Bit of Western neckwear / THU 1-6-22 / One of two sultanates in the United Nations / Last word in an improv show / Boat going back and forth / Garden item frequently added to cream cheese / Language in which most words are monosyllabic

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Constructor: Andrew Linzer

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: GROUPTHINK (60A: Intellectual conformity ... or a hint to interpreting 17-, 22- and 51-Across) — theme answers all begin or end with a string of three rebus squares containing an animal (three crows, three lions, and three ants, respectively); to make sense of the answers those squares are in, you have to interpret them as a collective, or group; so a MURDER of crows, a PRIDE of lions, and a COLONY of ants (in the Down crosses, each animal square functions simply as a series of letters):

Theme answers:
  • (MURDER) (i.e. crow crow crow) MYSTERY (17A: Genre for Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle)
  • (PRIDE) (i.e. lion lion lion) MONTH (22A: June)
  • PENAL (COLONY) (i.e. ant ant ant) (51A: Early 19th-century Australia, for one)
Word of the Day: ISLA Fisher (14A: Actress Fisher of "Wedding Crashers") —

Isla Lang Fisher (/ˈlə/; born 3 February 1976) is an Australian actress and author. She began her career on Australian television. Born to Scottish parents in Oman, she moved to Australia at age six. After appearing in television commercials at a young age, she came to prominence for her portrayal of Shannon Reed on the soap opera Home and Away from 1994 to 1997, for which she received two Logie Award nominations.

She made a successful transition to Hollywood in the live-action film adaptation of Scooby-Doo (2002), and has since appeared in Wedding Crashers (2005), Hot Rod (2007), Confessions of a Shopaholic(2009), The Great Gatsby (2013), and Now You See Me (2013). Her other notable film credits include I Heart Huckabees (2004), The Lookout (2007), Definitely, Maybe (2008), Burke & Hare (2010), Bachelorette (2012), Visions (2015), GrimsbyNocturnal AnimalsKeeping Up with the Joneses (all in 2016), and Tag (2018). She has also voiced characters in animated films such as Horton Hears a Who!(2008), Rango (2011), and Rise of the Guardians (2012). On television, she had a recurring role on the fourth and fifth seasons of Arrested Development (2013, 2018).

Fisher has authored two young adult novels and the Marge in Charge book series. (wikipedia)

• • •

I think this is a great idea for a theme, but it was also a great idea for a theme three years ago when Paolo Pasco published a Fireball puzzle with the same theme. I know that coincidences happen, themes sometimes get repeated completely unintentionally and accidentally, so I'm not exactly outraged, and I'm certainly not making any accusations, but there are a LOT of coincidences when you look at the two puzzles side-by-side. First of all, Fireball puzzles have titles, and the title of Paolo's puzzle was ... "Groupthink." That's the bit that really makes me wince. It's one thing to come up with the same concept independently from another constructor, but to represent *this* theme with precisely *that* word, well, that seems far less probable than duplicating the theme concept alone. But not impossible! Here's Paolo's grid:

[taken from]

As you can see, two of the three animals are the same (crows and lions; Paolo used fish (SCHOOL) where today's NYT constructor used ants (COLONY)). Further, every, single, one of the LION crosses is the same in both grids, and in exactly the same grid position (SCALLION, PAVILION, A MILLION). It's eerie. Now, it may also be by far the most likely way to handle three consecutive LION squares, I don't know, so again, this isn't proof of theft. It's just very hard for me to evaluate today's NYT puzzle when I know the Fireball puzzle exists. The theme is ingenious, and it's elaborate, and if it's already been done, and done so similarly, most anything I'd have to say about today's puzzle I should really be saying about Paolo's. I have no interest in saying which is better; they both execute the theme well. I just feel, I don't know, icky praising a puzzle that has soooooo much in common with another puzzle, particularly a less high-profile independent puzzle. When the behemoth copies the indie (intentionally or no), it just gives me bad vibes. 

This puzzle has an Agatha Christie clue for the "murder" answer, Paolo's had a Christie *parody* as its "murder" answer. As with the "lions," all the "crow" crosses are essentially the same (CROWD, MICROWATT, ESCROW), and as with "lions," that similarity may have been inevitable (not a lot of "crow"-containing options). My favorite coincidence, because it's the most bizarre, is that both puzzle's somehow have ISLA Fisher in them (!?!?!?!?!!). In the NYT today, her first name appears as an incidental, non-thematic four-letter name, but back in Paolo's puzzle, the "fish" in her *last* name makes her part of the theme (part of the SCHOOL in PRIVATE SCHOOL). So ... big day for ISLA Fisher. Awkward day for me.

I really like the clue on KAYAK (8D: Boat going back and forth?) (the "back and forth" refers to its being a palindrome, i.e. reading the same in both directions). I also like the redundancy observation in the HIKES UP clue, which I had not thought of before (24D: Boosts, redundantly). And DOMIN(ANT) HAND is a real nice longer answer (29D: Cup holder, usually). The main difficulty of today's puzzle was simply uncovering the theme concept, which took me a while. I got the rebus part quickly enough, but I couldn't make the crows or lions do anything; I tried pronouncing them, or thinking what they're symbols of ... "Is June the birth month of Leos?" I wondered (no, Leos are primarily August). So I just jumped to the bottom of the grid to try to find the revealer, which I got quickly, and though it didn't help immediately, it helped eventually; I'd figured out the meaning of GROUPTHINK before I got to the ants. 

Couple of tricky "?" clues today: 
  • 27D: Time period, or an anagram of one? (EON)—EON is an anagram of the word "one" (not of a time period)
  • 54A: Water tower? (TUGBOAT)—the old "tower" trickeroo (here, it means something that tows) (you sometimes see the "flower" trickeroo on river clues)
Anyway, sorry to ruin your experience by showing you the earlier version of this puzzle. But not that sorry. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


DaveR 6:17 AM  

As far as I know, plagiarism doesn't require intent. Besides, is it unreasonable to have expected someone at the NYT to have caught this?

Anonymous 6:27 AM  

I'm stunned that the #NYTXW *doesn't* have Fireball Crossword Puzzles in its TurnItIn database!

Shawn Kennedy 6:54 AM  

Speaking of plagiarism:

If you enjoyed the clue “Boat going back and forth?”, or “Poster board?” earlier this week, you might enjoy Pun Amok 2, which debuted about a month ago and has both clues, although “boat” is “vehicle” in my version:

Z 6:54 AM  

It’s a debut and the constructor writes This idea was inspired by this cool 2015 puzzle by Jacob Stulberg. My main construction challenge was to squeeze in three sets of animals that have relatively recognizable group names. I considered an ESCAPE POD of SEALs for some versions, but ultimately CROW, LION, and ANT proved the easiest to work with. For the revealer, I also considered HERD MENTALITY and the pop band ANIMAL COLLECTIVE. The “cool puzzle” has a similar concept (e.g. two “pint” rebuses to represent “quart.”)
This strikes me as very plausible. And, unlike @DavidR, I do think a certain amount of intent is involved in plagiarism. I don’t know how the NYTX protects against this sort of thing happening, but it should be doing something. I put responsibility on the editorial team.

Something else I put on the editorial team, OVER and BOAT being answers and appearing in clues. This is irksome and so easy to fix. Both SPAN and KAYAK can easily be clued some other way

Otherwise, this was a fine solve.

OffTheGrid 6:57 AM  

I enjoyed this as much as any Thursday ever. I started reading @Rex. I stopped. I didn't see the older puzzle so I don't care.

oceanjeremy 7:07 AM  

I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle, until I came here and realized it is basically a dupe of an indie puzzle from three years ago. I honestly have a hard time believing this was coincidence.

That aside, I LOVED all the cryptic-ish clues (KAYAK, TUGBOAT, etc, etc). Big fan of Cryptic Crosswords, so this pleased me greatly.

I didn’t get the rebuses until I got the theme revealer, but that didn’t really slow me down (much) and it made for a delightful “Aha.” Got the revealer, went back and plugged the rebuses in the holes I’d left in the grid, et voilà!

My only complaint (other than the plagiarism lol) is there were only three groups (murder, pride, colony). I really want this to be an oversized grid to fit in a fourth themer. But this is a small nit to pick.

Lewis 7:07 AM  

Now that was one terrific aha when the trick hit me. Give me an aha like that and no matter what the rest of the puzzle looks like, my thumb is way high.

And today, as icing, the rest of the puzzle looks great! DOMINANT HAND and its cup-holding clue – which fooled me because I was thinking of a tennis champion or championship-winning team holding up a cup – were also worth the price of admission. Also, that marvelous clue for EON. Then there was the star palindrome KAYAK, joined by the supporting cast of HAH, MOM, and LIL. Not to mention the deft handling of the scrunched rebi, and, trust me, that’s a tough ask of a constructor.

All neatly placed in a debut. Not only most impressive, but also an involving-through-resistance solve capped by the kick of that mega-aha. I say mighty well done, Andrew, and thank you for a superb ride!

Trey 7:13 AM  

Very interesting puzzle, and yes, the similarities are eerie. I agree with @Z that plagiarism requires intent (or at least indifference). If the author of this puzzle had never seen the prior puzzle, then there can be neither intent nor indifference. That is purely coincidence. @Rex is correct though - with a huge number of puzzles that exist, there is a limit to the available themes before the constructions become so bizarre that they lose the solvers.

I loved the clue for EON and well as the one for KAYAK. Interesting, older style white water kayaks (very common before the 80s) were also a bit of a visual palindrome - with the opening roughly in the center and the front and back equally tapered, one could see the symmetry. More modern kayaks have much shorter back side and the symmetry is no longer present.

kitshef 7:19 AM  

Absolutely fantastic puzzle. My only complaint it was it was over too soon. Wish it could have been a Sunday so we could have had much more of it.

Pure joy.

[Addendum after reading Rex: NYT perhaps should have noticed the duplication. I'm glad they did not, as then I, and millions of others, would never have seen this puzzle.]

Ellen 7:22 AM  

Took me a few minutes to understand the puzzle once I had finished it, complete with the rebuses. That's the sign of a great puzzle. Enjoyed the aha moment then but am dismayed and a bit angry now that I've read OFL's blog.

And, yes, the NYT team should have caught this ...

albatross shell 7:44 AM  


Six K's. An OK and/or a KO fest.

Imaginative clever twisty rebus theme. Works as intended. I had fun.

EON was to my mind a double gimmie, but I sure enjoyed the attempt to complicate the issue by the doubling the gimmie factor while solving EON ERA LEAKOA choice. I do not like having a new technical term. And I do like the way it rolls off the tongue. It is more trouble than it is worth and I hope not to use it again. My vote, don't. I won't. So I ASPIRE.

SAME SEX PRIDE MONTH. As is every month.

About the plagiarism issue:
I remember the issue came up on a puzzle last year maybe. Rex did not mention it but it was discussed here. I emailed Rex about it. He never replied to me or mentioned it that I know of. No way of knowing.

If the Times editors had known the puzzle would have been rejected. Accidental or intentional. They probably should have.

You can't ounce ounce .... ounce your pound cake and eat it too.

Luckily ignorance is bliss. I enjoyed it. I suspect innocence in this case.

Son Volt 7:47 AM  

Wonderful puzzle - theme duplication or not. Agree with @Z that the full magnitude of plagiarism requires some intent - which I didn’t detect while reading the constructor’s notes.

I liked the Animal Collective revealer better but GROUP THINK is apt - and all three themers so solid. Only clunk for me was the two sultanates dupe.

After early week garbage - we got a decent puzzle yesterday and today’s was a complete joy to solve.

Todd 7:48 AM  

Do I really care at all this this puzzle is similar to a previous one done elsewhere? No, not even a little. But I hope Rex refers this to the crossword puzzle integrity division of the FBI for further investigation. This was a cool and for me challenging puzzle. I was pretty happy to finish in good time and went to see what Rex had to say about it. The man could ruin a sunny day.

Adam Lipkin 7:51 AM  

Isla Fisher has a new series on Peacock next week, and I'm taking the entire thing -- both puzzles and Rex's Fisher-centric write-up -- as the world's most complicated and long-planned viral marketing. Well done, Peacock.

Frantic Sloth 7:56 AM  

Suspected a rebus right away with 1D SCALLION - my favorite cream cheese.

And 6D ESCROW sealed the deal, but it took the revealer and some staring to finally make sense of it all.

Ironically the themer that led the way to enlightenment was the one I liked the least: PENAL ANTS. Sounds like an unfortunate medical condition.
Says I, "PENAL colony is the only thing that makes sense, but why ANTS? Oh - d'oh - A colony of ANTS!"
And the rest, as they say, was herstory.

Also, I love that themers work in both directions as Gof intended.

The fill had very little junk, too, and I found it fairly challenging for the Thursdee, which is always a plus.

And it's a NYTXW debut, this time masquerading as a seasoned veteran.
Well done, Mr. Linzer! Can't wait to see what else you have up your sleeve.


Anonymous 7:56 AM  

Legal cases in the music world have recognized intentional and unintentional or accidental plagiarism (apart from the trend of sampling in the last 25 years or so).

One example of the latter is George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord", which a court found was subconsciously plagiarized. The original song was "He's So Fine". Harrison argued that both songs were based on an old hymn called "Oh Happy Day", but the court didn't agree.

Eric Carmen's "All by Myself" is based on a Rachmaninoff melody. In this case, Carmen thought that he was safe in using it because Rachmaninoff's works were in the public domain in the US. Rachmaninoff's work was still protected elsewhere, and once the record was released, Rachmaninoff's estate sued. They ended up getting a percentage of the royalties.

bocamp 7:57 AM  

Thx Andrew; very clever Thurs. rebus puz! :)


A pretty tough go for moi. Had a dnf and spent a lot of time trying to find the error. Thot maybe it was a rebus issue, but nothing seemed to work. Finally hit 'reveal', only to discover that I had LACy / ANTHyM. :(

Nevertheless, a fine and most enjoyable offering. Loved the theme (which took a fair amt of time to grok in its entirety).

An excellent adventure, even if it was a bust. :)
yd pg -2*

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Anonymous 8:02 AM  

The Wordplay article for today's puzzle has the usual Constructor Notes, with a P.S. acknowledging the Pasco puzzle:

P.S.: I also want to give a shout-out to this similar Fireball puzzle by Paolo Pasco, which I learned about in the lead-up to publication. It’s disappointing to know I wasn’t the first to this idea! It also seems highly fitting that the theme for both puzzles is GROUPTHINK (and an honor to be in any kind of group with a legend like Mr. Pasco).

So it seems it was known prior to publication that there were similarities and the editorial team was aware...

Anonymous 8:14 AM  

Anyone else think “todos” is terrible fill? It’s a todo list, but I’ve never heard the things on the list referred to as other than tasks or maybe items, who says “ I got a lot of todos on my list today”?

Anonymous 8:14 AM  

@Dave R- Plagiarism does require intent.

Anonymous 8:18 AM  

I’m guessing that pretty much every crossword theme you come across these days has been done before sometime somewhere. The idea that the Times shouldn’t run a puzzle because a similar one ran in a different venue three years ago is silly. We’d also have missed a great puzzle.

Winnie kissed my balls for luck 8:18 AM  

King of Crosswords - Oh Mighty One

I don't really care about previous puzzles that use the same device.

Take up golf, there's more, even infinite variety. Then you need not try so hard to curmudge.

Arnold Palmer

Nancy 8:20 AM  

This was so much fun! I got the three LIONS immediately, but I didn't at that point think of PRIDE. I thought (late) June might be the month of LEO. But why three LEOs?

I got the theme at the three CROWS. Aha! MURDER MYSTERY!!! Back to my three LIONS. Of course, PRIDE MONTH!!! And what were ANTS in a group called? Aha -- PENAL COLONY.

I came to the blog to say: Andrew, I wish I'd thought up this one myself. What an inspired theme! What a clever conceit and how well-executed! I had that last paragraph already written in my head. And then, I saw Rex's comment...

Bummer!!! An incredible bummer!!! I wish I didn't know about that earlier puzzle. I really wish I didn't.

Joaquin 8:27 AM  

A great solving experience followed by reading @Rex. It's as if last night I had dinner at the French Laundry and today I don't feel so hot.

Anonymous 8:27 AM  

I’m slowly coming to the realization that not everyone hates rebuses (rebi?) as much as I do. I envy you your fun-filled Thursdays.

SouthsideJohnny 8:29 AM  

Some of the highlights today were pretty stellar (the clue for DOMINANT HAND, for example - which apparently wasn’t lifted from someone else’s puzzle). And of course some of it is less than stellar - BOLO TIE, for example.

Personally, I found AXON crossing LORE pretty difficult to decipher, but no complaints as it’s Thursday good. In fact the nice thing about this puzzle is that there is nothing really groan-inducing (wow, that’s a pretty sad commentary about how low the bar is set at the NYT these days). I’m pretty neutral on the plagiarism issue - I imagine most constructors look to other constructors that they admire, or to past puzzles for ideas and inspiration, so I will leave it to the purists to debate where the line is and if this one crossed it.

The clue for SCENE (Last word in an improv show) definitely seems to miss the mark. I know they are trying to amp up the difficulty level (and probably not be too repetitive), but geez there are dozens of better alternatives on that one, so flirting with, but apparently not crossing the groan-inducing line.

GILL I. 8:35 AM  

Oh...I don't know. Sometimes we take an idea, a word, or a phrase that we've seen in our past and because we really liked it, we unknowingly made it into our original own. Possible? Coinkydinky?
Like most of you, when I read that this theme has been done to the tune of the same dance, I became a bit sad and my fandango tango fell a bit flat. But why? you ask. Because I wanted it to be an original, straight from the horses mouth tale to tell and I didn't want to share any kudos....
I'll get back to my solving experience ( I had no idea this had been done before).....
It was a tad brutal - but the kind of brutality that co-exists with that to me again because I enjoy the good kind of pain....
I had to get to the basement area with its three little ANTs. that's what you've done, you sneak. ANT is a colony. How did you figure that out? you ask. because I just knew if was PENAL Colony and the ANT downs were solid. Sit back...scratch head, go back upstairs and finish with CROW and LION. Those were the hardest for me. For one, I didn't know a trio of CROW as a MURDER. But...I know my Agatha and Arthur Conan and I know they write murder mysteries. It took a bunch of get off my comfy chair and move around, moments but like a good Thursday, the light bulb turned on. It was bright and glorious.
One pregunta....Is 9A (HALO) really a mark? Isn't it more of a sign?
I now shall become MEEK and when I inherit the earth, I will put food on the table for all to enjoy. No one will go hungry.

Anonymous 8:44 AM  

I'm not a member of the 'crossword elite', but I really appreciate how you pointed out the similarities between the grids. I thought you were clear, careful, and fair. I learned a lot. Thanks!

amyyanni 8:48 AM  

Walking over to the 'wish I didn't know' group, then over to the TV room to watch Joe & Kamala. Feeling sad.

Laura 8:53 AM  

I have been unhappy with recent Thursday themes, then along comes this great puzzle. You can't spoil it by accusing plagarism. I bet the original author is enjoying the game and credit.

The puzzle offered far more than just theme. The clues were original and filled with word play. Very few obscure people or places. Even what would be drej was enlivened by a wordplay clue (eon).

Great puzzle.

pabloinnh 8:56 AM  

All new to me, terrific AHA! moment, diabolical and thought-provoking, minimal junk, and the kind of Thursday I've been waiting for for a while now.

In short, Thursdazo!

Thanks for the fun, AL. Abundant Laurels for this one.

Joel Palmer 8:57 AM  

Isla Fisher is also known for being mistaken for Amy Adams

jberg 9:12 AM  

It took a long time, but eventually I had enough crosses to see that it had to be MICROWATT and CROWDNOISE, and that ESCROW would work as well. Up to then, I was seriously wondering whether I had remembered the Beatitudes wrong. So, I asked myself, is it going to be CROW rebuses? Or maybe different birds? But then I saw how they could be MURDER in the other direction, and that helped me realize that I shouldn't be putting a single chive into my cream cheese. That gave me some PRIDE; the only problem was the ANTs, because I had BEAT fan (I mean, I read Kerouac and Ginsberg, but I'm certainly not a BEATNIK, so the former seemed a better fit). Plus I was trying to make the across version 'hill.' But I finally realized that that F was not good, and there it was, tickety-boo.

65A, the standard term for lively in music would be vivace, but neither that nor viv. would fit, and I had most of the crosses. I guess today many English composers have started to use their own language, as the Germans have long done.

@Southside, I'm surprised you didn't have more to say about the little lessons in LAO and URDU script. Those type of clues might better be written as "a language you probably don't know."

Neal 9:12 AM  

The clue to axon is weirdly incorrect. There are a bunch of ways to clue axon, but if your clue is "brain connection," the answer had best be "synapse."

pmdm 9:20 AM  

A lovely puzzle for a lovely debut. I strongly believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And I am happy when an AHA moment occurs, as it did with this puzzle. There exist few puzzle that enthuse me as much as this one. I think I will remember it.

Imitation is rampart in the classical music world. How many composers have "stolen" themes by other composers and then compose variations on the theme? (Think the 24th Caprice for solo violin by Paganini.) How many composers imitate donkeys and cuckoos the same way/ (Mendelssohn, Mahler, Saint-Saens and so on). Beethoven steals from Mozart (5th Symphony, third movement). Schubert steals from Beethoven (9th Symphony 4th Movement). Brahms steals form Schumann (3rd Symphony) and Beethoven (1st Symphony 4th Movement. Hermann (in Psycho) steals from Sibelius). And the list could go on and on and on. So today's duplication should elicit cheers, and boos. As Lewis might say, more please.

Dr.A 9:21 AM  

It seems likely that this was plagiarized. There’s just a little too much to think it’s a coincidence.

RooMonster 9:30 AM  

There was a knock at the door. Andrew looked up from his computer screen, a look of fear arose in his face. He turned to look at the door, it growing grotesquely bigger as his mind raced. Could it be them? He wanted to run, but thought better of it. He peered through the peephole, asking, "Who is it?"
"It's the Crossword Crime Division. Open up, we have some questions for you."
Andrew's gut dropped, a sense of doom overcoming him.
"Um, give me a minute, I'm not dressed" he called out. He raced to the window, but before getting there, he heard a loud crash, and turned to see the door had been kicked open, the Crime Division rushing in.
He felt the pressure of the ropes against his wrists, tying him tightly to the chair. A grizzled looking man with a cigarette was staring at him.
"I would really like to do this the easy way, so I'm going to ask you this." He paused, then while shaking the paper puzzle in Andrew's face, he yelled, "Did you steal this theme?!"
Andrew didn't know what to do. He began to stammer...

Finish up this story. Let's see where it leads.


Tom T 9:38 AM  

This one felt so "out on the challenging end" while I was solving it. Started last night, but after a 12 hour day in a theme park, had to give it up and return in the AM. I knew 6D had to be ESCROW, but I resisted because I couldn't find any way to turn _ _ CROW MYSTERY into a meaningful answer.

Turns out my solve time was squarely between my best Thursday and my average Thursday time.

Enjoyed the puzzle a lot, including the clues others have already mentioned. And enjoyed the balanced, informative write-up from Rex regarding the similarity to the previous puzzle. One thing I like better about the previous puzzle was that all three animals were 4 letter words (LION, CROW, FISH). I had LION and CROW and really wanted another 4 letter rebus, instead of the eventually figured out ANT.

The rebuses made Hidden Diagonal Words tough to find in the top half of the grid, but there are several HDWs to find in the SW, including my HDW of the day: Biblically whacked (SMOTE).

RooMonster 9:46 AM  

Hey All !
Well, crime noir story aside, I liked this puz. I forgot (surprise surprise) that a group of CROWs was called a Murder, so didn't figure that one out. I did catch the theme after getting the first and third LION, plus having the Revealer. For PENALANTANTANT, I originally had PENAL (COLO)NY wondering what a COLO was. Har.

On the fence on the whole plagiarism thing. It's possible two people had the same similar theme thought independently. If Andrew used FISH also, then I probably wouldn't have doubted it. But according to his notes, he had thought of other GROUPs, but couldn't make them fit. So, hmm...

Anyway, neat theme, good job Andrew.

Had my one-letter DNF, been a while. It's been two-letter or more lately, or a complete successful solve. Anyway, had ScAN for SPAN, as either fit the clue. CAVILION, why not? Har.

Another wrong-at-first was DOMINANT team. Nice misdirect on that one. But LAH wasn't good for HAH. So gotta say HAH! that HAH got me the correct answer.

Could OMEN/sign be a non-traditional kealoa? Liked the tow-er (Rex) trickeroo. Every time I see SMITE or smote in a puz, I think of the movie "Bruce Almighty" when God talks to Bruce about his earlier outburst, saying "Now,vim not one for blasphemy, but "Smite me, oh mighty smiter" got a chuckle."

Two people thinking independently of the same theme. Does that make the Revealer a Meta?

yd -14 (oof!), should'ves about 8 or 9

One F

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

@Jberg: You're correct that vivace is standard for lively, but I've been reading music for 50 years, and have run across animato a lot. It's not a recent phenomena. My experience is that it's used most often to indicate a change in tempo rather than an initial tempo marking. I knew I had seen it recently in some music I was playing, and I pulled up a copy of Debussy's Clair de Lune.

The tempo markings in this edition are primarily in Italian, as Debussy's originally were in French. This edition has both, with the original French in footnotes. In the section where the key signature changes from Db major to E major, the tempo is marked "Animato", and it indicates Debussy's original marking was "En animant". Six bars later, the key signature reverts back to Db major and the tempo marking is "Calmato"

TJS 10:00 AM  

Wow ! Am I glad I was so done with this garbage that I gave the SE corner about 5 minutes and said "Enough". Take your "penalant" and cram it. "Medium Challenging" ? How about "Maximal Aggravating" ?

Now lets see if anyone agrees.

Tina 10:09 AM  

I guess I’m still too young in the puzzle world. This one went way over my head as I have only seen puzzles so far where every letter in the answer is explicitly filled in, even for a rebus. First time for me for an implied portion of an answer. Will remember this.

Gus 10:09 AM  

Wasn’t familiar with the earlier puzzle, so thank you.
This one clicked for me quickly and at a Thursday best!

Dan C 10:09 AM  

I can't believe everyone saying they don't car if it's plagiarized. As long as you get to do you little crossword in the morning you don't care if it was stolen? Also nobody uses animal venery terms. Crow researchers call crow groups "flocks", not "murders".

Mikey from El Prado 10:28 AM  

Somehow I ripped through this one, with my only snag right off the bat. I started with 1 down (instead of across) and entered chive. But, that was quickly remedied with 1 across having to be either SPAN or ScAN. Thus SCALLION, and off to the races.

I have mixed feelings about Rex’s review. Yes, NYTXW should have coughs the theme (maybe they did and let it go), but c’mon, is it so bad to have a same/similar theme as some other non-NYT XW? I didn’t do that other one, so really enjoyed today’s puzzle. But, what impresses me about Rex’s critique is the due diligence he puts into it. Yes, he takes time to analyze and comment, but that he researches the theme to make the discovery of “plagiarism” speaks volumes of the effort put into this blog.

Z 10:29 AM  

@Dan C - I’ve never seen a better argument for using all the odd animal venery terms than this. Pedantic and a sourpuss is no way to live life.

This puzzle pretty much fits Harry Potter Stewart’s definition: I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core crossword plagiarism"], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the crossword involved in this case is not that. But I agree with @Dan C on this, I do care if my puzzle is stolen, and if my name were on it I would care very much if it even looked like it was stolen. If I had learned of Pasco’s earlier puzzle and noted the similarities I would have asked to withdraw the puzzle. But that’s me. I don’t believe it to be as clear cut as others do, so I don’t fault the constructor.

TJS 10:35 AM  

And "Isla Fisher" in both puzzles? Guilty as charged.

Looking over Paolos' puzzle : "jingo" and "sniffishly". Hmm...

After reading Rex, I couldn't wait for the First Ever scent of a negative comment from... Nah. Nevermind.

thfenn 10:37 AM  

Great puzzle. Who gets the credit for it seems to be a debatable point, but, sorry to say, not one I'm going to have an opinion on, or a care about. Loved how this one slowly dawned on me, with a crow here, then a lion there, and eventually a solve, that for me was completely dependent on the theme. Fun one, and thanks to its creator.

Budd Hist 10:41 AM  

I suppose if you believe that time is linear, you can make a prima facie case that elements of this puzzle were copied.

But failing to first make the case that time is linear, such objections are empty.

Joseph Michael 10:42 AM  

At first it was parrot parrot parrot. But I attacked the puzzle with zebra zebra zebra and finally figured out what was going on. Solving this was a mole mole mole of love.

mathgent 10:44 AM  

I don't do the Fireball crosswords, I'm guessing few of us do. If there are more puzzles in their archive with great themes like this one, I hope that they can be reprised here.

I love these names for groups of animals. A parliament of owls!

Lovely palindrome clue for KAYAK.

There are a group of black birds that sit on our deck often. They're not crows, maybe ravens or grackles. They're pretty big and a little scary. What to call them? A fright of ravens? A nevermore of ravens?

Jeff Chen knew about the previous puzzle but still gave this one his POW.

I loved everything about it. Clever cluing, sparkly fill, genius theme.

Whatsername 10:44 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carola 10:47 AM  

I put this theme in the "Genius" category - and the last thing I expected was to hear from @Rex that it had been thought of before. Well, I'm glad I got to do the puzzle oblivious to its predecessor. For me, solving amounted to a layer-by-layer unveiling of the secret: writing in but not understanding the CROW CROW CROW MYSTERY; then getting the LIONs for the Leo MONTH; and then - knocking me over the head - a colony of ANTs. That was my reveal for "murder" and "pride" - AXONS rejoiced.

Do-overs: chive; myth before LORE. No idea: ISLA, ROSA. Most fun to write in: A MILLION BUCKS.

@Andrew Linzer, I loved matching wits with you on this one and look forward to your next.

JD 10:49 AM  

Made it tough on myself by holding onto Million Bucks (no A) and Chive for too long, only knowing my own sign, and having Lol for Hah. Could see where the themers were, just couldn't figure out what was wanted.

Fortunately the non-theme fill was easy.

Dominant Hand was an aha moment answer and the cross I needed for the rebus breakthrough. But as always, I was slow on the uptake.

Inspired by @Z's cafe, I'm considering opening a shop at the Rye Marina and calling it Basic Tugboat and Dust Pans. A lot of potential and Zero competition.

In my last five years of working, I caught two incidences of outright plagiarism in newsletter articles by our young staff, another lawyer caught one, and one article from my firm was lifted word for word and put on another website without attribution. Same age group each time in the first three. Prior to those pieces, I'd never seen any.

In each case it was evident that the quality of the writing was just a little too good for a beginner and it was always easy to confirm. Google giveth and Google taketh away.

Acknowledging that plagiarism has always been there, I suspect that in the information age it's far more common than we may think.

Thank you @Dan C., I loath "Murder" of crows.

Anonymous 11:03 AM  

Hated it. No fun at all. Not much of a fan of Thursday puzzles but this one really sucked.

albatross shell 11:03 AM  

TODOS is not great fill and I'd explain why I don't think it's bad fill but I have many todos today.

My take on AXONs is they are the vehicle that connects to the brain and synapses are the transmission between axons. So AXON and synapse are both accurate. Ask a biologist and see if it changes my mind.

jae 11:06 AM  

Medium. I caught the rebus very early but it took a while to grok where it was going. Clever and fun.

A fine debut and Jeff at Xwordinfo gave it POW. Here is what he had to say about Paolo’s extremely similar puzzle :

“Should Paolo's prior art take away from Andrew's debut? Paolo's isn't easy to find, the themers not even showing up on Matt Ginsberg's extensive database, and it ran in a different publication with a different target audience. Given the fact that constructors come up with identical ideas independently all the time — just like scientists — I shook off my hesitations.”

What? 11:06 AM  

Plagiarism is hard to prove unless it’s word for word but there was a tipping point for me with this puzzle when ISLA was found in both. One might excuse this if she were well known but a Google search has zero hits.
The situation was missed by the NYT editors as one cannot be expected to scour through the myriad of crosswords out there but I suspect (but don’t know) that Linzer depended on this.
Does plagiarism depend only on the “preponderance of the evidence”? If so, I vote guilty.

Georgia 11:10 AM  

I just found out reading this! She was so good in Wedding Crashers and I always thought it was Amy Adams. Doh!

Unknown 11:15 AM  


Should the NYT staff have caught the similarities? Maybe.

Still loved it.

Nick 11:15 AM  

Loved this puzzle. So much fun! Sad it’s now clouded by potential plagiarism. And yes, plagiarism absolutely requires intent. It’s deliberately passing off someone else’s work as your own. Really hope that’s not what happened here.

JD 11:17 AM  

@mathgent, You could call that flock of crows Smart Cookies. Ravens and crows are highly intelligent. You might want to check out this National Geo video https //

Here's another good one

There are numerous other examples online (I'm a little jealous of your good luck).

Frantic Sloth 11:19 AM  

@Roo 946am I believe a PENAL COLO(duh!) is a popular cocktail at Z's P&T. Perhaps one or more of @GILL's bars offer them as well.

Newboy 11:23 AM  

Plagiarism?. Nah, not when the constructors of two previous grids are cited in the xwordinfo statement Andrew makes. It seems too that Will Shortz was aware of the previous use of the gambit and still thought it worthy of NYT publication. I had seen neither of the earlier puzzles, so my appreciation put a HALO on this effort—a debut no less. Congratulations Mr Linzer! I join Jeff Chen in seeing this as the Puzzle of the Week😇

I had assumed that KAYAK referred to my lack of paddling expertise, so having the palindrome uncovered by Rex restored my self confidence.

albatross shell 11:24 AM  

Wow. I missed that entirely. I thought ferry at first and saw KAYAK as crosses filled in. And I briefly thought of KAYAKs on lakes and rivers, and how you go from one side and back to the other with the paddle, but I never saw the back and forth as a palindrome.

A ferry is usually called a boat but it seems to me some ferries have lifeboats which would make it a ship.

Liveprof 11:31 AM  

Very funny, RooMonster 9:30 and Todd 7:48. So what do you think? --- should Andrew be hauled off to a penal ant ant ant? Strung up with a bolo tie? Consigned to the dustpan of history?

other David 11:36 AM  

Don't constructors these days use computer programs and crossword dictionaries full of outdated references (DSL as high speed internet? Really?) and fake, made up "abbreviations" for fill? Wouldn't it be simple, in such a universe, for two or more constructors to come up with seemingly same puzzles? It's like writing music with only the same 3 or 4 chords already used for hundreds of years; you're bound to find striking similarities between some songs.

Speaking of those, I've spent my entire life in music, enmeshed in it for over 60 years now. I've also created or overseen the creation of hundreds of orchestral sets and countless thousands of pages of music besides playing, writing, recording, and conducting it. Never... Not ever... No way has the so-called abbreviation "anim." appeared anywhere on any page I've seen or edited. Generally I let the non-existent abbreviations slide and just sigh or laugh at them, this one cannot pass.

Speaking of outdated references, large roasting pans with handles are often called "GI pans" in professional kitchens, so my first thought was "oven" as something one may see them in. GI, meaning General Inductee," hasn't existed in this country for nearly a half century (I kept my draft card, one of the last, until 1981). If we still had those GIs, we'd be saving about $3B/yr on our defense spending and likely have a lot less division and myopia in our polity.

Outside of some lazy and poor cluing (axon has been covered too), I rather liked this puzzle. It hangs together nicely and is properly crunchy for a Thursday. I don't really get the tugboat clue, maybe because of tugs with flying bridges?

nyc_lo 11:42 AM  

Really enjoyed this one, but bummed to find out that it was heavily swiped. When your first three down answers are nearly identical, and you name drop Isla Fisher, it’s painfully obvious. It’s easy to ace a test if you’ve got a crib sheet. Boo.

Chip Hilton 11:54 AM  

Add Rose McIver of the tv show “Ghosts” to the Amy Adams, Isla Fisher family. Triplets!

I truly enjoyed the puzzle. My Eureka! moment rivaled any I’ve had here. Loved the clues for KAYAK and TUGBOAT. Didn’t care for HATETO, thought that was too strong for “Would really rather not”. I guess it’s all about how you read “really”.

Ironically, I thought of commenting before reading Rex. Today would’ve been the day. I’ll give the constructor the benefit of the doubt and blame shoddy editing. Still loved it.

John Mc 11:56 AM  

just to chime in on the "intent" question, plagiarism does not require intent. A person in the field is expected to know their material well or to have done a thorough literature review to avoid accidental duplication. That said, the Editors are really at fault for not catching it and they likely owe Pasco an apology at least.

Trey 12:04 PM  

@Sloth 7:56 - my issue in not seeing the immediate rebus was having chive as 1D (followed by "I wonder if I can make 'onion' fit?"). My first rebus entry was ANTACID, then the ANT followed in DOMINANT HAND, then I was able to see the CROW after ES, and it was off to the races. Maybe if I ate cream cheese, then I would have had 1D sooner. Oh well

Tom T 12:10 PM  

@RooMonster, I blanked on the sweet coincidence that my HDW (SMOTE) shared the grud with its own present tense (SMITE), making it all the more enjoyable. I shall SMITE myself thrice with my DOMINANT HAND for my OVERsight.

DrBB 12:10 PM  

Loved the puzzle extremely, sorry to have that tainted by question of plagiarism.To take the bad taste off, here's an exceedingly bad-taste collective nouns joke.

Three (male) Oxford dons are leaving a lecture on collective nouns (exaltation of larks, murder of crows, etc). They pass a group of prostitutes under a streetlight. Junior don decides a quip is in order. "Gentlemen, I believe we have just passed a jam of tarts," he offers, chuckling smugly. Not to be outdone, the next more senior don protests, "I'm afraid you've got it wrong. What we've just passed is a [smug chuckle of his own] flourish of strumpets." Most senior don, constrained to put both his juniors in their place, rejoins, "No, gentleman, I believe what we've just passed is an anthology of English pros."

I realize this joke involves unreconstructed attitudes from an earlier era, but it is part of my family legacy, having been handed down to me by my father, and I make no apology.

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

Plaigiarism does indeed require intent. And whether crossword puzzle themes can be copyrighted in their abstract elements is dubious (can you copyright the plot boy meets girl?). This was fun, and well done.

puzzlehoarder 12:22 PM  

Plagiarism or not it's hard for me to work up interest in any Thursday puzzle that I can breeze through in Wednesday time. The first two sets of rebuses went in at early week speed and I didn't have time to think about what they meant. I slowed down a little on the ANT one and that's when the lightbulb went off. I was a little disappointed that only the CROW one is a little arcane. COLONY and PRIDE are everyday usage.

Tuesday through Thursday have all been below average in resistance. Hopefully the late week will reverse this.

yd pg-1

egsforbreakfast 12:23 PM  

It feels like one’s reaction to the plagiarism question might parallel the OPTIMIST/PESSIMIST divide from yesterday.


I’m not sure the timeline has been represented accurately in some of today’s comments. Mr. Linzer says he was inspired by a 2015 puzzle by Jacob Stulberg. That puzzle “collected” rebi in a similar way. For example “CUP” is rebussed in 2 consecutive squares and the solver needs to realize that the two squares should be read collectively as PINT. So, 2005 Nobel-winning playwright HAROLDCUPCUPER becomes HAROLDPINTER.

MR. Linzer adds a P.S. to his notes that begins: PS: I also want to shout out this similar Fireball puzzle by Paolo Pasco, which I learned about in the lead-up to publication.

I take him to be saying that someone pointed this out long after he had submitted it. So, to me, there is little likelihood that the whole thing involved plagiarization by Mr. Linzer. But it seems extremely likely that the NYTXW editors knew and opted to publish anyway. If I were Paulo Pasco, this would not please me.

Legal issues aside, this was a great puzzle that required my brain to flit back and forth for many nanoseconds between what I knew had to go in the themers in some form, and what the revealer was telling me.

Thank you, Andrew Linzer, for a wonderful Thursday, and I am deeply sorry that you’re being questioned for something that I don’t think was your fault.

Anonymous 12:29 PM  

Gotta believe that Andrew Linzer would have read OFL's blog about his puzzle; accordingly, he should weigh in here regarding the plagiarism question -- innocent coincidence or knowing misappropriation? Anyway, a fun solve...

Masked and Anonymous 12:55 PM  

EMUEMUEMURULE* woulda been real neat. And it's so wonky, it woulda erased almost all suggestion of plagiarismic(al) intent. Sooo … great idea for a runtpuz.

staff weeject pick: ANT ANT ANT. Plus, it made the similarities to the Fireball puz less FISHy.

Fun, smoooth puz … I don't recall the Pasco Fireball prequel ... even tho I've been doin all the Fireball solvequests for many years. But shoot, I probably unintentionally self-plagiarize my own runtpuz ideas, after three years of em over the dam. M&A's memory bank has a mighty leaky vault. {Now ... why the heck did I just go into the bedroom? …]

fave fillins included: DUSTPAN. BEATNIK. TUGBOAT. KAYAK. URDU. FUDD. THEM's clue.
Nice Ow de Speration: ANIM. The Official M&A Help Desk Dictionary knows nuthin of this musical reference.

Thanx for the feisty ThursPuz fun, Mr. Linzer dude. M&A'da been more suspicious, if FUDD had been in the Fireball version.

Masked & Anonymo5Us



mathgent 12:56 PM  

My favorite comments this morning.

Todd (7:48)
Laura (8:53)
pmdm (9:20)
jae (11:06)
JD (11:17)
egsforbreakfast (12:23)

Anonymous 12:57 PM
^this article shows how easy it is given the constraints of the crossword form to unknowingly write very similar puzzles. Thinking like someone who had the idea and then wanted to execute, I could see how finding animals with names that could work in the middle of other words that also had group names most people knew would lead you to similar animals and then with similar animals, the types of crosses you could do would be limited.
I'm not sure why someone would knowingly plagiarize a puzzle -- the money's not THAT good and people would surely find out. If you did take the idea, you'd probably WANT it to be more different so there was less chance you'd be accused of plagiarism.
Like other commenters, I found this puzzle delightful with a very clean grid and a very satisfying aha moment.

Barbara S. 1:04 PM  

@RooMonster (9:30)
I couldn't help myself. I took the liberty of finishing your story. (But it's only one possibility of an infinitude.)

There was a knock at the door. Andrew looked up from his computer screen, a look of fear arose in his face. He turned to look at the door, it growing grotesquely bigger as his mind raced. Could it be them? He wanted to run, but thought better of it. He peered through the peephole, asking, "Who is it?"
"It's the Crossword Crime Division. Open up, we have some questions for you."
Andrew's gut dropped, a sense of doom overcoming him.
"Um, give me a minute, I'm not dressed" he called out. He raced to the window, but before getting there, he heard a loud crash, and turned to see the door had been kicked open, the Crime Division rushing in.
He felt the pressure of the ropes against his wrists, tying him tightly to the chair. A grizzled looking man with a cigarette was staring at him.
"I would really like to do this the easy way, so I'm going to ask you this." He paused, then while shaking the paper puzzle in Andrew's face, he yelled, "Did you steal this theme?!"
Andrew didn't know what to do. He began to stammer...

Barbara S.:
“Of—of--of course not!” he said, recognizing with dread that the two men holding him were Rings Fibonacci and Al Marsala, both with fearsome reputations as the terrors of the CCD. “My crossword is an homage to a cool 2015 puzzle by Jacob Stulberg, and I’ve recently found out about a similar Fireball puzzle by Paolo Pasco. It’s disappointing to know that I wasn’t the first to this idea! And an honor to be in any group with a legend like Paolo.”

Fibonacci pulled the ropes tighter. “Prove it!”

“Good grief,” said Andrew, “lighten up. I’ll tell you what: let’s brainstorm together. Hmm, here’s an idea. Let’s think of a few clues and answers around the notion of…of…a clamor of rooks. You tell me some words that have R-O-O-K in them.”

“What!” shouted Fibonacci. “Is this a trick?”

“Definitely not,” said Andrew calmly. “it’s how you construct crossword puzzles. Come on – a few words containing R-O-O-K.”

Fibonacci and Marsala exchanged glances. “Rook, rook, rook—ie,” said Marsala.

“Now you’re talking!” exclaimed Andrew. “And we need a clue. Maybe ‘newbie’? No, that’s too easy. We need a more Thursday-level clue. How about ‘starter’? That seems more Thursday-ambiguous. OK. But we need three words containing R-O-O-K, so let’s have some more!”

Fibonacci was ready. “Crooked!” he yelled, and then reddened. “I just mean physically,” he added quickly. “Nothing to do with breaking the law.”

Marsala shot him a glance and shook his head. “We’ve all heard the rumors, Rings.”

“OK, moving along,” said Andrew, massaging his wrists, which he’d just managed to pull free during Fibonacci’s moment of soul-searching. “Anybody think of a clue?”

“I like ‘misshapen,’” said Marsala. “It’s always made me picture a proper, well-behaved young woman named Miss Hapen. She has gold ringlets and wears a frilly dress.”

“Good one!” said Fibonacci. “But let’s go with ‘gnarly’”. You can’t help but like a word with a secret G.”

“And, and, and wait!” yelled Marsala, shouting over Fibonacci and pulling up a chair beside Andrew. “For the ‘rook’ words -- donnybrook! Donnybrook! We gotta use donnybrook! That’s another person-word, see? Mr. Donny Brook. I sometimes see him as a bouncer with tattoos and sometimes as a fisherman (with tattoos). Aren’t words great!”

Andrew glanced at Fibonacci who was lowering his great bulk onto a small footstool. “I like this,” said the big man heartily. “This is fun. And now let’s work on my favorite – a congress of baboons!”

Andrew regarded him with a smile and just a hint of skepticism. “You realize we’re going to have to think of three words that contain B-A-B-O-O-N.”

“Easy peasy!” chorused Rings and Al.

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

Anonymous 12:29.
You believe the appropriate thing is for a man youve never met to defend himself against an allegation which frankly lacks much credence. Wow. Kafkaesque.

And of course plagiarism requires intent. Otherwise its coincidence not plagiarism.

Mr. Linzer,
If you are reading this blog you're talented but obviously a masochist. Ive reading comments here for years and its the rare day when constructors get their due ( Lewis and to some extent Nancy excluded).
Keep up the good work.

ScottR 1:18 PM  

I guess it says something about me that I thought of dominatrix before dominant hand

Jess 1:20 PM  

Lovely puzzle. Whether the constructor intended, unintended, or otherwise, the NYT absolutely plagiarized. If the criteria is EITHER intent OR indifference, repeating a theme/revealer/lots of fill from a well known indie puzzle from the last few years is WAY too glaring of an oversight for a publication that has full time editorial staff. Striking indifference on the part of the publisher, if not the constructor.

Anoa Bob 1:23 PM  

A couple years ago I submitted a 15X15 themed puzzle that I thought was one of the best I had ever come up with. The theme involved two word phrases where the first word was followed by a similar word with two alliterative letters tacked on like TACK ATTACK (not one of the actual themers). After what seemed like a three year wait---more like three months---a Sunday sized puzzle was published with dang near identical themers. I was crushed.

Then a week or so later I received word from the editors that they liked my puzzle but given the earlier similar theme, they unfortunately could not publish it but suggested I submit it elsewhere. How could I submit it somewhere else without it looking like plagiarism? I didn't and still haven't.

That is still a bitter memory for me but if you have got this far, thanks for letting me unload and share my pain. I feel a little better now. Not much but a little.

When I first started teaching Physiological Psychological (which nowadays is called Biopsychology) we had a mnemonic of sorts that neural impulses/signals from other neurons come in on the denrites and go out to other neurons on AXONs. (Okay, it's only a half-assed mnemonic.) The clued "brain connection" or juncture is, as Neal @9:12 notes, the synapse. AXONs are covered with an insulating material (myelin sheath) to prevent connections, otherwise there would be a massive short circuiting and complete nervous system dysfunction. A number of neurological disorders are caused by problems with the myelin sheath.

Aelurus 1:35 PM  

Most entertaining Thursday in a while! Had only one of each animal until the SE corner when I realized 29D’s clever clue had to be DOMINANT HAND and there were, in fact, three of each animal, which quickly cleared up the rest of the blank squares in the four unfinished downs. Then, still pondering the answers for those three across themers, the collective nouns for the animals clicked, for a second aha moment!

Before working the puzzle, a friend shared a short piece by Calvin Trillin in the New Yorker. I laughed out loud all the way through and had tears in my eyes by its end. The writing is superb. You might think it grand, too: From the 20 December 2021 print issue.

So I thank both Calvin Trillin and Andrew Linzer for a wonderful start to the day!

camilof 1:47 PM  

@TJS I understood your final reference and snorted heartily.

Whatsername 1:56 PM  

@Nancy from yesterday: As a rule I don’t even look at the puzzle or the blog on Sundays. In fact, the last one I did was March 15, 2020 which had you and Will on the byline. But I will happily make an exception this weekend and look forward to your next work of brilliance.

jb129 1:56 PM  

I got the 1st rebus so I thought I could work through this - nope.

Unknown 1:59 PM  

Clearly rex didn't bother to read the NYT column with words from today's creator. Had he done so, he might not have accused Mr. Linzer of plagiarism (which, if you parse rex's comments, is really what he was doing).

Anonymous 2:00 PM  

Other people usually hold cups in their DOMINANT HAND? I certainly don't.

JD 2:05 PM  

In the Pablo puzzle Scallion, Pavilion, and A Million are 1,2, and 3 down. Murder, Crowd are two of the themers. Isla Fisher makes an appearance in a different spot within a themer. Group Think ties them both together. That the theme alone has been done before wouldn't necessarily suggest plagiarism.

Yet at the very least call the two puzzles are probably related. Can't say by whom or whether it was intentional, but it's good that it's been acknowledged. There's no site like for puzzles like there is for academic papers, which looks for a percentage of similarity to make the call.

This puzzle is an incredible feat for a constructor's first effort ever, in any publication. Happy to give him the benefit of the doubt today. Other hands were at work on it. Look forward to future efforts.

okanaganer 2:08 PM  

I'm just here to say I have nothing to say about the puzzle that hasn't been said. (In short: plagiarized no; should NYT have asked for revisions once they knew? I guess.)

[Spelling Bee yd 0. Very few goofy "words" compared to dbyd.]

Michiganman 2:08 PM  

I have no energy to feign outrage over a puzzle when a year ago today Donald Trump attempted to overthrow the United States government and may get another chance. Why is he not in prison? My sadness and anger are about that.

Aelurus 2:09 PM  

@Barbara S. 1:04 pm - Your finish to Roo's crime story is fabulous! I especially admired the denouement with the second proper name contained within donnybrook, such a fun word. Thank you! And thank you, @Roo 9:30 am, for starting it off wonderfully!

Aelurus 2:24 PM  

@Barbara 1:04 pm - Forgot to say I called it a crime story because I figured your "CCD" means Crossword Crime Division? Not that Andrew committed a crime. :)

pabloinnh 2:29 PM  


@Barbara S-Bravissima!

Both-Mil gracias!

sixtyni yogini 2:37 PM  

🦖’s post today is why i read this blog.

No accusations, just making note of - like one solving a good CROWCROWCROW mystery.

I too think both puzzles are very very clever and unusual.

No judgement on the they are similar. How can we know for sure?

Thank you, 🦖.

Mark 2:42 PM  

Very enjoyable to work out. I had a glimmer of the theme when I wanted ESCROW and then MURDER; the glimmer got brighter and brighter as I wised up more and more. Now that I ask myself if I've ever enjoyed solving a puzzle more than this one, I think I have to say I enjoyed this one the most. Such a gradual, step-by-step feeling of revelations. The overlap with the previous puzzle of CROWS and LIONS is troubling, but of course I did not know about it during the pleasure of solving.

Tim Carey 2:46 PM  

I hate them.

Nancy 3:01 PM  

@Whatserame -- Not this weekend. It won't appear until Sunday Jan 23. I'll put up a reminder for the blog, maybe the Thursday before.

@Roo and @Barbara S --

Clue: Turkish street food named after a Chaplin


One down, two to go...

albatross shell 3:09 PM  

Well that expert analysis has not yet convinced me. Covered and insulated it still seems the axons are the road (or an essential part of the road) to the brain and thus a connection to the brain, at least for us biologically simple-minded folks. But you're already over my head. I was at least right about ignorance being bliss.

Could the ISLA duplication be a result of wordlists?

GILL I. 3:14 PM  

Nothing to do with today's puzzle alert. Well, maybe an @Anoa Bob blurb:
Omicron APB:
My Avatar was taken last year to (just maybe) bring a mask wear plead to all....Late last night two good friends of mine were taken to hospital with Omicron symptoms. Both are in their early 60's. One has COPD that she has suffered with for years, the other used to be my running partner and he's very fit. Both had their shots but neither their boosters. You hear that getting Omicron is like a bad cold so you shouldn't be too worried. Wrong! Everyone's immune system is different. I'm not sure my friend with COPD will make it through another week.
Please folks...even though you've had both shots and your booster, PLEASE still wear a mask. You might be asymptomatic...who knows? But for the safety of yourself and your loved ones and especially those around you, continue to wear a mask. This, too, shall pass and you can go back to shaving your whiskers and wearing your dentures....
@Anoa B. Ay dios mio. What a bummer. I can well imagine it being a bitter memory.....I'm sure Andrew is having some angst today and I feel for him. Still....this was an excellent puzzle - especially is it was a debut. Please feel free to use my "fandango tango" anytime you want

Madisyn 3:41 PM  

The most frustrating part of me is that I had this all filled out correctly but the NYT app still says something is wrong?? Must be a glitch but it means I'm going to lose my streak because the app is too simple to accommodate the theme :( anyone find a way around this?

Masked and Anonymous 3:44 PM  


M&A hates to crow, but am puttin this puzpuppy out there, before someone else dreams it up:

Group Think Again, dudes and darlins:

M&A No Crowin Desk

Z 4:24 PM  

@AXON clue objectors - What? I cannot figure out what you think the problem is. I went looking all over the web and repeatedly found wording like, When neurons receive or send messages, they transmit electrical impulses along their axons,… (That’s from I think your complaint is like saying jumper cables aren’t connections, only the metallic clamps are. Or am I missing something, because the clue certainly looks okay to me.

@mathgents’ observation made me ask, “well, why aren’t you?” (that’s a plural “you”)
Fireball (generally late week difficulty)
AVCX (currently expanding its offerings)
Tough As Nails
Club 72/ Croce (Saturday tough or tougher)
RossWord (Ross Trudeau and friends)
And, of course, there’s The New Yorker, LATimes, WSJ, Newsday, Universal, WaPo Sunday, The Atlantic, even Vox. And there’s more out there that I’m forgetting. Several of these are free or just for “tips.” Others require a subscription. This is a golden age of crosswords.

@Anoa Bob - I think you did the right thing.

@jae - Chen’s comment (and apparently this is the attitude shared by the NYTX editorial staff) is indefensible. The Fireball is popular enough to get reviewed by Diary of a Crossword Fiend (this is not true of some of my links above), is edited by a well known crossword editor, and everyone seems to be acknowledging that they knew about the Pasco puzzle before publication of this puzzle. The attitude smacks of justification. No, the right thing to do upon discovering the close similarity was to say, “We realize this was not intentional, but this is too close to a previously published puzzle so we cannot run it.” Sometimes doing the right thing stinks. That doesn’t stop it from being the right thing to do.

Anonymous 4:25 PM  

@Madisyn. Sometimes the app is weird about the way it accepts rebus fill ins. I would look there.

sf27shirley 4:30 PM  

Me too

Anonymous 4:31 PM  

The plagiarism debate is as important as the problem of too many "Scrabble" letters in a puzzle. That is-not at all.

Chip Hilton 4:34 PM  

@Aelurus: Thanks for the Trillin nod. Still giggling here.

Nancy 4:36 PM  

Oh, @Madisyn (3:41), you poor benighted creature -- YOU ARE NOT GOING TO LOSE YOUR STREAK!!!! You correctly solved the puzzle, the app got it wrong -- the bleeping app is going to lose streak. Not you. So please repeat after me: "My bleeping app is an idiot. I, OTOH, am very smart. I am not responsible for my app's idiocy and I have no intention of losing my streak!!!"

Smith 4:54 PM  

Well. I was going to say, definitely on the harder side here, got it at ANTS ANTS ANTS, etc. But seems everything has been said.

Except. Colony is not a collective word for a group of ants in the same way as a murder of crows or a pride of lions or an exultation of larks or a gaggle of geese or a school of fish, or, well, nevermind. It's just a description of how they live. In an ANT colony. If you saw a bunch of ants (probably in a line) out on the town you would *not* report that you had seen "a colony of ants" crossing Broadway. You would only report a colony of ants if what you saw was an ANT colony. Saw some in Kenya.

Whereas if you happened to see a dozen geese on the prowl you could certainly say, "Hey, look! A gaggle of geese!"

Although people might look at you.


Smith 5:10 PM  


I'm so sorry about your friends. My husband and I are vaxxed boosted mask wearers and we both got Omicron, no idea how. I was still working early last week, but neither of the two people I was in close contact with have gotten it (so thinking my mask wearing worked, for them, anyway). We aren't going anywhere until we test negative. Ordered some at home quick tests from Walgreens and hoping they arrive tomorrow. We have alternated almost daily between feeling really poorly and feeling almost fine for over a week now.

So I want to second your recommendation, please, everyone, wear a mask (or two, like our music director) because you don't know how covid will affect other people!

Anonymous 5:34 PM  

@other David 11:36 - GI originally meant galvanized iron. When Eisenhower referred to G.I. Joes, he was clearly using it in the sense of General/Ground Infantry:"G.I. Joe and his counterpart in the air, the navy, and the Merchant Marine of every one of the United Nations"
It also shows clearly how it acquired its expanded sense of "member or veteran of the armed forces" which is still very much in current use, as for instance, the 2017 Forever GI Bill.

mathgent 5:53 PM  

If the NYT had not run the puzzle, I would have lost the pleasure of doing a genius puzzle. Who would have benefitted?

JC66 6:15 PM  

@Anon 5:34

Don't forget Government Issue.

Whatsername 6:19 PM  

@Nancy (3:01) The 23rd … I knew that. *S*I*G*H* Only 6 days into the year, and I’m already on course to set a new record for senior moments.

@Z (4:24) “Sometimes doing the right thing stinks. That doesn’t stop it from being the right thing to do.” That should be engraved on a plaque somewhere. I couldn’t agree more.

Anoa Bob 6:23 PM  

Thanks for the sympathy for my puzzle duplication snafu. (Sniff!) I think I'll give it five years and if I'm still kicking, I'll resubmit it but probably to another (lower paying!) venue. My favorite clue in my version was "Ferris wheel tryst". The answer is alliterative.

And all you AXON doubters, better hope the insulation on the electrical transmission lines in your various devices prevents any connections because that would lead to short circuits and device failure just as would happen in your brain if the insulation on your AXONs failed and allowed connections to other AXONs. Neural connections occur across synapses. If I add any more I'll have to dig out my "If I'm talking you should be taking notes" Tee shirt and my friends have urged me not to wear that one anymore!

Joe Dipinto 7:05 PM  

I can't find any reference to it online, but I'd swear there was a Mary Tyler Moore episode where Ted and Georgette got an ant colony and named two of the ants "Ted" and "Georgette". It must have been incidental to the main storyline. At one point Mary said something about Ted and Georgette to Murray and Murray said, "Do you mean the ants or the people?"

egsforbreakfast 7:10 PM  

From now on, can we just have the facts on axons? Otherwise we’ll have to put a tax on axon comments. Sorry if I wax on.

Norm M 7:20 PM  

SCHOOL does not work in the original puzzle in the crosses. The rebus begins with an F. PRIVATE F_____?

Anonymous 7:31 PM  

Went easier than a typical Thursday for me. The theme came easy, and helped in the SE (had PENAL, expected COLONY but it wouldnt fit, and when I got the first two themers I went back and added ANT three times and was done)

Having never seen the earlier comparable puzzle, this was all new to me and I thought it a bit clever. While the similarities to the prior puzzle seems more than coincidence, the constructor acknowledges this in the NYTXW blog, so if he stole it he didn't hide it, because he references the earlier puzzle(s) in his comments.

JD 7:44 PM  

@mathgent, I think it would be the constructor of the original puzzle. They could have worked with the puzzle a little more, kept the same theme but added more originality, and still put out something enjoyable. When I gave the articles I was supposed to edit back to the people who had plagiarized, I didn't make any accusations. I just said you need to make this more your own. They knew what I meant.

I don't know who here was responsible for the similarities with the original, but if it was the NYT, they did harm to the constructor's reputation already.

Norm M 7:47 PM  

Ignore previous comment, figured it out. Today was one where I finished and had no idea what Crow Crow Crow Mystery was, or Penal Ant Ant Ant or the other one. Was pleased I got it right, annoyed that I didn’t know why.

albatross shell 8:12 PM  

**not much of a runtz spoiler alert@@

Thanks for the fun Manda. Brer Rebus found innocent of plagiarism by the CCD* for that submission. I had to solve on paper since I haven't found how to do it on my phone.

*Crosslandia Criminal Division

Amy 9:18 PM  

Love love love! Thanks for this fun! Most of us don’t do every puzzle out there so happy I got this experience.

Smith 9:21 PM  


Go to the NYT website on your phone. Top right click play the crossword. Then click on the crossword. This works if you have a subscription, any subscription, to the paper. If you do, and it doesn't work, contact customer service and they will set it up. I only get the Sunday paper and I do the xword on my phone every day.

Pete 12:31 AM  

@Z My take on the "right" thing is that it always sucks. If it didn't suck, you wouldn't have to think about it, try to find an alternative, then decide it is the "right" thing. It would just be the thing and you'd do it without thinking.

Mae 9:39 AM  

July is the Leo month not june

Tita 10:08 PM  

Hi y'all! This puzzle was one of my very favorites in such a long time! I had to scratch and claw my way to the Aha Moment, and it was great once I got there.

And it was so great, I thought - hey - new year, why not stop by Rexworld. Nice to see so many of my friends here.

@Gill - so sorry to hear, and I 100% agree with you.

@Anoa Bob - I think of you every single time that ANOA gets rejected by Sam's Spelling Bee. But I put it in every single time. (They DO occasionally add words - hope springs eternal...)
And what a lousy experience on that puzzle submission.

@Andrew - thank you for a puzzle to remember. @Paolo - I do hope this was coincidence!

Here's to the best for 2022. I miss y'all!

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