British Empire trade entity founded in 1600 / THU 3-23-23 / Mass method for seeking input / Weeper of Greek myth

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Constructor: David Kwong

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Two's company, three's a crowd" — a rebus puzzle where the word "company" is replaced by two "ONE" squares (in two answers) and the word "crowd" is replaced by three "ONE" squares (in a different two answers)

Theme answers:
  • ONE ONE COMMANDER ("company commander," where "two (1+1) is COMPANY") (16A: Officer in charge of a military unit)
  • WISDOM OF THE ONE ONE ONE ("wisdom of the crowd," where "three (1+1+1) is a CROWD") (25A: Collective opinion)
  • THE EAST INDIA ONE ONE ("The East India Company," where "two (1+1) is COMPANY") (41A: British Empire trade entity founded in 1600)
  • ONE ONE ONE SOURCING ("crowd-sourcing," where "three (1+1+1) is a CROWD") (55A: Mass method for seeking input)
Word of the Day: NOBU (45D: Celebrity chef Matsuhisa, or his restaurant chain) —

Nobuyuki "NobuMatsuhisa (松久 信幸 Matsuhisa Nobuyuki; born March 10, 1949) is a Japanese celebrity chef and restaurateur known for his fusion cuisine blending traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients. His signature dish is black cod in miso. He has restaurants bearing his name in several countries. He has also played small parts in three major films. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well holy cow. That's right, I'm earnestly exclaiming old-timey exclamations because I just had a good old-fashioned "aha" moment of the first order. It was something closer to an "o my god" moment, and it shook me precisely because it was sooooooo delayed. Basically, I had finished the puzzle, and I was frustrated because I had no idea what was supposed to be happening with all this "ONE" business. Was this code? Was I going to have to look up what two (or three) ONEs means in ... I dunno, some kind of binary code? The big problem—the huge problem—was that, if I'm being honest, I did not know exactly what words the first two sets of ONEs were replacing. I thought the "ONEONE" was "TROOP" and the "ONEONEONE" maybe "GROUP"? I probably considered "CROWD," but when I got to the end and knew that the last themer was *definitely* "CROWD," I figured all the replaced words would be different from one another, all of them synonyms for collections of people: TROOP, GROUP, COMPANY, CROWD. I got the "ONE" rebus very easily, very early on, and by the end I had my set of replaced words (I thought), but ... no idea how to get from those ONEs to ... anything. 

I started saying things out loud like "TWO TROOP" (could I get from "TWO" to "F" to "F-TROOP"!?). Oh, I should also say that initially I had written in WISDOM OF CROWDS (!!!!), which felt great, but then it was wrong, and I subsequently forgot the "crowd" part and replaced it in my head with "the group." Ugh. At some point in muttering to myself I was toying with adding the ONEs together and I actually said out loud "three's a crowd." And yet that was Not my "aha" ... that was my "ooh, that's interesting." I did not remember the *first* part of that phrase, and anyway, "two is a troop" wouldn't have helped me at all. So the "three's a crowd" bit felt like it was getting me nowhere, so I was about to write it off to coincidence when suddenly my brain was like "hey, what if it's not troop, what if it's ... [SOUND OF BRAIN EXPLODING IN BRIGHT LIGHT] ... Oh my god [looks at bottom half of grid] what if two's company and three's a crowd Oh my god." So I was either dumb or smart today, depending on where you sit. I don't care either way. I got my moment. The puzzle itself was fine—a ONE rebus with some interesting fill here and there—but that delayed revelation, that felt great.

Mostly the ONE rebus was easy, though on occasion I got held up. Weirdly had trouble with STONED (!?!) (1D: Very high). Just stared at ST-D, wondering how to get anything to work, even after the adjacent ONE in IRONED had gone in. Weird to glitch on something semi-obvious, but it happens. I also wrote in AL CAPP at 11D: Noted criminal whose name starts with the same first four letters as where he was imprisoned (AL CAPONE). I'm staring at "Noted criminal" and my brain, having seen the initial letters of the answer already in place, decides to read it as "Noted cartoonist," I guess (Al Capp was the creator of the comic strip "Li'l Abner"). So for a while I only had two ONEs in the second themers—and a "P" at the end oh my god no wonder I thought it was WISDOM OF THE GROU*P*—I must've thought that "ONEONE" replaced "GROU" somehow ... hoo boy, just out here inventing ways to get lost. It's a miracle I ever found the theme at all. Yeesh. 

Later on, I definitely struggled with CEYLONESE (!?). I didn't consider its rebusness and wondered if maybe CEYLONIC (nope) or CEYLONED (nope) was a thing. Neither fit. Only non-thematic trouble I had was in the SW, where I was only 84% of the spelling of SHERYL (46A: Crow known to sing) and then ... did you know there are at least three five-letter "S" words that fit the clue 46D: Bit of gear in Dungeons & Dragons?? It's true. And I had considered one wrong "S" word and then another before finally hitting on SPEAR. Oh, crud, SHIELD is six letters! Why was I considering a six-letter word for a five-letter answer? It's a miracle I solve anything. Anyway, ABE (58A: Whose sculpture faces a 2,000-foot-long reflecting pool, familiarly) + THE NBA (41D: Rockets frequently travel in this) got me sorted down there. I glided through the SE corner to finish up the grid, and then ... well, I've been over this part. I went from success (got the rebus!) to confusion (what the hell?) to success (finished!) to much more confusion (seriously, what the hell?!) to revelation. Quite a journey. Well worth it. David Kwong is a magician (no, seriously, literally, that's what he is), and while I'm not normally that into magic, I enjoyed the hell out of this trick.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 5:59 AM  

I also solved the whole thing and *still* didn’t get the theme… until I came here!

Rgbruno 6:13 AM  

Interesting instinct with Al Capp. Great cartoonist but also, apparently, a sexual abuser. Reports of attempted rape of Grace Kelly, Goldie Hawn, many other women. Pled guilty to at least one incident.

Conrad 6:18 AM  

Definitely more Challenging than Medium, even though I got the theme early on. Like OFL, I blanked on 1D, but the three [ONE]s at the end of 25A went in relatively easily and the crosses led to the rest of WISDOM OF THE [crowd], which led me to revisit 1D and figure out [company] COMMANDER. Then I knew what to look out for.

My issue came in the SW. I had bio before ENG for the high school course at 54A and mlk before ABE for the statue at 58A. I was thinking THEair as the rocket venue at 41D, but that didn't work with my incorrect crosses. So I took out the two threes and more-or-less confidently put in Sword for SPEAR at 46D. D'oh!

Joaquin 6:20 AM  

I love solving crossword puzzles - easy puzzles, hard puzzles, and tricky puzzles. But my love for today's puzzle was less than my love for any other crossword I've ever done. Didn't like it and didn't "get" it. As always, YMMV.

Bob Mills 6:23 AM  

I had to cheat once, to look up the Japanese chef. I got the "ONE" trick fairly quickly because of Al Capone/Alcatraz, but until reading Rex's comments I didn't get the two/three idea. So I give myself a B-Minus.

I'm not crazy about answers like "THENBA," even though I knew the Rockets were a basketball team.

Loren Muse Smith 6:50 AM  

Rex – your epiphany mirrored my own. Brilliant aha moment. Somehow I cottoned to the rebus very early, with T 1 steak. All the 1’s went in pretty easily, so the grid filled in, I was mystified. Finally saw that the two 1’s represented a company. Still mystified. I guess since I wasn’t familiar with WISDOM OF THE CROWD and just couldn’t retrieve CROWD SOURCING from the back part of my brain (shamey, shamey) I was flummoxed. Went to choose my outfit for today, came back and bam: TWO’S COMPANY, THREE’S A CROWD. I honestly did a little couch boogie, delighted. I’m so, so glad there was no revealer crutch; the aha moment was that much more delicious.

I’m too buttoned up and conservative to be a BOHO chick, but I love the flowing skirts and stuff on other people. The clothes look way more comfortable than my pencil skirts and sensible cardigans. But I yam what I yam – no BOHO boo-hoo here, just a vague wistfulness that I could be a cooler person.

I don’t want to brag, but I ate at the NOBU in NYC. So I’m kind of a big deal.

I’m still not happy with any definition I see of the word DREAD. For me, it’s usually neither fear nor apprehension. It’s simply that I’m really, really not looking forward to doing something. I’m not afraid of checking Mom’s air conditioning filter. Not at all. Not apprehensive. I’m just not looking forward to her standing at the foot of the ladder scrutinizing my every move, offering suggestions. (Honestly, I’ve started telling her that I’m happy to do whatever task (adjust sprinkler, put freeze guard thingies on outside spickets, change a fluorescent bulb, but I tell her that she’s not allowed to watch. Once she had me fix her Kia side mirrors so that they retracted when the engine was shut off. I told her she had to stay away while I did this. When I finished, I jumped out of my skin ‘cause she was peering around the wall of the vestibule in the carport. Watching. Cue Twilight Zone music.)

I’ve posted this clip many times, but just in case there are newbies here who are unaware. . . David is a magician, and this trick blows my mind. Blows. My. Mind.

Anonymous 6:51 AM  

I am just irritated because I put 1s in instead of ONEs. I really wanted a puzzle that actually used the number as a rebus. Though probably more irritated that I had to go change them all after I finished.

Anonymous 6:54 AM  

This one was very challenging for me. I solved it but still had no idea at all what was going on. That’s when I turn to you! Thanks for sorting it out for us yet again! We don’t call you OFL for nothin’!

Wanderlust 6:56 AM  

I had a similar solving experience to Rex’s - got the ONEs pretty early, finished the puzzle thinking, “No revealer? What the hell are these ONEs doing?” I even looked at the info to see if there was a note or something. So I cogitated. Like Rex, I soon saw “company” and “crowd” in the second pair, but not the first. I thought it would be WISDOM OF THE masses. (I even just googled “wisdom of the …” thinking I would prove my instinct correct, but crowd or crowds was more common - but more often the plural.) Anyway, I finally grokked the crowd and then the company. Nice feeling to have gotten it before coming here.

I briefly thought the prisoner and his prison was going to be Napoleon and Elba but that obviously didn’t fit the clue. It was early so I thought maybe some Thursday trickery was afoot.

I liked the misdirection in the clues for THE NBA and SHERYL. Oh, and HANK too.

My hearts and horses were leaping before they were racing.

Given that we are all word people, does anyone else feel like ENG was their EASY A

Mary R 7:01 AM  

If two is company, and three’s a crowd, what’s 4 & 5?

That was one of the first jokes I ever learned. Right around the same time six became afraid of seven.

Anonymous 7:02 AM  

I liked the puzzle pretty much had a similar aha moment to Rex, but have a couple of gripes, I was surprised he didn't gripe about. First is "without a break" being on end. Really? Shouldn't that be no end. Close but not really in line with the theme.
Also I know the phrase as Wisdom of the Masses. Maybe that has changed but Wisdom of the crowd seems like weak tea to me. I haven't checked to see which rhe great god Google says is used more but it rang odd to me. Otherwise a nice way to start a Thursday.

Teresa 7:04 AM  

It's spigot, actually.

kitshef 7:12 AM  

Very fortunate to be able to bring NIOBE out from long-term storage, because NOBU is a complete WoE and if I’d had to guess, I would have gone with an ‘m’ there.

Never seen Queen’s Gambit, but I found the book hugely disappointing. In some ways, it reminded me of The Book Thief (young, prideful, stubborn female protagonist, no likeable characters, interesting enough to keep reading, while wondering if it would be worth it). But by the end of The Book Thief, I found I loved it. Queen’s Gambit, I thought ‘what was the point’?

Felt certain that the Reflection Pool was longer than 2000 feet, so I looked it up. 2030, so while I was technically correct, I was not morally correct.

SouthsideJohnny 7:18 AM  

For starters, there is no traveling in the NBA, and to suggest that one team is called for it “frequently” would be hysterical if it weren’t so sadly mistaken (and no, traveling from city to city is not traveling “in the NBA” - that’s traveling in the United States or Canada).

This one definitely needed a title or a revealer - very sad that they left it so abstruse that only the Rex’s of the world would be able (or willing) to decipher it. And there is is the common sense stuff - for example, if you are going to go with a cryptic rebus, don’t use the hogwarts crap as one of your signature answers. Omg, what a mess. Definitely a missed opportunity that ended up being another cryptic, trivia-laden NYT niche puzzle - something they do frequently, but not well.

GAC 7:20 AM  

I got CROWD at SOURCING, and COMPANY at THEEASTINDIA. Saw the ONE rebus at ALCAPONE, and started looking for them everywhere. Solving this one felt very good. Took me a half-hour. Very fine puzzle. Thank you, Kwong and Shortz.

Lobster11 7:37 AM  

Celebrate the cleverness of the theme all you want, but I can't give a passing grade to any puzzle that crosses (as clued, at least) ELI with DIANE, BOHO with NOBU, and RAE with ANYA.

Anonymous 7:41 AM  

Thanks Rex - I got the one rebus thing quickly but the two’s company, three’s a crowd - right over my head. CEYLONESE had me “going in in circles” until I got EDDY. Not a huge fan of Rebus Puzzles unless they are something special and this one was no exception, not special, was not a fan of this one either.

Taylor Slow 7:48 AM  

Thanks, @SouthsideJohnny, for the take-down of 41D. Everything about that clue/answer is simply wrong.

An easy Thursday unless you include the time it took to figure out the meaning of the ONEs. Fell a bit flat at the reveal.

Anonymous 7:55 AM  

Me too

Anonymous 7:55 AM  

I loved almost everything about this! I originally had WISDOM OF CROWDS early. There was a book by that name in the aughts and it was a big thing for a while. I had a feeling CROWDS was wrong because I couldn’t get any downs off of it. Further down I know the answer had to be CROWDSOURCING but that didn’t fit. So there must be something going on.

I dropped CROWDS from my “wisdom of” and got enough crosses to confirm my initial though of EAST INDIA but couldn’t figure out the rest. Went around the grid filling in stuff here and there, looking for a revealer. None existed. Finally got the TBONE/ASONE downs and could not figure out why 11 was a stand in for company. Tried to figure out how to make it work with the CROWD answers (hadn’t include THE yet in 25a) and got nowhere. It was only when I got enough crosses to have XX COMMANDER that I dropped the ones in there and realized 11 stood for company. But that’s weird to have two theme answers with one word and two with a different word.

It was only when I said COMPANY and CROWD out loud that it clicked. I added THE to 25a and dropped in the ONEs. Then most of the rest of the puzzle fell easily. Except the CEYLONESE/CODA/RDS crossing, which was completely inheritable to me and resulted in a DNF.

Son Volt 7:55 AM  

Fantastic - thankfully the overall fill was an EASY A allowing the theme to shine. EAST INDIA COMPANY and CROWD SOURCING tipped it for me. Loved the dual rebus trick.


Although early weekish - didn’t love all the fill. CEYLONESE?, GROOT, BOHO. Another kid lit reference. Haven’t seen those huge jugs of CARLO Rossi since the 70s. Down with @Southside that traveling is no longer a thing in THE NBA. STONED and HERB together is nice.


Highly enjoyable Thursday solve.


pabloinnh 7:56 AM  

Got the ONE thing in the NW , i.e. right away, and went right along until the SE, where the ANYA/RAE cross put the brakes on for a while, but then it had to be CROWDWOURCING and that took care of that.

Except. I saw COMPANYCOMMANDER and EASTINDIACOMPANY and CROWDSOUDRICING, but WISDOMOFTHECROWD is news to me so I can't say I ever had that aha! moment, darn it. I might have had more success if I could count to two or three.

Re DREAD-My old friend from VT said he knew a guy that on Friday nights used to say, "Well, I've got to get drunk again and God how I dread it." I think it was a few years after that that I heard the country song with the same sentiment.

Solid Thursday stuff, DK. Didn't Know quite what I had done but I liked all the rebus answers, although I didn't have a favorite ONE. Thanks for all the fun.

Anonymous 8:04 AM  


Dr.A 8:06 AM  

Funny, I got it but was surprised by WISDOM OF THE CROWD because I’ve always heard Wisdom of the masses. But i see it is most definitely a thing so I stand corrected! I liked it! Super cute.

mmorgan 8:08 AM  

Very clever and original (I think?) gimmick. The rebus itself was gettable fairly quickly, but putting it all together was a great A-HA moment. Very enjoyable. Rex’s experience, on the other hand, was nearly orgasmic.

Weezie 8:09 AM  

Oof, that one *felt* difficult while I was doing it but was squarely around my average time. I tried, but I never got the aha moment with the theme, and in the end I just trusted Rex would explain it to me. I kept checking the “i,” thinking maybe the title of the puzzle had just failed to load the first time. Now that I know, it’s pretty damn impressive.

But yeah, that was a gym solve for me. Didn’t have a lot of fun while doing it, but I’m glad I finished.

Anonymous 8:10 AM  

The clue on THE NBA is perfect and the objections here incoherent

Lewis 8:11 AM  

So, I reached the point where I had filled in the first three theme answers and had part of the last one filled in – when I mentally called “Time out!”, deciding not to fill anything else in until I figured out what was going on with the ONEs. A few moments later, as I stared at THE EAST INDIA (ONE) (ONE), my brain filled in “company”, and then, with an explosive aha, came the “two’s company, three’s a crowd” connection.

I tell this story to underscore the gifts that crosswords bring. Keeping the brain bank active through continual recall. The daily excitement and anticipation of a new puzzle. Building knowledge. The delicious drama that often accompanies filling in a grid. Lovely surprises. And, as today’s puzzle brought me today, thrill, the pure thrill that comes with cracking a vexing mystery.

So many gifts. I adore Crosslandia.

Speaking of lovely surprises, I did find a theme echo in two answers – TRIO to echo “three’s a crowd”, and a backward DUAL to highlight “two’s company”.

David, so good to see you back after almost three years. What a treat be dazzled by your cleverness again, and thank you for that magnificent moment of thrill today!

Anonymous 8:11 AM  

Got the theme right off the bat— unusual for me. Resolved not to complain about rebus puzzles, of which this one was certainly not the worst offender. But . . . The only way to get from north to south was through GROOT? Gimme a break.

bagelboy 8:15 AM  

In the NBA and FIBA, when a player has taken more than three steps without the ball being dribbled, a traveling violation is called.

The Rockets are the NBA team in Houston, and their players (Rockets) are called for this violation with some frequency. I don't see anything wrong with this clue.

Kent 8:22 AM  

Great stuff. I realized we were looking for rebuses early on, with IRONED and the. STINED, but couldn’t make sense of 16A. Then I got it at 25A, and spent the next few minutes of the solve trying to figure out if there were similar substitutions four and five to finish the theme, but no.

I guess a crossed vowel is the classic Natick, but NOBU/NIOBE is at least a Natick suburb. Never heard of the chef, and can never remember the Greek weeper.

I was about to ask who the comic named ELI was, but now I see “onE-LIners.”

Ted 8:24 AM  

Like others, I had to come here to learn the theme. I finished entirely on crosses and just wondered WTF the ONEs were for.

A little Naticked on NOBU crossing NIOBE. I thought it was NOMU/NIOME for a minute. Not terrible, but had to figure it out.

... and I've eaten at Nobu, so like... oops.

Vincent Lima 8:27 AM  

I guess I should feel great that I got the company/crowd thing quickly. ("Wisdom of the three? Oh three's a crowd. Hah!") But the SW corner had me paralyzed for far too long. Even with THE, ENG, ABE, and RAD in place, it wasn't yielding and I had to delete all of those, and stare until I got cHERYL; only then did it all fall in place.

Marissa 8:29 AM  

Did not love today’s puzzle, but I am an admitted non-fan of the rebus in general. I felt like today’s was clever for cleverness’s sake, and I sighed when I figured it out, like “Ok, fine, if you must.” Figured out that a rebus was afoot quickly from ALCAPONE and IRONED but just didn’t have a good time finding and filling the others. But I can accept, begrudgingly, that the NYT does not cater exclusively to my preferences. If I must.

Anonymous 8:29 AM  

Me three.

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

Me crowd

Anonymous 8:37 AM  


Anonymous 8:42 AM  

Both Rex and Jeff Chen loved the puzzle, but I wasn't as much in love. I'm also used to WISDOMOFTHEMASSES, but more importantly, WISDOMOFTHECROWD and CROWDSOURCING are very similar concepts that use CROWD in the same way, and having both as half the theme entries is iffy in my book. The "aha" moment was kind of fun, but didn't overcome this issue for me. It's a fine puzzle, but not one I'm falling all over.

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

Agree with @Lobster11 - way too many Naticks in a name-heavy puzzle which was especially noticeable because of a somewhat tricky and multilayered gimmick rebus with no revealer.

The clue (and frankly the answer) for THENBA was too try-hard. It’s not there. Trying to be tongue in cheek meta-commentary on the NBA while also a misdirect about space rockets. Feels like we see variations of this clue multiple times a month so it’s stale which the author seems aware of so he does an extra bit of misdirect with the “frequently” bit. Didn’t land. Didn’t fit with the mood and tone of the rest of the puzzle whatsoever. Maybe if there had been more humor or levity elsewhere and less name trivia this would’ve fit in and landed.

DeVecman 8:43 AM  

Had the same experience as Rex. Filling the grid was easy-medium, then had a fun aha moment after it was done. Great puzzle!

Red 8:45 AM  

Nope. The entire puzzle is dependent upon knowing the phrase "two's company, three's a crowd" with not even a clue tying the theme together.

I solved it but that's not the point.


Anonymous 8:45 AM  

Amy: always heard of Wisdom of the AGES, so still scratching my head. Did like the Crow clue. OK, got the rebus out of the way this week. Will keep trying to love rebus puzzles.

MkB 8:45 AM  

CEYLONESE bothered me, because the tea is by far more frequently referred to simply as "Ceylon tea" (if you Google Ceylonese tea without quotes, you get entirely Ceylon). I knew what it had to be, but just had all these extra letters (especially once it became clear that the rebus had to be there).

Mr. Grumpypants 8:46 AM  

Loved the puzzle, although I didn't like entering a rebus so many times, so I just used 1 and ignored the absence of Mr. Happy Pencil. Took me until THE EAST INDIA ___ to get the theme. A great Thursday puzzle.

Anonymous 8:50 AM  

Easy puzzle, difficult to understand the theme. Would not have gotten there without a direct explanation. Not familiar with any of the theme answers except CROWD SOURCING. Didn’t like the puzzle as much as others apparently did. Also I’ve never heard anyone use a SPEAR in D&D; normally it’s a javelin. CEYLONESE feels so forced. Wanted Chinese but the crosses wouldn’t even allow me to try.

Laura 8:52 AM  

This is was a first for me. Solved more easily than Rex. The rebuses were obvious, because they were next to each other. And East India company made it clear what two 1's meant, but why? So crowd sourcing made the theme obvious.

A first for me. Hope others have as much fun.

JonB3 8:59 AM  

@LMS: My mind was seriously blown by watching the link you provided. David is clearly an exceptional genius.

Anonymous 9:00 AM  

Other than having to replace all my 1s with ones at the end, this was a really excellent puzzle that had to wait until "crowd sourcing" to fully reveal itself, something that was complicated by entering Nobo rather than Nobu and having SOO rather than SOU. In retrospect I think I was a bit slow on the uptake, having failed to solve the first company, and first crowd, and then not seen the theme with the East India Company.

Speaking of which, John Maynard Keynes conjectured in 1930 that, after paying off her debts, Elizabeth I invested the remaining £40,000 proceeds from her share of the gold Sir Francis Drake stole from Spanish galleons, into the Levant Company. The profit from that enterprise was invested in the East India Company. At 3% the £40,000 would have become £4bn by 1930, which happened to be the value of Britain's foreign reserves at that time.

Along with being credited for defeating the Spanish Armada, Drake, with an assist from the weather, might thus be regarded as one of history's most important figures, having provided the initial capital for the beginnings of the British Empire. We would not be here today but for it.

Anonymous 9:04 AM  


Rug Crazy 9:05 AM  

I'm right with the first comment.

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

Have you heard the phrase "... for hours ON END"?

Nancy 9:11 AM  

Before coming here, I meandered over to to see if Jeff Chen gave this his POW. He did. Yesssssss!!!!!!! Way to go, Jeff!

Oh, this is so good! I loved it!! I wish I'd thought of it myself. It's a wonderful rebus with an extra dimension added to give the solver even more to think about and untangle. Once I had the three ONES, I immediately thought of a CROWD -- especially with the two very fair and very specific clues. But I wasn't so quick to pick up COMPANY. I picked it up easily once I got to THE EAST INDIA COMPANY, but I was baffled at ONE ONE COMMANDER -- which I didn't parse until later.

Clever, different, imaginative and challenging. Leaving aside that Marvel GROOT guy (who could have been ousted so easily*) I'd call this one of the five best puzzles of the year. Or maybe even better than that.

*A really easy tweak. Change TAO to TAN, change GOAL to FOAL -- and, bingo, GROOT becomes FRONT.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

Can someone explain hair piece and hank?

MarkK 9:17 AM  

I didn't even think of traveling in the basketball rule violation for the Rockets clue. I just figured it meant that the team, like all pro sports teams, play half of their games on the road and so therefore must travel. But maybe I just missed it because the answer came so late to me as I was frantically trying to fit in ONE rebuses in that corner.

Does HERMIONE get a pass from the JKR kvetching because she's a character who celebrates student achievement and academic prowess? Or are we all just distracted by the theme and other clues like THENBA/NOBU-BOHO cross?

RooMonster 9:22 AM  

Hey All !
Patting myself on the back for figuring it out!

Was flummoxed throughout almost the whole puz as to what the ONEs were doing. Tried adding them first, TWO COMMANDER? WISDOM OF THE THREE? No, that's silly. Had those first two in, wended my way to the SE corner, getting enough Downs to see SOURCING, and Crowd jumped into the ole brain, and I looked beck at ONEONECOMMANDER, and said "Three is a crowd, wait! Two is C

ompany, Company COMMANDER! Two's company, three's a Crowd!" And delighted in myself for grokking that!

A neat, SNAEKy theme, David.

Figured out the ONE Multi-Squre-ing in the NE corner. ALCAPONE, then had to be HERMIONE, and knew that aspect, but as said before, trick hiding nicely.

Nice start to the day. Good puz week.

Might leave for work a tad early today, to beat the ONEONEONE on the highway. I BOOK down the highway if no traffic. But normally, EGAD, it's Rush Hour.

One F

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

I did the puzzle @ 10 pm… my bedtime ritual.
Went to sleep, couldn’t figure out what the hell the “ones” meant.
Woke up at 2:30 am and said “Three’s a crowd!”
I love when my subconscious does the work for me…

Weezie 9:31 AM  

I think/hope that at this point we’ve all agreed to disagree and no one wants to poke the sleeping bear re: JKR.

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

I had the same issue with the ones! I thought the puzzle was easy I just never figured the ones until I saw your blog. 🙂

Rachel 9:37 AM  

This puzzle was too hard because the expressions it used are too antique/arcane. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what the "one" rebuses were supposed to mean. I never would have pulled "two's company, three's a crowd" from my brain. What an old expression. Also, why "one"? Like why does the rebus need to be "one"? Why not "person" or something? I don't really get it. I've also never heard of the expression "wisdom of the crowd." Never heard of it.

Shandra Dykman 9:41 AM  

Hoping someone explains “Hair piece” = HANK

Bob Mills 9:41 AM  

Honest question for basketball fans..."When was the last time any official called a traveling violation in an NBA game?"

Made in Japan 9:42 AM  

I have the same complaint as anonymous 6:51 AM and Mr. Grumpypants. In the past, I've seen some flexibility on how rebuses can be entered and still accepted, so I put in "1" in each square instead of the tedium of using the rebus feature.

Bob Mills 9:43 AM  

Serious question for basketball fans..."When was the last time an official called a traveling violation in an NBA game?"

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

Me too!

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

I apologize up front…not related to the crossword. But this crowd is so clever, I figured you could be my last hope.
Sometime ago, in a Saturday NYT, this brain tickler poem appeared. I can’t come up with the solution and neither can the wordsmiths in my life.
Each missing word is seven letters long and they are anagrams of each other.

____: The world’s in tatters lately.
So sometimes, ____, Mom grabs her tissues.
More often she’s incensed and shouts,____,
“We needs a leader who’ll address these issues!”
(Clearly, this appreared during the Trump era!)

Whatsername 9:51 AM  

Bleh! I got the rebuses right from the start but even after an extended time of studying the grid never did figure out what they were supposed to represent. If I had, perhaps I would’ve been as enthusiastic as those who did instead of feeling like the class DRONE.

@Joaquin and @SS Johnny both expressed my sentiments well this morning. Thank you gentlemen.

I’m on the NO side of the THE NBA clue. Something like “Rockets don’t get to travel much in this” would’ve been more accurate.

Chris Menzel 9:59 AM  

Never did figure it out, even after solving. But yeah, it's cute.

Chris Menzel 10:03 AM  

Shandra Dykman:

hank | haNGk |
1 a coil or skein of yarn, hair, rope, or other material: a thick hank of her blonde hair.

Those of a certain age will probably know it especially from the old Jimmie Rogers song "Honeycomb":

Tom T 10:06 AM  

Dnf on the personally unsolvable Natick trio of BOHO/NOBU/NIOBE. When you have two letters that are unknown, like the O and B in NOBU, there are too many variables to make it worthwhile to run the alphabet. So I guessed E for BeHO ("Beneath Houston?", thought I), then ran the alphabet for the B in NOBU/NIOBE, to no avail.

Also no idea what to make of all those ONEs before reading Rex.

So, a tough one for this guy--but I'll try again tomorrow!

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

4 is too many and 5 is not allowed !

Anonymous 10:10 AM  


Anonymous 10:12 AM  

That clip is amazing. Makes my morning, thanks for sharing.

MarthaCatherine 10:12 AM  

So I've broken my arm patting myself on the back for getting the "two's company, three's a crowd" fairly early. So proud of li'l ol' me. It was the HERMIONE clue at 10D after getting the ALCAPONE clue at 11D that opened it up for me.

But I did not finish. I got stuck in the SW because I had SabeR for 46A. I had that because Sword did not fit. SabeR had to be right because high school students take "bio." Had to be correct. And so for 58A I kept trying to think of a three-letter sculptor whose name starts with E. The sculptor, not the sculpture. Finally threw in the towel. Dang.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

Yesterday, probably. Calls are up this season, famously.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Me as well. —TOCP

Shandra Dykman 10:19 AM  

Ah! OK thanks. That sounds familiar tho I think where I grew up we said HUNK and not HANK 😆

Liveprof 10:22 AM  

Thanks @mathgent!

Sir Hillary 10:23 AM  

No time to read all the comments just yet, but wanted to say:

1) This was one of the most satisfying "aha" moments I have ever had with the NYT puzzle. It felt like a Matt Gaffney meta.

2) Seeing David Kwong live was one of the most mind-blowing experiences of my life. The crossword trick linked by LMS is one of many truly astonishing things he did in the show I saw. I would see him again in a heartbeat.

Nancy 10:43 AM  

That Kwong magic trick is absolutely amazing!!!! Wow!!!!

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

Technically, the S in Harry Truman's middle name doesn't stand for a single word so he often didn't used "S" instead of "S." Just sayin'.

Paul 11:01 AM  

I really enjoyed this one. Remembering it was Thursday, I reminded myself to be on the alert for tricks. After mucking around the NW, I got the ONE, but had no idea what it was doing. Moved fairly smoothly through the grid, with a few slow bits and some good guesses (THENBA, EASYA). Finished without an error (yay me) and had no idea what the deal was. Like Rex (and others) I took a few moments of mental grinding to get that AHA! moment that can make a rebus puzzle next level. It’s been a good week.

Gary Jugert 11:12 AM  

HARRY POTTER IS #1. Sadly, the author of that series now attends Villain-Con with Gru. Hermione on the other hand grew increasingly wise, strong, nuanced and capable through the series as Harry's most important sidekick. As the child of Muggles, she's a never ending wonder.

Had a rollercoaster experience with this one one one. Finding the rebus entries was super fun on the downs, but honestly they're trying a little too hard on the acrosses. Two's company three's a crowd: sure. Not as taken with the OHO-ness of this as 🦖. Seen enough videos now where it appears three is company too.

Research: When will I ever remember the chess woman's first name? Or last name for that matter? Never heard of Nobu, despite watching lots of cooking shows, but I suppose it's impossible to know all the hoity-toity hash slingers charging $22 for a hamburger.

I stared at THE NBA/ABE crossing forever. When my brain finally clicked I said, "oh brother," aloud. I spent forever trying to imagine which billionaire had a giant reflecting pool. They probably all do, eh?

Tee-Hee: STONED.


1 What a cheerleader is for?
2 Feeling prior to hitting the white water.
3 My vote for what we should do for the Breaking Bad parade.


GILL I. 11:13 AM  

Good gravy.....Another day where I had absolutely no idea. I think I'm losing my marbles. I kept asking "Will I be the only ONE who hasn't a clue?"...
So we get two ones and three ones. What do I do with them...Stare of course. Getting the ones was easy. Right off the bat I saw the ST[ONE]ED and the IR[ONE]D. Smile... Think...Go bake a cake....Nothing.
Like yesterday, I solved this like a themeless.
Find the trick...find the trick...find the trick...Dunce cap moment.
OK, so I knew it was {company} COMMANDER and it had two ones. I also knew it had to be (crowd) SOURCING and that had three ones. Still didn't get it. I'm thinking too much...Need to go read Rex. I did. AHA. Yes a loud AHA. If only I had taken a bit more time, I'm pretty sure I would've clapped my way all through the end.
Now that I see what's been done, I am amazed.
Very clever. included drool fest Don Draper and fond memories of NOBU's in Palo Alto. Fun to see his restaurant surrounded by CEYL[ONE]SE tea and some tea and spices from East India.
Crossing fingers I don't flub Friday.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

Me one one one...I knew Rex would help me out!!!

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

Me too

jae 11:31 AM  

Mediumish. I figured it out about 2/3 of the way through. Fun and clever with a delightful do-it-yourself “aha moment.” Liked it a bunch. Very deserving of POW!

Chinese briefly before CEYLONESE.

Newboy 11:34 AM  

Had a bassinet full of infant 365day-olds for 25a since “WISDOM Of THE ages” was locked behind my brow. Was thinking 16a was a couple of companies who shared a COMMANDER—an obvious error in logistics. Finally, my lovely wife blurted out the SNEAKy phrase and I went to the fridge for a V-8. Liked the misdirected 41d clueing as most of the clueing was early week direct & PPP was less obscure than expected.

Always a delight to see Kwong on the page or on a YouTube screen. Thanks to @LMS for the link; watched for the umpteenth time and still found it amazing 🎯

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

For some reason I thought the phrase was “wisdom of the masses”, though a Google search of that phrase literally brings up “wisdom of the crowd”. Not sure why I thought that.

Anonymous 11:42 AM  

Wow. That is astonishing.
Thanks for sharing.

Masked and Anonymous 11:51 AM  

Nicely done ThursPuz. Always nice to have the rebus drive by, now and then.
M&A caught on to the theme mcguffin pretty quick, probably becuz:

1. Always alert to the rebus threat, on a ThursPuzday. And 2-Down looked like it was gonna about have to be IR(ONE)D. Not so used to hittin on the rebus right outta the chute, but it did flow right into what looked to be (and was) the first theme answer at 16-Across.
2. Havin been in the army, back in his draftable-age days, M&A thought of COMPANYCOMMANDER mighty quick, as a possibility.
3. Two's company three's a crowd ain't no stranger to stuff I've heard all my life.

Did kinda wonder what the third and fourth themers were gonna dream up, to continue the rodeo. No biggie, it turned out … just rinse and repeat. No need for FOUR'S CORE or somesuch.

fave fillins included: (I am)GROOT. SYMPTOM. SHERYL & PEDAL clues, fiestin up the SW. Sneaky-vague lil HAD & WAS clues.
staff weeject pick: RDS. Plural abbreve meat. Nicer selection of 18 of em, today. With primo weeject stacks galore, in the NE & SW & the middle side areas.

Had the same troubles lotsa folks had, in the BOHO/NOBU/NIOBE area. In general, the bottom half of the puzgrid seemed like a slightly tougher solvequest, at our house. Even after we sorta already knew the theme mcguffin. (Exceptin maybe for that Down stack of names in the NE, peppered with re-busses.)

Thanx for all them rebus tricks, Mr. Kwong dude. And congratz on yer POW award.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Chip Hilton 11:56 AM  

NIOmE/NOmU, sigh . . .
Enjoyed this one. ALCAP1 broke the code early. Company/crowd took a while, but a nice moment of dawning. Thanks, David Kwong - a proper Thursday!

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

Me too.

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

Capp pled guilty to attempted adultery in that incident. The sodomy and I believe rape charges were dropped. I'm perfectly willing to accept the proposition that adultery is in fact criminal. But I've been reading he comments here for more than a decade, an I say without fear of contradiction, that will be an unpopular position.

bigsteve46 11:57 AM  

"Game of Thrones" and "Harry Potter" and " Guardians of the Galaxy" clues in one puzzle, together with "Dawn Chong Actress" crossing "Queens Gambit Actress" ... I'm glad for my money at least I've got the rest of the newspaper to read.

bocamp 12:02 PM  

Thx, David; excellent Thurs. challenge! :)


Not a EASY A by any stretch.

Sussed out the rebus early on in the NW. The ONEs were helpful thereafter.

The 'R' in the GROOT / RDS cross was my final entry.

Took a while post-solve to grok the theme; very clever.

I'm in the WISDOM OF THE 'masses' CROWD, having not heard of the latter. I see by a search of Google and Ngram that I'm clearly in the minority.

Bought my own CANOE, obviating the need for rentals.

My first laptop was an IBOOK ('02).

Stephen Graham played the young AL CAPONE to a tee in 'Boardwalk Empire'.

Loved ANYA Taylor-Joy in 'The Queen's Gambit'.

Honeycomb ~ Jimmie Rodgers

"Oh, Honeycomb, won't you be my baby
Well, Honeycomb, be my own
Got a HANK o' hair and a piece o' bone
And made a walkin' talkin' Honeycomb"

No probs with the 'Rockets' clue/answer: they are a team (as well an individual players) 'in' the NBA. They clearly 'frequently travel' around the country for away games. Yes they do (very rarely) commit 'traveling' violations on the court, but, imo, this would not fit as well with the 'frequently' part of the clue.

Interesting article re: 'traveling' vis a vis 'gathering' interpretation in the NBA:

"The NBA has decided it is going to attempt to clarify its traveling rules very soon but the rules haven’t changed – the league is just going to attempt to further explain a rule that seems to be different than what’s called a travel at all other levels of basketball.

At the heart of the matter is what the league calls “the gather” – the time when a player finishes his dribble and begins a drive to the basket. The NBA allows players to gather the ball before its referees begin to count that player’s steps. The result is a situation like this, which appears to everybody who has ever played the game as a flagrant travel – but isn’t by NBA rule." (NBC Sports)

No doubt our constructor (David Kwong) is a very talented xword creator and prestidigitator. As for his marvelous '8 of hearts' trick (thx to @LMS (6:50 AM) for the link), consider this possibility: 10 Ways to Force A Card. A wonderful performance, in any event.

Enjoyed today's mental exercise very much! :)
Peace 🕊 🇺🇦 ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🙏

kitshef 12:04 PM  

@Shandra Dykman – another name for a piece of hair is a ‘hank’.

@MarkK – Rex is a smart man, and knows that to repeat a particular complaint EVERY TIME the opportunity arises is neither necessary nor effective. He didn’t complain about EGAD, either, which he has in the past. Or MCU characters. Or ECO- thrown about everywhere. If he complained about every thing every time, people would just tune it, and him, out.

@Bob Mills – on average, traveling is called more than once per game in the NBA. Last year, it was 1 1/4 times per game, and it’s higher so far this year. And you must have missed the Knicks game in December when it was called EIGHT times against the Knicks alone

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

Loren, the crossword trick you linked to is amazing! I wonder how long it takes to put the crossword together in front of the audience like that. Even if it's a forced card so that most of the grid is already planned out, and the "audience suggestions" are also kind of forced, it must take a while to write out and fill in. It must be a pretty puzzly audience (or at least a pretty intellectual one).

Anonymous 12:08 PM  

First time ever I understood a rebus earlier than Rex. Usually they tie me in knots. Struggled only in SW where I wanted Mao not Abe.

Anonymous 12:10 PM  


Jennie 12:17 PM  

This puzzle called to mind one I did years and years and years ago (my first Thursday, maybe) when we drew in 2 stick figures to represent “men.” Aka “The Glass
🚹🚹agerie.” Anyway, thank God for “crowdsource” because I was sitting there thinking “Wisdom of the wise?” Is that a thing?” And then the big a-ha. Great fun!

beverly c 12:25 PM  

How I envy those who got the Ah Ha! It seems the trick is to say the themers out loud while pondering.

Unfortunately I was conflating El Cahone with ALCAPONE for a while, so the h threw me off. Also thinking WISDOM OF THE AGES Or maybe WISDOM OF THE MOB. And I thought maybe my COMMANDER was a Lt. And since CROWD was too long the only thing that came to me was outSOURCING and I knew that wasn't right.

In other words, I didn’t have a chance. Still, very clever puzzle and delighted to come here and learn exactly how good it was!

Anonymous 12:29 PM  

Me too!

Joseph Michael 12:41 PM  

No idea who or what a GROOT is, but Wow. This puzzle led to the biggest Crossword Aha I’ve had in a long time.

Agree with @Nancy on two counts. This is one of the top puzzles of the year and that David Kwong magic trick posted by @LMS is mind-blowing.

Had an unexpected secondary Aha while reading the comments and realizing that SHERYL is not a type of bird but rather singer SHERYL CROW.

And yet a third Aha just occurred as I also realized that Al Capone was not imprisoned in ALCA or CAPO but ALCATRAZ.

I guess I’m awake now.

Nancy 12:44 PM  

@bocamp (12:02)-- Curiosity has driven me so crazy over the years that I've sometimes thought I'd have to become a magician myself in order to find out how the tricks are done. And, when push comes to shove, I really don't want to be a magician. So thank you for your wonderful link. I now understand the secrets of a large number of card tricks.

The only one I already knew is the one where every card in the deck is the same card. The reason I know that one: I possessed a phony deck like that when I was a child. I'm pretty sure I remember that every card in it was the Queen of Clubs.

I'm also pretty sure I remember trying out a card trick on my friend Joan when we were about 11 or 12. I asked her to draw a card and then, practically shaking with anticipatory excitement, I clumsily dropped about ten Queens of Clubs on the floor.

No, I would not have made a great magician. So thanks again, @bocamp.

OlyL 12:49 PM  

Am I the only one who had trouble with the online version? It wouldn’t let me fill in the the “0” and the “S” in 1 A so I thought that must be part of the Thursday trick. Thought that all would be explained further on in the puzzle. No. I was surprised when up popped “Congratulations” when those two were blank. Weird.

Joe 12:59 PM  

I loved this puzzle!

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

One of the best puzzles in a while. Thank you David Kwong. Hope to see more of you in the bylines!

mathgent 1:09 PM  

Loved it.

All I know about Harry Potter I learned by doing this puzzle every weekday. And even with a below average memory, I knew that HERMIONE was a character in the books. She may be Harry's girlfriend. I was able to see her in 10D giving me another ONE.

I have the same advantage in clues about The Simpsons, Game of Thrones, rap music, and several other gaps in my knowledge. So I have little sympathy for those who write that they couldn't get a word because they haven't seen something or heard something or read something. Do the crossword and try to remember the words you don't know.

Sam Ross 1:19 PM  

Solved the puzzle without figuring out the “Two’s company…” shtick, but it is very cute. I just don’t like the repeat THEs, especially sharing the T.

ChrisSaintH 1:24 PM  

CROWD SOURCE is when I got the theme, and it made me laugh out loud. I loved this puzzle.

old timer 1:27 PM  

As for being mystified even though I put in the right letters, me II, or III, or XXX. Oh, I remembered that three's a CROWD, but I totally forgot that two's COMPANY. I kept thinking the (British) East India ___ might be a CO. OTOH, the ALCA(traz/capone) clue I

solved at once.

I know NBA teams travel all the time. What I didn't know is that they almost always travel by chartered plane (I suppose the NY Knicks do use a bus if they play the Nets, or just go in their own cars). And what I really didn't know is that they don't always get a travel day, they just fly the night before or the day of. Baseball is different, as befits the era when they traveled by train from, say, Boston to New York, or New York to Chicago or St Louis. They needed those travel days, since even then, some people could not sleep in a sleeper berth, and occasionally a train derailed or was in an accident.

Hands up for writing in "ChiNESE" before CEYLONESE.

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

Exactly the same for me! Really bummed since Thursday and Saturday are usual the most fun to solve.

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

Me too!

Anonymous 1:46 PM  

Oh boy, have you watched this year’s Rockets team? A lot of young guys, no true point guard, and not a lot of discipline. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do lead the league in traveling calls, and travel calls are a point of emphasis for the refs this year.

Unknown 1:47 PM  

what a joy!!! may every puzzle be this ingenious and surprising....

Doug 1:49 PM  

My feelings on rebus puzzles (or any puzzle with a gimmick) is always the same. I dislike them until I figure out the gimmick, then I LOVE them, and this piuzzle was the most extreme iteration of this dynamic yet. I was really proud of myself for picking up on the rebus very early on, but when I realized there wasn't a revealer clue I was alomst comically mad. I HATED this puzzle. I was convinced the gimmick was going to be awful, like binary code or something inscrutible like that. I had no idea what a "1 1 commander" or "oneone commander" was supposed to be, but I knew that the second and third gimmick answers were supposed to be "wisdom of the crowd" and "east india trading company" (thanks, Pirates of the Carribean!).

And when the "aha" moment hit? *chef's kiss* I was absolutely enamoured with the puzzle. LOVED it. It was right up there with the "Take the L" puzzle a few weeks ago, which was easily my favorite of 2023 so far. And I hadn't yet filled in all the crosses for "crowd sourcing" yet, so the reveal helped me get those crosses, too. It was quite an emotional journey, which made it a really wonderful solving experience. Well done, Mr. Kwong! Masterfully done!

okanaganer 1:59 PM  

I got part of the trick fairly early at the end of 25 across... okay, there's a whole bunch of ONEs, but how many? Then seeing the complete answer realized ONE + ONE + ONE is a CROWD. Clever! I put all numeral 1's which weren't accepted so just tried O's (letter O) which worked.

Had CEYL(ONE)AN mucking up the lower middle for a while. Also for "Driver's org." had PGA at first.

[Spelling Bee: yd 0, no tricky words so somehow my last two were these. I don't want to jinx my QB streak so I'll just say that it's more than 3.]

Joe Dipinto 2:00 PM  

@Rachel 9:37 – Well, one and one = two. Two = company. One and one and one = three. Three = a crowd. See how that works?

Anonymous 2:08 PM  

big fat me too as well!!!

Anonymous 2:10 PM  

Spickets for spigots? 😉

Anonymous 2:17 PM  

Me ten

Beezer 2:33 PM  

I am currently in LA and jet-lagged to beat the band. Loved this puzzle!

I am on the side of @kishef on the “traveling” thing. In fact, I did a little Googling and in December 2022 there was an article about how the NBA is “cracking down” on traveling now.

Carola 2:39 PM  

What a gem! Starting out, I left the probable rebus squares blank, wondering if someone named NED (from "stoned" and "ironed" was going to be featured. Only T-BONE and AS ONE conked me on the head with their ONEs, allowing me to fill in the ONE ONE COMMANDER and WISDOM OF THE ONE ONE ONE.

But then...what did it all mean? The phrase in my head was "Wisdom of the ages," so...1 and 1 and 1 are all ages? Or they add up to age 3? This is where the phase of DREAD set in: I have the trick, but don't understand the theme...will I ever?? Thank god for THE EAST INDIA COMPANY and its "two" It also managed to knock "ages" out of the way for CROWD, so that I could cruise to the finish.

I didn't notice the date until my daughter texted me with the 3-23-23 alert. What a wonderful puzzle!

Anonymous 2:48 PM  

I got it — finally!! — from East India Company. Thank you elementary school social studies.

Anonymous 3:19 PM  

Twos company
Threes a crowd
Four on the sidewalk
Is not allowed

Anonymous 3:54 PM  

me oneone

bocamp 4:27 PM  

@Nancy (12:44 PM) yw 😊
Peace 🕊 🇺🇦 ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🙏

CDilly52 4:43 PM  

FABULOUS!!!! So easy and yet so difficult to suss out the trick. It was the EAST INDIA (company) that I have been repeating to myself for literally hours trying to make something work. I breezed through this puzzle. And honestly enjoyed the fill but was flummoxed by the theme. In much the same way @Rex kept coming back to “crowd” it was the “company for me but I couldn’t make sense of the ONEONEONE entries. The main hangup for me was that I parse the WISDOM OF THE clue to end with “masses,” so no help. The light finally came on with (crowd) SOURCING, but only after hours of letting the metaphorical CEYLONESE tea steep that I got my very satisfying “aha” moment.

A masterpiece of construction and a worthy theme masterfully executed. Just wow.

Joe Dipinto 5:04 PM  

This puzzle must have the largest collection of disembodied first names (15, though not all are clued as such) to date on a weekday:
and the slightly more obscure RISE (soprano Risë Stevens) and TATA (singer Táta Vega)
Is THENBA a name?

Anyway, this was stellar. Expertly constructed from top to bottom for maximum suspense, with a satisfying surprise ending. A winner.

I could play two Laura Nyro songs, but I'll just play this one.

Anonymous 6:26 PM  

Fantastic best ever aha moment!


G. Weissman 6:27 PM  

Here’s an unpopular thought: the theme is so hard to suss out because it doesn’t quite work. One one one does not equal three. It might indicate one hundred and eleven, but three? Not to my mind. Same for one one. Maybe eleven, but not two. There are no pluses indicated, so this requires a lot of looking the other way to work. I I I might have worked better than one one one; at least that appears as Roman numerals. Also, the NOBU / NIOBE cross was an unfortunate natick.

Anonymous 8:06 PM  

Never figured out what the “one” fill meant. But solved it anyway with a lot of difficulty. Not the first time I didn’t get the theme. 🤷‍♀️

Anonymous 9:48 PM  

Great puzzle but I couldn’t let go of Cheryl, so wasn’t able to get that SW pocket!

kitshef 10:59 PM  

@Beezer! I thought we had lost you due to Acrostic-gate. If you are still reading, know that you can get the Acrostics at, if you have a subscription ($10/year for a Senior).

DrG 11:05 PM  

Me too

dgd 11:59 PM  

Hank of hair. Like pulling a "Hank of hair" from an opponent's head in a vicious fight.

albatross shell 1:13 AM  

My first thought was WISDOM OF THE mob.

Yes. I think 3/23/23 was the perfect Thursday to run this on. Well unless Feb. 3 was a Thursday this year or March 2 was a Thursday. Hey that was 21 days ago.

JMS 1:30 AM  

I for one, got the “one” thing pretty quickly, but was still baffled by them. Though I got the theme before all the themers were completed.
Felt pretty good about that ‘cause I often completely forget about guessing the theme.
And feel pretty good about getting the theme before Rex did.

Anonymous 2:39 AM  


Anonymous 2:42 AM  

Literally… me too

Anonymous 3:02 AM  

I thought I had the rebus early on from the downs, but it was "not any" (naught N E), so I was royally screwed for the duration. Very tedious. (insert frown emoji here).

Anonymous 7:47 AM  


Jim 3:18 PM  

It reused a clue from last week: name in "fuel injection" last week and name "one liners" this week.

Aelurus 3:32 PM  

My crossword puzzling these days is very hit or miss and sadly hardly ever on the day of, and I wouldn’t have posted today but just had to say how much I loved Thursday’s puzzle. I’d finished two-thirds of it, was staring at seven rebus squares (so far) with ONE in them, was reminded that Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! was just about to air on NPR after having taped this week’s episode in Tucson, and paused for an hour. Oh good, Paula Poundstone too!

When Peter and the gang finished, I remembered the dry beans that needed cooking (Rancho Gordo cranberries) and began sorting. Kept thinking about the crossword. Two ONEs, okay. Couple? Duet? Some sort of homonym perchance? (Also off and on reading the latest Gabaldon novel and get that patois in my head.)

Musing about THE EAST INDIA CO., which I plopped right in but now have THE EAST INDIA ONE ONE, so maybe something’s wrong...more sorting (oops, that’s a pebble), and...AHA!...suddenly “two’s company, three’s a crowd” FLOATed up! I credit the limerick part of the Wait Wait episode for loosening up the kibitzing (a la David Axelrod) part of the brain. And agree wholeheartedly with @Lewis 8:11 am about the gifts crosswords bring. And glad to hear (via @Nancy 9:11 am) that Jeff Chen gave this the POW.

What fun and how clever; thank you, David Kwong! Sorry to be a late poster (and now AZ is on Pacific time, sigh). It was great to read you all again (as of Thursday, that is), and meet new members of the commentariat. Hopefully I’ll be back to contemporaneity real soon.

JillDNY 7:34 AM  

Same. I knew crowd sourcing and East India Company, but never got my aha.

spacecraft 11:01 AM  

DNF. Left me by the wayside on the company/crowd thing. Plus there was not one single thing I knew in the entire bottom half! I got all the "ONEs" in the top, but could make NO sense of the themers.

Wordle eagle, though, so the ol' brain isn't dead just yet.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

Not bad. But it really needed a reveal.

Burma Shave 12:47 PM  


"I HAD NONEED to SEE yer heinie,
ISAY 'MA"AM, I don't LAUD yer can.'"


rondo 1:00 PM  

Got the ONE rebus stuff early enough, the COMPANY/CROWD light bulb came on at THEEASTINDIA(COMPANY). Then things made more sense. Seemed like a lot of PPP, just look at the NE corner. Also noted: EASYA AAA ATEAM, IBOOK ISAY. Circled clues: SHERYL Crow and RAE Dawn Chong.
Wordle birdie.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

I liked the puzzle just fine, but I’m surprised that no one commented on THE NBA crossing THE East India Company. (BTW, isn’t it the British East India Company, as opposed to the Dutch East India Company?) The link to his instantaneous x-word construction was indeed amazing.

Anonymous 2:14 PM  

Needs a revealer.

Anonymous 2:59 PM  

@Anonymous 8:42am, prior complainers, and future complainers:
There are 82 games in a regular season in the NBA. 41 of which are home games, and 41 are away games. NBA teams travel very frequently.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

This was a very very very good puzzle!
(Did I say very???)
One of the best this year!
But if you didn't grok it, you're probably going to knock it.

rondo 5:38 PM  

Teams are on the road a lot, but in THENBA traveling is almost never called.

Diana, LIW 7:41 PM  

OK OK. I got it, but didn't "grok" it. Then came here.

I do not like the rebi. I have mentioned this before. But this was the absolute worst ONE ONE ONE ever.

Onward to Friday. A sane day, we hope.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

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