Thursday, May 30, 2024

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:13 (Gareth) 


NYT 8:39 (ZDL) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 9:22 (Emily) 


WSJ 6:52 (Jim) 


Fireball  untimed (Jenni) 


Christopher Youngs’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Who’s to Know?”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that hide the letters NAME. Each entry has these letters turn into the Down direction before returning back to the main Across entry for completion. The revealer is NAME DROPPER (65a, [“Look who I rub elbows with” sort, and a hint to three Across answers ]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Who’s to Know?” · Christopher Youngs · Thu., 5.30.24

  • 17a. [Hero created with a dose of Super-Soldier 72-Across] CAPTAI(N AME)RICA with 6d BY NAME. (72a is SERUM, by the way.)
  • 21a. [From Paramaribo, say] SURI(NAME)SE with 11d PEN NAME.
  • 60a. [Kitchen utensils with a glossy finish] E(NAME)LWARE with 42d PET NAME.

I guessed the revealer before leaving the top half of the grid, so there was no aha moment to be had there, but it was good to get the confirmation.

However, I was unpleasantly surprised at the duplication of NAME in the three Down answers. I would have thought those should have been hidden as well, perhaps in the likes of “ornamented” or “tournament” or “unamended,” for example. I would have liked it even better if what was “dropped” were actual names, perhaps from phrases that use generic names like “For Pete’s sake” or “Jack of all trades.” That would have made the grid all the more interesting (IMO) without all the repetition.

I did like the long fill, especially SNARE DRUM, GO BANANAS, HOOSIER, IMAGINE, SOPRANO, ENABLER, IPANEMA, and GRAPPA (which reminds me that I really should crack open that bottle I bought in Italy a couple decades ago).

Clues of note:

  • 6d. [Sobriquet]. BYNAME. This usage is new to me though it was inferable.
  • 43d. [Forward or back, say]. ATHLETE. Good, tricky clue. There are forwards in soccer, basketball, and hockey, I believe, and backs in soccer and (American) football.

A good puzzle, but I wasn’t keen on the duplication and repetition. 3.25 stars.

Royce Ferguson’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Easy (8m39s)

Royce Ferguson’s New York Times crossword, 5/30/24, 0530

Today’s theme: THE WALLS HAVE EARS (“Shh! People may be listening” … or a hint to eight squares in this puzzle)


A colorful idiom like THE WALLS HAVE EARS is just begging to be turned into a theme set.  A bit more complicated in this case, being a 16x, as alternate venues will be limited if the NYTXW passes.  But, as the kids say, shoot your shot, and cross your fingers for the WELL DONE e-mail.


Slacking: nix PRE GAP, post-haste.  Also, trying to legitimize the unorthodox spelling of JESSYE Norman by referencing a National Medal of Arts — Sondheim, the patron saint of crosswords and musical theater, once called the NMA a symbol of “censorship and repression”

SidetrackingDURAN DURAN

Prasanna Keshava’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 167” – Jenni’s write-up

I admit I didn’t get the whole thing without checking Peter’s answer grid. I figured out the trick and there were still a couple of answers I couldn’t parse. I think this is a debut for Fiend-reviewed puzzles, and it’s a good one.

The trick is yea/nay – it’s a rebus.

Fireball, May 29, 2024, Prsanna Keshava,”Voting Time,” solution grid

  • 18a [“Love hearing that!”]  is  MUSIC TO MY YEARS” crossing [Put the kibosh on], IX NAYED. YEA/NAY. I see where we’re going here.
  • 33a [Large bird that preys on monkeys] is HARPY EAGLE crossing IN A YEAR.
  • 46a [Hard-to-please dinner guest] is a PICKY EATER  crossing SPIN A YARN.

And the revealer: 63a [Polling needs…and a hint to three squares in this puzzle] is BALLOT BOXES. YEA or NAY.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that TET is celebrated with five-fruit trays.


Olivia Mitra Framke & Sally Hoelscher’s USA Today Crossword, “Flowery Language” — Emily’s write-up

A dazzling bouquet of themers today in this delightful floral puzzle!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday May 30, 2024

USA Today, May 30, 2024, “Flowery Language” by Olivia Mitra Framke & Sally Hoelscher

Theme: each themer ends with a part of a flower


  • 17a. [Artist known for her concrete sculptures], ISABELBLOOM
  • 31a. [Organization addressing gender parity in science, …], WOMENINSTEM
  • 44a. [It may symbolize an idea], LIGHTBULB
  • 56a. [Settle in to a community], PUTDOWNROOTS

A perfect combination of uplifting and grounding themers in this set, starting with ISABELBLOOM, followed by WOMENINSTEM, with an iconic brilliant LIGHTBULB, and ending with a comforting PUTDOWNROOTS. My favorite part of this set is that they progress from the top of the grid to the bottom in the order of the parts of a flower: BLOOM, STEM, BLUB, and ROOTS. Incredible. Plus, I always love a cohesive four-themer set which is usually tricky to pull off but this is an excellent example of when it’s done well.


Stumpers: AVERT (only “prevent” came to mind), ANGER (kept thinking of “wrath” and “rage”), and VIDEO (needed crossings, cluing just didn’t get me there today though it wasn’t that tricky)

Overall fill and cluing was great, though the theme and themer set outshine it all which really is a treat. One of my new favorite puzzles of all times. I hope we see more awesome collabs from this pair! Bravo!

5.0 stars

Note: mobile app puzzles seem to have cluing cut off after two lines since a recent update, so I’ve reported it (since I noticed it yesterday as well) and please excuse the cutoff cluing listed for the second themer–that’s why it’s not fully listed above.


Emma Oxford’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by Emma Oxford features a less common variant of a common LA Times theme genre. The central revealer is SLICEDBREAD, and words are hidden; however, rather than inside two parts of one answer, today we have them split, “sliced”, between two adjacent answers. The downside of this design is a lack of long stand-out entries that typically make a puzzle stand out. Today, “challah” is spelt out in MUSICHALL/AHEAD; “pita” is between HOPI and TANG; “roti” is split across AERO and TIDY; and LUCIA/BATTALION conceals a “ciabatta”.

Those who compete in LearnedLeague may have noted this puzzle includes not only [Drink mix made popular by NASA], TANG but also [“Allegory of the cave” philosopher], PLATO. A bit painfully, I missed most both of these, and now the puzzle is taunting me.

Other clues / answer of note:

  • [Janelle’s “Abbott Elementary” role], AVA. The only Janelle I know is Monae. Apparently this is an actress James. I haven’t heard of the TV show. Worth noting as a newer way to clue AVA.
  • [Iron deficiency], ANEMIA. I’d argue “iron deficiency symptom” is more accurate. B12 deficiency and a host of other conditions can cause anemia,
  • [Church minister], DEACON. In a rather broad sense; though in at least some churches ministers are ordained and deacons not…
  • [Steve Madden creation], SHOE. Apparently this is a US shoe manufacturer founded by the titular Steve Madden. On cross-examination, I’d have assumed he was a gridiron player.
  • [Like some movie rentals], ONDVD. Does this still happen?


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22 Responses to Thursday, May 30, 2024

  1. Gary R says:

    NYT: “Also, trying to legitimize the unorthodox spelling of JESSYE Norman by referencing a National Medal of Arts — Sondheim, the patron saint of crosswords and musical theater, once called the NMA a symbol of “censorship and repression””

    Not quite understanding this commentary. I guess JESSYE is an unorthodox spelling, but it’s her name – don’t see how the clue is trying to “legitimize” it.

    And as for Sondheim, he turned down the award (with the “censorship and repression” comment you cite) in 1992, when George Bush offered it, but accepted it in 1996, when Bill Clinton offered it. I guess what it symbolized changed pretty quickly.

    • Lois says:

      I guess ZDL means that JESSYE is a tough spelling for those who never heard of Jessye Norman, and efforts to convince us of her fame with a mention of the National Medal of Arts are not working for ZDL. Don’t worry, she’s famous. And her name only crosses one proper noun, JLO, though that one is a crucial crossing and that might have been unwise. I myself have never heard of HARVEY Mudd College, nor have I heard of the Phil IVEY that clue crosses. Crossings of proper nouns are usually problematic. I did not find this puzzle easy, but I enjoyed it.

      • huda says:

        I remember the first time I heard of HARVEY Mudd. I thought it was an unusual name for a college. But once you hear it, it’s memorable. And it’s in an idyllic setting (“not muddy” was my first thought when I saw it. I tend to be literal).
        Re Sondheim- I believe he was specifically protesting the NEA’s censorship of the arts under President Bush. So his actions reflected a principled stance rather than denying the intrinsic meaning of the medal. I think that is why he got nominated and selected again. Rather unusual for people who turn down such honors.

      • JohnH says:

        HARVEY was a gimme for me, luckily. I considered applying but ended up worrying that the West Coast was too far from home, so trips would be expensive.

        Overall, though, I did find it a hard one. I got stuck on the left because I’d mistakenly thought of Edy’s for ice cream and tepee for dwelling, didn’t know PREGAP, didn’t know IVEY, and took to long too figure out that the film song group must be DURAN DURAN. The clue for ACNE was trickly, too.

        Norman is definitely famous, although (shamefully) I didn’t remember how to spell it. JLO wasn’t hard at all even not knowing the factoid. I needed a three-letter celeb ending O, and that was enough.

    • Dan says:

      GaryR: Agreed — I have no idea what “legitimize” means in this context.

  2. JohnH says:

    I liked the WSJ theme more than Jim and others, even if it all but necessarily entailed the dupe (in triplicate) NAME. It did seem marred, though, by the themers themselves. What do you bet you’ll never again see SURINAMESE, the place name that clued it, or BYNAME in that sense.

    Surely they could have used the more idiomatic “know by name” somehow. Cambridge dictionary online has some reasonable sounding examples, like staying at a hotel so often she knew the staff by name.

  3. David L says:

    NYT: I guessed that 1A would be WIMP or WUSS, and that immediately gave me WEARANDTEAR for 1D, so I got the trick immediately. Plain sailing after that.

    I don’t like the phrasing of the clue for SUZETTE as ‘one way to prepare crepes.’ I don’t think you would clue FRENCH or MELBA as ‘one way to prepare toast.’ Well, I wouldn’t, at least.

    And I don’t understand FELLOWS as ‘distinguished students.’ A fellow, in academic language, is someone who’s graduated, I think. I was such a person, a long time ago.

    Is singular ARREAR legit? Seems strange to me.

    • Flinty Steve says:

      A fellow can also be someone who has received a fellowship. Since fellowships are typically reserved for distinguished students, the clue fits.

    • Martin says:

      You don’t make French toast with toast. You do make crêpes Suzette with crêpes (and beurre Suzette). To my ear, it’s what make the clue ok. Like “one way to prepare steak is ‘au poivre’.”

      You are presumed to be studying when awarded a fellowship, so that seem fine too.

      “Arrear” is usually used in plural, but it’s not wrong to speak of “the arrear.”

      • David L says:

        I agree with your take on steak au poivre, because ‘au poivre’ is indeed a way of preparing a steak. But I still don’t care for the crepe clue, because a crepe Suzette is a certain style of crepe; ‘Suzette’ is not a method of preparation.

        As for fellowships, I was thinking of a research fellowship, which is what I had. I’m not all that familiar with the terminology of u/g education in the US.

  4. Lise says:

    Fireball: I’m wondering about the entry for 47D, CENTERS. The clue is “Hikes”. Is it a football reference? If so, it seems as though the two words are not the same part of speech, unless CENTERS is somehow a football verb or “Hikes” is somehow a football noun.

    Is there something I’m missing? Is it something else entirely? I feel a little obtuse.

    Otherwise, loved the puzzle. I always love a good rebus, and appreciated that the across rebus is different from the down.

    • PJ says:

      I have heard of centering the ball. Not very often, to be sure, but I have heard it. Hike is also a bit dated for that action. More often, the center (a player) snaps the ball to the quarterback.

      • Lise says:

        Thanks. I had never heard of centering the ball rather than snapping it. I do know the names of the positions, thanks.

        • PJ says:

          I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply you didn’t even though it sure looks like I did. Center doing a lot of work in this matter

  5. Dan says:

    NYT: Definitely a fun solve, with a theme I found quite easy to grok.

    And nice to see a word like OPALESCE as an answer.

    But while HEART-TO-HEART is perfectly OK, repeated entries generally strike me as inelegant.

    Three (3) instances of TEAR was for me two too many.

    • Eric H says:

      OPALESCE is a great word.

      I just wish I hadn’t stuck with iridESCE as long as I did.

  6. Margaret says:

    I hope Gareth is well, wondering about him with two missing days of LAT reviews.

  7. damefox says:

    Thanks for the write-up, Gareth! I was particularly pleased they left the “Abbott Elementary” reference in the clue for AVA. I think if I had submitted that clue even just a year ago, I would’ve gotten some pushback that it wasn’t noteworthy enough. Definitely worth filing away as a new angle for AVA. -EO

    • Eric H says:

      I enjoyed your puzzle.

      And it prepped me for 2D in the Friday NYT puzzle, “Titular elementary school on TV.” (I’ve heard of the show but have never seen it and had no idea about the character’s name.)


  8. Dan says:

    As a preteen I used to play the card game of Knucks with my friends, and a “noogie” was definitely no fun at all. I certainly would not call it “playful”.

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