Gradually develop literally / THU 1-26-23 / Southwest city in 1947 news / Trademarked coffee holder / Opposite of dry to a vintner / Punished for the weekend maybe / Developing phenomenon literally depicted three times in this puzzle

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Constructor: Dan Ziring and Quiara Vasquez

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: SNOWBALL EFFECTS (33A: Developing phenomena literally depicted three times in this puzzle) — three Across answers unfold gradually, box by box, with letters accruing in each box, one letter at a time, so instead of GROW, written in the grid at 1A: Gradually develop, literally, you get "G" and then "GR" and then "GRO" and *then* "GROW"—so it's a kind of rebus, with multiple letters in all non-initial boxes for all related theme answers:

Theme answers:
    • Downs = GRAMPS (1D: Pop-pop) / GRANARY (2D: Farm storehouse) / GROUNDED (3D: Punished for the weekend, perhaps) / GROWLERS (4D: Beer containers)
    • Downs = FAKER (10D: Total phony) / FORCEPS (11D: Some surgical tools) / FORTUNES (12D: Enormous amounts to spend) / "FOR MY PART..." (13D: "As far as I'm concerned ...")
    • Downs = ETS (47D: Fabled visitors to 49-Down, in brief) / SWEET (55D: Opposite of dry, to a vintner) / SWEATY (56D: Evidencing physical exertion) / SWELTER (57D: Suffer in the summer heat) / ROSWELL (49D: Southwest city in 1947 news)
 Word of the Day: CAPRI SUN (40D: Big name in juice pouches) —
Capri Sun
 (UK/ˈkæpri/US/kəˈpr/, stylized as CAPRISUN in the United States and Capri-Sun internationally) is a German brand of juice concentrate drinks owned by Capri Sun Group Holding in Germany, which is a privately held company of Hans-Peter Wild. It was introduced in 1969 and named after the Italian island of Capri. Capri Sun has been distributed in the United States since 1981. [...] The standard box is filled with ten 200-millilitre (7 US fl oz) pouches of liquid. In the U.S., Capri-Sun pouches are now 180 ml (6 US fl oz); previously they were 240 ml (8 US fl oz). The pouch is trapezoidal in profile when filled and rectangular when flat, with a flared bottom that makes the pouch able to stand upright when placed on a horizontal surface. A straw is supplied with each individual pouch. [...] In 2014, after continued pressure to fix what consumers described as worm-shaped food mold in Capri Sun pouches, Kraft released a clear bottomed pouch to allow consumers to better inspect the product before consumption. Additionally, the non-recyclable packaging has spurred environmental groups to pressure Kraft into redesigning their iconic pouch.
• • •

Oh, wow, it is too e ea ear earl early for this, man. Hell of a puzzle to throw at me on the morning when I have the least amount of time to solve & write! I guess my wish for "harder puzzles" finally came true in a not-gradually-developing way. Just bam, here's the hardest puzzle you've seen in months, enjoy! Well ... I did enjoy it, so there. I would've enjoyed it more if I hadn't felt the tick tock of my morning solving/blogging window fading away as I was solving, but that's not the puzzle's fault. The one thing this puzzle did provide was a genuine "aha" moment that was so long-coming and pent up that I think it came in the form of a semi-audible "oh my god" moment. This moment, right here:

[LOL 51-Across, "LEO" doesn't even fit, my god I was out of it]

I actually filled in this corner and then erased back to this initial moment so I could screenshot it. I wanted to capture the precise moment of revelation. so that you will understand why ... I didn't actually understand the theme completely, even after the "oh my god!" I just assumed that the "snowball effect" had to do with the Downs—that is, I thought that with where the theme answers were concerned, each subsequent Down cross picked up one more letter on its front end. So ... essentially, the Across was just rounding the corner a bunch of times. I was not cramming multiple letters into squares, I was assuming that the letters just flowed from the start of the Across and dropped down. It never occurred to me to put multiple letters in a square. Here, I'll try to demonstrate what *I* thought the theme was doing using arrows:

From where I was standing / solving, those Downs (above) all started at the "F" and then proceeded across and *rounded the corner*, dropping and finishing where they finish. There was no question of multiple squares in a box, just a matter of walking that Across answer over and Down. Turns out my understanding of the theme works perfectly ... and then suddenly, one time, doesn't. That time: ROSWELL (49D: Southwest city in 1947 news). I ended up, at the very end, staring at ROL and wondering how on god's green earth that was supposed to work. Never occurred to me that it was a themer. And when, finally, it *did* strike me as a themer, I couldn't make it square with the rest of the Down themers, *all* of which followed the drop-down pattern I was seeing in my head (and on my screen). Only after hitting "reveal all" did I see that my grid was correct enough: I had all the "right" answers, but was entering those three Across themers "wrong." I was supposed to be rebusing the Acrosses, adding one letter at a time to each subsequent box. I never do that with regular rebuses (when I'm actually solving, I just type the first letter and let it stand for the whole, and the app usually accepts that). So ... yeah, it didn't play great on screen, and it's super duper Duper weird that my understanding of how the theme unfolded worked for every involved answer but one (12 out of 13!). Would've been nice (helpful!) to mix it up a bit, have a few more of those Downs that enter from the top. Would've made what was going on clearer (maybe). But I still think that this is a brilliant conceit and that the execution is mostly masterful.

OK, very quickly, as this has taken way too long to solve and explain. The fill was good but they did not ease up on the difficulty in order to offset the theme difficulty. You got hard, vague clues for simple stuff like AIR (7D: Put on) (who wrote in "DON"?). I had ROO instead of SYD (for Sydney, Australia) and SALAD before BASIL (31A: Leaves in the kitchen?) and was really really not sure of the SCALAR / AYS / CHATTER nexus (25D: Quantity contrasted with a vector, in physics / 44A: Shakespearean cries (are they?) / 46A: Chinwagging). There was no part of this grid that I flew through. I was so so grateful to know CAPRI SUN today. It was the end of the solve and it had been such an ordeal and I got to that SE corner and thought "what fresh hell awaits?" and then CAPRI SUN was like "nah, I got you, come on in." And the puzzle was over. Well, I had to hit "reveal grid" to fully understand, but ... yeah, over. Hope you survived!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


The Joker 5:58 AM  

Hem and HAW may be partners but word is that HAW has been cheating with HEE.

Conrad 6:05 AM  

I did what @Rex did and was left with ROL at 49D and figured it was just an outlier RO, then do a kinda knight move to pick up the SWELL. It cost me my streak, which happily wasn't much.

Anonymous 6:05 AM  

Same journey for me.

SarahW 6:06 AM  

FOR MY PART, 3- and 55-down should have been my first clues that there was a rebus thing happening, but I pushed it to the back of my mind when I, like you, also concluded there was some right-turn thing happening. ROL and an “almost there” message left me utterly confused until your helpful explanation! Usually rebuses read as one would expect going across, but I guess I should be prepared for anything next time!

Dcuzz 6:11 AM  

Really nice tricky theme on this one. I had enough of the other acrosses in the top left that I was able to get the rebuses for GROW pretty quickly, which made the theme really open up. I felt very satisfied that I filled in the grid in almost record Thursday time, and then spent almost 20 minutes hunting for my one error. I’d had BEAST for “Doozy” and had assumed there was some obscure darts game or something called SNO…..

Anonymous 6:19 AM  

Masterful! Clever! Loved it!

Anonymous 6:22 AM  

Had SCALeR and eYS, which feels perfectly valid. Had to hit Check Puzzle to see where I went wrong, so there goes my streak.

The theme was interesting, but I found the fill awkward and vague. I found myself shrugging and guessing my way through most of the puzzle, and in the end I was mostly right (except eYS).

And yes, I had don before AIR.

SouthsideJohnny 6:53 AM  

Wow. A gimmick so cryptic that even the King of CrossWorld bailed and dnf’d. The rest of it was tough as well. So a real challenge on a Thursday for all the rebus/cryptic/stunt/gimmick puzzle lovers out there. If that’s your thing, you got a good one today - enjoy.

Anders 7:02 AM  

Exact same round-the-corner interpretation as Rex (twisting answers are not uncommon, cf. up A TAB) + puzzling over ROL, wondering by what right its twisty path could back up left to pick up SWELL. When completed puzzle not accepted, double checked everything, then puzzled some more over ROL. Worried for a bit I might break my streak on this. The real aha moment came when I tried writing in SWELL at the end as a rebus and it finally clicked what the puzzle wanted.

kitshef 7:07 AM  

Curiously, this is the second puzzle I've done today with OBAMA ERA and SCALAR in it. I've been going through old Freestyle puzzles and the one I did right before today's NYT had them both.

A rare day with a fair number of proper names, all of which I knew.

No idea how Lewis will count the doubles today. Is SWEL rebus next to SWELL rebus four doubles? One double? No doubles?

frankbirthdaycake 7:07 AM  

This was a great puzzle! I really enjoyed it. I didn’t think it was too hard, but maybe that’s just me. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a late-in-the-week puzzle. I hope this is a sign of more good puzzles to come. A nice (early) weekend to all!

Wanderlust 7:11 AM  

SWEET, SWEATY SWELTER is a perfect summation of my solving experience. It was really hard and really enjoyable.

I knew something was up in the NW and NE, but I left 1 across and 10 across blank while I moved on. Then I saw the trick at ROSWELL and went right for the rebus, avoiding the snafu that got Rex and others. I then went to the top and filled in the GROW and FORM rebi. I still didn’t have SNOWBALL EFFECT yet.

In this case, getting the theme was no help at all with the hardest part of the puzzle for me, the SW. A big part of my problem was that I had pen for “ink holder” and code for “bunch of bits.” That kept me from getting SNOWBALL, and just about all of the clues in the SW were hard for me. I loved “you might make waves when you lie about this” for WATERBED, when I finally got it. I remember my first experience of a waterbed was visiting my very cool hippie uncle at his apartment at the U of Illinois when I was 7 or so. I think it was the moment I realized there was a different way to live than my cookie cutter suburban home outside St. Louis.

Speaking of which, I will never accept OMAHA as Gateway to the West. That is St. Louis. We built that big Gateway Arch to prove it. Where’s your proof, Omaha?

Oh, and my other bigger mistake was HAm for HAY (“stick a fork in it”). I never looked at the “watch it” clue, and HEm looked fine, especially since its partner HAW was also there. I actually thought, “why didn’t they cross-clue HEm and HAW?”, which prompted me to finally look at the clue and fix my error to get the happy music.

Favorite puzzle in quite a while!

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

Never so happy to have my longest triple-digit streak ever blown out of the water! And to have it all go to hell around Roswell is perfectly apt! I had the exact same experience as OFL, though instead of pressing reveal all, I came here to see what was up. What a delightful failure.

This 'n' That 7:24 AM  

I had don and Act before AIR,

Does Victoria's Secret sell KCUPs?

All these years I thought St. Louis was the gateway to the west.

Way above average Thursday. Clever and gnarly rebi and over all cluing was SHARPER than usual.

Anonymous 7:25 AM  

I have a gripe with “literally” added to phrases (my brain argues ’not literally-it’s just a word representing the literal thing’). But then getting the rebuses filled in and looking at those beautiful boxes I did a happy dance. Fun puzzle!

king_yeti 7:27 AM  

vague clues plus unique “trick” made it challenging but I really liked it. still managed to finish only 2 minutes above average

Anonymous 7:28 AM  

Not challenging, just stupid. I’m sick of idiotic REBUS not being edited out. Is Will going senile?

Anonymous 7:30 AM  

Also had BEAsT and sNO and, embarrassingly, our family plays UNO every night! There are points in UNO??

Ay Yi Yi Yi 7:30 AM  

In Shakespere AY can mean yes or an expression of regret.

abalani500 7:32 AM  

Fantastic puzzle with real BiTE. The genius is in the ROSWELL clue which i’ll wager is where most of us were GROUNDED. You think you’ve got it sussed out and then the puzzle lets out its maniacal laugh - muahahaha - and you start to get all SWEATY, feeling TRAPPED. A SLY trick, indeed. FORMYPART, I thought this was TOPSHELF, a real BEAUT.

Don 7:35 AM  

That was a doozy!
Like Rex, I had Grow Form and Swell entered conventionally.

was bugging me and chewing on that led to the proper way to enter the progressions.

noni 7:38 AM  

I wonder if there is anyone who figured out this was a rebus. Even though Roswell was obviously the answer, I just assumed I didn't understand how it fit the pattern. I thought maybe the snowball was rolling along and dropped off an edge or something.

Lewis 7:40 AM  

Yes! Yes! More like this, please! Make me claw and scratch for my money! Give me a huge aha at cracking the riddle! Thursday blessed Thursday – this is it!

Give me vagueness. Give me clues that can go different ways. Give me just enough gimme to get the ball rolling. But never let that ball roll fast. Let my fill-ins feel like victories. Let my Thursday be a capital-P Puzzle.

Give me a theme I’ve never come across before, one that makes me open my eyes with a wow, makes me think “so cool” and “bravo”. Like today’s.

Thursday is not only trick day, but it’s the advent into the knotty stretch of the week. Let it be knotty in theme and clue, please, and Dan and Quiara, IMO, you did, and editors, so did you. Please please more Thursdays like this!

D&Q, this was primo. The best kind of grind. High, high praise, and thank you!

RJ 7:48 AM  

Like Rex, I thought we were going to be going around the corners until I finally got back to the NE corner and growlers.

I agree with Wanderlust about St. Louis and the Arch to prove it. In 1982, my husband talked me into going to the top of the arch while visiting St. Louis. I'm afraid of heights, so the tour is still burned into my brain - that, and the clothes dryer elevator to the top and back.

More puzzles like this, please!

TTrimble 7:50 AM  

Actually, I found this easier than many a Thursday. Or at least it took me less than an average amount of time. So when I see Rex say, "Just bam, here's the hardest puzzle you've seen in months, enjoy!", I say, "Ha, speak for yourself!" (Although I did enjoy it.)

(Dontcha hate it when people make presumptions about your experiences? My father-in-law crowing about his rotisserie, "Best chicken you ever had!")

I was curious about BASS TUBA, because I never realized a TUBA could be anything but a BASS. But on consultation with Wikipedia, it seems there are contrabass tubas, bass tubas, and tenor tubas, and the classification is even more complicated than that. I'll bet, though, that when people see a tenor tuba, they go, "that's a tuba?" or "that's not a tuba!" But then, why shouldn't it? Ever seen a bass flute? Well, then, there you go.

I was thrown off by SHIEST, where I had initially written SHyEST. SHIEST looks to me like it ought to be pronounced "sheest", like a close cousin of "schist". "Shier" also looks plenty weird to me. But okay.

These SNOWBALLing answers bring to my mind this Kraftwerk video of The Man-Machine, off of the compilation Minimum-Maximum. M MA MAC MACH MACHI MACHIN MACHINE.

Anyway, I thought this was a cool puzzle, Dan and Quiara -- thanks much!

SB: I'm not going to cry this time over my yd -1, because my missing word was this little gem of an absurdity. I hate you, Sam Ezersky.

Son Volt 7:51 AM  

Whoa - fantastic puzzle. I’m not sure I’ve seen this rebus trick before but I loved it. I figured something was up with GRANARY and GROWLERS - both great entries on their own - but similar to Rex took me some time to nail it down. Attractive grid with the aptly evocative spanning revealer - this was a great one.

SYD Straw

I’m sure the oddball rebuses were tough to build - but they’re all solid entries. Some of the fill was rough - didn’t like BASS TUBA or that center AYS.

Knew SCALAR cold which actually helped inside there - TOP SHELF is TOP notch. EMPANADA, WATERBED - there’s a lot of nice fill here.

This was a Thursday BEAUT - so early but will be on my Mt. Rushmore of 2023 puzzles.

After this wonderful solve Now I WANNA sniff some glue

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

What is familiar about Sierra MADRES?

Georgia 7:59 AM  

Backed into the theme upon realizing Roswell .... and my top corners were blank. FUN!

Anonymous 8:07 AM  

Hated this!!!!!

George 8:11 AM  

Hardest Thursday I can remember. 3-4x normal solving time and then a DNF; grokked the theme, including the rebus, with "swell". was then able to go back for "grow", but i could NOT get the top right and DNFed -- had to ask the computer to give me the "F" that starts the snowball.

by that time, i was blind guessing four-letter words that fit the theme, like "rise".

arguably, "form" doesn't quite fit the same way that "grow" and "swell" do, but maybe i just think that because i tried to come up with it blindly and couldn't.

i even tried some five letter words, expecting hellfire from OFL here in the review! "bu", "bui", "buil", "build"...

anyway, tough as nails!! not how i expected my morning to start, but here we are!!!

Anonymous 8:11 AM  

Ugh. Same experience as OFL and others. Filled it in, it looked fine to me (except for ROl), got the “not quite” message, came here to see what I was missing (I.e., to cheat), saw the gimmick, and decided that keeping my three-digit streak was not worth the drudgery of filling in the @#$&* rebi. Sheesh. If I wanted to work that hard, I’d just go to work.

Eater of Sole 8:18 AM  

I, solving pre-coffee, also (very briefly) had 'leo' at 51-Across. And barely stopped myself from "fixing" that by trying to enter 'marge' which also doesn't fit and isn't even hidden in oleomargarine, except phonetically. Speaking of SNOWBALLEFFECTS, someone in my neighborhood built a roughly 9-10 foot snowman a couple of storms ago. It's down to about 8 feet now and I am eager to see how long it lasts into the Spring.

I guess I was fortunate in that the theme concept that works 12/13 times never occurred to me. Saw GROWLERS and just assumed it would be a rebus.

Anon@7:57: formally it is the Sierra Madre Mountains, or something like that. Calling the range the Sierra MADRES is informal (not "familiar").

Dr.A 8:20 AM  

I felt annoyed that I solved the whole thing and they said I had a mistake somewhere. So I spent a hecka long time looking for a mistake and there was none, it was just an annoying way to write in the clues for the theme. Not fair but oh well.

andrew 8:32 AM  

(Too Hard; Didn’t Finish)

Though I kept my highly asterisked* streak alive by using Chen Cheats. Too depressing to start at 1 again; it’s a bogus run but I’m only cheating myself, right? That was the takeaway when I was caught looking at someone else’s test in 5th grade.

Fun puzzle though I like the Rex turn of events gimmick (which I didn’t see without his remedial graphic) more.

* as with poor Maris in ‘61, as if HE cheated!

mmorgan 8:35 AM  

I knew something rebus-y was going on, and I even knew that GROW and FORM and SWELL were in there, but I couldn’t quite piece it together. Very nice aha moment when I did!

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

Weirdly, this was one of my fastest Thursday solves. Didn’t even notice that grow, form, and swell were the acrosses until after I did the rebuses. Just hit on the “grow”ing rebuses from the revealer.

My brain apparently works oddly.

andrew 8:40 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barbara S. 8:48 AM  

So glad to see Rex’s “challenging” designation today. So hard and, I thought, so enjoyable. I'm definitely in the puzzles-are-getting-too-easy camp. And it's Thorny Thursday!

The nature of the theme rendered the NW corner pretty unintelligible at first, but I did get RAUL and ANNE, and then didn’t know what to do with them. I wandered around the grid for a bit, mostly avoiding the obvious theme areas and trying to get crosses that would help illuminate whatever the theme thought it was doing. I got answers here and there, and then had a short flirtation with the squares around the lower themer, sort of getting it but not really – I realized that (SW)EET and (SWE)ATY could be among the down answers there, but I didn’t know how. Without resolving any of that, I returned to the NW. (GR)ANARY had occurred to me as a possible answer for [Farm storehouse]. And [Pop-pop], which at first was a complete WOE, suddenly clarified itself as a nickname for grandfather, so I put in GRAMPS at 1D, then rebused GR and filled in the rest of (GR)ANARY at 2D. At which point I noticed that MA for MADRES and SY for SYD were starting to fill themselves in. So, back to 3D, hmm, what’s an 8-letter word for [Punished for the weekend, perhaps] that starts with G-R-something-U-N – yes! (GRO)UNDED! And, finally, I was away to the races (although most of the other thoroughbreds were back in their stalls by then).

But, yeah, tough cluing. As Rex said, no concessions to the craftiness of the theme. [Things you might save while driving] for PRESETS and [One way an animal may be held] for AT BAY are but two examples. I didn’t know CAPRISUN and I was shaky on EMPANADA, which didn’t help the SE, but my real stumbling block ended up being the SW. I kept trying all sorts of unhappy words – coRER for PARER, “punch” for SPADE, “menu” for APPS, and Fuss for FLAP (a new kealoa?) I had to sleep on it, and was finally able to complete the corner (thus the puzzle) this morning.


1. Exposed as guilty by recorded conversation.
2. PVC mattress filled with beer.
3. Aliens from the Brass Planet.
4. Spanish turnover made with matzo.
5. Feature of the (top of the line) Bose Wave SoundTouch.


[SB: I’m on a roller-coaster these days – Queen Bees, followed by poorer than usual performances.
Yd, -3. Missed these, all members of one of @TTrimble’s word classes. @TTrimble, I knew what your missing word was going to be before I clicked on it!]

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

Hate this sort of puzzle. . .tries too hard to be all cute and gimmicky😖

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

Amy: I wish that my pet project, i.e., to LOVE Rebus Xwords, would benefit from a Snowball Effect.

Roberto 8:53 AM  

@wanderlust yes it is st Louis but Omaha fits.

pabloinnh 8:55 AM  

A Thursday that sets the standard for how to Thursday! Just wow.

I should have caught on sooner as I had the G from Grampa (me), wanted GRANARY, which didn't fit, put in the GRO for GROUNDED, but then wanted COOLERS for beer containers, and went elsewhere. SNOWBALLEFFECTS appeared gradually (fittingly enough). Doing Acrostics was helpful there. And that helped explain what was going on, so back to GROW and FORM and wondering what the last one would be, and it was SWELL. Yes, yes it was.

Agree with others about St. Louis and knowing EMPANADA was a big help in the SE. TOPNOTCH before TOPSHELF, but that was about it for erasures. Liked some of the sideways cluing

Just a great puzzle, DZ and QV. Didn't Zip through this one but I'd Quickly Volunteer to do any others y'all come up with. Please accept the Thursdazo! prize, and many thanks for a huge amount of fun.

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

Just brilliant!

Kent 8:57 AM  

Loved it. I actually put a rebus in pretty early, at 3D (it had to be GROUNDED, and the U and D from crosses told me where the rebus had to be). But I couldn’t make sense of what would be happening with 1A. Then like Rex, I thought the themers were rounding the corner, so I took the rebus out, but I couldn’t figure out how ROSWELL worked or how they were SNOWBALL EFFECTS. When I didn’t get the happy music I looked for errors and found one or two but still wasn’t finished. So I turned to the Wordplay column and saw they were indeed looking for rebuses, and everything made sense.

JonB3 8:58 AM  

@faber 7:38 - gotta admit that I had the literal gradual rebus at first, but when I saw Rex's arrows, my bubble burst and thought I blew it. Glad to learn I didn't.

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

I find the NYT and the LAT XWs almost always have at least one overlapping clue most days. 😀

Bob Mills 8:59 AM  

I knew ROSWELL, and I figured out what the constructor was going for with the downward turns, but assumed that all three theme answers were constructed similarly. So I also ended up with ROL I guess if i had used ROS, the computer would have given me credit.

Too fancy for my taste, but I'm probably in the minority. The constructors deserve credit for fertile imaginations.

jberg 9:00 AM  

I guess I got lucky. RAUL, ANNE, GRAMP_ were all gimmes, and MADRES was close to one (I think what's informal is the terminal S, Humphrey Bogart went after the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, tout court.) So suddenly saw GRANARY and GROUNDED, and knew what was what -- and the clue, "develop literally" with "literally" meaning "letter by letter" fit the rebus better than the round-the-bend thing--not that the latter ever occurred to me. Then the revealer says there are 3 examples, so ROSWELL wasn't that hard.

I liked the HAY/HEY crossing. And I was tempted to say "Let's EEL!" but EEL was already in the grid. Notch before SHELF, Fuss before FLAP, but that was about it for problems.

55-D is complicated; with champagne, for example, "extra-dry" means sweet.

Question for discussion: in "AY, there's the rub!" is AY a cry, or a way of saying "yes?"

Nancy 9:02 AM  

So fiendishly clever, so wildly original, so devilishly challenging that this might well be my nominee for Puzzle of the Year. It has LATE SHIFT to compete with, but still... I had to work much harder on this one.

I was tearing my hair out in the NW and had to go elsewhere to find out what the theme was. Now if I'd known GROWLERS -- but I've never in my life heard of them. I know my kegs, my steins, my vats, my taps, even my simple glasses -- but what the hell is a GROWLER. Without GROWLERS, the theme cannot be figured out in this section. All you know is that you have a rebus of some sort.

I moved to the NE corner where I was stymied as well. So I went directly to the revealer, filled it in patiently, and then went back to the NE where FORCEPS (I had the EPS) broke it open for me. There was, you see, no other surgical instrument ending in EPS.

My mouth fell open at RO? for the place in the 1947 news. ROSWELL, of course!!!! SWELL!!!! So in this one I took the development in the other direction -- going from SWELL to SWEL to SWE to SW to S.

And now, finally, I was ready for my challenge in the NW. As I went from G to GR to GRO to GROW, I saw that my answer at 4D was GROWLERS -- whatever the heck they are. And, tada, finished!!!!!!

Just wonderful, Dan and Quiera! You challenged me, you baffled me, and ultimately you made me feel really smart. I loved this puzzle!!! It's a real BEAUT. Kudos!

RooMonster 9:03 AM  

Hey All !
Sometimes, it pays to do all Acrosses first, followed by all Downs, then go back and build off what you have. Worked for me today, as I got the SWELL Themer first, part of which was the cross-referenced clues for ETS and ROSWELL. Knew it had to be ROSWELL, but saw only three squares. Hmm, says I, what's up with this? Started rereading clues in that little 3x4 bottom-center section, seeing SWEATY could work, and the lightbulb was clicked on. "Oh, the answer is "gradually develop"ing from S to SWELL!" And patted myself on the back for seeing it.

Imagine my surprise when I got to NE (last section to go, BTW) and saw some F love! Finally, a bit of respect. 😁 KCUP and SHEENA big hold-ups there. SHEENA? Who's that? And just couldn't get Kuereg out of the ole brain. Had SST, figured out SHARPER (really wanting Smellier there), then once I got ARTY, saw the F-ness (wanted FAKER all along, wasn't seeing how it worked at first) and finished with the Happy Music.

So a SWELL puz, as I watched the Themers FORM and GROW. It was TOP SHELF, AFAR as I can tell. A BEAUT, one might say.

Great clue for WATERBED. Had _M_ANADA, and wanted another Rebus for some kind of (something)M CANADA. Akin to Baked Alaska. Har.

Thanks for the fun ThursPuz, you two.

Seven F's (four from rewriting it in NE)

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

I loved today’s puzzle! Was totally stumped until Roswell, then it all fell into place! My only trouble after was on Uno. I knew that had to be the answer, but I’ve never played to 500 points, just whoever was first to play all their cards! Lol

GAC 9:08 AM  

Great puzzle. And it beat me like a drum. Caught on to the theme at 3 Down - GROUNDED and found the three places to apply it. But I had mistakes like GABBING for CHATTER. That created a big problem, as did a few other errors. Finally had to do some cheating but didn't feel so bad about it. I predict that it will be a long time before we see another Rebus Progressive. Had to be very tough to construct.

Suzie 9:13 AM  

I've been playing Uno pretty regularly for more than 30 years and I had no idea there were points either. My mind is blown.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

I had barely a word or two filled in on the top half and hitting the bottom half everything became quite easy but enjoyably so. I was worried i wouldn’t get a foot in edgewise anywhere. From there solved from bottom up fairly quickly until the NE corner remained elusive to me and I needed to start checking. SHEENA was a WOE, as was SCALAR crossing AYS (had oYS) but otherwise it was pretty zoomy after a really unmotivating start, which felt fun.

MexGirl 9:25 AM  

I want to know too!!
I’m Mexican and I’ve never heard it called that: there’s two ranges and they’re known as the SIERRA MADRE ORIENTAL and SIERRA MADRE OCCIDENTAL. If one talks about the two, it should be the SIERRAS MADRE, instead….

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

Paradoxically, the theme answers seem to shrink in the on-line version.

Camilita 9:27 AM  

I solved it but a bit different from Rex and some commenters. I was stuck on the top so I left it blank. I got the revealer. After that I got to ROSWELL and that was my Aha!! I rebused RO and swell. I had spent some time prior thinking about SWEET for the opposite of dry but it didn't fit. I went back and rebused SWeet. Then it all hit me, so I went back and did the first two themers in the same style and they went in so fast. The great thing is once you realize there is rebussing going on, you can go back and fix all the places that are stuck. Yes, since REBUS is tragically and horrifyingly used in the wrong definition here in xWorld, I decree it can be used as a verb.
On Thursdays I don't worry if my grid is a big mess and keep filling in what I can, I know eventually it will reveal itself. I think that helped me here. I'm happy I got la musica in 42 bei minuti di gioia.

Tina 9:28 AM  

I thought there were ‘rules’ with rebuses. That they actually had to form a real word and not gibberish. Guess I was wrong. All that g, gr, gro,mat the top seemed liked nonsense words to me and illegal.

Camilita 9:31 AM  

@georgia 7:59 I did the same. It seems backing in at Roswell was the key.

mathgent 9:32 AM  

"Thorny Thursday." Is that yours, Barbara S.? Love it.

I came here to rave about the puzzle, expecting to find a sea of rebus haters. Delighted that so many liked it.

I didn't bite on this being right-turn words because I'm always primed for a rebus on Thorny Thursday. I saw the rebus when I had
???EPS for surgical tools. Had to be FORCEPS. (I was a forceps baby. I had a mark on my forehead throughout my teenage years.)

So much to love. Not only a rebus but a new kind of rebus. Perfect revealer. Themers symmetrically placed. Sparkly fill.

Michelle Turner 9:35 AM  

Roswell is the first one I saw so rebus was no problem. Never occurred to me that there was another way of thinking about it.

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

The Uno clue was not cool. Had to look it up after it filled in. Mattell RECOMENDS an alternative version of game play where you play many hands in a row and the cards each player has left in their hand adds up points through each successive game to eliminate players who reach 500 points. The clue says "object of the game is to score 500 points" Making you think 500 points gives you the win. 500 points and you lose. Not cool...I had Uno in there and took it out...

Nancy 9:44 AM  

Jeff Chen didn't give this his POW? Then, by gum, I'm going to stop reading Jeff Chen!

Oh, wait, I generally don't read Jeff Chen anyway.

mikebernsVIE 9:48 AM  

lots of streaks getting broken today.

Sir Hillary 9:52 AM  

Really good! A BEAUT, but also a BEAsT, which was my first entry up top.

Carolita 9:54 AM  

Got the grow and its "offshoots" right away, but then had a similar solving experience to Rex, thinking that the theme clues went across, then down, so did not get the happy music at the end. And, of course, had ROL for Roswell. Got it all sorted out just like @Andrew, by going to Rex's column and then filling in the rebuses. Ay, well.

But my real beef is Gateway to the West. I lived in St. Louis for 11 years. Went to the Arch many times. There are multiple signs and the movie about the making of the arch that call St. Louis the Gateway to the West. Omaha. Bleah!

Really liked the cleverness of the puzzle and especially the revealer. Thank you, Dan and Quiara!

Whatsername 10:04 AM  

A very SWEET Thursday with a genius theme. That said, I had mixed feelings about it as far as the solving experience. Question marks littered MY PART of the margins, such as: GROWLERS? WOE is that? OMAHA is the gateway to the West? Then why did St. Louis build that arch? The clue for THE? Why is SHYEST spelled with an I? WANNA? Is that a word now?

Skimming the comments, I got the impression most people had their breakthrough at ROSWELL but mine came right away in the NW. I had a suspicion 1D was going to be GRAMPS because my brother-in-law was a Pop Pop. Then GRANARY made sense and I saw GROUNDED immediately but never heard of 4D as a beer container. Still, that all worked and then the ROSWELL section was pretty obvious, so two down. But that NE corner was brutal. Had POSER for FAKER and SST, absolutely nothing else. I was TRAPPED in a snare of my own making. Finally the KCUP light came on and the last blocks fell. Whew!

Quite a SWEATY workout but the overall EFFECT was SWELL.

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

for a new player how do you figure that the puzzle has multi letter in one box?

egsforbreakfast 10:09 AM  

I finished this and just sat and smiled for a while. If you did it in the app, it looked so cool (pun intended). The growing SNOWBALLs paradoxically also get smaller due to the necessarily shrinking font as the rebussed word grows. Just beautiful. I never went down the right turn rabbit hole, so my time was not too far off my Thursday average.

I might be back later with my typical, irreverent b.s., but for now, I just want to say thanks to Dan Ziring and Quiara Vasquez for the best puzzle in a good, long while. Also, congratulations to Quiara on your debut. If you can keep this level of puzzle coming, you’ll be worshipped soon enough.

Tom T 10:13 AM  

I acknowledge both the brilliance of the puzzle and my frustration with the third SNOWBALL EFFECT (in the South) not behaving like the ones in the NW and NE. I had bought the idea that the EFFECT was the answers sliding downhill, but now see that it was G GR GRO GROW, etc.

Tip of the cap to DZ and QV.

Gary Jugert 10:19 AM  

Positively over-the-top loved this one. Fabulous.

The app insisted I enter the complete rebus everywhere and that was a bit tedious. Very fastidious of the programmers. Once you do the fill-ins, it looks pretty cool even though the words gradually developing are gradually diminishing size-wise.

A rare instance of grokking the theme early really helps the solve and made it way more fun to watch the words develop. And to end with Roswell was delicious.

HEY HAY... wonderful. HAY HAW... pretty good. SLY AYS... not so much.

ADULT WANNA... {tee hee}.


1 The jarring sounds of pompous pundits on grampa's AM car radio.
2 The poor soul cornered by the guitarist at a party.
3 Thrill for any lefty and "ain't gonna happen" for a righty.
4 Epitaph on Boehner's tombstone.
5 Spoiled dog's accommodations.
6 Mucky-mucks in the middle of nowhere.
7 Pierogi.
8 Schrodinger's Art: Either a misshapen coffee mug or a pile of shards... you just can't know until you open the box.


Made in Japan 10:19 AM  

I loved this puzzle until I typed in the last letter and got the DNF message. I didn't know we were expected to use rebuses, and instead filled it out without them. After all, 1A is FORM, not FFOFORFORM. I could see the SNOWBALL EFFECT of using the first letter, then the first two, etc without typing in the rebuses. This spoiled the experience for me, as I spent 20 minutes going over the grid with a fine-toothed comb trying to figure out what I had wrong. I believe the software has the ability to accept multiple solves as correct - I've seen it happen before on rebus puzzles (e.g. accepting 7 or seven). Something like that could have been done for this one.

Kudos to the constructers for an excellent, challenging puzzle. The online technical execution was lacking, however.

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

I guess I got lucky because the ROSWELL area was the first themer I got.
“I couldn’t figure out why the ball was getting bigger. And then it hit me.”

J.W. 10:24 AM  

No shade on Adrian Johnson's really fun Monday, but how is this not Jeff Chen's POW of the week, if not the year? It's only January, but I'm confident this will make many people's short list for top puzzles of the year. I certainly loved it. It feels a little silly, but I was proud of myself for getting it without peeking at any outside help. There were a few times I thought about saying screw it, but I think having some surprising trouble with Wednesday's west region made me determined to say no, not today. So it was a relief to come here and see it marked Challenging. That's one nice thing about this site: you come here hoping you're not alone about your feelings on a puzzle and then are relieved to confirm you are in fact not.

As with 🦖, ROSWELL was my 💡 moment. So much was just not making sense, and nothing except the SE was sliding in smooth. Then I was like, there's no way it can be just ... OHHHHHHH. And then it became so much easier to understand so many of those downs that made me think I'd been taking crazy pills. I mean, it's Thursday, I should have had my antennae up because that's always when there's something extra-sneaky up. But man, talk about gritty.

This was devilishly difficult. Even the 3-letter chaff fill was essential for gaining purchase today. I loved it. I felt like I needed a cigarette when it was over.

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

Instead of a rebus, each could just be written in and the gimmick could have been about right or down turns. 40D is a weird outlier no matter which you elect.

GILL I. 10:36 AM  

Ah, were my last. I so wanted it to be SWEET, instead you made me SWELTER in a SWEATY mess...all over. May I tell you , though, you were quite brilliant...It's just that I'm a PLEBE. fed me an EMPANADA, and while it was delicious, I prefer them baked slowly in the oven rather than frying them like my brain.
Twas a BEUT; a TOP SHELF masterpiece. How did you do this? It was an ARTY experience that was lost on me. I didn't have a SNOWBALL chance in hell. What dance did you have in mind? I cheated on you...I had were just too good for me.
And so it went.
The intrigue was so overwhelming that I did my best to finish up. I got most of it except the theme answers. Even when I was able to get the SNOWBALL EFFECTS, I wasn't sure (like @Rex) how I should proceed. My cheat instinct gave me the GGRGROGROW. I did a little FOAM at the mouth maneuver . Wow, now I just have to try the other two without help. I managed it but it took a long time.
I will remember this puzzle for a long time. It needs to get framed. just so that I'm reminded of how a Thursday should look like......

PS. Yes...I had DON as well.

Gary Jugert 10:37 AM  

@Barbara S. 8:48 AM

TJS 10:40 AM  

Puzzle of the week. How about puzzle of the year. *Sorry I cant figure out how to get the question mark to appear with my new keyboard .( or the parentheses, apparently.

best time doing a puzzzle in a long time. yay.

Smith 10:49 AM  

Challenging? Um, no. Zipped through this one, because I saw the trick right away. Knew 3D had to be GROUNDED and already had the U from RAUL. Same deal in the NE, where FORCEPS was obvious...

Visual comment: I think it's visually funny that the letters get progressively smaller as you add more, so what's supposed to be GROWing, FORMing and SWELLing is actually shrinking.

Grid construction: very hard to get out of the corners!

We're on the west coast so you all have probably already had these thoughts...

beverly c 10:53 AM  

I've worked enough crosswords to have seen this sort of rebus before, so I knew with GROUNDED what was going on. My intro to crosswords came early - I was still in the single digits. Grandma and GRAMPa liked orange marshmallow peanuts AND crosswords. Mom was phenomenal at them, and Dad still works them, preferring the old style books.

I finished with a one letter error - aYD for SYD, but I don’t blame Grampa.

This was an enjoyable puzzle, but for me the only especially challenging area was because of SAC - I tried pen and tat first. And OBAMAERA did not spring to mind. I'd filled in the theme answers, so I could guess what the revealer was referring to - but I couldn’t remember the name for it. Pen had me thinking parallax.. I also put pool at the end of 36D while I was trying to figure it out, but WATERBED is terrific. I especially admire the linking of ETS and ROSWELL with a theme answer. Nice!

Turning now to my Western movie education —- Yes! for St. Louis as the gateway for all those pioneer wagon trains heading to Texas and Arizona and California. Omaha as a trailhead for cattle drives to feed the East.

Joseph Michael 11:03 AM  

This began to G GR GRO GROW on me after I got to ROSWELL and finally figured out what was going on. Very clever and very challenging. I needed to consult Dr. Google twice to get through it, but ended up with my biggest A AH AHA! of the year. Thank you, Dan and Quiara, for these memorable SNOWBALL EFFECTS.

Ted 11:12 AM  

I got Roswell first of the themers, so did not fall into the trap that Rex did (only worked really with increasing rebuses). Thus, when I went back to the first two I knew exactly what was going on and it was relatively easy.

bocamp 11:13 AM  

Thx, Dan & Quiara; very clever Thurs. challenge! :)


Didn't think rebus; just down turns. :(

My bad; should've given more thot to the tipoff at the SWELL / ROL cross. No down turn there.

Nevertheless, a fine production, and some lessons to be learned.

One of the better Thurs. stumpers ever! :)
Peace 🕊 🇺🇦 ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🙏

Beezer 11:15 AM  

Brilliant puzzle! Hand up for having the same experience as @Rex in solving AND being happy I knew CAPRISUN. I really don’t care that I had a hopeless mess at the bottom even though I pretty much KNEW what the answers were supposed to be. D’oh…it never occurred to me that I just didn’t quite figure out the the rebus factor. Still tons of fun!

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

The UNO I play never had points, gin on the other hand does have a 500 point end

andrew 11:23 AM  

Two more thoughts on this.

1. Didn’t realize this gem was by a duo that had a grand total of one published NYTXW between them. And they created one that was both fun for most of us and earned a CHALLENGING from Rex. Congrats!

2. Even when rushed, Rex can add depth. The arrow pic showed a new (90°) angle. All to be foiled by ROSWELL! And yes, DON seemed the gimme, not AIR.

Great stuff, one and all!

Newboy 11:24 AM  

Survivors and just as OFL predicted. I was so disappointed when Mr Happy Pencil wouldn’t play, & so I had to DON the cloak of humility and hit the reveal tab! Had a moment of chagrin when the iPad showed evolving rebii for a secondary aha, though not nearly so satisfying as was the first when we saw the pattern Rex artfully displayed with red lines. Thanks Dan & Quiara 👍🏼🍷 You gave us a stunning grid (in both ways) for sharing on our 58th anniversary—Ms N almost always solves solo on paper while I opt for electronic grids; today’s required a tag team approach.

Now back topside to see commentariat reactions & off to read constructors note!

beverly c 11:27 AM  

I meant Omaha as a Railhead.

@BarbaraS. Your uniclues #3 and #4 😀😀

Mike Rees 11:27 AM  

This one must have just landed nicely in my wheelhouse. Got the theme at ROSWELL and back-filled the rest. Almost five minutes faster than my average Thursday. Gonna go slay the rest of the day now.

OffTheGrid 11:31 AM  

@Tina 9:28. I liked your comment. I hate gibberish, too. No excuse!

@RJ 7:48. Clothes dryer. HAR! That's how I describe the Arch conveyance. If I hadn't already paid I would have had second thoughts when I saw what I had to sit in. It was worth a little anxiety, though, to be at the top.

@UNO folks. Yes, the player to play his last card wins the hand. To play to 500 (or another number can be agreed upon) the person who wins a hand gets the point values of all the cards remaining in others' hands. All number cards are the same value as the number on the card (e.g. a 9 is 9 points). “Draw Two" – 20 Points, “Reverse" – 20 Points, “Skip" – 20 Points, “Wild" – 50 Points, and “Wild Draw Four" – 50 Points. The first player to attain 500 points wins the game.

L E Case 11:32 AM  

Didn't hate as a whole but does anyone lie "about" a bed when describing lying "on" a bed?! I mean in the last hundred years or so? Ay!

Gruff 11:34 AM  


Carola 11:38 AM  

My way in was through SWEET and SWEATY. After that I was able to sort out the upper corners, getting my clues to GROW from GRAMPS and to FORM from FORCEPS. Last themer in: SNOWBALL. I loved solving this one, not only for the reward of figuring out the rebus but for the treat of GROUNDED, GROWLERS, FORTUNES, and especially SWELTER and the genius of ROSWELL.

Uke Xensen 11:51 AM  

I don't claim to be any kind of xword whiz, but this seemed easy to me.

Geezer 11:53 AM  

Well, POW from JC was Monday. Wouldn't have been my choice but neither would today's. I liked yesterday's better than either.

R Duke 12:03 PM  

Fun puzzle!

Here’s some beer container terminology: a growler is a 64 ounce container, typically glass, that gets filled from the tap at a brewpub. There is also a 32 ounce container, which is called a howler (at least at the places I know around Chicago). And finally, there is the crowler, which is also 32 ounces, but is a can that is filled with tap beer and then sealed with a special machine. These are great when you want to take some beer home but don’t have your refillable growler or howler with you. Not many places have them though, I’ve heard the machines that seal the cans are very expensive. Cheers!

Masked and Anonymous 12:20 PM  

Sooo … there ain't actually no SW city named SWELLOR after all, I guess. M&A was just workin the puz via paper and pencil, and was happy as a clam to just keep doin runt-rolls, as the theme mcguffin. Wrong again, M&A breath.
Marvelous snowballer ThursPuz theme, tho … now that @RP has splained it all to m&e.

staff weeject pick: RO(SWELL). QED.

Had lotsa trouble in the NW, but eventually figured out them snowballers. Then I at least knew what generally was up in the NE, but still had trouble there. I blame FAKER/KCUP, mostly. Never heard of KCUP.

fave stuff included: TOPSHELF (but wanted TOPNOTCH, at first). SCALAR (math-ese! Like). BEAUT (a good description for the puz, as per @Nancy darlin). WATERBED. EMPANADA. E/W puzgrid symmetry. BASIL clue (the only token ?-marker clue!?). GRAMPS & clue.

Thanx for the feisty fun, and for gangin up on us to do it, Mr. Ziring dude & Ms. Vasquez darlin. Primo job. And congratz to Quiara, on her half-debut.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


Whatsername 12:31 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 12:37 PM  

I got so lucky with this one because I was just working on an old crossword that used rebuses. I don't think I would have been so quick to get this if the dreaded rebus hadn't been so fresh in my mind. I have to agree that this was one of the best aha moments I've had solving in a long time, and it came from seeing grounded and then growlers.

I also had DON, and I also found CAPRI SUN to be a nice relief.

Barbara S. 12:38 PM  

@mathgent (9:32)
As far as I know, I came up with it -- seems apt.

@Gary Jugert (10:19)
Loved your #1, both our FAKER EMPANADAs, and your #8 is growing on me (just had to let it sink in...).

Whatsername 12:40 PM  

@albatross shell from yesterday: I’m partial to the Eagles and have thought since the beginning of the season that Philadelphia would be the NFC team still standing at the end. No matter the time or the place or the opposing team, they will be formidable.

@R Duke: Thanks for ‘splaining the finer points of beer distribution. Now that you did, I realize I’ve heard them referred to as a 32 or a 64 but I like howler and GROWLER much better. 😄

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

If you absolutely know the fill but it doesn’t fit…

jae 12:51 PM  

Tough!! My solve exactly mirrored @Rex’s even down to being iffy about SCALAR. Impressive, liked it.

jbab 1:04 PM  

I almost gave up, which would have ended a 3+ year streak. Finally figured it out, after a couple of hours of double- and triple-checking, and just staring.

Anonymous 1:08 PM  

This was where I was able to suss it all out. I had GRAMPA and _ANARY, _UNDED, and _LERS and wondered why I couldn’t think of a blooming beer container or farm storage structure. A very challenging day! (Luckily I was on a plane so I couldn’t cheat and was forced to puzzle through this on my own.)

Teedmn 1:12 PM  

My understanding of the theme followed Rex's completely which meant I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why the puzzle jumped the shark at ROL/SWELL where it became some sort of wrap-around. Did the ETS interfere with the grid? So thanks, Rex, for doing the reveal to show how the EFFECTS worked!

That whole west central to SW section was one big WOE, with everything west and below of ____ALL EFFECTS still empty. I tried both pen and bic as ink holders, neither of which went with the NTH I really wanted in at 34D but couldn't see working with 33A. The clues in that section were between vague (43A, 68A, 52D, 35D) and diabolical (looking at you, 36D, where I wanted a lie detector test or some such answer). If a clue "Hole maker" isn't "awl", I'm lost!

I finally gave myself a shake and asked myself just what was happening in the GROW FORM SWELL areas? By this time I'd added the B of BYTE to 33A and finally saw SNOW and it all tumbled into place except for that ROSWELL thingy.

Dan and Quiara, great job, thanks!

Joe Dipinto 1:14 PM  

Helter skelter in the summer swelter

Acording to Wikipedia, all of the following have been dubbed "Gateway to the West" at various times for one reason or another:

• Lyons, Illinois
• Fort Wayne, Indiana
• St. Louis, Missouri
• Eureka, Missouri
• Omaha, Nebraska
• Fargo, North Dakota
• Bridgeport, Ohio
• Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
• Kemmerer, Wyoming
• The mountain formation known as Cumberland Gap
• "Occidentally On Porpoise", a rib joint at the western end of Porpoise St. in Lakeway, Texas

Okay, I made the last one up.

Anonymous 1:18 PM  

I really hated this puzzle! Sorry. Usually I love them. Thanks. Devra

Anoa Bob 1:24 PM  

That was a nice misdirect, what with having GROW for 1 Across and FORM for 10 Across work perfectly well. And then SWELL at 54 Across also seemed to follow that pattern. Had me thinking that there really was some Arizona city named ROL at 49 Down. I wonder if the constructors did that deliberately or if that was an unplanned bonus.

Wow. There are such things as "juice pouches" (40D)? Sounds to me more like a slang term for mammary glands.

I knew GROWLER because a local brewery sells them to go. The owner is a second or maybe third generation brewmaster. The beer is TOP SHELF and they also have great food. Here's an interview with the owner that's a good read for anyone interested in the art of brewing beer.

I liked how 5A BEAUT segued into 9D TOP SHELF; both aptly describes this "High-quality" "Doozy" of a puzzle.

I'm guessing that most of youse guys who call this a rebus (with or by way of things) puzzle never took Latin. Otherwise y'all would call it a litteris (with or by way of letters) puzzle. Here's how linguists use The Rebus Principle. It also occurs in the Latin phrase Non verbis, sed rebus (Not by words, but by things). More on this at Rebusgate.

johnk 1:32 PM  

Same with me, except I had no errors.

johnk 1:32 PM  

We GRAMPS remember SHEENA Queen of the Jungle from TVdom - way ERE comicdom.

okanaganer 1:33 PM  

Yes, just a fabulous theme. Hands up for having just single letters and wondering where my mistake was, but that didn't spoil it at all for me.

"The Sierra Madres" makes perfect sense; exactly like "The Rockies".

[Spelling Bee: yd -1, missed the same word as Barbara S and Ttrimble. According to Google Ngram, it's about as commonly used as CALLALOO.]

Annette 1:38 PM  

GrampA before GrampS, so a technical DNF. So tickled to catch on early with GROW, but ROSwell left me speechless. Superb puzzle, really threw down the gauntlet to most constructors.

Barbara S. 1:49 PM  

Canada's "Gateway to the West" (in case anybody's wondering) is Winnipeg, MB. Another nickname for Winnipeg is Winterpeg, and considering that yesterday's high temperature was 10 degrees F and low temperature was -12 degrees F, it's a pretty good fit. As you probably know, Winnipeg also gave its name to Winnie-the-Pooh: the character was named after a real Canadian black bear in the London Zoo of whom Christopher Robin Milne was very fond and after whom he renamed his own teddy (changing its name from the more conservative Edward Bear).

Rick A. 1:51 PM  

Ah - i'm so happy to see this. i did pretty well on this one - figured out the rebus at Roswell. I never had this idea that rebus had to be Down or around the corner. Perhaps my lack of Crossword experience made this go better for me.

lodsf 1:55 PM  

First run through produced only 5-6 entries so I figured I was looking at a rebus puzzle. Second go through I saw “Granpa” — wrong answer but right enough at the moment to let me see GROW… and since I *knew* 3D had to be GROUNDED… well, that gave up the conceit. Worked through SWELL and the rest but had to *reveal* the jungle queen & coffee holder (SHEENA & KCUP) before I could see FORM (that word just didn’t come to me as a way to develop, but I guess it is).
Liked it a lot despite the DNF.

Lawrence Welk 2:08 PM  

Thursdays usually have a trick in the puzzle.
Often Thursdays have more than one letter in a box or an answer that bends a corner up or down
The title might give a clue Like this snowball.. add a letter to each box.
The clue might be "Fenced in" and you'll find to complete a word you may have to scrunch two letter in a box or go off the grid

Quiara Vasquez 2:15 PM  

DNF. Total garbage. Who (co-)writes this crap? ;)

Glad - and surprised! - to see the overwhelmingly positive reception to this one. Since the NYT refuses to link to its competitors I'll just say that if you liked this one for its weirdness and difficulty, there's more like it on my blog, and also at Crucinova, which I've been running for a couple months now.

The UNO clue here which was a sticking point for many people was an NYT-side edit; our original clue was something like [Just one more game?] which probably was a bit too hard for the puzzle proper. Actually, our original original clue was [Card game being adapted into a movie starring Lil Yachty], which... pretty much carbon dates when we started writing this one, LMAO.

CDilly52 2:15 PM  

Today is a watch out what you wish for day for certain! For so many days, I have had wavelength connections with constructors who typically challenge me, and puzzles that are enjoyable but seem a bit easy for the day. And then today. Wowza!

But it wasn’t the theme that got me as much as it was the things I just did not know and the clever clues. So, fair is fair and I learned stuff! Oh yeah!

For some reason, I got the theme despite every live grey cell telling me that it violates all the “rules” of crossword construction. I worked through all of the top across answers other than the two themers, and my “holy crap” moment came while I went back to try to parse the NW and NE top rows to get the downs. It happened with GROUNDED. That’s the one I knew had to be a rebus. Then I saw GROWLERS (having bought one from my favorite local brewery over the past weekend), and at first I said, “No way!” I tried exactly what @Rex did thinking we simply had a change directions” thing going, but that didn’t feel like it worked smoothly enough. And it’s been done - and done. Then, backtracking and dropping a letter each time . . . “Holy ¥%!€!!!” (My precise comment). I immediately went over to the nearly completed NE, and once again, there’s my adorable Uncle Bob.

I have been solving a long time and don’t recall ever seeing this. I am sure it will be used again, but never will it be this satisfying an “aha” moment because it really will be easy to suss out the next time. Be that as it may, what a joy this one was. Tough, clever, nee words and a new theme. A+!

Places I slowed down were first the SW and SE because my lengthy solving experience made me assume that the remaining theme areas would be there. I mistakenly dropped down (feeling my misplaced hubris) and ignored the center (and the reveal’s “depicted three times”) and got in a big ol’ mess. Thankfully, it only lasted until I hit the center with its SWEET SWEATY SWELTER. That alone gave me a great chuckle.

So now to the St. Louis or OMAHA issue. The Gateway Arch was installed when I was in 7th or 8th grade, 1964 or ‘65. It was a huge deal because (as we heard daily as it neared completion,) the idea was adopted in the early 1930s with our crossword friend Eero Saarinen working on designing it in the mid-1940s with installation finally coming to fruition in the mid-60s.

Until then, from its founding in the mid-1800s, (I think) OMAHA was the “Gateway” because of its location at the junction of the Platte and Missouri rivers, making it the perfect place for folks to gather to start their journeys westward. Wagon trains used OMAHA as the starting point which helped the city develop.

While St. Louis legitimately claims itself as the Gateway, OMAHA deserves a historic nod as well. I’m not picking sides, just observing that the answer is legit.

So much trouble with the cleverness. If not for the crosses, WATERBED would have kept me scratching my bead for way too ling. No idea about SCALAR. Clues for AT BAY and CHATTER (I had tAlking for the longest time), K-CUP and SHEENA gave me a good challenge, and overall, the experience was i deed a SWEET, SWEATY, SWELTER of a solve.

Wonderful puzzle, Dan Ziring and Quiara Vasquez! I hope you collaborate often and look forward to your endeavors.

CDilly52 2:17 PM  

Thanks, @JoeD. You make me laugh almost every day.

LenFuego 2:19 PM  

Played easy-medium for me, but I went for the rebus rather than the wraparound when I figured that out on g-r-o-w. My biggest hang up was CORER for PARER, which made me want UPCS for “Screen display”.

Ciclista21 2:25 PM  

This is just one of those days when you have to curse Will Shortz, who allegedly edits this puzzle.

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

Same here. not sure why he’s so revered in the crossword world. His puzzles are almost universally lame.

CDilly52 2:42 PM  

@GaryJ. I look forward to the uniclues daily and the creativity level of the neighborhood is just fabulous. I don’t deserve admission!

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

Who cares if Jeff Chen didn’t award it POW? His puzzles are slogs and not funny. JW did, and that makes more sense to most of us.

TAGG 2:42 PM  

Finally! A real brain cell stretcher. Almost gave up but then the aha! moment arrived. This was absolutely the best in a very long time.

CDilly52 2:46 PM  

@Made in Japan. I struggled with the “stutter” at first. Then I decided that our constructors were simply trying to ip the ante to create a new theme form rather than a “longer answers turn the corner” theme which has been done - lots. In this case, the turn the corner doesn’t work as well because you have to read the e tire word across and then tack it onto the down. While I had some grumbles over the “stutter,” upon completion, I actually thought it had its own elegance.

CDilly52 2:55 PM  

@Namcy and all you way hipper than me folks. Help me out with POW, please. I only know POW as Prisoner of War or Proof of Work.

Anonymous 3:03 PM  

Really proud that I gronked the theme really early on before I ventured out of the NW. Less proud that I couldn't round out the NE or SW without a little help from a colleague. I thought this was a fun, tricky but fair puzzle.

Liveprof 3:25 PM  

According to Wikipedia, SHEENA, Queen of the Jungle was created by Jerry Iger, who was Jewish, and he came up with the name because the term "sheenies" was rattling around in his head -- a derogatory term for Jews.

So Sheena's Jewish! We don't have too many like her, that's for sure.

TTrimble 3:41 PM  

Here POW means "Puzzle of the Week". It's something Jeff Chen does over at XWord Info.

Anonymous 3:54 PM  

I’m not sure what it says about me that I got GROUNDED straight away and therefore the rebus trick. I’m pretty sure it says I spent a lot of Saturday nights wishing I hadn’t messed up the week before.
Had to phone a friend (i.e. my high school junior) for SCALAR. Otherwise a fantastic experience - I finally get the fun in rebus puzzles.

Anonymous 4:34 PM  

Ugly gimmick puzzle, hated every second until I decided it just wasn’t worth it.

Anonymous 4:38 PM  

Agreed - and Roswell was a cheat. Snowballs roll downhill.

ac 4:51 PM  

wow that was a beauty... hope we see more Rebus goodness at this level!

BlueStater 4:53 PM  

Just. Awful. The theme. the impossible answers (CAPRISUN?!? Really???), The metagimmick. I have to think back many years to recall a puzzle as dreadful and in so many respects as this one.

CWT 5:22 PM  

Yeah, I dived right in confidently at 1A with GROW and then spent the next half hour going hither and thither, looking for any “easy” answers, which were not a lot. Even after I got the revealer line, I was not sure how that helped. Then I got back to the downs from GROW and I just knew it had to be GROUNDED and GROWLER, so all of a sudden “bingo!”
And the rest was “happy hunting.”
I just loved this puzzle.

noni 5:37 PM  

Definitely tried to figure out how STL was going to fit in there. I could see the Arch from my office window as a grad student. I got a call to settle a bar bet by answering the question "How big do the windows look?"

Weezie 5:41 PM  

Yes to all of the above! And hopefully this helps to hear - as someone who came back to crossword solving after a 20 year break a few months ago, I’ll also say it also comes with practice. The first few rebus puzzles I didn’t finish, or felt like throwing my phone across the room when I did. And then over the last month or so, Thursdays have become more doable. Today the revealer actually even HELPED me get things. Hang in there!

Anonymous 5:45 PM  

To the St. Louis propagandists:

According to the Arch's National Park Service historian in St. Louis, Bob Moore, Trillin has a point.

“Well, the real start is Kansas City. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Moore said. “I mean, the Arch could have just as easily been in Kansas City, if you want to talk about jumping off points."

Moore explains there were a number of places where settlers and pioneers lit out for the territories, but in general, that point was farther west than St. Louis.

“The main starting points were in Kansas City, Omaha, Council Bluffs – out at that line almost along the Missouri River,” he said.

Weezie 5:55 PM  

A totally magnificent puzzle. Haven’t had a minute to breathe let alone comment the past few days, and I *should* be catching up on the reading for my night classes, but I had to chime in to add my voice to the chorus. @Quiara & Dan, thank you so much - this puzzle really brought some sparkle to a rough week. Also - nice to know the UNO clue wasn’t your handiwork - I liked the original and the second draft much better!

Not much to add that hasn’t already been said, except that I’m surprised so many folks were unfamiliar with GROWLERs. Here in the Catskills we have a lot of breweries and cideries (and GRANARies, come to think of it) and often we’ll keep an empty growler in the car in case we happen to stop by a new one. This place is all the way down a gorgeous road nestled at the back of a valley, breathtaking views and incredible brews with locally-made artwork to match.

albatross shell 7:54 PM  

Fun and thorny Thursday but much easier than most friday-saturdays except some of those recent easy ones. Or could I be getting better? OK let's pretend. Finished before the Laker game I was watching hit the 4th quarter.

Filled in what I could and returned to the NW and saw (GRO)UNDED GRAMPa and then (GR)ANARY and (GROW)LER. G grew into GROW, developed slowly that is. And then it all progressed at a decent clip.

I had just read a few days ago that OMAHA was also known as the Gateway to the West. I assumed that was the Northwest so maybe aptly in the MidWest in this puzzle.

I had BASSTUne and saw the pattern for SNOWbeLL flowerS? Two Fs in the wrong place? No. SNOWBALL EFFECTS.

I was also amused by the shrinking visual effect of the growth. Just reverse direction.

Could it be the Kelce bros bowl this year?

This is at least the second great Thursthrill this year. Or was that other one in December.

Shecky Wormwood 8:42 PM  

I'm kind of low-key mad at this puzzle. I thought Rebus for a minute in the NW but then I noticed that some of the consecutive answers worked if you made a right turn with it going across and then down, and then when I got the revealer, I was like "ok - snowball, rolls downhill, right?" So it worked fine that way, the only thing that was bugging me was the ETS / Roswell thing which I assumed was something clever I didn't understand (which I guess it was). But I don't feel like the actual theme, where the Across "grows" a letter each square in a Rebus, and which I obviously get now, necessarily makes more thematic sense than my initial interpretation. Maybe it would have made more sense if the Rebuses "snowballed" down instead of across? I'm no physicist, but a snowball ain't going to roll in a straight horizontal line. I don't know, I think I'm just mad that I basically had all the answers correct and didn't get the happy sound effect at the end. And I'm also STILL mad that I can't solve the NYT in Across Lite anymore like I've been doing for years and years and years and now have to do it on their website, arrrrgh.

Adam S 8:50 PM  

Great puzzle, but I don't understand why they didn't require an edit to that SCALAR/AYS cross. Without even thinking seriously about it, it feels like SCALED/CHATTED/EOS/SLO would be an improvement.

Anonymous 9:25 PM  

I still use Across Lite—you can download the puzzle in dot puzz format using Chrome’s “Crossword Scraper” extension

TAB2TAB 9:35 PM  

Difficult puzzle, interesting puzzle, but to me it feels flawed. I was able to see the ROSWELL answer, but it was an anomaly if you are thinking of the puzzle as Rex did, (and I did), with the themers turning the corner. The problem with the "correct" interpretation of the themers is twofold: the puzzle is much better if the answer to 1A is GROW, not GGRGROGROW. Sure the word GROW is literally GROW-ing, but (problem # 2) SNOWBALLING does NOT mean linear growth, i.e. one letter growth at a time, but accelerating growth, an increasing number of letters each time which ("literally") is not happening. Clever and great effort, but kind of a thud for me when I realized that the rebus was necessary for happy fun music.

JC66 9:36 PM  


@Kitshef sent this to me. It works in Chrome, not safari.

Peter Gordon is the one who provided this link, via Ralph Bunker.

Click it and it will bring you to a page that lets you install an extension to Chrome that lets you download the .puz version of a puzzle displayed in an applet.

To use it, go to the puzzles page on and click the Play button which will display the grid and the clues. Then click the icon for the extension in the upper right corner of the browser (looks like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle):


You will see a Crossword Scraper pop up window with a link that lets you download the .puz version of the puzzle. It puts it in the same place that the NYT .puz link did when you clicked it.

Once it is in the downloads directory you can upload it to my server and solve it using your preferred system. Personally, I like but your mileage may vary.

Anonymous 9:44 PM  

Puzzle of the week

bocamp 9:47 PM  

@Shecky Wormwood (8:42 PM)

The Chrome extension (also works with Brave browser), 'Crossword Scraper' does the trick for me. It can convert most online xwords into .puz format. I think it was @okanaganer that shared that solution with us last yeara. :)
Peace 🕊 🇺🇦 ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🙏

Blackbird 9:52 PM  

Truly fun puzzle. Excellent concept. I caught on fast, and then really enjoyed unravelling the snowball effects.

Shecky Wormwood 10:51 PM  

Thanks for the suggestion folks - will definitely try the Crossword Scraper!!

RandomThoughts 10:54 PM  

Someone please explain for me 41 Down "All-time go-between" being "the". All the time? I thought this was my error (turned out I had an extra L in the final "Swell".) Tried "Osaka" for "Omaha" out of desperation at one point.

Anonymous 11:27 PM  

Same. But it cost me a streak BIG TIME! So was not happy with this.

Anonymous 12:04 AM  

Same for me! Also cost me my streak. (Twitter @kcitian)

JMS 12:56 AM  

I saw the same “across the top” pattern as Rex, and caught on a FORCEPS? I got there by figuring OR must be medical somehow, and it clicked. The rest of the three themes mostly fell in line, but which one is it? ROZ makes sense as a familiar term for ETS, but SWELZ??

TTrimble 6:44 AM  

You need to read Rex's explanation rather more carefully. I think you were trying to do what he did initially, which was wrong! The rebus squares at the tops of 54D, 55D, 56D, 57D, and 58D need to be filled in with S, SW, SWE, SWEL, and SWELL, respectively. Then 49D becomes ROSWELL.

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

I had all the correct letters and answers, but apparently I wasn’t clever enough to grid properly using what seems like a pointless rebus. Streak ended, but I know I solved the puzzle properly. Kind of annoying.

Anonymous 2:55 PM  

So happy I print the puzzle and use a pencil! Couldn’t get to it until Friday afternoon… tough, but so satisfying to complete!

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

I was on a plane and the perps gave me STOL for a "nimble aircraft" or something like that so I asked the flight attendant who didn't know so she asked the pilot and told me it is Short Take Off & Landing

Anonymous 10:58 PM  

Interestingly, I did not have the same problem Rex did. I figured out the answer pretty quickly starting in the top left corner. However, the rest of the puzzle is too hard for me, and I did not finish it.

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

I do it in the actual paper so have no reveal option - when totally stumped I come here too. Or (gasp!) Google. But once I cheat like that, I enter the rest of the boxes in red. Also, I guess the streak thing is an online puzzle feature, because I don’t know what you’re talking about.

KevinDenelsbeck 2:08 PM  

I also fell down the same conceptual rabbit-hole you did on how to interpret the grid, with the same discrepancy for ROSWELL. Finally out of desperation I did Check Puzzle and only then (when the head letters of all those columns were dinged) did the light dawn. They probably should've been a bit more expressive on the cluing concerning the rebuses, because the software was unforgiving on accepting anything other than the final form.

Gwyn 8:49 PM  

"The" can go between "all" and "time" (to make "all the time).

Anonymous 6:33 PM  

So don't play Thursdays! Glad to solve your problem...

Burma Shave 11:32 AM  


(word HASIT ADULT SWEATY, yet cute)
and THE SHIEST you'll MEET,


spacecraft 12:06 PM  

Beware of Thursday: it can be a GROWLER!

Never heard of that one; I'm lucky if I can finish a stein. And then BASSTUBA? I'm thinking, if THAT ain't green paint nothing is...but it turns out (post-solve) there's all kinds of tubas, including tenor and double-bass. Learnin' stuff by the GROWLERful today.

But here's one that hasn't even been mentioned, and I need some 'splainin.' Things you might save while driving = PRESETS?!? HUH??

I Googled PRESET and of course got the verb, tons of results. Then I Googled PRESET (noun) and got ONE result: something programmed into a device. So...what, you "save" the "presets" on your radio? If you PRESET them, why would you NOT save them?!! THIS CLUE MAKES NO SENSE.

Despite all these difficulties, I did manage to finish. Nothing at all was happening up north, so I headed south and found FOAM/OMAR. Soon the SE was done, but I had RO_ for the SW city...hmm, 1947, gotta be ROSWELL. And that's when the rebus emerged. It all made sense, though I hafta say SWEATY SWELTER probably isn't SWEET. It wasn't long after that that I sussed out two synonyms for the idea: GROW and FORM. But getting there: wow. Challenging, to say the least.

This one HASIT all: difficulty, great theme, DOD Tanya Roberts as SHEENA. Birdie.

Near-eagle birdie in Wordle, should have risen above instead of staying alone.

Diana, LIW 12:25 PM  

I'll keep playing Thursdays, thank you very much indeed. Because many (most) times they are fun and playful.

And then there is the rebussy puzzle. The "guess how many squares I really needed to make a puzzle" puzzle. plllggghhh Guess what that means.

The rest of the puz was fun and challenging. So thanks for that!

SYD! Of course. A name I shoulda known, wanna know it in the future.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords
PS - thankfully, the SyndieCat button is working again

rondo 12:39 PM  

I guess that OFL didn't have time to rant about RAUL Castro; given the opportunity I wouldn't have been surprised.
I've seen SHEENA Easton live in concert and I've also seen Tanya Roberts as SHEENA, Queen of the Jungle. Either way, yeah baby.
Wordle birdie.

rondo 12:43 PM  

BTW - I have an Eb TUBA for sale if anyone is interested.

Anonymous 1:41 PM  

Norse gods are a pain. For 69A why not "Swim gear maker" ? Got it with the down-crosses but still pains me.

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