Realm of Queen Lucy the Valiant / SAT 3-31-18 / Myrmica rubra / Food flavorer that's not supposed to be eaten / Start of some futuristic toy names / Hang time to snowboarder / Johnny nicknamed godfater of rhythm blues / Lady first female member British parliament

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Constructor: Kevin G. Der

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: TOTAL GRIDLOCK (52A: Nightmarish Manhattan traffic situation ... or a possible title for this puzzle) — Across and Down lines (i.e. rows and columns in the grid) alternate directions, e.g. first row runs east-to-west (i.e. backwards), second row runs west-to-east (i.e. the normal direction), third row runs back east-to-west again, etc. (and same for the Downs columns)

Theme answers:
  • ONE-WAY STREETS (19A: Most crosstown thoroughfares in Manhattan ... with a hint to this puzzle's theme)
  • SNOITCERID / LLA NI GNIOG (35A: With 41-Across, proceeding willy-nilly)
Word of the Day: Johnny OTIS (1D: Johnny nicknamed "The Godfater of Rhythm and Blues") —
Johnny Otis (born Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes; December 28, 1921 – January 17, 2012) was an American singer, musician, composer, arranger, bandleader, talent scout, disc jockey, record producer, television show host, artist, author, journalist, minister, and impresario. He was a seminal influence on American R&B and rock and roll. He discovered numerous artists early in their careers who went on to become highly successful in their own right, including Little Esther PhillipsEtta JamesBig Mama ThorntonJohnny AceJackie WilsonLittle Willie JohnHank Ballard, and The Robins (who eventually changed their name to The Coasters), among many others. Otis has become widely synonymous with being known as the original "King of Rock and Roll" and the "Godfather of Rhythm and Blues". (wikipedia)
• • •

A themed Saturday. Oy. I mean, this puzzle's hard, but what made it most hard, for me, was that it was themed, and I never look for (and also hate) themes on Saturdays. This should've been a Thursday puzzle. It's much harder, sure, but type-wise, it's a Thursday. Actually, on a Thursday, I'd've finished it much faster, because I'd've thought "what's the theme?" and would've then looked at those longer Acrosses. In tough themelesses, I generally ignore the longer answers until I've worked a lot of the smaller crosses. Smaller answers are easier to get (generally), and once I've picked a bunch of them up, then I look to the crosses to confirm. My problem was I just never looked at 19A (i.e. the first theme clue). If I had, bam, there's the tip that it's themed / tricky, so I at least know I'm striking out because Something is Up and not just because the cluing is hard. Solving in software hurts here too—if you can't see all the clues at once laid out in front of you, your eye can't pick up the ellipses in those theme clues, which is the tip that something themey is going on. So just the fact of running this on a Saturday and not a Thursday added to its difficulty, which feels mildly cheap, frankly. Also, I have seen the "street" thing before; it's been a NYT theme before, though never TOTAL GRIDLOCK the way this one is. The one I remember had answers doing this back and forth thing, but just for Acrosses, I believe. This construction is indeed impressive, but it's a stunt puzzle, par excellence. And the theme is one that, once you pick it up, has no pleasures or revelations left for you. It's just a slog, as your brain struggles to keep up with which way which row / column is going. Lastly, GOING IN ALL / DIRECTIONS simply does not fit the theme. Grids do not go in all directions; they go in two directions. This is ... I mean, this is what defines a grid. The two-direction thing pretty much defines gridness. What the hell?

So since I was not looking at the theme clues, it took me way longer than it should have to grok the theme. I knew RED ANTS was correct (1A: Insects of the species Myrmica rubra) (let it never be said I'm *totally* science-ignorant...), right from the start, but I also knew (or thought I did) that the actor was EWAN McGregor, and both things couldn't be true (or so it seemed). So I flailed there a bunch and moved on. Also wanted 14D: Provisos to be IFS, but it seemed to *start* with "S" so that didn't work. Finally, I wrote in SPAS at 22A: Employers of masseurs and then checked the cross at 23D: Holden's younger sister in "The Catcher in the Rye"—well I absolutely positively knew that was PHOEBE. My sister and I used to make fun of this kid in one of her classes who had to read out loud from the book and kept calling her "Fobe," so that particularly literary name has Stuck Like Glue. I still mentally say "Fobe" every time I see PHOEBE written out. Anyway, SPAS couldn't work with PHOEBE ... unless ... I turned SPAS around. At *that* moment, minutes into my solve, I thought, "Wait, this isn't *$&%&ing themed, is it?" And bam. There's DEMITASSES (12D: Small coffee cups) and THO (33A: Short while?) and I'm off—creepingly off. After that, there's just the awkward work of entering half the answers backwards. Beyond the gimmick, the puzzle is totally ordinary. I mean, do you even remember any of the clues or answers? The only ones I remember are the crossing "?" clues at 37D: Turkey club? (NATO) and 43A: Back on the job? (TEBA, i.e. ABET), where I had to run the alphabet. Totally baffling, and probably the only time today when, after getting the right answer, I thought "OK, yeah, that's good. Fair play." Turkey club? Man. Both those clues are brutal and perfect (Turkey is a country in the "club" that is NATO, in case that wasn't clear) (and if you "back" or support someone in a crime, like a bank "job," then you ABET that person).

OK, it looks like Johnny Cueto is currently pitching a perfect game through six, so I have to go. I am very impressed by this puzzle, architecturally, but I can't pretend to like themed Saturdays, and I can't pretend I haven't seen a (admittedly less ambitious) version of the back-and-forth street thing before, and I especially can't pretend GOING IN ALL / DIRECTIONS makes any sense whatsoever for this particular theme.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Welp, looks like someone got a hit off Cueto as I was writing that last paragraph. Oh well. Still gonna go watch baseball. Because baseball is on. It's baseball season. Baseball. Bye.

P.P.S. And while I was typing the first P.S. the UConn women ... lost??? Whoa. Now I really gotta go see what's up.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:39 AM  

The worst puzzle ever. I eventually got some hint of backwards/upside down when I got to AGORA and then started to suss things out. Yucko.

Sue T. 12:46 AM  

Ugh, this was No Fun. If I didn't have a streak to maintain on the NYT crossword app (I've correctly solved over 200 puzzles in a row!), I would have given up... not because I was unable to solve it, just because it was so unenjoyable.

Mark 1:03 AM  

Most annoying puzzle ever. (Although I do admire the skill it took to make it.)

puzzlehoarder 1:19 AM  

When your name is RED spelled backwards this is the kind of puzzle you make. He even put his name right in 1A. It's not that I didn't get a Saturday level of puzzling, there was plenty of that, I just prefer my Saturdays to be straight up themeless. I kept trying to solve it that way for at least 45 minutes. Finally I was forced to look for the "trick." Once it dawned on me the puzzle mostly fell in place and it was only then that I came across the 19A clue. By then the whole pattern was completely clear.

That middle east section did made a last stand. I don't know many Salinger characters but ironically between the P and the O of 23D I came up with PHOEBE and that's what made that section fall. At an hour and eleven minutes it was another Pyrrhic victory.

Clark 1:25 AM  

I call foul. Crosstown thoroughfares in Manhattan would be 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, etc. -- that is, the main ones. Those are not one-way. They are two-way. Most cross streets are oneway, but not most thoroughfares. I get that the word "street" was verboten in the clue, but using the word thoroughfare was not a solution to that problem.

ColoradoCog 1:25 AM  

I enjoyed this a lot. I enjoy themed Saturdays in general and wish we saw more of them, but this one in particular was deliciously tricky. I saw that there was a theme pretty much from the start, but it took me a while to figure out what the theme was. For me, the aha came when I was pretty sure peaks had to be MTS, fancy collar material had to be LACE, and poker giveaway had to be TELL, and tolled had to be RANG, but that left me with SELA for for what had to be META. Then I had a hunch we had directional trickery going on, and it was like solving a Rubik’s cube. Turn this one this way, turn that one that way, and boom! Everything started falling into place.

Carola 1:27 AM  

I look forward to the occasional, if rare, themed Saturday as offering the chance for an extra-diabolical effort by the constructor, and this one filled the bill for me - challenging and fun to puzzle out. When nothing would cross correctly in the upper tier, I knew that some backwards or scrambled entries were involved, but I just couldn't get a grip. So I abandoned that field for a fresh attempt in the SE, where, fortunately, GRANOLA went in the right way, meaning AGORA had to be upside-down; GRIDLOCK and its crosses finally showed me the TOTAL interweaving pattern. Clever theme, super execution, surprisingly fun to be caught in the traffic snarl.
Looking over the grid, I saw ST. NADER in 1A - and could only think, "Not since 2004."

TomAz 1:28 AM  

I echo much of what Rex said. Just getting a foothold was brutal.. and we all know that's the key to a Saturday, get a foothold, somewhere, somehow, and things will start to fall in place. I got RED ANTS right off, except, it was an educated guess... and then when the crosses didn't work, erased it. ditto REBS. and one or two others.

Like Rex I knew something was up. And also like Rex I've seen the frontwards/backwards thing before.

When I first got a glimmer, I was thinking the crosses were the ones that went front and back. "Crosstown". I thought "crosstown" in Manhattan meant E-W or W-E. I didn't think the avenues were "crosstown". I don't live there though, I just like to visit, so my understanding could be wrong.

Once you get the theme, the puzzle is not that hard. Though even still, a few hiccups: diRGeS before LARGOS. LOG ON TO before LOG INTO. and the "Reading unit" clue was brutal, given what we already had going on with the back and forth.

I expect people will have wildy varying experiences with this, depending on how long their frustration lasted and their brains' ability to go back and forth at will. To me, this is a memorable puzzle, impressive as hell, $#$^ing cool that I was able to eventually solve it... but more fun in retrospect than at the time.

TomAz 1:31 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Good ol' Joe 1:40 AM  

Impressive but no fun. Kept writing in things I knew were right but then didn’t work. So 15 minutes in the the grid was nearly empty. But then once I got it the rest fell quicker than any Saturday. Some great clues but didn’t enjoy it really.

Rick Sparker 1:45 AM  

Rex, you have sunk to new lows This was a great puzzle. You used to have interesting and occasional funny insights. Now all you do is put down everything.

Trombone Tom 2:00 AM  

Oh My Goodness! A Thursday-type challenge on Saturday!

I figured out that RED ANTS and SOS PADS were involved from the get-go, but I didn't get the direction reversals until I had labored away for at least half an hour.

I seldom work with the theme until I have a good part of the grid in place, so the theme answers didn't give me assistance until I was about half done.

I can't begin to imagine how Kevin Der managed to put this together. I am truly impressed. Thank you Kevin and Will for truly knocking my socks off.

Jay from Queens 2:03 AM  

Crosstown streets in NYC are indeed One Way, however crosstown “thoroughfares” are generally TWO way... That little mixup cost me quite a bit of time on this one, but alas. Finished on the T in ABET/NATO, phew. Definitely the toughest Saturday I’ve seen in a long while. I agree with OFL, save the gimmicks for Thursday please.

Mark 2:04 AM  

I think a lot of people are going to agree with Rex that to have a themed puzzle like this sprung on a Saturday is brutal and perhaps unfair. But I didn’t mind. In fact, I liked it a lot. Things like this keep my mind flexible and give it a good workout, which is good (and fun). I agree 100% about the clues for NATO and abet, brutal but fair— and they were the last clues I got. That section took a long time, even though I knew the theme by then.

Dolgo 2:12 AM  

Well, this one was really clever, but it mademmy head hurt. I spent a long time working at it. Like Rex, I couldn't make the few words I was sure of fit together, so I suspected a Thursday--like gimmick. Once I gave in and cheated on the first clue, Googling the insect's common name, I was off. I worked valiantly, but some of the smellier puns got me, so it was a DNF. I have to keep reminding myself that these punsters have no shame and to keep after the clues that don't make sense.

I love challenging puzzles. I know many of you are interested in solving the puzzles in as short a time as possible. I like to savor the clues and learn new things. I really have to say, though, that it's not much fun to go to bed with a headache!

John X 2:24 AM  

This was the best NY Times puzzle I've seen in a long time. This was brutal and it was great! I thought I was going crazy, and I even had the GRIDLOCK part right!

I had so many answers that I *knew* were right and I wouldn't change them. I was tearing my hair out. It was SDAPSOS that I saw it finally, because I had BAYLEAF and "rebs" wouldn't work and then I saw it. And then the fun just began because I had to work this puzzle, to figure out which DIRECTION things were moving. And everything was pretty fair, even the weirder stuff! I started getting good at typing words backwards, which is a strange skill to have.

This was Saturday hard, with no quarter given, the way it ought to be. And to anyone who never knew what Thursdays traditionally were, they were like this, just a bit easier.

jae 2:29 AM  

Tough, technically impressive, and irritating, especially because I was hoping to watch two episodes of Altered Carbon while my bride watched Project Runway but, because the puzzle took so long to suss, i only managed to get in one (that series has it’s own set of vocabulary issues).

chefwen 2:44 AM  

Knew there was a theme by reading the clue at 19A, but puzzle partner figured it out when SOS PAD didn’t work going forward. Even knowing the theme didn’t help with this slog fest. I developed a two aspirin headache by the time we put this one to bed.

Husband looked at it twice, filled in a few things, handed it back and said “I’m done, I never want to see this one again”. He hates gimmicks in the puzzle, I usually love them, but this one wore thin.

Anonymous 3:04 AM  

Alt-cluing for 1A St. Nader: The patron holy man of consumers.

John Child 4:59 AM  

Absolutely wonderful! It’s been a couple of years since I felt such satisfaction upon completing a puzzle. And the last time I had such an experience was a puzzle I saw for test solving, which was ultimately rejected by a familiar major outlet for being too hard.

Everything is fair on Saturday, and once I grokked why nothing was coming together I was hooked. Twice my normal time for a Saturday and worth every precious nanosecond. ®️M and A

BarbieBarbie 5:48 AM  

Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.
Loved. It.
Like Rex, I found crossed answers that couldn’t be crossed answers... so I moved on, and it happened again. And again. I even filled in DEMITASSE with no crosses, and damn, how could there be another small coffee cup with the same number of letters, and...ohhhhh. It doesn’t take being hit by a 2x4 to see the distant glimmer of an Aha at that point. Took me I swear about 20 long minutes to figure out what was up and then it was off to the races, because the cluing was mostly straightforward. I got extra fun when the two answers TORT and SPAS both came up as TxxT and SxxS and even though I knew the answers, that didn’t help!
I didn’t figure out that the ONEWAYSTREETS alternated until I was done. Finished the East last, embarrassing since I use MODELs all the time.
Challenging, yes, but way more doable than the usual Saturday. So much fun.

LOVED. IT. Thank you KD and WS. More, please.

Anonymous 6:17 AM  

I’ll add AxOxA to @BarbieBarbie's lit of reversibles.

Sydney 6:27 AM  

I finally figured out what was going on, but when I was half done with the puzzle I had had enough fun and I hit the reveal button. I never do that. I hope it isn’t a sign.

Lewis 6:32 AM  

Well now!

I do remember coming home from some grinding commutes where I felt like I felt after this solve.

Cracking the theme, THO, was as heartwarming as arriving home to my family, and then I was on easy street.

Newf 7:16 AM  

I finally figured out the theme after repeatedly being clubbed over the head by it. It took me so long to figure out I feared I’d had a stroke in my sleep

Kdunk 7:17 AM  

Post cereal brands: Honey Bunches of Ohs, Honey Comb. Hmmm.

JJ 7:24 AM  

Took me an extra 35 minutes. I too knew something was up with the cross of SPAS and PHOEBE. Then I tried all the crosses backwards. It was like an eye test where I just kept staring at it. My last answer was the T in ABET. I still didn't understand it (kept thinking a bet) until Rex explained. It was tough to get going, but once I knew what was going on I felt I had met the challenge.

michiganman 7:43 AM  

I slogged through this crap puzzle just to stretch my brain after I saw the gimmick, which was way too clever and way too cute. It would have been easier on paper. Maneuvering on the screen was a nightmare. My only pleasure was seeing my old friends ETUI and AGORA in the same puzzle.

Forsythia 8:02 AM  

My experience much like others. Thank you, Rex, for explaining ABET. I figured early there was something "proceeding willy-nilly" in the puzzle but took a long time to grok. Finally printed the puzzle instead of working on-line which helped.

My gripe was that the clues themselves were too straightforward, not Saturday level (except for NATO ABET), and I kept thinking the obvious answer couldn't be right, because it's a Saturday puzzle! Of course, with all the misdirection otherwise, I couldn't have solved it if the clues were more difficult. Definitely a Thursday like Thursdays used to be!

Michael5000 8:08 AM  

Frustrating, but one to remember. Mrs.5000 recalled the time the water heater burst, and the time we had to forcefeed the cat -- challenging, and not what we would have chosen, but we got through it together and had a story afterwards.

Court 8:13 AM  

Love this puzzle. Super satisfying...and a reminder that having a flexible mindset is the key to solving problems. C'mon're just getting crabby and set in your ways.

Two Ponies 8:15 AM  

Put me with the headache crowd. I started in the SE and got the trick early so filling in the rest was rather mechanical and had me wishing I'd stayed in bed.

Drumstick for Turkey club would have been fun.

Sure, Lady Macbeth plotted but she's more famous for her SOS pads.

@ TomAz 1:31, If you think I have an odd family tree and need dental work then just say so. In the mean time that sort of bigotry is very narrow-minded and does not speak well of your own character.

kitshef 8:29 AM  

I loved every moment of this.

In addition to the theme, I loved the cluing. Clues for ABET, LITRE, NATO, EGO were delightful. Clues for PHOEBE and NARNIA were the kind where you have no idea, but know it’s right when you get the answer.

Funny, if you tear up a piece of paper you say you tore it up. But if you tear up (intransitively), you say you teared up.

John Hoffman 8:37 AM  

I thought this was a great puzzle! NATO was hard. Also I had Dirges instead of LENTOS. I was glad that the clues were generally easy, which compensated for the difficulty of the backwards words. Did anyone else get a headache trying to spell words backwards?

Abu Afakski 8:39 AM  

We loved it.
As for Rex, I stopped reading when he wrote “this should have been a Thursday”
Rex, why do want to live in so predictable a world?

Anonymous 8:48 AM  

I beat my fast time ever for giving up.

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

Participants in this blog, including its leader, are whiners.

who's the april fool? 8:50 AM  

I came here to find out what the hell was up with the puzzle. I found out the conceit and went back only knowing that, i didn't look at the solved grid. Once you know what's going on, the puzzle is actually easy. With just a couple of tweaks, this could easily be just another Thursday puzzle...but given the fact that it's Saturday and I wasn't expecting it at all, it was just too much work to fart around with this early in the morning.

I looked at the FitBit on my wrist expecting my BP to be through the roof...but oddly, it was normal.

I still hated the misdirect. There was something gratuitous about it. Cheap, as Rex said. And given that the puzzle was actually pretty easy once you got the hang of it, it was indeed just a cheap gimmick with no real reason for it to be put here.

Unless it was some pre-April Fools joke.

Nampa Bob 8:54 AM  

Not difficult. Just annoying.

Anonymous 8:55 AM  

A quick scan of online dictionaries suggests that primary definitions of “thoroughfare” don’t mention size. I think the clue for 19A passes muster. I don’t expect all to agree.

QuasiMojo 8:55 AM  

I love a mega challenge, especially on Saturdays and this provided that. I knew RED ANTS right off the bat (do they eat red ants?) but didn't grok the theme until about halfway through. STATE ROOMS opened it up for me. Nevertheless after nearly an hour poking around (like a taxi with its meter running) and honking my frustration, I filled it all in EXCEPT for a dumb DNF at DIRGES instead of LARGOS which gave me MODE D and THE (for THO.) I couldn't see MODEL. I also tried to squeeze those bikers into TANDEX (I thought it might be a new kind of spandex that protects you from the sun.) Anyway, I am NOT complaining. Just letting you guys know that I enjoyed the difficulty of it but did not manage to surmount it.

@Rex your FOBE story reminds me of the time a friend asked me to join his reading group. I asked, what are you reading? He shot back "PROWST." I declined to join the club.

jackj 8:57 AM  

The last time I can remember when Will threw the Cru such a curve was when, during an old-time constructor's look back week, the Saturday themeless was replaced by a standard fare Puns and Anagrams puzzle.

The hue and cry of the many solvers who felt cheated at the loss of the revered Saturday themeless puzzle was expectedly and deservedly, long and loud.

Perhaps the way to deal with constructors who want the world to experience their crossword cleverness is to create a new variety puzzle, ala Split Decisions, Puns and Anagrams, Cryptics, etc., call it, maybe, Constructors Delight and run it on the occasional Sunday and leave the Saturday themeless as the crown jewel of the solving week.

Birchbark 8:59 AM  

I seem to recall visiting LLANIGNIOG years ago in Northern Wales, not too far from Mt. Snowden. Charming stone stiles on the ancient rights of way. We wended up the slope at couching time, and when the moon appeared from behind the clouds, it was like a MasterCard commercial.

Finished in twice normal time but liked it. Like @BarbieBarbie and others, knowing the obvious answers didn't always help. Finding the right directions for REBS, ENYA and ITS ON ME took way longer than it needed to. But fun.

Moly Shu 9:06 AM  

1 hour 5 minutes spread over two sessions. I think actual solving time was under 15 minutes once I caught on, so easy for a Saturday with a caveat. I also finished on the T in NATO/ABET. Weird how so many ended up there. Think I saw the gimmick at GRIDLOCK and LINE/OGOG/COLA/KLAS or somewhere in the south, so the upper 2/3’s was almost blank. Liked it more after finishing, when I marveled at the construction feat.

Suzie Q 9:11 AM  

I can tell this is gonna be one of those days when the comments are going to be more fun than the puzzle. Heck, they are already.
Fastest time ever for giving up?
Force feeding the cat?
Patron saint of consumers?
Keep it up! I need a good laugh after this gridlock.

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

This was a terrible puzzle.

mathgent 9:19 AM  

Good workout, as @Lewis often says. A little lacking in sparkle but some neat clues -- "Back on the job?" for ABET, as an example. Only six Terrible Threes in a remarkably clean grid.

As someone remarked earlier, more admirable than enjoyable.

Wm. C. 9:25 AM  

Hated it, hated it, HATED IT!!!!

Took me a long time to see that some of the fill was backward, but then more time to suss out the pattern of backwardness. Some of the fill was fairly easy ... or at least Google-able where necessary for me ... but some was Saturday-hard, further hindering my ability to see the pattern.

By the way, did I mention that I HATED IT?

Z 9:27 AM  

“This was brutal and it was great!” Exactly, @John X.

While I sometimes miss “rebus Thursday,” if the solver is expecting or even anticipating a trick a significant part of the puzzling aspect is gone. Throwing an occasional Saturday curveball to challenge the solver in a different way is a good thing. Kudos.

Even seeing the ellipses and knowing there was a theme didn’t help for the longest time. Considered a (red) rebus because tea(red) up and (red) sox were plausible answers in the north. Then I considered an (ave) rebus on the plausibility of BAY LE(ave)s. What finally opened the puzzle up (after 40 minutes of filling my coffee cup more than the grid) was that STREETS, off only the T in TYRA Banks, had to be right, which meant ONE WAY STREETS was plausible despite the ewan blocker, but THAN and AVOW worked and and “Oh, yeah, ONE WAY STREETS alternate” and I was off. I put marks along the edge of the grid for all the reversed answers which helped a great deal with the rest of the solve.

SNOITCERID LLA NI GNIOG is fine by me because in this grid the answers go in all possible directions (well, not diagonally, that’s next Saturday).

Teedmn 9:38 AM  

I'm guessing it took me 15 minutes to get the trick because it took 45 minutes to solve this, which is about 15 over my usual Saturday time so...And I think it is appropriate that I got the trick at META. MTS and META and TELL all told me something was up (literally).

I thought it was great fun, though I do have a muzzy, headachy feeling from stretching my brain. And I was considering throwing in the towel at the very end because M_D_d at 46A (I had diRGeS like @TomAZ at 24Up) made "Back on the job" = I BET, which made no sense. Nor did "Short while" = THe make sense either. (Actually, I don't get why THO and "while" are equivalent. Isn't THO = though? and how is that = "while"?) NATO gave me MODEL and then LARGOS broke up the GRIDLOCK and done. But I did not solve this cooking with AETE GAS, for certain!

Nice pre-April Fools Day Saturday shocker, Kevin Der, thanks.

clk 9:45 AM  

I completely agree. Best puzzle of the week by far!

Sir Hillary 9:49 AM  

I wish this had run on Thursday because I like my Saturdays themeless. That said, this is an amazing construction and was ultimately a lot of fun to solve once I figured out what was going on.

Like some others, I've been trying alternate parsing for the backward entries. I've too much time on my hands, so here goes:
-- STNADER -- See @Anon 3:04am
-- SDAPSOS -- Llasa dogs in near La Jolla, CA
-- ELAY -- What Tinder should really be called
-- SAPS -- People like me who filled in lots of entries before figuring out they went backward
-- LLANIGNIOG -- Welsh village with no directional driving rules
-- ONSETOV -- Russian leader at the very very beginning of Bolshevism
-- INASAD -- "_____ sort of way"
-- SHO -- HBO alternative
-- SMOORETATS -- Former "Criminal Minds" actor's body ink.
-- TROT -- [too easy]
-- LIEV -- Schreiber whose "Ray Donovan" airs on 60-Down
-- ONDI -- Where I picture a tiara
-- SESSATIMED -- Constructor Ed monitored for speed while creating a crossword
-- OGOG -- Soccer box score entry when a defender puts a ball into his team's net twice.

pabloinnh 9:49 AM  

Etui, Brute? Where have you been? And Phoebe, still on your merry-go-round?

Things finally clicked with BAYLEAF crossing IFS which had to be right, and then the back and forth up and down became clear. I wound up drawing arrows in the margins to keep myself oriented.

But.. a themed Saturday! The horror, the horror....

GILL I. 9:50 AM  

@Todd Castilow....Please, please save your comments for the DAY of the puzzle. Your ONE WAY STREETS grouse pretty much clued me in on the theme. Luckily, I had to work out the hither and yon - does it go East or West, so at least I had fun figuring that aspect of it. I hope next time you go to a steakhouse, mouth watering and expecting a porterhouse, they only offer you hamburger.
Since 19A was given to me, I did have fun trying to figure out the downs. Ewan/NAWE to the rescue. Rebs/SBER and getting SDAPSOS. I kept thinking how clever this whole thing was. I just wish I had figured it out by myself.
I'm going to add four more LOVES to @Barbie B's post. Throw me a curve ball any Saturday you want.
Der is brilliant in his execution. There was no crud at all. ONSETOV to you Mr. RED. This definitely was my APPUC.

MexGirl 9:58 AM  

Haters gonna hate. Oh well.
Fun fact, NATO in Spanish is OTAN ��

dls 9:58 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle, but invoking Manhattan east-west streets at 19A strongly suggests that only across entries should be affected by the theme.

Nancy 9:59 AM  

OMG, I'm exhausted! After I write this, I'm going back to bed. And, to make it worse, I didn't even finish correctly. I thought I had, but I didn't.

You see, I had twoWAY STREETS at 19A. Giving me an upside down WANT at 2D. Why is WANT a word of comparison? I dunno. Two WAY STREETS also gave me ONE VETO (going in the right direction) at 15A. Well, it certainly could have been. Right? Of course Johnny SOTT (going in the right direction) at 1D was an odd name for a performer, but hell, I've seen much worse. Right here on this blog, in fact.

Other than that, I'm feeling surprisingly brilliant. Because I did get almost all of it with no cheats. And it is, of course, an absolutely impossible puzzle. Going back now to read the blog and find out all the people here who are much smarter than me and finished with no mistakes and no cheats.

Glimmerglass 9:59 AM  

Wow! This was very hard for me, which is what I like best (so long as I can finish or mostly finish). I put about three hours in and almost quit. I caught the backwards streets almost right away, but I reasoned “the avenues are not one-way,” So it was a long time before I saw the whole gridlock. Even then I didn’t grok the rows ending with black squares counted, and SPAS should be frontwards, and I was shaking my head that the pattern wasn’t consistent. Then I had major GRID LOCK, which screwed up the whole SW corner. I thought it should be STATE ROOMS, but the M in major meant that STATE was wrong. Some other answers, probably obvious to others, eluded me for many minutes (SAGE TEA, INROADS, T-MAN, SOS PADS, HOT ZONE, DREAMER). So I cussed and sweated and had a fun morning. This is why I love Saturdays.

Blue Stater 10:00 AM  

Another candidate for Worst Puzzle Evah, and I mean evah, back to the early 1950s when I started doing these. These puzzles are a disgrace to a once-great newspaper.

Unknown 10:01 AM  

I can barely tolerate rebus puzzles, because at least they do the one thing that crossword puzzle answers should do: reward correct answers by providing hints (crossing letters) to other answers. But knowing EWAN McGregor, or puzzle mainstay ENYA *punishes* being correct when you put them in in correct order. Better to have a blank square than a wrong letter from an otherwise-correct answer. Why not just make the reader misspell answers at that point?

Brett 10:01 AM  

Unholy Saturday.

GILL I. 10:02 AM  

Oh...I wanted to add:
Seeing PHOEBE in the grid brought on a smile. I remember my brother talking about how much he loved reading "Catcher In the Rye." Naturally, I had to read it so that I could talk about it as well. I think I was about 12 or so but remember thinking PHOEBE was the smartest kid on this earth. Remember her telling her brother "Daddy's going to kill you?"
I think it was PBS that had a special on Joyce Maynard and her liaison with J.D. Salinger. He was one big creep of a guy. I had no idea that such a brilliant writer could be so sickly in love with teenage girls. What he did to Joyce Maynard's human spirit was short of being criminal. Well, maybe it was!

Anonymous 10:02 AM  


TJS 10:06 AM  

Solve time :1 hour, 21 minutes. Decided to knock off the puzzle last night, which I almost never do. After about 30 minutes, I started thinking that my brain just must work better in the AM. Then did something else I never do, looking up a clue on Google. Decided the one I would never know was one across, then couldn't get anywhere with "red ants" either. Another 15 minutes undoing almost all my original answers until cola/granola had me with the backward "agora", my "Oh my God" moment. Then the puzzle just became an aggravating test of keeping the reversals in mind.
As one who hates easy Friday and Saturdays, I cant criticise the difficulty of this one, and I am amazed by the ingenuity of the construction. But not a lot of fun.
Still aggravated by yesterday's "Lanes/ Bowl" combo which didn't seem to bother anyone else.

Cleo 10:09 AM  

Such a hard puzzle! I'm not an expert solver like most of you so when something I know is right doesn't work, I assume I got it wrong. EWAN McGregor, REBS, TELL, DEMITASSE - I was proud of myself for coming up with demitasse without any crosses and then it didn't work, so I just figured there was some other tiny coffee cup I just couldn't remember the name for.

Finally got going after finding a tourist guide to Manhattan that mentioned the alternating one-way streets. Grateful to Rex for the explanation of NATO and ABET. Could not get past diRGeS, which gave me some term I'd never heard of for the physicist's MODEL.

For those of you with fond memories of when Thursdays were like this, I wonder if you may be mis-remembering how hard it was to do these in your early days, before you knew words like ETUI, which I doubt many people have ever seen anywhere but in a crossword puzzle.

Foldyfish 10:09 AM  

Ugh. That's all, just ugh.

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

I had to google Phoebe and that is when I figured out what was going on since I saw "spas" could go backwards. It is ok to complain about not liking the puzzle, but complaining about the Saturday surprise is whining in my view. There is no need to get our panties in a wad when the editor throws us for a loop. We need to be challenged at times. It is a bit like people who get angry when they come into a room and someone is sitting in "their" chair. The puzzle was interesting but not all that fun to fill in words going backwards.

Stanley Hudson 10:20 AM  

Figured out pretty quickly this was themed and at first assumed it would relate to April Fools Day. Obviously that was wrong though I bet that tomorrow being April Fools’ Day is why Will ran it on this particular Saturday.

Quite an effort to construct this I’m sure, although Notre Dame’s effort last night might be on par with it.

Wishing all a pleasant Holy Saturday.

GPO 10:20 AM  

If I get to start counting from the moment I figured out the theme, this was actually pretty easy.

My epiphany came when I knew that Holden’s sister had to be named Phoebe, and the place you get a massage is a spa.

I’m also surprised to see a themed Saturday puzzle. I thought that was outside normal practice?

TubaDon 10:43 AM  

Knew REDANTS and BAYLEAF but my brain went into GRIDLOCK when DEMITASSES and ASTOR didn't seem to fit. After a couple of swigs of English Breakfast tea I realized that Y would fit ENYA backwards and I was on my way. Enjoyed ferreting out the puzzles gimmick but ditto on the grumbling about the clue on ONEWAYSTREETS since I clearly remember driving on several two-way crosstown roads in Manhattan.

burtonkd 10:48 AM  

Going “in all directions” absolutely: answers go North, south, east and west. (Not sure why that is assailable, unless you want some kind of diagonal)

Tougher Saturday clueing would have made this next to impossible. Great challenge to stretch the brain and find the stunt.

Agree about misdirect because main East/West thoroughfares being the only 2 way streets.

Looked like on top of impressive construction, it was designed specifically to frustrate Rex. (You know he ignores longer reveal clues, hates anything that slows a speed solver, days of the week rules must be held fast, etc.) Kudos to the dual feat:)

'mericans in Marseille 10:52 AM  

I HAVE TO agree with Barbie Barbie: I'm in awe at the construction, and TI DEVOL, TI DEVOL, TI DEVOL. What a workout, what a KLAS act. And for the first time this week did finish without any errors. NALEd it, in other words.

Cottoned on to the trick pretty early on, and eventually got used to thinking and writing backwards. I haven't read all the previous comments, but I don't understand the complaints over LLANIGNIOG SNOITCERID. The answers went in all the cardinal directions, no?: east, west, north and south.

27D looks like the answer to "Francophone federal country with sub-national units that specialize in Scout treats?" (Answer: S'MOOR ETATS).

Meant to come back in yesterday, but just wanted to say that one advantage that our son had growing up in Paris was that he learned the idea of negative numbers easily. Our building has eight floors with positive numbers, a ground floor labeled 0, and two floors of underground parking lots labeled -1 and -2. So just riding the elevator teaches kids an important concept in math!

ETUI Brutus?

Anonymous 10:53 AM  

Stop being so joyless, people. It’s a puzzle; you had to figure it out. That’s a good thing. Jeez.

Unknown 11:14 AM  

This was some of the easiest fill we have had on a Saturday for a long time. As it turned out probably 3/4 of my initial guesses were bang on the money. Except 3/4 of THOSE were inconsistent because of the theme! I dunno... really easy fill and cluing + a gimmick that makes it hard doesn't scream Saturday to me.

euphoria0504 11:16 AM  

As far as I'm concerned, Kevin G. Der just pitched the crossword equivalent of a perfect game. This is the kind of challenging, clever workout that I long to see in the Times, and only sometimes get.

Unknown 11:16 AM  

I thought the puzzle was great. I liked the theme and the construction was amazing. Hardly any bad fill (didn't like "IDNO"). And I find gimmicks like this very fun and satisfying. My favorite Saturday for quite a while.

bensky 11:19 AM  

Wow!! Here I am thinking I am finally good enough at crossword to occasionally successfully tackle a Saturday, and I run into this buzz saw. Nothing, and I mean nothing, I tried got any headway. After about an hour and a half of struggle, I gave up and came here for some solace. Which I got, at least a little. You all seemed to have figured it out, but at least I know my FIREANT, AGORA, OTiS, VOTESNO, etc, etc, were not actually wrong, but just directionally challenged.

Oh and Rex, I'm enjoying this replay of the 1909 World Series at least a little more than you so far. What a wild game! Let's go Bucs!!

Ace 11:20 AM  

I liked it, THO' it took me 65 minutes. I tbought IDNO idea was great!

Nancy 11:24 AM  

For those of you I left hanging in suspense, yes, I did go back to bed. But it didn't entirely help. You see, just like @Dolgo, @chefwen, @Two Ponies and @John Hoffman, I have a headache. A mild one, but a headache just the same.

I blame it on doing this puzzle first thing after breakfast, just as I always do. I'm not a morning person, but normally the puzzle gets my brain pleasantly into gear for the day. This one, I fear, caused much too much little gray cell AROUSAL and made very deep and stressful SDAORNI into my cerebrum (cerebellum? medulla?) at precisely the wrong time of day. I was left, rather uncomfortably, SNOITCERID LLANIGNIOG. That doesn't mean I didn't love this puzzle. It's just that I should have done it at night. (Of course I would then be trying to do it on much more than a SESSATIMED of red wine. So there's that to consider.)

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

Just threw this thing in the trash were it belongs.

nyc_lo 11:29 AM  

Words cannot express my contempt for this puzzle. Once the “theme” has been sussed out, the clues/answers are dull and unimaginative. Or, as others have pointed out in the case of crosstown thoroughfares, just wrong. TWO-WAY, not one way, 14th, 34th, 59th, etc. Has the writer even been there? Does he understand what “crosstown” even means in NYC parlance?? Clearly not.

DrBB 11:29 AM  

"Actually, on a Thursday, I'd've finished it much faster, because I'd've thought "what's the theme?" and would've then looked at those longer Acrosses." Exactly my problem, though Sat. themes are not (alas) unheard of when they're particularly hard, so there is a precedent. And of course 52A basically tells you it's a theme, once you get to it. But damn. It's not like they cluing was all that easy even once you figure out the trick, and yeah, keeping track of whether you're supposed to fill upside-down and/or backwards was bollixing. Phew!

Malsdemare 11:32 AM  

Whoa! This was tough. After flailing around for half an hour, inserting and removing answers I was pretty sure of, I cheated. I checked in with Rex to see what 1A was. That gave me a hint at what I was faced with and so I pummeled this thing into submission. It took a while to see just how consistent the direction changes were — did they work both horizontally and vertically? Did black spaces have any influence? — but I got it done. I love a challenge and this one delivered. There were some easy ones — BIRD, TELL, META, RANG, LACE — some that I guessed at (Catcher is too long ago for me to remember Holden's sister), and even after filling the grid, I had to revisit the whole thing to find my typos and errors (LOGoN for LOGIN, mEtS for REBS, stupid stuff like that). I think the answers DO go in all directions; north, south, east, west. Yes, it misses the diagnonals, but many of us would respond, if asked how many directions there are, with four, so I'm okay.

After a lovely sunny day that I spent doing taxes, the rain, wind and cold are back. Schade!

Vincent Lima 11:40 AM  

BAYLEAF told me quite early that something funny was up: I had the B for Rebs and the Y for Enya, but in the wrong places. Normally, the solution might have been to just solve the acrosses until the gimmick showed itself. But I was pretty sure "It's on me" was right, and that was not compatible with Rebs and Enya reversed or scrambled. I looked at the first revealer clue, and the gimmick became obvious. And then it was off to the . . . slog.

I have to agree with OFL that there was no joy in the rest of the puzzle, save in one or two places.

I was sure Rube, as in Rube Goldberg, was the answer to "Start of some futuristic toy names" (which allowed the I in Constantine I to be the unimpressive "ENO"=One). That slowed me down a bunch.

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

Excellent puzzle, extraordinary work. Difficulty helps to feed the hungry ghosts roaming this culture of complaint. I woulda done better - it's your fault says "Rex". Trumpian projection!

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

I loved it! Understood "ego" last: great joke for a finale!

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

Blech. Not even fun.

Unknown 12:00 PM  

Spouse and I sussed the up/down, left/right reversals right away off of RED ANTS/EWAN, and immediately decided that challenging had just morphed into annoying, so we bailed. Once the theme is known, you are left with tedium, to which your polite response is supposed to be admiration for the “feat of construction”. Unlike those thoroughfares in the clue, that prospect really is a one-way street.

Stephen Minehart 12:00 PM  

I liked this puzzle, but my big question is this: is it too hard for a Thursday? I generally prefer the themeless puzzles and now I have been robbed of one this week. I finished in normal Saturday time, but that is meaningless, because I co-solved this one with my wife. She doesn't do many puzzles, but she knows a lot of stuff I don't know, and her help drastically shortens otherwise tough puzzles. The theme came faster to us than it would have, because I was 100% sure of TYRA and YALE (ELAY), saw those clues early, and knew something was up. I think this was Thursday hard, once the theme was evident, but if you couldn't find some crosses you knew stone-cold, it would have been impossible to even get a start.

Adam 12:09 PM  

I enjoyed this a lot more than @Rex did. I solve on paper and immediately saw the theme clues. I also live in Manhattan, and got both the upper right corner and 19A very quickly - BAY LEAF was the first thing that went in, and ITS ON ME/IFS got me to ONE WAY STREETS; I labeled all the rows and columns and was off to the races.

@Rex, I can't help it if you solve electronically and don't look at long clues. I found this puzzle to be relatively easy once the theme went in, although I also had DIRGES for LARGOS and couldn't get the correct answer for the longest time. (For all I know physicists create MODEDs.) Loved the clues for NATO and ABET (once I got it).

And this puzzle has answers going in 4 directions, not 2 - so other than diagonals, it has answers GOING IN ALL DIRECTIONS, so I give that a check-plus.

Nice start to a Saturday.

Happy Passover/Happy Easter!

Joe Bleaux 12:12 PM  

No one to blame but myself, I know, but I still feel ripped off. I look forward to Saturday puzzles, and come expecting a challenge -- but a challenge in the form of a straight-up, hard-ass puzzle without any cutesy-poo Thursday trickery. I wuz had, big time.

Anonymous 12:32 PM  

It's why they are called "puzzles," and it's why I do them.

obertb 12:40 PM  

I'm late in pointing out that the crosstown thoroughfares in NYC are, in fact, two-way, e.g., 14th, 23rd, 42nd, etc. PLUS, since uptown/downtown avenues in NYC are decidedly NOT crosstown thoroughfares, I would have expected only the across answers to alternate directions, not the down answers too. So for a New York Times puzzle the "crosstown thoroughfares" clue seems a little braindead.

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

PS Rex, I blame you for busting up Cueto's perfect game. As a baseball fan you must know that one NEVER mentions a no-hitter or perfect game bid while in progress. Ugh! Where is that "turkey club" to bonk you with?! Sincerely, a superstitious San Franciscan

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

17A: THROW AT (TAWORHT), Try to hit! (with????)

The clue to LITRE is too obscure. Why not Uckfield or better yet Three Cuns Corner? After all there's a Reading in PA.

Make!Do! 12:59 PM  


Mohair Sam 12:59 PM  

Wow, did we ever love this thing. After nearly an hour of getting almost nothing I mumbled "God damn it that is Lady ASTOR and nobody else". To which Lady M. replied - "If you flip her that's YALE and possibly REDANTS and your gimme EWAN makes total sense upside down. Ten minutes later we were finished.

Clever, different, and beautifully structured. And throw me in with the gang who would have finished this in half the time if it was a Thursday.

Masked and Anonymous 1:01 PM  

fave "as is" puz answer: 7-D's ROTSA. As in: "ROTSA luck not squanderin a passel of precious nanoseconds right outta the gate, solvers!" (yo, @John Child)

Actually, there is one advantage to bein an M&A-type solver, who plods along, tryin to solve the day-um startin NW corner until the cows come home walkin backwards: Bumped smack into this here situation:
1. 15-A had a part-filled look of ?HWVE?S.
2. 17-A had a part-filled look of ?AAOA?T.
3. 19-A says there is a theme and the hint is ?NNWR?OTBE?T?. Which told me not much except that 15-A and 17-A are probably co-colluders in the theme somehow. First thing I thought of for "most crosstown thoroughfares", once I finally thought of anything at all, was "ONE WAY", which suddenly turned on a headlight to try doin some stuff back-asswards. Voila.

Will take all the themed puzs I can get, so this was A-OK fine by m&e. Not sure I'd call this a "stunt" puz, tho. Probably not much harder to construct than a regular one, if you highlight the backward "streets" in yer grid ahead of time. And havin stuff run backwards ain't exactly new-plowed ground, as several of U have already pointed out. And yep, there are answers GOINGINALL (4) DIRECTIONS, sooo … seems appropriate, IM&AO.

staff tcejeew pick: OGE.

Grid has a themeless, 72-word look to it, sooo … Well disguised! Also, keep in mind it **is** April Fool's Eve, sports fans. Near anything goes, in these here parts.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Der. Primo construction. Dangerously low on the U-meter, tho.

Masked & AnonymoUs


oliver klozoff 1:05 PM  

Seems like you are a whiner too, whiner.

Daisy 1:12 PM  

ZERO FUN. Hated it from start to finish.

Junief 1:12 PM  

Yes, that reading unit was as brutal as they come. Clever, I must add.

Two Ponies 1:22 PM  

Comments above speaking of diagonal answers not being included reminded me of a puzzle way back with the theme of "all roads lead to Rome." I'm sure others here remember that one. I thought that was a great stunt puzzle.

resol 1:22 PM  

Took me 45 minutes before surrendering for the first time in months. That’s on me. After I cheated and looked at the finished grid on xword info I was impressed and angry at myself for not persevering. Impressive.

Margaret 1:33 PM  

Has anyone ever had SAGE TEA? Is this a thing? I have heard of all kinds of tea but this is not one of them. I had MATE instead of SAGE and couldn’t make it work so knew something was up. What is SAGE TEA??? I mean, I get what it is. But has anyone consumed it before other than Kevin G Der who clearly has generally odd teas clouding his brain.

Z 1:36 PM  

@all you two way complainers - The clue reads Most crosstown thoroughfares.... That you fooled yourself by eliding over the first word of the clue is on you, not the puzzle.

@Sir Hillary - E-LAY! Good one. I just heard of a new dating app called Hater. It matches people based on what they hate. Seems as if this puzzle could be a good matching tool.

pmdm 1:38 PM  

I'd have to recheck, but it seems to me the percentage of those commenting earlier on liked the puzzle less than most posting later on. Interesting. This puzzle had more gimmes than most Saturday puzzles do, so it wasn't that hard to realize something strange was going on. I enjoyed it despite the added difficulty in reading words backwards.

If someone were to day to me that the true puzzle solver is always on the alert for things that break the rules, I could not argue otherwise. a;though there are some counterexamples in today's blog.

I can't my additional comments until tomorrow. Must fly.

mmorgan 1:42 PM  

I picked up the fact that answers went in different directions pretty quickly, but until I came here I didn't realize that they ALTERNATED. Damn, that would have made it a lot easier (I was assuming it was random. Duh!).

Eddie 2:01 PM  

I have to say, I hate puzzles where you have to enter an answer deliberately wrong. To me backwards is wrong haha. Having a few I can probably deal with but every other one is just a chore and not fun to me. Oh well

Gary Jackson, Lifestyle Coach 2:12 PM  

Everyone who hated this puzzle should stick to easier ones. People magazine has a delightful crossword.

First Time Long Time 2:25 PM  

@Z Sorry pal most east-west streets are one way in Manhattan but not thoroughfares. It’s kind of nit-picky and I didn’t even notice until I came here though. It couldn’t be as most “streets” because “streets”was in the answer.

Gretchen 2:31 PM  

Took me longer than usual, but that's what I hope for on a Saturday. This was great fun! Loved it!

Gretchen 2:31 PM  


Bob Mills 2:39 PM  

There's one word for this puzzle. Ridiculous. I usually finish Saturday puzzles, and I couldn't finish this one even after looking at the solution. What a waste of valuable time.

CDilly52 2:48 PM  

You are 100% correct! I immediately thought that we had to have some “backwards” thing going on because I was certain about every down in NW except OTIS and couldn’t make them fit. Tried up and down but eschewed it because of the foul on the “thoroughfares” in NYC. Eventually got it but would have been much quicker without the foul!

jberg 3:30 PM  

I'm with @Z -- in fact, as I was solving I thought of his comment a week or so back, when he made the same point: if tricks are always on Thursdays, they become much less interesting. I'm glad Mr. Shortz has decided to shake things up.

In this case, though, it was I who got shook up. I understood we wanted one-way streets, but since the clue mentioned "crosstown," I figured it couldn't be true for the NS, i.e. down answers. If I'd managed to get the answer for 35/41A I might have figured out that it applied in ALL DIRECTIONS -- but I didn't until much later. Finally, about two hours into the solve, with TOTAL GRIDLOCK pretty well confirmed, I realized that KLAS would work for an upside-down vaccine, and quickly filled in the whole SE corner. Now I could see that both the rows and columns alternated, so I could work the whole thing out.

But man, the writeovers! Especially 9A, where I had both brillos and sollirb before I finally saw that SOS would work if I added the PADS. And 24D, where I was really stuck on "pavans." In Baroque music, which I mostly play, LARGOS tend to be anything but stately -- long, flowery, improvisations over a slow basic beat. But they are slow, so I finally got it.

At least, I think I did. While I love solving in the paper, the disadvantage once you get so many writeovres is that it's hard to tell what is really supposed to be in some of those squares -- 31A could either be EGO upside down, or ONE (which I had first). But I think I've got it all.

Time to rest.

Kimberly 3:37 PM  

Thursdays which play like lame Wednesdays. Saturdays which play like crazy hard Thursdays. The world has tilted off its axis and will soon go spiraling into the sun. That’s the only explanation.

Unknown 3:42 PM  

Idiotic, stupid, and disrespectful of readers’ time.

Tita 3:42 PM  

Loved it! Really tough. I got nowhere last night and this morning on my tablet. Decided to do it on paper Maybe theme would expose itself better on paper.
Then my puzzle-sister called from Cabo. "Did you do the puzzle??? I loved it!!" she said.
"No spoilers", I screamed, then set aside all my other Easter preps to focus full-in on this.

It was a long and winding road. I was thinking running east/west, block the box, gridlock - I guess I was on the beltway driving in circles, while the theme occasionally poked it's head out and laughed at me.

The "slog for my brain" part was just what I liked about this Even when I FINALLY figured it out, and marked with highlighters all the opposite direction rows/columns, I still kept getting caught here and there.

Funny - I got a handful of up/downs before understanding the theme - never stumbled upon any of the crosstown ones, until I finally grokked the center themers, then realized they were ALL going to be like that. That's when ny yellow & orange highlighters came out.

So - my sister and I would like to report in as loving this rare themed Saturday.
(Why didn't you invite ME to Cabo, though...)

Phipps44 3:54 PM  


Z 4:19 PM  

@First time long time - Sorry pal, but crosswords often use secondary meanings for words. While you (and even most NYC residents - I have no idea) may think of a Manahattan “thoroughfare” as only those two-way streets listed several times above, spend a picosecond or three with your favorite search engine and you will find the clue usage has lots of support. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the clue writer specifically picked “thoroughfare” over “road” or “route” as a misdirection.

FTLT 4:30 PM  

@Z Whenever I read your inane comments I think of one of my favorite movie lines. From Jaws: Quint, played by Robert Shaw to Hooper, played by Richard Dreyfus: ““It proves that you wealthy college boys don't have the education enough to admit when you're wrong.” –Quint ‘Jaws’ 1975

Malcolm Gibson 4:38 PM  

Great puzzle, though theme was unexpected. But clues made it obvious that there was a theme. Very challenging, but a puzzle should be.

Z 4:40 PM  

Just for you, @FTLT.

Mo 5:02 PM  

So everyone knew DEMITASSE but me? Only slightly embarrassing considering my short stint as a barista during college. Took me forever to finish the mideast. THO=Short while? Boo. But I appreciated the theme as a NY motorist. @MexGirl said it right. Haters gonna hate. Anyway. Gotta go reread Catcher In The Rye.

Norm 5:02 PM  

@jberg : whiteout. sometimes writing over just won't do.

Norm 5:07 PM  

Tremendous puzzle. Maybe the best of any day this year.

thefogman 5:27 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
semioticus (shelbyl) 5:33 PM  

40 minutes in and I am still totally lost. Kevin G. Der puzzles are always challenging, and I'm hoping that there will be some sort of a reward when I hopefully figure this one out. The hard trivia-tricky clue combo always kills me.

FTLT 5:35 PM  

@Z LOL Gotta admit you’re a better linker than I, and I think we agree today’s puzzle was a good one ( it crushed me). Happy Easter, Passover or just a Happy Sunday to all if you’re not religious.

off the grid 5:35 PM  

After some initial frustration I got the alternating right/left, up/down bit. Then it was just a PIA to complete. I don't know NYC so all the street/thoroughfare quibbling means nothing. Since the opposite direction answers are adjacent it could be argued that each pair is a 2-way "street". There was really no point to all this. Perhaps the constructor was just pleasuring himself.

Robso 5:36 PM  

“Nightmarish traffic situation?” I would say just “Nightmarish.”

thefogman 5:39 PM  

A perfect basket-weave puzzle with lots of lovely Easter eggs (themes and reveals). Well done Kevin G. Der!

thefogman 5:41 PM  


Joe Dipinto 5:45 PM  

Welcome to the NYTimes's April Fool Redundancy Theme Weekend.

Joe Dipinto 5:55 PM  

@Margaret 1:33 -- clearly, SAGE TEA is a concoction that is brewed and consumed exclusively by NYTimes crossword constructors, and possibly by Will Shortz, since it makes its occasional clockwork appearance in the NYT puzzle, but has never been seen nor heard of elsewhere.

GILL I. 6:17 PM  

@Tita...Yes, Damn it...Why didn't she invite you to Cabo?
@Z...Thanks for making my afternoon laughter a delight and @FTLT...You, too!
I'm finishing up two dozen deviled eggs for our homeless. Do this every year. I'm hoping some of my friends are still doing okay - especially my crazy friend "Fur."
Happy Easter to those that celebrate.

OISK 6:17 PM  

Finished it, and felt a great sense of accomplishment, as well as awe at the construction. There were a few clues (sage tea) I didn't love, but generally, once I figured out the theme, it went very smoothly. Just once, as I filled in my last letter, ( the "M" in 45 across... ) I lost my sense of direction.... A tem? What can that mean?

Clean week, it's baseball season, the Mets are two and 0, and we escaped from slavery in Egypt. It's all good. (and Happy Easter to those who will be celebrating it)

Anonymous 6:35 PM  

Yeah, miserable. Not worth figuring out.

I no longer look forward to the puzzles, to be honest.

Jcap 7:19 PM  


Big J 7:43 PM  

Hi, Y'all

Definitely gave me a workout. Had one way traffic, before streets, and everything began to click. Had to reprint the grid ( I solve on paper.)
Finished but solving this puzzle (Given the TRAFFIC Theme) was, like driving in NYC, ONE BIG PAIN THE ASS!!!!

Larry Gilstrap 8:22 PM  

Yikes! That solve was a rough as a cob and took forever, and I'm not sure I enjoyed it. Writing stuff backwards feels weird. Lots of erasures. I burned up more rubber than the Indy 500. All of the nits mentioned apply to me as well, not to mention those tight little corner stacks.

I feel at home on a bicycle, so 46A seemed odd to my ear. Never heard the phrase "in TANDEM" as part of the biking vernacular. I went on a bike trip around the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. We had a married couple on a TANDEM in our group. Great memories of lunch across the border in Quebec.

I was so baffled at one time that when ETUI fell in, I muttered "Thank, God!"

Challenging, but fair enough.

Her Heinieness 8:39 PM  

Brilliantly done but not enjoyable at all for me. Even after figuring out the crisscross theme, I gave up because I was starting to feel like my eyes were crisscrossing. Challenging and fun is a great combination on any day but this just made my brain hurt.

Ladyslott 8:43 PM  

Totally agree, as a life long New Yorker that one threw me. Overall I hated this puzzle, especially since I do them on my iPad and the entering of backwards answers was difficult.

Lindsay 8:47 PM  

Just when I thought I was catching on... Saw the theme early, since I do the puzzle on paper, and thought I was so clever to get DOUBLEPARKING right away! (52A) From there I figured we were dealing with some rebus type double lettering tbd. Then looking through the clues I thought I must be getting better by degrees - I knew so many! By the time I hopped around looking for a true toe hold I could hardly read some of my write-overs. And it was all ONEWAY downhill from there.

Hungry Mother 10:12 PM  

I really loved this one. I got the theme from the get-go and appreciated the easy answers. I’m in the Paciifc time zone, and have had a busy day, so I solved in little segments.

Anonymous 10:38 PM  

This is garbage. I can understand creating one clue in the "wrong" direction, but the whole puzzle? No, this is not worthy of the Times or of my time, for that matter. I hate rebuses, multiple word answers and this abomination. It's not about knowing the words, it's about being so clever at spelling backwards. No thank you.

Clark 10:38 PM  

@Z, you're missing the point. Most NYC streets are one-way; thoroughfare's are not. And you (and some other misguided anonymous) are right that thoroughfare don't have to be main or big, but they do have to go through. It is the two-way streets that go through -- through the parks, and through the messed up parts of the grid.

Anonymous 10:42 PM  


semioticus (shelbyl) 11:02 PM  

It took me about 75 minutes but I'm finally done with this thing. I wholeheartedly agree with Rex. This puzzle doesn't belong to a Saturday. Dumb down a couple of clues in key places and it's a brilliant Thursday puzzle. Now it's just an annoying Saturday puzzle. To quote Jeff Chen, "Puzzles are meant to be taken on as a challenge and ultimately solved — not meant to beat the solver senseless and leave him/her to bleed." Kevin G. Der needs to learn this. This is the second insufferable puzzle he got published in NYT. Ugh.

GRADE: C, 2.5 stars.

Unknown 11:36 PM  

“GOING IN ALL/DIRECTIONS,” as opposed to “two directions” was likely a reference to where ones brain went before figuring out the theme.

Aketi 7:01 AM  

@Margaret, SAGE TEA is used to decrease a milk supply when lactating parents are painfully engorged

Anonymous 8:53 AM  

gnivloS this elzzup was tuoba as hcum fun sa reading siht comment.

Murph 11:15 AM  

As much as the "Step Quote" was used and is now abandoned, some of the gimmicks inserted in these NYT puzzles are just off-putting and strange. Soon solutions will be found by using two of the three languages on the Rosetta Stone.

sommmervillle 11:44 AM  

Sorry, Rex, but you're way off on this one. It's a great April Fool's day puzzle by a puzzle master who deserves maximum praise.

As for "Going in all directions," your criticism if misguided. In the puzzle the answers go East to West, West to East, North to South, and South to North. Since those four compass points are the four basic "directions" possible in a grid, that makes sense to me. Okay, maybe diagonals are also directions — but, hey, this is an idiom that is also a clear clue to the puzzle's theme, and it works for me.

Sometimes you need to let puzzle-makers do their thing and welcome them more fully, instead of wanting every puzzle to be one that conforms to your more limited idea of what good puzzles ought to be!


WillGH 12:02 PM  

Speaking of St Nader. A moderately popular science fiction book - Eon, by Greg Bear, published in 1985- featured Nader as the martyred saint of a religion held by a group of people living in an asteroid. Mainly because Nader had opposed nuclear energy which had ruined the planet and had then died in The Great Catastrophe. Adherents of the religIon were called Naderites and referred to him as The Good Man. No idea if the real Ralph Nader was aware of or ever commented on this depiction.

Space Is Deep 12:38 PM  

It took me two days, but I finally got it. I liked the change of pace. Sure it's a gimmick puzzle, but why not a hard gimmick puzzle on a Saturday. Unlike speed solvers, I don't work the downs first, I just scan till I find a few gimmies and work off of them. Saw that it was gimmick puzzle early on and said, "Rex isn't going to like this on a Saturday." I say, Bravo! Well Done!

GhostofChristmasPast 12:49 PM  

Yes, Rex is a whiner.

Matthew B 2:30 PM  

I loved this puzzle. I solve on paper and use a fountain pen. I therefore make sure I'm correct before I write in my answers. In this case, once I grokked the theme, I printed out a second copy, labelled the horizontals L,R, L,R and the verticals U,D, U, D...just so I didn't gum up the works by writing in the answers in the "wrong" directions incorrectly. What a brilliant piece of construction. Though a native New Yorker, I was able to ignore the parsing of "thoroughfare"...please! When you critics listen to Bach, do you bemoan the fact that he is not Mozart or do you appreciate him for what he has created.
I have noticed that there are always complaints resulting from solving the puzzles electronically. I enjoy the sensuality of putting pen to paper and, consequently, never have an operational problem because of software limitations. You guys ought to try it sometime.

TCProf 4:02 PM  

Not solving on paper is the designated hitter rule of crosswords—an “innovation “ that debases the game.

Great puzzle. Nothing wrong with an ultra-challenging puzzle from time to time. And if you’re upset about a Saturday not being themeless, I envy your life being so beautifully happy and carefree that that rises to the level of a perceptible tragedy.

Unknown 4:31 PM  

What is RUSH-RUSH and how does it relate to GOGO? (57 D. Or is it 57 UP?)

dm3000 6:31 PM  

This is what I get for peeking at the Sunday write-up before doing Saturday. I saw a reference to theme, so..theres that. It does help to do these on paper because your eyes can spot a theme reference before you get too far in. Also, April Fool's, so...not surprising.

a.corn 10:17 PM  

Days late here but YES THANK YOU!

Matthew G. 9:54 AM  

This was really my only issue with this puzzle. Liked the theme a lot more than Rex did, but the words “crosstown thoroughfares” to me (a longtime New Yorker) mean the streets that specifically AREN’T one-way. Because the thing that makes them thoroughfares is that they have multiple lanes. Unless you’re going to try to tell me 11th Street is a thoroughfare. My eye!

Anonymous 9:51 PM  

This puzzle was beyond terrible. It just stinks in every way a crossword can.

OlyL 2:35 PM  

Knew so many good answers. Didn’t know where to put them! I’m skipping my workout routine today. Already sweating.

Unknown 3:11 AM  

I don't understand this blog. It seems to me like the better you get at crosswords, the more you'd appreciate when a tricky one comes along that makes you work for the answers. The trickier the better. A surprise themed Saturday? Yes please.

Yet whenever Rex is even slightly inconvenienced he starts to complain. Every time I find myself thinking "Well, that was clever. I wonder what Rex thought about that one" I invariably find that he hated it and would have preferred a bland completely symmetrical grid that fell into place on his first pass.

The more I like a puzzle, the more Rex complains.

thefogman 10:43 AM  

Loved this one.
Especially the beatification of Ralph in 1A: STNADER

spacecraft 11:59 AM  

Score one for the newsprint solver! I too could not make sense of the NW--until I wrote in TEARED from the bottom up, causing w/os at the non-E's. Then as the first themer began to fill in it started to look like ONEWAYSTREETS, and I realized that the whole thing alternated directions with every LINE. That was an OMG moment--as in, OMG how did he do this? Never mind MENSA: Mr. Der is ready to join SCORPION!

This theme reminds me of my college chess club's trip to a tournament in the Big Apple. We saw the parking entrance to the hotel where we were going to stay, but we were on the wrong side of the street. There happened to be a cop nearby, so we pointed to the driveway and said "That's where we want to go." His reply--and this is the truth, so help me--was:

"You're in trouble."

It wound up we had to travel a total of ELEVEN BLOCKS, taking half an hour, because of all the &$#*&@ ONEWAYSTREETS. (Okay, half an hour because it was nighttime. Rush hour would have taken probably an hour and a half, maybe two).

So for that charming memory, and for DOD TYRA, I tip my hat to the constructor and award a birdie.

Burma Shave 12:57 PM  


snoitcerroc fo LLET ot EMNOS'IT
that caused TOTALGRIDLOCK.

--- NAWE

rondo 1:13 PM  

@foggy - glad to see others also noticed ST.NADER. Not INASAD way.

If you want a puzzle, this is one. This woulda been the day for a pencil; inkfests all over where the "right" answer was backwards, or upwards. Enough other places I didn't fill but saw one of letters I needed in the wrong spot, like AROGA. Then . . . light bulb and eventual completion.

@D,LIW (WILD backwards!!) - your ETUI is here and waiting for you. Say HI to @teed. Happy Bloomsday to all.

If anyone ONSETOV anyone other than MODEL and yeah baby TYRA Banks (IHAVETO) you're off base.

This was a heckuva puz to TAWORHT a solver.

rondo 1:24 PM  

Just now read @Sir Hillary because I also saw SESSATIMED. Very funny list.

leftcoastTAM 2:49 PM  

TOTALGRIDLOCK deedin. TOTAL gols is erom like ti.

Not htrow the emit to hsinif.

But sknaht anyway, RED G. NIVEK.

Diana,LIW 3:38 PM  

Oh isn't this funny.

No. Worst puzzle I've ever seen.

Lady Di

Diana,LIW 3:41 PM  

@Rondo - yeah, I had ETUI and TYRA - about it. Then looked some up.

Having fun with @Teed and Mr. @Teed.

Still not WILD about the puzzle.


rainforest 4:08 PM  

The challenge in this puzzle was just starting, which I did entering the few "gimmes": THAN, (EWAN),AVOW, ETHYL, TYRA, and (TELL). Just pure luck that I was sure that META was correct and it was going in the right direction. I could see that if I reversed TELL and wrote in MTS going up, META was confirmed. Ha!

Going back to the NW, if I reversed EWAN, then RED ANTS going backwards (my first thought actually) would work.

It took several minutes, and myriad write-overs to realize that the whole damn puzzle consisted of alternating reversals going both across and down.

Once I saw that, the entire East side of the puzzle was done without a single w/o.

So very hard to start, but once the gig was up, relatively smooth sailing. I think the revealers were apt, too. So, difficult yes, and I thank META (a word I hate) for it. As @Spacey would say - "huge triumph factor."

leftcoastTAM 5:31 PM  

P.S.--Despite my lack of enthusiasm about it, this may be the ultimate model of a combined Thurs/Sat puzzle.

Waxy in Montreal 8:34 PM  

!elzzup taerg ,OHMI

Really enjoyed this ThursSat mash. Only agree with OFL's rating of CHALLENGING in terms of making SDAORNI as to what the heck was GNIOG on. Thereafter, relatively straight-forward (or backward as the case may be) to solve.

Need some AESEGAS (or stronger brew) about now.

leftcoastTAM 9:40 PM  

I looked for LMS somewhere way above and couldn't find her. Wondered about what she might have said about this one.

strayling 9:54 PM  

My newspaper looks like an accident in an ink factory, but I managed to get there eventually. Much fun, Mr Der.

Anonymous 11:01 PM  

Thank you reD G. nivek rM , I think.

Liev Onsetov 5:11 AM  

Saint Kevin Der. ST.(Na) DER —with a grain of salt! Great puzzle! That's what a Saturday crossword should do! scramble your mind. I went through all the stages of crossword grief with this one: "tough to get a foothold, wait I know TYRA and ETUI, why isn't anything working, how long have I been working? 35 minutes! and only a dozen scattered entries. what's wrong with me?" GRIDLOCK ELAN AGORA finally cracked this puzzle for me. Brilliant! Thanks.

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