Thursday, May 9, 2024

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT 13:41 (ZDL) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 8:25 (Emily) 


WSJ 7:18 (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


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

Difficulty: Tricky (13m41s)

Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword, 5/9/24, 0509

Today’s theme: all jokes lead to Rome


One, two, four, eight, what do we appreciate?  Well, I appreciate this puzzle being rebus-adjacent without resorting to the thing itself.  Now that’s thinking outside the box.

Cracking: UTAH, because it’s God’s country (also Bristlecone country, and Pando country, and canyon country…)

Slacking: I am leery of BEERY, dearie, stick it in a CREEL and send it out to sea

SidetrackingOAHU, site of the only royal dwelling on U.S. soil (Iolani), and home to the Pink Palace of the Pacific —

Karen Steinberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hand It Over!”—Jim’s review

Theme answers consist of two unconnected words where the middle letter can be “passed” between the end of the first word and the beginning of the second word. Clues are provided for each word “before the pass” and “after”. The “passed” letters collectively spell BATON.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Hand It Over!” · Karen Steinberg · Thu., 5.9.24

  • 20a. [Before the pass: big brokerage + valuable attribute > After: unstressed vowel + long-eared dog] SCHWA(B)ASSET.
  • 25a. [Before the pass: 27th state + skyline sights > After: ornate + hopes] FLORID(A)SPIRES.
  • 33a. [Before the pass: furnace site + hackers’ demands > After: infielders + door features] BASEMEN(T)RANSOMS.
  • 43a. [Before the pass: central California city + share > After: humble + formal speech] MODEST(O)RATION.
  • 52a. [Before the pass: unproductive + pointer > After: dancer’s rail + thin] BARRE(N)ARROW.

I was wanting each two-word pairing to make a phrase, and so it all felt so random during the solve. Once I completed it and noticed the reasoning behind the collective “passed” letters, the penny dropped and I got to enjoy an aha moment. I’m still wondering if a theme set is possible where each pair of words makes a clueable (if wacky) phrase, but it may be that trying to force the issue would strain credulity. (For example, SCHWAB ASSET is certainly clueable, but SCHWA BASSET is nonsensical.) As the puzzle stands, the theme works and is elegant in its simplicity.

HIGH TOPS tops the fill appropriately. OMICRONS isn’t as flashy but gets the job done. TETRIS, TAR PIT, and MIMOSA (ahead of Mother’s Day this weekend) are other niceties.

Clues of note:

  • 59a. [Cereal that gives you “a bowlful of cookie milk”]. OREO O’S. Well, Cookie Crisp didn’t fit. Do they still have Cookie Crisp? Yes they do.
  • 30d. [Old coin of Japan]. RIN. 1000 RIN equaled a yen, but the coin was taken out of circulation in 1953. It’s still traded by numismatists, however, and today one RIN is equal to about $0.13.
  • 38d. [Xi followers]. OMICRONS. The clue seems to say that multiple OMICRONS follow a xi, which isn’t quite right.
  • 48d. [No credit?]. DEBIT. Good clue.
  • 52d. [Foul play?]. BOMB. Also good, though it took me until just now to get it.

3.5 stars.

Paul Coulter’s Fireball Crossword, “What’s Next?” – Jenni’s write-up

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. What a great puzzle. I didn’t figure out the theme until I’d mostly solved the puzzle – I had one square wrong. Once I knew what the theme was I was able to fix my error and then I had to decode the rest of the theme answers. I loved the idea of the theme and the variety with which it was deployed.

I knew there was some kind of replacement going on since each theme answer ends up as gobbledygook. Turns out the replacement is the next thing in a series – if the base phrase had, for example ONE TWO as a letter sequence, it would be replaced with THREE. Clear as mud?

Fireball, May 8, 2024, Paul Coulter, “What’s Next?” solution grid

  • 15a [Common halftime snacks at youth soccer games] is QUARTEYELLOWS. This was the last one I decoded, and I blame my daughter. She never played organized soccer because it always conflicted with dance class, so I had no idea what snacks were served. I thought maybe QUART replaced CUP PINT but that made no sense. Finally I realized YELLOW is the third color in the rainbow. I ran through ROYGBIV in my head, came up with RED ORANGE before YELLOW, and voila! QUARTERED ORANGES turns into QUARTEYELLOWS. Phew.
  • 25a [Home of the Timbers of Major League Soccer] is PORTLANDMIGON. This was the first one I got. I knew the base phrase was PORTLAND OREGON. DO RE changes to MI.
  • 39a [It holds the grounds] is COFFOLTER. COFFEE FILTER so FEE FI changes to FO (no fum!).
  • 56a [New Deal entities known by their initials] is GAMMAGENCIES. ALPHABET AGENCIES. ALPHA BETA —> GAMMA.
  • 65a [Event at which Romeo and Juliet meet] is MASQUERANJRTY. MASQUERADE PARTY. DE and PA come before NJ on I-95. This is where my mistake was. I could figure out 70d [Course requirement?]. It’s TEE and don’t ask my why I couldn’t see that.

This is a masterwork and my current ORCA front-runner. So so so so good. I don’t give stars. This one gets five.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that HEF is the Guinness World Record holder for the largest collection of personal scrapbooks.

Joe Rodini’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Joe Rodini gives us an imaginative twist on the “word hidden in long theme answers” theme. Four fifths of CIGAR spans the words, with one letter wrong each time. It’s CLOSEBUTNOCIGAR. The entries themselves seemed tougher than for most themed puzzles:

[*Opera buffa by Mozart], LENOZZEDIfIGARO is a minefield of foreign vowels.
[*Landscape options in dry climates], ROCkGARDENS
[*One skilled at manipulating characters], ASCIiARTIST. How familiar is the term ASCII to those who didn’t grow up with DOS?

I did also like the choice of two long downs: REALMADRID & MCMANSIONS.


Renee Thomason & Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Isn’t It Ironic?” — Emily’s write-up

A punny puzzle today!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday May 10, 2024

USA Today, May DD, 2024, “Isn’t It Ironic?” by Renee Thomason & Zhouqin Burnikel

Theme: each themer contains F–E– (a.k.a. the periodic symbol for the element “iron”)


  • 16a. [Cause of a blue screen of death], FATALERROR
  • 36a. [Wild goose chase], FOOLSERRAND
  • 58a. [“I can accept that!”], FAIRENOUGH

Today’s themer set is a mix of topic’s: FATALERROR, FOOLSERRAND, and FAIRENOUGH. They all have fair crossings so the first and the last were still easy for me to get. I was able to fill in the second themer right away, which is always fun. Good set and an enjoyable theme!


Stumpers: SKEET (needed crossings), SCANT (needed crossings), and ASU (needed crossings)

Great entires and lengthy bonus fill. A smooth solve and a fun theme! The cluing a a little tricky on some but not too much. Love this collab and hope to see more from this doc!

4.0 stars


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29 Responses to Thursday, May 9, 2024

  1. Dan says:

    NYT: A fine Joe DiPietro offering today, with a confusing theme that all worked out in the end with a very enjoyable Aha! experience when the light finally dawned.

  2. PJ says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen a Roman numeral theme in a while. This one was pretty good. I like that the theme numbers are consecutive powers of two.

    • Ethan says:

      hah nicely spotted i missed that. in order from top to bottom, too (two?).

      • Me says:

        I think the ONE/TWO/FOUR/EIGHT progression brings this puzzle into a different level. I like it when the puzzle has an actual layer to it.

        It also softens the concerns about the inconsistency of the use of the numerals.

  3. Franck says:

    NYT: So for this gimmick to work, we have to assume some Roman numerals transform, and others remain unchanged? Wouldn’t a better execution have been to remove all extraneous Roman numerals from the themers? The worst offender was WVIIIHEEVIDENCE, where the second VI isn’t 6, and D and C also have to be overlooked.

    • Mr. [not] Grumpy says:

      VIII = EIGHT and the grid entry is W[EIGH T]HE EVIDENCE, Nothing is overlooked.

      • Colleen says:

        They’re pointing out that other letters in the theme fill are themselves Roman numerals: W[EIGH T]HEE[SIX][FIVEHUNDRED]EN[HUNDRED]E

      • Eric H says:

        No, Franck is right. You have to overlook the V, I and D of EVIDENCE. That sequence is not itself a Roman numeral, but you could parse it as SIX and FIVE HUNDRED.

        • JohnH says:

          That bothered me, too. Maybe you have to take the powers of 2 as a constraint, although that could be asking a lot. Still, I liked the puzzle quite a bit. I did fail to finish the SW with American idol crossing a rating and an acronym that seemed to have more than one possibility. Didn’t like that.

        • Dallas says:

          Same in DON’(TWO)RRYABOUTIT… the I in IT wouldn’t have bothered me as much if they hadn’t used I -> ONE in WALK(ONE)GGSHELLS. After I got the theme answers, I still had the NE to finish. Not sure what a CHIN sock is or how that clue works? And I got thrown with DWI instead of DUI, in part because I don’t know how KEWPIE is spelled :-)

  4. huda says:

    NYT: Loved this puzzle. Tumbled to the theme early and it helped a lot. Very clever!!!
    My only nit is that there is VI (i.e. Roman six) in EVIDENCE. Since I finished the SE before the SW, it threw me.
    I especially liked that all the theme entries were in the language expressions. Very well done!

    • Mr. [not] Grumpy says:

      You cannot do VIII without having VI in there. Sheesh. There’s an “extraneous” I in II if you want to be that picky.

    • DougC says:

      The difference between the roman numerals that convert to a spelled-out number, and all the other incidental occurrences of I, V, C, D, etc. (as has been noted in another blog) is that the former all bridge two words (as in “walked ON Egg shells). So there is a clear distinction there, it seems to me.

      My sticking point is that “in old Rome” none of these numerals would be spelled out in English, so the clues really don’t seem very apt to me. That, and also that the puzzle was just so easy. This is XI days in a row that my solve time has been WAY below average.

  5. JohnH says:

    I still don’t get the WSJ and, perhaps accordingly, found the themers little more than random. OK, so you move one letter between the two readings, phrased as “before” and “after the pass,” which aren’t in themselves ordinary phrases. But the themers are still meaningless. Shouldn’t they try to say a little something?

    Eventually it occurred to me to see if the exchanged letters added up to something and found BATON. And this morning an association with a relay race came to mind at last. But it still felt just as random. Are we in a race from SCHWAB to ARROW? (I also never made sense of the clue for TETRIS, but then I’m not a gamer, so I’ll just trust Shenk that it’s meaningful.)

  6. ZDL says:

    WSJ: TETRIS does not “inspire” anyone to fill a storage unit. You may feel like you’re playing TETRIS while filling one (we often experience this when packing suitcases into the trunk of our car), but no one in the history of civilization has played a game of TETRIS and subsequently declared “You know what, I think I’ll go fill my storage unit today!”

    • JohnH says:

      Ah, thanks for explaining. I did think of TETRIS as a kind of packing, but then I dismissed it because the connection to storage seemed so remote. Storage closets are notorious as repositories for whatever people no longer want, not for their neatness.

  7. pm says:

    NYT: I see Joe remembers — and did his own twist on — this one. Certainly enough time has passed:

  8. Paul+Coulter says:

    FB – Jenni, it never occurred to me that the DE PA to NJ one could be states you pass through headed north on I-95. Cool interpretation. Actually, the order refers to states as their representatives signed the Declaration of Independence. Not surprisingly, the closest ones to Philadelphia arrived first, it seems. Also, the order of the giant’s chant is fee fi FO fum.

    • PJ says:

      I wholeheartedly agree with Jenni. Great puzzle!

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Oy. Thank you. I was wondering about the Constitution! I live in PA so I guess I think more about I-95 than the Founding Fathers. And I’ll fix the chant. Thanks for the puzzle!

  9. Gene says:

    In Fireball, I got the DO RE MI, and the DE PA NJ (sort of). Did not at all get the colors. Didn’t at all get FEE FI, but it’s followed by FO, not FUM. (FUM follows later in the sequence, but is not in the puzzle) Didn’t get the greek letters, either. Agree it’s a really deep puzzle.

  10. Eric H says:

    BEQ: Not bad for a punny theme.

    Kudos for the clue for MOLE. I get a little tired of seeing mole clued as if the only mole is a mole Poblano. We have a recipe for a really nice green mole that has pepitas in it.

  11. Sandra Banas says:

    18 across ends in an S. 10 down is “rest”.

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