Game with a 32-card deck / TUE 4-1-14 / Peak in Greek myth / Opera singer in an opera / Robb Stark's realm in "Game of Thrones," with "the" / Genetic sequence groups
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Constructor: Andrew Reynolds
Relative difficulty: It'll make a fool out of you
THEME: "HEADS OR TAILS" — (37A: Winner of the wager in 17-/56-Across, depending on how you fill the circled squares in this puzzle), with (17A/56A, Common format for a wager) being BEST THREE / OUT OF FIVE
Word of the Day: NOLTE (40A: Nick who was named People's Sexiest man alive in 1992) —
Two sides of the same coin.Andy Kravis here, rubbing for Sex. I mean, subbing for Rex. April Fools'!
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Did you remember today was April 1st? Will Shortz and Andrew Reynolds sure did. I expected some trickery today, and I was not disappointed. Today's puzzle gives us five circled squares, representing coins, each of which can be filled with either H or T:
- GUS(H/T) (3D: Sudden outburst) crossing IS(H/T) (19A: Suffix with cartoon)
- FIS(H/T) (11D: It may be landed with a hook) crossing BAS(H/T)ES (21A: Clobbers)
- (H/T)INT (24D: Bit of color) crossing (H/T)UMBLE (24A: Bring down)
- (H/T)ONES (37D: Improves, in a way) crossing (H/T)(E/A)(A/I)(D/L)S (37A: Winner of the wager in 17-/56-Across, depending on how you fill the circled squares in this puzzle)
- (H/T)AUNT (46D: Plague) crossing (H/T)OOT (46A: Blast)
Puzzles like these, which can be filled more than one way and still be correct, are commonly referred to as Schrodinger puzzles. Most recently, the January 30, 2014 NYT was also a Schrodinger puzzle, though the quantum element was limited to a single square. And, lest anyone ever let us forget, Will Shortz's favorite crossword puzzle of all time is the famous CLINTON/BOB DOLE Schrodinger puzzle of 1996.
Back to the puzzle at hand. Once you've filled in all five circled squares, at least three will contain either H or T, and that's how you know whether HEADS or TAILS won. In my initial speed solve, TAILS won 3-2, even though I had HEADS at 37A. But since Mr. Happy Pencil doesn't come up in Across Lite unless you've got 5 H's and HEADS at 37A, I think we all know who the real winner is. Which side of the coin won your solve?
This is an extremely impressive construction. 78 words and 40 blocks are reasonable numbers for a Tuesday puzzle. Of course the gimmick would be much better suited for a Thursday puzzle, but it's a fantastic April Fools' puzzle. And the theme is really the star here: the surrounding fill is fairly unremarkable, about on par with or slightly better than with most other Tuesday NYT puzzles. Mostly 3- to 6-letter entries, with the only long non-themers being the unremarkable MOUSE PADS and UNINSURED (the latter with a nice Obamacare reference in the clue). There are a few entries that I think are slightly out-of-place for a Tuesday: CODONS (44D: Genetic sequencing groups); UVEAS (25D: Eye parts -- side note, did you notice the "eye parts" mini-theme running through the grid?); maybe MT. IDA (32A: Peak in Greek myth) is too hard for Tuesday, maybe not. Not a fan of the plurals ROES and ETHELS, nor OST, ERAT, or ENE. Given how difficult this grid was to build, "unremarkable surrounding fill" is a huge accomplishment.
There were a couple of entries that had some noticeably nice, fresh clues (which I suspect came from the relatively young Mr. Reynolds): NORTH (30D: Robb Stark's realm in "Game of Thrones,"with "the") and fun. (57D: Band with the 2012 #1 hit "We Are Young"). Also nice to see ARGO clued as the Best Picture Oscar winner (as it has been more often than not since 2012), though for some reason Argo feels to me like it happened a lot longer ago than "We Are Young."
All in all, one of my favorite early-week NYT puzzles this year. Getting such a challenging puzzle on a Tuesday? ICING on the cake.
Signed, Andy Kravis, (H/T)ipster of CrossWorld