## Sunday, July 17, 2022

### Sunday, July 17, 2022, Greg Slovacek

IT'S ALL ON THE TABLE

Hey everyone! Glad to be back blogging this week, especially on the heels of a lovely weekend at our friends' lake house in the Catskills. Swimming was great, kayaking delightful, food, drink, and company at its usual high level.

And speaking of high level, today's puzzle was beyond belief. What a tour de force! I sit in amazement as I look at the grid. I made two errors in the rebus squares, one because I used an incorrect number, and the other because I used an incorrect suit.

But enough about me, let's talk about the theme. We have four people playing Texas Hold 'Em poker, represented by 22A, 28A, 112A, and 123A. In case you're unfamiliar (the note helps if you are), in this form of poker, each player gets two cards which are hidden from everyone else. After a round of betting, the dealer turns up three cards, then one card, then the last card, with rounds of betting between and after. Your hand is made up of the best five cards from your two and the shared five.

The grid supplies these cards by having 13 rebus squares, where the across answer uses the card value, and the down answer uses the suit. For example, 22A: Plant with clusters of tiny white flowers ([QUEEN]ANNESL[ACE]) uses values twice, while 1D: Pop culture sister site of The Onion (AV[CLUB]) and 8D: Aplenty (IN[SPADE]S) use the suits. Thus, the player at 22A has the Q of clubs and the A of spades as her down cards, which gives her two pair when combined with the five middle cards.

Poor 28A (NE[TWO]R[KING]EVENT) should fold immediately before the flop even shows up. 112A (SURF[ACE][TEN]SION) is a sadder case, because he has a full house (tens over aces), and will probably stay in the betting until the end. But the winner is 123A ([SMO[KING][JACK]ET), because she lucks into the ROYALFLUSH on the last card.

Note that there's only one diamond card on the table (NEIL[DIAMOND]). Hard to fit that into any other phrase...

The last touch comes at 42D: Indicator on a clock ... or one of four in this puzzle? (MINUTEHAND). Hah! What a great way to indicate the need for rebus squares!

 You don't have to be a VENETIAN to stroll here

Having spent this much time on the theme, I'll just mention a pair of C/APs that I enjoyed:

41A: Reason one might not go out for a long time? (INSOMNIA) - not a pandemic.

16D: They might be down for a nap (BLANKETS).

This week has a hard act to follow to keep up the level of puzzling. And Horace, 20 minutes is how long it took me as well.

- Colum

#### 3 comments:

1. Did not finish, alas, and totally my fault...I misread the clue for VENETIAN as "Locale of" Saint Mark's square rather than "Local of," duh, and tried to rebus my way somehow to VENICE, ITALY before throwing in the...cards. The puzzle is remarkable, isn't it? And I appreciate the easing up of the clues throughout the grid.

2. I'll agree here, too, and say that I thought this was an incredible puzzle - and a debut! Really outstanding.

3. I could tell early on there was some kind of rebus or possibly other trick but I was a bit stuck on whether answers "picked up" letters from nearby parts of the "table" (that is, grid). It didn't help that I was trying to make "cafe car" work (and trying to figure out where to get a C-A-F-E from) when it really was [CLUB]CAR. Other parts of the grid seemed quite rebusy but it was some distance into the solve until I realized it was the old "one rebus across, one rebus down" trick. And then it was when I came here that I fully realized the bit about there being four players, and how the number of cards in the grid makes sense.

Of course in theory I don't just ask how clever the theme is, I also ask "how much did this theme mess up the fill" and here - not bad. I was taken by LOCH and it was always nice to hear about the handholds on an EPEE (I suppose I've seen that in a crossword before, but not recently). And I totally agree that the clue for INSOMNIA was great.