TSE is often the answer to the crossword clue
[Lao-___] or [Literary monogram]

Typically, when crosswords want to clue TSE, they reference the great Chinese philosopher who founded Taoism, Lao-Tse, who said “The way that can be named is not the way.” Curiously, the ambivalence about how to express the Tao is nearly equaled by that over how express the philosopher’s name in English.

It can be one word, two, or hyphenated; it can have an S or a Z, and an E or U, or even an I. While the spelling currently preferred by Wikipedia, “Laozi,” has yet be used as an answer, it’s worth taking a moment to compare a number of similar answers which have, alongside useful clues to look out for:

[Mao ___-tung]
[K’ung Fu-_]
[Literary monogram]
The father of Taoism
The father of Maoism
AKA Confucius, father of Confucianism
T.S. Eliot, author “The Waste Land”
TZE[Philosopher Lao-___]
[Philosopher Mo-___]
The father of Taoism
The father of Mosism
TSU[Houston sch.]
[Nashville sch.]
T.S.U., Texas Southern University
T.S.U., Tennessee State University
[Sun ___]
[Shih ___]
The father of Taoism
Author of “The Art of War”
AKA Mencius, Confucian philosopher
Breed that’s part Pekingese and Lhasa Apso

TSE itself is by far the most popular answer of the bunch. Never a particularly appealing answer, it’s been showing up less and less over the years.

Besides the ways listed above–as part of the names of the three Chinese philosophers and initials of the poet behind “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock“–TSE has also bugged solvers through clues like:

  • [Half a fly]
  • [Market for Jap. shares]
  • [Brand of cashmere pronounced “say”]

Yet today’s clue, [First letter of “tsar” in Russian], refers to the [24th Russian letter], which looks like “tse crossword russian letter tsar” in both upper and lower cases. The letter tse crossword russian letter tsar is spelled both as “tse” and “ce.” So a new clue we could one day see for TSE is [tse crossword russian letter tsar].

As a Cyrillic letter, it’s used not only in Russian but as part of the alphabet for “various Slavic, Turkic, Mongolic, Uralic, Caucasian and Iranic-speaking countries in Southeastern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, North Asia, and East Asia. As of 2019, around 250 million people in Eurasia use Cyrillic as the official script for their national languages, with Russia accounting for about half of them.” (via Wikipedia)

It’s a pretty tough clue, even for a Friday, and at first I wondered at why it was chosen, especially as the top-left corner, where it was found, was already challenging. As it turns out, the constructor, Jem Burch, who’s studying Russian and linguistics in college, chose the clue himself. But it suits the puzzle in a much more remarkable way than that.

Just as it’s heard in “tsar,” the Russian letter tse crossword russian letter tsar makes a sound that echos throughout today’s z-rich puzzle. Though not the sound heard in the answer PUZZLEBOXES, it is through the puzzle boxes used in MINUTEWALTZ, PIZZASTONES, GETSBY, HEADSETS, PINTSIZE, and even the seat of it PLANTS. So using that meaning of “tse” really MADESENSE–a phrase which I feel I often pronounce like its near homophone, “made cents.”

There’s even a slight visual echo, as the script forms of the Russian letter resemble script zeds, of which the puzzle has an impressive seven. Just look at these zees compared to a couple of tses.

zees crossword puzzle
tse tses ce crossword answer letter russian 24th tsar

TSES has appeared once in the Times–back in 1951 it was [African flies: Colloq.]. While I wouldn’t be “tsuper” excited to to see it again clued in any way, TSES could now plausibly be clued as [tse crossword russian letter tsartse crossword russian letter tsartse crossword russian letter tsartse crossword russian letter tsartse crossword russian letter tsar] or even [Letters in “” (Russian interjection meaning “Hush!”)].

But russian hush crossword tse clue
!–don’t tell Will Shortse crossword russian letter tsar that!