Thursday, March 7, 2024

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 5:14 (Gareth) 


NYT 12:10 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker tk (Jenni) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 8:26(Emily) 


WSJ 9:27 (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Ella Dershowitz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Nailed It!”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases featuring the trigram MIC which “drops” into the Down direction before finishing back in the Across direction. The revealer is MIC DROP (37a, [Modern “ta-da!” depicted four times in this puzzle]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Nailed It!” · Ella Dershowitz · Thu., 3.7.24

  • 17a. [Very precise timekeeper] ATO(MIC) CLOCK.
  • 19a. [Common kindergarten seating arrangement] SE(MIC)IRCLE.
  • 58a. [Gotham protectors] DYNA(MIC) DUO.
  • 60a. [Mascot whose official name is Bibendum] (MIC)HELIN MAN. What the? Per Wikipedia, the name comes from the Latin phrase Nunc est bibendum (“Now is the time to drink”). Here’s some history on the dude.

I first thought we were dealing with another rebus puzzle which surprised me after having one last Thursday. But bit by the light bulb came on, and I was able to make slow but steady progress towards completion.

We’ve seen plenty of “dropping” or “turning” themes over the years, so old salts probably aren’t as turned on by them anymore. But the revealer is good and makes a solid basis for the theme.

I’ve never heard the term COSMIC WEB, but am glad to learn it, and LAB MICE was hard to recognize as contributing to the theme because (1) I wanted LAB RATS and (2) I was expecting the same short-i sound found in the other Down answers (COSMIC, MIMICS, and COMIC). But I’m not complaining. That was a clever little twist at the end.

What I will complain about is the crossing of proper names. Kay IVEY crossing Charlie SYKES was gettable (though I expect Wanda SYKES is the more recognizable SYKES). But Vincent CASSEL crossing Hindu goddess DEVI was less gettable. I had to run through the vowels (thankfully, it was the second one) to get it right.

There are definitely some grid highlights, though, like BILL NYE, ARTISAN, DOWNGRADE, MEAL PLANS, and SNARE DRUM. I also liked colloquial “I’M LIKE..” even though it was difficult to suss out.

Clues of note:

  • 9a. [Hefty things]. BAGS. I wanted the singular TOME here until I realized “Hefty” is a brand name.
  • 37a. [Modern “ta-da!” depicted four times in this puzzle]. MIC DROP. I’m okay with the clue, but I think there’s an essential difference between a MIC DROP and shouting “ta-da”! It’s all in the attitude. With the latter, you’re awaiting the adulation of an effusive audience. With the former, you’re prepared to ignore the crowd and walk off.
  • 4d. [Flower on a cheek]. TEAR. “Flower” with a long O.

Solid Thursday puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Dylan Schiff’s Fireball Crossword, “Compound Interest” – Jenni’s write-up

It’s been a long day. I got this puzzle mostly solved, couldn’t suss the theme, and got thoroughly stuck in the bottom center so I finally threw up my hands and checked Peter’s answer sheet. I wish I’d stuck with it because the theme is brilliant and I would have relished the satisfaction of figuring it out.

The theme answers appear completely nonsensical.

Fireball, March 6, 2024, Dylan Schiff, “Compound Interest,” solution grid

  • 17a [“Don’t get me wrong….”] is ALCAOANTWAS. I figured out that it was supposed to be ALL I MEANT WAS and didn’t think to look carefully at the substituted letters. We’re missing LIME. Instead we have CAO.
  • 35a [Axioms] is UNIVERNACLRUTHS which should be UNIVERSAL TRUTHS. If I’d been thinking, I would have realized that SALT is replaced by NACL which is, of course, the chemical formula for sodium chloride. Which is SALT. And CAO is CaO or calcium oxide, the chemical formula for lime. See? Brilliant.
  • 54a makes it even better and more diabolical. 54a is [One side in the Honey War]. I’d never heard of the Honey War. I got the first two and last four letters and figured it had to be some kind of TERRITORY and then got completely stuck. The crossings were no help. 55d is [II alternative] in three letters so JUNIOR wasn’t going to work. Once I looked at Peter’s grid I realized they threw a number in there. 54a is IOH2ORITORY and 55d is 2ND. That sound you heard was me smacking my forehead. H2O is WATER and the whole thing works out to IOWA TERRITORY.

I think I’ll just sit here and admire it for a bit. This one lives up to the Fireball blazingly hard tagline and I am in awe.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above about the Honey War which was a border dispute between Iowa and Missouri. According to Wikipedia, legend has it that this including someone cutting down three hollow trees to collect the honey inside in lieu of taxes. Then again, the same article also says that the Sac and Fox tribes “ceded” all land in the territory and I’m pretty sure that’s not exactly how that worked.

Joe O’Neill’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Challenging (12m10s)

Joe O’Neill’s New York Times crossword, 3/7/24, 0307

Today’s theme: Bobby Frost, he’s got the rizz


Very Dada-esque (translation: anything odd that I don’t really understand.)  “Modern reimagining of a Robert Frost classic, part 1”, “part 2”, “part 3”, and “part 4”.  We’re acquainted with the source material, check.. but I had no idea what was going on with the quip, which rendered a good deal of the fill unchecked.

I don’t think ownership of the woods is a point of contention in the original, so I’m lost right from the get-go.  It’s Ulysses all over again.  Otherwise, he’s a modern dude, he has a lot on his plate, let’s get this dog-and-pony show on the road (LESS TRAVELED), GIDDYUP.  Am I anywhere in the ballpark?

EditNo, I am not.  Apparently, Robert Frost wrote more than one poem, and this second poem also happens to involve indecision and forestry.  See “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening“.  

Cracking: J.B. SMOOVE, though it might shock you to learn that it’s a stage name (nee Jerry Brooks).  Honorable mention to any Bloom County references.  ACK!

Slacking: NOES is undefeated in this category

Sidetracking: “The CANARY!”

Glenn Cook’s USA Today Crossword, “Mind Your P’s and Q’s” — Emily’s write-up

This puzzle promotes best behavior today!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday March 07, 2024

USA Today, March 07, 2024, “Mind Your P’s and Q’s” by Glenn Cook

Theme: each two word themer contains P—Q—


  • 22a. [High school “royalty”], PROMQUEEN
  • 39a. [Nosy inquiry], PROBINGQUESTION
  • 56a. [Attention-grabbing excerpt in an article], PULLQUOTE

A fun themer set today with PROMQUEEN, PROBINGQUESTION, and PULLQUOTE. They all filled fairly easily for me, especially the final themer—guess that says something about me!

Favorite fill: LOTTA, DINO, and PIQUE

Stumpers: DETRACT (needed some crossings), EDIE (new to me), and CREW (kept thinking about “audience”)

Smooth solve today with great fill and cluing. Though the gird looks a bit sectional, it flowed well and I didn’t experience any tricky areas.

4.0 stars


Alan Massengill & Doug Peterson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

Alan Massengill & Doug Peterson’s puzzle theme today I think is best considered “phrases shoe-horned to be about US game shows”. So:

  • [Mistake by a contestant on “The Price Is Right”?], COSTOVERRUN. Because you guess the price of items.
  • [Very long response by a contestant on “Jeopardy!”?], ESSAYQUESTION. Because you answer as a question.
  • [Prior results considered by a contestant on “Deal or No Deal”?], CASEHISTORIES. Because you try to find the case with the most money.
  • [Pre-show training for a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune”?], SPINCLASSES. Because you try to spin and land on a high value, but I’m not sure there’s much skill involved.

The opening clue was [Entrepreneur Blakely who founded Spanx], SARA. That’s not the first person I think of when it comes to SARAs by a long chalk.

There was a lot of charm in the clue writing today. Witness these three:

  • [Like neither Jack nor Jill, apparently], AGILE
  • [Farm grunt], OINK
  • [Some native Australians], EMUS


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58 Responses to Thursday, March 7, 2024

  1. Roelle Hillzen says:

    “I don’t think ownership of the woods is a point of contention in the original, ”

    “Otherwise, he’s a modern dude, he has a lot on his plate, let’s get this dog-and-pony show on the road (LESS TRAVELED)”

    If I understand your writing, you believe the poem is The Road Not Taken. I think it’s a reimagining of Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening which begins “Whose woods these are I think I know.”

  2. Gary R says:

    Quip/quote themes are a pet peeve to begin with – I can’t recall a single puzzle of this ilk that I have enjoyed solving. But then we make it a “reimagining” of the Frost poem that is just sort of dopey (the “reimagining,” not the original poem).

    Apart from the theme, the fill seemed solid. I’m sure other folks’ tastes are different, but for me, a pretty disappointing Thursday.

  3. Laughable says:

    Ohhhh, that Frost poem? C’mon.

    BTW, The Road Less Traveled is a joke, misread by so many.

  4. Me says:

    NYT: I don’t want to rain too hard on someone’s debut, but this puzzle was not my favorite. The re-wording of the poem essentially meant you had to read the constructor’s mind, and it was even harder to figure out because the constructor’s phrases didn’t end at the end of a theme answer but went into the next answer. And so much of the puzzle was the theme that it felt like a lot of the squares were unchecked. I liked the idea, but I didn’t enjoy the execution.

    I also didn’t love the clue for YUNG being YUNG Gravy, who is very obscure. Admittedly, none of the people listed as having YUNG in their name in Wikipedia are particularly well-known, but maybe the constructor should have gone with YUNG Wing, who was the first Chinese student to graduate from an American university. That would have been an opportunity to reference someone of color (I believe YUNG Gravy is white), and also it would have been a clue that the answer was a Chinese last name. “___ Gravy” literally could have been absolutely anything.

    • Nino H. says:

      Yung Gravy is a pretty well known rapper for the younger crowd, which makes it a reasonable include in my book.

      (Far more well known than any other YUNG ___ rappers they could have chosen, too… probably.)

    • Roelle Hillzen says:

      “‘___ Gravy’ literally could have been absolutely anything.”

      Except the clue was “Rapper ___ Gravy” which could not have been absolutely anything. Yung Gravy is really well known as a personality in addition to his music. Just because you’ve not heard of something doesn’t make it “very obscure”.

    • JohnH says:

      I’d ask you to try to warm up to clues like that you don’t like. There will always be a few things I don’t know, and it’s only a problem if there are so many that working from crossings is a slog or so poorly crossed that it’s not possible.

      In this puzzle, there were maybe a few too many, although two rap clues isn’t the end of the world. I got YUNG late in solving, but then the crossings seemed fair. Ditto for RAS, and we’d seen other clues for RAS anyway. I had a harder time with MAMA / SMOOVE and the definition of RASSLE crossing a gear I don’t know much about and fruit I didn’t know enough about either.

      Did make it worse that they’re all weighed down by the theme. I had the poem in my head and wondered what the puzzle was going to do with it, maybe a funny or dark twist on it. But nope. Just a poor, misleading paraphrase. I can see why this could be the most poorly rated clue ever.

  5. dh says:

    Two rap clues in the same puzzle. For me, one is too many. I would like to see some demographic statistic – how many people who know/care about rap music also do crossword puzzles. I can’t picture Snoop Dogg with the NYT on the beach while he’s sipping Coronas …

    • Bryan says:

      I can just speak for myself that I do crosswords every day and I also listen to rap music.

    • Philip says:

      The genre has only been around for five decades. Should probably wait a bit longer before legitimizing it with NYT crossword clues, to make sure it’s not just some fad everyone will forget about

      • Mutman says:

        Agreed. I’m even surprised crosswords are published every day. Another fad that may just disappear …

    • Dallas says:

      I, a 47 year old white man, have listened to quite a bit of rap along with a wide variety of music over the years; I don’t know many of the new artists, but that goes for most musical varieties these days. I learned of BTS from crosswords :-) And Snoop Dogg has been around for 30+ years at this point. I’m happy to get to learn new things through crosswords, even if it’s just a name here and there.

      That said, I had a little trouble because I still don’t quite understand how Throw gets to PEG? And I wasn’t in love with the reimagining, even though I clocked the opening line of poetry pretty early on… ended up being a slightly longer than average solve.

      • PJ says:

        I know PEG as a throw in baseball. Usually a particularly good throw that results in an out.

      • dh says:

        Well, perhaps I stand corrected then. I figured I’d get some pushback on this one. But “De gustibus non disputandum est”, I suppose.

        I, too, like to learn from crosswords and don’t really object to rap clues once in a while – but they seem to be proliferating lately.

    • sym says:

      “Real Gs move in silence like lasagna” – Lil Wayne

  6. pannonica says:

    WSJ: 59d [Lover’s location?] AFAR.

    Huh? Seems tenuous, unless I’m missing something obvious.

  7. Pamela+Kelly says:

    I can’t find the New Yorker puzzle? Am I the only one?

  8. PJ says:

    FB – Great puzzle! The theme clicked for me, after a bit of a struggle, with UNIVERSAL TRUTHS. Black Ink didn’t care for the 2 in H2O and CaO isn’t a formula I’ve retained but figured out.

    • Lee Sammons says:

      Same here with Puzazz. It wanted a T (for Two, I guess) but that doesn’t make sense in the down, 2nd. It’s it a rebus, so why the TWO entry?

  9. J B Smoove aka rare visitor says:

    NYT: I had to check in after 15 months since last visit to say

    Quote puzzles are often so problematic as to be rubbish – today was posterboy quality
    I got tired of this one very early
    Glad to see puzzlers much more talented than I suffered and whinghed as well

    I sure love Curb …


  10. Trent Evans says:

    I’m just here to thank ZDL for “…this second poem also happens to involve indecision and forestry.” Hilarious.

    • ZDL says:

      thank you, i’ll be here all week

    • pannonica says:

      It’s no doubt endemic to introspective New Englanders.

      • JohnH says:

        In his favor, he also had what for me is still the ultimate NYC poem, “I Have Been One Acquainted with the Night.” Once upon a time, in a far more affordable but more crime-ridden city (not that I had any money to steal), I lived a block from Madison Square, where the historic buildings include a serious clock tower. For me it will always be that “one luminary clock against the sky” that “proclaims the time is neither wrong nor right.”

  11. Dan says:

    LAT: Enjoyable puzzle, but I am uncomfortable with clue 69A “Lest” used to define UNLESS.

    I definitely don’t see them as meaning the same thing.

  12. teevoz says:

    Zachary – good write up (as amended!) and I hope you take it as a sign that you should take some poetry breaks in the hospital. Good for your soul! ❤️

  13. DougC says:

    NYT: Minority report: I loved this puzzle, and I’m glad to see from the ratings that at least a few others did, too. Hilarious re-interpretation of some classic lines! Enjoyed ZDL’s review, too, and I’m happy to confirm that four-time Pulitzer Prize winner Frost did, indeed pen more than one poem. :)

  14. Eric H says:

    BEQ: Can anyone explain 6D “Greek cream” EURO?

    I learned from the Urban Dictionary that there’s an old Wu-Tang Clan song “C.R.E.A.M.” (“Cash Rules Everything Around Me”). Is “cream” just some slang for money that I have never heard?


      • Eric H says:


        I actually checked the Wikipedia page for “Cream (disambiguation).” which lists the song but not the slang usage.

        I’m surprised/not surprised that the usage has been around for over 30 years and I have never seen it. In my defense, the two dictionaries I checked don’t list it.

  15. JD says:

    Weren’t the OCRAs supposed to be linked/streamed/promoted here?

    I thought I saw a lot of hype about a March 6 broadcast but I no longer see any reference to it here, suddenly?

    Can anyone send a link? Thanks!

  16. Burak says:

    Some people will really enjoy the NYT, and most people won’t like it. This is a good puzzle for what it is trying to do, but I have no interest in what it is trying to do.

  17. Seattle DB says:

    BEQ: I see the three “IAM”s inserted into the theme answers, but can someone explain how that relates to revealer “I Am Here For It”? Thx.

    • pannonica says:

      Didn’t solve the puzzle, but is it possible that the letters IT have been replaced by IAM?

      • Seattle DB says:

        @pannonica — TY for the reply, but I tried your suggestion and it still doesn’t make sense to me. I posed my question on BEQ’s comment section and no replies. (I’ll just chalk it up to BEQ being Quirky, lol!)

        • Eric H says:

          The revealer would lead me to expect that I AM replaces IT in the theme answers. But it doesn’t; he’s simply stuck I AM in common phrases to make new wacky ones.

          So yeah, chalk it up to BEQ’s quirkiness.

          • Seattle DB says:

            TY, Eric, for the reply. And you’re one of my favorite commenters because you explain things so well.

            • Eric H says:

              You’re welcome.

              Thanks for letting me know that you enjoy my comments. Not everyone does (not that I expect them to).

    • Martin says:

      I liked the title, “Sum Things.” As in, “Cogito, ergo sum.”

Comments are closed.