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Frequently asked questions

What is this site all about?
This site celebrates NYT crosswords and the people who make them. It provides a comprehensive list of every daily puzzle (and most Variety puzzles) going back to the very first NYT crossword published on Sunday, February 15, 1942. Puzzles with special attributes are noted. Records in various categories are tracked. Shortz Era data is organized by constructor — a feature unique to this site.

See the Grand Tour for a list of features organized by target audience.

What can I do here?
The best approach is to poke around and explore. You can view lists of puzzles that meet various criteria, click on a puzzle to see it displayed in full with the answers, click on an answer to see what clues have been used for it, click on the displayed date to see the answer word in context, etc.
Why is registration required?
Your donation dollar goes largely to running the site or to Treehouse for Kids, a Seattle non-profit providing education assistance and mentoring to foster children.
What parts of XWord Info can I access for free?
If all you are looking for are answers to recent clues, the 45 most recent puzzles are always freely available. Pre-Shortz puzzles are also always available. In fact, you can both see them and even solve them online for free!

Many other pages require you to sign up for an account.

Can I link to XWord Info pages from my blog?
I'm glad you asked! Pages requested via links on blogs and some other sites are allowed to come through without registration.
Who is this site for?
XWord Info is an essential resource for constructors, and crossword enthusiasts will discover lots of interesting insights. Casual solvers will find puzzle solutions, and can learn about the rich history of their hobby.
How did XWord Info start?
When Jim Horne started blogging about crosswords, he wondered what could be learned about NYT puzzles through statistical analysis, so he started XWord Info in 2007. In October 2008, his blog moved to The New York Times where he wrote the Wordplay column for three years.
Is the data here 100% accurate?
Nah. We do our best to expand rebus entries (including ones that are interpreted differently in different directions) and even correctly parse answers that go around corners or do other such tricks, but there are likely still bugs. Please let us know if you spot any.
Where does all this crossword data come from?
Puzzles from October 23, 1996 to the present come from the Across Lite files on the nytimes.com website. Originally, that was all we thought we would ever be able to get but we learned that Barry Haldiman has been collecting crosswords in electronic form for a long time and he has graciously offered to share some of them. Thanks to Mr. Haldiman, we acquired NYT puzzles covering the entire Will Shortz Era, i.e. going back to November 21, 1993.

In 2012, David Steinberg started The Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project dedicated to digitizing earlier NYT crosswords. On August 26, 2015, the project declared victory. All known NYT crosswords are now available here on XWord Info. Pre-Shortz stats are kept separate from Shortz Era data.

Constructor photos are courtesy of the puzzle authors themselves. We are grateful to them all.

What do all the various other stats mean?
  • Row and Column count refers to the size of the grid
  • Words is the number of clues or answers. Single answers that are phrases count as one word. NYT guidelines call for a maximum of 78 words for a 15x15 puzzles, and 140 words for a 21x21 grid. These are sometimes exceeded to handle special themes.
  • Blocks is the number of black squares.
  • Average word length is an obvious mathematical calculation. Puzzles with higher averages tend to be harder to construct.
  • Missing letters are ones that are absent from the grid. Puzzles that use all 26 letters are said to be pangrams.
  • Scrabble average is the total tile value of all the letters divided by the number of letters.
  • Open squares is an XWord Info invention. Grids seem open if they have large areas of white space. This calculation counts the number of white squares that are not next to black squares, even diagonally.
  • Cheater squares are black squares that can be removed without affecting the overall word count of the grid. Constructors usually try to avoid these but some are often inevitable and many great puzzles have plenty of cheaters. If you click the "Analyze" button, you'll see cheater squares marked with a + in the colorized grid.
  • Debuts is the number of words that first appeared in this puzzle. They are colored differently in the answer section. Sometimes the number of words that are reused (they debuted on this puzzle but were picked up by other constructors later) is also shown.
  • Spans counts the number of answer words that span the full grid. Double, triple, or quadruple stacks are also noted.
  • Freshness Factor is an attempt to algorithmically determine how "fresh" a grid is based on how many times we've seen its answer words used before. You can see details of the calculation here.
What is the XPF link shown on some puzzles?
This is for programmers only. Data for recent puzzles can be displayed in XPF format. There is also a JSON format available.
Why are those stats sometimes highlighted?
If they are statistically significant in some way, perhaps there is a particularly low block count or high Scrabble average, they are highlighted in a yellow block. Click the highlighted link to see the relevant stats page and it should be clear why the stat is called out.
Why don't the dates here match the dates in my newspaper?
Dates here match the publication dates in the New York Times. In syndication, the Sunday puzzle runs a week behind, and the dailies are five weeks behind. There is a link to the syndicated puzzle on the home page, or you can go to the Calendar page and count back the appropriate number of weeks.
XWord Information takes advantage of recent HTML 5 and new CSS capabilities to provide the best experience. Older browsers may not support all the capabilities we need. The latest versions of Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Edge all work fine.
How did you come up with the cool visual design?
I didn't. Site design is by Robin Troy.
Are you the same Jim Horne who wrote the original Windows version of the solitaire card game FreeCell?
Yes.
What technologies were used to build this site?
XWord Info is built almost entirely on Microsoft technology. It is an ASP.NET 4.6.1 application running on the IIS 8.5 Windows web server. LINQ is used to manage the data stored in SQL Server 2017. Software development is done on Visual Studio 2019 with the help of ReSharper. Server-side code is written in C#. Some client-side JavaScript relies on jQuery and a few of its associated libraries. All pages declare the HTML 5 doctype. Now you know.
Where does the dictionary of words not found in NYT puzzles come from?
Mostly from Princeton University. In order to make it available on XWord Info, I'm required to provide this notice:

WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved. THIS SOFTWARE AND DATABASE IS PROVIDED "AS IS" AND PRINCETON UNIVERSITY MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED. BY WAY OF EXAMPLE, BUT NOT LIMITATION, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES OF MERCHANT-ABILITY OR FITNESS FOR ANY PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR THAT THE USE OF THE LICENSED SOFTWARE, DATABASE OR DOCUMENTATION WILL NOT INFRINGE ANY THIRD PARTY PATENTS, COPYRIGHTS, TRADEMARKS OR OTHER RIGHTS.

This useful word list includes many proper nouns, names, phrases, etc. Even after removing all items shorter than 3 letters, longer than 23 letters, and any containing digits like Y2K, there are still 142,831 entries.

We use other dictionaries as well. The total number of external words we search for you is 328,902.

XWord Info is © 2007-2019 by Jim Horne. Jeff Chen owns the copyright on his commentary.
Crossword puzzles are © 1942-2019 by The New York Times. Their data is used here with permission.