Old name of San Jose Sharks arena / THU 1-12-12 / Pet rat in 1972 #1 song / Popular Italian scooter / Veld flower

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Constructor: Gareth Bain

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: CANADIAN PROVINCE (39A: What each of the 10 abbreviations in this puzzle's answer stands for) — rebus puzzle with 10 province abbrevs. arranged symmetrically around the grid

SK = Saskatchewan
MB = Manitoba
ON = Ontario
NB = New Brunswick
AB = Alberta
BC = British Columbia
QC = Québec
PE = Prince Edward Island
NL = Newfoundland and Labrador
NS = Nova Scotia

Word of the Day: La PLATA (1A: La ___ (Argentine city)) —
La Plata (English: The Silver) is the capital city of the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and of La Plata partido. According to the 2001 census [INDEC], the city proper has a population of 574,369 and its metropolitan area has 694,253 inhabitants. // La Plata was planned and developed to serve as the provincial capital after the city of Buenos Aires was federalized in 1880, and it was officially founded by Governor Dardo Rocha on 19 November 1882. Its construction is fully documented in photographs by Tomás Bradley Sutton. La Plata was renamed Eva Perón City (Ciudad Eva Perón) between 1952 and 1955. (wikipedia)
• • •

16 wide, heavily segmented, a jillion (give or take) black squares—these are the things I noticed first. I also knew very quickly (while still in that NW corner) that I was dealing with a rebus. Something just didn't smell right. Sure enough, ON fell into place, but then SK showed up and I had no idea what kind of rebus I was dealing with. It's not clear—are these postal abbrevs.? What kind of abbrevs.? Because I've seen most of these provinces abbreviated differently before (ONT, PEI, etc.). Even with the extra column in the grid, the 9 rebus squares is pretty impressive. I'd say the symmetry of those squares is also impressive (it is), but here's my feeling about symmetry and rebuses—unnecessary. In fact, unwanted. What fun is a rebus if you aren't going to be surprised by where the squares turn up (for half the grid, anyway)? The grid is good, but I can't help wondering if it would've been better if the rebuses hadn't been locked into place. The placement of the rebus square in both MARLO[N B]RANDO and COMPA[Q C]ENTER is gorgeous—right at the place where the first word ends and the second word begins. But ON and PE are just hugging the wall. Rebus square symmetry is nice for people who really struggle with rebuses, but for me it halfway defeats the fun. So I applaud the architecture, but .... give me scattershot rebus squares placed in interesting ways over strict symmetry any day.

The constructor really, really wants you to know he's from South Africa. So, in case you didn't gather that fact from the (at least) three different South Africa-oriented clues—[Windhoek-to-Pretoria dir.], [Andries Pretorius, e.g., who gave his name to a national capital], [Veld flower]—now I'm telling you directly. He's from South Africa. Nice guy.

  • 27D: They're flicked (BICS) — I remember this from an old ad campaign, but I have not heard the expression "flick my BIC" in decades. 

  • 65A: American Shakers founder (AN[NL]EE) — SW corner was threatening to be one of the toughest until I hit this answer. A very crossword-friendly name (in fact, I definitely  learned this bit of trivia from crosswords).
  • 48A: Pet rat in a 1972 #1 song (BEN) — Michael Jackson. I think BEN was also a pet bear from a '60s TV series. He was "Gentle," by which I assume they mean "heavily drugged so as not to kill the actors."
  • 67A: Popular Italian scooter (VESPA) — the epitome of mod-cool when I was in high school. Maybe at other times as well.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


dk 7:30 AM  

Chuckled over BIC as I recalled Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in. Artie Johnson would sit on a park bench and ask Ruth Buzzi if she wanted to flick his BIC. Nowadays this happens virtually.... not that I would know.

Had some trouble remembering the Provinces. I bet crosscan sailed through this one.

An interesting, strightforward rebus that made for a fast and easy Thursday.

*** (3 Stars) One of less than a SQCM of rebus puzzles I like. Thanks Gareth

Anonymous 7:55 AM  

Day 2 P.E.D.

This morning I opened up my NYT online only to see no Wordplay, no Deb Amlen, nothing, absolutely nothing. So, Rex, you are an insider (well, you once were until you started criticizing WS) wdo you know anything about it?

I like this puzzle. @Acme, it feels like an enhanced Thursday....


Anonymous 8:00 AM  

Sorry to bother you, Rex. I found it. It's been reduced to a link that is almost buried but it's there. Probably an IT thing.


Rob C 8:07 AM  

Anyone see this article from the NY Post yesterday about how Will Shortz may not be as hip as we think he is

I guess we're not the only ones who criticize


Rob C 8:10 AM  

Sorry, let me try one more time, the entire link didn't post when I submitted the comment


foodie 8:18 AM  

I think the idea is cool and the construction impressive with the rebus placements. BUT I did not like the fact that the central revealer said "each of THE 10 abbreviations in this puzzle", when in fact the rebus was sometimes embedded in an abbreviation: WNBA, SQCM and sometime not: SPEAK crossing PIPE. And there were abbreviations beyond the 10 that were NOT a rebus or part of the theme, including one smack dab in the middle: EOE.

I figured it was a rebus and worked around it long enough to get the CANADIAN PROVINCE revealer, which did not contain a rebus and for which I am most grateful-- not that I could recite them.

And I'm not going to mention what I considered for FAD, given the clue and having -A-.

jesser 8:45 AM  

I plopped PLATA down right away and then got TIO, which gave me RELIC, and then I was: Stuck. My brain was not seeing ACDC as a hybrid.

I migrated to the SE, where APSO, ALS, VESPA and EBOOK were gimmes. And that's where it clicked. SPEAK!

So I worked carefully through the thing and grinned when MARLON BRANDO made his way in. I loved that guy. Don Juan de Marco was such a light, wonderful film. Nice way to end such a heavy-hitting career.

There were a few PESKY places in the grid, owing to all the sports references (My pal, Tobias, is gonna be grumpy, I predict). I knew SEVE Ballesteros, and none of the others, but the crosses were fair, and they all came together. The rebus also got easier once the reveal was in place. Before that, they were pretty random looking.

I am vaguely disturbed by the fact that I knew BEN at 48A. I don;t remember the song, but when I think of rats, I think of BEN and Willard (and Santorum).

And with that, I shall not BLAB any further. Fine Thursday. Busy day ahead. Happy Thursday, Rexites!

jackj 8:47 AM  

Most crossword solvers probably think of Canadian Provinces only when ALTA shows up as an abbreviation for Alberta, with the inevitable reminder that the correct abbreviation is not ALTA, it is AB. And, unofficially, it is either but, officially, per Canadian Postal authorities, it is AB (ALTA was the popular postal abbreviation until all ten Provinces and the three Territories were assigned their own two letter codes).

And, today’s puzzle gives us an excellent primer for identifying all ten of the Provinces which make up our friend to the North, (if all tangled up in a hodgepodge of abbreviations).

The rebus was quickly revealed when 23 down was known to be WNBA but the grid showed a three letter entry and 24 across was obviously MARLONBRANDO but the grid was showing only an eleven letter answer but, voila, the two NB’s could be joined in one block to complete the answer.

But, of course, the plot thickened and it seemed Gareth was telling us to “Put that in your QUARTERPIPE and smoke it”, until 39 across, CANADIANPROVINCE was disclosed, and we could finally see it was a cohesive rebus puzzle though with 10 different rebus answers.

Great fun, Gareth and my ancestors, who sneaked into the US from Newfoundland, owe you a tip of the hat as well.

M07S 9:08 AM  

Got 1D PR[ON]E right off the bat. For 24A I put MARL[ON]BRANDO and for 29D I put AB[ON]E. So I'm thinking it's gonna be an ON-OFF rebus. 60D S[PE]AK soon disabused me of that notion. Then it was a complete WTF until I got the reveal. An excellent puzzle that I enjoyed from start to finish.

Airymom 9:14 AM  

I really enjoyed completing this puzzle. Especially since many of the recent Sunday puzzles have been a bore, this was interesting and a nice change. I have completed several puzzles which featured US state abbreviations, but never Canadian provinces. I understand Rex's unhappiness with the PE, but you have to love quarterpipe for an answer.

O Canada, terre de nos aiuex!!
(Thanks to Rex's school for my B.A. in French.)

Nakitab 9:21 AM  

This was a great puzzle. But my first thought upon completion was "Rex had better not classify this puzzle as easy/medium" because I found it to be quite PESKY. Enjoyed it a lot.

tptsteve 9:22 AM  

Struggled mightily, and eventually gave up with about a half-dozen blanks. It didn't help that I was misreading clues, too, like Windhook to Peoria. I sense a personal disaster coming up with tomorrow's puzzle.

captcha mordise- paired with tendon to form a joint

Judith 9:26 AM  

I'm so NOT a fan of rebus puzzles. I did okay on this, but the results of NYT online solving show that this is way harder than the average Thursday puzzle. I rate it as difficult. As of 9:25 only 101 people had solved successfully, and the times were way long for a Thursday. Made me feel a bit better.

Wayne 9:38 AM  

As a Canadian solver, it was nice for once to have an geographical advantage - I've been stuck often enough on obscure state capitals or (even worse) county seats. This worked out to be an easier-than-usual Thursday as a result.

retired_chemist 9:48 AM  

PESKY indeed. I spent a lot of time filling in more or less nonsensical answers for rebus squares and rationalizing (unconvincingly, even to myself) why they might be right. Example: BONE @ 29D (A BONE), CUP @ 49A (B CUP), SQ M @ 47D (SQ CM). OK, a SQ M is small to a Texas rancher.....

Then I got enough crosses to fill in CANADIAN @ 39A, and PROVINCE came soon after (Was LOONY/NROVINCE momentarily, easily fixed.) And then it was a matter of re-finding the aforementioned screwy squares and figuring out the province 2 letter codes I was unfamiliar with. Enjoyed that hunt.

Wanted something for Labrador: was pleased to learn that it actually is part of Newfoundland and Labrador, not a separate province. Yesterday Arabic names for stars, today Canadian postal codes. What new knowledge will tomorrow bring?

The fill seemed unusually fresh. OK, we get ECRU and LSAT often enough but that is minor.

Nicely done, Gareth. Keep them coming.

David 9:57 AM  

Terrific puzzle. I started way down in the SE and got the rebus immediately with PI(PE), but my time today was very slow because I didn't flash on to a number of the 2 letter abbreviations easily.

COMPAQCENTER was awesome, and almost caused a DNF. I was perfectly fine with COMPACCNETER and the CM of SCM kinda sorta made sense. Also wanted ALONE for PRONE for a while, which did not get me off to a good start.

After some pretty easy puzzles this week it was great to be really challenged today.

chefbea 9:57 AM  

Found this tough as I am not familiar with Canadian Geography mainly the abbr. of provinces. DNF.

Loren Muse Smith 10:02 AM  

I'm always hoping for a rebus on Thursdays, and this one was a lot of fun. Isn't it funny how you can sense immediately that some kind of funny business is going on? I smelled a rat at "medium bra specification" and "sing." Like Jesser, I had my reveal at SPEAK. Sneaky misdirect on 36D, by the way - I was playing around with roman numerals. Loved PAREE and QUARTERPIPE.

I managed to finish without googling and found myself (unlike Rex) really grateful to Gareth for the absolute (impressive) symmetry; I don't know if I would have gotten my last abbreviation, QC, without it!

Thanks, Gareth.

archaeoprof 10:10 AM  

Isn't Beverly CLEARY the author of those kid-lit books about Ramona?

Fun puzzle -- more interesting than many rebus puzzles.

AMBIEN is the best thing ever for jet lag.

evil doug 10:15 AM  

After the fact I saw I had a mistake---WBA instead of WNBA. But that can't be---Marl-ON gave me the ONtario I needed, and how poetic is Frankfurt an der ONder....

But wait: Also got ON in our pr-ON-e sniper. So I had counted 10 provinces, but didn't actually read/compare them. Couldn't it be those damn Canucks have two named Ontario? Tricky great white northerners, wouldn't put it past them....

Damn. And I used to stage through Goose Bay, Labrador on our way to Europe in USAF. There was a golf course there, but it had Astroturf greens to make it playable more than three months a year. Also, we'd go downtown to buy some horrible booze called Screech---80 proof rot-gut. Had to use the C-130's 'honey bucket' the next day....

Loren: 36D would have been a good---as in, ironic---spot for the medium bra size.

It took immense will-power yesterday not to go heavy-innuendo on all those fun words. You all owe me.


mennoknight 10:16 AM  

Am I the only Canadian who abbreviates Quebec as PQ? I send mail there pretty consistently and have always used that.

Old Boer 10:22 AM  

"Marching to Pretoria. Pretoria...." Well, if this was a march, it was a death march for me. Finished with an error--on Thursday!

evil doug 10:30 AM  

Been a long time since I was in Montreal---a lovely place screwed up by the language regulations and secession talk. As I recall, every sign had to be more prominently displayed in French than in English. Made me want to hit somebody over the head with une baguette....

I think France and England ought to fight one more war, winner take all of Quebec.


baja 10:37 AM  

Liked this puzzle. Abbreviations tough for older canadians as well. Manitoba used to be Man. so you would guess MA. or MN. but US got there first so Mb. it is. Rex mentioned on Facebook a few days ago a lack of cryptics on the NYT web site. The Toronto newspaper the globe has what the Brits would call monday level cryptics mon. to sat. www.theglobeandmail.com. For harder puzzles and great blogs explaining cryptics go to www.guardian.co.uk and for really detailed answers and explanations on how the answers were arrived at go to http//fifteensquared.net. All are free. Think i will be at the monday level for a while!

r.alphbunker 10:44 AM  

Post-googling revealed 13 Canadian provinces. I do[NT] have an[Y T]rouble with this because the revealer did not promise that all the Canadian provinces would be represented. But it would have been a bo[NU]s if all thirteen had been there.

This was a very impressive puzzle. There must be something in my DNA that causes me to love symmetric rebus puzzles!

CAPTCHA was [PE]sserti

Two Ponies 10:52 AM  

I am a big fan of rebus puzzles but I can't remember liking one less than this one.
It's gotta be bad when the highlight is the spelling out of One B.C. instead of the usual RRN.
I did catch the South African vibe.
Thanks, Rex, for confirming.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Good puzzle overall but did not like wade in for begin energetically. Should have been dive in. Enjoyed the rebus however and got a kick out of bics!

Jeffrey 10:58 AM  

Last year I was writing about a Merl Reagle puzzle featuring state abbreviations and I wrote:

... I must admit I dislike state abbreviation puzzles. This Canadian fails to understand the fascination Americans have with their postal abbreviations.

Gareth saw that and was inspired to create today's gem.

@ralphbunker - There are 10 provinces and 3 territories.

@evildoug - Only 1 Ontario but the Canadian Football League used to have 2 teams (out of 9) called Roughriders.

Pete 11:03 AM  

@r.alphbunker - No, there are ten Provinces and 3 Territories. Apparently Canadians in the 10 Provinces think about as highly of their northern neighbors as we Americans think of our Canadian neighbors - Yeah, I know there are people/places/things up there, but really, so what?

@Rex - Why would you start my day with a picture of Celine Dion? Why? Have I done something to you?

Matthew G. 11:06 AM  

Well, I loved this one. Geography is my strongest suit, so my pulse always quickens when I light upon a theme like this. Picked up the rebus at AMBIEN/LIMBER, and began to grok the whole theme at PESKY/SKIM. Still took me a bit longer than the average Thursday because of general difficulty (especially in the SW), but that only meant I enjoyed it longer.

Great one, Gareth!

AnnieD 11:08 AM  

I enjoyed the puzz and like looking for the provinces, but I kept expecting the Yukon and NW Territories to show up somewhere.

Hand up too for the clue for "wade in" to me is not particularly energetic action but more slow and careful. It made my NE corner the last to fall.

JaxInL.A. 11:13 AM  

Gareth, this is a near-perfect puzzle IMHO.
I love a rebus. The different letters in each square make it delicious.
The fill was great.
You included the only sports team I have ever cared about (go SPARKS!).
The theme carried through with the ESSO clue and "north of the border."
You had a fresh clue for ERIE!

I've run out of time to tell you the other stuff I liked and my few quibbles so this will have to do. Love it. Congrats. And thanks for the back story, @Crosscan.

davko 11:17 AM  

Stellar puzzle, loads of fun, and a nice refresher on the geography of our northerly neighbor. I liked that once the theme kicked in, I could attack stubborn answers (like COMPAQCENTER, 50A) by reaching for one of the missing provinces. It was also fun trying to nail down the rebus when you knew your answer was a letter long, but weren't quite sure where to make it up (i.e., was MARLONBRANDO hiding Ontario or New Brunswick?)

Never quibbled over the abbreviations because the 2-letter designations are as universally acknowledged as those of our states, despite the prevalence of PENN, MASS, CAL, etc. Why is this any different, Rex?

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

Gay blade? Gay pride? Had to be one of those, I thought, since gay paree should have been in quotes. Ruined SW for me, when the rest went so well.

Mel Ott 12:10 PM  

I have always assumed that there was an unwritten rule that a first name in the clue elicits a first name in the answer; a surname in the clue elicits a surname in the answer. 58A (Clinton => ALS) seems to violate this rule, custom, whatever.

BTW I liked the puzzle. I almost always enjoy rebuses.

Anonymous 12:16 PM  

Couldn't figure out what I did wrong, yet Mr. Happy Pencil would not appear. So I clicked for the solution and discovered they had MARLONNBRANDO, which would make two ONs. Anyone else notice this?

Matthew G. 12:17 PM  

@davko: Agreed. I'm not sure I would have gotten through the SW if I hadn't figured out that the one province still missing was Quebec (coincidentally the only Canadian province I have visited).

Tita 12:19 PM  

Longest undefended border in the world - great shoutout to our neighbors and helpful education for some of us (I could name 7 out of the 10 I found). And thx Ralph & Pete for those others, so cleverly presented...!
I really wrestled with this puzzle, in a good way. Liked it lots (i like rebuses).

But foodie - you are SO right about those abbvs... esp W[NB]A...

DNF on this one for 2 reasons - Natick at Golfer / Muckraker, thinking it hid the 10th rebus, so didn't look for another... thought ONEC was a weird date in Augustus' reign, and cUP was the bra spec.

@Anon - agree- I WADE IN when being a wuss at the shore, but divE IN when being bold...

John V 12:22 PM  

Good job, Gareth, lots of fun! I had a couple of mistakes, chalked up to tackling the puz at 6:30, after an impossibly long Wednesday work day. So rude, having to work :)

Count me as a rebus fan.

And, oh yes, congrats on a fresh clue for ERIE, esp as you're not in the States.

syndy 12:25 PM  

Canada has 10 provinces?My ancestor came in from Nova Scotia but what I don't know about Canada would fill volumes! SK was the only one I was sure of.I had "on go[OD] terms;then "on g[OO]d terms" etc.THE GREAT NW was my waterloo!PESKY CANADIENS! so I rate this Harder than Rex.and Gareth please please please don't make us learn the South African polital divisions.

Tita 12:34 PM  

PBS show years ago about the last train across Canada...
A fellow traveler (Canadian) said:
"They should have drawn the border north-south instead of east-west, as left and right coasters in both Canada & the US have more in common with each other then they do with their fellow citizens on the other side of the continent..."

And surely you've all heard this one that I first heard on that same show...
Canada had a shot at the best of everything...French culture, American technology, and English government, but instead they wound up with French government, English technology, and American culture...

dk 12:50 PM  

@Tita you wag! Leave the bad jokes to the professionals :)

A young lad was on the playground with his friend E. Doug.

He pointed to little Tita who was over by the swings and stated: Her necks dirty!

E. Doug replied: URDU!

Rube 12:50 PM  

Caught onto the rebus theme early on at MARL(ON)BRANDO, then the reveal showed up to resolve the different abbreviations. Finally realized after getting PR(ON)E that there were 2 ONs and that the OnDER river was mispelled... giving my last letter(s).

Like @R_C, wondered where Newfoundland was only to realize, after a Google, that at some point the Canadians must have decided to combine this with Labrador. Still, really enjoyed this rebus puzzle. Give me a rebus before a quote any day.

Got back a day late. As the saying goes, "There are worse things than having a flight cancelled due to mechanical difficulties".

quilter1 1:12 PM  

Busy morning so had to solve in fits and starts, but every time I came back I got another chunk and finished about noon. Came here to read the kudos for Gareth. I ditto those remarks. Excellent puzzle experience. On to BEQ.

r.alphbunker 1:16 PM  

@crosscan, @pete
Thanks. I recently learned that America has only 46 states. Massachusetts, Virgina, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are commonwealths. Growing up in RI I know that Massachusetts is a commonwealth but am taking Google's word on the others.

I first became aware of the Nunavut territory when I was working with Unicode.


r.alphbunker 1:20 PM  

Major malapop here. The CAPTCHA for this post is part of an answer in today's BEQ puzzle.

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

Like a few commenters before me, I was puzzled by the clue for WADE IN. One could argue that strictly speaking, wade doesn't have a connotation one way or another on the energy scale, but if it does, it's on the tepid end of it.

Alberta Canada Manitoba 1:34 PM  

Really hard for me, even tho one of the first clues i filled in was SPEAK and got the PE rebus...
But didn't know if it would be PE everywhere, or Hebrew letters, or that you were "adding exercise" so it was fun to guess.
Got CANADIANPROVINCES too shortly thereafter but panicked because i didn't think i could name them...much less their abbrevs...
Ironically the one i could name is Quebec, but couldn't find it in the puzzle, having made the error COMPAC CENTER / SCCM which i knew was wrong, but couldn't figure out how to make it right.
Even ran the alphabet for COMPA? A couple of times, each time skipping over Q...
Then thought it was hidden in QUARTERPIPE/QUI
So. My uusual one square wrong...

But i greatly admire the idea, the construction and from whence the inspiration came ( yay Crosscan!!!)

And i admired the South African vibe as Gareth is clearly proud of his roots and it really put the constructor's personality/ background in there, which i love and am happy it's getting a pass today instead of accusations of narcissicism!
Definitely not a BOER. Hard but good!
(that's what she said)
(there @dk, i saved you a third post)

GILL I. 1:57 PM  

Difficult but interesting rebus puzzle.
@foodie said it better than I. The revealer had me scratching my head. I knew it was a rebus with AMBIEN so when I got to EOE I couldn't move....CANADIAN PROVINCE didn't help - no EOE there.
Lots of International flavor here. From PLATA to a Japanese sauce I never heard of: TAMARI. I love sashimi and only use wasabi which stayed in its rightful place till Marlon appeared.

AndyHat 2:14 PM  

No comments yet on the Natick at RIIS/SEVE? So many letters seemed equally plausible there.

Wood 2:14 PM  

Loved this puzzle! Harder than average, but that's a good thing. Got the theme early (ONE BC followed shortly by the revealer) but took a looooong time to get everything to fall into place. Loved the QC crossing... Early on I was thinking, "No way he'll be able to get QC in there...." I had made the COMPACCENTER mistake too,... And had a Wow moment when I saw how QC fit with SQ CM. Brilliant!!

jae 2:15 PM  

A geography lesson with an embedded postal code quiz  disguised as a tough Thurs. puzzle.  I liked it.  I had no idea Labrador is now lumped with Newfoundland.  Thanks Gareth and I guess crosscan.

TimJim 2:18 PM  

Ehh. Got all but the NE and then gave up. Abbreviations seem to be random -- even if you know the provinces -- so like a bunch of little Naticks all over the place. Too much like homework.

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

Great puzzle, but isn't there some rule or custom that the rebused word/group of letters shouldn't appear elsewhere in un-rebused form?

I.e. abONe, ONebc, enrON, vON, ONearm, ONend, PEsky, PEerat - shouldn't these be no-nos?

Tita 2:29 PM  

@AndyHat- read my post - that was my natick...

(If only there were a way to mark tag naticks in puzzles - what a dataabse THAT would make, eh Ralph?)

blockhead 2:59 PM  

One minor quibble: PEERAT. I prefer PEEPAT/CAPO. Nevertheless a pretty cool puzzle.

Loren Muse Smith 3:07 PM  

I thought "begin energetically" was fine for WADEIN. The expression to me feels like someone about to tackle something kind of messy and difficult - he rolls up his sleeves, takes a deep breath, and with a bit of resignation, wades into the mess. I get a bit of a resigned energy with it.

quilter1 3:15 PM  

The constructor of the LAT puzzle today is also Gareth Bain. However it only partially printed for me. Try, try again.

Dobby 3:42 PM  

I am new to this and work the puzzles out on my iPhone. Last week and this week there were alterations of what I consider the normal crossword format (i.e. last week the answers were to be placed in the symmetrically opposite side of the puzzle, today it was a "rebus" puzzle. Here is my question, how does one know when the "normal" rules no longer apply? Experience? a clue? Specific instructions that aren't making it to my NYT Crossword app? HELP! and thank you.

sanfranman59 3:44 PM  

In case anyone cares, I'm not going to bother posting mid-day stats today since the puzzle wasn't available online until very late. One of the short-comings of that app (for the purposes of generating my statistics) is that it starts the clock even if the app doesn't load the puzzle and it keeps ticking until the user has successfully solved the puzzle. So although the puzzle took me about 19 minutes to solve, my online time shows up as almost 3 1/2 hours because I first tried opening the puzzle at about 8:30pm, but couldn't actually solve it until about midnight.

Perhaps the numbers will look a little less skewed come the end of the day. If so, I'll post the numbers then. FWIW, my solve time came in at the low end of my Thursday Medium-Challenging range.

Sparky 4:09 PM  

Lots of hints i.e. BRANDO but first name didn't fit. Got it with PIPE. Knew ANNLEE but had the AN in the first box for a time. Somohow, pant, got the revealer which proved very helpful. All of the above re post office vs common abbreviations, USA ignorance of Canada. Gareth socked it to us and I liked the work. Threw in the towel when I saw the two ONs.
Always like a rebus but do prefer it when I can draw in a pine tree or cat face. Weekend on the way.

Loren Muse Smith 4:14 PM  

@Dobby, I'm relatively new to this, too, but I can tell you that rebus puzzles occur a lot on Thursdays. They're puzzles where some "funny business" is going on two letters in one square like today, a symbol (heart, @, &. . .) instead of a letter in a square, fills that may turn a corner - go down a few squares and then across a few squares, and so on. Most of the time I've found that you just have to figure out that it's not a standard fill.

You may be referring to last weeks "all for one and one for all" theme, and I really wouldn't call that one a rebus; you just switched "all" for "one" and "one" for "all."

Some people like rebus puzzles and others don't. I lOVE them!

Lewis 4:30 PM  

@foodie -- hand up for gas
@jesser -- laughed at the Santorum reference
@anonymous 10:56 -- agree about WADEIN

I don't know my Canadian provinces, or not many of them, but it didn't matter, I just kept my eyes open for rebuses and they fell.

What does EOE stand for????

Fair Guy 4:34 PM  

@Lewis Equal Opportunity Employer

Lewis 5:19 PM  

@fair guy -- thanks!

mac 5:32 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
mac 5:33 PM  

What a day for Gareth Bain! A double header, NYT and LAT! That one was pretty tough for me, too.

I finished correctly via SAFRICANPROVINCE, PANASIANPROVINCE and GAS, of course. There, I said it.

This must be the theme-densest Thursday we ever had. Once I figured it out I wasn't sure I knew all of them, but it worked out. One BC and Bcup were my favorites.

I also dove in, but we've had the wade in discussion.

Stan 6:39 PM  

Yes, this is a hit. Maybe because (not in spite) of the unfamiliar province codes and South African clues. Whatever you think, they're not boring.

Hey Gareth, I am one of the few Americans who has read an entire book about the Battle of Rorke's Drift. This was for a graduate film course that included the movie "Zulu." Our teacher didn't want any class discussion about whether the film was politically offensive, so he showed only films that were politically offensive.

In summer, we have lots of tourists from Quebec in these parts. Nice folks, and thankfully they do not all listen to Celine Dion.

Z 7:39 PM  

Couldn't finish this morning. Why? Because the clue "Much-advertised sleep aid" had me trying to make cialis or viagra work. I blame it on watching too much sports on tv, where ED meds are advertised far more heavily than sleep aids. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

michael 7:45 PM  

I know Canadian geography and wrote down easily the names of the provinces. But I sure don't know their abbreviations....

Clark 7:50 PM  

@Gareth -- Very cool puzzle. I paused when I figured out what was going on and listed the Provinces. I'm surprised how many of them I remembered. Growing up on the shore of Lake Superior helped I guess. Does anyone else remember the Friendly Giant?

Kurt 8:11 PM  

I can't believe that more people haven't weighed in on the NYT/LAT double header. Has that ever been done before? And both were very worthy puzzles. Mr. Bain: I am in awe! More please!

Rudy 8:13 PM  

This puzzle was a doozie. Even though the theme was revealed quickly by 24a, 39a and 50a, it was difficult for me to reel off the Canadian provinces, let alone abbr.

But hey, there were some interesting 4-letter answers: BOER, URDU (not the only language to be read Right to Left) and ESSO (Put a Tiger in your Tank!)

Jeffrey 8:25 PM  

@Clark - Look up; look waaaayyyy up and I'll call Rusty!

@Kurt - It has been done several "times" before, but still very impressive.

dk 9:02 PM  

Just Sayin: I have read about ILLN or however the f#*K it was spelled in 4 different places today I expect it will be a part of the GOP debates in South Carolina. Wuzup? Are we not men! (Great quote from Island of Lost Souls).

Andrea, just cause you post under different names does not mean your boorish humor is not noticed... swooned dk

Sfingi 9:52 PM  

@RobC - The Will Shortz thing was on NPR on the Canadian show that comes at at 7 PM here.

The Gareth Bain on LA was seriously easier than this one.

JenCT 10:01 PM  

Got the theme at AMBIEN, but still struggled - ultimately, DNF.

Liked OVER IT, BLAB; got QUARTER PIPE from my son; had SPACY before LOOPY.

Not getting 36D ONE B? As in, BC?

Liked the puzzle, but found it tough.

fvigeland 11:03 PM  

@JenCT: 36D is ONE BC; the cross is BCUP, not CUP. BC = British Columbia = another rebus square!

@Dobby: You sort of just have to know that Thursdays tend to be the trickiest puzzles in the Times. Like @loren said, last week's puzzle wasn't so much instructing you to write the word on the other side of the grid but to replace all letter strings of "one" with "all" and vice versa… it turned out that the new words were symmetrically placed with their partners. If you think something weird's going on on Thursday, it's likely something tricky like a rebus. There's no explicit instruction that says this anywhere, you just feel it out. Here's a listing of some past rebus puzzles to give you an idea of what they're like. As you can see, they're mostly on Thursdays and Sundays: http://www.xwordinfo.com/Rebus

I greatly enjoyed this puzzle! Tough, tough solve, finally finished in the NW. (Always so interesting to hear that that's where some people got their toehold… I couldn't break in until the very, very end.) Thanks, Gareth! Loved the SA vibe, too.

Anonymous 12:05 AM  

didn't see the rebus; so i was lost. this is the 2nd thursday in a row the theme was a canadian reference eh?

Anonymous 3:26 AM  

been reading these comments for some time but have never seen any advice for how to enter more than one letter in a box when solving online. can someone help me with that? thanks! Courto

Z 6:35 AM  

@Anon 3:26 - It depends on the program. In Across Lite on my Mac I hit the "esc" key, a little box opens, I type the letters I want and hit enter. I learned this from the "Tip" box that opens every time I start the program.

Anonymous 7:06 AM  

Thanks so much, Z! Will give it a try. Courto

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

You made some good points there. I did a search on the theme and found nearly all persons will go along with with your blog.
West Bend 84915 5-Quart Oblong-Shaped Slow Cooker with Tote

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

I noticed only one person mentioned that the correct official two-letter postal abbreviation for the Province of Quebec is not QC. It's PQ.

Jeffrey 1:26 PM  

Nobody else mentioned it because according to Canada Post's website, QC is correct. I grew up using PQ but it is not official.

Solving in Seattle 3:07 PM  

I loved this puzzle. I started at the middle west with BIC and LSAT then realized we had a rebus with ABONE. BAM came easy and then realized CANA was probably our neighbor to the north. Everything else came pretty easily. My only problem was trying to make BErlin instead of BEIRUT work for a divided city. Good job Mr. Bain.

Dirigonzo 4:33 PM  

From the syndicate, I had nine of the provinces in their proper places but alas, I could not find a home for Quebec, my nearby neighbor to the north. It didn't help that I had no idea what the correct abbreviation is. Despite my failure I found it to be an enjoyable exercise and was glad to see Canadians get a tip of the constructor's theme-hat.

Waxy in Montreal 5:19 PM  

Fun Thursday creation, albeit somewhat embarrassing for this resident of the frozen north since, although I identified the theme early on, the puzzle was still a DNF. Blaming AMBIEN, a product not sold in Canada AFAIK, and EOE, QUARTERPIPE & "on the qui vive" that I just didn't know.

BTW, if you use PQ instead of QC, mail will still arrive here. Just get our 6-digit alphanumeric postal code right, eh!

Wow, double-whammy captcha today: "igulnou penance" which I'll probably be doing in Nunavut.

Anonymous 7:03 PM  

COMPAQCENTER was a gimme and tipped off the rebus, but here in Sharks territory the home arena is seldom called anything other than "The Shark Tank", or simply "The Tank". So I enjoyed the seeing that beneath the "tiger in your tank" brand.

I also liked that Canada's national sport was used to clue 50a, albeit with a US team. But I will point out that no less than five members of the Sharks earned gold medals playing for Team Canada in the 2010 Olympics.

Go Sharks, eh?

Anonymous 11:08 PM  

Yippee, this was fun being Canadian to have a Canadian puzzle. Had the _ANAD_ part of the long answer and figured out it was canadian provinces and went cool! Got through the thing and realized I was missing two including my own (BC) - and yes these are commonly used abbreviations :) Then realized ONEC and CUP did not make a lot of sense. Was expecting a roman numeral in a year clue and was edgy there was a N in there.

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