Lee known for his cameos / THU 6-18-20 / Cosmic force / Rocky Mountain city once home to Anaconda Copper Mining Company / One of McMahons of WWE / Offering at pier restaurant

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Constructor: Ricky Cruz

Relative difficulty: Challenging (7:21)

THEME: CAR / VAN / SEMI / TRUCK / BUS (39A: [Ugh, we've been stuck here for an hour...]) — a TRAFFIC JAM (61A: Situation depicted at 39-Across) and three arbitrary, vaguely related other themers:

Theme answers:
  • BOTTLENECK (17A: Possible cause of a 61-Across) 
  • INTERSTATE (11D: Bad place for a 61-Across) (there are *good* places for them?)
  • LATE TO WORK (28D: What a 61-Across might make you)
Word of the Day: "KUBO and the Two Strings" (2016 animated film) (1D) —
Kubo and the Two Strings is a 2016 American stop-motion animated action fantasy film directed by Travis Knight (in his directorial debut). It is produced by Laika. It stars the voices of Charlize TheronArt ParkinsonRalph FiennesGeorge TakeiCary-Hiroyuki TagawaBrenda VaccaroRooney Mara, and Matthew McConaughey. The film revolves around Kubo, a young boy who wields a magical shamisen (a Japanese stringed instrument) and whose left eye was stolen during infancy. Accompanied by an anthropomorphic snow monkey and beetle, he must subdue his mother's corrupted Sisters and his power-hungry grandfather Raiden the Moon King, who is responsible for stealing his left eye. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a mess, and a rehash of a concept I've seen elsewhere. The center answer feels vaguely unfair, in the sense that it's not a word, or a phrase. It's just a series of vehicle types ... when you're trying to pick vehicle types out of thin air, with no way of knowing what they might be *except* via the *one* Down answer, yeeeesh. Kinda violates the law of US crosswords that all squares must be checked. I see how knowing there's a vehicle type in there acts as a kind of check, but oof. Unpleasant. The idea that that center answer "depicts" a TRAFFIC JAM seems preposterous, in that ... it only does so because the TRAFFIC JAM clue says it does so. Absent that clue, 61-Across looks like ... maybe a parking lot, or a line of cars at a light, or a drive-thru window, I dunno. There Are Only Five Of Them. Nothing particularly "jam"-y about it. I get that you are "jamming" (??) the answers into little squares, but if that's your big punchline ... I think it's gonna miss a lot of people. Further, the three other themers are all arbitrary and not terribly "jam"-y either. I think of BOTTLENECK as more of a synonym of TRAFFIC JAM than a "cause"; INTERSTATE is just a random road ... no reason a TRAFFIC JAM there is any "bad"-er than a TRAFFIC JAM anywhere else; and LATE TO WORK ... sigh, it's adjectival where the others aren't, and again, totally arbitrary, but it gives you symmetry with INTERSTATE I guess so put it in there, sure, why not? The whole thing was made more grueling and tedious by the cluing, which was way harder than normal. The NW corner alone was an astonishing chore. First pass yielded absolutely nothing. Thank god I got the BOTTLE part of BOTTLENECK, because I desperately needed all those letters. Thought the answer might be RUBBERNECK at first ... it seemed vaguely plausible. Anyway, ugh to most all of this.

So many problems, even outside the TRAFFIC JAM. Misspelled ERIK ("C"). Misspelled RAMSAY. ("E"). No idea about this MALL (54D: The world's largest one is in Chengdu, China (covering 18 million square feet)). You couldn't invent a worse SHANE clue for me if you tried. Just ???? (65A: One of the McMahons of WWE). Wow KANS is bad. The attempt to untie ALEXA and AMS via "alarms" was painful (27D: One setting an alarm, maybe + 29D: Alarm clock settings, for short). Impossible for me to get from clue to MUTT (I had OLIO) (4D: A little of this, a little of that). Had HOOPS before HORSE (68A: Basketball game). Thought the anchor was on a *SWIM*TEAM (50A: Group working with an anchor) (NEWSTEAM). I'm looking this grid over and seeing no answers I truly liked. Zero. I like that RE(BUS) actually contains a rebus square, that's kinda cute. But DETS no EEKS no ... so much generic fill, and nothing exciting or even semi-splashy.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Frantic Sloth 12:01 AM  

Yay! Rebus! Finally!
It's been so long I almost got good and stuck.

Then I had the brilliant* idea of just cramming all the letters I could into the 39A row (except for CAR, which was the last to fall because I kept seeing "nOeL" and thought they were being cute with "NO L", but I thought "well, that's stupid", and so I was.)

Meanwhile, with the run of ERVANT, OSEMITE, TRUCKOUT, and EBUS, the vehicles quickly jumped out at me and it was all over but the fill.

And not for nuthin', but the fill wasn't too shabby either. Any PPP and otherwise obscure blech were fairly crossed.

All in all, a fun, nit-free challenge for me.

Well done, Mr. Cruz!

*because "brilliance" is how I roll.


Joaquin 12:08 AM  

@Rex says, "... ugh to most all of this." I say, "Ugh" to Rex. I loved this change of pace Thursday.

Patrick O'Connor 12:09 AM  

Something told me that Rex wasn't going to like this puzzle, and I wanted to log on early and say that I thought it was just fine. He pretty much explains what is clever about the puzzle, and says he doesn't like it; I thought it was the right kind of clever, not the wrong kind. For what it's worth.

JB 12:10 AM  

Did this at 11 on Wednesday, thinking not was the Wednesday puzzle and that it was ridiculously hard, much more like a Thursday! Slogged through and felt vindicated when I finally noticed what day it actually belonged to...

Engine Ear 12:11 AM  

Agree with Rex. The entire NW was trouble for me. Didn't like the RATS clue, didn't know the KUBO reference, and thought for sure 2D was ANTE or DEAL (Call for all hands on deck?).

Despite all of the difficulty, there seemed to be an above average mΓ©lange of classic XW repeats (in number, not degree). UNTO, SPAS, AORTA, ELIE, ARIA, SMEE, OAF, ALOT, YALE.

Maybe I'm just miffed that I DNF'd and broke a short streak. :-)

egsforbreakfast 12:18 AM  

I disagree completely with Rex on this one. Of course I disagree with him on almost all other ones as well, but that’s neither here nor there. First off, how could you not like BOTTLENECK, INTERSTATE, TRAFFICJAM and LATETOWORK not only surrounding and hemming in the actual jam, but doing so in a perfectly ordered and quasi-symmetrical pattern whereby they only overlap three spaces in from the beginning or end of each other. Sort of like Ouroboros. Also, you’ve got your ALAMO rent-a-car, fueled up with ARCO gas and your set of MATTEL hot wheels all set to pile onto the already hideous jam up, all as reported live at 5 by the NEWSTEAM. Then you come to the actual pile-up, smack in the middle with its CAR,VAN,SEMITRUCK and BUS. I wonder where was the GTO? If anyone legitimately finished this anywhere other than the middle section, I’d like to know what your thought process was, cuz I can’t imagine it.

Anyway, congratulations Ricky Cruz on a tremendously entertaining puzzle. Peace and joy!

Matthew Miller 12:20 AM  

In the NW, I just loved this puzzle, truly. Threw down KARMA and then, bam, KUBO! I love that movie and I think Laika (movie studio; named after a Soviet dog that orbited the earth, how's that for trivia?) can pretty much do no wrong.

But it was alllll downhill from there.

Frantic Sloth 12:22 AM  

Just read Rex's review. What a cranky pants.
But, that's what happens when you're all about the speed and not about the savor.
So it was difficult in spots and you had to go over areas more than once. Welcome to the "calm TF down and enjoy the learning" process.
C'mon in! The water's sane. πŸ˜‰

And BOTTLENECK is not synonymous with TRAFFICJAM. The TRAFFICJAM occurs as a result of a sudden-ish change in the capacity of a road to allow for smooth transportation into a smaller, choked, oh let's say BOTTLENECK-shaped narrowing of the roadway in question.
One is a cause the other the effect. No rocket science, quantum physics, or ABSEILING required.

Okay, I'll give you a pass on the clueing for MUTT. Throw you a bone, as it were.
"A little of this, a little of that" is a tad fakakta. Sounds like the recipe for "leftovers surprise" night at the home.

Runs with Scissors 12:25 AM  

Thursday. Rebus. Well, okay, there's a rebus.

It's really rare I'll say this, but ho lee crap this was excruciating. I knew something was up in the middle, but dayum!!!

I finished, and mostly had fun, but the center rebus section sucked all the air out of the room. Just wasn't my cuppa.

KARMA dictates that any given BOTTLENECK will result from a UHAUL full of FREAKS outbound from LA will MIRE, the NEWSTEAM will dive into the FRAY, and no one will shut up until the CARVANSEMITRUCKBUS is PITted.

Adjourn to the Veal PARM.

As to traffic jams, I'm a denizen of the "greater" Los Angeles area. These types of things are a given from 4 am to about 9 pm. So there's that. Also, on any given day, you may be treated to a full freeway closure due to idiots trying to outrun the Motorola. Then they lie down and the freeway stays closed for hours. My preference is to shove the cars off to the side and reopen the lanes.

I'm more AERO on my bicycle.
Mark, in Mickey's north 40

Harryp 12:28 AM  

I got stuck for an hour on TRIKE instead of TRUCK on a highway no less!

Digger 12:31 AM  

A dreadful slog

Jeremy S 12:31 AM  

I liked this one. I thought it was cute. Curiously enough, all the clues that Rex had trouble with were easy for me.

manitou 12:32 AM  

Confidently put in RUBBERNECK instead of LATE TO WORK. Because with all the those alarms, there's no excuse for being late.

the chocolate doctor מרΧͺ Χ©ΧΧ§ΧΧœΧΧ“ 12:46 AM  

I found some comfort in MALARKEY crossing MADAM President (delayed by ERIC/MALARCHY misspelling)

puzzlehoarder 1:05 AM  

Definitely a little harder than your typical Thursday. KUBO went in strictly off the crosses. I was surprised to learn that it isn't a debut.

It's not often that you get a rebus within a rebus.

This was a nice start to the late week.

***SB ALERT***
Fairly close to the QB today but there's still 7 more points come up with.

Anonymous 1:07 AM  

I remember the prΓ©cise moment when I became a daily crossword addict. I was sitting in the student union at UVM (too) many years ago. I was noodling at an NYT crossword edited, I believe, by Eugene T. Maleska. The cluse was ‘Shopping stops for Pops and fops.’ I stared, I mused and suddenly -Eek & a finger snap- it came to me in a heady rush: Haberdashery ! From that moment o I was hooked. The fact that this precise moment is etched in my memory attests to the unbridled joy of a clever well-constructed puzzle.
And what do I remember of late ? Mostly frustration accompanied by looming dΓ©jΓ  vu. I may now need to try my hand at puzzle construction in the morning with my coffee. I yearn to rediscover the joy and anticipation I once relished. Should push come to shove, the thΓ¨me of my first puzzle ?  Old Saws. Ahoy! I'm stuck. But not in a traffic jam, alas, but rather in a crossword purgatory. Xoxo Nicholas in Paris

Anonymous 1:16 AM  


jae 1:18 AM  

Mostly easy-medium except for the NW where I got so stuck I had to walk away and come back. KUBO was major WOE and not inferable, and the clues for RATS and MUTT were tough. Plus I think of KARMA as more like “you reap what you sow” rather than a cosmic force. UHAUL finally broke it open for me.

After I finished being annoyed at the cross referencing I liked it somewhat more than @Rex did.

Kevin 1:57 AM  

The use of five different types of transportation in the center didn’t make much sense. I actually thought to myself that it was unfair for exactly why Rex explained. It took a while to see CarOL and REBus for me.

It would have been a better puzzle (albeit easier) if the center had just been CAR in each space.

chefwen 3:15 AM  

Stared at the empty middle space for the longest time S(truck)Out was my Woo Hoo, I’m onto you Ricky moment, then the RE(bus) fell, (car)OL soon followed, but I really struggled with the other two.

Many other minor mistakes, I won’t bore you with the details, but all easily fixable. That center space though, yikes!

mathgent 3:45 AM  

Delightful. Nice jam up of the four or five vehicles in the middle, and all rebuses to boot. Cleverly, BUS is part of a rebus two ways.

A rebus with sparkle, crunch, and smart cluing. What more can we ask for?

Ann Howell 3:51 AM  

It was the first time that I got to try out the REBUS function on the online version, so that was something. The one that really held me up was EUROPEAN (Polish e.g.), despite have most of the downs... (covid brain!) Didn't hate it as much as Rex, but overall all a little underwhelming for all the effort of the rebus.

Rugged XY Man 4:07 AM  

Horrible puzzle. Mostly I think you can be too picky, perfectionist as you are, Michael, but this scathing review is spot on. DETS? Rilly?

bertoray 4:22 AM  

This one put a smile on my face upon completion, 39 across being the last entry(s).

BarbieBarbie 5:42 AM  

Loved the middle, and the rest was along for the ride.

ChuckD 6:09 AM  

This puzzle was definitely not challenging as Rex states - and for the most part enjoyable for a Thursday. I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a traffic jam before in which only cars were present - the multi classifications were spot on. I do agree that the “jam” could have been graphically displayed better - but it couldn’t have been easy to construct that center. Liked the BUTTE/BOORISH area - and the UHAUL clue was cool. Overall pleasant - but not a lot of sparkle.

Diver 6:25 AM  

I rarely agree with Rex but this was a real slog. When you run into "see 61 across" early in the NW it's not a good sign of things to come. Then the payoff is a bunch of rebuses jammed together in no meaningful order. A real waste of 13 minutes. Off now to the LA Times, hopefully that'll bring some relief.

Lorelei Lee 6:27 AM  

@Rex, What a buncha malarkey! Traffic flow is calculated by the number of vehicles that pass by a certain point over an hour (or a given amount of time). So both a traffic jam and no traffic would have a flow of zero. Those five vehicles jammed in the middle of that grid have zero flow. Visually, it's a beautiful thing.

Not that I finished because I suck at rebuses (rebi?) but it was a fun headslap at the end.

sf27shirley 6:47 AM  

Liked this puzzle a lot.
Could someone explain why so many people rate a puzzle by how long it took them to finish and apparently the less time, the better the puzzle? Until I started reading this blog I had no idea such a mindset existed. I'm not being snarky, just would like to understand.

Hungry Mother 6:51 AM  

I needed the laugh this morning. I especially liked the rebus BUS in REBUS with its almost recursive nature. The NW was the challenge for me for some reason. When it was filled in, I wondered why it took me so long. Very nice puzzle!

pabloinnh 6:53 AM  

I assume most of us start in the NW corner, and after starting there myself, I quickly went elsewhere to look for toeholds. I think I wound up in the SW with good old ELIE and went from there. BOISE fit nicely since I had the B. Oops. I knew I was looking for a TRAFFICJAM situation and the BUS from REBUS showed the way. Some minor tweaking and there I was, back in the NW. Oh oh. KARMA was the only thing I could think of for 1A and everything else went in off that. Good thing, because KUBO? Not only news to me, but I combination of letters with which I am not familiar.

Bottom line, I'm in the Liked It club today. Gracias Sr. Cruz for the mental workout this AM.

smalltowndoc 6:55 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle and thought it was quite clever. And I love me a rebus!

I found the jammed up rebuses (rebi?) easy to suss out; 31D and 36D pretty much fill themselves. Then it was just a matter of figuring out what other vehicles might fit. A couple of crosses and it was clear what California valley we were dealing with. I still don’t get the clue for CAROL but CAR seemed to be the only vehicle that made sense in that square. Besides, it would be silly to have a TRAFFIC JAM without any cars.

My only slowdown was in the NW. I didn’t know the film and the clues for 3D and 4D were really stretching it.

All in all, a lot of fun.

QuasiMojo 6:57 AM  

I found this one on the over-easy side. The REBUS clue gave it away. And the rest fell into place without much thinking involved. My problem was I've never heard of a Gordon Ramsey as a chef. I thought he was the PM before Theresa May. But that was Brown (mixed up with Ramsay MacDonald.)

I also wanted MILL for the Chinese spread. And a TUG OF WAR for the anchor clue.

All in all a well-made grid but some of the fill was subpar. DETS.

I do despise clues such as "Padre's hermano" however. Is there a possessive apostrophe in Spanish? And my father's brother is not HIS uncle. So we have to think of ourselves. I'd rather not, thank you.

"Remember this!" was also off-putting. Why should I? If I wanted to tie a string around my finger it wouldn't be to remember the Alamo. Or the Maine. Or to be a do be rather than a don't be. Or to finish SB. (Good point yesterday Joe Dipinto!)

And lastly I don't think of Yale as a "home" either for students or bulldogs. Malarkey!

Anonymous 6:58 AM  

Rex objected to the clue for MALL because he’s never heard of a huge mall in China. I haven’t either, but liked the misdirection. Had WALL of course since I had in mind huge Chinese things but checked it with the cross. Otherwise agree with Rex.

JamieP 7:05 AM  

I'm with @Harryp. sTRIKEout instead of sTRUCKout for a good while. Good God, what is that tricycle doing on the interstate? It's going to get crushed between the SEMI and the BUS.

kitshef 7:06 AM  

Mixed feelings today. Really, really like the theme But it could have been done without all the cross-referenced clues, which would have made it 9.4 times better. Also, NW and SE had some very gamey clues for RATS, SHANE, MUTT, and FREAKS.

And DETS is just a flat no.

Famous BUTTERS (is that what you call people from BUTTE?): Dashiel Hammett, Evel Knievel, Martha Raye.

Lewis 7:09 AM  

Fun solve for me, with the vague cluing leading to many an impasse. At one point I thought that I was never going to get out of this honking puzzle. Finally I was left at a standstill in the NW, onto to be rescued by a MUTT (and let me here put in a word for rescue mutts... the two we have had have captured our hearts). No road rage here, I loved the concept and had a great time getting through it. Thank you, Ricky!

kitshef 7:14 AM  

Does anybody have a clue what the phrase "outrun the Motorola" means? (@Runs with Scissors 12:25)

GILL I. 7:16 AM  

This was just....not fun. I want to fun on Thursday. If you can't fun on Thursday, go back to bed and wonder if KUBO PUR MISC ever walked into a bar. I also notice TOE JAM.
I guess I don't know baseballese not do I know basketballese. My bad. Someone please tell me why you call a basketball game a HORSE? Do I want to know? Will my happy feet dance the fandango?
Then we get to the reveal thing at 39A. UGH. Yeah, we've been stuck here for an hour. But what does that have to do with the CARVANSEMITRUCKBUS. Had you thrown in a Harley I might've done a happy clap.
Clever idea that flew over my bad hair days. I also need a pedicure.

Anonymous 7:41 AM  

Never commented before, but I must emerge from the shadows to say I LOVED this one. Had the sense of delight and wonder in the discovery that Rex is always seeking. Gasped aloud, especially because or the REBUS rebus. I agree the order is random and not super representative of the average jam (CAR CAR CAR TRUCK CAR could have been funny), but the downs were straightforward enough for me that I filled them in with proper joy. One of the most satisfying crossword experiences I’ve had as a fairly new solver.

Z 7:43 AM  

Liked this more than Rex but less than @egsforbreakfast and company. The biggest demerit is that the rebopodes are unchecked (@anon9:27 last night - Har! Sorry the kinda inside joke didn’t register for you, but it is all about English plurals and our need to be pretentious). It’s a crossword and a bunch of vehicle types just isn’t enough of a pay-off for me to justify violating the “cross every square” principle. I was also vaguely annoyed by having both SEMI and TRUCK. Yeah Yeah, I know, but it still seemed duplicitous to me. The rest wasn’t as bad for me as Rex found it. I did rediscover how much I dislike four letter regional gas station brands. Feel free to take your ARCO and Esso and Hess and stick ‘me up your BUTTE because they are always crap.

I agree with Rex and @Frantic Sloth on the BOTTLENECK question. It is both the cause and the result. Funny how we use the same word for two different concepts, ain’t it? And, for the record, stay in your lane as long possible when approaching a construction zone. I know our kindergarten teachers all taught us how bad cutting in line is, but on the INTERSTATE everyone will move along quicker if open lanes are used as long as possible. Yes, there is research on this. Everyone getting over too soon just makes the TRAFFIC JAM longer.

@sf27shirley - I don’t know that less time equals better, although I see how you could reach the conclusion that people think that way. A fair number of people here will complain when the puzzle is too easy, preferring a challenge. I tend to see it as two separate issues, how challenging is the puzzle and how interesting is the puzzle. Where they intersect is the sense of whether or not the challenge is fair. So if a puzzle is challenging because of clever cluing I will like it far more than a puzzle that is challenging because of a bunch of pop culture stuff I don’t know. You may notice that @Lewis posts a weekly top five clue list and never once has a PPP clue like 1D made the list.

Anonymous 7:47 AM  

Gill.I. Horse, or H.O.R.S.E., is a game using a basketball and a basket usually played by two players though it can be more. Player A tries to make a shot—day a 10-foot hook shot with the right hand. If they make it, Player B must make the same shot. If Player B misses, they get an H. And so forth until one player has all five of the letters.

Why horse? No idea.

Conrad 7:48 AM  

@Patrick O'Connor, exactly what was it that told you Rex wasn't going to like this puzzle? By chance was it the part that said, "Edited by Will Shortz"?

@kitshef, I'd never heard of "outrun the Motorola" either. I looked it up on urbandictionary.com. The third definition is "Something that old people say you cannot outrun no matter what kind of bike you have. Old Dude - 'Remeber son, you can outrun the cops but you can't outrun a motorola.'"

John H 7:54 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyed, and yes, yay for a rebus (finally)! I liked Alexa/AMs. And why would anyone's first guess about working with an anchor be swim team? Kind of scary, when you think about it. I suppose if the event were a relay race it would make sense, but and event does not equal a team.

Rex, for wasn't really that hard.

Twangster 8:01 AM  

I'm OK with the concept here but I wish at least one of the downs crossing the vehicles had been an easy one (such as ______ Sam). I was thrown off by the possibility of NOEL for CAROL. There are a lot of valleys in California and ways to get out in baseball. Thought SERVANT could have been SENTRY. I ended up googling to get YOSEMITE and then everything fell into place.

David 8:08 AM  

Loved it! And Erik is the correct spelling for Erik the Red.

SJ Austin 8:08 AM  

Huh. I thought this was quite good. I take your point about the string of rebus answers not being "checked", but I think the gimmick justifies it. I was really impressed by how little junk fill there was, considering the many constraints on the grid. And of course bottlenecks cause traffic jams, especially on the, ahem, interstate.

Let this be a reason for everyone, whether you loved the puzzle or hated it, to learn about the zipper merge. Google it, learn it, love it, do it!

PGregory Springer 8:14 AM  

For some reason, I threw down TRAFFICJAM early on, and the rest fell into place... Except the center, when I finally figured out it was a vehicles rebus, and then, success! Puzzles like this make me wish every day was a Thursday.

IKE 8:20 AM  

Thought this one was fun, but hate, hate, hate seeing pluralized units. Ounces are oz, not ozs. Never pluralize a unit!

r.alphbunker 8:33 AM  

Remember the Gridlock puzzle by Merl Reagle?

Joseph Jakuta 8:33 AM  

I would have liked it better if there was another rebus in the NW or SW for BIKE, since they totally go around traffic jams.

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

Excellent puzzle! Truly enjoyed it. Rex is wrong yet again.

chuck w 8:34 AM  

At one point I had RV as part of "servant," but it didn't seem to work. But it helped me get the theme.
Why is "echo" a "delta follower"? Can someone explain?

Z 8:35 AM  

@SJ Austin - Yes! Zipper Merge!

@kitshef and @Conrad - I think it is police slang referencing their radios. Maybe @Runs will come back and explain better, but I took his post to mean that someone tries to elude a traffic stop, ends up getting caught, and the freeway ends up closed because of the ensuing investigation.

Hartley70 8:46 AM  

This was a charming Thursday puzzle and it wasn’t difficult at all. I would rate it easy with the exception of KUBO, and fun when I got to the reveal. YOSEMITE gave it away and I was especially delighted when my last rebus entry was REBUS. That deserved a little hand clap!

Gretchen 8:52 AM  

This was fun!

Dennis Doubleday 9:18 AM  

Disagree completely. Loved this puzzle.

William of Ockham 9:19 AM  


Good stuff

Disagree with the boss today, cool beans!

Easy one, KUBO and SERVANT sticking points.

Way more fun than most Thursdays

Of course a Rebus will be slow, duh

ChuckD 9:20 AM  

Yes @Z is correct. Motorola is the traditional public agency two-way radio - so you may be able to outrun a single police car but not the ones ahead who were called to assist.

@ Chuck W - Echo follows Delta in the NATO or military alphabet

Nancy 9:22 AM  

What an inspired rebus!!! Because it's all crowded into one answer, and missing everywhere else, I spent most of this extremely challenging puzzle having no idea it was there.

But when I had SER-T for the minor role in Shakespeare's plays, I knew I needed a VAN and the light bulb went off. Then, practically right next door, I saw what RE- for the visual puzzle had to be. Duh, Nancy! A BUS!!! And then all those baffling answers in the middle made complete sense.

It helped that I already had TRAFFIC JAM. I didn't have BOTTLENECK, because I had OLIO instead of MUTT for the "little bit of this, little bit of that." What a great and difficult clue for MUTT.

In fact there was much fiendishly difficult cluing to make a tough puzzle even tougher. I Naticked on the KUBO/UHAUL cross and wish that KUBO had not been included, but I can see that it was needed to make the grid work. And that's one small nit in an exceptionally strong and clever puzzle.

Sluggo 9:27 AM  

Rex, if you're going to try and rip apart a puzzle for errors, you probably should be sure they are errors.

First, ERIK is the correct spelling (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erik_the_Red).

And second, you should email Gordon RAMSAY and let him know that he is spelling his name wrong (https://www.gordonramsay.com/).

Sluggo 9:28 AM  

@chuckw DELTA follows Echo in the phonetic alphabet. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot...

RooMonster 9:29 AM  

Hey All !
The STRUCK OUT/STRIKE OUT conundrum can be overcome by paying attention to the tense in the clue. It said 'HAD a bad at-bat', not 'HAVE a bad at-bat'. You're welcome. πŸ˜‹

This seems like it couldn't have been easy to construct, as you have the REBUS in the middle, with the Down themers basically connected to that center REBUS via the Acrosses, and everything has to make sense. So I think Ricky pulled it off nicely. Every puz has dreck, this one actually not as much as some we've had recently.

Had whole puz except center done in 40 minutes, but got hung up on VAN of all things. TRUCK was first get, then SEMI, then wanted something like ROLLOVER or JACKKNIFE, but then got YOSEMITE, said "Ah, different vehicle types". Figured CAR had to be correct for CAROL, but dang, could you come up with a more obscure clue? Yeesh. Finding REBUS was fun, then made a list of vehicles that were missing, MOTORCYCLE? No. TAXI or CAB? No. BOX TRUCK? No. Finally hit on VAN. Ended at 56 minutes.

At first thought it was a straightforward regular puz, wondering why it was a ThursPuz, then finally figured out the center REBUS. Aha, there it is.

So a nice puz. Knew Rex would EEKS out. Har.

Five F's

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

I agree with with Gretchen and Hartley70 - a charming, fun puzzle.

joe strummer 9:30 AM  

Car Jamming! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTA6q_fh8dg

syracusesolver 9:35 AM  

I read the comments too late to post yesterday, but I certainly agree that Field of Dreams was a fine film, much better than the book it was based on.

I grew up before girls were allowed in Little League, but I was very baseball-crazy. I often played with my dad (and also my mom when he wasn’t available.) He took me regularly to Yankee Stadium to see the Greats—Mickey, Yogi, Whitey, Roger, etc. Baseball became an important part of our relationship.

Did you know that baseball Is the only sport mentioned in the Bible? (In the BIG INNING…) But more seriously, it’s a metaphor for life in many ways. Aren’t we all, when it comes down to it, just trying to get HOME?

Suzy 9:39 AM  

@Hartley70–. exactly my reaction! Terrific puzzle!!

btw—. I’ve decided the real reason Rex is so churlish is to make up for
his own shortcomings. Too bad, so sad—. said during a game of Horse!

EdFromHackensack 9:39 AM  

Thanks RICKY CRUZ! Brilliant construction. I loved it and feel it deserves HOF. NW was hard, I did not know KUBO and I think the clue for RATS is misleading. But I figured it out. It was a challenging puzzle, but a puzzle like this is what NYTXW is all about. It must have been a real slog for those that do not do a hard copy, I couldn't even imagine how you would do it online. I show my family only the real interesting ones once I am done. This is one of them! Thanks again Ricky - I hope you read this.

9:40 AM  

Me too (although I am almost always opposite of Rex in terms of difficulty ratings). Funny how that works.

Anonymous 9:50 AM  

Brilliant puzzle. I think, though, that I'mma stop reading Rex and just come here and read the comments. Good God he's a downer. I agree with whomever said upstream that he gets pissy only when his speed is checked. Just slow down and enjoy the traffic jam, Rex!

As I filled in the traffic-related answers, I thought Rex would call it pretty weak tea for a Thursday, especially with other bad answers like EEKS and AMS.

I kept circling the center and trying to figure it out. I was pretty sure re(bus) was right for 31D, but I didn't see BUS anywhere else. Then I got it! and filled in all those other downs in about a nano second. So clever! So fitting! I was sure Rex would finally have good things to say. But no.

He's just so so so so tired of it all. It's just so depressing. And he hates Shortz so much that he just can't enjoy a puzzle. I bet dollars to dog food he'd'a liked this puzzle if it'd been in the WSJ or the Post or even USA Today. Find something that sparks joy, Rex. Do yourself that small favor and spare the rest of us.

Anonymous 10:00 AM  

I'm no fan of rebi, in general, but for this I must hang my head in shame. 39A didn't work, obviously. but... the downs lurked in the lower brain stem:
- yes SERvanT was the obvious answer
- yes REbus was the obvious answer
- yes carOLe was the obvious answer (testy on the spelling, of course)

the other two, no scratching at the door.

kitshef 10:07 AM  

@Sluggo 9:27 - Rex was recounting his own errors in the solving process, not saying the puzzle was in error.

@several of you - thanks for the Motorola explanation. For the record, I'm old and have never used (nor heard) the expression.

Whatsername 10:11 AM  

I’m not a fan of cross referenced clues, but I must admit this was a nice change of pace from the usual themes. I was beginning to think it was going to be BOORISH until I finally saw the trick in the central themer at 39A. And about that, I love the answers - a very clever way to pull everything together - but the clue might as well have been blank for all the use it was.

I would have said that BOTTLENECK is another word for a TRAFFICJAM rather than a cause of one, but it’s really both.

SHANE decided to ride his HORSE to the SILO for grain and became MIREd when he stopped at the MALL to buy a LOTTO ticket. A yuge BOTTLENECK / TRAFFICJAM formed from all the CARs, VANs, SEMIs, TRUCKs, BUSes and UHAULs trying to get around him. The resulting TRAFFICJAM / BOTTLENECK backed up on the INTERSTATE all the way to BUTTE.

PhillySolver 10:13 AM  

Goodness this was a fun challenge. Had to figure out what my there was a trike on the Interstate before reviewing the clue for the tense. When you are asked to remain at home another few weeks, a thought provoking crossword is a great pastime. Smell the roses!

Peter P 10:17 AM  

I loved the puzzle as well. At first, I forgot I was doing a Thursday, so the middle section was really screwing with my head. I, too, wanted "NOEL" for "winter air," but couldn't figure out how to make it fit. I was the Y--TE for "California's ______ Valley" where my Eureka moment came. Oh, yeah, it's a Thursday! Rebuses! (which also solved the problem with 31 down, "Visual puzzle.") Duh. OK, we got "SEMI," we got "BUS," that means "CAR"OL, SER"VAN"T, and S"TRUCK"OUT. Thus, all that center section fell in a jiffy, and I had a nice moment of accomplishment that I sussed it out.

Yes, the surrounding fill was a little on the dull side, but I found it worth it for the theme. I finished it a couple minutes under my average Thursday time, and in under 3 Rexes, so a good solving day.

Marcy 10:19 AM  

I share Rex’s political views & love of xwords, but I’m so sick of how his degree of difficulty In completing a puzzle is in direct proportion to his criticism of it. That’s not being a reviewer - that’s
being a crybaby!
And another thing - what gives you, Rex, the right to determine the political correctness of any given puzzle. Especially as the Liberal you claim to be, do you not believe in free speech? Yes - there are occasional references in puzzles that I may find objectionable, but they have a right to be there!!! You are not our collective arbiter of what’s offensive!
Finally - as most of today’s comments reflect, this puzzle was very enjoyable & the rebus was pictorially true to the theme. GROW UP!

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

For the zillionth time. Rex haters, STOP READING HIM!!! Your anti-Rex rants expose the same traits that you attribute to him.

Birchbark 10:29 AM  

A traffic jam on an INTERSTATE is worse than one in town, because you can't bypass it until you reach the next exit -- not a city block, but maybe a mile, and many multiples upon multiples of minutes away.

@Anon (1:07), on memorable early crossword moments -- Mine was "Baths, in Baden Baden" for SPAS, also via Maleska. It was somewhere in the perfect years post-college before responsibility kicked in. It didn't know what "crosswordese" was yet. I just saw a memorable clue and answer, unassuming, poetic, and a little comical.

Recall (or learn) that for a few years, Eugene Maleska and Will Shortz edited the NYT Crossword together, before Maleska retired. So there was an easy continuity when Will Shortz took over. @Rex has said several times that he especially liked the early-Shortz-era puzzles.

I'm not among those who call for a change in editors, other than in the ordinary arc of a career. But when the time comes, a similar pairing approach would help the transition. I'd like the byline to say "Edited by Will Shortz and ___" for a while. If done well, we would have freshness/a new voice and still retain useful institutional knowledge.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

And another thing - what gives you, Rex, the right to determine the political correctness of any given puzzle.

Well, it is his cite, after all. I do much the same on the ones I run. You can do the same on the ones you run. Power of authorship. Well, unless your name is Bolton.

JC66 10:51 AM  

****memorable early crossword moments ALERT****

After graduating from college and doing 6 months active duty in the army. I was working at my first "real" job as production assistant at a small ad agencythat meant, among other chores, I delivered the mail to all the other employees.

One morning, when I entered a copywriter's office, she asked me "What's the longest river in the U.S.? The Mississippi, I said, why?

She said she was doing The NY Times crossword and needed a six letter answer for ______ River, longest in the US.. For some unknown reason, I immediately responded OLD MAN.

I was immediately hooked.

That was back in 1963 when Margaret Farrar was editor and I've been doing the puzzle every day since.

Lorelei Lee 10:53 AM  

@Frantic (many thumbs up as every day) and @Whatshername.

I'm thinking that at the point of traffic jam's cause (discounting commuter traffic), is where the bottleneck lies. The Rubbernecks who slow down to look at the wreck or roadwork or miscellaneous crap lying on the highway contribute to the bottleneck. I plunked them into that space first.

Sir Hillary 10:55 AM  

I solved the entire perimeter before the center, so for the longest time was thinking that this was the dumbest puzzle I had ever seen. Then I filled in the center and had a 180-degree change in perspective. Great puzzle, and I got a fantastic "aha" feeling through the luck of solving it in a sequence that left the revealer to the end.

I get that the central entry technically violates the cross principle, but they were all pretty obvious from the downs.

"Which-letter-is-it?" entries like ERIK and RAMSAY are really fun if they're crossed fairly and you're not worried about your solving time. Both of those conditions were in place for me today, so I waited until I was sure about the K and the A.

Yes, DETS is horrible, but come on -- we've seen it before, and it's one entry among 78.

Our family has rediscovered "Top Chef" in quarantine, so MALARKEY immediately brought to mind Brian with that surname (Mularkey), one of this season's contestants. Guessing he's endured some teasing.

I think of BOTTLENECK more as a cause of a TRAFFICJAM than a synonym, but I grant that it can be seen both ways. Just like new Shimmer is a floor wax AND a dessert topping! (Can't believe that's 45 years ago.)

@Z -- LOL, that four-letter-gas-brand-up-the-BUTTE mini-rant was spectacular. Well done.

Missing @Loren MUSE, UM, Smith.

Frantic Sloth 10:57 AM  

@Z 743am Okay. I'll allow it. πŸ˜‰ I always thought I was being obnoxious by staying in the "closing lane" until the last second. Turns out I was subconsciously brilliant, and now both my car and I roll like that.

@SJ Austin 808am Who knew there was an actual term for it? Well, there's you ...and who else?
Oh...I just saw @Z's 835am Color me "of course!" πŸ˜„

GILL I. 11:03 AM  

Amigo, @Quasi. Chef Gordon Ramsay is on my list of favorite all-time chefs. He's funny as hell and he's good. He probably was the one factor that got the Brits to eat things other than baked beans and green peas in a salad. I know Jaime Oliver likes to take credit but it's RAMSAY all the way. You might try looking him up just to amuse yourself. He has several series. The one that will disgust you and make you never want to eat out in a restaurant again, is 24HRS. He finds all kinds of things like dead rats, old smelly OYSTERs, rotting tomatoes....you get the gist. It's fun. The one I think you might enjoy, though, is his newest one called "Unchartered." He goes to the ends of the world looking for exotic cuisine. It's amazing. The vistas, the people, the food is quite wonderful.
@Anony 7:47. Why thank you. I always like learning new things. I hope I can remember that a HORSE is a horse of course of course. ;-)

tkincher 11:07 AM  

This one actually went over really easy for me-- I didn't think I was going fast, per se, but I set a record time for me for a Thursday at 9m5s.

Carola 11:08 AM  

I really liked this sly trickster of a puzzle: it kept me guessing almost the whole way about what was Thursday-ish about it, it had some tough cluing, and the central pay-off was delightful. Except that..

...@Harryp 12:28, @JamieP 7:05 - I left the TRike in the TRAFFIC JAM, thinking of those Harley three-wheelers and their ilk. @RooMonster 9:29, @PhillySolver 10:13 - Yeah, the tense. Unfortunately "TRike" was the first conveyance that came to my mind and the clue flew out the window.

@Whatsername 10:11 - I also liked the inclusion of Western hero SHANE on his HORSE, back in the days of wide open spaces, contrasting with the TRAFFIC JAM just above.

Newboy 11:13 AM  

Thanks for the reBUS to restore sanity to our Thursday morning! UHAULed some weird fill into this pileup Ricky, so I have to agree with OFL on that front. Learned why one avoids freeways from a London taxi driver on the way to Heathrow: one traffic jam and the flight is missed; local streets abound with options. Not having Rex’s extensive puzzle experience, I found today’s grid to be a challenging delight. Once I was able to see past flyOUT as the only option at 36d, the traffic began to move haltingly forward.

Now for a walk in the sunshine, a cuppa at the outdoor seating area and a return for seeing what brilliance sparkles from the commentariat above and below this point—ALOT of posts already joining the FRAY, so the MALARKEY is bound to be deeper after lunch.

Grande 11:18 AM  

Simply enjoyed this one from start to finish. I found It on the medium side, well balanced and fresh.

57stratocaster 11:18 AM  

Help me understand, please... why is the center clue in brackets? Aren't brackets supposed to indicate that the answer is something other than words?


Smokey 11:23 AM  

I'm not buying the "use both lanes right up to the bottleneck" argument. Let's say 2 lanes become 1 lane. The cars in the single lane can only go so fast. So it doesn't matter where the 2 lanes merge.

gruffed 11:31 AM  

Too bad Rex has chosen an avocation that makes him so miserable. This was a fun puzzle; hats off to Ricky Cruz!

JenKlopp 11:33 AM  

Thought this puzzle was so much fun. Got the bus in rebus first. When I finally got the semi in Yosemite I was delighted that I solved it and the constructor's creativity.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

here on the East Coast (most states, anyway) the merge rule is that the merging lane must yield. I'm told by relatives on the West Coast (CA, you can't much wester without getting wet) that it is the travel lane. no idea which is more fari.

Ramsay got roasted last year(?) when he started "Uncharted". Such a blatant, and according to most everyone, pointless rip off of Bourdain. Never saw, or even knew about it (on an obscure cable channel). Recently saw advert for the next season, and looked it up. The smell of charred crow was overwhelming.

Margaret 11:48 AM  

Great puzzle. Enjoyed it.

Anonymous 11:49 AM  

Hideous. Yes,some of the regular answers were tough (Kubo??), but putting not one, not two, not three, not four, but five letters into one square? I hate crossword "rebuses" anyhow, because, traditionalist that I am, I believe there should only be one letter (or symbol) in a square. Putting five of these atrocities in one answer? Beyond hideous. As 31D noted, a true "rebus" is a visual puzzle, involving pictures, letters and symbols. Let's put 15 words into one square! Now, there's a rebus!! Hated this puzzle so much.

CDilly52 11:49 AM  

I loved everything about this puzzle, and I think many of you are not old enough to appreciate the deliberate homage to the “old” REBUS practice of actually inserting a tiny drawing where the word would be. The clue to 31D, after all is “visual puzzle.” Back in the day (maybe 1959 or 1960) I recall a Sunday puzzle with Gran and we had to put a tiny picture in several places, and another Valentine’s Day that heart outlines instead of the word were the REBUS. I think over time simply because it is so bloody difficult to draw any kind of a discernible picture in the tiny square that REBUS for crosswords became all the letters squished into a single square. The reference was brilliant, the execution perfection, and the puzzle just plain fun

I got the top and bottom part of the theme easily but the middle was certainly a head scratcher until DTRUCK OUT and YOSEMITE has to be the correct downs and at that point, I realized this had to be a REBUS and my brain instantly saw the embedded SEMI TRUCK.

Once I got that middle line done though, I still had a big white space in the middle W block. Of course I wanted atTS instead of DETS so my guess at AXE got erased. Oops. Then I absolutely got fooled by the ALEXA clue because those virtual gals don’t live at my house. Honestly, it’s too “Open the pod bay doors, Hal.” “I can’t do that, Dave” for me. Creeps me out.

Very clever. Very creative and at least for me some perfectly legitimate and welcome crunch. I agree with @Frantic Sloth, although I would add another 🧠 for the mid-W block at least for me. This will be one to remember.

GILL I. 11:53 AM  

Anonym 11:39...Oooh, I didn't know that. I loved watching Bourdain as well. However, I think the two shows are/were very different. Gordon actually does the climbing, diving, underwater excursions, everything except maybe zip line, to get his food. Some of the foods are weird looking and, well, disgusting. But he brings interest from the locals. Did you ever watch the one where he's in Alaska and drinks a scotch with the purest ice in this world?

longsufferingmetsfan 12:07 PM  

Could not disagree more with OFL. I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. After realizing it was a traffic jam it was great fun figuring out what vehicles went where. The cluing, as said, was difficult in spots. Thank u, Ricky, well done !!

Ethan Taliesin 12:08 PM  

I had TRIKE instead of TRUCK and the computer wouldn't accept the puzzle as complete (with error/s) even though everything was filled in.

Silly mental image of a trike in the freeway.

Did not like that CARVANSEMITRUCKBUS did not make a sentence that makes sense.

Kelly 12:09 PM  

@ 57 stratocaster:
Yes. The clue for 39 Across (the rebus line) would seem to violate the NYT's own cluing standards. For me, the puzzle would have been far stronger had there been no clue at all for 39 Across, especially given the cross-reference in 61 Across. Nothing more was necessary.

I'm Frenchie 12:17 PM  

RE: BOTTLENECK discussion: the French word for TRAFFICJAM is "bouchon" (cork), and it refers to both the source and the backup.

Northwest Runner 12:25 PM  

I think Rex means that he misspelled Erik at first not that it was misspelled in the grid. However on December 21 of last year the puzzle had Eric the Red with a c, and I’d say it was wrong there. While transliterations can go various ways Erik is always Erik in this sense.

Frantic Sloth 12:27 PM  

@CDilly52 Your recollection of that creepy-ass Hal gave me pause, and then "erase! Erase! Erase!" as I feared a jinxian reprisal. (Who's superstitious? I'm not superstitious! You're the superstitious! ...or is that puppet?)
Anyway, I did consider the 4th 🧠 or even 3.5🧠s, but then I remembered all the truly dastardly complicated (e.g. Agard, et.al) traps that await us out there and back down to 3 it was.

@Ethan Taliesin 1208pm and several others - The "silly mental image of a trike in the freeway" suddenly flashed in my mind as a metaphor for His Orginaness trying to navigate and keep up with actual adults. And oh yes, he was riding it.

QuasiMojo 12:31 PM  

Thank you @GILL I. I'll look into it. I'm not a foodie, so I miss out on all that stuff. My idea of a good meal is a wedge of cheese and a baguette. What about those two hilarious ladies who cooked on some funny Brit tv show? Did they come after the naked guy? I enjoyed them.

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

Syracuse solver,
Call me a sentimental fool, but I think your post may be my favorite. I mean very favorite of the many thousands, (tens of thousands?) I’ve read here. Thank you. Hope you get home safe.

Okoume 12:46 PM  

Me too re: Loren! Not the same without her.

old timer 12:47 PM  

I was delighted by this one. When I finally got it. California's ___Valley is always Simi, right? Since that didn't fit, and I had the Y from MARLARKEY, I confidently wrote in "Yucca", while wondering if that wasn't a little too recherche, even for a Friday puzzle. What finally inclued me was wanting CAR OL for winter air. At which point SER VAN T and the far more xworthy YO SEMI TE came into view.

I cringed at DETS at first too. But actually, DET. is the usual abbreviation for detective in police reports. At least where I live, and also in New York. In San Francisco, for some reason lost in the mists of time, detectives hold the rank of "Inspector". My job -- often a quite easy job -- was to convince juries that the Inspector on the case was a shameless stretcher of the truth.

Anonymous 12:48 PM  

You’re dead wrong that it doesn’t matter wher you merge. You’re clearly one of the many problems on the road. I’ll bet you drive in the left lane too.
Anyway, red up on zipper merging and do everyone a favor. That goes for all the other folks who are on team Smokey.
Oh, and while you’re at look up merge and yield. They are two entirely different things, and consequently, require two different actions.

Lorelei Lee 12:49 PM  

@Smokey, I agree. Spite is the problem w/the two-lanes thing. If drivers used both lanes then merged every other car at the merge point, it would work smoothly. But you get butt heads who are terrified that letting one person in front of them will ... what?

So there's no flow because both lanes get backed up (Level of Service F in the parlance) and there's the bottleneck.

CDilly52 12:55 PM  

Haven’t had time to read all the comments yet today so I apologize if I am repeating, but Chef Gordon RAMSAY is spelled correctly. That is a common spelling of the surname.

CDilly52 12:57 PM  

ERIK Thorvaldsen was also ERIK not ERIc. Sort @Rex get your facts, please before you criticize.

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

This is my first time commenting, long time reader of this blog. I found the puzzle enjoyable. While I haven't read all the comments I assume someone pointed out that the Ramsay and the Erik answers were correct?

Karl 12:59 PM  

Did anyone else have LINEOFCARS instead of TRAFFICJAM? Makes more sense...

Frantic Sloth 1:01 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
pmdm 1:03 PM  

I got TRAFFIC JAM and REBUS quite early on, so I guessed (correctly) that each square of 39A was a rebus square. But I thought all the 39A rebus squares would add up to a real word, so the center was quite hard to figure out. Lokking at the solved puzzle, I think it's very clever indeed.

The initial creations by new constructors can be like magnets sucking in entries beloved to the constructor. Perhaps that's where KUBO came from. Thank God that preference tends to be quickly abandoned. But not soon enough for me.

Often I find Mike Sharp's comments more humorous than insightful . (I'm not claiming that to be true, just relating my response.) Especially when inaccurate. And how can a puzzle be inherently bad when so many like it? Interesting problem when defining quality.

Unknown 1:03 PM  

Ramsay and Erik are spelled correctly. Just sayin'

Smith 1:05 PM  

Before reading any comments: Thank you Ricky, I *loved* this puzzle! Very clever, and made me happy (ok, and proud) when I got the aha! at SERVANT, quickly followed by the others (wanted REBUS from minute 1 and was delighted when it fit). Loved the lineup and the fact that there was no additional revealer, although I guess we're looking for a rebus or two on Thursday. Just my opinion.

Ok, what did everyone else think?

Masked and Anonymous 1:06 PM  

Yah see, there's this thing about yer NYT ThursPuzs … U are always slightly on alert, suspectin that a rebus might be part of the theme mcguffin. I had that feelin early on, even tho most of the spots where I suspected rebuses didn't end up havin em, after all.

Splatzed in a few initial reaction entries, pepperin the puzgrid hither and yon, with: AHOY. ERIK. OYSTER. GIS. AMS. STAR/STAN. AERO/CAN (aka FAN). YOKO.
Eventually some longer balls came into view: ALLEGRO. BOTTLENECK. MALARKEY. LOOSEEND. Even got KUBO/KARMA, eventually -- tho KUBO was a longtime holdout, due to false rebus accusations a la M&A breath suspicions.

Still … kept starin suspiciously at that {Winter air} = ??L thingy, at 39-D. Finally decided BOTTLENECK must be referrin to a TRAFFICJAM with a CAR(ol) in it. Filled in TRAFFICJAM offa nuthin, after verifyin its J at the AJAR Junction. M&A was I-N, with a triumphant "ahar!"

staff weeject pick: FAN. Becuz I had CAN and sat on that CAN until near the final splatz, when CRAY was just too day-um CRAY-zee to be right. Honrable mentions to CAR, VAN, BUS, of course.

What a fun rodeo ride, with jam on it. Thanx, Mr. Cruz.
And yo, @RP: har. Good mornin, Sunshine. Yeah, KANS+SMEE mighta been a desperate way to close up shop, I'd grant. And yep … this puppy had some definite 'tude, like it or not.

Masked & Anonymo6Us


Teedmn 1:10 PM  

Perhaps it's due to my having several uncles who ride the TRIKE version of a motorcycle, but I not only put in TRIKE for 36D as so many others did, but I left it there and didn't re-read the clue to see the past tense version was needed. I did roll my eyes a bit, figuring there would be an outcry against it, but, RATS!

I carefully made my way around the grid, trying to avoid 61A so as to put off the reveal, but it wasn't much help for the REBUS row. Yo, YOSEMITE!

Yes, the NW was tough (I wanted a poker game-related answer for 2D), but BOTTLENECK was just enough to help me suss it out successfully.

No MALARKEY here, Ricky Cruz, I enjoyed this Thursday trick.

Danny and Rachel 1:11 PM  

Ugh. We found this one super unfair. The clue at 39A does nothing to actually clue its answer. It's my understanding that [bracketed] clues indicated some kind of hint at a non-verbal utterance. These brackets didn't hint at anything that would lead me to think various vehicles belonged there. The clue should have somehow made it clear that the answer would be the contents of a TRAFFICJAM (or something).

So, we're left with the downs to get the answers, and I just don't think these downs are easy enough. I had SEPTA in 24D (Minor role in many a Shakespeare play), because I couldn't think of another S word with the correct length. 30D (California's ____ Valley is a proper noun, so we had no idea. Couldn't think of a two-letter past tense word to fit behind OUT in 36D, and that was ultimately what led to discovering the rebus, but it was not easy pickings.

Anonymous 1:16 PM  

I cannot understand why someone who hates crosswords so much — and shows himself to be overwhelmingly ignorant of spelling and word in general, and unable to appreciate a beautifully executed theme — want to waste so many people's time with his ill-informed rants about them.

Anonymous 1:18 PM  


it's on a channel I didn't even know we get. may give it a try.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

Ugh. Just so's you all who aren't done yet know - the last (for me) word for QB was obnoxious in its spelling.
Of course, that will give away nothing.

@Joe D -- I think you may have underestimated the S&M factor in those of us who have "nevertheless persisted" in playing such a crime against lexicography.

That is all.

Dan Fesperman 1:33 PM  

Loved it. A wonderful challenge. And Rex's reaction proves to me once and for all that he has become irretrievably whiney and insufferable.

Frantic Sloth 1:37 PM  

I meant oranginaness of course. *sigh* πŸ™„

Stupid word, not worth the effort. Looks like my car rolled off with my brilliance.

Crimson Devil 1:40 PM  

Very nice Thurs rebus (incl REBUS) puz. Never seen such a varied number of letters in boxes; liked it. Also liked suggestion/reminiscence of pictures instead of words

RooMonster 1:47 PM  

I agree with the disdainment of the Brackets around the Revealer clue, but I've figured out how it is meant. Notice the CAR is first? (Or in a YRAFFIC JAM, last.) It's behind the VAN, SEMI, TRUCK, BUS, hence why "We'll be stuck here for hours" (or whatever the exact wording was).

Should've had the quotations, maybe, not the brackets. Just sayin'.

RooMonster Merge Well Before The Very End Of The Lane Because You Can See The Merge Sign A Mile Away Guy

Jody 1:57 PM  

Actually Gordon Ramsay is the correct spelling. Always read your comments even though
I really enjoy doing the NYT crossword every day.

barrywep 2:01 PM  

I agree. It was fun. Theme gave me all the rebukes

Anonymous 2:14 PM  

Just to be picky, the longest river in the US is the Missouri.

Barbara S. 2:15 PM  

I went to a conference at the GETTY Center in Brentwood once and it's an amazing place. We got an extensive behind-the-scenes look: the collections, of course, but also the research facilities and the art conservation labs. The GETTY is also an education center, a publisher of both online databases and hard-copy materials, and a granting institution (it's helping individual artists and small arts organizations during the COVID crisis). Then there's the site, then there's the architecture. You can tell I was smitten. The day I was there was sunny and the air was crystal-clear. The locals said the lack of smog was pretty exceptional. You could see forever, across the diamond-dazzle of the water out to Santa Catalina ("Twenty-six miles across the sea/Santa Catalina is a-waitin' for me/Santa Catalina, the island of romance/Romance, romance, romance").

I seem to be the only one unclear on what Rex meant when he said (about the middle rebus line):
"Kinda violates the law of US crosswords that all squares must be checked."
I'm not sure what the word "checked" means here. Could someone explain this or point me to a previous post if it's already been discussed and I missed it.

17 letter Os in this puzzle: seemed like a lot. And a bunch of words ending in the letter "o" or the sound "o."
Aero, unto, Alamo, to(e), lotto, tio, silo, Kubo, allegro, Arco, Yoko, fo(e), echo

Oh! I buried the lead: I loved the puzzle!

Swagomatic 2:17 PM  

I tried to solve on my Kindle last night, but I got frustrated and quit. But, this morning, I started again on my PC, and I enjoyed it. I finally tumbled to the rebus when I realized that SEMI was contained in YOSEMITE. After that is was smooth sailing. No complaints from me.

Bonnie 2:45 PM  

Yeah, 39 across making no sense was a problem. Relying on cross clues is the part of the fun of solving. I had "trike" in there for truck, because "strikeout" is a thing. I never bothered to look at the clue and notice that it was past tense and thus "struckout". Seems to be unfair and violate some solving code.

Anonymous 2:48 PM  

I really enjoyed it!!

Z 2:51 PM  

As has already been pointed out, Rex said he spelled ERIK and RAMSAY wrong, not that the puzzle had them wrong. That missing “I” in that sentence is called an “implied subject.”

@Frantic Sloth 10:57 - I didn’t “know” it so much as remember it once @SJ Austin mentioned it.

@57stratocaster - CARVANSEMITRUCKBUS is not a word. I think the brackets do exactly what you said they are supposed to do.

@Sir Hillary - Thanks. I enjoyed writing that mini-rant.

@Lorelei Lee - I don’t think it is spite, I blame kindergarten teachers. They taught us to get in a line and wait our turn. That is great guidance at the bank or doughnut shoppe, but is the worst guidance for an interstate. All that behavior you’re calling “spite” is people upset at their fellow drivers for not applying their kindergarten lessons, having never learned that that lesson doesn’t work well when approaching a construction zone. The people who really elevate my frustration with my fellow man are the SEMI drivers who decide it is their duty to block the lane. They should all be pulled over and forced to spend the night in jail. That behavior makes the TRAFFIC JAM longer both in distance and time. Nothing annoys me more than anti-social behavior dressed up in self-righteousness. Here’s a nice explanation from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. That was the top hit, but DoTs in Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, Missouri, Montana, plus all sorts of media articles showed up with similar info. The newspaper articles all seem to have something along the line of “that jerk cruising down the open lane isn’t the actual jerk, you are.”

jberg 2:58 PM  

I loved the rebus-- cramming the letters into a square to make the JAM part was brilliant. I guess literally it would be "jammed vehicles," but close enough for me.

Now everybody should go back and read the title of the blog! It is called "Rex Parker Does the NY Times Crossword Puzzle." While Rex does give some analytical and critical comments, he also DESCRIBES HIS SOLVING EXPERIENCE. Often, as with today's "misspelled" remarks, he is describing the errors he made that slowed him down. And, in general, he times himself to give the puzzle a comparative difficulty level. (Others who time themselves are trying to get a higher ranking in the online listings.) He does sometimes call a clue "unfair," which is a criticism, but that doesn't apply to every mistake he makes.

It took me awhile to see the REBUS. I actually had "is OUT" for the bad at-bat, fully aware of how horrible that was; then I suddenly saw how CAROL would work, and it all came together.

I did think there were too many of the ridiculously-specific-clue-for-a-very general-answer type of entry, such as Vega for STAR, The Getty for MUSEUM, and Polish for EUROPEAN (although that one had some saving wordplay). Once per puzzle is enough for that sort of thing.

@Nancy, I was initially stunned that U-HAUL Naticked you--but then I reflected that you live in Manhattan, where it's probably not possible to park a rental truck or trailer in front of your aparment building long enough to load or unload it. It was a gimme for me--although I do think they rent more vans and trucks than hitchable trailers these days.

@JC66, it's a matter of definition, but you and the puzzle were both wrong -- the Mississippi is one hundred odd miles shorter than its major tributary, the Missouri. Of course, they could have decided that the Missouri was the main stem, and the upper Mississippi a tributary, and things would be different.

Slow Motion 3:14 PM  

Smokey @ 11:23, you said it doesn’t matter when we merge. Yes it does! If two lanes merge to one for a short distance — say, two car lengths — the backup will be shorter than if the one-lane distance is greater, say a mile. This is because cars can resume their normal higher rate of speed much sooner. Merging sooner just lengthens the distance, and therefore the time, when cars are traveling slowly. There is absolutely no doubt about this. Merge late!

CDilly52 3:14 PM  

LOL @Frantic!! Just the nano second after I hit publish on the extra 🧠 I thought Agard. Good thought.

Linda 3:16 PM  

You’re a mess.

Joe Dipinto 3:19 PM  

@Barbara S. – I think what Rex is getting at is that, as he said, the across thing at 39 is not a word or phrase or anything that you would see written that way from left to right, anywhere. So the down answers with the rebuses are fending for themselves in providing the solution to those squares. The 39a clue really is of no help at all.

CDilly52 3:24 PM  

@syracusesolver 9:35 AM Thank you for that post! I, too am such a baseball fan and begged, cajoled, campaigned, wrote a letter to the editor of The Columbus (OH) Dispatch on why Little League should be open to any child interested in learning “The Greatest Game.” I got a note in the mail that said the Editorial Policy did not permit letters from anyone under 18. He put in two tickets to a Columbus Jets baseball game and closed with, and I quote, “Honey, I wish you well. Maybe you can be a cheer leader.” Does anyone wonder where feminists are born??? I ripped up the tickets and sent them back with a note that just said “you weren’t listening.”

I also heard your Biblical baseball reference in
Church years ago and had forgotten it!!! Thanks for sharing.

CT2Napa 3:26 PM  

I came to this site a year and a half ago. The mix of opinions is quite interesting. But when we (Thu- Sun are generally team effort) finished this, I thought that everyone (almost) would love it.

1) everyone (almost) begs for rebuses on THursday
2) everyone (almost) likes hard cluing with fair crosses
3) everyone (almost) nitpicks a few things but then says OK
4) everyone who is OK with themes likes quality themes spread through the puzzle

So I am surprised by the number of dissenting votes.

By the way a Judaica shop in Berkeley, CA had t-shirts with the following on the front:



JC66 3:28 PM  


I'm sure it's my mistake, not the paper's.

But, maybe the Mississippi was longer 57 years ago? πŸ˜‚

GILL I. 3:28 PM  

@Quasi....YES: The "Two Fat Ladies." How could you argue with two (ahem) slightly large funny Brits - one who drove a motorcycle - and the other favoring a gin and tonic? Favorite saying: "Vegetarians are fascists." I was never that into Jaime Oliver nor his "Naked Chef." He tried a little too hard. He lost me when he came to the USofA and tried telling Americans how we should run our school cafeterias. I mean, in Britain they probably still eat chip butties in kindergarten.
As far as a wedge of cheese and a baguette....I'm with you. I'd add some peeled grapes.

You can probably see these shows on your smart phone. I know Fox is offering free streaming.

Bon Appetit from my idol, Julia Child......

Joe Dipinto 3:46 PM  

@jberg & @JC66 – A lot of "Longest Rivers of the World" lists combine them as the Mississippi-Missouri River, with a total length of 3,710 miles – the full length of the Missouri plus the bottom half or so of the Mississippi, from where the Missouri flows into it.

Kathy 4:01 PM  

I, too, had an illegal trike on the Interstate, but I finally got out of that TRAFFIC JAM. The one I couldn’t extricate myself from was the pile-up in the NW where a stubborn tuba prevented me from ever seeing OYSTERS, KARMA and MUTT. I obviously don’t know that film so could only try to guess a word whose middle letters were UB.

I do love rebuses, so I had a great old time in the center, made more delightful because REBUS itself was the tip-off. I wasn’t crazy about a lot of the fill, but the rebus made it worth it in the end.

Whatsername 4:04 PM  

@Birchbark (10:29) “Traffic jams are worse on interstates.” You are so right about that. Hubby and I nearly missed a flight out of Tulsa airport when we hit road construction less than 3 miles from the terminal building. After sitting at a complete standstill in 90° heat for over an hour, we finally jumped the curb and drove down the shoulder to the next exit and managed to get there in the nick of time.

@Lorelei and @Carola: Thank you. Loved the Shane photo.

@Kelly (12:09) I agree that a blank at 39A would have been a better “clue“ than what’s there.

GHarris 4:04 PM  

I got stuck in the NW because karma is fate, fortune, luck not a cosmic force . Good karma, I found a parking spot at the station.. Bad karma, the train is two hours late. I had the “ub “ going down and given the clues reference to strings and not knowing the film I reasonably assumed the answer was a musical instrument and wrote in “tuba”. Had to cheat to get the “k” and then all fell into place. Yea the Supreme Court DACA ruling

bauskern 4:11 PM  

The rebus killed me. And I was basically all done, had two crosses left, and thought, Well it's a Thursday so there must be a rebus, but none of the other squares were rebuses, so it was a DNF for me. And I'm totally fine with that.

Anonymous 4:19 PM  

I liked it. Rex is such a crab!

Lorelei Lee 4:20 PM  

@Z, I was agreeing with you, but with a twist. However, anyone who thinks there isn't spite on the highway and rage in a traffic jam possibly also buys into the rational consumer school of economics. (I'm waiting for you someday to go old school SNL on me and say, "Lori you ignorant...") You make me think!

IKE 4:28 PM  

It's the military phonetic alphabet:
Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo...

Nancy 5:17 PM  

@jberg (2:58)-- I cannot tell a lie. One of the reasons I Naticked on UHAUL was that I didn't have the 2nd U provided by MUTT. I had M-TT and didn't get it from the clue!!! Don't ask. So all I had for UHAUL was -HA-L and that didn't give me enough of a word recognition pattern to help me.

While I praised the MUTT clue in my original comment, I took care to leave out the fact that I didn't get it. Sometimes one's stupidity is of such a high level that it's better left unacknowledged :)

Z 5:20 PM  

@Barbara S - I understood your question differently than @Joe Dipinto, so ignore this if that explanation suffices. In an American style crossword every entry is checked, that is there are at least two clues for every square. At Square 1 you can get the “K” from either KARMA or KUBO, so it is checked. If a solver never heard of KUBO they can still solve the puzzle by checking the crosses. The reason 39A is arguably “unchecked” is that there is no clue as to which vehicle type is in each square. If you don’t figure out the down answer there is no way to check the crossing answer for help.

@GHarris - I don’t think that’s what KARMA is. Of course, there’s all kind of nuance and variation depending on which religion tradition we’re talking about but I think the clue is in the spirit of what goes around comes around. I’m with you 1,000% on the DACA ruling.

@Lorelei Lee - πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Full confession, I have had those thoughts, but never about you. Besides, my Chevy Chase impression is terrible. I’m sure you’re right on the “spite” thing, it’s just that I am less likely to give a one finger salute if I don’t think of it that way.

Unknown 5:35 PM  

I've been living in this country for 28 years but I've never heard of a game of horse.

Runs with Scissors 5:52 PM  

@kitshef 7:14 AM & whoever else was wondering..."Does anybody have a clue what the phrase "outrun the Motorola" means?"

Cop cars have radios, typified by the clunky Motorola brand radio way back when. As the saying goes, you can't get away faster than they can radio ahead - you can't outrun the Motorola.

Yet fools will try. And they muck up the traffic and irritate the rest of us.

I'm pushing 60 myself, have used the expression since junior high.

Anonymous 6:08 PM  

Horse, from memory (high school):
- two players
- one takes the first shot (no idea how that's decided)
- the second player attempts the same shot
rinse, repeat

no recollection how missing a shot is adjudicated. nor how points are scored. the essence is having to make the other player's shot. points are scored some how.

JC66 6:16 PM  

Anon 6:08

See Anon 7:47's post re:HORSE.

Joe 6:28 PM  

I liked this. I liked RE(BUS). And I liked the clue for HORSE.

Barbara S. 7:02 PM  

@Joe Dipinto 3:19 and @Z 5:20

Thanks, both. In all my years of solving, I've never run across that term "checked," although of course the concept is very familiar. It's so different in cryptic crosswords where only about half the squares are checked. And, ironically, in cryptics you need all the help you can get. I guess it's an example of the very different crossword traditions in the U.K. and the U.S.

CDilly52 7:20 PM  

With you all the way, @GILL I! I own the Two Fat Ladies DVDs. Loved the travelogue meets food portion. And I watched “The French Chef” on public tv- black and white probably. Erin omg befornO was school age! She is my all time chef-idol. Loved the book “Julie and Julia,” too. Took a selfie in her kitchen at the Smithsonian while I was in DC last year. I shall treasure it. And I despise having my picture taken.

Unknown 7:28 PM  

This was my first ever Thursday puzzle completed with no help at all! It was a slog (took me 40 minutes) but I am so damn proud.

syracusesolver 7:40 PM  

This is a fun puzzle—starting out with KARMA really set the tone. Like the fine one on Monday, it left a smile on my face and a feeling of respect for the cleverness of its construction. (It also helped me forget Tuesday and Wednesday.)

Everyone knows about our two seasons, winter and construction. Since we’re in the latter, the puzzle's timing was great!

Frantic Sloth 8:17 PM  

@Nancy 517pm LOL!
You make a good point; however, at least your dumb has the good sense to stay hidden as long as possible, whereas mine lights its hair on fire and runs naked through the streets (yes, with scissors), screaming "look at me! Look at me! Ain't I p u r d y ?!"

***SB alert***
BTW, that was me again under the name "SPELLING BEE ALERT" - naturally, I forgot to sign my name.

And the hits just keep on comin'!

Barb Chamberlain 8:25 PM  

Is it just me or is it not a strange time to have a theme about heavy vehicular traffic when millions of people have changed their transportation uses and many who aren't essential front line workers aren't going anywhere at all?

I say this as someone who works for a transportation agency. Our state data dashboard shows walking and bicycling way up, everything else way down. The problem now is drivers taking advantage of empty roads to travel at dangerously high rates of speed so you would have a DEADLY SMASHUP, not a BOTTLENECK causing a TRAFFIC JAM.

Joe Dipinto 8:26 PM  

Music for today's puzzle:

The Horse" by Cliff Nobles & Co. (1968)

Hangin' On A String" by Loose Ends (1985)

"Freaks Come Out At Night" by Whodini (1984)

Frantic Sloth 8:27 PM  

@Anonymous 608pm That was well-researched, thorough, and truly very helpful.

I'm sorry, but you just really made me laugh! You definitely get points for that and trying to help out a fellow member of the commentunity. So, just ignore me. 😘

Azzurro 9:16 PM  

Lighten up, Rex, this was a fun Thursday. A few clunkers (AMS?), but mostly good stuff.

Funny, I think I made all of the same missteps along the way, though that did not ruin it for me.

TAB2TAB 9:34 PM  

This seemed to go very smoothly other than the middle section, but even that went reasonably smoothly when *every* down wasn't working for the middle "traffic" jam of cars and we hit on the rebus "aha" light bulb. Fun!

Joe Dipinto 9:56 PM  

@Barbara S. – Yeah, I assume the point of every other letter being unchecked in Cryptics is to force you to get the answer from deciphering the clue. You can't just count on the crosses to help you if you get stuck. I actually kind of prefer Cryptics to regular Crosswords. Harper's Magazine has a challenging one by Richard Maltby (who's also a theater lyricist).

Phil 1:33 PM  

I started in with the review and saw a pan coming so I scanned through it just to see how you can complain about what I thought was decent fill and yep there it was. He can’t complain about it so Rex called it ‘not exciting’. Really Rex your bias invalidates or hides any decent review commentary. Geez man tone it down, personal vendettas are not insightful.

Anonymous 2:33 AM  

If you consistently don’t like Rex’s crossword reviews, don’t read them. I just don’t really see the point in ranting against him personally, when you could just go on with your day.

spacecraft 10:49 AM  

26d: oh, if ONLY!

Lately I've been somewhat concerned (I do not use the word "worry") that my reaction to these puzzles has been in tune with OFC's. Well, today, those concerns vanish. I absolutely LOVED this one! It was fun to do, not too hard but still containing some rough spots (my old FOE the NW included: KUBO was unknown and needed every cross), theme "density" (!), and cool fill with cool clues. More like this please! YOKO, take a DOD bow for having your first name appear instead of your crosswordese last one. Eagle!

Burma Shave 12:13 PM  


to a TRAFFICJAM in your CAR
after ALOT of BOTTLEs of beer to TASTE,


rondo 12:29 PM  

YOKO gave this puz instant KARMA. Har. Enough of that MALARKEY. No write-overs, so not as challenging as OFL would have you believe. The first vehicle to appear was the YOSEMITE SEMI; the others soon JAMmed in there and fini. This puz was a BUTTE.

thefogman 1:00 PM  

New for 2021. It’s the FORD CAR-VAN-SEMI-TRUCK-BUS. Now that’s a crossover vehicle.

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

A challenging, cleverly clued puzzle. Fun. Just ignore the mess in the middle and have a good day.

Anonymous 2:21 PM  


Diana, LIW 2:25 PM  

Right. Ignore the "mess" in the middle. Ugh. How to ruin a fun puzzle - I wasn't even minding the "see other clues" directions so much. I'd rather be stuck in traffic.

Diana, LIW

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

@Myanmar Tonsure(12:13pm):
Laugh out loud hilarious for real!

leftcoaster 3:32 PM  

Off the wall rebuses in the middle are not just a TRAFFIC JAM but a multi-vehicle disaster in my case. Thanks for the ride anyway.

Diana, LIW 5:45 PM  

What I should have said earlier was that having my winter air be COol (not CAR, and I knew it would be a musical air, darn it all), serPENts showed up in Shakespeare (I know, that was Genesis, not William), and my batter STRIKESout. Like me. No wonder I didn't get the joke. Har.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

wcutler 1:22 AM  

Barbara S. 7:02 PM "It's so different in cryptic crosswords where only about half the squares are checked."
Joe Dipinto 9:56 PM "@Barbara S. – Yeah, I assume the point of every other letter being unchecked in Cryptics is to force you to get the answer from deciphering the clue. You can't just count on the crosses to help you if you get stuck."

In a sense, every square in a cryptic is checked by virtue of its word having two clues - the definition and the clue to arrive at the word. It's very rare that there is any ambiguity in the cryptic solutions.

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP