Thursday, April 25, 2024

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 6:20 (Gareth, 1 ERR) 


NYT 10:47 (ZDL) 


Universal 3:20 (Sophia) 


USA Today 8:00 (Emily) 


WSJ 4:59 (Jim) 


Note: Fireball is a contest this week. We’ll have a review after the contest ends.

Jamey Smith’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Wholly Moley!”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar(ish) phrases with non-consecutive circled letters that spell out an occupation. These occupations also comprise the title of a famous novel. The revealer is INSIDE JOB (37a, [Betrayal of trust, hinted at by the circled letters, which form an apt John le Carré title]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Wholly Moley!” · Jamey Smith · Thu., 4.25.24

  • 16a. [Adore] THINK THE WORLD OF. Not so keen on a theme answer that ends in a preposition, but a very tight theme like this warrants some leeway.
  • 23a. [Individual shareholders] RETAIL INVESTORS.
  • 53a. [Party leaders?] SOCIAL DIRECTORS.
  • 60a. [No big sacrifice] SMALL PRICE TO PAY.

Very nice! I ignored the circled letters in the first two entries until I hit the revealer, then I was able to fill in the remaining circled letters immediately. That sure helped cut down on my solve time.

I especially liked the connection with the spy novel. The revealer doesn’t necessarily stipulate that theme answers have anything to do with the world of espionage, but having answers that do tightens and elevates the theme, and having them all come from the same source is elegantly serendipitous. Kudos to our constructor for a well-conceived and well-executed theme.

With four grid-spanning theme answers and a central revealer at a difficult 9 letters in length, this couldn’t have been easy to fill. No doubt that’s the reason for the cheater squares in the NE/SW corners. But the result is a pretty smooth grid with some nice long fill. Highlights include RED HOTS, FLOOR IT, “C’MON, MAN!,’ SHOTPUT, DATA LOSS, and JEWELERS. Not much in the crosswordese department either, with OWS, OSS, and DDR being the worst of it.

Clues of note:

  • 58a. [“___ bodkins!” (old oath)]. ODS. I like the cluing angle (much more pleasant than a drug-related one), but Wikipedia lists it as “Odds bodkins.” However, it also identifies it as a euphemism for “God’s body!”
  • 25d. [Muktuk eater]. INUIT. Per Wikipedia, “Muktuk is a traditional food of the peoples of the Arctic, consisting of whale skin and blubber…It is usually consumed raw, but can also be eaten frozen, cooked, or pickled.”
  • 34d. [Veiled oath?]. I DO. Lovely clue (though it looks like Joel Fagliano first used it in 2018).

Very nice puzzle. 4.25 stars.

Hanh Huynh’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Average (10m47s)

Hanh Huynh’s New York Times crossword, 4/25/24, 0425

Today’s theme: HOLY COW (“Wow!” … or a phonetic hint to this puzzle’s theme)


Is it possible to hear HOLY COW in your head without those words being voiced by Phil Rizzuto?  Probably so, if you’re under 40, but if not, let me tell you that he absolutely owned it.  Don’t @ me with Harry Caray or Earl Gillespie.  Old school Hollywood baseball.  

Cracking: ELECTRO, first appearance The Amazing Spider-Man #9, 1964.

Slacking: MCI, which has only ever been Kansas City International Airport to me, and still not sponge-worthy.

SidetrackingHOLY COW

Greg Snitkin and Rafael Musa’s Universal crossword, “Stop It!” — Sophia’s write-up

Universal Crossword, 04 25 2024, “Stop It!”

Today’s Universal theme is about re-interpreting common phrases into commands to give something up. They are:

  • 14a [“Stop choosing such an easy Halloween costume every year!”] – GIVE UP THE GHOST
  • 23a [“Stop listening to Taylor Swift’s lead single from ‘Lover’!”] – GET AWAY FROM ME
  • 39a [“Stop serving this small dish!”] – RETIRE THE SIDE
  • 50a [“Stop eating this deli meat!”] – QUIT COLD TURKEY

Overall a very cute theme! GIVE UP THE GHOST is my favorite; it was the first theme answer I got, it totally encapsulates the theme, and it made me smile. GET AWAY FROM ME is also fun, and legitimately good advice – “Me!” is one of Taylor Swift’s worst songs ever. I would not begrudge anyone that forgot this song exists (I personally wish I could, and I am a Swiftie). RETIRE THE SIDE is a baseball term for getting the final out in an inning, in case folks are unfamiliar.

I like the wacky black square clumps in the corners and on the sides. Normalize unique grid patterns!

Clue highlights: [Degree of difficulty?] for PHD, [They look good when they’re ripped] for ABS, [Present day, for short?] for XMAS.


Sarah Sinclair & Kelsey Dixon’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

The revealing entry’s clue gives a (slightly clumsy, but appreciated) second in: [Friend’s invitation before a party, or a TikTok genre that shows off the starts of 20-, 30-, and 41-Across] leads to GETREADYWITHME in today’s puzzle by Sarah Sinclair & Kelsey Dixon. Apparently that includes MAKEUP, HAIR and “FIT”, which I assume is something clothes oriented? So:

  • [“Just decide!”], MAKEUPYOURMIND
  • [Remedy known as “having a counter-beer” in German], HAIROFTHEDOG
  • [In great shape], FITASAFIDDLE

Quite a few other mysteries today for me:

  • The hundred target, in Pilates], ABS, but there was enough context to realise a muscle group was likely.
  • [Benefit that may be rolled over: Abbr.], PTO. My mistake. Around here PTO means “please turn over”? I went with a Y to make YTO.
  • [Tipping point on a counter?], IPAD. I couldn’t imagine such an eye-wateringly expensive piece of equipment being anywhere near a counter???
  • [“The Sacred Art of Giving __”: Ta-Nehisi Coates essay about a friendly greeting], DAP. Day seemed plausible enough.


Dylan Schiff’s USA Today Crossword, “Change of Plans” — Emily’s write-up

Stay on your toes!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday April 25, 2024

USA Today, April 25, 2024, “Change of Plans” by Dylan Schiff

Theme: each theme contains “plans” that are mixed up (or “changed”)


  • 20a. [Desserts with ice cream and fruit], BANANASPLITS
  • 38a. [You might need more of it if you ask someone to step back], PERSONALSPACE
  • 55a. [He played Zack in the “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody”], DYLANSPROUSE

A mix of themers in today’s set. For BANANASPLITS, it took a few crossings before I saw this, though PERSONALSPACE filled right in for me. DYLANSPROUSE is new to me so took longer to get.

Favorite fill: NOTHANKS, EDAMAME, and ASPCA

Stumpers: ASSCHEDULED (needed a few crossings), CHEETAH (new fact in cluing for me), and SOCIAL (needed crossings)

A fun puzzle with a wonderful grid. The top half was a smooth solve and went very quickly but the bottom half slowed down and took time to break into for me. Nothing was too difficult and everything was fairly crossed, it just took a a bit more time today.

3.5 stars


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18 Responses to Thursday, April 25, 2024

  1. Katie says:

    “Holey hula hoops, Batman!”

    [i.e., wholly hole-themed – for reviewed puzzles – wsj and nyt, I mean, which is what I see here now…]

    Sorry. (Ahem.) Actually, I was _originally_ writing to say: that Seinfeld clip was very fun (and thanks for linking to it!) :-) Now makes me wish I’d actually watched more of Seinfeld, back in the day…

  2. CC says:

    Re: WSJ’s use of a themer ending in a preposition…

    The “wrongness” of ending sentences and phrases with prepositions is an interesting case of how the tastes of a few folks in the past ended up influencing grammatical discourse for centuries.

    In a piece by Merriam-Webster on why it’s perfectly fine to end a phrase with a preposition (that is, it doesn’t violate rules of grammar; it’s really a style preference that’s widely considered to be a hard-and-fast rule), it notes that bygone writers John Dryden and Joshua Poole had, for their part, created and popularized the rule for various reasons.

    True story: I’m a copywriter and editor, and the senior manager of a team I once was on decreed no phrases in customer-facing emails should end in a preposition. Ironically, one week prior, I’d done a presentation for my fellow editors on the M-W article above. A team member piped up in a meeting with the senior manager and said to me, “Hey, why don’t you share that presentation you did really quick?” I reluctantly did (making clear I was just the messenger), and after a few beats, the senior manager said, “Yeah, sorry, still don’t like ’em.”

    Which, to be fair, I have no bone to pick with anyone who feels that way, and I wouldn’t sway them from it–I’m just fascinated by how history, personal tastes, and the perceptions of right and wrong are often shaped by, like one or two folks who had an opinion. Ha!

    • Dan says:

      The supposed rule against ending a sentence with a preposition has been so widely and strongly debunked for so many decades now by almost all writers on the subject, that I don’t think this is “widely considered to be a hard-and-fast rule” anymore.

      (E.g., “Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins” by Theodore Bernstein, 1971.)

      • sanfranman59 says:

        I know that I sure had the unacceptability of this grammatical practice beat into my brain in both high school and college in the late 70s and early 80s. I can still see all the red marks on my papers about this and I was successfully brain-washed by those teachers, professors and TAs.

    • Dan says:

      A child, wondering why their storybook wasn’t on the ground floor, asks a parent:

      “What did you take that book I was going to be read to out of up for?”

  3. Ed+B says:

    The NYT theme has a minor glitch in that the Moscow in Idaho ends with a long O sound and is not pronounced like the Russian city. It doesn’t fit the “Holy Cow” theme by pronunciation, just spelling.

  4. Dan says:

    NYT: As usual, I put the first letter in each of the weird squares. In this case, it was an H for HOLE — in each of the six holes.

    No dice.

    So this morning I tried removing the H’s, and sure enough, the software finally recognized the solve.

    Not what I would call good computer programming.

    • Philip says:

      I finished, leaving the holes blank, and it wouldn’t accept that. I had to write HOLE in each one, which seemed ludicrous.

  5. Sophomoric Old Guy says:

    Holy Cow! Also, reminds me of Phil Rizzuto, but in the Meatloaf song, “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights”. Tidbit of trivia, Phil Rizzuto, only major league hall of famer to appear on a gold, now platinum record.

    Good puzzle. Like the theme. Didn’t like the abundance of 3 letter words

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    NYT: @ZDL … re “Is it possible to hear HOLY COW in your head without those words being voiced by Phil Rizzuto?” … Maybe not if you’re a Yankee fan. The rest of CrossWorld probably doesn’t suffer from this affliction, but I’m aware that it’s impossible for Yankee and Red Sox fans to understand that their teams aren’t the center of everyone’s universe. ;^)

  7. Katie says:

    wsj: “Wholly Moley!”

    Jim wrote: “The revealer doesn’t necessarily stipulate that theme answers have anything to do with the world of espionage, …”

    Whoa, wait, I just actually read that comment (finally).
    Um, I think ‘Wholly moley’ just means the theme is: “entirely filled” with “moles”? (i.e., a mole is a spy? I think it’s seriously just that straight-forward — maybe??)

    I love puzzles like this where, once you get a toehold on the theme, you can speed up some other long entries. (“Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing!” – in some circles – I meant.)

    Did I get that wrong? (I’m a big le Carré fan. The meaning of “mole” was somehow obvious to me.)

    • Jim Peredo says:

      You got that right. What I meant by my comment was that the phrase INSIDE JOB could’ve just led to the theme entries that hid any kind of job inside them. But the title (which I failed to mention in my review) does hint that the puzzle is all about moles (spies).

      • Katie says:

        Thanks Jim!
        Oops: My bad, obfuscating the sitch/relationship between the “revealer” vs the “title” there. (Gotcha, I hope?)

        I’d taken “INSIDE JOB” to (also) mean a job done by an insider (e.g., when you’re a spy, as a mole), in addition to having a “job inside” each theme entry.

        Tangentially, it’s interesting to have both a “title” hint and also a “revealer” hint. (Is that b/c this is kind of a “trickier than usual” theme, for example? As a deliberate nudge-nudge? Thoughts?)

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