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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Constructor: Patrick Blindauer

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: "Change Of Heart" —
Note: "This crossword was the most-discussed puzzle at Lollapuzzoola 7, a tournament held in August 9 in New York City. The event was directed by Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer. Hint: The title is key to solving the puzzle. Time limit: 45 minutes."
Across answers are incompatible with the Downs unless you "change" their "hearts" (i.e. middle letters). Sure, you get the wrong answers in the Acrosses, but you get the Downs right, *and* you've got a plausible grid to boot, with real words / phrases / names / abbrs. resulting from all the changed "hearts." (All "heart" "changes" shown in red on the grid above)

Word of the Day: GERARDO (7D: "Rico Suave" rapper) —
Gerardo Mejía (born April 16, 1965), better known as simply Gerardo, is a Latino rapperand singer who later became a recording industry executive, and more recently a youth pastor. Born in GuayaquilEcuador, he and his family moved to Glendale, California, when he was 12 years old.
Based in Los Angeles, California, Gerardo became known for his bandana, skintight jeans, locking, and shirtless torso. He sometimes refers to himself as the "Latin Elvis", the "Latin Frank Sinatra" or the Latin "Tony Zuzio" or "Joe Rider". (wikipedia)
• • •

If you solve your puzzles Downs-only (as some expert solvers have been known to do, especially on early-week puzzles), then you would've had a perfect grid without ever understanding that there was a trick, twist, or theme of any sort. Acrosses would've all looked good, and you'd've had no reason to doubt any of your answers. In fact, your answers would've been "right"—the answers considered right by the computer, anyway. I really wasn't sure how I was supposed to fill this thing in, even after I figured out the core gimmick. Well, actually, at first I *thought* I had the gimmick figured out, but I was overdoing it—I thought *every* middle letter, in both Acrosses *and* Downs, was different in both directions. Needless to say, my grid was riddled with blank squares, into which I had no idea what to put. Then finally I realized oh, it's just the Across answers that have the "heart problems" (a less breakfast-table-worthy title for this puzzle…). Then things got quite a bit easier. I thought maybe something would be spelled out, that there'd be some pattern to the heart changes … but no. You just change the "correct" Across answer to conform to the Down answer. Nevermind the "wrong" answer in the Across—your grid still looks great.

I don't know what to say about this puzzle. Hard to talk about fill quality and all that in a puzzle that's so thematically constrained. I do think it's important that all the Downs be Super-famililar, especially the ones that go through Across "hearts," because technically those crosses are not true crosses, i.e. normally you have two chances at every letter—the Across and the Down—but not here. If you don't know a Down that runs through an Across "heart," then the only thing that can help you is knowing that the Across, even with the changed "heart," has to form a real possible crossword answer. But you can't really *know* that about the puzzle except by inference, probably after you've already completed the puzzle. This is all to say that I fear for the people who have never heard of GERARDO. GE- are really the only plausible letters to lead it off, considering they're the only ones that make sensible Acrosses, but again, if you don't know that you need to make sensible Acrosses (there's nothing tell you you do), and you aren't up on your one- (maybe two-) hit wonders from the early '90s, then yikes.

I think that's all I have to say today. I predict feelings will be mixed about this one. I'm torn. I kind of wish there was something tying it all together, something punchy and unifying, something more than just the title. But it's unique and ambitious and memorable—all good(e) things.

Weirdest moment—realizing just now that the [spoiler alert!] in the clue for EARTH (26D: "Planet of the Apes" planet [spoiler alert!]) was referring to the end of the movie. I thought it was referring to the puzzle itself, i.e EARTH is, literally, a "Change of HEART." Needless to say, thinking that EARTH was a theme answer caused some, uh, confusion. I kept waiting for other changes of HEART, like, uh … HATER? I don't know.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:08 AM  

Fee FIE ho hum

wreck 12:11 AM  

I generally saw what was going on, but could not suss it enough to think I was on the right track. Solving on an ipad was impossible for me. This was waaay out of my league! I can't say I disliked it just because it kicked me to the curb - I'll just stick my tail between my legs and slink off.

Dean 12:12 AM  

Awful. Just awful. No doubt impressive to a constructor, but a mess for the user. By the time I made sense of the theme, I barely cared anymore. And never having heard of Gerardo, i had no hope of finishing this train wreck on my own.

Zeke 12:17 AM  

This kicked my butt 17 different ways, and, as we all know, there are only 14 different ways to have your butt kicked that are pleasurable.

I was about to quit when I noticed that it was a PB puzzle, then I had faith that it would be worth the trouble. What I didn't have was the sense to realize that there would be a rational behind the seeming nonsense, i.e. only the acrosses would change, and that they would change in only one spot. So, as always, I figured out half the gimick and didn't bother to figure out the other half.

Speaking of pleasurable ways to have your butt kicked, I noticed a house for sale on a local street, Severin Way. I have to buy it, no? There's a statue of Venus out front and everything.

Mark 12:37 AM  

I was going to write "awful, simply awful," but Dean above beat me to the punch. I can certainly admire constructors' skills, but surely we solvers shouldn't have to suffer in this particular way. This is the first NYT puzzle that I have completely given up on. Terrible. May have been "most discussed" at the convention, but was simply "cussed" in my living room. Discussed-ing.

retired_chemist 12:40 AM  

Disliked it intensely. To me the choice was a correct answer crossing nonsense (relative to the definition). Gave up and checked the letters, and that eventually made the gimmick clear.

GERARDO - never heard of him.

Bah. A superb constructor, whose work I nearly always enjoy, produced a clunker.

Whirred Whacks 12:44 AM  

I filled in the grid but I had no idea what was going on. I kept thinking "Is there some type of rebus happening here like the NEWS one this past Sunday." When I got to the end, the iPad "solve music" came on, but I still had no idea what idea what I'd done.

Maybe when I get up tomorrow, I'll better appreciate the constructor's genius.

Anonymous 12:48 AM  

Rex's solution - downs are right - isn't intuitive if you solve acrosses first, as I do. Scheiss. I solved it on my iPad with the rebus feature, two letters per "heart" square, but that was deemed unacceptable. I call foul. The only way to guess the constructor's intent is to have wrong answers in all those acrosses, violating the basic rules of the art. All other rebuses and tricky squares end up with a grid that honors the clues both ways. A completion for me, but utterly annoying.

okanaganer 12:48 AM  

Of course I entered the all the "change" squares as rebuses, which A.L. labelled as wrong, so I didn't know what to do, being pretty fed up by that point, making for a very un-fun finish.

Maybe I would be less irked if the across clues had referred to both possible answers? Because the down clues only work one way, it seems clunky. As Dean said, a mess for the user.

Lee Coller 12:52 AM  

I have never hated the puzzle this much. I eventually figured out that the across clues meant nothing and I would just have to do the downs. I too got thrown by the "Earth" clue, kept trying to figure out a pattern and never did.

Elaine2 12:55 AM  

I'm with pretty much everyday here: did not like this. Too bad...

Elaine2 12:57 AM  

Sorry -- meant everyONE here. Shouldn't type on the pad...

John Child 1:13 AM  

Mommy, my brain hurts. I sort of figured out to leave the downs alone and let the acrosses be whatever they wanted to be, but by the time I got to the bottom of the puzzle I was so confused that I failed to do it correctly in several places.

Looking at this afterwards I think it's awsome, but 40-some unchecked letters stretched what's acceptable.

GERARDO was an unknown; STADTLER and GORME are vaguely familiar after the fact, but remained invisible while I was solving.

Anonymous 1:14 AM  


Anoa Bob 1:17 AM  

After yesterday's dust-up about how SKINS was clued, I wonder if today's FIRE WATER will create any ripples?

It would be a GOODE name for some BATHS where a TRYST might ARISE.

Me llamA Anoa Roberto. ALOHA.

Anonymous 1:18 AM  

In the iPad app, I typed the hearts as a rebus, with the vertical letter first and horizontal letter second. It wanted the opposite order, and marked them all wrong. That's really stupid.

Got them all, except SAL for 23A Brazilian baker instead of SOL (per the solution at ). Thought of a person rather than Portuguese "sun".

Anonymous 1:19 AM  

Supremely annoying. It could have been great if there had been some sensible sense to it, e.g. when you change the "heart" of the across answer, the down answer is correct and the across answer matches the next (or the previous) across clue. Something - anything - anything but ending up with half the answers just being wrong. Foul.

Anonymous 1:19 AM  

perfectly said, but let me add that this puzzle is an abomination to a puzzle -solver (distinct from a constructor) -- opacity which is never cleverly clarified. all involved--Shortz and the creator--should be ashamed.

Anonymous 1:22 AM  

PS to above (1:18), when I completed the puzzle in the iPad app (entering hearts as rebuses, as above), the app didn't react. That is, the clock just kept ticking, as if it was still incomplete.

Chalk up another bug.

chefwen 1:23 AM  

"MEMORABLE" That was a true statement, all I want to do now is forget about it.

@Lee Coller said "I have never hated the puzzle this much" I kept saying that to myself while trying to solve this one. Finally said those two dreaded words that start with F and end with T, at that point the towel was thrown.

Had to print out a different puzzle, just to have some "fun".

Anonymous 1:24 AM  

A) My head hurts, and 2) I feel like I need to bathe and douche. Gross.

Billy 1:30 AM  

Yup Rex, feelings would seem VERY mixed, if you were to throw in a single positive review.

Anonymous 1:31 AM  

Many people mention they didn't know GERARDO. I didn't either, but still got it. The key is that all the across answers have to form valid words with either letter (the across letter or the down letter).

So if you have ADO and LOA for 6A and 15A, you can infer G for "AGO" and E for (the crosswordese) "LEA". That gives you the "GE..." as the start of the down word.

CGCal 2:22 AM  

I liked it. So much that I am making my first appearance in the comments. I guess I have at least three more ways of getting my butt kicked and finding it pleasurable than has @zeke.

My brain hurts.


jae 3:04 AM  

AAARGH!  I half assed filled this in with the across clues only and had gibberish.  I put it down for a couple of hours and poured my self a nightcap.  Then I realized the the center (heart) of each across answer needed to change.  Which I did and ultimately finished with a couple of errors as I was too busy changing the center of the across answers to reread the down clues (if that makes sense)...remember I was enjoying a nightcap.   So, actually I kinda like it but, for the same reason I passed on last week's AV Club's Bi-curious puzzle, I glad these are few and far between. 

Anonymous 3:37 AM  

It's the Edsel of crosswords...!

Gill I. P. 4:00 AM  

I'd like my money back please.
You can keep the tip.

Anonymous 4:23 AM  

Moronic and pointless

Anonymous 4:56 AM  

Is it me or is this puzzle idiotic?

Rex writes "You just change the "correct" Across answer to conform to the Down answer. Nevermind the "wrong" answer in the Across—your grid still looks great." LOL What? Nevermind the wrong answer? It's wrong. How does my grid look great when the across answers don't conform to the clues?

Thomas808 5:33 AM  

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Grr!

Greg 5:55 AM  

Worst. Puzzle. Ever.

Anonymous 6:25 AM  

@Anon 1:31

GERARDO is inferable if you assume a reasonable name, but given the rapper clue, I was quite prepared for something like MG-DR ARDO.

WNL at the title, the spoiler alert meant nothing to me, and I doubt I'll go see Planet of the Apes. About halfway through, I thought this might turn out to be fun, but that soon passed

Danp 6:29 AM  

I love it when a puzzle can spark a lively conversation (he says dodging tomatoes and beer cans). It must have been very satisfying for Lollapuzzoola contestants who solved it. I hope some of them work at the NSA.

Muscato 7:05 AM  

This is the first morning I'm glad the new iPad app doesn't keep stats over time, as it means I don't need to bother to finish this aggravating mess. I like an elegant rebus puzzle well enough, but this is just a very slim theme that results in a horrendously messy grid. Not my cup of tea, and nice to see that I'm not alone.

PBlindauer 7:11 AM  

So I shouldn't write a whole book of these? ;)

Anonymous 7:19 AM  

Stupid. I quickly lost interest when it became clear that if one direction was correct, the other was incorrect. In an attempt to create a difficult puzzle, the constructor simply decided to create something other than a crossword puzzle. If I wanted a different kind of puzzle I'd have gone out and found one.

Glimmerglass 7:26 AM  

I saw that the answers with an odd number of letters had the center (heart) a rebus-type alternate answer (across/down). I didn't notice that the down's letter makes a different (but real) word in the across word. The same is not true of the down answers. I got most of the puzzle correct, but didn't find it fun and quit with about 3/4 finished. Perhaps I would have liked it better if I'd seen the whole trick.

Anonymous 7:38 AM  

Never disliked doing a puzzle more than this one...knew my answers were right but couldn't figure out the theme and quite frankly didn't care....yuk...

NCA President 7:46 AM  

DNF because I DNC.

I solve now on the applet on the site...and when I finally just said "F@#* it" I hit reveal. The correct solution on the site blinks letters back and forth. So the conceit is to blink letters? How the hell am I supposed to do that?

Note to Will and whoever does the site: if you are going to put a puzzle that has no way of being solved on the applet, then please, in the name of all that is holy, tell us. Say that this is best solved on paper. Say this is best solved when there are no sharp objects near you. Say anything, but say something.

The bottom line is that I got to where Rex was in that I saw what was going on but had no idea how to enter it into the puzzle. There was a SLASH in the puzzle, so I thought maybe "Change of heart" had something to do with slashes...but that didn't seem right. The fact that you changed the heart of a word to account for the cross, only to make the other word incorrect made NO sense to me whatsoever.

One last suggestion for the title: somewhere in there it needs to mentioned that another word entirely would be produced. ALPHA to ALOHA being an example. ALOHA? How are we to know that just because you've created another word that hasn't been clued that it's okay?

This might have been better solved on paper where you can override the fill to suit your own understanding of how the puzzle is solved. Otherwise, I got nothing.

George Barany 7:48 AM  

Glad to see the great @Patrick Blindauer show up at 7:11 am and take his medicine from this crowd. As most of you realize by now, the puzzle was originally used last month at the Lollapuzzoola tournament, which I missed in person. One of the participants was kind enough to share that suite of puzzles with me, and Patrick himself was kind enough to explain the enabling trick to me via e-mail. So, I sat out its reappearance in the New York Times, but I did appreciate the full-court analysis over at which is highly recommend to interested Rexites. Note that this is one of the very rare times that a non-Sunday puzzle has been published with a title, and have a laugh about the experience of Lollapuzzoola solver @Joon Pahk.

Patrick's puzzle is also the subject of today's incisive webcomic by @Hayley Gold, which can be found at

Today is 9/11, not *the* 9/11, but nevertheless a somber day. Today's newspaper is full of material that is grim and disheartening, so let's lighten up about the crossword, especially one like this that stretches the boundaries of the art, requires some out-of-the-box thinking, and does not necessarily lend itself to an online speed-solving approach.

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

Perhaps the most basic principle of crosswords is not to have one-letter words -- that is, a word with black squares on both sides of each letter. And in effect that's what this puzzle has for the down crossing the middle of EVERY across answer. Another way of putting it: there's no way to check any letter of any of those down answers, so by definition it's NOT A CROSSWORD PUZZLE.

At best, this should have been one of the "extra" variety puzzles that the Times seems to publish occasionally, AND it should have had a much better title, such as "Change of Heart . . . it's not a crossword puzzle!"

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

Ruined my morning.

Susan McConnell 8:02 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 8:08 AM  

I love you, Rex. But you should really recuse yourself when the constructor is a good friend or associate. It constrains you and makes it impossible for you to do what you so best. This puzzle was an exercise in egotistical showing off. And no fun.

Davidph 8:10 AM  

I liked it! It was original, clever, and fun challenge! Yes, I had to look up GERARDO, but other than that it wasn't all that impossible. I liked puzzling over the gimmick and finally getting it.

Prefab 8:18 AM  

Put me in the "hated it" column. Part of my trouble was with the title "Change of Heart." I figured out that it had something to do with changing the letters at the hearts of words, and I came up with lots of theories on how I might do this, but I couldn't find one that would make use of both the Down and Across clues. And of course NOTHING in the title gave me any indication that the "Across" clues should be disregarded. May I be the first to suggest that the puzzle should have been retitled something like, "You're Going Down!" That would have made the puzzle "challenging-but-gettable," and not "impossible-unless-you-have-a-telepathic-link-with-Patrick-Blindauer."

Anonymous 8:19 AM  

Hated it so very much. That is all.

Mohair Sam 8:27 AM  

Wasted only 15 minutes and 10 seconds on this one. 5 minutes filling in easy gimmes, 5 minutes looking for something at the "heart" of each answer, 5 minutes figuring exactly what was happening, 10 seconds noticing 7d was a rap artist and realizing I was going to be naticked on the first 2 letters. Stopped solving then.

Didn't really hate this as much as most after reading @Rex's comment that the across answers had to make sense in some way even after you changed them for the downs - I might have sussed GE on 7d, only myself to blame. That really should have been clued "_______ Rivera". Rap tune that was a twenty years gone one hit wonder? Nasty.

Lost a couple of minutes on the "EARTH"/heart thing just as Rex did. Had EARTH along with the across's HUTCH and PAR as gimmes, so I assumed 26d and 35d (perfect symmetry btw) were both heart anagrams. Obvious change of heart. Nope.

I usually love new ideas in the puzzle, but for me this one was just a bridge too far. I'm a fan of Mr. Blindauer's work, but yeah, hold off on the book.

jberg 8:28 AM  

Count me among those who liked this one. @pblindauer, don't do a whole book of them, because once you've got the gimmick the rest is easy. But this one was just the kind of challenge I want on a Thursday.

Of course, I solve in the newspaper that gets delivered to my front porch; I notice that many of the complaints are about one or another of the electronic solving programs, not about the puzzle itself. Interesting philosophical question, whether the existence of these apps obligates constructors, and Mr. Shortz, to design puzzles to meet their needs as well as the needs of those who get the paper. Just a question - I don't have an answer.

That said, I finished with an error. I have no idea - not even of gender - about this Perez person, and I thought RYE was a small town in Westchester County. In fact, I was there for a couple days in ...

Oh. The drink. DOH!

Great puzzle, in that case!

AliasZ 8:32 AM  

Oh, how faint of HEART we all are, and how afraid of change and the unknown! This is the only impression I can come away with after reading all the comments.

Those who are intrigued by, and have a mind for, puzzles had a terrific time it. I know, I did. I caught on to the fact that there was a change of heart involved, was at AL[P/O]HA. The HEART/EARTH anagram threw me for a loop due to the [spoiler alert!] in the clue. That was the ultimate misdirection. How were we supposed that the spoiler alert referred to the movie, not this puzzle? So I tried to see if I took the first letters of all the answers and moved them to the ends of the words, like the way HEART turns into EARTH, what do I get? Zilch. I spent a good 10 minutes on this. Then what is the trick? Oh, my heart.

What other word can be made besides TRUST by changing its heart, that will make sense for the down EDY? Hey, wait, which one is correct? TRUST/EDU, or TRYST/EDY? But changing EDY to EDU is not done by changing its heart. Oh, so that's the trick!

For the [spoiler alert] and the arbitrary choice of only changing the "hearts" of acrosses, I found no logical explanation or reason. Why? Because there was none. None that was stated or implied anywhere in the clues or the notes, anyway.

But this is why it's called a puzzle.

Forty-two unchecked letters and forty-two unclued entries make a formidable puzzle indeed. Those who solve Down Only would have not even realized there was a trick, the way Joon Pahk did it in well under five minutes at Lollapuzzoola 7.

What surprises me, is the almost universal hatred of this puzzle by all commenters so far. So much for our sense of adventure, desire to be surprised and intrigued, for our appreciation of the imagination and creativity to come up with and perfectly execute a formidable trick, and for our ability to roll with the punches and enjoy the challenge of figuring out the trick.

Outside of the two big stumbling blocks described above, I found this puzzle intriguing, maddeningly frustrating, and ultimately super fun, and a delight to figure out. The ultimate AHA! moment came when the submission of my completed grid was accepted as correct.

Thanks PB II. More of this kind, please -- but once every three months will do.

Mohair Sam 8:34 AM  

Oops. Just noticed its GERARDO not Geraldo (told you I didn't finish it). I guess Patrick had to go with the rapper.

Anonymous 8:36 AM  

Doing crosswords for over fifty years. This is a piece of smug self-satisfaction crap by Mr. Blindauer.

car 8:42 AM  

i don't get this puzzle.

All I saw was a bunch of Monday-level clues which middle letters in downs bumping out middle letter acrosses to make the across a word that doesn't match its clue.

Solved pretty quickly but very unsatisfying.

What am I missing?

What am I missing?

Nooby 8:49 AM  

"Too clever by half" comes to mind. Though I appreciate the genius of Patrick Blindauer, I did not enjoy this one.

I actually started to wonder if I should stick with all acrosses or all downs, but got bored/frustrated before I sussed it out. Only time in five years of NYT solving I've ever used "Reveal complete solution". I fully expected to be blown away when I checked with Rex to have the rebus revealed, but was not. More "meh" than "aha".

If you do publish a book of these, Patrick, the title should be "Crossword Puzzles Guaranteed to Annoy"

Methuselah 8:50 AM  

This was truly the worst NYT Thursday puzzle in the history of NYT Thursday puzzles. I just quit because I couldn't stand to look at the across not making sense.

Alex 8:58 AM  

Comments dont surprise me. The puzzle was not pleasurable and the theme was not clever.

joho 9:05 AM  

What I cannot understand is how this puzzle would ever show up as an entry in a crossword puzzle contest! Seems like cruel and unusual punishment to me. I'd want my money back!

I do however think Patrick is a brilliant constructor and this puzzle displays his talent ... whether or not it's your cup of tea. I got off on the wrong foot by imagining the URK was actually OAK and leaving MOUSE & AVRIL as the correct answer. I continued in that vein in other places like imagining that REFTU was really RETRO ... but not writing in RETRO. Some sections I got right like GOODE/BEGET/EDY/TRYST.

Can we rate a puzzle WTF?

Arlene 9:07 AM  

This is not the puzzle I needed today. It's 9/11, and the memorials have already started, broadcast on TV. I'm planning to view the light towers illuminating the skyline tonight, which I can see from my home. Frankly, to run this puzzle today is an abomination of insensitivity.

I solved about halfway through, realized there was something going on with changing letters. Decided I did not want to spend anymore time on this, so stopped. I do crosswords for pleasure and fun, and this wasn't.

Thanks for a really depressing beginning to an already depressing day.

Anonymous 9:07 AM  


r.alphbunker 9:17 AM  

Since I solved the puzzle in the at-home version of Lollapuzzoola 7, I had the advantage of having had a couple of weeks to appreciate the construction.

The Lollapuzzoola puzzle had the same title and but the note read There's a method to the madness, and no need to put more than one letter in each square. I eventually figured out that there was something going on with the middles of the Across answers but was frustrated that I couldn't enter 2 letters in those middle squares.

During the resolve today (which took an average time for a Thursday), I finally appreciated why 2 letters in a square were not necessary.

What ruined the puzzle for so many people today was the unhelpful note. It would have been a lot less frustrating if the note had read When you finish the puzzle, only the Down answers correspond to their clues. Each Across answer will be a legitimate word but you will need to mentally change one of the letters of its answer to make it correspond to its clue.

Because I am a computer programmer, the AVCX Bi-Curious puzzle was less confusing to me than today's. I have written up my solution to that puzzle here

car 9:27 AM  

@Arlene .... What would you have wanted today instead of this puzzle?

An easier puzzle?
A 9/11 themed puzzle?

I respect your opinion, but life goes on.

Whirred Whacks 9:29 AM  

Maybe this is the way Quantum Mechanics works (and yes, many physicists find that annoying as well).

Charles Flaster 9:32 AM  

Totally agree!!!!

Charles Flaster 9:39 AM  

So wrong answers are correct.
Hope not too harsh as I thoroughly enjoy PB puzzles and constructions.

chefbea 9:46 AM  

Worst puzzle ever!!! And too many posts to read. Don't understand the across clues at all.So what is the real answer to 1 across? MO_SE. Just got it mouse.

Norm 9:46 AM  

No. Just ... no.

dk 9:48 AM  

🌕🌕 (2 mOOns)

Err…. Patrick do not write or make book on these types of puzzles.

So I kinda got the trick, slogged trough the puzzle in under the allotted time and started to sing "Is that All There Is."

Whining aside I liked most of the fill without the gimmick. Now for some FIREWATER… or espresso as we say in the land of dk.

Questinia 9:48 AM  

♡➪➪➪♥︎➪➪➪⤵︎ ↴
⤷♥︎➪➪➪➪➪➪♡⤴︎ ⇣
⬋⬅︎ ⬅︎ ⬅︎ ⬅︎⬅︎ ↩︎ ☹
♨︎ ➪➪➪ ☯♡☺︎♥︎☯

Steve J 9:59 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
optionsgeek 10:12 AM  

Going to submit a puzzle filled with random gibberish and made up clues and see if it gets accepted.

AnnieD 10:12 AM  

Too much misdirection for my taste.
I thought EARTH HEART something anagram-ish.
I thought with GREATER/GREETER that maybe you take one letter of "HEART" and replace it with another letter in HEART.
I thought with with ALPHA/ALOHA that you take one letter of the alphabet and replace it with a subsequent one.
Then eventually I came to the conclusion that the acrosses disagree with the downs and for no reason whatsoever, the downs dominate. That finally worked pretty well, but had no idea with GERARDO.

First time I had to google in a long, long time and very frustrating for a Thursday. Especially since the revealer still makes no sense to me, especially relative to the hint that wasn't so helpful....perhaps is the title was "Off center" or "take center stage" or "middle of the row".

Though it was a "center of controversy" I'd title this one my "Down fall".

Steve J 10:24 AM  

(Reposting since I had a typo in my original that resulted in saying I had a reaction to the puzzle completely opposite of my actual reaction.)

I didn't finish this. I didn't like this. But I'm going to strenuously disagree with all the worst-puzzle-ever comments (and especially with "this is not a crossword" comments).

If you look at the grid, this is a perfectly fine puzzle. Everything's a real word, there are few obscurities, and it's even pretty free of crosswordese and general bad fill. With a different set of clues, nobody would be going on about how this isn't a crossword (because it is: everything crosses, and all entries are real words that are quite inferrable with a sufficient number of letters in place), and the worst anyone would likely come up with is that the fill's kind of flat and unexciting.

The issue, of course, is in the cluing. With the change-a-letter gimmick, I really feel like down cluing needed to be made even easier than it was, and some choices in down answers - particularly 7D - needed to be rethought. The problem with this is, if you're not picking up on the down answer from the clue, you're kind of screwed, especially on answers like 11D, 24D, etc, where the majority of the answer features a changed letter. As solvers, we know we all rely on getting some letters from crosses to be able to figure out answers. I had too many spots, even when I picked up on the trick (which took a while; I didn't even notice the puzzle title for a long time, and I thought there was a rebus going on, and one that made no sense at that), where I just could not figure out the down. And I didn't have the desire, energy or time to go on letter runs at every cross.

I haven't checked, but does every cross have only two possible answers that are actual words/terms (e.g., there's only HUTCH and HUNCH, and no possibility of a third word that would be valid)?

So, interesting idea, absolutely a crossword, gettable with enough patience. Not particularly enjoyable for me, but that's not enough to make it the worst puzzle ever. From my seat, it isn't even close to that.

Anonymous 10:27 AM  


Fred Smith 10:34 AM  

1. Rex's "into which I had no idea what to put" is a bit of a stretched grammatical construct. Reminds me of Winston Churchill's joke: "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I cannot put." ;-)

2. This puzzle is FAR too arcane for The overwhelming majority of the NYT audience. A wasted day, dammit!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:39 AM  

I did this puzzle at Loallapuzzoola. If I had had any chance of a good total score at the tournament, this puzzle killed it.

But I will still claim some points for an accurate prediction. On Monday, August 11, I posted a comment regarding Lollapuzzoola including the following:

"Dare not give too much away, but at least one puzzle would have left more than a few of the regular commenters on this blog livid, but had me and many others saying, 'You got me good!'"

Ludyjynn 10:48 AM  

After careful consideration of Rex's and others' comments, I have had no 'change of heart', and sadly conclude that this puzzle sucks.

RooMonster 10:49 AM  

Hey All!
Wow, what an interesting puzzle. Not sure if I vehemently hate it, but sure wasn't fun. I stopped about halfway through due to 1) had what I thought were random rebus squares, and 2) having wrong answers that really screwed me up, feline for PETCAT, lsd for PCP, stay for HEEL.

I agree with most that the acrosses should have had a hint as to them making different words, or the clues could have had something like ... in them with another clue for the changed answer.

But seeing the solution, I guess "it is what it is! " The blurb said it was the most discussed puz, did they mean the most disgusting? :-)

This probably would be a better Fiteball puz than a NYT. Just my opine.


Anonymous 10:55 AM  

Let's see hit "solve" and get on with my day. In my opinion, this was really stupid.

Masked and AnonymoUUs 10:56 AM  

Well, now. A crossword puz gone mad, basically, with a bazillion hidden, uncheckable squares. "Change of Heart" is a cute title, I'd grant U. "Lobotomy" would maybe even be better.

Here's the thing, here. U can probably get away with doin something this wildass weird for a short stretch... say in a runt-sized grid. U as the solver work it through. U either get it or U don't. It's over fast. Like most runtpuzs, U find find yourself thinkin, at the end: "Geez, I'm sure glad I didn't have to live thru a regular-sized puz's worth of that! That woulda been crossword hell!". Then, relieved and (relatively) happy, U move on.

In fairness, this ThursPuz's note did say:

"Time limit: 45 minutes"

So I had been warned. Flail away for that long, then just walk away. (Relatively) happy.

This puz was a real PIP.

Nope... sorry...
real PAP. ...Change of heart.


Horace S. Patoot 11:01 AM  

@Aliasz: I think it's simply a matter of taste. I didn't enjoy this one, and I've gladly spent days solving certain puzzles I've enjoyed. Explaining why you like this one is like me explaining why I like anchovies on pizza.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:01 AM  

P.S. - Not mentioned by the constructor, so just my fantasy, but the first time I tried to solve this puzzle, I thought perhaps the title also meant that the constructor had written the Across clues and then had a change of heart and the answers no longer matched the clues.

(Which seems to match M&A's comment above, in a way.)

Fred Smith 11:02 AM  

3. (Continued). I agree completely with Anon8:08. Rex is pulling the appropriate punches in this review, almost certainly because he's a buddy of Blindauer and Shortz. Shame on you, Rex.

4. Blindauer is on an ego trip here, which I'd OK, but not on my time, please.

5. Shortz should be ashamed of himself for such an egregious lapse in judgement. I hope he now realizes that he has made an unpleasant start to the day of (my guess) hundreds of thousands of people.

Fugu 11:08 AM  

Ambitiously, I actually tried to solve this downs-only without knowin the gimmick or the title. Did about half. Down clues weren't easy enough for that, which is guess is important to the constructor--he wouldn't want me to miss his very clever gimmick! It was maddening to give in and check crosses... And find that they didn't really help at all. I think this is a legitimate puzzle, just a really hard one.

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

When I get to the point in a solving puzzle where it is apparent that the tedium involved in continuing far outweighs the reward of solving, that's quittin' time for me. I hope the constructor had fun writing it though, because that seems to be the priority in choosing Times puzzles these days. Ah, the good old days of Eugene T. Maleska ...

RnRGhost57 11:15 AM  

Tedious piece of scheiss.

M dna A 11:15 AM  

Didn't know rapper ??RARDO. Or pop singer AV?IL. Still don't know the latter, even after eyeballin @63's solution.

Is this maybe a contest puz?



J. D. KaPow 11:23 AM  

Horrible puzzle to put in the paper. This is way too inside baseball, targeting to a very specific subculture of speed solvers. In another context, this would be called "fan service", existing only to massage the egos of a particular in-group. It's fine for a tournament, but has no business in the NYT. Wow, this puzzle pissed me off.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

This puzzle was complete garbage. I think everyone who enjoys crosswords has some level of OCD, and to me a puzzle where the correct answers to many of the clues are arbitrarily wrong just smacks of obnoxious design. Sorry, but I hated this.

pauer 11:40 AM  

But what did you guys *really* think?

Anonymous 11:41 AM  

RIDICULOUS. and there won't be a change of heart here

Joseph Michael 11:44 AM  

Impressive feat of construction but absolutely no fun to solve.

Even now the completed grid looks like a big mess.

I have a headache.

Numinous 11:46 AM  

WOW! Such vitreol. I really enjoyed this puzzle. I'm with @AliasZ. I thoughht it was great thinking outside the "box". To me, the spoiler worked on two levels, In the original movie, Planet of the Apes it was not revealed until the end that the planet they were on was earth. And, of course EARTH is a change of heart.

I puzzled over this puzzle for some time even after I got the gimmick. Yeah, for a while I thought the changed letters were just random because I had a few incorrect solutions but after a while, in the southern half of the grid, I began to see that the across solutions were legitimate words which made me check the north more carefully. I had to google GERARDO. Otherwise, I thought the puzzle was terriffic though I did go over the 45 minute "limit."

chefbea 11:48 AM  

@Horace Patoot - I love anchovy pizza. Why don't we get off the subject - and everyone just post what kind of pizza they like. I also like HEARTS of palm and artichoke HEARTS

AZPETE 11:49 AM  

A big WTF for me.

Master Melvin 11:49 AM  

I was really thrown off by the spoiler alert. I thought there was some kind of letter substitution thing going on involving anagrams of heart/earth.

Never got around to looking for a different gimmick involving "heart".

If the hints were intended to lead me toward the solution, they actually had the opposite effect.

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

My complaint is not directed at the constructor; now that I see Rex' post of the grid with its red letters at the "heart" of every word across I can at least appreciate the gimmick. The brickbats should be directed at the editor who saw fit to publish this for general consumption.

M nad A 11:52 AM  

@pauer: har. See? That's why I be always attachin a "Masked and Anonymous" byline, to all my puz offerings. Got yer six inches of insulation, thataway...

U are a real good constructioneer. Don't let the critics get U down. U can and will bounce back from this. Yikes, tho... if Lollapowhatsit puzs are this rattly, I think I'll just come for the refreshments and to say hi to BobK.

Thanx for stoppin on by. U are brave. Make that breve. Change of... well, U know.

"Have a Heart and Lend Me Yer Change"

Barbara Weinstein 11:58 AM  

I loathed this puzzle before, and I loathe it now. I usually admire a puzzle that's so intricate to construct, but there's something unappealing about the lack of relationship between what the across clues say and what appears on the grid.

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

I think there's a typo in the time limit- it should have read 450 minutes! (And I needed every second of that extended time...). It has never taken me so long to figure out a theme- usually it's the first thing I work out and it helps me with the harder answers. I solve on paper, so I do have 2 letters in the boxes, so I tried to make every down word a real word -of thus finishing depressed that I was so ignorant that I can didn't know what an URK or HIBOR or TYNOR (etc) was. That said, I enjoyed the puzzle and felt like I got my money's worth today. I'll take crazy and unconventional over bland any day of the week. And you're probably right about the OCD, anonymous ...

Andrew Heinegg 12:06 PM  

Yeech! That was uninteresting and illogical. I get bothered by the Rex haters who regularly check in here but today it appears Rex was too restrained in his comments about a puzzle that he thought was less than scintillating.

DigitalDan 12:09 PM  

Since I managed to get it, with 1:57 to spare even, I liked it. Well, I almost got it; HTG GERARDO.

Not a purist; occasional changes in the rules are OK with me. Remember Peter Suber's Nomic game (described by Hofstadter in the 6/1982 Scientific American) where part of the game was that you could change the rules of the game as it went along? Every time one played would be COMPLETELY different. Some days I think we're all playing that for real.

anonymous 12:10 PM  

No hope without Gerardo and frankly not worth the bother. Saw that "Emory," "Rosie," and "Tex" formed a mismatch as well as "oak" and "avril" and a few others but thought perhaps that "h" "e" "a" "r" and "t" all changed. By the time I determined that this wasn't the revealer I felt that I'd devoted enough time to a not very interesting exercise.

Bob Kerfuffle 12:12 PM  

OK, @chefbea - Not exactly a pizza story, but . . .

About 25 or 30 years ago, I was on a group ski trip to Austria, mostly high school students. Our bus stopped for lunch at a little restaurant along the way from the airport to our destination ski town. The leader of the tour had assured everyone that whatever they ordered would be good. One boy, who spoke no German, took this as truth, and really enjoyed his meal of what he took to be steak. As I recall, he was not too upset when he later showed us his choice on the menu: Beef HEART!

Leapfinger 12:16 PM  

Well, I missed seeing a note or the tile or anything else that might have given a hint, so was on my own here. Had a hellacious time deciding whether it was ELSIE or ELMER or their cousin ALOYSIUS, the bum steer. Thanks to Johnny B. GOODE, who led me Down the right path.

Wasted time a-plenty playing with rebi; unfortunately, the first few I looked at were of the L-M and N-O variety, so that was another garden path, looking for sequential substitutions. Finally accepted that there were no relationhips, and played it as it lay. Had an undiagnosed enlarged heart at 36A, for starting with AKELA instead of ALPHA, figured ALEHA was just not in my wheelhouse. Sadly, DNF on Mr. xxRARDO, doubting a 'normal' rapper name...

Looking back, what I see is:
1. The Across clues are essentiall red herrings, functioning only to provide...
2. the 'real' clues: the Across entries, which clue the Down entries insofar as they serve to yield checked squares.
3. The middle square of each Across entry leaves an unchecked square in the Down entry.

If this doesn't compute for everyone, please know that I still have some residual swelling in the brain cortex.

I think that if there's one thing that most bothered people, it's the apparent disconnect between the initial and final Across entries. There are preliminary indications for hope in that area; will report back if these bear fruit.

Anonymous 12:17 PM  


Nicky 12:19 PM  

"...almost certainly because he's a buddy of Blindauer and Shortz"

Rex & Shortz are buddies? Is this your first time reading the blog?

Dansah 12:25 PM  

Agree. Awful. Rex's complacent review makes me question his other harsh judgements

Mr. Benson 12:28 PM  

Crushed this one. I don't time myself but it was probably a personal record for a Thursday. Had the gimmick instantly and cruised through with only a little resistance somewhere around the NONET-OSS-STATLER region. Very proud of myself today.

Marcy 12:30 PM  

Shouldn't the answer to 15A be LOA - not LEA?

Fred Romagnolo 12:30 PM  

It's been a while since I appeared on this blog. I gave up before the time limit when I realized that there were answers that were downright wrong. I knew there was a gimmick, but decided not to waste time figuring it out (out with figuring it?) I agree that it's not a crossword puzzle because acrosses have to have correct clues. Rex should recuse when friends are involved. Shortz should be spanked by his mommie, he doesn't seem to feel that he owes something to the readers. I think it's that Lallapalooza thing, most of us don't go to those things. I normally like Thursdays, but this was just too obscurantist, arcane, and premeditatedly snotty to have been allowed in.

WA 12:30 PM  

It seemed like he could not make the puzzle work so he made the problem the theme.

I knew there were two answers but I could not believe he would just abandon the across answers.

Does the word arbitrary mean anything?

C.J. from Green Bay 12:31 PM  

84 words.
47 black squares.
42 unchecked squares.
Still not sure what solutions would be acceptable. Just Rex's?
Can't see why anyone could object to any of this.


Anonymous 12:32 PM  

Lame. So it's a down-only puzzle. The fact that across words can be made different by changing the middle is of interest only after the puzzle is completed. And even as a down-only puzzle, it's very easy. Bleh.

PuzzleCraig 12:36 PM  

I did this in the At-Home Division of Lollapuzzoola. The explanatory note was better there, and I saw through the gimmick quickly enough to finish in 19:43 with no lookups ("Google tickets").

I am in agreement that the gimmick used here is probably more expected at crossword tournaments than in the daily puzzle, and given that my time on it was over double my average Thursday puzzle, I have to think it was probably too hard for the Times to publish this way without a better explanation of the trick.

Marcy 12:37 PM  

Shouldn't 15A be LOA, not LEA?

Ludyjynn 12:51 PM  

Well said, @FredR!

I'm off to the dentist; a more pleasant experience than the puzzle, I hope.

pmdm 12:58 PM  

If this had been published as a Sunday variety puzzle, no one would complain. Context is everything, they say.

Had the grid been flipped, exchanging the across and down entries, I wonder if the trick, which I never figured out, would not have caused nearly as much trouble.

I agree that the hint was not a very helpful hint. The title is certainly NOT the key to the puzzle: the key to the puzzle is that the across clues to not define the correct answer. Understanding that the clues are wrong for the answers is the key to solving the puzzle. Not only is Will's clue unhelpful, it is simply wrong.

I concentrated a lot on 38D, which I knew was hover, and 49A, which I knew was Abe. Moving down, 66A had to be fireeater, 57D tower, 68D Tex and 76 Rosie. And with all this information, I still had no idea what was going on. Perhaps if I had noticed every across answer had an odd number of letters, that might have given me the hint I needed.

Of course, the concept of entering different letters for intersecting answers is hardly innovative. Why not up the ante and required four different letters in intersecting words. For example, why not have the down clue have NS in the square for the down answer and WE in the square for the across answer. Oops, that was done this past Sunday. And that puzzle did not get the condemnation this one has gotten.

So perhaps we didn't need a title to this puzzle at all. All we needed was the hint "Consider this past Sunday's puzzle for a hint to solving today's puzzle."

Just because I never caught on to the gimmick, I'm not going to call the puzzle terrible. I would call the hint absurdly horrible and the reason the solving experience was not enjoyable. Today's puzzle simply takes Sunday's gimmick and puts it on steroids, and adds the extra bonus that substitution the down answer's letter for the across answer's letter forms a correct word (irrelevant but elegant).

Mr. Blindauer, perhaps a whole book would be overkill. But why not try to create a similar puzzle with the added restraint that the down answers will also be a correct word when the across letters are substituted for the correct down letters.

pauer 1:01 PM  

No, @Marcy: the answer to every Across clue needs its middle letter changed to get the answer I was going for.

mac 1:01 PM  

What are you talking about? Only some of the clues were wrong!

This one destroyed me at Lolla, Of course I did it in decent time today. I admired the fact that all the wrong acrosses were turned into real words.

I did know you would all hate it....

Leapfinger 1:01 PM  

Wow, talk about acid reigns! Hope Patrick B has a high Resilience Quotient!

Re finding connections between Across-1 and Across-2, there was indeed some Bomb in Gilead. Current findings [in no particular ordure] are:

CURIE CUTIE, from "Call me Madam"
ALOHA ALPHA: HI to "Dances With Wolves"
PEACH PERCH: Place from which to collect low-hanging fruit
AVRIL AVAIL: Lavigne en Rose to the Occasion
TRYST TRUST, a necessary component
DRUID DROID [this slot still open]
HUTCH HUNCH: Dang low ceilings in these chicken-coops!
PRUDE PRIDE, for my next March on DC
GREATER GREETER: Walmart hires the biggest and best
FIE FOE: Some people just don't Fight Fair
COD CAD: Thanks for all the bad fish
GOO GLO: A big number for dyslexics
FIX FOX, Make it really 'fair and balanced'
VEE VIE, predecessors to Vo Vum
EMORY EMERY: Georgia Peach with a Southern awl
ABE AVE: The Lincoln Hwy
OK'S OSS: Dulles' dishwater, in Casey's needed
POL PAL: DC lobbyist
BE SET to BEGET, no explanation necessary; this one's a DIY
Finally, Beware of Geeks BARON BACON

Not meaning to be a hog about these; there's plenty more to play with. In particular, GOT ME GORME has possibilities for fine dining enthusiasts.
Just serving this up to illustrate maybe we shouldn't turn BLIND AUgERn too quickly on this Thursday.

It do grow on you.

Zeke 1:02 PM  

Re- P Blindauer's "ego-trip" in making this puzzle.

The puzzle was made for a tournament, most likely specifically designed to be the soul-crusher of the puzzle set, and rumor has it that most tournaments have such a puzzle. It did what it was intended to do. How does that translate to constructor's ego? In truth, it probably fit the requirements placed on it perfectly - if you figured out the conceit of the puzzle it was eminently solvable. If not, eminently unsolvable. In short, a perfect test of one small aspect of puzzles.

In some ways it reminded me of an advanced calc course I took in college. You had the choice, take your grade on the final or the grades of the in-semester exams for your grade. I chose to skip the class entirely for the semester and just take the final. The prof made the final such that if you understood, I mean really understood, the subject matter it would take you five minutes to complete. If you just knew the majority of facts underlying the subject matter there was no way in hell you would ever solve any question on the test. Then, as with this puzzle, I failed. That doesn't change the fact that the test was brilliant.

The fact that Will bought it for the Times is a completely different story.

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

Gave up after four minutes of utter confusion and came here, and I'm STILL P.O.ed that I'll never get those four minutes back in my life. This "crossword puzzle" (and let's just stop pretending it is anything of the sort) was (to put it waaaay too nicely) a giant, steaming pile of doo-doo, and heaping it upon us is indefensible, despite the best efforts of the four or five apologists who've tried to say nice things about it. Boo! Hiss!

mathguy 1:14 PM  

I'm shocked at all the negative comments. I liked it a lot.

Having read the comments here for some time, I'm quite sure that most of you are better solvers than I. So I would have thought that the relatively straightforward cluing would have enabled most of you to pick up the gimmick early and finish it up as you do most Thursdays.

I solve using paper and pen where I do a lot of crossing out and circling so I can appreciate the problems the online solvers had.

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

I was not amused

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

Clearly this CONFLICT OF INTEREST has gotten in the way of Rex giving an UNBIASED and UNCORRUPT reviews of these crosswords we PAY for. How deep does the rabbit hole go Rex? At what point did Rex--no, MICHAEL--stop representing the REAL crossword solvers?

We, as solvers, need to STAND UP and demand NO MORE--no more FAVORS, no more CORRUPTION, no more SHIELDING these constructors from the TRUTH.

Watch this comment get DELETED, and you will see that these bloggers only care about their CLIQUE. They don't care about US. They will CENSOR, and SUPPRESS. But WE will be heard! You can't stop the FACTS from coming to light!

Sic Semper Tyrannis!

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

constructor = fail

Rex Parker 1:45 PM  


Anonymous 1:51 PM  

This does not qualify as a crossword puzzle, in my opinion. It is a guessing game. ABS becomes AHS. who cares? This is the sort of thing Will loves on the NPR show, but it doesn't belong here. All it accomplished was to deprive me of a crossword puzzle, which is why I subscribe to the NYT in the first place. I didn't just hate it, I strongly object to its inclusion in the space where a true crossword ought to be. Bah!

the redanman 2:04 PM  

I got bored and came here to see what was up. I'm not impressed.

Next ...

Elaina 2:07 PM  

Wow. These comments inspire my first comment ever. This was, for me, my fastest and easiest Thursday ever. I got the gimmick as soon as i saw the title and couldn't get a correct down with 'ado'.

Rhody 2:07 PM  

Why why why? I
I just want a crossword puzzle. Plain and simple. Or maybe plain and not so simple. The NY Times used to have just that. It's against my natural instinct to misspell something. I quit about 6 minutes in to this. I'm done with the "figure out the quirky twist" puzzles.

jdv 2:11 PM  

Challenging. I think there are two acceptable solutions to this puzzle: acrosses or downs. I went with the acrosses, and the 'against the clock NYT' app didn't accept my solution. I don't think I had any errors, but it's hard to tell. I had to guess at the PAL/LLAMO cross.

I like that Shortz takes chances on puzzles like these. It keeps things interesting.

Jet City Gambler 2:16 PM  

I enjoyed this one, but it certainly was a struggle. Didn't notice the "heart" thing right away, but I noticed all the double letters were symmetrical, which helped. The last one I got was ARISE, stared at those three blank squares forever.

Then, when the whole thing was complete after ~30 minutes, I noticed the TRYST - TRUST entry, and realized that using just the down letters resulted in a valid grid.

Nice to see something different, a fun outside-the-box puzzle on Thursday.

Judge Judi 2:18 PM  

I suspect Rex gravitated a bit toward unexpected kindness for this puzzle, because he is an avid supporter of Lollapuzzoola.

Witness for the puzzle's defense: Each Across word consistently has a middle letter. So the solver can just draw a slash in all those spots, to mark the changed squares. Then go about solving, putting Across letters above the slash, and Down letters below the slash. Since the Across middles ("hearts") are supposed to "change", circle the down letters in each slashed pairing, as they should be the correct answers for such squares. Of course, knowing that this can all be done is not obvious... but that's why it is called a Puzzle.

Witness for the prosecution: Title of the puzzle, to not be misleading, should be "Change of Heart Horizontally". As is, the solution is inelegant, as the Down centers do not change.

Also, to give the solver a chance for completion, all the clues and answer entries must be very easy. So the puzzle becomes very hard until the solver knows the trick, and then too easy, after he/she knows the trick. The clues here are mostly easy, with a few ?- laden exceptions. There are some unfortunate names, such as AVRIL, SOL, and GERARDO, which are most unfortunate -- GERARDO being the worst, since its letters are, as Rex pointed out, crucial to supply a winning puzzle solution.

Verdict: Guilty of not publishing this on a Saturday. Suspended sentence, for the constructor.

Brian 2:22 PM  

Too many comments to check if this has already been said, but if you enter 2 letters in the affected lights, a good across answer is in there

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

For those who liked this concept, a question ...

What distinguishes a puzlle in which this concept is executed brilliantly from one in which it is done hamhandedly?

IOW, I take a grid with Monday fill, then change the Across clues to match words with a different middle letter. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but that seems to be the long and short of it.)

For such a "puzzle," what counts as elegant and what as dreck?

Colic Book Goy 2:28 PM  

Worst. Commenters. Ever.

Davidph 2:39 PM  

@anon 2:26 The genius of this puzzle is that every across answer is one of a pair of worthy words that differ by their middle letter. Those pairs can't be easy for the constructor to find. The key to solving it is to uncover the pairs, using both across and down clues as guides. You can't just take any Monday puzzle and convert it to a puzzle like this.

Carola 2:46 PM  

I took "change of heart" to mean that the central letter of all of the entries that have odd numbers of letters, both Acrosses and Downs, would change. So I drew a diagonal SLASH through each of those squares. I ended up with all the right letters, but with two answers for all the affected Acrosses, like MOUSE/MOOSE. Wasn't sure what to do with the fact that the Downs didn't work that way, e.g. URK.

So, I "finished" (able to get GERARDO by figuring out what alternative Acrosses would work, as @Anonymous 1:31 pointed out), but didn't understand that the "original" Across answer (e.g., MOUSE) had to be eliminated

@pauer - I enjoyed the puzzle, but "Change of Heart" was a misleading title, because not all of the hearts change - only those of the Acrosses.

john towle 2:55 PM  

I've been working the NYT xword puzzles since the days of the great Margaret Farrar, to include Will Weng & Eugene Maleska. If I really taxed my brain I could even sometimes do the ones on Saturday by Rich Norris. Manny Nosowsky & Martin Ashwood-Smith have long been my favorites. Of course then there was Ed Lutwiniak, the NSA guy who turned out beautiful Sundays. Having said all this as a preamble, today's was a real embarrassment, not just to the good folks I've mentioned (God bless some of their sweet souls; may they rest in peace) but to Will Shortz & his otherwise great stable of constructors. I wish I could be kinder on this National Day of Mourning. "Embarrassment" was the least pejorative word I could conjure up.



Tom 3:05 PM  

Perhaps some may find these more palatable:

No gimmicks, guaranteed!

Z 3:06 PM  

"I didn't get it" is not a valid criticism of a puzzle. It is a puzzle. This puzzle has an internal logical that is perfectly sussable. The editor put a huge hint in bright flashing neon (okay - a title and a note, but this is a NYTX equivalent of bright flashing neon). As @Steve J pointed out, the resulting solution is a perfectly valid grid. The puzzle is Natick free (the closest is GERARDO and the G and E are very gettable once you figure out the trick). And it is Thursday, when all of us are on high alert for fun and games.

@pauer - A+++. The criticism is proof of your success. You might take solace in a little Calvin and Hobbes.

As for Rex being easier on his friends. Hah. You don't know Rex very well if you think that. However, I do suspect that Rex shares a viewpoint, a frame of reference, a shared sense of what is good, with certain constructors. This lends the appearance of favoritism where all that is really happening is agreement.

CGCal 3:21 PM  

You know other people can see what you write, don't you, silly, ugly commenters? For heaven's sake, listen to yourselves! And then get over yourselves.

It does us all some good to be reminded every once and a while that we're not half as clever as we think we are, nor are we each of us the center of the universe. Come to think of it, maybe today is the perfect day for such reminders.

Anon 1:37 - hilarious! If I join the resistance, can I wear a beret? Will I suddenly look good in one?

It's a puzzle. I liked it, a bunch of you didn't. Geez Louise.

Mohair Sam 3:22 PM  

@z - Your third paragraph above an excellent insight on @Rex and his so called "favored" constructors.

Lewis 3:27 PM  

@Q -- perfect!

Kicked me but good. I didn't get the gimmick, but others did, and it was gettable, so I feel like the puzzle was worthy. The title was a misdirect for me, but it does fit the puzzle. Between that, and the heart/earth misdirect, I just couldn't get past it. And from the sounds of it, a lot of others couldn't either.

But it's Thursday. We expect out of the box, and if every once in a while something hard yet viable comes, I see it as a blessing. People who only want puzzles in their sweet spot -- that's like surrounding yourself with yes men.

I applaud the puzzle, Patrick. Come up with more like this -- please!

Mike 3:35 PM  

Spot on. Very impressive, but not much fun.

wreck 3:47 PM  

I went back and read my own comment early last night and pretty much stand by what I said, even after all the probably record number comments today! I would be curious to know the number of people that solved electronically as opposed to pencil and paper. This was not a puzzle conducive to an ipad! I think "circle" function available in the old app would have helped a little.

Tim Hansford 3:59 PM  

Only if that would get them all out of your system ... :-)

Jim Finder 4:03 PM  

Well, this comment is superfluous by now, but from my POV this was not a puzzle with incorrect across answers that don't match the clues.

In my finished grid all the answers match the clues, but for no reason at all, 40-odd squares have two letters written in them.

Patrick Anderson 4:11 PM  


JFC 4:12 PM  

I remember a Rex critique to the effect that if so many people didn’t get the theme, the puzzle was a failure. I also remember Rex defending Pauer against some mean comment by Jim. These occurred several years ago, so please don’t make me prove it. The point is that Rex likes Pauer and his critique today reflects that. The puzzle is a failure by Rex’s standards. But he won’t say it.


the redanman 4:13 PM  

I thought about it a bit

It's not a crossed word puzzle per se, not very interesting trick and anything requiring that much specificinformation nullifies any creativity in it.

Label me disappointed, still not impressed. It's a function of the diminishing returns of so many puzzle constructions meeting rigid conduction rules and the internet digging up everything already done.

pauer 4:14 PM  

And I thought all Patrick's were gentlemen.

Natick 4:30 PM  

Haven't been doing these long enough to pick up the "Heart" reference, but certainly noticed something was up. Thought it was that every horizontal had one letter changed and filled it in with rebus. Nope. Wasn't until I came here that I saw that I had to change the letter (and that it happened to be in the heart).

Got GERARDO (a guess - I work with one), but had to guess at NOL.

One typo as I had left OATs. fixed it and *music*

Must not have be at this long enough for it to be so irksome.

Nancy 4:33 PM  

I don't enter puzzle competitions because I solve in a leisurely, relaxed fashion and have never timed myself. Timing myself would take all the joy out of puzzle-solving and would make me tense and jumpy. But if I HAD entered this competition and lost because of this ridiculous joke of a puzzle, I would have been furious and demanded my entrance fee back. FIFTY PER CENT OF THE ANSWERS ARE WRONG AND ARE SUPPOSED TO BE WRONG???!!! Are you kidding me? This is the laziest, most arbitrary puzzle I've ever seen. I agree with Mark, Rhody, retired chemist, chefwen, chefbea, Thomas 808, Alex, joho, and most of all ludyjynn whose trip to the dentist, I hope, was more fun than this. I also agree with all the Anonymi who hated it. Put me solidly in the Worst Puzzle Ever camp.

chefbea 4:35 PM  

153 comments!!! WOW

Anonymous 4:39 PM  

Unpleasant and annoying. Nothing more to say.

Anonymous 4:43 PM  

Poor puzzle, not the constructor's fault, but the NYT's - fail by Will Shortz in publishing it. Piece of junk.

Anonymous 4:56 PM  

I decided that this was the perfect 9-11 tribute, inasmuch as the "clues" do not match the "official answers" for half of the puzzle.

DanielB 5:00 PM  

Holy bovine! Consider that if this puzzle really was a piece of dooky as indicated by all the negative posts, we really wouldn't be discussing it that much . . . If I had not spent so much time trying to determine the reason for the letter switching, which was not there, I might have been a contender. I really had a good time with this one. Thanks pauer!

Anonymous 5:00 PM  

Maybe it seemed like an interesting idea to the constructor, but doing it was not fun at all. Finally getting the trick brought no flash of appreciation. Ad hominem comments and insults to PB are uncalled for, but this was definitely not an enjoyable puzzle for me.

Guy who didn't like the puzzle. Got it, just didn't like it. 5:18 PM  

@Alias Z - Why do you find it necessary to insult those who disliked something you liked? It's perfectly reasonable for someone to dislike this puzzle, why label those who didn't as "faint of HEART ...afraid of change and the unknown"?

Further, I would be so bold as to assume the most, if not all, readers here fit the first and second clause in your sentence: "Those who are intrigued by, and have a mind for, puzzles had a terrific time it[sic].", but clearly not the second part. Was it their minds that were deficient so as not to have had a terrific time?

You obvoiusly liked the puzzle. Great, shout from the rooftops, extol its virtues without end. Just don't call those who didn't stupid.

Wednesday's Child 5:29 PM  

Hey, I really liked this puzzle. Maybe because I filled in all the squares.

I used the Judge Judy approach, two letters in the questionable spots.

All the across answers had to be odd numbered to have a heart. Is this hard to do?

I didn't realize until reading it here that the across answers made sense with either entry.

AliasZ 5:34 PM  

@Guy who...,

If you read "stupid" into my comments, I applaud you for your talent in fiction.

Carissa 5:54 PM  

Totally frustrating to do and not even impressive or interesting now that you've told me the gimmick. This may have been interesting for the folks attending Lollapuzzoola 7; it's not worthy of publication in the NYT. Bad choice, Shortz.

Anonymous 6:14 PM  

@4:56 PM - total agreement with you for a perfect 9-11 tribute! The sooner we have a discussion on THAT as we have had here, the better!

I heart Enlenkotter 6:18 PM  

I have been doing the NYT crossword puzzle since 2/15/42. I have done at least 25,000 xword puzzles since then. I went through my ICDB and could not find a crossword that I hated as much as this one. There was one in 1957 that really got my goat but my blood pressure (just checked) on this one rose to ridiculous proportions.

I want you to know Blinflauer or whatever your name is that I had to pop a bunch of pills just to keep my equilibrium. You should be more thoughtful and realize that the health of the elderly is at stake when you publish this type of flim flam.

Unknown 6:22 PM  

Loved it, personally. Thursdays are often where the rules get thrown out and I wasn't disappointed. :) I was a bit surprised when I got to the comments and read all the hate. The down answers aren't unchecked, they're constrained by the fact that the acrosses make "real" words (ok, real crosswordese at least), which I thought was fairly natural. In many cases I was able to use that to figure out the down letter ahead of time.

Anonymous 6:38 PM  

Stink, stank, stunk. Making a correct answer incorrect rather than verifying or validating it is not why I bother with this stuff.

Anonymous 6:41 PM  

I am on the clearly less popular "liked it" side. I am not into speed solving and do this on paper which is more forgiving it seems. It was a challenge to be sure, but an interesting one.

Nooby 6:46 PM  

OUCH! More or less constructive criticism aside, we still love you, Patrick Blindauer. Brilliant construction but an unenjoyable solve, that's all. As many have said, appropriate for a tournament but maybe not for the NYT.

Anonymous 6:58 PM  


Guy who didn't like the puzzle. Got it, just didn't like it. 7:04 PM  

@Alias Z - You're right, not "having a mind for puzzles" (as that had to be what kept them from having a terrific time by your construction) such as the glory that is clearly your mind doesn't translate to "stupid". I'd forgotten how brilliant you truly are. Or think you are. Or want us to think you are.

It's not only possible, but actually preferable, to make a point without putting other people down.

Anonymous 7:30 PM  

And why is this not gibberish?

OISK 7:39 PM  

Finished it!! Felt great having beaten the time limit, too. Steinberg may have beaten me on "Soulloc" (???) two Saturdays ago, but Gerardo was a logical guess; at least it is a genuine name, and there was very little in the way of obscure pop culture to throw me off. I got it! I had to go through most of my original across answers and change them, and it was great fun altering the middle letter to form a new word that also fit the down clue. Great fun! Loved it.

pauer 7:40 PM  

Just wait until you see my Ted Talk which reveals the hidden message!

Anonymous 8:08 PM  

Worst puzzle of the year

Enquiring Mind 8:19 PM  

@Guy who etc.,

You are absolutely right that it's possible and preferable to make a point without putting other people down.

Would you care to elaborate on why, out of the multitude of possible choices available to you today, you happened to direct your remarks to one of the distinct minority that actually presented a POV in reasoned language and complete sentences? I would have thought there'd be vast quantities of more deserving grist for your mill.

michael 8:26 PM  

I just didn't get the gimmick at all and had to come here to figure out what was going on. I think this is the worst I have ever done on a NYT puzzle including Saturdays.

I went to the dentist today and enjoyed this more than the drilling, but not all that much more.

Still, I have to admit that the theme is clever and don't really understand the animus by most of the commenters.

Anonymous 9:10 PM  

Guy who didn't like the puzzle. Got it, just didn't like it. said...

Brilliantly put! Expresses my thoughts of AliasZ much better than I could myself.

Anonymous 9:17 PM  

hated thursday's puzzle so much! after a while i went to read deb amlen's "wordplay," something i rarely do, and got the hint to fill the downs first ~ still! what a struggle for no reward ~ feh.

Anonymous 9:38 PM  

Worst piece of s*&! I've ever seen.

Anonymous 9:41 PM  

Of course, who you insult and how you choose to do it says at least as much about you as of the other person.

What's that saying about pointing a finger, and three point back at you?

Anonymous 9:43 PM  

Crappy trick to play on us. Why have across clues? This puzzle stinks and wrecked all pleasure in solving.

wreck 9:58 PM  

SanFranman ??

GPO 9:59 PM  

OMG. Hardest NYT Times I have ever done, ever.

It took me forever to get this gimmick. In fact, I had the grid filled rebus-style and 99% complete, to my my utter dismay and confusion, before I realized the gimmick., Then hurray, two seconds later I was done.

One thing I still don't get. Are the alternative acrosses, like CURIE and ASNER, supposed to mean anything in and of themselves? Or were we just supposed to realize that you could, e.g., make ASNER if you put LON NOL for the down?

Anonymous 10:21 PM  

I have been trying to wrap my head around this and I still don't get it. How does the title (a weak pun at best, and a vague one...the heart of words? What is that?) let you know that it's ok to completely ignore the across clues? More power to those of you who figured it out, but how? It seems this just completely disregards the premise of the crossword puzzle and I can't find enough internal justification for it to make it work. What am I missing?

Gene 10:25 PM  

At least this time, unlike at Lollapuzoola, I understood the gimmick. And I can appreciate it. But I still don't really like it.

Lewis 10:29 PM  

@pauer -- loved your comments today.

Anonymous 10:32 PM  

This puzzle makes me cry. Also the puzzle sulks.

Z 10:41 PM  

It still seems to me that the overwhelming majority of negative commentary can be summarized by the phrase, "I didn't get it." Likewise, the overwhelming majority of positive comments feature some version of "I got it." There are a few exceptions to this, but very few. below are all the actual negative critique of the puzzle I could find in all the comments. Did I miss any? The number of "like's" is actually about normal for a puzzle that pushes the envelope, they are just buried by the quantity of negative comments.

"I usually love new ideas in the puzzle, but for me this one was just a bridge too far."
"anything requiring that much specific information nullifies any creativity in it."
"I remember a Rex critique to the effect that if so many people didn’t get the theme, the puzzle was a failure."
""Change of Heart" was a misleading title, because not all of the hearts change - only those of the Acrosses."
"Too much misdirection for my taste."
"This is not the puzzle I needed today."

My personal favorite negative comment is, "Maybe this is the way Quantum Mechanics works." That one made me chuckle.

Anon 1:37 p.m. - So wrong. The fact that your post is still there invalidates your whole point, a fact that I find very amusing in a whole schadenfreude sort of way.

Anon 2:26 asked "What distinguishes a puzzle in which this concept is executed brilliantly from one in which it is done hamhandedly?" I answered this in part earlier. The puzzle has an internal logical that is perfectly sussable. As @Steve J pointed out, the resulting solution is a perfectly valid grid. Despite the constraints of the puzzle, the fill is not horrid. GERARDO is the most problematic but @OISK (noted for not being up on hit music) managed to suss it out, supporting my earlier contention that even that wasn't a bad answer. To me, this is a well-executed puzzle.

John Child 10:48 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Child 10:49 PM  

@Z, add "forty-two unchecked letters" to the valid criticism list.

John Child 10:52 PM  

And "across clues and answers have no relationship."

Z 11:36 PM  

@John Child - I omitted the positive observations including @Steve J's observation that all the "new" acrosses appear to be the only valid alternative to the original across answer - hence checked - because my comment was already long. However, that is the reason a "downs only" solver could do this puzzle without ever seeing, or needing to see, the theme. As a result, I had pigeon-holed all those observations (perhaps unfairly) into the "I didn't get it" critiques. I do get why so many first said "unchecked," but after reading @Steve J's comment I concluded that when one really groks the theme you find that every square is actually checked.

John Child 12:30 AM  

One more whack at the deceased equine... I see what you say, but if one doesn't know, for example, Lon NOL then that N is a mystery. The across clue is no help: the T from ASTER has to change to something, but what? That square is unchecked, isn't it?

Over and out!

Change Is Okay 12:41 AM  

@Z: I'm never quite sure if the commenter called "m & a" is being negative, positive, unsure, or just slyly equivocating. But I thought he hit it on the head, when he (I think) suggested that this puzzle was just too much of an overly weird thing.

The construction is quite impressive. The theme, such as it is, is flawlessly consistent.

Difficulty? I'd vote extremely challenging. A lot of the challenge came, for me, from a very unusual theme approach that was tough to pin down. And if the trick is this widespread, permeating the entire puzzle, I have trouble filling much in. I simply could not get traction in the puzzle.

Enjoyment? Once again, m & a said it pretty well. This puzzle is both "real pap" and "a real pip". I don't know how to vote. I enjoy a challenge. But I also enjoy a "solving experience"; i.e., making somewhat steady progress, as payback for a hard-fought struggle. Maybe this theme idea, in this extremely large dosage, is just a tad too sadistic, for my taste.

Creativeness? I thought the concept of "change of heart (of the word)" was clever. I think the down letter overriding across letter idea is pretty good, but the implementation of having solvers make educated guesses for each of the 42 "fuzzy letters" is a bit thin. I probably would have shied away from that approach. The 'note" used was insufficient to prop up this educated guess approach, and it might have been hard to write a note that did the job right, without giving too much away. Maybe something added about "42 words have to be slightly altered", or the like?

All in all, I'm still glad I got to see this puzzle. And I marvel at the breadth and depth of the comment reactions. This has been a nice change of pace -- just this once!

Guy who... 12:44 AM  

@Enquiring Mind - Why focus someone who posted in reasoned language and complete sentences? Precisely because they did so. I don't know if @Alias Z is a gifted or a careful writer, but he certainly aquits himself in terms of the clarity of his posts.

That being given I hoped that he could have made his point, that he liked and admired the puzzle, without questioning and combination of the stoutness of heart, the bravery with which they face the unknown, or their facility of mind when it came to puzzles. @AliasZ had his opening paragraph and the first sentence or two of the second leading to the conclusion that the puzzle was terrific, couched in terms that those who didn't reach the same conclusion had some deficiency. It reeked of a smug arrogance, one that could only be satisfied with his success by putting down those who didn't share his opinion.

Joe Dipinto 12:52 AM  

I read the comments earlier but didn't have a chance to post till now. I was surprised at the plethora of negative reactions. I generally enjoy PB's puzzles, and this was no exception.

My first entry was GOODE, and seeing that I AM A ROCK--clearly the "correct" answer-- wasn't going to work as a cross immediately gave me a clue that individual letters needed to be changed in the middle (heart) of answers. But only some, or all?

Proceeding through, at first, like Rex, I began to think the changes were in all the answers across and down, but since some of the down answers had an even number of letters it quickly became obvious what the actual trick was.

(Another thing that initially threw me -- for the president clue I thought James (Monroe) and Andrew (Jackson) and wondered if the answer was supposed to be JQA -- John Quincy Adams. Was that an intentional fakeout from PB?)

Anyway, it took me well under half an hour to finish. I thought it was great. (But my friend M had a DNF and hated/didn't get it. I did try to explain it.)

Bravo, Patrick! I missed Lollapuzzoola this year so at least I got to do one of the puzzles.

Joe Dipinto 1:06 AM  

I would also like to point out to all those complaining that the across answers are "wrong":

No. They aren't. Because the instructions quite clearly indicate that things will need to be changed in the answers to make the puzzle work. So, if you follow those instructions, the across answers conform to the premise and are therefore correct.

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