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New York Times, Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Author: Adam G. Perl
Editor: Will Shortz
Adam G. Perl
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Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 40 Missing: {JQZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 28 for Mr. Perl. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Adam G. Perl notes: It is rare nowadays to see a crossword puzzle in the NY Times with only three themes, and not very long ones at that. In fact, ... more
Adam G. Perl notes:

It is rare nowadays to see a crossword puzzle in the NY Times with only three themes, and not very long ones at that. In fact, only 33 squares in this puzzle are devoted to thematic material. Still, I like this puzzle for its simplicity — three poker hands reversed. (ANTES and CARDS in the upper and lower corners are Poker related, but not really thematic.)

In the original version I submitted, the two long down entries were also poker terms, namely CHECK RAISES and SMOOTH CALLS, both of which were clued as "devious bets." Will didn't like them because he had never heard of SMOOTH CALLS (he's obviously not watching enough poker tournaments) and strictly speaking they weren't thematic since they lacked the twists of the three Across entries. So, at his request, I repealed and replaced them with LAMEBRAINED and GO TO THE DOGS (not meant to be a comment on either this constructor or the puzzle).

I also like the two crosses in the grid — hinting at a double-cross theme. I'm not crazy about the grid-spanning 7-Down DO THE BEST YOU CAN because it is not thematic and is the longest word in the puzzle, but I needed it to keep the word count down to the maximum of 78.

This was one of the times when I wish the daily puzzles had titles. This one I called "Bad Beat." (In poker, a bad beat is a term for a hand in which a player with what appear to be strong cards nevertheless loses.)

Jeff Chen notes: Such a great idea! At first, I was confused by a queen 'beating' a king at a CHESS MATCH. She doesn't actually beat him, does she? I ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Such a great idea! At first, I was confused by a queen "beating" a king at a CHESS MATCH. She doesn't actually beat him, does she? I still didn't get the theme after wondering why an ace "beats" a pair at DOUBLES TENNIS — an ace just wins one point, right?

Beautiful a-ha click when I got to SOCK DRAWER. Two pair does beat three of a kind there (as this disorganized non-sorter of clothing well knows). Such a fun realization that the themers are all wordplay examples of when poker hand orderings get reversed. So playful, so amusing, and so novel.

Well crafted grid, too. Some bonuses in REDBOX, GO TO THE DOGS, LAME BRAINED, DO THE BEST YOU CAN; not too many dabs of crossword glue in ISR, RES. (Some complain about ESAI Morales popping up in too many crosswords, but he's had enough big roles to be fine to me.)

I would have liked a couple more great bonuses considering that there were only three theme answers. Since the solving experience was so smooth, I would have accepted just a touch more crossword glue to get another great bonus entry or two. Perhaps if AMES IOWA and TRIBUTES could have been replaced with snazzier entries?

It's so rare for me to see a non-derivative theme idea. Loved, loved, loved this one; made me brainstorm for other examples, which is a sign of a great theme idea. (All I could think of was some potty humor related to a STRAIGHT FLUSH …)

1
A
2
N
3
T
4
E
5
S
6
I
7
D
8
O
9
L
10
G
11
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12
A
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D
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M
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L
A
15
P
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E
16
E
A
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17
C
H
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18
M
A
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H
19
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D
B
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A
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F
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A
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A
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I
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A
39
D
O
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40
B
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S
T
E
N
N
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41
S
42
T
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S
N
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B
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B
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H
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P
Y
E
48
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D
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M
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B
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K
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W
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0809 ( 24,746 )
Across Down
1. Feeds the kitty : ANTES
6. Immunity ___ ("Survivor" object) : IDOL
10. Trash bag brand : GLAD
14. Bread : MOOLA
15. Dixie bread : PONE
16. Reduce, as anxiety : EASE
17. Where a queen can beat a king : CHESSMATCH
19. Disney's "___ and the Detectives" : EMIL
20. Mossad's land: Abbr. : ISR
21. Catch wind of : HEAR
23. Bird on Australia's coat of arms : EMU
24. Beat by a whisker : EDGE
27. Medium for some sculptures : ICE
29. Big name in DVD rental : REDBOX
31. Soccer's Messi, informally : LEO
32. Half a sawbuck : ABE
34. Sculpt : CARVE
35. Cheese in moussaka : FETA
37. Midwest university town : AMESIOWA
39. Where an ace can beat a pair : DOUBLESTENNIS
42. Outpouring after a celebrity's passing, say : TRIBUTES
43. Wine ___ (oenophile, often) : SNOB
45. "Borstal Boy" author : BEHAN
47. Onetime English poet laureate Henry James ___ : PYE
48. School email suffix : EDU
49. Dish often served with home fries : OMELET
51. Texter's "Yikes!" : OMG
53. Forerunners of smartphones, for short : PDAS
54. ___ Xing : PED
55. "Forbidden" fragrance in old ads : TABU
57. California's ___ River : EEL
59. One taking a bow in Greek art : EROS
61. Where two pair beats three of a kind : SOCKDRAWER
66. Breakfast brand : EGGO
67. Morales of "La Bamba" : ESAI
68. Cockamamie : INANE
69. Pain in the you-know-what : PEST
70. Make rhapsodic : SEND
71. What hands are composed of : CARDS
1. "The Walking Dead" channel : AMC
2. Japanese drama style : NOH
3. Gout target, often : TOE
4. Cow on milk cartons : ELSIE
5. Get fresh with : SASS
6. Hoppy brew, briefly : IPA
7. Give 100% : DOTHEBESTYOUCAN
8. Number of times Howard Hughes's Spruce Goose flew : ONCE
9. "The Merry Widow" composer : LEHAR
10. "Hmm, I don't know about that" : GEE
11. None too smart : LAMEBRAINED
12. "I, Robot" author : ASIMOV
13. Highest-quality : DELUXE
18. Radiology exam, briefly : MRI
22. Scout's job, briefly : RECON
24. One with pointy ears and shoes : ELF
25. "___ I Do" (1926 jazz standard) : DEED
26. Completely fall apart : GOTOTHEDOGS
28. Was mentioned, as in conversation : CAMEUP
30. Times to crow : DAWNS
33. Think the world of : ESTEEM
36. Hearing-related : AURAL
37. Garment in a vestry : ALB
38. Certain plural ending : IES
40. Alfred of I.Q. testing : BINET
41. Coke or Pepsi : SODA
44. Transportation to school : BUS
45. Flock loser of rhyme : BOPEEP
46. Come out of one's cocoon : EMERGE
50. Subdues with a shock : TASES
52. Goal for some H.S. dropouts : GED
53. Primary strategy : PLANA
56. Big name in audio systems : BOSE
58. Holder of the Obama cabinet : ERIC
60. Dipsomaniac : SOT
62. What Rick called Ilsa : KID
63. Word in 12/8/41 headlines : WAR
64. Terminus : END
65. In medias ___ : RES

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle.

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