Espresso-over-ice cream desserts / WED 6-22-22 / Darkest part of a shadow / Old-fashioned shoe cover / Garden plant that opens and shuts its "mouth" / Drivers' process when two lanes of traffic become one / Italian city in a Kiss Me Kate song

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Constructor: Kate Hawkins

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: FIND CLOSURE (61A: Accept and let go of something ... or a hint to the starts of the answers to the starred clues) — first words of themers are all clothing fasteners of one kind or another (so they provide closure ... of fabric):

Theme answers:
  • ZIPPER MERGE (17A: *Drivers' process when two lanes of traffic become one)
  • SNAPDRAGON (26A: *Garden plant that opens and shuts its "mouth")
  • BUTTON MUSHROOMS (38A: *White pizza toppings)
  • PINSTRIPES (49A: *Design on some baseball uniforms)
Word of the Day: ZIPPER MERGE (17A) —

When a lane is closed in a construction zone, a zipper merge occurs when motorists use both lanes of traffic until reaching the defined merge area, and then alternate in "zipper" fashion into the open lane.

Zipper merge vs. early merge

When most drivers see the first “lane closed ahead” sign in a work zone, they slow too quickly and move to the lane that will continue through the construction area. This driving behavior can lead to unexpected and dangerous lane switching, serious crashes and road rage.

Zipper merging, however, benefits individual drivers as well as the public at large. Research shows that these dangers decrease when motorists use both lanes until reaching the defined merge area and then alternate in "zipper" fashion into the open lane. (Minnesota DOT)

• • •

This is a fine "first words"-type puzzles. The revealer is cute, and the theme answers themselves are colorful and interesting, which means the journey to the revealer is not a programmatic and boring one. I like ZIPPERMERGE best of all, both because it's got, well, zip, and because I love ZIPPERMERGEs and wish they were a much, much more common thing in the U.S. (for reasons neatly described in the Word of the Day definition, above). The amount of erratic, aggressive, unpredictable behavior I've seen in and around "early merge" situations is astonishing. Unnecessarily stressful. Free-for-alls will inevitably result in cascading bad behavior, because, as we've established, people are frequently awful and driving only makes it worse and driving in close quarters with no clear guidance ... that's just asking for trouble. Nobody, literally nobody, is a *better* version of themselves when behind the wheel of a car, and people hate lane closures anyway, so everyone headed toward a merge is already inclined toward irritability. It's nice to have the whole situation just be orderly, so people can relax and not freak out about whether it's "fair" or not. ZIPPERMERGE tells you precisely where to start the merge. Here, no earlier. Once you are "here," then the rules are very clear. Merge like a zipper. Simple. Man have I come to hate driving over the years. Growing up in California, the idea that I would hate driving would've been unthinkable. The freedom! The romance! But now, ugh. Anyway, patience is always an option, when driving or ... really any time. The other theme answers are also nice, though they degrade slightly as you descend the grid, with PINSTRIPES being (to this non-YANKEEs fan) the least interesting of the bunch. My brain is so oriented away from the YANKEEs that I couldn't make sense of 69A: Major-leaguer who wears 49-Across at home even with -KEE in place. I didn't yet have PINSTRIPES and ... well, I figured they wanted an actual player, a particular guy, not a type of guy. This made me wonder if maybe TRUCK was wrong and the Major-leaguer was PEEWEE (Reese?). But this is all my own particular baseball pathology and has not much of anything to do with the puzzle, which, as I say, is just fine.

The fill does get a little yucky in places, especially toward the center, from AGORA through ÊTES TUN EONS through SSR SSE all the way over to the rock-bottom answer of the day, ASSAD. Dude is a war criminal on an epic scale. There's not enough "F*** That Guy" in the world to express my feelings about That Guy. ASSAD finds his way into puzzles because he is a short answer with common letters in an uncommon pattern. This means he's not only a terrible human being, he's also crosswordese of a sort, so now you have two reasons to get rid of him, which, today, is very easy. Again, without trying at all:

[please clue SPIT as a skewer or a piece of land, thank you]

There are more and undoubtedly better options than this, but you get the idea. You could just change ASSAD to ASSES, SPAT ADO to STET OSO, and that takes care of it too. You have lots of non-war-criminal options, is what I'm saying. A little effort in this section and you can probably end up improving it well beyond the de-ASSADification. 

I think this puzzle thinks I'm fat. It keeps whispering things like "PUDGY" and "OBESE" at me. Take it easy, puzzle. I try to think about the Bidens (and all national political figures) as little as possible, and I especially don't think about their kids, so this ASHLEY person was news to me (48D: Daughter of Joe and Jill Biden). Everything else was familiar, though I weirdly had trouble early on with SEARCH, CREW and HERESY. I had SEAR-- and couldn't think of any English words that would fit there, LOL. Sigh. Ugh. Then I wanted 5D: Gaffer, best boy and others to be an -S-ending plural, and I wasn't sure what kind of "charge" the clue was going for at 6D: Inquisition charge (HERESY). Here, it's "charge" as in "allegation," not "charge" as in responsibility, i.e. "we are charged with torturing heretics." After that early snafu, the puzzle felt very easy. Took me a little bit to get from "white pizza" to BUTTON MUSHROOMS, since I did not know they were a necessary component. This is possibly because they are not a necessary component. They aren't even mentioned in the first full paragraph of wikipedia's "white pizza" page. They're an option. Not loving this clue. But I like the answer and pizza is tasty so any clue that takes my brain to the land of pizza and isn't verifiably false, I can't really be mad at. Especially if the puzzle also takes my brain to the land of AFFOGATOS, omg so tasty! (10D: Espresso-over-ice cream desserts). Lastly, I wanted GAIN CLOSURE before FIND CLOSURE. It just felt ... righter. But it's not. I mean, it is in my ears, but not in the world writ large. I think GET CLOSURE is pretty common too. They all work. That's all. Have a nice day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

[addendum: people are trying to tell me that the BUTTON MUSHROOMS themselves are what is "white," not the pizza ... I mean ... maybe? ... but those mushrooms aren't exactly "white," and ... the fact that "white pizza" definitely exists makes the clue a mess ... speaking of which, I got So Much email trying to explain what the "yellow" light in Sunday's puzzle was supposed to stand for, and almost every email told me something different ... this is how you know the *clue* is the problem]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


J. Stewart 6:01 AM  

"Research shows that these dangers decrease when motorists use both lanes until reaching the defined merge area and then alternate in "zipper" fashion into the open lane."

And that road rage increases dramatically as cars zip right past you in the open lane to find closure far up ahead of you.

No thanks.

BWrightThere 6:15 AM  

Not being much of a dessert person AFFOGATO gave me fits. However being very much a pizza person I loved seeing the button mushrooms. I have heard of white pizza but always thought it was a California creation with chicken instead of my preferred pizza meat, pepperoni πŸ• . I did figure that the clue referred to the fact that button mushrooms very commonly are white. At which point they are properly called champignons. Baseball's also not in my wheel house, and I did also see the Yankees clue before the pinstripe, so once I did get to the pinstripe clue, all I saw in my head was a stylized Y on a uniform. I always enjoy a smattering of languages in my xwords, so to see ETES, FRAU, and the clue for toe was enjoyable. Overall an enjoyable start to my Wednesday.

Anonymous 6:45 AM  

A bright, ZIPpy Wednesday puzzle. I loved it (except for that unpleasant Ass*d), especially because I finished with the revealer. Closure indeed. Nice work, Kate!

Anonymous 7:04 AM  

I think it’s “pizza toppings that are white,” not “toppings for a white pizza.”

Anonymous 7:19 AM  

Rex just overthought that YANKEES theme. I found this one easy and fun.

Conrad 7:20 AM  

@Rex, so what if they'd used your ASSAD-to-OSSIE swap and then clued SPIT as "What should be done to ASSAD"?

Anonymous 7:23 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Diane Joan 7:23 AM  

I only struggled with ETES crossing TUN. I should’ve paid more attention to televised French lessons that the nuns had us watch in elementary school. Unfortunately I was daydreaming instead. Outside of this the puzzle was a ray of sunshine on this otherwise grey day in my part of the world! Thanks for the good start to my Wednesday!

Anonymous 7:34 AM  

Hey Rex! You know what’s exponentially more annoying than driving? Living in the suburbs and being medically unable to drive. Depending on others to go anywhere. Appreciate what you have while you have it.

Lewis 7:35 AM  

Solid. I love puzzles like this, what I call In-The-Box puzzles. Puzzles that define The Box, puzzle exemplars. Grounding. A solid theme, including strong answers with pop and a revealer with punch. Solid cluing that makes you think but not gyrate. Solid construction with no scary islands, good connection all through the grid for smooth navigation while solving, plus a good number of interesting longer answers aside from the theme.

Strong solid puzzles like this are not only enjoyable to solve, but they provide the framework from which springs the marvelous zaniness that comes on Thursdays and Sundays, the outoftheboxers. Puzzles like this are the ground to stand on.

And they can shine. I already mentioned the theme answers that had zing. I also loved [Waves hand in a circle] for ETC, an answer that has appeared in the NYT 485 times, with myriad variations on “list-ender” and many more, but never a clue like this – so original! I liked APPLE crossing EYE, which reminded me of a familiar idiom. There was also ADO and a backward ADOS, and the one-letter-different OTTO / OSLO and EYES / ETES. I also liked having RIP in there as an answer, balancing off all the CLOSURE that was going on.

Underneath it all was the comfort that comes from a puzzle that follows all the rules – and delivers. Thank you, Kate!

jcal 7:37 AM  

Perhaps I don't drive in the US enough, so I have never heard of a zipper merge before. But it was fun to learn about - and it's a great concept! - .and in fact the whole puzzle was fun.(Though, I admit when I got to Assad I knew that we would hear about it from Rex -and rightfully so.) But all in all a very good Wednesday.

Joel Palmer 7:38 AM  

Closure is an overused, trite and meaningless word when applied to grieving. Almost as infuriating as "thoughts and prayers"

Son Volt 7:51 AM  

Cute revealer - maybe a Monday theme? Overall fill was mixed - liked SNAP DRAGON and PINSTRIPES but there’s a load of ugly short stuff and the AFFOGATOS - METRONOME stacks uses up a lot of real estate but is just bad.

I’ll take EMILY over STEINBECK each time. ASSAD is greasy to see. My wife is a linzer TORTE aficionado.

The ZIPPER MERGE emerged as a technique in low volume Midwest states. It occasionally comes up in NY but the underlying theme requires the driver in the unclosed lane to graciously allow the late MERGE - try that on the Cross Bronx or Belt.

I’ve always liked Ronnie Hawkins’ cousin Dale’s original more than the CCR version

Clean enough puzzle - doesn’t feel like a Wednesday.

Joaquin 8:08 AM  

When I first read the clue for 63D I thought, "What a pathetic way to clue three letters." Five seconds later, when I realized that the missing letters were SIN I did a 180 and thought, "What a cool clue/answer."

Would it be proper to call it a SINonym? I'll see myself out.

JD 8:10 AM  

The rare day when I'm in agreement with Rex. Especially with the same narrative thought as I typed in Zipper Merges. Letting one car beside you zipper into the lane in front of you keeps traffic flowing. The cluster of cars that drive up to the merge point using the far lane is what jams up the works.

Almost didn't finish at Tun/Etes. Tunetes, juvenile Tuna. It surprising sometimes how a 3-letter word can hold you back.

The theme answers were snappy.

I've never been served mushrooms of any type on a white pizza, but OK.

Experienced some pushback in the NE corner. Took a while to defog the ol' noggin and see Affogatos* and Metronome.

*Cue Devo lyrics, “Domo Affogato Mr. Roboto, have an avocado.” I’m that's it.

albatross shell 8:13 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 8:22 AM  

White pizza doesn’t have tomato sauce so the cheese makes it white

Anonymous 8:24 AM  

White pizza doesn’t have tomato sauce, the cheese makes it white

Laura 8:24 AM  

Decent puzzle. Here's a clue that makes Assad better or worse, depending on your perspective: Not as mass a murderer as Putin or Hitler.

Watch out. The Russian fiend has a short name and pretty good letters. I'm sure he's coming.

SouthsideJohnny 8:28 AM  

ETES crossing TUN was a definite dud for me. I just don't remember TUN appearing in a crossword before, and of course no clue about French class. I had never heard of AFFOGATOS either, so I must have led a deprived life (similarly, PADUA and UMBRA were new to me as well). Enjoyed it as the unknowns for me were for the most part fairly crossed, with ETES being the outlier.

I suspect we all pretty much knew that the ASSAD rant was on its way from OFL. The fact that he was beating up on BUTTON MUSHROOMS was kind of funny though.

albatross shell 8:42 AM  

I saw that the puzzle already SPAT on ASSAD and had him sitting on a BUTT. I wondered if Rex would still POUT and HISS AT him. Well not really. Only in retrospect.

I found SNAPDRAGONs fascinating because of their name, shape, and for the clued property. WEIRD then WEIRD now.

Something very appealing about the OTTO UMBRA OATHS triplet and his TORTE TRUCK.

I do not think EMILY had much use for a MENTRONOME writing poetry.

No reason for rage at a ZIPPERMERGE if you just all use the system and fill both lanes. Be wise,not angry. Fill both lanes.

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

Why "Burgle" is a bad clue for ROB:

"The main difference between robbery and burglary is that the first crime involves the actual taking of someone else's property. Burglary simply requires that someone enter a structure with the intent to take something. Also, robbery requires that a person act with some type of force or threat of force or violence."

Anonymous 8:51 AM  

I look forward to this blog daily and have done ao for years. Your comments consistently brighten the day. Keep them coming.

pmdm 9:09 AM  

Early on into solving this puzzle, I kept saying to myself, "Seems to me like crosswordese." Even if I'm wrong, the feeling ruined the solving experience. Didn't mind the theme, but it did nothing for me to raise the level of the puzzle. Hardly horrible, but hardly enthralling.

Seems obvious from reading the comments and write-up that others reacted differently. Good for them. Bad for me, I guess.

Gio 9:13 AM  

Canadians always zipper merge, in every merge situation. It's a beautiful thing. They are so civilized.

EdFromHackensack 9:22 AM  

TUN/ETES did me in. Ugh. Other than that, kind of an easy puzzle.

burtonkd 9:26 AM  

- White (pizza topping), not (White pizza) topping. It is a misdirect, not a messed up clue. I initially fell for it looking for a Z and double letter theme with some kind of Mozzarella slice.

- You have to really have your blinders on to live in NY State, go to baseball games with some regularity, and not have the Yankees somewhere in your consciousness - an impressive feat!

@J. Stewart, if everyone stays in their lane until the end, there is no place for cars to race by you. Driving habits seems to be regional. We probably have enough type A (or oblivious) drivers in NYC that don't move over at the first sign that the zipper merge seems to be the default by necessity. I was driving out near Seattle, and every single car moved over at least a half-mile ahead of the construction, then angrily denied anyone (me) who didn't the chance to merge. My NY plates probably didn't help anyone's mood either. When in Rome...

@Son Volt, I'm usually right with you but: What do you have against the AFFOGATO/METRONOME stack? One is delicious and the other a great tool for musicians - both evocative words. Also, as per above, I find drivers in NY area more likely to let you in than in other areas - you do have to move boldly; I theorize that they know they aren't getting anywhere anyways. Or proud of their seen it all attitude.
- Ants apparently instinctively use the zipper merge. Another reason they are a more successful species than humans.

@Joel Palmer - Amen. Too bad the world is a bad enough place that CLOSURE/thoughts and prayers have become trite from overuse...

@JD - I like Domo Affogato, but believe that was Styx, not Devo.

TUN was new to me. ETES is French 101, week 1.

pabloinnh 9:30 AM  

Today I learned ZIPPERMERGE, which is something I have done without knowing its name, which makes perfect sense. Also I learned AFFOGATO, which is something I have never ordered, nor would I.

I get OFL's irritation with the "white pizza" situation. It's almost like the constructor was using, what's the word? "Misdirection". I bet if he does a few more puzzles he'll run into this again.

thought the theme was solid, saw what was going on after a couple of themers, and wondered how the revealer would connect them all, which was nicely done.

Also liked seeing OWL and AWL in the same puzzle, the YANKEEs, not so much. They could lose a game once in a while, I wish.

Nice Wednesdecito, KH. Knew Half the answers right away and the others were interesting enough, so thanks for all the fun.

Paolo 9:36 AM  

Plural of affogato is affogati
My $0.02

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

never heard of zippermerging before

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

Online pop-up touting sculpted glutes? “ASS AD”

Zed 9:53 AM  

Why “Burgle” is not a bad clue for ROB.

Regarding the Great White Pizza Controversy: I did not know this before now, but BUTTON MUSHROOMS are just immature (and white) portobello mushrooms. So, yeah, it’s the topping not the pizza. I was fooled just like Rex was and was on team “they’re not always white” until Uncle Google came to the rescue. And now I also know the BUTTON, cremini and portobellos are just different stages of the same fungus. @BWightThere - “ champignon” is just the French word for “mushroom,” so to my ear anyone using it is just being pretentious.

@Son Volt - Oopsie, a little New York parochialism slipped through. First, it was traffic engineers that came up with the idea. Second, it’s an odd thing to be proud off, but drivers are no more or less rude in the NE than in Detroit or Chicago … or Denver or L.A. Finally, I know what you mean because I’ve seen truck drivers block a lane to prevent the ZIPPER MERGE. Being rude is one thing, but being rude and stupid is another. The zipper merge is so much better that it’s being legislated and taught in driver’s ed courses. From Wikipedia: In the case of Interstate 77 in North Carolina, where signs directed people to use the zipper merge, the maximum length of the backup was reduced from eight miles to two. {emphasis added} If you’re stuck in the slow lane and someone passes you in the other lane they are a)doing the right thing, b)shortening the length of the back-up, so c)behaving in a way that benefits everyone behind them more than your behavior is, thus d)are the better and more polite driver.
(I might even smile and wave as I drive by)(not really but I really want to)

RooMonster 9:53 AM  

Hey All !
*Natick Alert!! The T of TUN/ETES. What in tarhooties is a TUN? " I like my wine in a TUN" said the wine snob.

Another problem spot was FTC. Really (really) wanted FCC, but once I had everything except the T of METRONOME, knew I had to change it, but then not knowing AFFOGATOS had my use Reveal Square for the F (which 1) I'm glad to get an F, and 2) I've heard of FTC, but not readily jumping into the ole brain). Apparently I don't eat in fancy enough restaurants.

I did actually like this puz, despite my nitty-ness. I did FIND CLOSUREs at the beginnings of the starred clues. A "bonus" Themer with YANKEE.

A lot of SS's in the puz today. Six of 'em. Strange what jumps out of a puz at you.

ZIPPER MERGE is great in theory, but as Rex said, people are basically assholes while driving, and some idiots fly down the shoulder of the road just to not wait in traffic. Then they force their way in, and get pissed off if you flip them off. Happened to me once, some idiot came flying up the shoulder as we were stuck in traffic on an offramp, and cut right in front of me, nearly making me hit his car. So I double-flipped him off. He didn't take too kindly to that, and when we both got to the red light together, he asked why I flipped him off, and I said you nearly hit me, to which he replied, "You have insurance, right?"
(There's some philosophy for ya.) I said yes, but that's not the point. Luckily didn't get shot, or beat up, as there were two of them!

Gotta get my TUN of wine now.

yd -7, should'ves all of them.
Duo - slacking off on my Duo doing...

Four F's

Whatsername 9:54 AM  

AFFOGATOS was new to me. Ice cream and coffee and quite possibly chocolate sounds like something I’d love. I like the Rex’s ZIPPER MERGE sign and have never seen one before. If enough of those were posted along the route of the merging path, I think people might be more inclined to follow that procedure. Perhaps it’s just a matter of needing a public safety campaign to make people more aware. There would still be arrogant jerks who’d screw it up but it couldn’t hurt.

@Joaquin (8:08) 🀣

@Gio (9:13) I visited Alberta 40 years ago. Even then, Canadians were far more civilized drivers than Americans were.

Nancy 9:58 AM  

I don't know driving clues any better than I know car clues. But ZIPPER MERGE seemed more likely than ZIPPER VERGE. And I suppose that MIN stands for "minimum" in the kind of "range" that's neither a mountain range nor a stove? I was definitely thinking of a mountain range and I wanted TREE LINE. (Which is probably wrong, anyway.)

Lots of writeovers at 56A, which went from oMBRe to UMBRe to UMBRA. The lead-in "O" threatened to give me PORKY instead of PUDGY for "chubby", but luckily, miracle of miracles, I actually knew GNC.

No, I don't wave my hand in a circle to mean "ETC". Do you?


I didn't feel I was always on the same wave length as the constructor, so I found this a bit harder than most Wednesdays. But I think the theme is quite nifty and the theme density is impressive. There's so much variety in the four (Wow!) theme answers and the revealer is absolute perfection.

bigsteve46 10:01 AM  

There seems to be a moderately popular actor named Assad Zamman; and a singer Audrey Assad; and Assad Fudadin is a "Guyanese left-hand middle-order batsman" in cricket, so maybe we can keep "Assad" alive as a clue. Of course, I never heard of any of these three folks before looking them up, but I just love the cadence of a "Guyanese left-handed middle-order batsman." It would make a swell CW clue - maybe for a Saturday, anyway.

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

It's kind of that hand motion you do where you make your finger go in a circle while saying "and so on". Took me a while but once I got it I realized it is indeed something you do when talking and motioning with your hands

Willie Penn 10:23 AM  

Phillies wear pinstripes at home also. As clued, the suggestion is ONLY yankees do so.

Tom T 10:35 AM  

I enjoyed this one, and it played closer to Easy than Medium for me (no doubt a "same wave length" situation).

BUTTON MUSHROOMS was my first themer solved--the asterisks thrw me off on the theme clues today, because they made me think there was going to be some kind of Thursday shenanigans on a Wednesday.

First time I've consciously resisted looking at the reveal clue until the end. I knew we were dealing with fasteners, but couldn't come up with the revealer.

Had a good laugh at myself when my answer to Vitamin supplement retailer went in as rNC! Oops! Fortunately, PUDGY waddled in to rescue me.

bocamp 10:41 AM  

Thx, Kate, for a ZIPPy Wednes. puz! :)


A bit on the tough side. Alas, no CLOSURE for me. :(

Not knowing FTC, RAYBAN, AFFOGATOS resulted in a dnf.

Solid construction. Liked it; always enjoy learning some new stuff! :)
yd 0 / 36

Peace πŸ™ πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Yes! I got tripped up by entering it initially as "AFFOGATTI," not realizing there's only 1 T...

Joseph Michael 10:45 AM  

Never heard of the driving term ZIPPER MERGE or the dessert AFFOGATOS and didn’t realize that an ASHLEY Biden even existed, so I learned a few things and enjoyed solving the puzzle in the process.

Ended up with a DNF at 25D because I was thinking about old-fashioned SPIT shines instead of old-fashioned SPATS.

HISSAT would be a good name for a tyrant.

albatross shell 10:56 AM  

Agree with @Southside @Ed and others on ETES-TUN cross but guessed right.
Hand-up for not knowing AFFOGATOS but sounds like it's worth knowing. I had my first milkshake of the summer yesterday. Ahhhh.
Hand-up for F?C which greatly delayed my seeing MENTRNOME. Looking for a clock or watch of some kind.

And yes, the Yankees should lose at least twice a week just to be polite.

A TUN is a cask especially one that holds 252 gallons. More than I have drunk in my life. I bet a some here have.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

Have driven coast to coast, north, south, and center routes. Interstates and state highways. Encountered zipper merge once, in 2022, but people still tried to merge early into the open lane. Since this is clearly not the way it's supposed to work, it felt even more dangerous because of its random nature.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

Exactly. The robbery-burglary equivalency mistake has shown up before. I’m not quick to call slight mismatches as errors, but this is an actual error.

Teedmn 11:12 AM  

The Old Chicago pizza chain has a King of Hearts pizza on its secret menu (or maybe it's not so secret anymore) that calls for artichokes, tomatoes and red onions on white sauce. It's not bad. That said, I took the BUTTON MUSHROOMS clue as referring to the color of the mushrooms, not the pizza.

Thanks, Katie, nice to see your theme revealer gave us closure.

Anonymous 11:19 AM  

since @OFL is from CA, and anyone else who is: I have heard/read, on the Right Coast, the merge rule (On Ramp division) is that the travel lane has the right-of-way, while on the Left Coast, it's the On Ramp traffic that does. is this True? and if so, how far from either Coast does the Merge Rule change?

Westofnatick 11:21 AM  

Pee Wee Reese in pinstripes? That is the worst kind of revisionist history to date. Per Wee played his entire career for the Dodger organization. He’s not only a Hall of Fame shortstop, but it’s well known that he courageously befriended Jackie Robinson at great risk to himself. Let’s have a correction, please.

egsforbreakfast 11:23 AM  

Alternate clues:

26A. Quickly change into the garb of your trans self.
31A. Equally blue.
38A. Spaces in the house where you can sit on a soft, pulpy mass.


This played as easy as a Tuesday, but somehow didn’t really Tuez. It was a nice theme in that you could study the themers and pretty much know where the revealer had to be going, but then exactly how the revealer would tie together ZIPPER, SNAP, BUTTON and PIN was unknown and delightfully revealed in FINDCLOSURE. I enjoyed it a lot. Thank you, Kate Hawkins.

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Again with the puritanism. Small price to pay for otherwise amusing commentary, but Assad exists in the world, for crying out loud. As did Stalin and Mao. If you want to spice up the clue side on these monsters, fine, but historical realities need not be expunged from crossword puzzles, especially the high-brow variety.

Masked and Anonymous 11:42 AM  

The ZIPPER/SNAP/BUTTON/PIN theme connected nicely, with m&e. Good job.

no-knows: ZIPPERMERGE. WORDPRESS. AFFORGATOS. All three are NYTPUz debut words, btw.
M&A has, however, had his unfair share of pizzas with mushrooms on em. I would tend to spit out any buttons, tho.

ASSAD is not quite a debut. 71 uses, so far. Might be a debut for ASS on top of BUTT, tho. I reckon a clue of {Comparably unhappy} = AS SAD might be used, or maybe just change the sucker to ASSAM (which boasts 210 puz uses, so far).

staff weeject pick: YUK. Mighta chosen OBS, if they'da used @RP's version of the fill. honrable mention to the hissat-ty SSE & SSR. Primo weeject stacks, in the NE & SW, too boot.


Thanx for the fun, Ms. Hawkins darlin. What, no ?-mark clues? … y'all need to be a dash ornerier.

Masked & Anonym8Us

biter in name only:

sixtyni yogini 11:45 AM  

Good Wednesday,!🎯🧩🎯
Easy. Fast. Tight and fun theme.

Liveprof 11:55 AM  

With three pies (apple, pecan, and pizza), an affogato, and a torte, it's no wonder I've gone from pudgy to obese. My abs -- what's the opposite of sculpted? My pants can't find closure. I can't get my zipper to merge.

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

Willie Penn,

Sometimes. These days every team--including the Quakers--has a dizzying array of unis. You may recall that our Fightins wear the cream colored uniform on Sundays at home.
Also, lots of MLB teams have pinstripes--the Cubs, Brewers, Padres, White Sox and even that other team from the Big Apple (whose name shall not pass my lips)--come immediately to mind.

TJS 12:15 PM  

"This is all my own particular...pathology and has nothing to do with the puzzle". Ya think ? That's the thing that makes this blog addictive, IMO.

The Yankees haven't won a championship since 2009 and the Yankee haters are still out there. I'm one of them.

Whenever I read "research shows" I have to wonder how the hell they arrive at their results. Do they have "researchers out there by the thousands observing the activity? Or do they just ask @Z ?

I enjoyed this one even with the rare triple error in the Southwest. Convinced myself that the constructor confused "chubby" with "chummy" and went with "pally", giving me "ambra, lee and lmc". Looked okay to me.

I have to admit that @Lewis description of this puzzle is right on, and really an insightful take.

Gary Jugert 12:21 PM  

New crown today, so I'm typing while Novocaine-ing.

Oh noooo... not another driving topic. "Why hell, I never once heard the term ZIPPER MERGE. I blame these Hollywood woke up millennials for terms like that. Back in my day, we called it a moldy odor merge. And we didn't need no drivin' school to teach us such nonsense. We learned to drive by daddy givin' us the keys to the pickup and telling us to go down to the A&P to pick up mama who drank too much at the beauty parlor. If we came back without scratching the truck we got to keep driving, but if we messed something up, we were living in the barn for the rest of our lives with the feral cats. That's where I learned to eat uncooked rat in my teenage years thanks to the one-eyed cat I called Irma. Even today my friends think it's a little weird how much I love a well written SUSHI MENU."

From the Anonym-oti: "Always appreciate seeing a murderous butcher in our puzzles, cuz you know 'free speech' and it's just a random string of letters that doesn't mean anything. It's really just ASS AD, you know like Preparation-H commercials, and who doesn't love those? Let's not hear any lefty ideas about how dictators are a bad idea. We love our orange one." Hey constructors, how about deleting ol' Bashie from your word lists? Your software will run better without it.


A seriously great day for cool words and phrases: UMPIRE (spelled out for a change!), AGORA, SNAPDRAGON, RAY-BAN, PINSTRIPES, UMBRA, YUK (yuk yuk yuk), HERESY, WORDPRESS, AFFOGATO(s), METRONOME.

Got me:

Jobs creation. APPLE. Last clue solved. Sneaky.


PUDGY and OBESE bookends.

1 New baseball fee proposed for players and managers who just can't accept the facts.
2 Plans to abscond with the neighbor's flower.
3 Upgrade your glamor.
4 New Yorker loss to Bostonian.
5 Radio guest doesn't mumble with left-facing platitudes.
6 Vehicle I want parked outside my building.


Anonymous 12:27 PM  

Wow. Someone got up on the wrong side of the iron lung today.

jae 12:31 PM  

Medium. AFFOGATOS was a major WOE so I was happy to get the happy music. Loved the reveal, liked the puzzle.

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

Nope - clue doesn’t imply that at all

GILL I. 12:57 PM  

Like @Lewis, I loved this puzzle. There were some turns and twists that offered some really nice scenes in my head. I'll start with STEINBECK and East of Eden....Nana gave me his book when I first moved to San Francisco. He was all the rage and with childish anticipation, I sat down on my futon and read from page one till the end. My head thoughts veered toward thinking it was a bit too violent and it was a bit heavy handed on sexual perversion. Not to be disappointed, I bought his "Grapes of Wrath." It was another sit on my futon day. My paternal grandparents must have been the reason this book was written. They immigrated from Enid, Oklahoma during the dust storms and settled in Orange County, California The pictures you see of those fleeing poverty with prayers of a better life, was my family. They were very poor; 8 boys and 2 girls in tow. Although they didn't pick grapes, the oranges on the acreage of their 2 bedroom house, provided enough money so that my uncles and aunts could be clothed and fed. Except for the two girls who stayed home to care for the property and makes sure all the vittles were properly cooked, and the clothes ironed, my uncles all went on to fight in the war, and upon their safe return, take advance of the GI Bill. They all graduated college and became decent, law-abiding American Citizens.
My other favorite book of his (after tearing up with the Wrath), was Tortilla Flat. I love Salinas and the people that live there.
I have never heard of AFFORGATOS. I did think out that Avogadro chap and his molecules. I know all about him because of this blog. So he's Italian and I wondered if he also invented an ice cream dessert with some amaretto. following the Italian theme...we get to the white pizza discussion. I guess you'd call me un-american because I DON'T LIKE ANY KIND OF PIZZA. I don't even like BUTTON MUSHROOMS.
I also had trouble with ZIPPER MERGE. I've never heard the term. I just know that I'm nice and I let people in and because of that, I'm still alive.
Question...Is there a difference between PUDGY and OBESE? Is one a more polite term? I guess you'd call Larry the Cable Guy PUDGY and Ruben Studdard OBESE? No fat shaming for those two.
I see WEIRD and immediately thinl of Al Yankovic.
Enjoyable Wed. I like when a puzzle makes my mind wander.

Rachel 1:10 PM  

I thought this puzzle was easier than the average Wednesday. Sometimes I'm just on the save wave length as the puzzle author, where my initial instinct for even more abstract clues tends to be right and the puzzle basically fills itself in. I also liked the theme.

Yet there were still a few clues I couldn't make sense of and had to guess at.

I've never heard of a "zipper" merge. I mean, it's pretty self-explanatory, I'd just never encountered that phrase before. I didn't know there were sub-types of merges.

Never heard of a TUN. Never heard anyone use YUK to describe the sound of laughter, that's super weird.

And I also thought it was a bit aggressive to have two clues and answers about being fat. That's a little bizarre. They should have cut at least one of them.

I liked HERESY, liked PINSTRIPES paired with YANKEE. I liked SNAPDRAGON and the clue for it was cute.

Zed 1:15 PM  

@TJS - πŸ˜‚πŸ€£πŸ˜‚ - The world would be a better place if everyone just listened to me. πŸ€£πŸ˜‚πŸ€£
Seriously, though, on the ZIPPER MERGE thing, I actually know a traffic engineer (he’s an ultimate player, of course) and we’ve discussed such things as why traffic circles are good, intersection light technology to minimize idle time, optimal strategies to set speed limits (shockingly what is best for cars is not what is best for pedestrians and cyclists) and other traffic arcana. He’s got the degree, I just have the curiosity. When I first met him he was still just an intern and my first thought was “this is a career?” The answer is “yes.”

GAC 1:39 PM  

This puzzle was a real treat - not too hard, not too easy, just right and with an interest in theme. As a Red Sox fan since 1946(do not want to hear about how that season ended) I tried to squeeze EVILEMPIRE into the YANKEE slot, but it wouldn't fit. This is a kind of parallel to Rex's hatred of ASSAD. You may think that his is serious and mine frivolous, but you would be wrong. Aside from that one bad answer I enjoyed this puzzle.

Son Volt 2:02 PM  

@burtonkid 9:26a - why would anyone waste a perfectly good cup of coffee by pouring it over frozen slop? I actually like the look of the two words - just not stacked together like that.

@Z 9:53a - I agree with most of your functional analysis but it’s primarily a local issue. The idea is to make better use of the capacity of the lane that is closing - hoping that will help the flow on the overall roadway. It works for the most part on low volume sections - but when the road is saturated to start with it doesn’t really apply and you end up with that conflict at the end point. FHWA has offered some backing - classifying it as a best practice but only 7 or 8 states have ordinanced it - Minnesota was at the forefront - states like NY still find it difficult and are afraid to try to legislate implicit driver behavior. I think most posters here today questioning it probably don’t realize they’ve been doing for years.

okanaganer 2:27 PM  

@JD 8:10am: I think that was Styx, not Devo.

ZIPPER MERGE not a term used around here (southern interior BC), but it doesn't seem to be a problem: if traffic is congested, people do that. If it isn't, they just change lanes when they see the sign.

Lots of food today: mushrooms, sushi, pecan, yummy sounding dessert I've never tried. I was gonna add SNAPDRAGON but I see it's not a food. And APPLE; also not a food as clued.

Funny: I just now realized the clue for YANKEE does not say they wear the number 49! (I wondered why they would do that.)

[Spelling Bee: yd 0. Took forever to get this word which seems a weird spelling to me.]

CDilly52 3:29 PM  

Well, first of all, my beloved Cubbies also wear PINSTRIPES, but anyone claiming to be a Major League Baseball fan knows that the YANKEEs “claim” yo be the “official” PINSTRIPES wearers. I think OFL is just availing himself of an opportunity to do some YANKEE bashing - all of us who ardently adore baseball and support some other team enjoy taking a shot at them from time to time.

I almost DNFd because I had never heard of or seen a sign for a ZIPPER MERGE, most likely because I don’t think Oklahoma uses them as evidenced by the high frequency of ridiculously dangerous driving at merge sites on Oklahoma highways. So much so, that I have commented to my husband that people should just take turns every car length. I used as an example, the way the band crosses two lines of marching players, one every other step. Learned something nee today!

This theme worked. Period. It had everything to recommend it that yesterday’s did h. Interesting that on two consecutive days we have excellent examples first a loosey-goosey theme that just doesn’t make it followed by one that is clever, engaging and spot-on. Well done Kate Hawkins!

Mr. Benson 7:10 PM  

ETES/TUN is absolutely disqualifying for this puzzle. Rex went soft. I won’t get into why but it was predictable.

Joe Dipinto 7:54 PM  

CLOSURE is one of my Top 10 Most Hated Words, so you can probably guess how I feel about a puzzle whose theme is "finding closure".

But it's okay, because I get to play this.

Anonymous 8:04 PM  

Horrible as they may be, Assad, Mao, Che, Hitler, NRA, NARAL, etc. exist or existed. No reason they shouldn’t be crossword answers,

Anoa Bob 9:03 PM  

Joe D. I feel your pain. I think it's because the term gets used too much. It can come across as faux intellectual if used for rather mundane situations. But it has noble roots. CLOSURE was a term used by early 20th Century Phenomenologists to describe an innate tendency of our perceptual system to paint a complete picture from incomplete input. I don't think CLOSURE is something one FINDs, however, so much as it is something that is happening all the time.

Unknown 9:50 PM  

As a criminal defense lawyer, the burglary/robbery distinction/error was immediately obvious, but other than that, this was a great zippy puz. And most folks don't know the difference, so not a big issue in my book.

faber 10:00 PM  

I think so too.

Zed 10:44 PM  

Legalese only barely overlaps with English. It’s why if you pick any old section of your state’s laws it will have a long section of definitions.

@okanaganer & @JD - I think Mr. Roboto is the song you’re thinking of.

TJS 10:58 PM  

@Joe D, great clip. Where was Louis ?

kitshef 11:35 PM  

I've eaten hundreds of white pizzas, not a one with button mushrooms.

And never heard of ZIPPER MERGE as a term. We called that ... merging.

JMS 1:15 AM  

Zipper merges... here in the backwater of Portland OR, you can pass two blocks of cars queued in a single lane while you calmly drive ahead to the shuttle, slider, thingy, whatever that part is called...

And people will shake their fists, and lay on their horns.


in a way, the boneheadedness works for me.

Don’t get me started on 4 way stops.

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Anonymous 8:38 AM  

I ZIPPEd through this puzzle as it was one of the easiest Wednesdays I’ve done in a while. I left the NE corner incomplete for the morning and fell asleep, only i forget to lock my screen and my time this morning was several hours long. What a bummer! Thought the puzzle was more suited for Tuesday though.

Anonymous 9:38 PM  

Until the puck is dropped

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