Thursday, July 4, 2024

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 5:47 (Gareth) 


NYT 8:17 (ZDL) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 10:24 (Emily) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Note: No WSJ puzzle due to the holiday.

Joe Rodini’s Fireball Crossword, “Nature of the Beast” – Jenni’s write-up

I almost missed the complexity of this theme. It’s so much more than I originally noticed.

There are four theme answers, or so I thought.

Fireball Crossword, July 3, 2024, Joe Rodini, “Nature of the Beast,” solution grid

  • 11d [Creature that uses camouflage and electrosensors] is a LEMON SHARK.
  • 17a [Passover condiment] is HORSERADISH.
  • 27a [Mascot of the University of California, Santa Cruz] is the BANANA SLUG.
  • 61a [Shrub of the Pacific Coast] is the SALMONBERRY.

That’s fun! Each one has a plant and an animal. The Down answers have the plant first and the Across answers have the animal first. Cute! But wait! there’s more! 40a is [This puzzle’s theme]. I filled it in from crossings and got FLORA. Hmm. Seems like that’s only half of it. So I looked for the other half – and it’s right there. 29d [Thrash] can be BEAT or BELT. 30d [Outcompete, in a way] can be  TROMP or TRUMP and 35d [Some bank deposits] can be ONES or ORES, which means the theme is both FLORA and FAUNA. So good!

A few other things:

  • 1a [Creator of Flanders] is DEFOE. Moll Flanders. Sometimes that English degree comes in handy.
  • 6a [Cutesy farewells] is TATAS, which is clunky and oh so much better than the slang for breasts. Thank you.
  • 21a [Oscar-winning role for Hoffman] is CAPOTE. Philip Seymour, not Dustin.
  • We get [___ Minor] twice: URSA and ASIA.
  • SKOSH is a fun word.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of the SALMONBERRY. Also never heard of RENE Caovilla.

Adam Vincent’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Easy (8m17s)

Adam Vincent’s New York Times crossword, 7/4/24, 0704

Today’s theme: HOLD ON TO YOUR HAT (“Get ready!” … or what to do upon hearing the ends of the answers to the starred clues?)

  • BOR ohhhhhh
  • SEN sayyyyyy
  • SPO cannnnn
  • MIL youuuuu
  • ODY seeeeeee

The subtle vexillography in the grid art is a nice touch.  May your grommets be strong and your finials be glorious — so says the Flag Day card I’ll be sending out this holiday season, because I’m an iconoclast.  I’m also not West Coast-adjacent enough to remember that they don’t pronounce it SPO kane, so I sat there for a minute trying to parse uff say kane yoo si-see?

Cracking: here’s to my favorite MOORISH beauty, the Royal Hawaiian, Pink Palace of the Pacific, and the most iconic architecture in Waikiki beach (or Oahu in general)


Sidetracking: the best version of the ODYSSEY

Jared Goudsmit’s USA Today Crossword, “USA Today” — Emily’s write-up

Happy 4th!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday July 04, 2024

USA Today, July 04, 2024, “USA Today” by Jared Goudsmit

Theme: the themers end in –YOU, –ESS, and –EH (sounding like USA)


  • 17a. [“Enough! We aren’t buddies anymore!”], IVEHADITWITHYOU
  • 36a. [“I Am Not This Body” photographer], BARBARAESS
  • 48a. [“So we’re dealing with a real smart aleck, hm?”], OHAWISEGUYEH

The themer set today includes IVEHADITWITHYOU, BARBARAESS, and OHAWISEGUYEH. h/t to Sally for her write-up that clued me in on the theme.


Stumpers: SESH (needed crossings) and OTOE (new to me)

Enjoyed the grid and flow of the puzzle today.  Everything was crossed fairly so though it took me a bit longer than usual, nothing was too tricky. Lots of wonderful bonus too!

For everyone celebrating the 4th of July–have fun and stay safe!

4.0 stars


Tom Pepper & Zhouqin Burnikel’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Tom Pepper & Zhouqin Burnikel’s puzzle involves adding the bigram YO to four entries. Oddly, there is no cute explaining answer anywhere I can find…

  • [Hatha to Ashtanga?], YO.GASRANGE. I didn’t know Ashtanga was a form of yoga.
  • [Stuffed teddies that look like a green Jedi master?], YO.DABEARS. Da Bears seems to be a nickname for the Chicago Bears?
  • [Tex-Mex snack that improves the performance of an Alpine singer?], YO.DELTACO. Had to remind myself what Del Taco was, not a car part chain. Can’t figure what I was thinking of…
  • [Dice toss style named after a “Hamlet” jester?], YO.RICKROLL

The one advantage of no cutesy explanatory entry is an old-school count of 38 thematic letters, so there’s more space for the rest of the puzzle. Fun answers included BANANAPEEL, LEAPFROG, TURFTOE and GOAWRY


  • [Writer Mary who specializes in popular science], ROACH. I’m mostly familiar with her 90’s Reader’s Digest columns, which, at least initially, were more general humour.
  • [Toe bean locale], PAW. I’m so weirdly pleased to see the phrase “toe bean” get crossword puzzle stamp of approval. It is often repeated to the tune of “Jolene”…
  • [Condition often treated with ERP], OCD. Apparently that’s “exposure and response prevention”
  • [__ Spunkmeyer cookies], OTIS. That sounds… soggy and unappealing.


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37 Responses to Thursday, July 4, 2024

  1. Dan says:

    NYT: I have no idea what the theme was, but I have zero motivation to learn what it was.

    (The only themes I care about are ones that affect solving, and this didn’t.)

    • Martin says:

      I loved it because it makes people pronounce “Spokane” correctly.

      • Katie says:

        True that. :-]
        (If you get the theme, anyway…)

        • Katie says:

          I liked this a lot (and was wary of posting spoilers). When I saw the grid, I was reminded of Evan Birnholz’ WaPo, this last Sunday (with similar symmetry, so you’re thinking “something interesting is up here”, maybe with a one-two punch deal??)

          But – I also empathize that many people will not be “tickled” by that… First, get the theme revealer – then – wait for it, look for it, uh – AHA! – ohhhh, neato! – on the right side. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

          Happy 4th, everyone!

      • Dallas says:

        Had to come here to get the theme… it didn’t help with my solving since I didn’t get it; I made the mistake of trying to do something with just the letters in grey, as opposed to the *sounds* in the grey… pretty cute! Happy 4th of July everybody!

    • rob says:

      NYT: Even after finishing the puzzle and reading ZDL’s write-up and these comments , I still have no idea what the theme is. Could someone please enlighten me? Much appreciated!

      • pannonica says:


        Those syllables, as pronounced in their host words, render phonetically the opening of “The Star Spangled Banner”. It’s customary to remove one’s hat for the recitation of the national anthem.

    • JohnH says:

      It was pretty much a themeless puzzle for me, too, which isn’t to my taste, although I know plenty here prefer it that way. Maybe if we still wore hats and so held them to our chest rather than a palm (or maybe not even that), I’d have seen what’s going on earlier. Nice use of the grid, though.

  2. pannonica says:

    NYT: A real “that’s it?” experience.

    • PJ says:

      Let’s break out the booze and have a ball

    • marciem says:


      Not a terrible solve overall but, on getting the theme… as you said.. “That’s it?”

      (hated “awardee” as clued… not incorrect but who says that? “…And the AWARDEE is…” nope)

    • Gary R says:

      I think it would have been better if this puzzle had run last year, when the 4th was on a Tuesday. The theme is cute, but a little disappointing for a Thursday puzzle.

      I thought the fill was pretty good, but I wish the cluing had been a little more challenging.

      • DougC says:

        +1. A near PB for me. Cute, but really, really easy.

      • JohnH says:

        It wasn’t Tuesday level for me at all, but maybe it I’d been to Six Flags, fed a baby, knew more about Aussies and flycatchers, etc. and pronounced MILEU differently. Oh, do peepers other than eyes normally make a sound? I stared at that one once a got it for a long time.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          Spring peepers (frogs) sure do! They’re quite pervasive in the eastern half of the US. Also, if you “make a peep”, you make a sound and you might be called a peeper.

    • Katie says:

      @pannonica: LOL. Again, I empathize with anyone’s opinions here!

      After the solve, I was confused on the unusual grid symmetry. Was/is it supposed to look like something? (Like – um – a flag? With stripes? and/or a flag pole?) Um. Just a sec…

      [Going to Wordplay here – brb…] Ah, yes. Constructor note sez: “Out of the variations I tried, I liked this layout the best because it resulted in the cleanest fill and also (to my eyes) it sort of evokes a waving flag.”

      Sort of? [Or not?] What do you think?? (Maybe the grid needed to turn red and white, vs black and white, after the solve?)

  3. David L says:

    As is so often the case, a puzzle that depends on pronunciation causes some problems. I say the -OUGH of BOROUGH as a schwa and the -IEO of MILIEU in Frenchy style, so those two didn’t quite work. But I understand that typical American pronunciation would be different.

    64A: I don’t understand how ‘register’ means REALIZE. If you realize something, you might say it registers on you, but the words are not interchangeable, to my mind. Is there a different meaning I’m missing?

    Oh, and ‘Ohio’ looks like a tractor? ORLY? There’s even a picture on the NYT website but I can’t see the resemblance.

    • pannonica says:

      register is an intransitive verb as well as a transitive one.

      • something like this?

      • David L says:

        That’s pretty good with the tractor illustration but it’s not something I would have ever come up with.

        I still don’t understand the register-realize equivalence. I registered to vote. The covid test registered a positive result. Realize doesn’t work in either of those.

    • Eric H. says:

      The picture of a tractor accompanying the Wordplay needs to be flopped so that the rear wheels are on the left. As it is, it depicts ohiO (and it still takes some imagination).

    • huda says:

      @ David L. I’m with you re pronunciation, plus I have an accent and learned French as a child, way before English. So, MILIEU in my mind absolutely doesn’t rhyme with “you”. And I sort of knew there were 2 ways to say SPOKANE, but when highlighted like this, it definitely read like citizen Kane.
      I think your take on register/realize is correct— seems to be a type of tricky cluing, to focus on a very specific, sometimes rare, meaning where 2 words intersect.

      • Martin says:


        Respectively, there is only one way to say Spokane.

        • Gary R says:

          Respectfully, two ways – right way, wrong way. ;-)

          • huda says:

            Haha, I’m sure that’s true. It’s just that both were options in my head…

            • Gary R says:

              I think there are other Spokanes in the U.S. (though the clue clearly refers to the one in Washington), and it’s possible some of the others use a different pronunciation.

              Don’t know if Ann Arbor is close enough that you ever hear of CharLOTTE, Michigan.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      FWIW, I spent my first 22 years and my last 4 living in Ohio, but had no idea what the tractor clue meant. I even asked Mom about it and she’s lived all of her nearly 86 years here and didn’t know what it meant either.

      OTOH, it only took a moment or two for me to register that register can be a synonym for REALIZE.

  4. Katie says:

    Ohio — Interesting this is a recent reddit thread. (Coincidence?)

  5. Gumby says:

    NYT. Had absolutely no clue what was going on and had to read about it here and then felt like HUH? Oh well. Whatever. Not my favorite.

  6. Lesie says:

    I don’t know if anyone will see this, or reply, but crumb … I really wish I could figure it out, or if someone would explain to me, the theme of July 4 Universal crossword Head of State By Ricky Sirois??? It’s driving me nuts. Many thanks!

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Theme answers are SCRAP METAL, MOTOWN RECORDS, and INSIDE JOBS. Each one starts with a two-letter state abbreviation which is hinted at by the cities in the clues.

      SCRAP METAL should be read as SC (South Carolina) RAP-METAL clued as [Fusion genre popular in Myrtle Beach and Charleston?].

      MO (Missouri) TOWN RECORDS is clued as [Census data from Columbia and Joplin?].

      IN (Indiana) SIDE JOBS is clued [Part-time opportunities for residents of Fort Wayne and Muncie?]

  7. Leslie says:

    PS: Typo on my name … I meant to type Leslie

  8. Leslie says:

    Jim Peredo,
    You’re an absolute saint. Thank you so much. I woulda never figured it. I’m usually pretty good at getting the theme, but I had a block on this one. You explained it beautifully. You’re a doll.

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