Southernmost active volcano in world / THU 10-26-17 / Lily Tomlin's one ringy dingy character on old TV / Opera that takes place in 1800 premiered in 1900

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Constructor: Jacob Stulberg

Relative difficulty: Challenging (for me, anyway ... probably actually Medium)

THEME: MT. EREBUS (59A: Southernmost active volcano in the world ... or a cryptic hint to certain squares in this puzzle) — an "MTE" rebus puzzle

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: Larry ELGART (46A: "Bandstand Boogie" bandleader Larry) —
Lawrence Joseph Elgart (March 20, 1922 – August 29, 2017) was an American jazz bandleader. With his brother Les, he recorded "Bandstand Boogie", the theme to the long-running dance show American Bandstand. (wikipedia)
• • •

Filled in the NW corner super fast and then just died. Next section over, I had OAFS (4A: Klutzes) and then ... nothing. Actually jumped down to the bottom via the cross-referenced AREA, picking up REST and starting again from there (60D: With 23-Across, picnic table locale). So I ended up getting MT. EREBUS pretty early, but didn't really *get* it, and then when I *did* get it, my brain processed it as "MT" REBUS. I mean, you would rebus MT because a MT is a thing (abbr. for Montana, abbr. for mountain), whereas an "MTE" rebus ... WHAT THE &$^% is an MTE!?!?!?!?! Is this seriously a "three-random letter" rebus? My brain was right to reject that &$^%. I've never seen a more meaningless rebus square. Unbelievable. I understand seeing "REBUS" inside "MT. EREBUS" and thinking "Ooh, tempting!" But I do Not understand thinking it would be fun to make your repeated rebus square "MTE." That, I do not understand.

I finished with an error, namely ELZART / ZAMBIA. There is so much wrong with this cross. First of all, who the &$^% is Larry ELGART?! What the ... why ... I'm just staring at his name, and even his wikipedia entry, dumbfounded that his name is a thing that is considered common knowledge. EL-ART coulda been so many letters. And then you give me -AMBIA, when ZAMBIA is an actual African country yet somehow *not* the actual answer (47D: Its capital is an Atlantic port). But then the actual answer is GAMBIA!? And I'm like "Why ... don't I know about this country?" Well, two reasons. One, do you know how small it is? They need an inset even to find it on the map they use on its own wikipedia page:

Further, do you know what the country is *actually* called (per its wikipedia page)? Here:
The Gambia (/ˈɡæmbi.ə/ (About this sound listen)), officially the Republic of The Gambia,[3] is a country in West Africa that is entirely surrounded by Senegal except for its coastline on the Atlantic Ocean at its western end. It is the smallest country in mainland Africa.
What the hell!? Straight-up GAMBIA isn't even an option here. How are you gonna perpetrate like GAMBIA is a country without the damned definite article!? Come on, man? This ELGART / GAMBIA crossing is a hellscape. It's so bad, it made me forget how dumb the rebus was. And now all I can think of are the non-entity-ness of "MTE" and the fact that ZAMBIA is landlocked and like 5500 miles away from *THE* GAMBIA. You wanna talk about other elements of this puzzle, go right ahead. I haven't got time for the pain. It's all too much. Besides, I gotta start getting ready for the Malaysia Technology Expo 2018! See you all there!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. if that answer was originally Ansel ELGORT and the editor changed it I Swear To God ... !

P.P.S. I definitely had two of these same mistakes at first (RIFT, HAKE):

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Les Elgart 12:13 AM  

That friggin snot nosed kid Larry, always hogging all the fame. You know what our parents called him at home? Ooops! ELGART, that's what they called him. How the fuck did that happen!? ELGART. I thought you were careful! ELGART. One drunken night, and I'm stuck with this kid 10 years younger than I always hanging around. I start a band to pick up chicks, next thing I know the kid's picking up a sax. He sucks, but the girls think he's adorable, the little 12yo white boy trying to play jazz. Fool kid gets more 'tang that I do.

Unknown 12:27 AM  

Agreed - I thought it was a difficult solve. At first I had TTEBOW (bc I misspelled ERNESTINE) and so I thought there was some game with initials or abbreviations. Then even after I got TI(MTE)BOW I was convinced there was some play with "empty" squares. Plus I thought there ought to be more than three of the rebus squares. Idk.
Ugh. I think I knew Zambia is landlocked and eventually seemed like G fit there but that square was just alphabet trial-and-error.

TomAz 12:40 AM  

Challenging for me, too. I had _AMBIA and all I could think was Zambia, which I've been to and know is landlocked, so I just stared. Totally forgot The GAMBIA was a place, and don't know Larry ELGART. That crossing was bad.

I thought the MTE rebus was a fine and clever little ploy.

Can I go to sleep now? thx

Unknown 12:42 AM  

Wisdom teeth clued me in to the rebus situation but still DNF. The bottom half (particularly Elgart and all it came into contact with) was my downfall. Also- farm team for AA group? I need to google that one.

Steve 12:54 AM  

The clue "AA Group" -> FAR(MTE)AM is too tough for a Thursday IMO. AA means Alcoholics Anonymous to almost everybody on a Thursday. Maybe "A/AA/AAA group".

Ando 1:06 AM  

I think FARM TEAM was fine for "AA group". The puzzle has not infrequent references to A/AA/AAA ball, and it seemed clear it wasn't referring to AA because AA is a group and has meetings, but I can't think of a subset which would be an "AA group". Maybe COFFEE DRINKERS?

Justin 1:12 AM  

Dude, Rex,

I'm not gonna say you're a snowflake all the time, but maybe you could, just a little bit, sometimes, GROWUP? If the NYT stumps you every now and again, I think the adult response is, fair play to the editor. In fact, I kind of wonder if Will Shortz follows your blog and intentionally slips in some obscure crossing obscure answers just to slip you up get a rise out of you for his own entertainment.

I enjoyed figuring out the rebus, learning about the existence of MT EREBUS, misspelling TEEBOW and figuring out it was TIMTEBOW, learning there is no P in FORTSUMTER, and like you, hoping that ELZART was the bandstand boogier of note. Like you, I was wrong on that last answer so "failed" the puzzle, and still had a pleasant evening.

On second thought, I also enjoyed anticipating and then reading your tantrum. Your blog is probably more fun for the the general public with an occasional outburst. A hellscape? LOL. You're just goosing the ratings, aren't you!

okanaganer 1:12 AM  

Me too for finishing with ELZART/ZAMBIA.

I would never have heard of Gambia were it not for Kunta Kinte calling a river "Kamby Bolonga" a few decades ago...remember Roots?

Anonymous 1:22 AM  

Poor baby. @Rex runs into a name that's not in his wheelhouse, and a country he's forgotten, it slows him down, so it must be the constructor's fault. And who made up the rule that a rebus answer has to be a word? I thought it was a fun, fast (for me) solve, but I'm an old guy why just happened to know all this old stuff.

Deke Pushrod 1:40 AM  

ELGART and GAMBIA were gimmes for me, for reasons that I'd prefer not to discuss right now, but let's just say there's a lot of pain there, a lot of emotional pain, and that can be the cruelest kind of pain there is, or at least I thought so until I got shot in the foot and boy that'll make you forget about emotional pain real quick.

So yeah I got ELGART and GAMBIA right away. Unfortunately, those were the only answers I got so I had a DNF as the rest of my grid was blank. Blank like a woman's heart, dammit.

Yosticearena 1:43 AM  

It's an 'mte'rebus. That's clever. I smiled when I got the reveal. I understand being upset with the G in Gambia (which I also screwed up), but appreciate a fun meta joke about the rebus!

Paul Rippey 2:33 AM  

I’m traveling to Livingstone Zambia next month and will see Victoria Falls for the second time. I’ve been lucky to see a lot of waterfalls but Victoria Falls are special. And I know Gambia. Or, The Gambia. Loved the puzzle, clever rebus/revealer.

Larry Gilstrap 2:37 AM  

Rex explains his solve, warts and all, and folks pile on, for some reason. If he just wouldn't try to energize his base with chunks of red meat, then this blog would be so serene. Using some irony here. Write about the puzzle like OFL does! Emphasis mine.

I'm glad I know MT. EREBUS, I've read some science adventure. Is that a genre? Anyway, I'm not the best at spotting a REBUS, particularly when it works in only one direction. Square peg in a round hole comes to mind. Mixed up metaphor, to say the least.

Thursday enough for me; and I'm thinking about as Thursday a puzzle we have seen in this space in a while.

Anonymous 2:40 AM  

Racist not to know one's African geography. Actually racist. Not getting-panties-in-a-wad over “homie” racist, but actually.

Anonymous 2:47 AM  

I've only recently started doing crosswords and still really struggle through these at times(especially later in the week), so it makes me pause when someone like Rex complains that a puzzle contains obscure trivia he doesn't know. I come across something almost every day I don't know the answer to and learning something new is part of what I enjoy about it. Geography is something I am better with and got Gambia easily and figured out the rebus pretty early on (with wisdoM TEeth) but struggled elsewhere. Anyways, I am sure it must be hard for Rex that this puzzle wasn't custom tailored to only things he already knew. Must be hard being the King.

Anonymous 2:48 AM  

That was my only mistake too! Zambia, Elzart.... Ruined my streak.

Mike in Mountain View 2:49 AM  

The MTEREBUS revealer was plenty of justification for doing an MTE rebus. What more do you need? I'm just disappointed by the low number of rebus squares. I can't think of a lot of MTE options I wish I'd seen, though. DREAMTEAM and FARMTEAM probably don't belong in the same puzzle, and I don't know any famous MUSLIMTENORS.

Otherwise, I thought it was an excellent and easy-for-a-Thursday puzzle. It helped that I picked up the MTE rebus on WISDOMTEETH.

I briefly thought about zAMBIA but thought it was landlocked and knew that The Gambia wasn't. Yes, it's The Gambia, but I've heard it referred to as simply Gambia (more often than I've heard the Bahamas referred to as simply Bahamas, probably because of the plural nature of Bahamas).

mathgent 2:49 AM  

I've been thirsting for a rebus and here it is. And a lovely one at that.

Great work by Jacob Stulberg. He noticed the word "rebus" in MTEREBUS and thought of it as (MTE)REBUS. Are there any cool words with an MTE string? he wondered. Yes there are.

I know Les and Larry Elgart from listening to music on the radio in the 50s.

Jeffrey 3:30 AM  

I was also slowed down by _AMBIA, first trying Z and briefly N (Namibia?) in my head before hitting upon G. Luckily, I remembered The Gambia from an NYT puzzle last year (Jan 3, 2016), particularly because Rex included a nice map of the country and commented on it’s unique shape in his write-up. Here’s part of his comment on The Gambia back then: “If the only thing I remember about today's puzzle is the location and insane shape of (The) Gambia, it will have been worth it.” Gambia was in the clue that time, not in the grid, but similarly was given without the definite article in its name.

Loren Muse Smith 3:58 AM  

The gripe about ELGART is legit, if you ask me. Let me make all you who had a Z there feel better. I went with ELNART/NAMBIA. Nambia isn’t even a thing. I guess I was thinking Namibia (Hi, @Jeffrey) Embarrassing.

I’m with @TomAz, @Yosticearena, and Mike in Mountain View - no problem whatsoever with the non-thing MTE rebus trick. Take MT EREBUS, reparse the phrase into MTE REBUS. Squish the MTE part into one square. Cute little seasoned Thursday solver gimmick. I see the point Rex makes, though.

My other wrong square was “egos” for that “great binder and loosener.” Sure, makes no sense for the clue. Plus it results in a non-word, “attige,” but its clue, “raiment” is not a word I really know. It looks too much like lament. Raiment lament – that outfit you had planned to wear to parent-teacher night is a little too snug to wear.

I liked that TUT tees into TSK. See above “raiment” goof.

Almost wrote in “fugue” before SUITE. Kinda made me feel cultured and fancy. (I have to add here that I saw TOSCA at the Arena di Verona. Sigh.)

But my favorite piece of music is the WILLIAM TELL Overture, and I guess that’s a bit pedestrian. Still, if I could learn enough trumpet to play the little intro to the Lone Ranger Part, if I could play that on some stage with an orchestra, my life would pretty much be complete.

Nice puz, Mr. Stulberg.

Muscato 4:26 AM  

As someone who regular listens to Big Band radio shows and who has visited that Atlantic port, Banjul, capital of the GAMBIA, I must be the target audience for today's puzzle, which flew by - very much not always the case on a Thursday. Good way to start my favorite part of the week (because of the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday puzzles heading our way, of course...).

Robin 4:32 AM  

Somewhat strange for a NYT crossword with rebus answers mid-week. Made even stranger because the rebus only appears 3 times.(Seriously, why bother?)

Despite some issues in the SW, I did not freak out about the ELGART/GAMBIA crossing. Basically because I knew zAMBIA was on the east coast of Africa and so would not be the correct answer. Also because "Z", really? No that won't work.

All that aside, the NW didn't work at first look. I ended up working off the south central (specifically, black ARTS) and working outwards. So ended up with slightly better than average time, slightly.

Thomaso808 4:43 AM  

Yay, we finally get a rebus puzzle, and a good one!

WISDO(MTE)ETH was the giveaway. Got MTEREBUS only on the crosses and did not even see the MTE until I checked Xwordinfo. DNF because of the GAMBIA / ELGART cross, but I’m OK with that, not a hellscape of pain. The rest of the puzzle was on the easy side and well done.

@Nancy from two days ago, I checked out that Paul Robeson video. Four minutes of my life very well spent. Thanks!

Also from two days ago (busy day yesterday, and staying within my parenthetical allotment here, @JD) thanks to everyone for all the okra suggestions. I’m going to try the recipe from @tea73 first, once I figure out garam masala. @Anoabob, pig lard?

Don J Trump 4:47 AM  

Nakbia is a beautiful country. Just beautiful. Almost as beautiful as my daughter, Ivanka. I had dinner with its President and the President of the Virgin Islands just last week.

How disappointing that the snowflake didn't know its name. Maybe if he went to a school like Penn....just a terrific school, absolutely terrific...he would have known about it.


Don J Trump 4:50 AM  

Nambia, not Nakbia. My assistant can't type. She's fired.


BarbieBarbie 4:54 AM  

Ok so, maybe Bach did write music that was a SUITE, but a suite is not a type or piece of music, so that one was a bit unfair. But I still thought this was average. I’m beginning to see what trips Rex up. Come to a square with multiple possibilities, like _AMBIA, and he wants to decide for the constructor and fill it in and move on. But that doesn’t work unless you have insight. I left it blank and put the G in on the next cross. But, I was slower. Pick your poison, but don’t complain.

@LMS, our esteemed Prez made the same mistake on small African countries. Not long ago. Must have lodged in your sub-c. Can I see a photo of your hair again? har

I had to come here to get the point of the rebus. I was thinking “Mt. E” must be a common nickname for Mt. Erebus. [red face] Now that I get it, I think it’s amazingly clever. Good puzzle!

BarbieBarbie 4:57 AM  

Oh forgot to say: @ Deke, I’m getting to be a huge Don from Accounting fan. Like a little Hemingway with my coffee every day. Please keep it up.

Anonymous 5:18 AM  

To suggest that one is racist for not knowing the name of country - on any continent - in response to a crossword clue is utter BS. Looking at you Anon at 2:40 AM

Queen of Gambia 5:25 AM  

Who says a rebus square has to have a word in it? And who cares if you didn’t know a small African country? I don’t know something out of each and every puzzle I do. And I do them everyday!
All this complaining for nothing is so draining... I had checked Diary of a Crossword Fiend before and that put me in a good mood. Then came here and all I heard was yelling (lots of exclamation and question marks) and complaining. It is quite a downer to hear this constant negativity.
I guess I’ll just skip Rex for a while.

Gholczer 5:32 AM  

Rex - you can’t complain about the NYT puzzle having too much dreck or being arcane and then also be upset when you think Zambia is on the coast. Most solvers have elGart/Gambia crossings regularly and accept the fact that we don’t know every answer - I don’t know any South Park kids for instance. I knew it was a rebus but had wisdomTEEth, williamTELl, fortsumTER and timTEEbo which knocked me out early; but when I saw the solve was happy I got the gist, went back to sleep and look forward to taking care of my grandchildren today.

Trombone Tom 6:13 AM  

I enjoy wordplay and appreciate the constructor whose mind can play with MT EREBUS and come up with the MTE REBUS permutation. That's what a good puzzle is all about. I got the rebus with the WILLIAM TELL/TIM TEBOW cross, but I didn't get the theme until I saw the revealer.

As one who was into big band music in the 50's, ELGART was a gimme, which led to replacing zAMBIA with GAMBIA.

Struggled with Alcoholics Anonymous before realizing that the sports usage was called for. And I, too, tend to want a P there in FORT SUMTER.

I used to rail at how @Rex carries on about stuff he doesn't know, but now I find it kind of endearing. That and the wonderful array of opinions from the commentariat is why I enjoy this blog so much.

Three cheers to Jacob Stulberg (and WS) for giving us a challenging and throughly enjoyable Thursday.

Anonymous 6:17 AM  

Clue says on the Atlantic. You should at least know Zambia is not, and in fact is landlocked. You're ignorance is not Will Shortz's fault.

Brett 6:36 AM  

Religious studies professor here. It is not acceptable to refer to Voodoo (Vodou) as “dark arts.” It is the religious and cultural tradition of millions of people, and the persistent portrayal of this tradition as some kind of savage magic is not ok.

Anonymous 6:53 AM  

There may well be more real racism at the root of having your geographical knowledge stop at the shores of Africa than in policing the use of dated black slang by white people.

Hungry Mother 6:53 AM  

Loved this one! Slightest pause at GAMBIA, but ELGART seemed to ring a bell. Got the rebus quickly and found them without a problem.

Anonymous 7:04 AM  

It is true that you usually say "The Gambia" or its longer name, and not just Gambia. However, Zambia should not be confused with Gambia if you have a decent sense of geography. I did think that clue was too vague as there are many countries on the Atlantic and probably some capitols as well. I initially thought of Panama but don't know if its capitol is on the ocean. Too many obscure names for a Thursday and I had to look up two or three to finish. Any puzzle with Tim Tebow has to be great!

Anonymous 7:17 AM  

Sheesh, what a snowflake!

Robert A. Simon 7:18 AM  

Today, Rex sounded like a student who didn't study complaining about answers on a test he didn't know. But then again, people with a rare, specialized skill (and let's be honest, speed-solving is a skill, not a talent) are often at a loss when their skill fails them. NBA players don't make all their shots, but at least they don't blame the ball, the rim or the lighting when they miss. MTE was great, the AA clue was as good as it gets, but every time I think Rex is off the mark, I remember he created this little pen we all play in and I am grateful.

On a personal note, I fell asleep doing the puzzle, so my solve time was 7:12:38. It actually brought down my average.

kitshef 7:22 AM  

Got the first rebus at WISDO(MTE)ETH, then shortly thereafter got to MT EREBUS/MTE REBUS, but still took a while.

ELGART is the one thing I really wish could have been removed. Crossed with several non-gimmes – If you don’t know geography (like Rex), GAMBIA could have been ZAMBIA (or DT’s NAMBIA), ERNESTINE can’t be too familiar to the under-40 crowd, and RRS could have been RDS or RTS. If somebody wound up with oLzAtT there, I can’t blame them.

Mark 7:27 AM  

I thought it was a great puzzle, even though I have never heard of Elgart. I had Zambia but when it was clear something wasn't right I went through the alphabet in my head and remembered Gambia and voila, the puzzle was solved.

Anonymous 7:47 AM  

Like @Sam I got the rebus at Wisdom Teeth. Unlike Sam, I didn't really ever get it because I kept mindlessly writing in the M and assuming the whole thing had something to do with the letters TE.

Parent/teacher conference, "She's bright Mrs. Nothome, but her analytical skills are one dish short of a set."

Cut to me sitting staring intently out the window trying to figure out why Ginger had so many sexy gowns with her if they were only going on a 3-hour tour.

Lazzyy Elzart 7:48 AM  

One of Rex's most embarrassing write-ups ever. He thinks Zambia is on the Atlantic? Or any ocean? Or was he too busy speed-solving to even read the clue? Maybe he should answer that travel ad for a week-long vacation on the Zambian coast. And go. Please go. I finished, he didn't. Hah!

Two Ponies 7:54 AM  

Is there a prize for short stories?
If not let's make one up and give it to
Deke Pushrod and his family of pen names.

@ Thomaso 4:43, Get some pig lard, preferably
home-rendered, and your cooking will never be
the same. Biscuits from heaven.

Meta rebus puzzle was a great idea but the grid
was a snooze.

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

People actually send money to this buffoon. P.T. Barnum was so right.

Glimmerglass 8:01 AM  

I knew ELGART, so the whole Natck flap seems silly to me (Zambia has no Atlantic coast anyway). I got tangled in the middle north, where
I had OAFS and FARMTEAM, but got hung up on ScoRN and missed FRAT part, FORE, and OFF. Unlike @Rex, I don’t complain. I had an enjoyable solve. The MTE rebus was really clever. Great puzzle.

webwinger 8:04 AM  

After reading the post from @Jeffrey 3:30 am, I think @Rex should apologize to The Gambia (and to constructor JS and editor WS).

I thought the concept was very clever, no prob with MTE as a rebus or only appearing thrice (did contribute to 6 answers). Had to google for Elgart, so Zambia was never an issue, but agree that the Atlantic reference in the clue made it fair. Found the puzzle pretty challenging overall.

QuasiMojo 8:06 AM  

Such a whine dark sea this morning, Rex! I'd never heard of Elgart either but I knew Zambia isn't on the Atlantic. Gambia was not hard to suss out. I finished this without any errors (thank you) in about 20 minutes which is normal for a Thursday (for me, that is.)

And ironically it was TIM TEBOW that saved my AFT. And I know nothing about football. In fact I thought the Heisman trophy must be about hockey. haha. Anyway once I filled him in I got Wisdom Teeth and Fort Sumeter etc. The only thing that really slowed me down was putting in POOL PARTY first. I liked this puzzle. Even with the weird rebus and NBC TV which no one says, do they? Never heard of a PONY keg. I might go out and try one. But then I'd have to start all over at my AA GROUP.

Greenwich Miser 8:17 AM  


Lewis 8:22 AM  

Oh. This one had everything. A great aha at seeing MTE REBUS which led to a big smile -- one of my biggest crossword smiles of the year. Lots of fight. Terrific cluing (i.e. FARMTEAM, WILLIAMTELL, LEFT, HAS). And to top it all, I've got that bouncy Christmas song going through my head, and it will probably IMPEL me through the day.

Once again, Jacob I have loved.

Rhino 8:28 AM  

Had a hard time getting a foothold, so got the revealer before finding any rebus squares. I was kind of hoping at first that it meant there would be 'MTE = empty' spaces. I had no idea what that would look like or how the constructor would pull it off, but I thought it might be cool.

As it was, didn't really care for it. And I'm not sure if the constructor has a lot of anonymous friends on here or what, because I'm surprised by the defense of the ELGART/GAMBIA cross.

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

The answer was originally Ansel Elgort and I changed it. Whaddya gonna do you little bitch?


Unknown 8:43 AM  

I find that I dont mind a boring or pokey puzzle so much anymore because I can count on Rex's blog to be entertainingly irate. There's no excuse for not knowing that Zambia is landlocked except good old American provincialism. A more valid quibble would be that it's The Gambia, not Gambia.

James 8:46 AM  

Your Elgart is my Assam Tea or my rapper NAS. Les and Larry Elgart were famous band leaders. Assam Tea is....

smalltowndoc 8:50 AM  

Outstanding rebus puzzle! For the constructor to even identify “rebus” hiding within MT EREBUS is clever in and of itself. Then using the “mte” part as the rebus itself, insinuated into perfectly legit answers is absolutely brilliant. Add a geography lesson or two, and, voila, a terrific Thursday, best one for quite some time.

This was my fastest Thursday ever. The NW was a cinch. Nicholson as HOFFA was a gimme as was FDA and onCe I had the FO..., the only reasonable answer to the clue for 20 A, “site of a famous opening shot” could only be FORT SUMTER for anyone with even a 4th grade education in American History. It was just a matter of figuring out where the rebus went.

My only minor criticism, alluded to by @rex: the clue for 47D should have included the oft-used xword clue phrase, “with ‘The’...”

Now, I must ask: seriously, what semieducated individual thinks Zambia has an Atlantic coast (or any coast at all; it’s a land-locked country in southern Africa, for cryin’ out loud).

The GAMBIA, on the other hand, was one of the notorious embarkation points of the transatlantic slave trade, made famous (infamous?) by Alex Haley’s “Roots”. The Gambia’s infamous James Island, in fact, was renamed Kunta Kinteh Island as a direct result of Haley’s masterpiece. I did learn some new, interesting facts about this Gambian island, after completing the puzzle: By virtue of its location near the mouth of the Gambia river (an important trading route), it was fortified and manned by the Royal Navy to enforce (ironically enough) the British ban on slave trading. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I also learned a lot about MT EREBUS. It’s the sixth highest “island-based ultra mountain” ( I’ll leave it to others to look that up) and, although in Antarctica, it’s claimed by New Zealand. In 1979, Air New Zealand 901 crashed into Erebus, killing all 257 aboard.

Clever rebus with surprising revealer, challenging level of difficulty and a font of new knowledge! What in the world is not to love in this puzzle?

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

Alas, if only Gambia were a comic book character, or on Game of Thrones. Damn you real knowledge!

I may be stupid, but I'm President 9:03 AM  

@Gambia, I don't know where your little bitch of a country is, but I'm gonna bomb it!

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

Hillary once dodged sniper fire on the tarmac in Gambia.

Black Sun 9:20 AM  

If slave trade is going to be the unsavory topic today let's start with researching who actually owned and made money from those ships. Then look into who captured those slaves and brought them to the coast. Then let's look into who else in the history of the world had slaves. The guilt does not lie with North Americans only. That is not an excuse, only historical fact.

RooMonster 9:21 AM  

Hey All !
An MTE REBUS! Har. Very clever. Like a bunch of y'all, got it with sinking my MTE in WISDOMTEETH. (Did you see what I did there? :-P) Confirmed by TIMTEBOW, which is what I thought that was at first pass through. Then wanted MTE in square 59, but figured out it was just an M, and had to put the M T E in separate squares. Then the real Aha! moment, and a big smile at the cleverness of MTE REBUS. Good stuff.

Had a bit of stoppage in N Center. Couldn't get the ole brain off of AA as Alcoholics Anonymous. Plus having ScoRN in didn't help. Wanted illUSE/bloc for a while. Finally decided to write in OFFS just to see if pattern recognition would come into play, saw OAFS, then the light clicked on with AA baseball. Another AHA/DOH! moment.

Rest of puz good, agree with Natick at G. I had a C, ELcART/cAMBIA. Elcart is a thing, no? Other DNF spot, ASgAM TEA/gETAT. What do I know of TEAs?

Writeovers, eta-VIA, sONY-PONY (only because I read Clue 56D for that), NEWat-NEWTO, EgOS-EROS. Didn't know what Raiment was, but ATTIRE made more sense than ATTIgE!

So a neat, quite clever ThursPuz REBUS. TIS true.


OxfordBleu 9:37 AM  

@Rex you seem not to like a crossword that involves any kind of education. Not knowing Gambia is your ignorance of the world map, not a reason to avoid using a word. You seem to constantly want freshness and newness but without allowing new (to you) words or things you don't already know about, I don't see how this can lead to anything other than stale fill.
I loved this crossword, but then maybe it's because I enjoy the challenge of solving a crossword rather than just banging it out as quickly as possible. Thanks Jacob -- great job. MTE REBUS. Loved it.

Anonypuss 9:41 AM  

That anonymous snowflake antagonizer (Anon. 9:06 et al) makes me laugh. He doesn't always represent my opinion but I appreciate his succinct wit.

This played quite easy for me (8:31). I went to high school with a kid from The Gambia so I had an advantage. His name is just beyond my mind's reach, but it was something very African. We usually referred to him as the Prince of Gambia (even though we knew that technically he was the prince of THE Gambia).

He and I once argued about the spelling of "dilemma." He acted so damn certain about it. But he was the prince. And he was right.

kitshef 9:44 AM  

One of the reasons The Gambia adopted the 'The' in their country name was to avoid confusion with Zambia. Seems to have worked like a charm.

Tita 9:49 AM  

Like @Cliff, I had eMpTy rattling around in my head for a long time, and thought myself very clever.
Only themer I had for a very long time was WISDOMTEETH, and figured ASSAMA was something I've seen on menus...and that it was a unilateral rebus.

I was never ever going to know TIMTEBOW, so even though I knew WILLIAMTELL was the answer, I couldn't make sense of it.

And that same MT brain of mine just couldn't let go of wesTSide (as in Story) out of my brain...the opening shot of that movie is one of the most lauded...

Hell...I was just so happy to see a rebus, that when I finally let myself look at the revealer, I couldn't care less that it had no standalone meaning. I just scurried around and finished those other sections and came here.
Whee...that was fun!

fuzzle47 9:49 AM  

@Rhino at 8:28. I, too, equated MTE with "empty" from the start. When I finished the puzzle I had 3 empty squares, and it wasn't until I plugged MTE into the grid that I got the congratulatory digital pop-up.

As for the Gambia/Elgart cross which was a Natick for some, I find lack of knowledge a poor excuse – too often invoked here – for panning a puzzle. Elgart's "ancient" pop/jazz entertainment reference might be obscure to younger solvers, but Gambia should be fair game.

Anonymous 9:49 AM  

People pile on because Rex rarely has anything positive to say. This blog should be called "Rex Parker Ranks About the NYT Crossword Puzzle." :-) Which is fine, but also why I generally just scan the answers for things I'm not sure about and leave the diatribe alone.

Sir Hillary 9:53 AM  

Great puzzle. Love love LOVE that REBUS is in a revealer about a REBUS. Outstanding discovery and execution by Mr. Stulberg.

The WILLIA[MTE]LL / TI[MTE]BOW cross was my way in.

Toughest entry for me was TUTU. I think of them as lacy rather than frilly. Maybe there's no difference.

There are two countries in Africa named _AMBIA. One is landlocked, the other isn't. Done. It's no sin to not know this. It's a sin to complain that it's unfair because you don't.

I think that half the time @Rex writes such hysterical reviews to stir up the commentariat. Mission accomplished.

mathgent 9:57 AM  

If you like to trash Rex regularly, please send him some money. We don't want him to quit. He gives us this fine playground. Coming here is a cherished part of my day.

If you find him annoying, just skip his comments and read about the puzzle on Jess Chen's blog. You can send Jeff some money, too.

Tita 10:07 AM  

Oh wait...MTE *is* a thing. It's what's left over when you realize Mt. Erebus contains rebus. It's a supreme DOOK, and self-referential to boot.

@Quasi..."whine dark sea"...lovely.

@Don...what @Barbie and @Two Ponies said about your posts.

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

@Larry G,

I don't think you described what Rex did at all. Yes, he explained how he solved the puzzle--or didn't actually. But the bulk of his post was a whine, a sniveling apologia for his own failure to complete the puzzle. Come now, be fair. Rex was bested, he didn't like it and cried about it? Why not acknowledge the facts as they lay?

To the folks who thought MTE would mean blanks somewhere, I'm with you.
Wisdom teeth and Tim Tebow came so fast, I couldn't reconcile MTE being included without what I was sure would mean empty squares somewhere. Oops.

Thanks for the great puzzle Mr. Stulberg, I enjoyed it immensely.

Joseph Michael 10:11 AM  

This puzzle's theme makes it an instant classic. Congrats, Jacob, on finding the mother of all REBUS puzzles. A Mighty Terrific Effort!

Caught on to the trick at WISDOM TEETH and then had fun finding the other MTEs in the grid (wish there was at least one more).

Had a DNF at the same spot that many others did, but mine was Cambia crossing Elcart (even though Gambia was the first name that popped vaguely into my head).

Raymond Chandler, is that you posing as @Deke Pushrod? Great post. Rock on.

Two Ponies 10:14 AM  

Really folks, if Rex didn't rant it would be SOOO boring. Just try some of the other crossword blogs and see what I mean. At least if he doesn't know something he admits it. If he got offended by your tiresome complaining and quit writing this blog then what do we do?
I look forward to this part of my day as others obviously do as well.
Play along or go home.

snowmaiden 10:16 AM  


BarbieBarbie 10:16 AM  

@mathgent: go back a couple of days in the NYT’s Wordplay blog and find the entry about the global logic puzzle competition (US team came in 2nd I think). Follow the link in that writeup to the sampling of puzzles. There’s a thermometer one you will like, I think.

Bob Mills 10:23 AM  

When you get the theme and know the answers, but still can't finish the thing, it's just cruel. This has become a pattern on Thursday. Is there any way to subscribe to the Times six days a week and without Thursday?

Nancy 10:28 AM  

Very enjoyable. I got the rebus at WISDOM TEETH and that made life easier all around. (Although 6D completely fooled me: I was thinking of a different kind of AA and originally wrote in ALANON.) I also had CORE before CRUX at 43A. I didn't know that MT EREBUS had the nickname MT E, but I sort of didn't care what the revealer was, once I had the rebus letters. Getting the rebus -- whatever it is or why it is -- is the main thing.

I, too, had a Natick on GAMBIA. I wrote in ZAMBIA, but was wondering if I should write in NAMBIA. (Google's not accepting the latter; I guess it's not a place.) It's geography that gets me every time. On Jeopardy, too. But this was fun and consistently interesting.

ghkozen 10:34 AM  

ELGART, a composer nobody has heard of, crossing ERNESTINE, who... I still don’t even know who that is, where its from, or why I should know it. Why is the “one” in quotes? Does the phrase “rinky-dink” imply it was on TV in the 1830s? Who knows, and who cares? A physically revolting cross.

Paco 10:35 AM  

Smalltowndoc at 8:50 AM provided much more insightful commentary and a better review of today's puzzle. Rex should recruit him as the first Thursday of the month guest host. Rex's diatribes are too insipid and rudimentary to be taken seriously. It seems more and more plausible that the inside joke is on us if we believe they are sincere.

Ellen S 10:46 AM  

Hey you want real geographical racism, I had ELbART crossing bAMBIA. I knew there wasn’t any such place as bAMBIA (even Donald J. Trump came closer than that), but I really did think I had the bandleader right.

Kimberly 10:50 AM  

A rebus containing the letters MTE is an “MTE REBUS.”

This may not be simple to get for the puzzle, at first, but once “got” should not throw someone into knipshins.

“I don’t get this” and “this is lame” are not synonymous unless you’re 12 and have some emotional issues.

Not everything is going to be easy. Embrace the challenges.

Ellen S 10:52 AM  

Oh — I’ll never forget (I hope) Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine, because I have a Garmin navigation device, and its tone of voice when I disobey it, is exactly Ernestine, when it says “Recalculating!” In the most annoyed and nasal manner. (The Australian male persona is a lot more forgiving.)

(If you’re old enough to remember what a Garmin is, you’re probably old enough to remember Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.)

The Clerk 10:53 AM  

Was hoping for a link to The Alphabet Of Nations by They Might Be Giants after this one !

Nancy 10:54 AM  

Would you believe that I never saw the MTE REBUS thing?! That makes an already excellent puzzle even better. Such a clever, unexpected, playful twist!

@Thomaso808 -- I'm really glad that you enjoyed the video.

Hartley70 11:01 AM  

Any Thursday with a rebus is a good Thursday. Thank you, Will, but you did make us wait a very long time. I was a bit tortured with this because MTE seemed so random and I found the cluing tougher than the usual Thursday. No complaints though because that only made the fun last longer.

I found my sticking points to be the Natick at GAMBIA/ELGART (I'd never heard of Larry) and SETAT when I wanted gETAT. FARMTEAM was my favorite entry, but I owe a debt of gratitude to a set of WISDOMTEETH that never gave me dental pain and also gave me my first MTE rebus in the puzzle.

nunya 11:06 AM  

DNF.Stuck "Scorn" in instead of "Stern" and stubbornly refused to let it go.

jrstocker 11:14 AM  

I literally pulled a Trump and put NAMBIA in at that cross. Oops.

Crocodillo 11:15 AM  

@ Ellen S. Ernestine is from SNL. Laugh In was a different fond memory.

Stanley Hudson 11:19 AM  

Another fine puzzle from Mr. Stulberg; great to actually have a rebus, and a damn clever one, on a Thursday.

And yes, OFL must deliberately ratchet up the vitriol in some of his blog posts. Because, after all, outside of Hollywood and the nation’s capital, no educated adult would throw such childish tantrums, n’est-pas?

Don or Deke or whatever your name is, love the posts.

Tita 11:27 AM  

@Ellen S - I miss my Garmin. I miss Lee, who is the male Australian voice that I picked to tell me where to go.
I also miss that I could replace the boring blue arrow with a little icon of a red MINI Cooper with white stripes.

@Kimberly - you made my head explode. At first I was like "Nippshin - Huh??", and then I was like "OMG - Conniption! I haven't used that term in ages!
Thanks for reminding me of that great word, though I had never seen it spelled that way. Or any way, come to think of it...

kodak jenkins 11:37 AM  

I think the clue for GAMBIA is fair though difficult when crossed with ELGART.

Not sure I've ever seen CRUX before. More Xs please!

Still not sure if MTE is a clever play on phonetics (MTE=empty=meaningless?) or just random and meaningless.

I love Rex's rants, especially the ones that are impelled by his sense of crossword protocol rather than his politically correct outrage. The blog would be a bit boring with his questionable reproaches. "You have to keep people interested" as the President of the U.S. Virgin Islands recently said.

semioticus (shelbyl) 11:39 AM  

This felt like what I call a "time travel puzzle." Well, I guess NAS is the exception, but oh boy the fill is so, um, PASSE. It was so joyless that I couldn't even appreciate the MTEREBUS wordplay.

Phew, what a drab.

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

The problem here was not "not knowing" African countries, but rather actually knowing them, and knowing that the prefix "ambia" means something. So I knew it couldn't be Zambia, because I knew where that was. And I know that it couldn't be Gambia, because that's just not the name of a country. and then I had this cold sweat, like maybe there was a revolution in Africa yesterday and there was a new country and I hadn't gotten the memo yet. So, OK, Zambia and Gambia are taken, which means the only possible name for the new country was Nambia, for the same reason that there is a Namibia. And Elnart was no less stupid that Elgart, and I had no point of reference for that. So why can't we just get an admission that the puzzle clue was wrong? there is no such country as Gambia.

Arden 11:48 AM  

This was an easy one for me. Assam tea gave me the concept and for some bizarre reason, Gambia came into my head rather than Zambia!

Masked and Anonymous 11:52 AM  

In yer Greek mythology, E-rebus was sorta like the area between planet earth and Hades. Sooo … there's yer rodeo poster, MaTEy. Arrrr.

Sweet weeject stacks in the NW/SE.
staff weeject pick: MTE. MTE does not have Patrick Berry Usage Immunity. MTE don't have any kind of immunity at all, actually. @RP: Will definitely maybe join U, at that there MTE 2018 shindig. U go ahead and play point man, and let us know how it all checks out. Be sure & drink some of the water, to verify it's ok.

fave long-ball entries: ELGART [I have the 45 rpm wax, so no-problemo gimme. Theme to "American Bandstand" TV sock hop show, btw.]. REEKOF [or, with a runt-roll to the east, REEKOFT]. UNTENABLE. CRUX/TUTU. ERNESTINE [another gimme, at our house].

Two of the themers had ?-clues. One of the themers had a ?-answer [ASSAMTEA]. Mighty awful feisty. Don't make us come down there, Shortzmeister…

fave clue: {Vivify}. Mis-red it as "vilify" for the first 3-4 passes. Lost valuable day-uMTEen-nanoseconds. Then, finally read its clue correctly, but didn't know what it meant for certain. Plus, was all psyched out, that it might have a MTErebus swimmin around in it. M&A was a mess.

Thanx, Mr. Stulberg. Kinda fun, in a southernmost active volcano swim-thru sorta way. Downright vivifyin. har

Masked & Anonymo6Us


Nancy Dru (not Nancy from NYC) 12:04 PM  

@Stanley, Donnie Trump and Mikey Sharp are a lot alike. Both are self-centered boy-men who rage when things don’t go their way. Both think very highly of themselves and crave fawning attention. And both have small hands.

mathgent 12:10 PM  

Jeff Chen today is asking why they are called rebuses. Rebuses are puzzles with pictures. In some crossword rebuses, the letters crammed into a single square spell a word and that word can be represented by a picture. For example, if the letters are STAR, the solver can draw a picture of a little star in the square.

I've done a couple of rebuses which had STAR. I'm trying to remember others where you write in a picture or a symbol. I think that there was one where the letters to be squeezed into a square were TAU or CHI and you can write in the Greek letter. Maybe one where the letters were TWO and you can write in the numeral.

Carola 12:12 PM  

Gosh, I wish I'd seen MTE-REBUS! But then, that's why I come here. My way into the puzzle was at ARTS x ATTIRE and REEK OF, and, as I happened to know MT. EREBUS, that went in next. Which helped me understand how to squeeze ASSA[MTE]A into the alloted spaces. I really enjoyed the hunt for the rest of the MTE squares. I especially liked FORT SU[MTE]R, after racking my brain about movies with celebrated opening shots.

Failure to follow my own "Geez, do an alphabet run already" rule left me (as well) with with the unlikely ELzART and does-it-have-a-coastline? zAMBIA. I knew GAMBIA, even had a fight with a co-editer years ago over whether or not it should be used with "The" (I said yes and lost).

Do-overs: Core-->CRUX, IN tuNE-->IN LINE. Moments of indecision: ORC or ent? RAHS or oleS?

Tom 12:13 PM  

Thanks for the chuckle Donnie.

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

Scott Adams crushed this one.

Joe Bleaux 12:26 PM  

Being among the "semieducated," as some erudite poster described the likes of me, I don't know Rambia from Pambia, but that didn't spell DNF for me. Since I appreciate music older than NAS, I know my ELGART boys (by the way, @ghkozen, who said anything about a composer?). False starts: scorn for STERN and core for CRUX. Thank you, Mr. Stulberg, for an excellent, clever, and entertaining Thursday puzzle. Thank you, @Deke Pushrod, for the sheerly delightful post. Thank you, @Two Ponies, re reading Rex. The rest of you can thank goodness that I have nothing more to say.

mathgent 12:29 PM  

@BarbieBarbie: Thanks for thinking of me. I checked Wordplay for the most recent three days but didn't see the article you mentioned. Do you remember the date?

Anonymous 12:36 PM  

I had Nambla.

Joy Reid.

kitshef 12:44 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
kitshef 12:46 PM  

Oh, Ernestine is most definitely from Laugh-in:

And here she is.

Unknown 12:53 PM  

Slowly lower the weapon, sir!

I liked it. I thought it was silly until I saw the “rebus” in Mt Erebus. Then I thought it was clever and don’t see why MTE us to be a “thing.” Feels like an arbitrary Rex rule like if you have one ? In a theme clue, they all must have them.

Didn’t know Elgart but did know that Gambia is coastal and Zambia is not. (And you don’t have to say THE Gambia. Gambia is fine, like Ukraine.)

Anonymous 12:54 PM  

I too put Zambia, but then again I get my news from Yahoo.

Crocodillo 1:03 PM  

By golly @ kitshef you are right. Sorry @ Ellen S.
'Scuz me, I have some little gray cells to dust off!

Anonymous 1:08 PM  

The dude's a comic book teacher, not geography for Pete's sake. Cut him some slack.

Z 1:13 PM  

I loved the word play of going from MT. EREBUS to MTE REBUS. Thumbs up. I was a little slow getting the MTE REBUS because Ft. sumteR has the right number of letters. WISDO(M TE)ETH clued me in and the solve got easier from there.

Hand up for having a lightly written “N” in the natick spot, but I did change it to G so W00T W00T, I got it right. It does seem that we’ve had an unusually high number of classic naticks recently, at least a couple involving African Countries. The GAMBIA apparently has about 1.5 million people in it, so somewhere between Metro Milwaukee, WI and Metro Jacksonville FL in population. Out of curiosity I took a look at the List of Sovereign African States. There were four I’ve never heard of and two whose names are so close that I would not have known they were two distinct countries. To anyone criticizing anyone about not knowing that Zambia was landlocked, that “Nambia” is really Namibia, or not remembering that The GAMBIA was featured in Roots 40 years ago, let’s see you properly fill out a blank map of Africa with all 54 countries just from memory. If you can’t please refrain. If you can please get out of the house more.

@crocodillo - Laugh-In is where ERNESTINE first appeared.

I missed the Trump “nambia” kerfuffle. Generally speaking, a person misspeaking is not news. Everyone does it. I suppose one could argue that it is a part of a pattern that raises concerns about mental fitness, but mostly that’s not an argument I see. So, whatever.

I sometimes wonder if anonymice know they are using Soviet propaganda techniques or if they’ve acquired them through osmosis from watching too much Fox News.

Phil 1:14 PM  

Larry Elgart, Who Kept Swing Up to Date, Dies at 95 - The New York Times

Kind of current no?

Tom R 1:15 PM  

Wow. This is a first for me. I found this puzzle easy for a Thursday. I had to check Elgart and the North Central stumped me for a while, but I started in the NE and went down, across, then up and it just all fell into place for me. I have never, ever, found a puzzle easy that Rex called challenging (and likely never will again).

puzzlehoarder 1:15 PM  

Great Thursday puzzle. Getting this one pushed me into what would be a normal time for a challenging Saturday.

The SE was the first section to be filled in completely so I had the revealer before any of the themes. WISDOMTEETH was the first theme to fall and that really gave me a leg up on the other two.

I was very sure of GAMBIA but ELGART is such an unusual looking name that I still had some slight doubt about that G.

A number of basic things eluded me for a long time, things like OFF, DONE and FARMTEAM. STERN sat there unsupported for a long time. The same was true of OREIDA. It took me forever to remember that Canyon is the name of an SUV. As clearly as I recall that character the name ERNESTINE has never quite made it squarely onto the radar so I got some good work out of this puzzle to reach the clean grid point.

Even with a clean grid the puzzle still managed to pull the wool over my eyes. I never noticed that the word REBUS was in the revealer until I read Jeff Chen's comments. Speaking of him I'm baffled as to why he gave the POW to Tuesday over this puzzle.

Phil 1:15 PM  

Aug 31, 2017

Anonymous 1:18 PM  

Huffpo this time last year said Hillary had a 95% chance of winning, so that's where I get my news thank you very much.

Teedmn 1:34 PM  

Oh yeah, I got Trumped like a bunch of y'all, but I had an extra DNF at 44D. With ELnA_T, what was gonna go there? ELnART didn't sound good (and I didn't actually consider it) so I went with ELnAuT (just tryin' to help out M&A there) with a shrug that said, oh well, what the heck. And to find out that Norfolk Southern is a RailRoad and not a Regional University on top of putting in gol-dang nAMBIA (yes, I know Namibia, sheesh)...

So, some spit-takes at Rex's MTE conference, Les Elgart's anti-Larry rant, M&A's "please drink the water" goad and Anon 11:43's search for GAMBIA alternatives. Thanks to all of you for helping wash down the bitterness of my DNF with something more palatable than ASSAM TEA sounds.

Having Core for CRUX was a big time sink today.

I think that having an obscure MTE REBUS is a hoot and that Jacob could find six phrases/names that contained it was very nice. Great Thursday, JS!

OISK 1:35 PM  

Having been to Zambia ( second visit to Victoria Falls, magnificent, but if waterfalls are your thing I REALLY recommend Iguassu) I knew it wasn't Elzart. Gambia sort of seemed familiar. As to it being "the Gambia"...well, suppose the clue was "fourth largest NY borough " five letters. Would we get all upset because "Bronx" is always called "The Bronx"? How about "The Azores,"? Would the answer to "Portuguese Islands" have to include the THE?

Found this to be very difficult, with many clues I don't care for...NAS is, like ESAI, and NWA, (and in my case, even OPIE) just a meaningless group of letters that frequently appear in crosswords, so they no longer stump me. Never thought of a pike as "pointy headed," more "sharp-toothed," or "perch hunter," but I guess it is acceptable. "Finger wagging" for "stern" seems a stretch too far , when "Stern" is so easy to clue in so many ways. How about "German star"? ____party for "Frat" is another of those clues that aren't exactly wrong, but still annoying (to me). ( I thought "acid," "stag," ) Don't like "Holders of toys" for "chests," either. How about an ornithological clue, like "wood thrushes' are spotted"?

On the other hand, nice to see Tosca, and William Tell - two operas in the same puzzle!

But I finished it, and felt some satisfaction at having done so - enjoyed the rebus - so all in all, a good Thursday.

Anonymous 1:50 PM  

"Have I reached the person to whom I'm talking?" @ghkozen....You're missing out if you haven't heard of ERNESTINE and especially laugh In.
Did not enjoy this one bit until I came to MTE REBUS. Oh...clever - just wish I had enjoyed it more. i left my puzzle brain back home.
Of all things stupid, I toyed with slipping in Havana where GAMBIA needed to rear its head. The very sad part is that i know Havana ain't on the Atlantic but I was hoping WS made a fatal mistake.
I got on my knees and said a prayer that TIM TEBOW was correct and so ZAMBIA it was and.... remained. Didn't care.
The WISDOM TEETH that were yanked unceremoniously from my young and tender mouth by a Spanish dentist who was Franco's health tooth care provider and gave me two black eyes because he was a sadist and I was under anesthesia and he didn't care, was how I finally discovered the MTE rebus.
OFF to Tehachapi where it's cold. Smoke gone in California...I hope.

Anonymous 1:54 PM  

I find it annoying that a few of the commentariat link racism with lack of knowledge about African countries.

The fact is that little world educational, material, and religious accomplishment -- most things educated people study -- originated then spread from Africa. (For that matter, same with most of the pre-Columbian Americas.) Tribal cultures in Africa and the Americas never metamorphosized into the larger geographical entities that had the critical mass to support more than basic survival needs like hunting, farming and basic local warfare.

It seems unusual that such a stark difference between African and European (and Chinese) development would exist. Particularly since the roots of human development began in Africa. I'm sure that several of the commentariat know why these differences came to be.

Fred Romagnolo 1:58 PM  

Didn't know ELGART, but did know GAMBIA, as with others: core before CRUX, & scorn before STERN. Did know MT. EREBUS. It was a real geography puzzle; the WILIAM LL clue was the funniest. In this post-Weinsteinian era I wonder about the political correctness of 19A.

Warren Howie Hughes 1:59 PM  

OSAKA to me, Jacob Stulberg! This Thursday offering on your part was TUTU SUITE and RELAYS LEFT me almost speechless! :-)

Anonymous 2:27 PM  

you've made some wildly stupid claims, but todays' are amomg your best. bravo.
I'm not sure who posted earlier, but one of the regulars has been to Zambia at least one. Maybe twice!!! Why? Because it provides easy access to Victoria Falls, surely one of earth's most famous places.
As for Namibia, its skeleton coast is quite famous. Hell, it was in the news quite a lot after the last Mad Max film because the country is claiming the film crews did some environmental damage. More than that, Namibia was a German colony; it's fairly famous for the fact you can STILL drink the water from the tap there. I wouldn't try that many palaces in that part of the world. Point being, its an unusual place among the 54 countries. And since it abuts RSA... it's quite recognizable.

Finally, what are you on about with Soviet propaganda techniques and Fox News false flags? Who and what on earth are you talking about?
get back on your meds dude.

Charles Flaster 2:52 PM  

Loved this puzzle. Fortunately I knew Ernestine ( Laugh In reruns) and Elgart and the rest was easy.

Love the cluing for WILLIAM TELL with a grand misdirect.
Thanks JS

Anonymous 3:21 PM  

Look, I'm just a duffer at the crosswords, posting for the first time, and do understand the benefit of inflammatory commentary to boost readership - but Rex Parker is simply off base with this commentary. None of the answers required particularly specialized knowledge, and the tricky ones could be inferred from surrounding material. Rating this Challenging (even with the caveat) is just idiosyncratic - on Rex's stated rubric for ratings, this puzzle is typical for Thursdays - enough tricky stuff to make one stop and think, but nothing that is as mind-bending as a normal Saturday. Of late I have found myself skipping your official commentary and going straight to the reactions - that ain't right! Cranking out daily commentary is tough, but c'mon, Rex - surely if you are really the King of Crosswords, you can dump the teeny-bopper snits and pique us with something a bit more engaging! I'll keep reading the blog in any event, but hope to find enough insight in your official posts to find them worthwhile and not just skip to the reactions.
William Reynolds, new to posting, if not new to the blog.

DrBB 3:48 PM  

Just did a puzzle--maybe a NYT archive one?--in which I banged my head cursing myself for not being able to remember the great Lily Tomlin character's name until I'd practically finished. So ERNESTINE was a gimme here and felt like a bit of karmic payback.

I too followed 12A down to 60D, figured I might as well stay there and see if I could get the theme hint. I thought "MTE REBUS" was clever enough that I didn't mind that MTE doesn't mean anything, though it would have been more esthetically pleasing puzzle if it did.

I think Rex is really off-kilter about GAMBIA. It's not that unfamiliar is it? ELZART just looked too improbable to me and it only took a few seconds to remember there's another -AMBIA in Africa. I guess I've heard it called "THE" Gambia, but I've also heard people refer to "THE" Lebanon: it wouldn't bug you to drop it there, would it? Does raise a question I've been curious about for a long time and never hunted down an answer to: why DO some place names get that definite article anyway? Why is it THE Hague??? Anybody care to enlighten me?

Mohair Sam 4:06 PM  

MTE-REBUS is flat out the best revealer ever - here's to ya Jacob Stulberg. We were struggling with this one until MTEREBUS filled, huge aha!, and then things filled quickly.

I don't care for big band music but I've heard of Larry ELGART, and I know where GAMBIA is on the map (although first guess was Guyana), so I'm a bit surprised by the natick kerfuffle at 47D. But as put off as I was by @Rex's silly rant I was cracked up by @Deke (1:40AM), so it was worth the price of admission.

@Jeffrey (3:30) Nice catch.

@Nancy - Yeah, thanks for the tip on the Robeson video - Great stuff.

Best Thursday in a long time, thanks Jacob Stulberg.

Unknown 4:14 PM  

Isn't it usually referred to as "The Gambia"?

Girish 4:26 PM  

Ok, Hieronymus...��

Girish 4:29 PM  

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown 😬

Girish 4:35 PM  

I hesitate to mention this (because I might get fired, too), but isn't it The Nambia? Does it fire one up to have never have been fired?

Girish 4:58 PM  

Queen is Fiend's mistress

Girish 5:08 PM  

your Africa quiz is ready... put your name at the top

Girish 5:13 PM  

in case, you wanted to try a couple on...?

Girish 5:18 PM  

buffare: to puff up one's cheeks...
(ring any bells?)

beatrice 5:22 PM  

@LMS - the word 'pedestrian' does not modify any of Rossini's music! The piece is a classic, and never fails to give me at least a few minutes of joy.

The clue for SUITE seemed awkward to me, too, but it is a musical form - usually a group, or suite, of dances - and therefore, a composition. Over time the dances disappeared but the names persisted, and could loosely be compared to 'movements' in many another type of composition. Another good late week sort of mental tweak.

Here is the Saraband from a lute suite by Leopold Weiss, and the quite familiar Bouree from the Bach Lute Suite in E Minor.

Perhaps no one but a resident of South Carolina would recognize a S.C. mini-theme in the puzzle, what with FORT_SU[MTE}R and TI[MTE]BOW. I know only slightly more than zero about baseball, but I had heard that Mr.Tebow was attempting a career change, playing with the Columbia Fireflies, a FARM_TEAM (if that is a correct usage?) for the N. Y. Mets. It looks as though he played a couple of months this summer before going up a level or so (of A/AA/AAA, I guess?). And all that reminded me of a news story about the Fireflies, when they played during the solar eclipse, but not, of course, during the totality. I found a nice article about it with some very nice pictures.

Two Ponies 5:28 PM  

@ Anon 1:54, Your point is well-spoken and one I have often wondered about. Those African roots are now being seriously questioned by the discovery of pre-human teeth in Germany that are very much more ancient than any fossils found in Africa. So different points of human origin appears to be something that simply had yet to be discovered.

Girish 5:34 PM  

Hasslin Egos...???
(actually, I get the impression WS is a very nice man)...even if part of his job is catering to Fiffh Avenue matrons (who purchase hard copies of the NYT)

Girish 5:36 PM  

lol... in the running for humor of the week 😀

Girish 5:37 PM  

are you really black...? 😳

Girish 5:41 PM  

thanks, mathgent 😀✌️🙏👌

Girish 5:43 PM  

Yea, Two Ponies 😀✌️🙏👌

Girish 5:44 PM  

lol... let's form a club, Bob 😀

foxaroni 5:48 PM  

What everybody else said....

Girish 5:52 PM  

Welcome, William 😀

Girish 5:54 PM  

let's just have Hitler race Jesse Owens

Joe Dipinto 5:59 PM  

@Rex -- get a grip. Stop *being* a pill and *take* a chill pill. Gambia has always been shown on maps as "Gambia", at least since I got my first Hammond World Atlas back in the 60's. Larry Elgart was a famous bandleader of the swing era; sorry if you never heard of him, but that's how it crumbles, cookie-wise, sometimes, and it doesn't mean an answer doesn't belong in the puzzle. Yes, Ansel ELGORT would have been more up-to-the-minute, but there's
no such thing as a TOSCO.

And yes, the puzzle has a repeating rebus of the letters MTE, with a fun revealer. Wtf is your problem with that? The whole concept was really very clever.

Anonymous 6:09 PM  

Mark Halperin had Zambia.

Sandy McCroskey 6:24 PM  

Why are the letters "MTE" called a "rebus"? A rebus required pictures. What is "MTE" a picture of? If the square were to be filled by the letters M-O-O-N or S-U-N or C-R-O-S-S etc. you could actually draw a picture instead.
I was sure there must be more to this but, if there is, Rex didn't know, and I haven't found it in the comments.

Suzie Q 6:30 PM  

@ Shelby G. Who are you talking to? You have these multiple posts that make no sense at all. Stop, it's annoying.

Joe Dipinto 6:49 PM  

@Barbie 4:54 -- the Bach clue reads "Certain Bach composition" and a SUITE is a type of composition -- in Bach's era, a selection of dance movements of the time. I don't think the clue is unfair.

Anonymous 7:16 PM  

@Shelby Glidden, looks like you are replying to individual posts, but for those of us not using an iPhone the comments just go to the bottom of the chronological pile. That’s why people replying to posts here usually indicate whose comment they are replying to by using the @(name) reference. For me on my iPad, it looks like you just posted eight random comments in a row. That happens a lot with new people here until they figure it out.

kitshef 7:17 PM  

@Sandy McCroskey - in the real world, you are correct about what a rebus is. But in the crossworld, rebus has acquired an expanded meaning to include any puzzle where a single square holds more than one letter. It's just one of those things you get so accustomed to you forget it used to seem nuts.

Captain Greazyshorts 7:19 PM  

Not only do I agree with Rex that these are inferior answers and the NYT should aim for a higher caliber of word choice, but I like that Rex doesn't censor himself and shares his frustrations and his feelings. Seems to me the person being honest isn't the snowflake, but rather the person telling someone else to quiet down.

Anonymous 7:43 PM  

Joe Dipinto!!!
Did you invoke The Apartment, post-wise?!!!
In my opinion, a perfect film. Thank you.

Kitshef is right. Custom isnt correct, but too powerful to fight.
Now, if only a cartographer would chime in and explain how moronic "north east", or "southwest" part of the puzzle is....

Sandy McCroskey 7:44 PM  

@kistshef: I should know that, as I am the crossword editor at The Nation. But my guys don't use that kind of gimmick (or haven't yet), so it hasn't come up. I sort of figured that must be the case, but also think we maybe need a different word for this kind of thing.

Joe Dipinto 8:41 PM  

@Anon 7:16 -- on my Droid I see Shelby's responses directly under each of their applicable posts, and I am still for the most part scratching my head, lol.

Joe Dipinto 8:50 PM  

@Anon 7:43 -- I was tempted to say that there was a film reference in the post somewhere, so kudos for picking up on it without my having done so!

An excellent film, I completely agree -- I will watch it anytime, anyplace. Lemmon and MacLaine are perfection. Weirdly, it was promoted as a comedy on it's release, but I really never saw it that way (despite it having some comic elements).

Joe Dipinto 9:59 PM  

@me 8:50 -- Oh, I see I made the its/it's mistake. I'll just blame it on Autodiscombobulate. :-)

Mike 10:21 PM  

All I can say is thank you Rex. Thank you. That The Gambia nonsense drove me batty.

Joe Dipinto 12:02 AM  

@mathgent 12:10 - I'm pretty sure there was a CAT rebus at some point in the past.

MichaelG 8:10 AM  

Because of our fearless leader I actually put in Nambia!

BrucieK 9:56 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
BrucieK 9:58 AM  

No, he’s being a whiny little child who can’t accept that he made a mistake (FYI: I made the same single mistake). And to answer his question, “Why don't I know about this country?" — because he’s like every other American who doesn’t know jackshit about an entire continent because he hasn’t taken the time to learn about it.

Beauchamp 2:06 PM  

Kudos to you. Your take was far more entertaining than the puzzle or OFL’s tantrum.

Chris 6:52 PM  

This may be pointed out by others - I'm late to the dance - but I thought MTE-REBUS was very clever - it's a volcano, no? And the top blew off? MTE?

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rondo 9:40 AM  

Never once considered zAMBIA in the GAMBIA AREA, and had a faint memory of ELGART. TAOS , on the other hand, was *alta* for way too long as alta is a resort and TAOS is a city with multiple ski resorts. If SANTA hadn’t come around it might still be alta there. Knew the REBUS was afoot right away with FORTS__ staring me in the face; just a matter of which letters in which box. Don’t really care for rebusiness.

Let’s just give a yeah baby to Lily Tomlin who played many characters including ERNESTINE.

Avoided a DNF. Good enough for an irritating REBUS.

Burma Shave 10:11 AM  


FRAT boy TIMTEBOW can’t GROWUP at all,
HAS no TASTE nor WISDOMTEETH it seems,
HAS ISSUEs, can’t stay INLINE, DONE LEFT football,
TSK, TSK, that OAF’S now on a FARMTEAM.


thefogman 11:32 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
thefogman 11:35 AM  

DNF. The Ringy-Dingy lady did me in. I had EdNaSToNE instead of ERNESTINE. I went with odIES instead of ARIES thinking Garfield's sidekick is nothing if not courageous and energetic (albeit batsh!t crazy). Rap isn't my forte so I settled for NoS (wrong again!). Naticked again by eLGART. And finally, not being a football fan, who could blame me for fumbling the answer to 61A and going with ToMTEBOW. Quite the train wreck, and the TASTE is not so SUITE.

spacecraft 11:38 AM  

My first post disappeared down the rabbit-hole. Here is an edited version, as I must be OFF:

I nailed this sucker. Saw the revealer clue (my eyes are drawn to those), went directly to the SE and solved. I thought it was going to be various anagrams of MTE (EMT, MET, etc.) but it soon became obvious they were all literally an MTEREBUS. I even sailed past the rapper without noticing. The bandleader I knew. Sometimes it's good to be old!

DOD is without question one of my heartthrobs: MARINA Sirtis. That alone would fuel an upgrade in the score; none needed today. Eagle.

Diana, LIW 12:40 PM  

Got the error message. Googled the bandleader - finished the rest.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for my post to appear

Diana, LIW 1:16 PM  

Took the deLorean to Futureland to see if they are having the same blogger lagger issues. I'll report any responses.

Lady Di

centralscrewtinizer 2:07 PM  

Oh happy day. I got the puzzle. Not sure if there was some meta in the mte squares, but Rex would have been better off just leaving that square empty that cost him a dnf. And, yes, he should apologize.
Feels nice to beat the king. Boy, he sure gets mad when he loses.

fakt chekker 3:00 PM  

TIMTEBOW is no Johnny Manzeil, but:

During his college football career, he frequently wore references to biblical verses on his eye black. In 2010, a new rule for the next NCAA football season banned messages on eye paint. This rule was dubbed "The Tebow Rule".

Tebow’s potential as a professional level quarterback was called into question due to a perceived lack of passing ability, persistent fumbles, and having the lowest passing completion rate in the league
No other quarterback under 30 in NFL history has won a playoff game and then never started another NFL game.

A nationwide controversy surrounded Tebow's decision to appear in a Super Bowl ad funded by a socially conservative organization.

On June 25, 2017, the Mets promoted Tebow to the St. Lucie Mets of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League.

leftcoastTAM 4:16 PM  

Rex says it all, and at least for this one I fully agree with him.

I got the rebus theme early enough at the ASSAMTEA/WISDOMTEETH cross, then searched for the other MTEs, only three of them appearingd, randomly scattered.

My one dnf mistake was, like Rex and I presume others, ELzART insteat of the unknown ELGART and the unknown cross GAMBIA, officially called the even less known THE GAMBIA(!).

Mr. Stulberg and Mr. Shortz, please forego the sadism next time around.

rainforest 4:37 PM  

Two more comments deleted by Blogger.

I may not try again for awhile.

Diana, LIW 5:10 PM  

@Rainy - try this - it seemed to work for me. When you hit the "publish your comment" key, if the screen doesn't immediately do its jump to the top, click the "publish" key again.

@Teedmn suggested we contact @Rex re the blogger problem.

Diana, waiting for publication

5wksltr 5:44 PM  

On days like this I love this site. I had tears in my eyes and coffee coming out my nose after Don/Deke's latest offering. Just what the doctor ordered.

thefogman 5:45 PM  

Nice to hear D,LIW survived her trip to Futureland in the deLorean. You need to have the character of an ARIES to take such risks. Sending many RAHS her way.

leftcoastTAM 6:30 PM  

After reading comments, many of them using Rex as a puching bag, I have to agree with those who appreciated the toughness and cleverness of this puzzle.

For all you anti-Rex ranters, think about it, you wouldn't have him to kick around and play off of anymore if he hung it all up. Wouldn't you, and all of us, be the losers?

leftcoastTAM 6:34 PM  

...punching bag....

Diana, LIW 6:45 PM  

@Lefty - a PU CHING BAG could be another name for that ASSAMTEA?


Diana, LIW 6:47 PM  

pu ching could be another Asian tea


Diana, LIW 6:54 PM  

Two comments eaten - I sent @Rex an email re the blog problems.

And PU CHING sould like an Asian delicacy, @Lefty.

Lady Di

Unknown 1:34 AM  

Ugh. Well.
Never heard of a TUSTI. Have no idea what the southernmost active volcano in the world could possibly be. So, with every other letter in place, ToTSI looked like something, as did MT. EREBoS.

Figured the deal must just be that a Mount that starts with E was shortened to “Mt. E” and that was that. And as revealers go, that was pretty... not great.

So OK, having now seen the error of my ways, it’s true that MTE REBUS is quite cleverer than I gave it credit for.

But. I’ve been doing the NYT crossword forever, but only learned from this blog less than a year ago that a multi-letter square is known as a “rebus.” I would hazard a guess that more people don’t know that than do.

So isn’t this a rather self indulgent revealer aimed at a narrow and esoteric audience?
Just askin’.

Joe in Newfoundland 1:06 PM  

syndication chiming in. One of my fave Thursdays. Zambia is landlocked. You're right of course, the country is called The Gambia. I thought the MTEREBUS clueing was very clever.

r.alphbunker 2:30 PM  


Anonymous 8:06 PM  

Bravo!! That seems to be a pure genius idea to re-imagine Mt. Erebus as MTE REBUS, has anything like that ever been done before? And I love the execution with the MTE words that were used. Poor blog author, I feel so sorry for him, not being able to appreciate such wonderful creativity; he is upset because he thinks rebus squares cannot be 3 random letters? is there such a rule? of course not; such extreme negativity, hard to believe.

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