Thursday, June 20, 2024

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 5:10 (Gareth) 


NYT 12:04 (ZDL) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 9:03 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Note: Fireball is a contest this week. We’ll post a review after the submission period closes.

Ella Dershowitz’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Tricky (12m04s)

Ella Dershowitz’s New York Times crossword, 6/20/24, 0620

Today’s theme: TRADE NAMES (Commercial identifiers … or what four pairs of answers must do in order to match their clues)

  • (LEA)VE <–> (ALI)ST

I flinched at LEA, more of a cattle-drive destination than a given name, but I’m sure that would rankle LEA Michele, so let it go.  Otherwise, I’ve swipped the swaps so you can swee how it swups —  transmogrified, for your solving pleasure.  

Cracking: MEOISIS, unless you’re not biology-adjacent, in which case, absolutely brutal, E-O-I, what?  Spell much?

SlackingSHMOO, yeesh, up there with Hagar’s dog (and fusty xword mainstay) Snert.

Sidetracking: CRISCO

Dennis Nullet’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A Little Something Extra”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases with ED mixed in somewhere. No, this is not a commercial for Viagra. Instead, the revealer is ADDED (69a, [Extra, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]), which could be re-parsed as ADD ED.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “A Little Something Extra” · Dennis Nullet · Thu., 6.20.24

  • 17a. [Hep politician?] FEDERAL CAT. Feral cat.
  • 23a. [Wineglasses?] SEDUCTION CUPS. Suction cups. Eww. Not keen on a clue implying using alcohol to get someone into bed.
  • 38a. [Zombie?] HALFWAY DECEDENT. Halfway decent. Cute.
  • 49a. [Debating professors?] PAIR OF PEDANTS. Pair of pants. I like this one, too.
  • 61a. [Standard fencing?] STOCK CEDAR. Stock car.

Other than the one clue, a solid theme. That first answer was a little ambiguous though. It was hard to tell if the added letters were ED or DE. Also, the title is too generic. After a brief search, I came up with “Con Ed” as an alternative. Whatcha think?

The long fill is halfway decent with GOLD CARDS at the top end and AFFIRMING just so-so. The rest of the fill is solid, but I liked the “IT’S ME” / “NOT I” stack in the SW.

Clues of note:

  • 64a. [X man, familiarly]. ELON. Bleh. I get the wordplay, but a superhero he’s not.
  • 6d. [Choice]. SELECT. I’m thinking both words are adjectives here rather than one being a noun and the other a verb.
  • 18d. [Orinoco flow?]. AGUA. Ooh, very nice clue. Sail away indeed.
  • 53d. [Looking down on one’s pursuers, perhaps]. TREED. This clue reminded me of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, though they weren’t TREED in that scene. “Who are those guys?”

3.5 stars.

Glenn Cook’s USA Today Crossword, “The Price is Right” — Emily’s write-up

Come on down!

alt=”Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday June 20, 2024”
USA Today, June 20, 2024, “The Price is Right” by Glenn Cook[/caption]

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday June 20, 2024

USA Today, June 20, 2024, “The Price is Right” by Glenn Cook

Theme: the last part (or “right” side) of each themer is a word related to “price”


  • 17a. [Potential to cause outrage], SHOCKVALUE
  • 38a. [“…was it worth it, though?”], BUTATWHATCOST
  • 59a. [Seize control of a situation], TAKECHARGE

Today’s themer set includes SHOCKVALUE, BUTATWHATCOST, and TAKECHARGE. The first two took a few crossings but the last filled easily.


Stumpers: GLASSY (need crossings—not heard) and PUCE (need crossings—forgot about this color)

A great grid which allowed for lengthy bonus fill and a nice theme. A good puzzle overall.

3.5 stars


Joseph Marquez’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Joseph Marquez delivers an imaginative theme interpretation: we get four BUCKETHATs. Hat types spelt out in circled bucket patterns: BEANIE, FEDORA, BOWLER, PANAMA.

The potential downside of this kind of theme is a lack of defined theme answers. The design chosen does incorporate other long answers though: NEOPRONOUN (wanted NEw), GOODTOKNOW, RAGNAROK, LETSROLL, BLUNTCUT (had pLUNT for a while) being the best. I also hadn’t encountered SEITAN before – it’s apparently extract of gluten, and yes I am pulling my face typing that.


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18 Responses to Thursday, June 20, 2024

  1. CC says:

    NYT: It’d also rankle Back to the Future, Caroline in the City, and Howard the Duck (among many others) actress Lea Thompson :)

  2. rob says:

    NYT: IMHO, this was an off the charts fantastic Thursday puzzle! If there is a XWord Puzzle Hall of Fame, this puzzle belongs there. It took me a while to figure this one out, but talk about an “aha” moment! So I really wonder about the relatively low ratings. I would love to hear Amy’s opinion/rating for this puzzle. She is usually spot on. On an unrelated note, RIP Willie Mays, the Say Hey Kid. He and I are birthday “twins” (we were both born on May 6).

    • Ethan says:

      Fabulous theme and i ranked it highly for that. But to be fair the fill is meh. SHMOO is awful. MEIOSIS, VALENCE, PENTADS, TEARIEST are all … blah. they’re fine. but certainly not sparkling. CSI, ITT, ONT, REI, USDA, ATV, ATTN … that’s a lot of abbreviations

    • Mutman says:

      I also found this to be an excellent puzzle! Took me at least half way to get the gimmick, but worth the ‘aha’.

      NW and NCentral were tough for me. Thought MYOSIS was the real spelling so that slowed me down.

    • David L says:

      I struggled with this one too but got there eventually. It would have been impossible without the circled letters. In addition to the clever trick, there was tricky cluing: RUN, INTENT, YEAST and some others. MEIOSIS and VALENCE were fine for me but unusual for a Thursday puzz. And I don’t understand why a PROMPT would be an inspiration for an essay writer. Unless the PROMPT is your editor telling you it’s two hours to deadline…

      • Eric H. says:

        Might the PROMPT be something like, “Write 500 words on the causes of the Boxer Rebellion”?

      • Gary R says:

        I believe some colleges/universities offer applicants PROMPTs for what they might write about in their application essays. Not entirely dissimilar to what Eric suggests, but maybe more personal – along the lines of “Write about an occasion when you overcame adversity.”

        • Eric H. says:

          I thought of the university admissions essay, too. But that’s not something I have personal experience with. The University of Texas didn’t require such essays in the 1970s, when I started there.

          • Gary R says:

            I only know of them from descriptions in the media – in my day, it was a HS transcript and an ACT/SAT score.

        • David L says:

          University applications sounds right but they are a tiny speck in my rear-view mirror!

      • JohnH says:

        I struggled, too, although I got the theme quite quickly. I also admire the puzzle a lot.

        Hard even to say what slowed me so much, but good for them. I didn’t know SHMOO or PHAT = Dope, didn’t remember ANACONDA as a boa, and somehow had trouble thinking of CSI as “collector” rather than the place of evidence. My hats off to anyone who can run a marathon thinking about time rather than just lasting. I kept thinking of “spare” or maybe “store” rather than ON ICE. Hesitated on the choice between mitosis and MEIOSIS. Never did make sense of PROMPT or BLASE. More as well.

  3. JohnH says:

    WSJ: To the contrary, I found the title generic only because it took me in, and I was both pleased and chagrined to discover that I had been wrong. It’s literally ADDED, but then ADD “ED” is specific indeed.

  4. Eric H. says:

    NYT: This was one of those where I just went with the flow, even when it was obvious that, says, “Kids’ menu go-with” wasn’t really CANNON. I filled in a lot from pattern recognition and trusted that it would be OK if the Downs made sense.

    I’m not sure it would have been harder to solve without the circles, but they were essential for understanding the trick.

    • Dallas says:

      I really got off on the wrong foot a few times… I dropped in CRAYON, but then had SPRAYED from the downs, which didn’t make much sense, so I thought the gimmick was the name repeated in each set of circles… which really gave me some trouble. When it came to the revealer, I put in TRADEMARKS … which didn’t really make any sense. It took a lot of puzzling to figure out what I had wrong and how to fix it, though I wasn’t familiar with the term “TRADENAMES.” I get the theme, of course, but it just isn’t a word I’d heard before.

  5. NYT: Funny. Today’s puzzle gave me flashbacks to Puzzle 5 from the 2019 ACPT, called “Trade Names,” where you had to swap names in adjacent Across entries to make sense of their clues. That one didn’t have circles, but the names swapped at the end of one entry and the start of the next one, like the apparent answers PHONE JACK and BILLETS being clued as though they were PHONE BILL and JACKETS.

    (I remember the 2019 ACPT puzzle because I wrote it. But I’d bet Ella thought of today’s theme without ever having seen mine; very little way to search for past ACPT puzzles, great minds think alike, etc.)

    • marciem says:

      No matter the inspiration, great minds it is, and this was a fun puzzle. My favorite Thursday twistie. I’d love to see YOUR version also :) .

  6. DougC says:

    NYT: This was an unusual Thursday in that the clues were trickier than the trick, which was a common swap-this-for-that gambit, made easier by the circles identifying the swaps. The revealer was so literal that (together with the circles) it gave the game away immediately. All that was left was to parse the trickier clues, some of which were more glancing blows than hit-the-nail-on-the-head like the revealer.

    For example: YESSIR for “Roger’s cousin?” Both affirmative replies, but used in very different contexts. Maybe second cousins? Also: SLEIGH for “Dancer’s haul”; this is probably the least common usage of “haul” and one I would not ordinarily associate with Santa’s freight line. Cute.

    For those not of an age to remember Al Capp: I feel your pain. I know what it’s like to have no idea about today’s pop culture. But SHMOO was a gimme for me, and that helped me a lot in the NW. But I wonder: how did the (relatively) young Ms. Dershowitz come up with this? I suspect a computer word list.

    So: tricky, fun, but easier than a puzzle with a proper Thursday trick, IMO. I finished well under my Thursday average time.

    • Lois says:

      My process was similar to DougC’s. I found the whole thing difficult, but finishing off the hard clues was tougher still, though fun. I’m horrid in science, and didn’t see how “valence” could be a kind [of electrons], but I guess I understand now. All very good.

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