Sneaky NY Times Crossword Breaks Star Wars, Star Trek Fans’ Brains

Sneaky NY Times Crossword Breaks Star Wars, Star Trek Fans’ Brains
Don't pretend like you don't know the right answer here. (Screenshot: The New York Times / Kotaku)

The debate between Star Trek and Star Wars is older than time — I know it’s older than I am anyway — and it reared its head as recently as the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle, which poses a brain-breaking question.

The clever puzzle simply asks: “The better of two sci-fi franchises.” Depending on your preference, the answer is either Star Wars or Star Trek. The double entendre was highlighted in Wordplay, the Times’ crossword column along with a note about the choice from puzzle constructor Stephen McCarthy.

“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,” McCarthy says in the column.

The puzzle is pretty sneaky when you look at it. The starting word for 70 Across must be “star.” But the remaining four letters are more of a mystery, with both “Trek” and “Wars” fitting. Going the Star Trek route spells out “trap,” wrist,” “payees,” and “leaked” in the intersecting clues For Star Wars, the answers could be “wrap,” waist,” “payers,” and “leased.” No matter how you slice it, both answers work here.

It’s fine that both answers complete the puzzle, but I’m calling bullshit. There’s only one correct answer for this, and that’s Star Wars. I won’t be convinced otherwise, even if the line in the movie is “It’s a trap” and not “It’s a wrap.”

Folks online are shook by this puzzle, especially after Twitter user matttomic shared a screenshot of the section. Many agreed with me in saying Star Wars is clearly the correct answer. But, of course, there are Trekkies proclaiming Star Trek is the obvious choice between the franchises. There are some random Stargate folks, too, but who even watched that show?

There’s some real wit on display with this puzzle. That’s to be expected. It’s the New York Times, after all, so I applaud McCarthy for building such a dastardly grid. I also appreciate McCarthy for speaking directly to the idea of confirmation bias through this puzzle. It really signals where allegiances lie and will probably be a sticking point in this rivalry forever.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has been upping its games game lately. In addition to its longstanding and well-known crossword, the NYT also runs other word puzzles Spelling Bee and Letter Boxed, visual games Tiles and Vertex, and a little-known maths game called Sudoku. And just this month, the paper bought online sensation Wordle. Honestly, I’d right-click the game if you’re worried about it being locked behind a paywall.