The New York Times crossword puzzle

The New York Times crossword puzzle is a daily puzzle published in The New York Times, online at the newspaper's website, syndicated to more than 300 other newspapers and journals,[1] and available as mobile apps.[2][3][4][5]

The puzzle is created by various freelance constructors and has been edited by Will Shortz since 1993. The puzzle becomes increasingly difficult throughout the week, with the easiest puzzle on Monday and the most difficult puzzle on Saturday.[6] The larger Sunday crossword, which appears in The New York Times Magazine, is an icon in American culture; it is typically intended to be as difficult as a Thursday puzzle.[6] The standard daily crossword is 15 squares × 15 squares, while the Sunday crossword measures 21 squares × 21 squares (previously, 23 × 23 square Sunday puzzles were also accepted; in addition a special set of 25 × 25 Sunday puzzles, with two sets of clues—easy and hard—was published in 1999 to commemorate the upcoming millennium).[7][8]


While crosswords became popular in the early 1920s, it was not until 1942 that The New York Times (which initially regarded crosswords as frivolous, calling them "a primitive form of mental exercise") began running a crossword in its Sunday edition.[9][10] The first puzzle ran on Sunday, February 15, 1942. The motivating impulse for the Times to finally run the puzzle (which took over 20 years even though its publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, was a longtime crossword fan) appears to have been the bombing of Pearl Harbor; in a memo dated December 18, 1941, an editor conceded that the puzzle deserved space in the paper, considering what was happening elsewhere in the world and that readers might need something to occupy themselves during blackouts.[10] The puzzle proved popular, and Sulzberger himself would author a Times puzzle before the year was out.[10] In 1950, the crossword became a daily feature. That first daily puzzle was published without an author line, and to this day the identity of the author of the first weekday Times crossword remains unknown.[11] There have been four editors of the puzzle: Margaret Farrar from the puzzle's inception until 1969; Will Weng, former head of the Times's metropolitan copy desk, until 1977; Eugene T. Maleska until his death in 1993; and the current editor, Will Shortz. In addition to editing the Times crosswords, Shortz founded and runs the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament as well as the World Puzzle Championship (where he remains captain of the US team), has published numerous books of crosswords, sudoku, and other puzzles, authors occasional variety puzzles (a.k.a. "Second Sunday puzzles"; see below) to appear alongside the Sunday Times puzzle, and serves as "Puzzlemaster" on the NPR show "Weekend Edition Sunday".[12][13]

The popularity of the puzzle grew over the years, until it came to be considered the most prestigious of the widely circulated crosswords in America; its popularity is attested to by the numerous celebrities and public figures who've publicly proclaimed their liking for the puzzle, including opera singer Beverly Sills,[10] author Norman Mailer,[14] baseball pitcher Mike Mussina,[15] former President Bill Clinton,[16] conductor Leonard Bernstein,[10] TV host Jon Stewart[15] and music duo the Indigo Girls.[15]

The Times puzzles have been collected in hundreds of books over the years from various publishers, most notably Random House and St. Martin's Press, the current publisher of the series.[17] In addition to their appearance in the printed newspaper, the Times puzzles also appear online at the paper's website, where they require a separate subscription to access.[18] In 2007, Majesco released The New York Times Crosswords game, a video game adaptation for the Nintendo DS handheld. The game includes over 1,000 Times crosswords from all days of the week. Various other forms of merchandise featuring the puzzle have been created over the years, including dedicated electronic crossword handhelds that just contain Times crosswords, as well as a variety of Times crossword-themed memorabilia including cookie jars, baseballs, cufflinks, plates, coasters, mousepads, and the like.[17]

Style and conventions

Will Shortz does not write the Times crossword himself; the puzzles are submitted to him by a wide variety of contributors. A full specification sheet listing the paper's requirements for crossword puzzle submission can be found online (see "External Links") or by writing to the paper. Aside from increasing in difficulty throughout the week, the Monday-Thursday puzzles and the Sunday puzzle always have a theme, some sort of connection between at least three long (usually Across) answers, such as a similar type of pun, letter substitution, or alteration in each entry. Another theme type is that of a humorous quotation broken up into symmetrical portions and spread throughout the grid. For example, the February 11, 2004, puzzle by Ethan Friedman featured a theme quotation: ANY IDIOT CAN FACE / A CRISIS IT'S THIS / DAY-TO-DAY LIVING / THAT WEARS YOU OUT.[19] (this quote has been attributed to Anton Chekhov, but this attribution is in dispute and the specific source has not been identified). Notable dates such as holidays or anniversaries of famous events are often commemorated with an appropriately themed puzzle, although only two are currently commemorated on a routine annual basis: Christmas and April Fool's Day.[20] The Friday and Saturday puzzles, the most difficult in the paper, are usually unthemed and "wide open", with fewer black squares and more long words. The maximum word count for a themed weekday puzzle is normally 78 words, while the maximum for an unthemed Friday or Saturday puzzle is 72; Sunday puzzles must contain 140 words or fewer.[8] Given the Times's reputation as a paper for a literate, well-read, and somewhat arty audience, puzzles frequently reference works of literature, art, or classical music, as well as modern TV, movies, or other touchstones of popular culture.[8]

The puzzle follows a number of conventions, both for tradition's sake and to aid solvers in completing the crossword:

Variety puzzles

Second Sunday puzzles

In addition to the primary crossword, the Times publishes a second Sunday puzzle each week, of varying types, something that the first crossword editor, Margaret Farrar, saw as a part of the paper's Sunday puzzle offering from the start; she wrote in a memo when the Times was considering whether or not to start running crosswords that "The smaller puzzle, which would occupy the lower part of the page, could provide variety each Sunday. It could be topical, humorous, have rhymed definitions or story definitions or quiz definitions. The combination of these two would offer meat and dessert, and catch the fancy of all types of puzzlers."[10] Currently, every other week is an acrostic puzzle authored by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, with a rotating selection of other puzzles, including diagramless crosswords, Puns and Anagrams, cryptics (a.k.a. "British-style crosswords"), Split Decisions, Spiral Crosswords, word games, and more rarely, other types (some authored by Shortz himself—the only puzzles he has created for the Times during his tenure as crossword editor).[18] Of these types, the acrostic has the longest and most interesting history, beginning on May 9, 1943, authored by Elizabeth S. Kingsley, who is credited with inventing the puzzle type, and continued to write the Times acrostic until December 28, 1952.[24] From then until August 13, 1967 it was written by Kingsley's former assistant, Doris Nash Wortman; then it taken over by Thomas H. Middleton for a period of over 30 years, until August 15, 1999, when the pair of Cox and Rathvon became just the fourth author of the puzzle in its history.[24] The name of the puzzle also changed over the years, from "Double-Crostic" to "Kingsley Double-Crostic," "Acrostic Puzzle," and finally (since 1991) just "Acrostic."[24]

Other puzzles

As well as publishing a second word puzzle on Sundays, the Times publishes a KenKen numbers puzzle (a variant of the popular sudoku logic puzzles) each day of the week.[18] The KenKen and second Sunday puzzles are available online at the New York Times crosswords and games page, as are "SET!" logic puzzles and a monthly "bonus" crossword with a theme relating to the current month.[18] The Times Online also publishes a daily "mini" crossword, usually 5x5 but occasionally 7x7 or larger, which is significantly easier than the traditional daily puzzle.

Records and puzzles of note

Fans of the Times crossword have kept track of a number of records and interesting puzzles (primarily from among those published in Shortz's tenure), including those below. (All puzzles published from October 23, 1996 on are available to online subscribers to the Times crossword.)[18]

A few crosswords have achieved recognition beyond the community of crossword solvers. Perhaps the most famous is the November 5, 1996 puzzle by Jeremiah Farrell, published on the day of the U.S. presidential election, which has been featured in the movie Wordplay and the book The Crossword Obsession by Coral Amende, as well as discussed by Peter Jennings on ABC News, featured on CNN, and elsewhere.[12][13][40][41] The two leading candidates that year were Bill Clinton and Bob Dole; in Farrell's puzzle one of the long clue/answer combinations read "Title for 39-Across tomorrow" = MISTER PRESIDENT. The remarkable feature of the puzzle is that 39-Across could be answered either CLINTON or BOB DOLE, and all the Down clues and answers that crossed it would work either way (e.g., "Black Halloween animal" could be either BAT or CAT depending on which answer you filled in at 39-Across; similarly "French 101 word" could equal LUI or OUI, etc.).[40] Constructors have dubbed this type of puzzle a "Schrödinger puzzle" after the famous paradox of Schrödinger's cat, which was both alive and dead at the same time. Since Farrell's invention of it, four other constructors: Patrick Merrell, Ethan Friedman, David J. Kahn, and Joe Krozel have made use of a similar trick.

In another notable Times crossword, 27-year-old Bill Gottlieb proposed to his girlfriend, Emily Mindel, via the crossword puzzle of January 7, 1998, written by noted crossword constructor Bob Klahn.[42][43] The answer to 14-Across, "Microsoft chief, to some" was BILLG, also Gottlieb's name and last initial. 20-Across, "1729 Jonathan Swift pamphlet", was A MODEST PROPOSAL. And 56-Across, "1992 Paula Abdul hit", was WILL YOU MARRY ME. She said yes. The puzzle attracted attention in the AP, an article in the Times itself, and elsewhere.[43]

On May 7, 2007, former U.S. president Bill Clinton, a self-professed long-time fan of the Times crossword, collaborated with noted crossword constructor Cathy Millhauser on an online-only crossword in which Millhauser constructed the grid and Clinton wrote the clues.[16][44] Shortz described the President's work as "laugh out loud" and noted that he as editor changed very little of Clinton's clues, which featured more wordplay than found in a standard puzzle.[16][44]

The Times crossword of Thursday, April 2, 2009, by Brendan Emmett Quigley,[45] featured theme answers that all ran the gamut of movie ratings—beginning with the kid-friendly "G" and finishing with adults-only "X" (which, however is now replaced with the less crossword-friendly NC-17 rating). The seven theme entries were GARY GYGAX, GRAND PRIX, GORE-TEX, GAG REFLEX, GUMMO MARX, GASOLINE TAX, and GENERATION X. In addition, the puzzle contained the clues/answers of ""Weird Al" Yankovic's '__ on Jeopardy'" = I LOST and "I'll take New York Times crossword for $200, __" = ALEX. What made the puzzle notable is that the prior night's episode of the US television show Jeopardy! featured video clues of Will Shortz for five of the theme answers (all but GARY GYGAX and GENERATION X) which the contestants attempted to answer during the course of the show.

See also


  1. The New York Times News Syndicate
  2. New York Times Crosswords for BlackBerry
  3. New York Times Crosswords for iOS
  4. New York Times Crosswords for Kindle Fire
  5. New York Times Crosswords for Barnes and Noble Nook
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Will Shortz "How to Solve the New York Times Crossword", The New York Times, 2001-04-08. Retrieved on 2009-03-13.
  7. New York Times crossword puzzle archive--1999 (subscription required). Retrieved on 2009-03-13.
  8. 1 2 3 4 "New York Times Crossword Specification Sheet"
  9. (Unsigned Editorial) "Topics of the Times" The New York Times, 1924-11-17. Retrieved on 2009-03-13. (Subscription required.)
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Richard F. Shepard "Bambi is a Stag and Tubas Don't Go 'Pah-Pah': The Ins and Outs of Across and Down" The New York Times Magazine, 1992-02-16. Retrieved on 2009-03-13.
  11. Will Shortz "150th Anniversary: 1851-2001; The Addiction Begins" The New York Times, 2001-11-14. Retrieved on 2009-13-13.
  12. 1 2 Author unknown. "A Puzzling Occupation: Will Shortz, Enigmatologist" Biography of Will Shortz from American Crossword Puzzle Tournament homepage, dated March 1998. Retrieved on 2009-03-13.
  13. 1 2 Leora Baude "Nice Work if You Can Get It", Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences, 2001-01-19. Retrieved on 2009-03-13.
  14. Will Shortz "CROSSWORD MEMO; What's in a Name? Five Letters or Less" The New York Times, 2003-03-09. Retrieved on 2009-03-13.
  15. 1 2 3 David Germain "Crossword guru Shortz brings play on words to Sundance" Associated Press, 2006-01-23. Retrieved on 2009-03-13.
  16. 1 2 3 "Bill Clinton pens NY Times' crossword puzzle" Reuters 2007-05-07. Retrieved on 2009-03-13.
  17. 1 2 New York Times store--crossword books
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 The New York Times crossword puzzle online (subscription required)
  19. "Thumbnails". XWordInfo. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  20. Account of 2008 presentation by Will Shortz. Retrieved on 2009-03.13
  21. Amlen, Deb (5 December 2012). "Theme of this Puzzle". "Wordplay" blog. The New York Times. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  22. New York Times Crossword Forum, 2006-04-04
  24. 1 2 3 History of the Times acrostic puzzle
  25. 1 2
  26. 1 2
  27. record high 86-word puzzle (subscription required)
  28. July 27, 2012 puzzle with record low black square count (subscription required)
  31. 1 2 New York Times Crossword "Database"
  32. Horne, Jim. "Youngest constructors". Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  33. New Jersey crossword puzzle prodigy is youngest to create puzzle for NY Times, December 27, 2009
  34. Amlen, Deb. "Location, Location, Location". Wordplay: The Crossword Blog of the New York Times. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  35. Fox, Margalit (2015-01-30). "Bernice Gordon, Crossword Creator for The Times, Dies at 101". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-09-22.
  36. Mucha, Peter. "Construction worker Bernice Gordon, 95, has been coming across with downright nifty crossword puzzles for 60 years.". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  37. "New York Times, Wednesday, June 26, 2013". XWord Info. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  38. Amlen, Deb. "Four Score and Three". Wordplay, The Crossword Blog of the New York Times. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  39. Horne, Jim. "Stacks". XWordInfo. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  40. 1 2 Amende, Coral (1996) The Crossword Obsession, Berkley Books: New York ISBN 978-0756790868
  41. Ali Velshi "Business Unusual: Will Shortz", CNN
  42. January 7, 1998 wedding proposal crossword (subscription required)
  43. 1 2 James Barron "Two Who Solved the Puzzle of Love", The New York Times, 1998-01-08. Retrieved on 2009-03-12.
  44. 1 2 Cathy Millhauser (constructor) and Bill Clinton (clues); edited by Will Shortz "Twistin' the Oldies" The New York Times (web only) 2005-05-07. Retrieved on 2009-03-13. (Bill Clinton's Times crossword, available via PDF or Java applet.)
  45. April 2, 2009 puzzle featured on "Jeopardy!" (subscription required)

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/12/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.