorker solution grid – Thursday 02/08/2024 – Caitlin Reid

Quick take today: another lovely and buttery-smooth grid from Caitlin Reid today, with POTATO CHIP, SECOND NATURE, NINE LIVES and SPEED DEMON being highlights. I needed a few crossings to get BAD NEWS BEARS [2005 Billy Bob Thornton reboot about a Little League team of misfits] but otherwise sailed through this grid. Thanks Caitlin!

Jon Daly’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s theme summary

LA Times

Jon Daly reimagines phrases that contain US-ian airlines that are also common words to be about the airlines:

  • [Sadness that sets in after missing a flight?], DELTABLUES
  • [Countries listed on a flight board?], UNITEDNATIONS
  • [Rural areas serviced by just one airline?], FRONTIERTOWNS
  • [Flight that lasts seven days?], SPIRITWEEK


Jared Goudsmit’s USA Today Crossword, Lie Down” — Emily’s write-up

Take it easy today with this puzzle.

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday February 8, 2024

USA Today, February 8, 2024, “Lie Down” by Jared Goudsmit

Theme: each down themer ends in —LIE


  • 4d. [Does a bike trick], POPSAWHEELIE
  • 14d. [Actress who played Lara Croft and Maleficent], ANGELINAJOLIE
  • 22d. [Type of herding dog], BORDERCOLLIE

What a fun set! All of ther themers today slotted in nicely for me: POPSAWHEELIE, ANGELINAJOLIE, and BORDERCOLLIE. Also, the themers move downward as they proceed left to right with the final themer resting on the bottom of the grid.

Favorite fill: SARI, AZTEC, and ALI

Stumpers: BELLOW (needed a few crossings) and AWRY (also needed crossings)

A smooth solve today with great fill and cluing!

4.0 stars


This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Thursday, February 8, 2024

  1. Dan says:

    NYT: I enjoyed solving this puzzle and figuring 0ut its gimmick.

    But the revealer, OPPOSITES ATTRACT (a fun phrase), seems to have virtually nothing to do with the theme (which as I understand it is that familiar two-word phrases are entered with the order of the words reversed).

    The only connection to the revealer that I can see is that pairs of opposite words happen to occur next to each other in each of two two-word theme phrases in the diagram.

    This seems so minor and so disproportionately related to anything about the solving experience that it caused me to not really like this puzzle in retrospect.

    • Martin says:

      Think of it like this:
      You start with
      the opposites (over and under) are attracted to each other, forcing the rearrangement to

    • Gary R says:

      I think ZDL explained it pretty well.

      Nice puzzle!

      • Katie says:

        Agreed. (ZDL explained it very well… plus “Nice puzzle!”)

        However, Martin’s description was fun – and reinforces my visualization of two old-school “bar magnets”:

        [S-(over)–(pass)-N] and [S-(go)–(under)-N]

        …that are then (self-referentially) commanded –> (Hey, go OVER, ‘PASS’ — and you ‘GO’? sneak UNDER) — so the sub-parts obey and flip (each counter-clockwise) into their new grid positions. (Flip! Flip!)

        [Sorry — nevermind… I can’t describe that well, I know.]

        ANYWAY – liked it lots, and even more so given the entries were “actual things” both before and after the swap (passover, vs overpass — etc…)?? (I think?) I got “ORDERIN” first (of the themers), with “Sequentially arranged” as clue and was thinking, “wait, kinda-maybe ‘arrange’ could work there — but ‘arranged’? hmmm…” ;-)

      • Martin says:

        Yes, I didn’t mean to imply that the theme wasn’t clear from the review. I just figured a restatement might help OP visualize the motion. I should have said.

        • Katie says:

          no, no, no – your description was terrific, IMO – and needed/useful – Martin! :-)

          was overthinking my own response (being sure to nod to everyone)… tone (sometimes) gets lost, in these mess(ag)es

    • JohnH says:

      Dan’s puzzlement is just why my solving came only in steps, for an extra treat! Nice.

      I worked from the bottom and two pairs fell into place quickly. And indeed I took the theme to be flipping halves of an entry. I figured that referring to four pairs rather than eight made no difference. But then I did notice that they came in pairs, which helped me greatly as I approached the top two pairs. And finally, thanks to being forced to make sense of the revealer rounded things out nicely, but only after I’d finished the top half.

      My hardest was the NW, as I didn’t know the phrase from Austin Powers and where I started with NPR for PBS. (I also had OMG rather than SMH.) But all worked out well.

  2. pannonica says:

    WSJ: “Feels like it should be ‘testing,’ But what does testing have to do with research anyway? Help me out here.”

    Some kinds of analytical research (say, scientific) involve performing one or more tests to gather data. An assay would be a good example.

  3. Paul+Coulter says:

    Excellent Fireball. A very nice upgrade on the type of “define one thing, give us another by insertion or deletion” theme we’ve seen a lot of lately. The sort of great AHA moment that makes constructors go, “Wow, wish I’d thought of this, myself.” My only nit is that I didn’t love the title, which echoes a word in the revealer’s clue.

  4. JohnH says:

    Took me a bit to sort out the themers in the WSJ. I got the top left, where P moved neatly upward, to the square above, but then it threw me: what is a P doing at the bottom of a column, above a black square? I see that P’s can move diagonally and can precede or follow the letter below. I’m torn as to whether that’s just too inconsistent and unfair or a more interesting variation for a better challenge. But overall (I hate to say the bottom line given the issue) I really liked it.

  5. John says:

    NYT: only other “slacking” entry IMO was REPART. I’m sure it’s in the OED, and it wasn’t exactly a toughie, but certainly not in my everyday vernacular

    • Katie says:

      NYT: OK with REPART, given the clue… (It’s “fine”…)

      But did others get the clue for “PAW”?
      Clue was: [Dog on a cat?]

      One definition of “dog” [in MW] is:
      any of various usually simple mechanical devices (such as an andiron or a detent) for holding, gripping, or fastening that consist of a spike, bar, or hook

      It’s not just THAT, is it? That might be a CLAW, but not really a PAW… And either way, um – ??? Is there other slang I don’t know? (What did I miss here?)

  6. Dallas says:

    Fast and fun Thursday; enjoyed the theme a lot. I put PASSOVER in first, and thought it seemed a little odd, but kept going and was almost wondering if this was a themeless Thursday, until getting the revealer, which helped get most of the rest. Really enjoyable solve.

Comments are closed.