Greg Slovacek’s New York Times crossword, “It’s All On the Table”—Nate’s write-up
Before we get into this puzzle, it should be worth noting that this is the constructor’s debut(!) in the New York Times, which is incredibly impressive, considering what we’re about to tackle. Congrats to the constructor!
Today’s Sunday NYT is a poker puzzle – from the puzzle’s flavor text: “A note on Texas hold’em: Players seek to combine one or more of the cards they hold with the cards laid out on the table to make the best possible five-card poker hand.” Ok, this thankfully gives away that we’re going to likely see some playing cards in the grid… and it turns out that there are a lot of entries related to those cards! I’m going to try and organize this as logically as I can:
Player 1’s hand (22A): Queen of Clubs + Ace of Spades
22A: [QUEEN] ANNE’S L[ACE] – [Plant with clusters of tiny white flowers]
1D: AV [CLUB] – [Pop culture sister site of The Onion]
8D: IN [SPADE]S – [Aplenty]
The square shared by 1D and 22A has QUEEN and CLUB. The square shared by 8D and 22A has ACE and SPADE.
Player 2’s hand (28A): Two of Hearts + King of Clubs
28A: NE[TWO]R[KING] EVENT – [Opportunity for making professional connections]
12D: HIG[H EART]H – [Like a geocentric orbit in which the orbital period is more than 24 hours]
29D: [CLUB] MED – [Resort chain since 1950]
The square shared by 12D and 28A has TWO and HEART. The square shared by 29D and 28A has KING and CLUB.
Player 3’s hand (112A): Ace of Clubs + Ten of Spades
112A: SURF[ACE] [TEN]SION – [What can keep a bubble from bursting]
114D: [CLUB] CAR – [Place to dine on a train]
93D: SAM [SPADE] – [Humphrey Bogart role]
The square shared by 114D and 112A has ACE and CLUB. The square shared by 93D and 112A has TEN and SPADE.
Player 4’s hand (123A): King of Hearts + Jack of Hearts
123A: SMO[KING] [JACK]ET – [Some loungewear]
124D: [HEART]EN – [Give new hope to]
97D: OPEN[HEART]ED – [Honest and caring]
The square shared by 124D and 123A has KING and HEART. The square shared by 97D and 123A has JACK and HEART.
Ok, those are the pairs of cards that each of our four “players” has. Now, let’s see what five communal cards are at the center of the table (from left to right):
Queen of Hearts
81A: WHITE [QUEEN] – [Anne Hathaway’s role in 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland”]
82D: [HEART]HS – [Fireplaces]
Seven of Diamonds
49D: NEIL [DIAMOND] – [“America” singer, 1981]
78A: [SEVEN] SEAS – [Waters of the world, figuratively]
Ace of Hearts
71A: PL[ACE]BO – [Control element in medical trials]
63D: T[HE ART]S – [Literature, theater, filmmaking, and others]
Ten of Clubs
62A: SMIT[TEN] – [Taken (with)]
64D: [CLUB]BERS – [Rave attendees, for example]
Ten of Hearts
58A: [TEN]DS BAR – [Works as a mixologist]
44D: BY [HEART] – [How words may be recited]
In Texas hold’em, you combine your two cards with the three most useful cards to you of the five on the table to make the best possible overall hand you can. (ETA: Thanks for the heads up – in this game, you combine up to two of your cards with as many of the central five cards as need be to make your best possible hand of five cards.) 39D lets us know which player had the best hand:
39D: ROYAL FLUSH – [123-Across’s holding that wins this puzzle’s game]
Player 4 indeed wins with the incredibly rare ROYAL FLUSH. Their King of Hearts and Jack of Hearts was able to combine with the Queen of Hearts, Ace of Hearts, and Ten of Hearts on the board to make a 10JQKA of Hearts – both the highest straight you can have, and all of the same suit. Congrats to Player 4, and kudos to the constructor for figuring out how to make this puzzle work!
42D: MINUTE HAND – [Indicator on a clock … or one of four in this puzzle?] – I’m not sure I get this one? Is it hinting at the small (minute) hands of two cards per player?
131D: ROUNDERS – [1998 Matt Damon film featuring this puzzle’s game]
This largely felt like a success, and I really appreciated that the app turned the rebus squares into their card symbols upon completion of the puzzle. (I hope folks didn’t get stuck trying to have the app recognize their input for those rebus squares!) My only slight gripe with the solving experience was that so much theme fill made for a few rougher sections (especially the NW corner for me). But still, an incredibly impressive feat of construction that hopefully didn’t frustrate solvers. To find four across entries that each held two cards + to be able to lay out the five cards in the middle of the puzzle + to be able to tell a full story of the hand in question is a triumph, indeed. And for this to be the constructor’s New York Times debut? Wow. (It’s also quite possible that this is his first ever published puzzle, as the Crossword Fiend database doesn’t show any other puzzles by him. If so, mind blown even more!)
Were you able to conquer this beast of a puzzle? Let us know what you enjoyed about it in the comments below.
Trent H. Evans’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Weird Al”—Jim P’s review
Sadly, this grid isn’t about the genius behind “Word Crimes,” but it does insert the letters AL into familiar phrases to wacky effect.
- 23a. [Supplier of St. Nick’s steering mechanism?] SANTA’S REIN DEALER. Reindeer.
- 40a. [Consent to the installation of banana chandeliers?] ALLOW HANGING FRUIT. Low-hanging. “Banana chandeliers” would make a good name for a band.
- 52a. [“Shaquille and his entire family are so judgy”?] EVERY O’NEAL‘S A CRITIC. Everyone’s.
- 78a. [What a court ruling prohibiting games with a Nintendo princess would cause?] THE LEGAL END OF ZELDA. Legend. Ugh. I would be crushed. (And I’m not being sarcastic.)
- 98a. [Utopian novel in which people get up late?] A FAREWELL TO ALARMS. Arms. One of life’s little joys is turning your alarm off for tomorrow.
- 115a. [One who didn’t intend to become an attorney?] ACCIDENTAL LAWYER. Accident. Tacking AL onto the end of a word without changing its meaning too much is sort of the “low-hanging fruit” of this theme. But I still like it. Perhaps the Accidental Tourist, accidentally got a law degree in the sequel?
I liked most if not all of these, and I appreciate that they aren’t all easy insertions like the last one, requiring us to rethink and re-parse as needed. Well done.
Plenty of fun fill enjoy along the way as well, like RISOTTO, AREA RUGS, the late TOM PETTY, EAT CROW, “BE HONEST,” PLOT OUT, CAT BEDS, RWANDA, SEAFOOD, GLAM ROCK, MAFIA DON, and “I GOT YOU.” My sticking points were thinking that the musical was titled “Dear Evan HANSON” not “Dear Evan HANSEN,” which led me to IMANAGO for 11d [“It all gets done”]. The other one was not getting the F in MAFIA DON until late in the solve and having a hard time parsing MA_IADON for 84d [Hit maker?]. But I sorted them both out in the end.
Clues of note:
- 83a. [Chess pros, for short]. GMS. Grand Masters. Usually this entry gets a baseball clue.
- 7d. [Limited coverage provider at the Olympics?]. SPEEDO. Ha!
- 36d. [One is pressed for cash (Abbr.)]. PIN. Hmm. I get what they’re going for here, but you don’t “press” your PIN, you “input” your PIN.
- 41d. [“Hold it, horse!”]. WHOA. How long before we see WOAH as an entry? I bet it’s coming. Be ready.
- 48d. [Chris Wallace’s channel]. CNN. I didn’t realize he moved from Fox News recently. Also (duh) I didn’t realize he was Mike Wallace’s son.
Good puzzle. Four stars.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Period Pieces”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Units of time can be found when the ends of the themers are taken together
- SECURE BOND. Second.
- MINOR DISPUTE. Minute.
- HOUSE PAINTER. Hour.
- DOUBLE PLAY. Day.
- WEEB EWBANK. Week.
- MONKEYED WITH. Month,
- YELLOW POPLAR. Year.
- (revealer) TIME LIMITS.
It’s not often you see a WaPo theme like this. It’s rather typical- more in line with what the rest of Crossworld publishes. I regularly solve the Universal puzzle, and I come across this theme type often. That’s not a bad thing. Just an observation. It’s rare that I solve an entire WaPo and don’t see or care what the connection is between the themers until I hit the revealer. Even then I finished solving, looked at the grid, and said “oh, I see it.”
Themers themselves are fine. I’ve never heard of WEEB EWBANK, but that means nothing. I would categorize my sports world knowledge as “staggeringly bad.” That said, WEEB is an interesting first name. I’m just picturing him getting in trouble and his parents yelling something to the effect of “Weeb! Get your ass down here immediately! Weeeeeb!” I don’t see how they could do that without laughing. ***Looks like his actual name was Wilbur. But still. Weeeeeeeb!
YELLOW POPLAR was new to me too, but inferable.
- 19A [It’s nearly impossible to split its cream equally between both wafers, per research from MIT] OREO. I love love love OREO clues. They always get so wild and out there. This one is fantastic.
- 48A [Season of “Snowpiercer”] WINTER. So this is embarrassing, but I entered WALTER. I’m accustomed to [ ___ of “(insert show/movie here)”] clues yielding a person’s name. So yea. Walter Season. I thought that sounded reasonable.
- 59A [Group of stars or, after changing the last letter to a K, a star] ASTERISM. Good clue with a helpful nudge because I’ve never heard of that word.
- 62A [On edge] RESTIVE. I was today days old when I learned RESTIVE is not synonymous with “Restful.” Please don’t tell anyone.
- 105A [Its first letter is represented by a closed fist with the thumb alongside the index finger] ASL. For those who solved online through the WaPo applet or in the PDF, you had a pretty cool visual clue in place of that:
- 4D [Work on a column?] SCULPT. Good one. My mind wanted something to do with editing.
- 14D [Greenland sharks have long ones] LIFE SPAN. 272 years!!! That’s insane!
- 16D [Costner-Russo film set at the U.S. Open] TIN CUP. Why does this movie have lasting power? I mean, I never even saw it, but I knew the answer immediately.
- 29D [Waiting periods?] DINNERS. Good one. Referring to a server tending to you during your meal, of course.
- 79D [Guy in charge of handling stage items] PROP MAN. We always say PROP MASTER. I prefer it that way.
- 108D [Cut-and-dried] NORMAL. I’ve been saying “cut and dry” all this time. Are they interchangeable? Or have I been wrong for forever?
- 53D [“Things just ain’t what they used to be”] I’M OLD. Hahaha. I’m not so sure people are confessing that they’re old when they say that as much as they’re expressing disappointment with people who are not them.
New/Difficult names for me:
Aforementioned WEEB EWBANK, forgot ALDO Gucci, DAN Froomkin, MAURA Tierney (though I feel like I’ve seen her names in crosswords a handful of times), KEN Norton, ENOS Mireille.
I don’t think that this will go down as one of the most memorable WaPo themes I’ve had the pleasure of solving, but I enjoyed nonetheless. Happy Sunday!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Edit Down”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer contains EDIT going downward in the puzzle
- 4d [“Didn’t take any chances”] PLAYED IT SAFE
- 17a [“Trench used to channel excess water”] DRAINAGE DITCH
- 21a [“Regimen for a Padawan”] JEDI TRAINING
JEDI TRAINING was so exciting to fill in here, and I had no problem punching that it in immediately. PLAYED IT SAFE came through pretty quickly as well, especially once I got the stacking RASPY–AGILE–CUT AND DRIED–EASY top left corner. DRAINAGE DITCH took a little bit longer, but that was more due to my confusion over a double I in my once-partially filled in I IMAGINE SO.
This grid is asymmetric, and there’s so much interesting stuff in here. Between the Down theme answers and some of the longer fill like CUT AND DRIED and I IMAGINE SO. Everything flowed together really well, especially through the middle. I switched to focusing on Downs, and I cruised.
A few other things:
- 31a [“Pungent fruit with a thorny rind”] – This was a fun description for DURIAN, which I’ve never had but am so curious about. I love the fascination with its smell, and this article from Smithsonian Magazine quotes food writer Richard Sterling, who says that “its odor is best described as…turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock.”
- 40a [“‘Watch ___ space’”] – We’ve become so accustomed to even digitally checking spaces, and so I knew immediately that I was meant to fill in THIS, despite how vague the phrase is. Isn’t that crazy?
- 43a [“Bird that can grow to be nine feet tall”] – I definitely did not know this fact about OSTRICHes. They can also weigh up to 320 pounds, so watch out for these giant birds!
That’s all from me for today!
Doug Burnikel & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword, “All-star Break” – Gareth’s summary
This puzzle by C.C. & Doug Burnikel features common names of individual stars spelt out across two words, and circled for convenience. We have:
- [Stopped suddenly], SCREECHEDTOAHALT & [Makes public], AIRS hiding ALTAIR in Aquila, the 12th in apparent brightness.
- [Summons for a certain assistant], HEYSIRI & [Medication warning], USEASDIRECTED hide SIRIUS, in Canis Major, #1 in apparent brightness.
- [“Marie Antoinette” director], SOFIACOPPOLA & [Gets higher], RISES hide POLARIS in Ursa Minor, #48 in apparent brightness, but famous for marking true north.
- [Zen temple feature], ROCKGARDEN & [Tide fluctuation], EBBANDFLOW hide DENEB in Cygnus, hide DENEB #19 in apparent brightness.
- [Thyme unit], SPRIG & [Many a Pro Bowl player], ELITEATHLETE hide RIGEL in Orion, #7 in apparent brightness.
- [News program format], LIVEBROADCAST & [Dessert with a crushed cookie crust], OREOPIE hide CASTOR in Gemini, #24 in apparent brightness.
- [Glowing review], RAVE & [Get an advantage over], GAINTHEUPPERHAND conceal VEGA in Lyrae, #5 in apparent brightness.
Where do you find the suit symbols in the NY TImes Crossword app?
I don’t know if those exist in the app. When I was solving, I just put the number or first letter of each card / suit in the rebus square. For example, I put 10H in the square for ten of hearts or AC for ace of clubs … and the app accepted those answers from me. I have no clue which versions of rebus square entries the app will/won’t accept. It wasn’t until I’d fully solved the puzzle that the app turned each of my rebus squares into the fancier looking card symbols shown in the grid image above.
I typed in the face values of the cards (the across elements) and that worked also.
Thanks for the tip! Worked perfectly. I did find some help on the NYT page: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/crosswords/yes-you-can-write-more-than-one-letter-in-a-square.html?_r=0
However, this did not help in this particular puzzle because it accepted the numerical notation rather than the spelling of number. In any event, a very elegant puzzle.
That 100% didn’t work for me. I tried 10 H. I tried 10 Heart. I tried Ten Heart. I tried 10♥️. I tried using just Ten. I tried just 10. I tried just heart.
Literally no combination of letters, numbers or emojis worked in the app.
RIP my streak, I guess.
Try eg 10H
And do for all, i.e. AC (ace club), JC, etc.
After they’re all in – then assuming all others are right – you will get the streak/congratulations popup.
Frustrating for me too. I had a 99 day streak end on one of these and was at 77 now. Salvaged it. Thought it was a goner.
Killed my streak too!!! Grrr…
I typed the rebus entries consistently as across/down, and that worked. (I included the slash mark.)
Whew! Took me double the solve time to get the app to congratulate me. I made entries the way that made sense to me, but they didn’t click with the app. Nate’s clue above was the key – 1oH, etc. After all that, it was nice to see the graphics in the key squares.
I feel like I’ve tried everything! Is the key *spelling* TEN, TWO, etc.? Or using digits? I’ve done both and still get the popup that I’m “close.” I have also used the slash…and not…and nothing happens. This has gone from fun to a frustrated compulsion!!
I’m on my iPhone, by the way, if that helps anyone advise me.
90th times the charm! If it helps anyone, I finally got it with 10/H, for example, in the rebus. I think I’ll go do some Monday archive puzzles to feel better about myself!
I love crosswords. I love poker. I wanted to love this more. Ok. I get ‘the board’ being diagonal. Makes sense in the construction sense.
When I got the south ‘hands’ as cards next to each other, I expected that across the board. But the NW stymied me.
Liked it. Tried to love it.
I’m using an ipad, all my answers are correct and I used the hints for entering the rebus clues. The completed puzzle is not being accepted. Very frustrating!
I’m on a Mac and I tried two different versions (Nate’s and Lynne’s) and it won’t accept it for me either and I am very frustrated, too.
Same. Great puzzle, but the rebus wouldn’t accept my answer format, which was all spelled out (i.e. TWOCLUB, QUEENHEART, etc.). I didn’t think to use the actual numbers or abbreviate, so I finally hit reveal, which showed I had all the right answers, just didnt figure out how to get the puzzle to accept them. Frustrating. But still a super cool and elegant puzzle!
OK. I finally got it to work. Phew!
I appreciate the tips from here.
I have An iPad and can’t get the rebus to accept my answers. I think I have used every possible format. I have an 886 game streak on the line! Any help?
I also have an iPad and it took a while to finally get everything in the format Nate suggested. I took a screenshot to study the puzzle offline. I got tired of the app repeatedly telling me to try again after entering the rebus squares so I deleted the first letter in 1-across and put it back after I got the cards right.
Did you get it yet? On the app on my iPhone, 7/D in the rebus worked for me FINALLY, though I’d swear I’d already tried digit-slash-letter once before. Good luck! It feels great to be done with it!
One of the best puzzles I have solved! Being a non poker player it took me a while to finish and get congratulated.
Hats off to Mr. Greg Slovacek for his great debut! I enjoyed Nate’s riveting write up very much.
NYT: Tried first in AL, and figured out what was going on fairly quickly. Decided I should switch to the Times app, which would make it easier, and still had no idea how to enter the suits. Bagged it after about five minutes.
Probably a nice concept, just doesn’t lend itself very well to solving – in any medium.
On my iPad, using numbers when appropriate instead of letters did the trick. But it took me forever to get it right.
To get the suits do REBUS and write in for example TEN/HEART, TEN/SPADE, ETC….
Ink works better than PC for sure. Very clever puzzle. But a person like me who doesn’t know REBUS suffers. I lost me streak thanks to that! Live and learn.
Wow, this sucks. There goes my streak…
Anyone doing the puzzle *specifically* in the app on an Android? What is the rebus formatting? I can’t get it to accept anything
KING / HEART
Hoping to not lose my streak – any suggestions?
Nothing worked for me on app in Android. I even used emojis.
NYT: An excellent concept soured by arcane rebus data entry formatting. If you’re going to make us use your app, then please don’t rub it in my also making us guess how to use it. Thank you.
Agree 100%. Clever concept, but the execution was a mess and resulted in a very disappointing solving experience.
This may be the first time I’ve abandoned an unfinished puzzle. I solved everything but how to put in the rebuses. Trying to DO the puzzle was more challenging than the puzzle itself. I see from the comments that I was not the only one who had a difficult time trying to make it work in Across Lite. It was truly an unenjoyable solve.
I was glad to hear someone else abandoned the puzzle. Been solving forever and constructing last 15 years. I can’t recall ever abandoning a puzzle. Idea was very sound, but execution kludgy.
Agreed. The hardest thing about today’s NYT was figuring out how to enter the rebus answers. After starting out entering them like, “10/HEART” I decided that was way too much work and stumbled on the correct format (“10H”). But the app’s keyboard is different enough from the standard layout that I kept trying to shift keyboards using a key that actually kicked my out of the rebus to another square, which added another layer of frustration.
The puzzle itself was fine, but it was ruined by the NYT’s crummy app interface.
Was also having problems, also on a Mac. None of the options listed above worked, so I finally cleared the entire puzzle (Clear->Puzzle). Then I re-entered everything, using e.g. A/S for ace of spades or 7/D for 7 of diamonds. This time, the puzzle got accepted as solved.
I think there is some bug on Mac where once you enter a rebus in a way the puzzle doesn’t approve of, some remnant of that first solution sticks around until you erase the whole puzzle.
Or maybe I’m just flying high on lack of sleep.
NYT: Didn’t I just do an eerily similar version of this puzzle three days ago —> BEQ’s Thursday themer? Interesting coincidence, interesting puzzle.
A reasonable good concept turned to garbage due to the impossibility of sussing out how to enter the rebus answers.
I was very impressed at the intricacy of the theme entries, even if I don’t know or care for poker. There was some arcana here and there, but the wonder is there wasn’t more junk entry given the constraints.
And sorry. I just can’t relate to the app solver mass hatred of rebus puzzles. Tough. Don’t care either if reading the instructions spoils the perfection of app keying. Just do them and appreciate the challenge of sussing them out. I don’t expect a marching band to appear in the living room to congratulate me when I’m done.
After great frustration using my iPad and the NYT app I got it to accept answers in the format of # and letter for the suit (e.g. 10h is ten heart, 10s is ten spades) or for face cards a letter for the card followed by a letter for the suit (e.g. A for ace, k for king, Q for queen, J for jack and H C D S for the suit). I did not need spaces or slashes between the two parts.
But, different from what some others have reported it would not accept the first letter of a number and the suit.
Nice puzzle, but the app should have been clear on the format.
I thought the NYT was pretty great. Don’t really get all the complaining about the app. My answers were right and I knew they were right by the time I finished. I don’t really need affirmation from the laptop!
I had no problems with the app. I love a challenge and this one had challenges in “spades!” Greg Slovacek – I look forward to your next puzzle.
In general for a NYT rebus, you can just put the first letter of the answer in one direction and it gets accepted. So if the answer is TEN of SPADES, just put “T.”
My personal key with getting rebus square answers accepted is I still only put in one letter anyway.
Aaargh I don’t like it when Fiend becomes the app helpdesk.
NYT was rather difficult to solve using the app. I ended up just entering the across hands using the rebus feature. When I was finished, the app turned them into playing cards
Didn’t BEQ just do a similar card-themed puzzle with frustrating rebus fill on Thursday?
EDIT: I see I’m not alone in this thought.
Congrats to Greg on this puzzle! My head hurts thinking about constructing this one. Very clever. However, boo to the app. I had TENHEART, KINGSPADE, etc. and I didn’t get the happy music. I decided to go back and enter slashes between the rebus entries and that did the trick. For those in charge of the app, I really think how I entered the rebus squares should be one of the correct alternatives. That’s not on Greg though. Well done sir!
I always solve the large Sunday puzzles on paper,* so figuring out how to enter the card combos in the NYT was not a problem.
What was a problem, or at least a detraction, was that the brief explanation of Texas hold’em wasn’t at all helpful to me in completing the puzzle. I just put in the cards as the answers required. Trying to figure out which cards went with which to form poker hands was more than I cared to do, and supererogatory.
*I was traveling the previous couple of weeks, so I solved last Sunday’s puzzle on my phone while waiting at Heathrow. Took me 30+ minutes but I did it. Had it been this week’s puzzle I would have given up.
The Texas Hold’em explanation does make sense, at least after the fact (which I suppose doesn’t mean it’s not supererogatory):
Each pair rebuses is near a corner and represents a player’s card that were dealt face down. The five rebuses in the center represent the cards that were dealt face up. Each “player” makes the best hand they can from their two cards and any three of the five in the middle.
So the NW player’s best hand is two pair (queens and aces), the NE player has nothing, the SE player wins with a ROYAL FLUSH, and the SW player has two pair (tens and aces).
It’s a very impressive construction. I got frustrated by not hitting the right way to enter the rebus, but finally found out how to do it by reading the comments to the Wordplay column.
Knowing what each “hand’ might be could have helped some solvers, or at least upped their enjoyment.
I just read the xwordinfo.com review. The “player” in the SW corner has a full house, not two pair. Sorry.
Hope you won’t mind a pedantic response—the player doesn’t specifically have to use their two cards and three from the board, they’re just looking for the best 5-card hand possible. In Omaha, you do have to specifically use 2 from hand (out of 4) and 3 from the board.
And that full house probably means SW lost a lot on this hand…
Thanks for the clarification. It’s been decades since I played poker, and I only ever played stud poker.
Bravo, Greg Slovacek! Amazing feat of construction. Loved this puzzle on so many levels. Comments: 1) Surprised that no one here (not even the editors in the print or online versions) mentioned that these past few weeks were the Annual World Series of Poker Championship, with the final event being last night. So the puzzle was extremely well-timed. 2) Although I understand that many folks are interested in their winning streaks and therefore are concerned with inserting the rebus answers in the apps, it was frustrating that the majority of comments were about entering the answers rather than the brilliance of the many layers of construction and the joy of solving. I laughed at John H’s comment about not expecting “a marching band appearing in his living room to congratulate him!” 3) PS: Our son is one of the behind the scene technical producers of the WSOP (and most all the other poker broadcasts) and was working practically around the clock for months on the tournament, so I watch it. End of commercial plug.
Hear, hear, Karen. I’m not a poker maven by any means, but I found this to be a deliciously diabolical challenge. FWIW I solve on paper whenever possible, but I’m appalled that the NYT tech team does not do a better job of anticipating the problems folks are complaining about here and work the bugs out before publication. Perhaps they need to expand their number of trouble-shooters, especially for these types of high-concept rebus puzzles?
That’s an interesting suggestion. I know the NYT has a group of test solvers. Maybe they just need to double the size of that group when they’ve got a puzzle this complex?
And I don’t know if their team of test solvers includes anyone relatively new to puzzle solving, but it probably should.
Uni (small grid) … back up on my soapbox … BICEP again … Grrrrr!!!! One of these days I’m going to remember that some crossword constructors and editors believe that this is a valid singular spelling for a BICEPs. I suppose that I ought to be happy that the clue includes “informally” this time. I’d prefer “Arm muscle, incorrectly”.
Puzzle constructors and editors probably mostly know that BICEP is incorrect.
From what I’ve read in comments to crossword puzzles, it’s the swole guys at the gyms who use BICEP.
Sorry it’s entered the language, but I doubt it’s going anywhere any time soon. (For what it’s worth, the American Heritage Dictionary lists BICEP as a separate entry, while noting that it’s generally considered to be wrong.)
Apparently, this is one of those hills on which I’m willing to die. Every time I see this non-word it’s like fingernails on a blackboard to me.
Mine would be “alibi” used to mean “excuse.” It grates every time I hear it, though I know that battle was lost long ago.
if the people doing 8 sets of 5 to 12 bicep curls are using bicep, who am i to say it’s incorrect
I think the clue for MINUTE HAND is referring more to each “card” being small (i.e., packed into just one square).
In Texas Hold Em poker, each player only receives two cards in their hand, so that isn’t unusual. The other five are progressively revealed in the middle of the table (with betting rounds in between) – just as they are laid out in the center of the puzzle!
Judging by all the replies about lost streaks, et al., it seems like the NYT crossword stats are terrible for everyone’s mental health.
I admit that they give me angst as I solve the crosswords – am I going fast enough, can I keep my own streak going – turning what should be a fun experience into a chore.
Kudos to the debut puzzle that gave me several aha moments – even as my average time on a Sunday crossword was getting wrecked.
If I could turn the streak-tracking on the NYT puzzle off, I probably would. The gold star does seem to be dopaminergic.
I’m now closing in on 4,000 NYT puzzles solved online. It would take a much worse time than today’s to “wreck” my Sunday average. (Today’s took almost twice my average.)
I read someplace to break the streak on purpose on a regular basis so as not to get too caught up in continuing it. I have been grateful for that advice on many occasions. I completely forgot to do the puzzle on Saturday because I was traveling, but I only had a five-day streak at that point, so who cares?
NYT: Great puzzle, marred only by the difficulty of getting the rebus entered. I had to read the “Wordplay” to see that, say, 10H for ten of hearts would work.
LAT: (spoiler alert) Did it because I saw the Burnikel’s byline and loved it. It’s the first time my Junior High love of constellations and stars has proved useful as an adult.
Compared to the NYT puzzle, the LAT was a breeze.
Knowing the names of the stars definitely made it easier.
I tried multiple different things for the rebus answers until I inserted the slash between the words. I thought I had tried the number and letter combo, but maybe not. It did mess with my average solve time.
I’m trying to decide if it was more annoying trying to figure out how to enter the answers in this puzzle or reading through 60+ blog comments, most of which are complaining about exactly the same thing.
I thought it was a very clever puzzle and I’m sure it was a feat of construction, but I don’t do crossword puzzles simply to admire how clever constructors are. I guess I’m a little more selfish than that. In the end, I was glad to finally get the app I use to accept my solution and sorry that that was going to be my take-away.
If you think 60+ comments here are a lot, there are over 1,300 on the Wordplay column. I hate to imagine how many comments Rex Parker got.
Tried every combination I could think of and no luck. Finally realized I had mis-typed a letter in a non-rebus answer. Phew. 77 days and counting.
WSJ: Smooth, over-the-plate offering, not too taxing but that’s okay. I enjoyed learning about the long-lived Greenland shark in 14-D and seeing a fresh cluing angle for ENOS (a female Enos, to boot!) in 39-D.
Couple of quibbles. 48-A’s [Season of “Snowpiercer”] clue is problematic since both the film and TV show are set in a post-apocalyptic frozen-world dystopia. Begs the question: If you live on a snowball planet, is it just one long WINTER, or can you still look forward to summer vacation? Let’s hope we never have cause to find out.
And then there’s the revealer: I know it was getting long, but that’s no excuse to point the solver to the “starred answers” when what’s meant is the “answers to the starred clues.” For a moment that had me looking for an extra time-related layer along the lines of starred entries on a calendar or suchlike.
But those are nits to be sure. Thanks, E.B., for another fun solve!
Thanks, a few responses:
1) WaPo, not WSJ.
2) While I wasn’t sure if “Snowpiercer” took place in months that would normally be described as spring or summer or fall, I was still comfortable with the clue because the environment is clearly a nuclear winter. Plus you’ll find it included in various lists of winter movies like this one.
3) “Starred answers” = “Answers to the starred clues.” There’s no reason to use the latter when the former saves space and gets at the same idea anyway. For the record, Mike Shenk uses the same “starred answers” phrasing in WSJ puzzles.
Fair enough, Evan, though I will always come down on the side of precision where words are concerned. (Which is why I am now cursing my WSJ header mistake!)
For the record, I always find plenty to like in your puzzles. You are a master of your art, and I truly don’t know how you do it week after week.
NYT was one of the most amazingly designed crosswords I’ve ever seen in my life. So impressive that all the rebus card values were acrosses and the all the suits were downs. I feel like this deserved a solid 5-star rating.
My wife and I enjoyed the NYT xword and were impressed by many of the entries, especially SMOKING JACKETS and NETWORK EVENT as well as SNL HOSTS. MORTIMER Mouse was a fun, old-timey memory for me (I’m not *that* old, but I somehow knew that trivium).
The construction was indeed quite impressive. Nice job, new guy!
Also, this is the most comments I’ve ever seen on this blog, so kudos!