The New York Times’ iconic crossword seemed set to stoke nerd rivalries on Sunday when its central theme clue asked players to name “the better of two sci-fi franchises” with the first word “STAR.” In a tricky bit of wordplay, however, the puzzle and its surrounding word clues work no matter whether you choose to insert “STAR WARS” or “STAR TREK.”
The clever crossword was pointed out by Twitter user @matttomic, who posted a screenshot of the crossword’s central theme set with both “WARS” and “TREK” filled in.
Fun little trick in the Sunday New York Times crossword yesterday: the central theme clue was “The better of two sci-fi franchises”, and regardless of whether you put Star Wars or Star Trek, the crossing clues worked pic.twitter.com/NS4LDxwxxl
— ℳatt (@matttomic) February 7, 2022
The clever wordplay didn’t stop with the central grid. As another Twitter user pointed out, a number of other clues in the crossword relied on puzzlers knowing that the clue in 70-across referred to both Star Wars and Star Trek.
A number of matched puzzles elsewhere in the grid asked for answers from both franchises–for example “major role” at both 38-across and 99-across required players to know both “HAN SOLO” and “MR SPOCK.” Other themed clues asked for the franchises’ “good side,” and a “memorable quote.”
The nerd-themed crossword was designed by Stephen McCarthy, who said in his constructor’s notes that “I am a fan of both ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek,’ so it’s nice to be able to highlight both (not to mention the friendly rivalry between the two fandoms) in one puzzle.” As you might expect, McCarthy said that fitting both WARS and TREK into the same part of the puzzle was the most difficult part of constructing the crossword, while also adding that he tried to make the grid as a whole look a little like a spiral galaxy.
While known for its witty crosswords, the New York Times has just acquired another popular word game, Wordle, which has recently taken social media by storm in its free-to-play form. While the game’s creator Josh Wardle has said the game will “initially” remain free-to-play, it’s expected that Wordle will eventually come under the NYT’s subscription model.