Muse invoked in Paradise Lose / THU 5-18-17 / StarKist competitor / Subject of Chekhov's Cherry Orchard / Island capital named for European royal house

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Constructor: Jacob Stulberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: WHY (did the CHICKEN cross the ROAD)? (37A: Question raised by four squares in this puzzle?) — four squares contain ROAD in the Down and CHICKEN in the Across:

Theme answers:
  • OFF-ROAD (1D: Where all-terrain vehicles go) / CHICKEN OF THE SEA (19A: StarKist competitor)
  • ACCESS ROAD (15D: Highway adjacent to a throughway) / CHICKEN WIRE (39A: Coop material)
  • ROAD RUNNER (36D: Noted Warner Bros. toon) / PLAY CHICKEN (35A: Risk mutual destruction, say)
  • ROAD MAP (63D: Plan for achieving a long-term goal) / NO SPRING CHICKEN (60A: Person getting up there in years)
Word of the Day: SEPTA (4D: BART : San Francisco :: ___ : Philadelphia) —
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is a regional public transportation authority[4] that operates various forms of public transit services—bus, subway and elevated rail, commuter rail, light rail and electric trolleybus—that serve 3.9 million people in five counties in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. SEPTA also manages construction projects that maintain, replace, and expand infrastructure and rolling stock. (wikipedia)
• • •

Enjoyable! It's always easy to exclaim that when you pick up the gimmick almost immediately, but I've hated many puzzles I've figured out early, so I don't think solver's euphoria is clouding my judgment too much. I think my favorite part of the puzzle is the lone, existential, ennui-ridden WHY? in the center of the grid. It is the question I ask most of puzzles, usually with a pained or confused look on my face. "WHY ... is that theme answer not like the others? WHY ... is this plural suffix (!?) in my grid? WHY ... are you doing this to me?" The theme squares were symmetrical, which on the one hand is neat (as in "tidy"), and on the other is totally unnecessary in a rebus puzzle. Part of the challenge is figuring out where those pesky things are. No reason finding one should allow you automatically to find the other. But honestly, in the middle of solving, my brain didn't even pick up the symmetry. It was too easy a puzzle. I don't usually stop and reflect unless I'm getting Pummeled, and the only *real* issue I had today was a totally self-inflicted, not-stopping-and-reflecting wound at 7D: "y = 2x," e.g. (LINE). Had the "I" and the "E" and saw the clue was mathy and wrote in SINE and the ****ing "I" was correct, so I tried to make myself believe that BASE could work for 5A: Assemble in a field, say (BALE), before finally seeing my problem, ugh.

Couldn't work the Acrosses at first in the NE, but then the puzzle threw a "Paradise Lost" clue at me, which is like throwing a hanging curve over the fat middle of the plate. URANIA! (11D: Muse invoked in "Paradise Lost") After that, except for SAT instead of LAY (29A: Was idle), no problems. Nearly came unglued at the end, in the SW, where I threw *two* wrong Acrosses down—for ---IN, I wrote SATIN (instead of SKEIN (59A: Fabric store purchase)), and for ---LE, I wrote STOLE (instead of SIDLE (64A: Move furtively, in a way) (misread the verb tense, ugh). But URANIA was smiling ... down? ... on me once again, as *both* of those errors ended up giving me correct initial letters, which meant NASSAU was easy (48D: Island capital named for a European royal house), which meant my double-error was actually easily findable and correctable. Win some, lose some, cross the road, move on.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


BarbieBarbie 7:03 AM  

Liked it. A first for me: a DNF even though I got all the answers. The math-related misdirects in the N had me deleting and then re-entering correct answers, and finally giving up. Made me smile once I saw what had messed my brain up. For one thing, crossing AXES with AXIS... Brilliant. Thanks for. Fun puzzle. Love you hose rebuses... Or rebusses... Or rebi...!

QuasiMojo 7:05 AM  

I am sure some may feel CROSS by this CHICKEN/ROAD joke. But I thought it was pretty funny. I clucked my way through it without any "hurdles", once I got past the BAR EXAM, but, despite feeling SMUG, I ended up with a sad DNF due to the BASE/SINE issue that Rex saw but overcame. If I hadn't done this by hand today, I might have noticed the error.

That said, I wondered about REAM for stack of paper. A ream, I thought, was 500 sheets of paper? Or is that just some marketing gimmick? A Staples staple? And can one be the most insane? I imagine it would be hard to ESTimate to any degree. Although I can name a few candidates for the title.

BarbieBarbie 7:05 AM  

Sorry, autocorrect issues, no idea how to delete and try again

Forsythia 7:09 AM  

Loved getting this! I always pulled for Wiley Coyote over the SMUG ROAD RUNNER. Wanted thelsAts instead of BAREXAM because of BEAUs instead of X for plural. NOd seemed more of a cue than NOW, and I don't know those Simpson characters (need to make a list and learn them I guess if I cared enough). The Chattanooga is a little stream behind my sister's house in north Georgia, not so much in ATLANTA. Not a fan of INSANEST...usually "That's the most insane thing ever!" I had just read an article about tuna companies being accused of price setting so the names were front and center. Beep Beep...I'm out of here!

Robert S. Mueller III 7:10 AM  

47a is apt.

FPBear 7:13 AM  

Much fun. Easy for Thursday. I'm a slow solver and I broke 10.

Glimmerglass 7:13 AM  

Wow! I'm first? Early anyway. I thought this was a great puzzle. I got the two-headed rebus early, but didn't think of the old joke until the three-letter revealer, which I happened to get to late. A genuine AHA moment. I loved it. The theme made gimmes out of huge chunks of the grid, but the fill was hard enough in places that this was at least "medium" for me. As I was coming here, I was thinking that I'd hate it if @Rex panned the puzzle. I was pleased that he did not. Good write-up, Rex.

Aketi 7:15 AM  

WHY is Rex happy with the puzzle today? No ANGER. He even put cute CHICKEN heads in the squares! I feel like I could SWOON or FLIP with joy; like I hit the TRIFECTA.

Meanwhile, I solved this early in the morning and was so delighted I couldn't wait for today's comments. Instead of refreshing the blog link every five seconds to see if comments were up, I discovered the Crossy ROAD app and wasted precious moments of my life becoming ROAD kill as a CHICKEN. Despite dying a STAGgering number of times, I played enough to unlock a kangaroo and a cockatoo if I choose to die as other life forms. Must. Delete. App.

Loren Muse Smith 7:16 AM  

“So I don't think solver's euphoria is clouding my judgment too much.” Rex – you are regularly accused of many things, but having solver’s euphoria is never on the table.

What a great idea, this. After forever I saw the NO SPRING CHICKEN/ROAD MAP but even then it took some work to suss out the other CHICKEN/ROAD crosses. The hardest was the CHICKEN OF THE SEA because in my mind I had melded Starkist with CHICKEN OF THE SEA – like it was all one company. Obviously, I don’t eat a lot of tuna.

Rex, @QuasiMojo, and a cast of thousands - I came This close to a dnf because I had “exes” (out) for AXES, so BALE, LINE, and RENT weren’t apparent.

Loved PENPALS. I remember receiving the name and address of my pen-pal in tenth grade, a M. Philippe Gachet from Calais, France. When I got his first letter, experienced for the first time the onionskinsomely-thin airmail stationery, the stamp, his exotic handwriting, the ONES that looked like upside-down V’s, I felt dizzy with my newfound sophistication.

Cool that BEAUX and NOVAE have their native plurals.

The clue for ESL threw me. I have a good friend, a Cypriot, who’s a fancy schmancy diplomat, and his English is better than mine. So’s his French. And German. Καλημέρα, Minas.

On my way home from work, I drive past several houses that have chickens. I always marvel that they in fact do not cross the road. They just hang out where they’re supposed to. What. Did someone sit down and explain things to them? Show’em pictures of the rabbits, possums, raccoons, deer, and groundhogs who made it only halfway across the road? I never thought about it, but I guess my question is Why didn’t the chicken cross the road?

Terrific Thursday, Jacob. Cool rebus.

Aketi 7:26 AM  

I love PLAY CHICKEN as a ROADRUNNER. Sums up the Crossy ROAD app game.

GHarris 7:27 AM  

Got road rebus right off the first down clue but took longer to realize chicken went in the same squares. Even getting the theme, which helped in some instances, still had a problem in the middle north and had to resort to check square a couple of times. Still don't believe axes is an appropriate answer and don't understand why the formula or equation is called a line.

kitshef 7:31 AM  

I know we have a few regular posters who just don't like rebodes, and they will not be happy today.

For everyone else, wasn't this a hoot?

In addition to the magnificent them, some cool words like SKEIN and SIDLE, TRIFECTA and NEHRU.

Only negatives were MSGS, ESL and INSANEST.

Aketi 7:32 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aketi 7:34 AM  

@GHarris, that was the equation for a straight line with a slope of 2.

kitshef 7:37 AM  

@Gharris - if you plot y = 2x on a graph, you get a straight LINE.

"The CFO wanted to AX the the dental plan".
"The CFO wanted to SCRAP the dental plan".

smalltowndoc 7:43 AM  

Loved this puzzle! What a clever rebus theme. The theme answers are all common, "real" terms. The WHY in the middle was awesome.
Very little dreck (with the exception of INSANEST, but easy to get).

Unlike Rex, URANIA was not a gimme for me. I've never been able to memorize the muses, Erato being the only one that ever comes to mind. Hmm... maybe in my spare time, I'll come up with a mnemonic for the Muses. Kind of like medical students use to memorize the cranial nerves or bones of the wrist (wow, can't believe how long ago that was!)

Went OFFROAD for the first time last year on a Rubicon trail with a Jeep you won't find in any showroom! Incredible fun!

Hungry Mother 7:56 AM  

Loved it! Mostly wordplay instead of trivia. Rebus fun.

r.alphbunker 8:05 AM  

44D. {Aesop character} ASS-->ANT

Details are here.

Z 8:11 AM  

Isn't it "rebopode?" he asks SMUGly.

I've no idea how to fit a chicken crossing a road into that little box, so I left those squares blank and wondered what sort of troubles online solvers were going to have.

My only plaint, and it is a small one, is that the placement of the rebopodes left the NE and SW themeless. I had the entire opposing diagonal filled, the rebopodes identified, but nary a letter in those two corners. I felt like I should have been done but I still had a good fifth of the puzzle to fill in.

WHY in the center could have made this the most emo puzzle ever, but it is way too cheerful to go around frowning in black make-up.

RAD2626 8:12 AM  

Best puzzle of the week by far. Got the gimmick right OFF in the NW but had no idea why there would be a CHICKEN and ROAD rebus until I hit the ACCESS ROAD. Even wrote in CHICKEN Little at first. Duh. Clever theme. Good fill. Pretty straightforward cluing. Fun solve.

oldlab 8:19 AM  

Hmm. x, y, OR z would be axis. Should have been clued AND, IMHO.

Mr. B 8:20 AM  

*sigh* I shoulda paid more attention in Algebra class...had sINE instead of DNF for me today.
But despite that, I really enjoyed the puzzle which played medium for me. Had a good chuckle when I got the gimmick at the OFFROAD and CHICKENOFTHESEA crossing...liked getting NOSPRINGCHICKEN too.

*sigh* Oh well, time to start another streak tomorrow !!!

Thank you Mr. Stulberg.
Have a wonderful weekend all...

Bill Feeney 8:22 AM  

...that onionskin paper noise as you opened the exotic airmail envelope...I too have wondered why those darn chickens just kept pecking by the side of the road as you zoomed by.

J.W. 8:28 AM  

Puzzle was decent. Picked up on the rebus quickly which made it a lot more fun than my usual struggles with them. I'm using the app, though, and can't figure out how to actually enter the correct answers into the rebus square. Any tips?

jason 8:28 AM  

Never thought of Atlandta as a river city. A trip to the map tells me why. The Chatachoochee is about 4-5 miles out of town. You're halfway to Marietta when you cross it on I-75. I call shenanigans.

mmorgan 8:29 AM  

In the placement of the first theme answer, the ROAD is "above" the CHICKEN, while in the second, the CHICKEN is above the ROAD, and then it switches again for the third, and again for the fourth. So the CHICKEN keep "crossing" the ROAD.

Or am I reading too much into this?

Forsythia 8:46 AM  

@ J,W. Online in the NYT I clicked the rebus button above right of the puzzle and typed in CHICKEN and ROAD and it worked. I wasn't sure if I had to be consistent in order for across/down to matter but it didn't seem that way. But I got the happy music.

Well, chickens in NE Ohio aren't as smart as LMS'. One popped out of a yard into my car (broke a front light) as I sped down a long stretch of back road. Fortunately one a parallel road late at night coming back from work, I dodged the white apparition in time which turned out to be a black and white cow (are those Holstein's?)moseying down the middle of the road. It would have been more than a broken light if I had hit it. WHY don't we ever ask WHY the cows cross the road??

Tita A 8:47 AM  

@BarbieB...nice pickup on the AXES/AXIS Xing.
@lms for the native plural pickup. what will @Anoa think of highbrow PoCs get a pass?

Oh frabjous day! Not just a Thursday rebus, but such a fun and clever one on multiple levels.
I got CHICKEN too early...was disappointed to have guessed the theme so quickly.
But the ROAD eluded me for a good long time.
When CHICKEN wasn't the down answer, then I thought EGG??


Now Mr. Stulberg...get going on building that coop you mentioned at 39A!

Two Ponies 8:52 AM  

I'm a rebus fan, always hopeful on a Thursday.
This one made me happy. Like @Z, I was looking for more
crossings in the NE and SW but the Why in the middle
was so satisfying that all was forgiven.

Now off to find out about Nassau.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) 8:52 AM  

Oh yes... this was nice. Had the sine/base mistake and didn't even notice . And Why? ... because the fun was back. Hooray. Thank you to all who explained yesterday's theme ... it was so easy to see after good teachers explained it all.

wgh 8:57 AM  

This was good. I love the ones that stubbornly refuse progress until you have that AHA moment.

Anne Meilof 9:03 AM  

If I wanted a SKEIN, I'd go to a yarn shop, not a fabric store.

Lindsay 9:05 AM  

Like everyone else, I thought this was a great puzzle, though I was slowed considerably by supposing the question was "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" This almost makes sense in the SE, if you think 63D Plan for achieving a long-term goal might be a nest egg. Except nest egg doesn't fit, even as a rebus.

Tons of errors unrelated to the theme:

UpTUNED >>> UNTUNED (non-musical person making stuff up)
knee Bone >>> POLO BALL (despite having played polo in college)
sAt >>>LAY

And I finished with the BAsE/sINE mistake.

Mohair Sam 9:13 AM  

Caught the trick right off the bat. Live near Philly (SEPTA), am an old race track denizen (TRIFECTA), love tuna - so that's gotta be ChickenOFTHESEA. Found the other three in a hurry, plopped in the WHY. How smart were we? Not very. DNF'd in the North central because I insisted the question mark precluded BAR exam (I figured that was the hurdliest of all legal hurdles), couldn't think AXES for scraps, forgot the simple LINE formula, and know not that particular Chekov.

That said, it was a delightfully clued Thursday and a really clever rebus.
Embarrassed that I missed "Studio figure" because I wouldn't allow "R", and more so that I missed bale, having been involved in the creation of many a bale of hay. Chattahoochee, Peedee, Choctawhatchee - I love the names of those Southern rivers - y'all remember where Billy Joe McAllister jumped?

Nastiest day of work I ever spent was putting up hundreds and hundreds of BALEs of hay in the hay mow of an old barn one hot August afternoon. Most pleasant day of work I ever spent was in the seat of an old Massey 235 tractor towing a hay rake and turning over wind rows of timothy hay one sunny June day to dry it out to be BALEd in the next day or two.

Great Thursday Jacob Stulberg, loved it.

Tita A 9:16 AM  

Not so comes my CHICKEN story.
When my parents lived in the Paris suburbs, they, along with all their neighbors, kept chickens. it was not just normal, but de rigeur.
One of the chickens would regularly fly the coop. She would be gone for a few days, then suddenly, with a big flurry of not-so-effective wings, she would appear at the top of the 8' wall surrounding their garden, and saunter back home.
It remained a mystery to them where she would go off to. They renamed her "La Traviata".

They didn't ask "WHY". Rather, they asked "Where?"

@Anne...SKEIN clue bugged me too, but threads can be sold in them. Still, you would find that in an embroidery store more than a fabric store. Besides, the point is rapidly becoming moot, as there are precious few honest-to-god fabric stores left.

@Lindsay...did you play Elephant Polo??!

Nancy 9:18 AM  

The *Aha Moment* for me in this absolutely scrumptious puzzle was so powerful that I wanted to jump up from my chair, stick my head out the window and shout "Aha". (Sort of like Peter Finch in "Network", only much happier.) Until I saw the gimmick, there wasn't a chance in hell I was going to solve this thing. Even after I had the WHY at 37A, I was baffled. WHY do you risk mutual destruction when you PLAY Y? Who's that toon at 35D? Obviously one I never heard of. gRUNNER? bRUNNER? pRUNNER? Certainly it couldn't be yRUNNER. And then I saw the trick. So clever! So witty! So unexpected! And I sailed through all the stuff I couldn't initially get -- though I continued to struggle in the middle North, where ORTS instead of AXES at 6D was making things really hard for me. I had no idea that y=2x is a LINE. Did I know that at one time? Had I simply forgotten it? Or did I never know it in the first place? Anyway, sorry @mathgent. Anyway, I just loved this puzzle to death.

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

I usually agree with the masses but I HATED this puzzle. Glad everyone else enjoyed it though.

Kim Scudera 9:42 AM  

Enjoyed every bit of this but the clue for SKEIN (@Anne Meilof), which seemed quite off to me: SKEINs are purchased in a yarn store, satin or (a) spool (of thread) in a fabric store. One can find a SKEIN of thread on the loom, but I've never seen a SKEIN of thread in a fabric store. @Tita, can you enlighten?

Sir Hillary 9:43 AM  

Nice rebus puzzle -- feels original. However, it's fair to ask WHY the awful INSANEST is in the grid. The answer is, because the CHICKEN crossed the ROAD four times.

Only write-overs were SatIN and BEAUs. The former was corrected quickly, but the latter killed me. I was nowhere on that 4x4 section in the north, despite having ESEA in the bottom row. That's because ---ESAM meant nothing to me at 5D. Finally, I swapped out S for X (does anyone really write BEAUX in English? I'm skeptical). Even then, the high-school-math-iness of AXIS and LINE made for a long finish.

All told though...Originality? Check...Decently clean fill? Check...Fun to solve? Check. There's your TRIFECTA.

GHarris 9:47 AM  

Thank you my math savvy responders kitshef and alkeli. I get the connection between scrap and ax but still maintain their connection is tenuous.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

As many other have noted, a SKEIN is sold in a yarn store, not in a fabric store.

mathgent 9:55 AM  

Great one! Loved it to death.

@Nancy, I knew that you would love it. Don't feel too bad about the clue for LINE, it's not correct. y=2x is an equation, but equations don't have graphs. Functions do. The equation y=2x defines a function whose graph is a line. Not equivalent to saying that it is a line.

I'm surprised that there hasn't been much criticism of INSANEST. Sensitivity issues aside, the clue is extremely clumsy.

I love SWOON. A few years back the San Francisco Giants would generally start June on a losing streak. It was called the June Swoon.

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

oldlab said...
Hmm. x, y, OR z would be axis. Should have been clued AND, IMHO.

The answer IS axis.

Charles Flaster 10:00 AM  

Agree with Rex wholeheartedly!
Liked cluing for SIDLE, PLAY CHICKEN, and the misdirect for TOENAIL.
Totally in my wheelhouse-- math teacher who lived in Philadelphia area.
Thanks JS

AW 10:00 AM  

I hate, hate, hate rebus puzzles because I have no idea they're coming. No clue. I could see 19A OF THE SEA, but where was the CHICKEN? Never thought to click on the Rebus button in the online solver. Phooey! And what's up with 27D NOW ("common cue")? WTF? The clues were so vague (59A "fabric store purchase"; 10D "guide") that I gave up and just started clicking on Reveal Word in a huff, imagining a SMUG smirk on the puzzle maker's face.

Roo Monster 10:04 AM  

Hey All!
I'm actually surprised Rex didn't pan this. Especially with the WHY as the revealer. It's like dangling a steak in front of a lion. Thought he say "WHY? WHY this?"

Thought this was a good puz, not as enamored as some of y'all, but cramming two rebi in one is at least different. Also left the squares blank, and wrote CHICKEN ROAD on the outside of puz. Liked mmorgan 8:29 assessment of the flip-flopping CHICKEN ROAD as another theme layer. (Ha, Layer!)

N center was my downfall. Had BEAUs because X is ridiculous, so couldn't see BAREXAM. Finally got fed up, so just inserted letters to finish, and ended up with
cAvEsAM! That may be my best wrong yet!

Rest of puz easy-medium. Writeovers were sAt-LAY, USps-USDA.

Fun to read themers opposite.


Lewis 10:12 AM  

Lots of fun and a workshop in putting misdirection in clues. To wit:

In the clue for MANUAL, I initially saw "guide" as a verb.
In the clue for YEN, I initially saw "aching" as pain.
In the clue for VIRUS, I initially saw BUG as a verb.
In the clue for USDA, I initially saw "stamp" as a postage item.
In the clue for AXES, I initially saw "scraps" as a noun.
In the clue for RENT, I initially saw "figure" as a person and "studio" as a place to produce art or music.

These were all fixed soon enough, each fix with an "aha!", punctuating an already fun-themed puzzle with beaucoup de joie.

GILL I. 10:15 AM  

Y=2X is exactly WHY I hated Algebra....!
Loved the puzzle because I loved all the elephant and chicken and cow jokes when I was young and stupid.
@Forsythia...There IS a cow one. Does this ring a bell? "To Get To the Udder side..."
ACCESS ROAD CHICKEN WIRE made me laugh. I wanted to yell like @Nancy, but everyone is still asleep. I can be pleased so easily. The ROADRUNNER made me cry when I was pregnant with my first. Every time that anvil fell on his head and squishing him to death, I'd burst out in sobs. I think there's a name for that disorder.
Everyone around here has chickens. You can't have a rooster unless you live in WV. I love the plucking clucking sounds and the names people give them. My favorite is Pot Pie.
The Cherry Orchard was required reading but all I remembered about it was a Cherry Orchard. Surfs and plebes and war and envy were thoughts before I finally got ESTATE.
Last to go in was that damn LINE. Thank you cute AXIS AXES for helping me finish this fun Thursday.

Stanley Hudson 10:20 AM  

As someone who as a youth raised a lot of chickens and like @Mohair Sam baled a bunch of hay, I really liked this one.

Joseph Welling 10:22 AM  

Solved easy for a Thursday (and I normally really don't get along well with Thursdays). I thought the theme was cute, but I have a minor quibble: Why did THE CHICKEN cross THE ROAD? not Why did CHICKEN cross ROAD? Addressing this would make the theme really tough to pull off.

Lindsay 10:28 AM  

@ Tita ..... no elephants, just ponies. Skidmore had a polo team back in the 80s (I do feel foolish typing that, having just read yet another article in the NYT about college debt).

I only played a year but still have two mallets hanging in my garage, so a total face-palm when I realized my error.

Nancy 10:35 AM  

You've heard of counting chickens. Well, I've been spending the last couple of minutes counting people on the blog who either have chickens or used to have chickens or live in places where their neighbors have chickens or used to live in places where their neighbors had chickens. So far I'm up to five people: @Loren, @forsythia, @Tita, @GILL and @Stanley Hudson. And the day's still young. I absolutely love the geographical diversity of this blog. To the best of my knowledge, I have never known anyone in my entire life who's had/raised chickens, and I've certainly never owned/raised any myself.

Thanks, @mathgent, for making me feel so much better about the y=2x LINE thing.

Jamie C 10:41 AM  

Did anyone else notice how nicely BUMBLEBEE fits at 19a? Asking for a friend...

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

@oldlab re puzzle convention OR versus AND
OR signals one of several
AND signals all of several
Emily OR Charlotte
Emily AND Charlotte
x, y, OR z
x, y, AND z
It's one of the basics of XW puzzles when edited properly that number, case, tense agree between the clue and the fill. Despite what Rex has to say, assume that the NYT puzzle is well-edited.

ArtO 10:48 AM  

Figured OFFROAD immediately but wanted BUMBLEBEE and so had to work my way around that issue which was resolved with ACCESS(ROAD) and (CHICKEN)WIRE.

One of the great rebus puzzles I've ever seen. Really enjoyed it.

Joseph Michael 10:51 AM  

My favorite puzzle in a long time. Fresh, funny, and challenging with great themers and solid fill. Thank you, Jacob, for restoring my faith in the NYT.

Masked and Anonymous 10:55 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Masked and Anonymous 10:59 AM  

Well, ratfudge. M&A was sure this ThursPuz was headed for one more level than it was, on the theme…
1. Chicken & road have become fused together, as one.
2. First question-posin revealer: WHY?
3. Second [missin] question-answerin revealer: SEMI.

Really nice, smooth fill. Goin for 78 words instead of the last couple days' 74 words maybe helped. What really made this puz was its clues. Outstandin clues. Sneaky, underhanded, steal-yer-money-and-make-U-like-it clues. F'rinstance:
M&A also is hands-up, havin had trouble figurin out that {"y=2x," e.g.} clue. First of all, WHY is the equation in quote marks, a la Trump? Secondmost, WHY is that there comma inside the quotes -- is it supposed to be part of the equation? Thirdmost, U hafta think graphically like a mathgrad, to come up with LINE. Confused the M&A. Eventually got it, tho, sooo… ok.

Primo unpaired pairin of the 15-A {Tuned in} clue with the 51-A UNTUNED answer. Looney TUNES. Like.

staff weeject pick: DOR. "Le Coq DOR" means absolutely nothin to the M&A. Zilch. Is that French? How the may-yerd does it translate then? "Don't let the door hit U in the chicken on the way out"? [Should the ? maybe have been inside the quote marks just then]? Anyhoo -- Hard clues.

Usually like just a smudge more desperation, in my puzgrid fill. Will forgive it all this time, as it made @RP so day-um happy. I'll just hafta settle for: "MSGS. har". [I bet that . should probably be inside the quotes, too … I've got to think…]

Thanx, Mr. Stulberg. "thUmbsUp.".

Masked & Anonym007Us


Teedmn 11:13 AM  

A laugh-out-loud aha today when I got the first cross at OFF-ROAD/CHICKENOFTHESEA. I loved the "what plural is it gonna be?" At both BEAUX and NOVAE (and the SMUG know it allness feeling I got for waiting to find out).

The NE gave me the most trouble because I had forgotten to look for the symmetric ROAD/CHICKEN cross and couldn't find the ACCESS ROAD to get in there until I was oh so GENTLY directed to row my boat in.

Thanks, JS, you hit the Trifecta of clever, smooth and fun.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

Can anyone tell me how to enter the rebuses? I got the theme (chicken/road) but no configuration on my smart phone NYT puzzle app seems to work. I tried leaving those four squares blank, I tried "chickenroad" and "chicken/road), and "roadchicken" and "road/chicken" with some variations. When I go to the rebus box in the app, no emoji or space bar is available. Thanks!

jae 11:18 AM  

Delightful! Medium for me. Got the ROAD part quickly but it took a while for the CHICKEN to cross.

jberg 11:28 AM  

No time to read the comments, will come back later. Just wanted so say that I figured a common cue would be a NOd, and stuck with it for a LONG time -- in fact, I finished the puzzle figuring that dHY was some kind of acronym. Then while washing up after breakfast, I was cursing the stupidity of the theme -- why is chicken crossing road? I asked myself -- followed by a head slap and DOH! Well, I'm NO SPRING ROAD, so sometimes these things come slowly. Brilliant concept, well executed!

semioticus (shelbyl) 11:31 AM  

This took me a long time. I mean, a loooooong time. I still couldn't figure out the theme when I finished it, I saw the little chicken heads in Rex's fill and still couldn't figure it out. And finally it hit me. The belated eureka and the ingenuity made me appreciate this retrospectively. I was actually going to complain about this puzzle, and just like that the tables were turned. Good job.

QuasiMojo 11:35 AM  

Fans of chicken crossing road jokes might enjoy reading Elizabeth Bishop's clever New Yorker poem " Trouvée" about one she found in Manhattan.

Joseph Jakuta 11:36 AM  

I interpreted the theme slightly differently. I thought they were playing a game of chicken in the road and crashing at the given square so you were yelling "WHY?????????????????????????" after the stupid teenage carnage was over.

Also what the heck do you put in the rebus square to make it solve?

Anonymous 11:47 AM  

@Nancy, feel free to add another to your list. The gal across the street has three beauties and though it seems especially absurd as I write it, they do seem to come when she calls them by name. Oh, they do cross the street.

@Forsythia, you did indeed dodge a big problem when you missed the cow. In Pa. ( at least) if you a kill a cow you're on the hook for the cow AND all the milk it would've produced over its life. I kid you not; you can look it up.

Robert A. Simon 12:02 PM  

HOLD ON!! Is commenter "Robert S. Mueller III" ("47a is APT") the same Robert S. Mueller III who was just name the Special Counsel in the Trump/Russia affair? His nickname in the Justice Department--I heard last night on MSNBC--was "Bob Three-Sticks" because of the suffix on his name. If so, Rex, your classy joint just got a lot classier!

Two Ponies 12:07 PM  

Another chicken story. Next-door neighbor has a small flock. Last fall one went missing. Being in rural Montana there are many possible reasons. Damn if that chicken did not return 2 months later. So far she's not talking.

Aketi 12:14 PM  

@Nancy, I had lots of CHICKENs bought live from the market, but the kids next door would kill them for me so I could pluck them, cook them, and eat them for dinner. So I don't know if you can COUNT me in if their lifespan was less than 24 hours post purchase.

@M&A, it's Coq D'or. Golden rooster.

old timer 12:16 PM  

I found this fun, but nowhere near easy. Sure, I knew with 1D that there was a ROAD rebus. But it wasn't until I got to 60A (no spring ...) that I realized there was also a CHICKEN rebus. I asked myself WHY and realized every CHICKEN must cross a ROAD. After that it was just a matter of finding the other CHICKENs and convincing myself that CHICKEN WIRE is used to build a coop.

My last answer was LINE crossed by BALE. I know y = 2x was not the formula for a sine, and then remembered in 7th grade and afterwards, every equation in a formula was entitled to its own LINE. I think it is irrelevant that y = 2x can produce a straight LINE when you chart the equation on graph paper. It's simply a LINE in a formula or proof.

Writeovers: "nod" before NOW, "USPS" before USDA.

My wife sews and makes things, and I have been to every fabric store in town. I think they all sell SKEINS of yarn, if only as a convenience to the customers. Yarn stores are few and far between. And while fabric stores seem to stick in the same place for decades, yarn stores tend to be short-lived.

no spring chicken 12:31 PM  

I think the person who commented as "Robert S. Mueller III" was making ze leetle joke, non? It was a nom de farce as a Parisian might say.

BTW, Paris seems to be the one place where there is no restaurant that calls itself "Le Coq d'Or." At least no restaurant or bar you ever heard of. It's a common name in various US cities and elsewhere in France. The one in the Drake Hotel in Chicago is very famous.

Nate 12:34 PM  

I did not get the CHICKEN part of the rebus. I found the puzzle totally perplexing and just gave up on it with the puzzle halfway done.

I hate rebuses.

Lindsay 12:35 PM  

@Nancy .... for my 3rd and final post I will report that when I started my lawn mower this morning the neighbors' 2 chickens (a/k/a "the girls") ran out from under my truck & back to their own property.

I don't believe they've crossed the road since meeting the miniature Doberman on the other side.

Anonymous 12:35 PM  

Press the MORE key which is in the bottom left corner of the keyboard, and then the REBUS key which will be on the right side of the bottom row.

BarbieBarbie 12:36 PM  

@Jamie C, yes to Bumblebee! It fit perfectly and went in before I understood there would be rebeloids.

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

Boy, Trump is sure making a joke of the Presidency.

Doug Smith 1:06 PM  

A simple R worked for me. Don't ask me why!

Carola 1:14 PM  

What a treat - made me laugh when it finallllllly got it (CHICKEN WIRE). I had the most hesitant - or wait, hesitantest (see: INSANEST) - of all starts, unable to get a TOEhold for the longest time. NOVAs x VIRUS eventually gave me purchase. Last in: BALE x LINE.

I can't stop looking at this lovely grid, with its GENTLY, URANIA, NASSAU, PLEDGE, RENEGADE, SIDLE. I love the two avian entries - ROADRUNNER and NO SPRING CHICKEN. BEAUX? Maybe not.

- Me, too, for considering Bumblebee tuna, as CHICKEN would obviously never be in a rebus.
- SKEIN - another "me, too," for thinking "Not in a fabric store." But I checked Jo-Ann Fabrics website and they have 9 offerings of skeins of embroidery floss.

j 1:29 PM  

I looked at the words after my husband finished the May 18 Times crossword puzzle. Is there a surreptitious message in there? Do these words connect some dots? "off road, smug, untuned, flip, no spring chicken, play chicken, anger, pledge, aware, snl, manners,insanest, used, estate, why, virus, renegade, bale, gently, now ". No kidding, these words are all there.

jerre dumbrill 1:40 PM  

oops, got closed out before I put in my name to the "j" posting. Just want to add two more words that I found: "sap, sidle".

Malsdemare 1:44 PM  

Well, crap! First I'll say I liked this puzzle a lot. It was not easy, it had fun, obscure clues, great words (the best words!), cute theme, which I revealed early enough for it to help me get everything except Michigan. Super dooper!

But -- Michigan! I've read about a zillion legal thrillers, used to hang out with a con law scholar, have friends and relatives with law degrees -- in short, I know that law shit as much as any non-lawyer -- and I could not suss out BAREXAM. Oh, I got EXAM after a fight with AXES and AXIS, but my brain wanted law boards or LSAT, and BAREXAM was invisible. And THAT'S because BALE was nowhere to be found. Yesterday David Brooks described Trump's brain as "six fireflies beeping randomly in a Mason Jar," and that exactly describes my experience with BALE. I wanted lasso (NOPE), rope, herd; I wanted animals that are wandering everywhere and need to be assembled. To borrow from LMS: Sheesh!!!

But that's the kind of relationship I have with constructor Stulberg. When I kept getting stumped in places that should have been stumpless, I checked out the constructor's name and groaned. You got me good, Sir, as usual. Thanks for the workout despite the royal DNF.

Trombone Tom 1:45 PM  

I wonder how many of today's youth even know what chicken wire is? My wife grew up on a small farm and among her duties was recovering eggs and tending chickens. It amuses her to see how urban chicken growers often romanticize the job.

The puzzle was a triple delight and I thought a fair amount of the cluing was devious and misleading, making for a resounding crunch. The AXIS/AXES cross was brilliant. Thanks Jacob S.

Larry Gilstrap 1:56 PM  

RENT was the last to go in that sticky little north-central box. Seems most everyone is crowing about this Thursday effort. I kept a small coop of hens for years. They provide an efficient way to recycle kitchen scraps, require very little care, and the eggs are far superior to the commercial product.

Lately, every afternoon we have been visited by a ROAD RUNNER who barges on to our patio and makes himself at home. I'm afraid some neighbor has been giving him treats and he expects the same from us. No way, Jose! Our policy is to not feed wildlife. He gets very close and is really kind of intimidating when he squawks and lowers his head. It is as if his next move is to attack. They are voracious predators. Don't believe me? Google "Roadrunner vs. Rattlesnake," if you dare. Spoiler alert: it is a short video.

Charley 1:56 PM  

All good except insanest? Who says that?

Z 2:07 PM  

@oldlab - Not that I would ever do this, but I think you conflated the clue for 14A with the answer for 6D. I haven't decided how I would feel if the clue for 6D had been an almost matching, "x, y, and z follower."

@gharris - Tenuous connections make a puzzle more interesting, n'est-ce pas? cf @Lewis10:12. I think of AXES as used with things related to people (ax a job or a program) and scrap more dealing with things, but however tenuous still connected enough for xword cluing.

@Jamie C - We've all been with your "friend" at one time or another.

@Masked and Anonymous - I liked your semi-musings.

Naryana Gora 2:15 PM  

I picked up the theme quite early but couldn't come up with ACCESS in the NE. I knew there was a word that was eluding me but all I could come up with was bypaSS. After too much time I gave in and looked up the answer. DNF. Still, I thought the puzzle was great.

Malsdemare 2:26 PM  

@Nancy, I have to stand with those who marvel that chickens don't cross the road but cattle do; out here in nowhere, Midwest, my question isn't why cows CROSS the road, but WHY do bulls stand in the middle of the road? And play-bow to my dogs when we're out for a walk?

@Mohair Sam, after he retired, my bored husband figured he'd combine his outasight sales skills with his love of cars and took a job with the local upscale auto dealer. Three sold cars and two months later he quit, saying it was the worst job he'd ever had. This from a man who spent a summer pounding concrete off of construction forms and has scars all over his body from the sparks that flew in the steel mills he visited. After hearing his description of his day at the dealership, I have to admit that my experience of tossing hay bales into a barn was more pleasurable than his. My son would say walking beans or detasseling corn wasn't as bad the car sales job. Sorry if there are happy car salesmen out there. One family's experience.

@Robert Simon, I thought the same thing but it's hard to imagine that Bobby 3-sticks has time for the crossword AND the blog.

About the Chattahoochee: Marietta (pronounced MAY-retta ) and Roswell are suburbs of Atlanta and the river is a cultural icon of the city, along with Marietta's Big Chicken (which would get slaughtered crossing that road!) and the Varsity hot dog place downtown. There used to be a raft race on the 4th of July that may have been the drunkest event in the entire country. We never did figure out why the drowning deaths didn't count into the thousands.

Yes, I knew Chattahoochee but not BALE. Sigh......

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

To QuasiMojo at 7:05. *Ream* was originally a stack of paper, in Middle Ages presumably much smaller than the modern "long ream" or even "short ream," each close to normal ream today of 500 sheets. Origin is Arabic, rizmah or bundle--in the Middle Ages, Arabs far ahead of Europe in paper production. As my friend Niccolo' Niccoli said in late 1433 or early 1434, "give this letter to Cosimo (de' Medici, in exile in Venice), and tell him that it would take a ream (*risma*) of paper to describe the crimes of those" remaining in Florence.

[anon. i.e. Poggius]

Joe Bleaux 2:33 PM  

Hey, homeboy! As a teenager, I spent many a day hoisting bales of hay onto a wagon drawn by a gray tractor (probably Ford, obviously not Deere). And the bridge was the Tallahatchee, which of course flows through the old home place😏.

Joe Bleaux 2:44 PM  

Big fun from the PLAY/RUNNER aha after my start in the SW. Rare DNF, but since it's only because of that LINE-not-sine trickery, I'm not feeling too bad about it. Thanks for a fine Thursday puz, JS.

Teedmn 2:58 PM  

We were just at my in-laws this past weekend. My brother-in-law keeps chickens and his wife kept asking everyone there if they needed any eggs. Needless to say, part of the food spread was a big tray of deviled eggs.

I boiled some of them up last night and found it interesting how much they varied in size and ECRUS :-). But the in-laws do live on the old family farm site so no restrictions on flock size or if they allow roosters which are often issues with urban flocks. They aren't able to cross the ROAD - they live a life enclosed by CHICKEN WIRE and will not meet the pavement by way of M&A's prospective "semi".

Puzzlehoarder 3:14 PM  

Chickens are the one variety of farm animal that you can legally keep in your yard here in Chicago. I've only seen it done once. This was a very fun solve. I was about 12+ 1/2 minutes into the solve when I got the first rebus in the NW. Easy solution in pencil just put in R/C or C/R. The misdirects I experienced were the same ones others have mentioned. BEAUX, UNTUNED and NOVAE seemed particularly difficult for myself. Figuring out that N central section was my final step. I had to change EXES to AXES and then spot BALE. Some people have given very educated explanations for why 7D is LINE. My logic was those figures just lined up very nicely. How do you get anything to cross the road? Just staple it to a chicken.

MDP957 3:17 PM  

I like it, but I thought the rebus squares were "Y" -- as in "why," and a chicken scratch, and a fork in a road.

Naryana Gora 3:45 PM  

Thoughtful rendition @ MDP957.

Brett Chappell 4:01 PM  

An additonal three minutes to figure out what to put in the stupid rebus. CR worked.

Anonymous 4:09 PM  

I solve on an Ipad. When more than one word or letter needs to go into a space, I just type the first letter. For this puzzle, I typed c. It has worked well for me so far.
As to the puzzle, I loved loved loved it. Why does the chicken cross the road. What a great idea. Just so clever!

QuasiMojo 4:12 PM  

@Anonymous 2:26PM. Grazie for the spiegazione!

TomAz 4:39 PM  

This took me forever.. a good 50% above my normal Thursday solve time. The chicken/road thing wasn't that hard. LINE didn't throw me one bit. but man lots of the other stuff just wasn't there for me. oh well.

And yes extra time to figure out how it wanted the rebus entered.

OISK 5:05 PM  

Add me to the list of those who had "Nod" and DHY for the longest time. I was VERY slow today, and very late to see the theme. Once I saw the peripatetic poultry, I was on the road to success. I love a puzzle that works that way. The reverse was yesterday's which I did not like, where I finished the entire puzzle correctly without getting the theme. And then I got it...."Oh" Whereas today it was "Aah."

Rob 5:15 PM  

Really displeased with BEAUX. That is a good-and-established loanword, and I maintain that a clue should indicate a non-English nature of the answer, ESPECIALLY when the word is well-established enough in English that it's normally pluralized with the S. I know not everyone agrees with me, but that's my position and I'm sticking to it.

Joe Dipinto 6:17 PM  

My brain was just not happening today, and I ended up with a DNF in the top middle. First problem: I saw the "chicken" part of the rebuses quickly but kept thinking the other part must be "egg", as in, which one should come first in the box? That went on for quite awhile with no comprehension, even though I was getting the rest of the fill quite nicely.

Then, at some point I realized the other rebus word was "road", but still could not figure out what connection "chicken" and "road" possibly had to each other. I started wondering if the "why?" in the middle actually meant "why would anyone construct a puzzle with chicken and road in the same box, four times?" -- perhaps as a little dig at RP's complaints about puzzle quality of late.

Eventually my brain returned from outer space to provide the a-ha! Even with all that and the DNF, I must say I immensely enjoyed this puzzle. Very imaginative work, Jacob Stulberg.

Punctuated equilibrium 12:04 AM  

Whoa! I had no idea...I just put in C or R and the puzzle read it as correct. But being able to enter a rebus...pure joy! Thanks.

Leapfinger 9:34 AM  

So a CypRiot, a PatRiot, and a RegulaRiot walked into a bar. Which one ordered the Old Fashioned? Then a lounge lizard comes up with the old LINE What's your sign? and the RegulaRiot says Caution -- CHICKEN Crossing

SuperGood Thursday rebupodes, thought the perfect symmetry elegant. As for that existential WHY, it's pretty obvious: no ALERO, no XKE, no VTEN, i.e. no Traffic. No seriously, the chicken crossed the road because it saw a zebra crossing. No, really seriously, it crosses the roads just before it beginS A NEST.

Great memories of Bjarke's BALing pants, which he bequeathed to me at the end of the climb. Best pants ever.

Anyone else have PAIUTE before PAWNEE?

Jackie 12:40 PM  


William Coddington 3:12 PM  

Our printed online version never gives the theme, which in this case would have given a big boost to sussing-out the rebus.
Other complaints include Alta not being a ski town but a ski area, the actual kind of store that carries a skein, Atlanta not being a "river city", etc. Don't give me wrong, I'm not being a sore DNFer. I finished in a good time, but would've finished much quicker knowing the theme.

William Coddington 3:18 PM  

I stand corrected. Having just under 400 residents, Alta, Utah is an incorporated town. However, the Alta ski area receives over a half million visitors a year, of which I am glad to be in their number. Eh.

TedP 9:56 PM  

To oldlab: The clue is correct. You've confused 14A with 6D.

Burma Shave 10:29 AM  


That SMUG RENEGADE’s the INSANEST. To be AWARE WHY is no wonder –
he OPTS to PLAYCHICKEN in ANGER with MOE who’s outmanned him.
COUNT on that SAP to lose in his USED, UNTUNED Plymouth ROADRUNNER,
when MOE STEPs on it NOW in his OFFROAD HUMmer TANDEM.


spacecraft 10:45 AM  

I loved this puzzle, but I HATE, HATE, HATE it when OFL is so damn SMUG as to call it easy-medium. There was NOTHING easy about it. I almost didn't even get started! Finally recalled SEPTA, having been to the City of Brotherly Love several times. I was hung up for too long thinking that the adverb of 12-down was "merrily," forgetting all about GENTLY till much later. I thought I was dealing with some 2-letter rebus there, instead of the 2-WORD one--which I latched onto at sq. 19 after some skullwork.

Look at these clues. HOW in the world can you call this easy? "y=2x" is, true enough, an equation that can be represented by a LINE on a graph--but as a CLUE for "LINE?" Strictly Saturday. I wound up finishing this--and amazingly without even a writeover--but easy? Ridiculous. WHY indeed do you do that to me, Fearless One?

With no apparent DOD, I have to stretch a point and go with a spouse: the lovely Sibi BALE. Now there's some good taste, Charlie! Triumph factor off the charts: eagle.

Anonymous 1:50 PM  

Had chicken and road right away. I worked the puzzle, and ignored the theme. Blend of easy and tricky parts. Good one.

rondo 2:04 PM  

If we’re gonna have a rebus it might as well be unique. And the CHICKEN crossing the ROAD is just that. Got the riddle right away along with the whole NW area, but in the NE my ROAD was bypass/ergESS/ACCESS and sAt for LAY. Elsewhere BEAUs and NOVAs.

Never made it to the BAREXAM, gotta finish law school first. No matter how I look at that answer I keep seeing BARE EXAM or BARE XAM, which I’m all FORE. Gotta check FORE deer ticks.

Maybe one OPTS FORE Sara SIDLE as portrayed by yeah baby Jorja Fox?

Nice idea, well executed, all-time INSANEST rebus.

leftcoastTAM 2:42 PM  

Easy rebus, amusing theme.

The tough parts were elsewhere: RENT, URANIA, RENEGADE, NOVAE, ATKINS, ESTATE, USDA. Yeah, they looked a lot easier after getting them.

Have to question the "Most nuts" clue for INSANEST. Shouldn't it have been "most nutty"? It really needed the superlative form, I think.

Took more time to finish than I like, but it was a good Thursday workout.

rain forest 4:21 PM  

Lots of love for this puzzle, and I concur. Some found it easy, but with that I don't agree. Took me a long time, not in getting the very clever them, once I ditched the idea that the rebus was ROAD or an anagram thereof. I had to get it at PLAY*, and *RUNNER, because here in Canada, I don't think we have either Starkist or CHICKEN OF THE SEA.

The cluing in this gem was exquisite. You could see the care that went into the construction. The clue I had the most trouble with was "Most nuts". I couldn't get off a "shell" or "tree" idea for the longest time.

No dreck. Much wittiness and wordplay. Sneaky theme and a great revealer with maybe Le Coq D'OR as a bonus. Wonderful puzzle.

rain forest 4:28 PM  

@leftcoastTAM - My comment yesterday wasn't intended to be a jab. I was trying to be humourous, as is my wont once in a while. You win some...

leftcoastTAM 7:29 PM  

@rain forest--Yeah, I see. Sometimes I can be too thin-skinned. Yesterday may be one of those times.

strayling 7:30 PM  

This was a hugely fun slog for me. Got the theme early on, but struggled with the bulk of the fill. The thing is, each time I saw the correct answer it was an "aha--ok that's fair" moment.

Nice one, Mr Stulberg.

Diana,LIW 8:28 PM  

I lived in/near Philly for many years, and a good friend worked for SEPTA. However, there is a BART-style subway to Camden, NJ, and I couldn't remember its name. But the S gave the answer away.

Question of the day. Why did the chicken cross the road twice? Answer: She was a double crosser.

Short post today - just had another 8-hour dental dentathon. Yow.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords and 8 more crowns

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