These JNotes are Jim Horne's personal observations.
Several people are confused by 128-Across. "Deliberately procrastinate" is DRAG ONE'S FEET, but the instructions at 114-Across for CROUCHING TIGER imply the DRAG ON is hidden, leaving only ESFEET.
The print version of this puzzle has four "bow ties" in the grid. Click the thumbnail image above for a larger view.
Any reflection on grid art in the history of NYT crosswords has to recognize Liz Gorski as the master innovator.
Jeff is right that his simple Finder search isn't that useful. He's shy about showing off his advanced Finder skills, but this RegEx query works the same, with the additional constraint that the letter before OUT is the same as the one after. Sure enough, all four of today's theme answers are there.
Erik Agard's note reminds me of this recent xkcd comic. It is, indeed, a miracle. Click it for larger view.
Why hast thou not the visage of a sweetie or a cutie?
Kind of an Ode to Duty (58-Across) is not your typical Ogden Nash poem.
Raspberry Pi is an excellent gift for that budding computer nerd in your life.
Mr. Liben-Nowell has now hit for the cycle.
Flip Koski is one of the unsung heroes here at XWord Info.
We've been collecting biographical information about NYT constructors, and the vast majority of pre-Shortz bios and photos come from Flip's diligent research. He has dug through obits, contacted surviving relatives and colleagues, and scoured old newspaper articles and yearbooks.
Besides the constructors in Flip's notes above, he has uncovered:
Jeff Chen, David Steinberg, and I are very grateful for his amazing sleuthing.
Click the grid to flip it upside down, and click again to reset it.
Seventeen-year-old Đặng Quang Thắng is the latest addition to our Teenage Constructors page.
It's a little hard to tell that some of the text in the clues is smaller than usual. We've highlighted it so it's easier to see.
The NYT app accepts any of these four answers as correct in the rebus squares: E/MC, MC/E, E, MC.
Quick theme explanation:
The Spirograph opening credits might seem a little hokey now, but Bernard Herrmann's brilliant score still shines.
For cinematographers, the basic camera movements are: Zoom, Pan, Tilt, Dolly (move camera forward or backward), Truck (move camera side to side), and Pedestal (move camera up and down). Some people also include Rack Focus (adjust focus to highlight near or far).
When Zoom and Dolly are combined (zoom in while dollying out), you get this disorienting effect that perfectly captures Jimmy Stewart's acrophobia. You can see it here:
Click the grid to rotate CLOCKWISE, and then click again to straighten it out. This effect works better in other fonts, but you'll get the idea.
Theme answers here use "rotational letters" E H N O U W and Z which, when rotated, give M I Z O C E and N. Our Finder can help find words with only those letters.
Fun fact: the longest such word that OneLook finds is zenzizenzizenzic — an obsolete form of mathematical notation representing the eighth power of a number. For some reason, it's never been used in an NYT crossword.
It's interesting to compare letters that become other letters after 90-degree rotation, with Byron Walden's similar idea requiring a full 180-degree flip. Click the grid on that one too, to see the rotation in action.
Crossword solvers quickly learn that paying attention to clue precision is critical to success. An answer must match the tense and the formality level of the clue. Clue abbreviations imply answer abbrevs. Etc.
But the opposite is also true. Solvers need to accept the fuzziness of clues, especially if there is colloquial support. Speed and velocity aren't the same thing, but non-physicists use them interchangeably. Ode to Joy isn't the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth, but close enough for crosswords.
The fourth movement of Beethoven's final completed symphony included (shocking, at the time) four solo singers and an entire choir. Singing words! In what was supposed to be a "pure music" form! Kids and their crazy music nowadays! The lyrics for the singers were adapted from a poem by Friedrich Schiller called, in English, "Ode to Joy."
There's a sad story about the premiere of this work. Beethoven, already deaf, wanted to conduct, so he stood on a conductor's stand and madly waved his arms while someone nearby waved a baton that the musicians actually followed. But there's a happy ending. When the piece was finished, Beethoven turned to face the audience. The crowd knew he couldn't hear, so along with the clapping and cheering, they threw their hats and handkerchiefs into the air so the maestro could see that he was appreciated and loved.
Robin Yu has been a big supporter of XWord Info, and I'm pleased to see his debut today.
RegEx can help you find words and phrases with exactly 3 inner I's, but that's just the first step. Finding good phrases that can be sensibly clued with the third I missing, even with help from a Python script, will be a mostly manual process.
A special song just for Jeff:
Jeff and I sometimes disagree. You've seen tumbleweeds on TV, if not in person, and they maintain their inner structure as they roll (tumble) along, so you don't want "more randomness of the W placement."
With this puzzle, Jeff Chen has Hit for the Cycle ten times over. In other words, he has at least ten NYT crosswords for each day of the week.
Congratulations, Lynn Lempel, on hitting the NYT Crossword Century Mark. Quite an accomplishment!
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is filming a screwball comedy with IRENE Dunne.
We expect Saturday themeless crosswords to have a few great clues, and we get some doozies today. The top left corner starts with two outstanding ones. [Popular pubs for college grads] for ALUMNI MAGS is brilliant. [Directive for the board] is one of my favorite clue types. I've seen DON'T ERASE on blackboards hundreds of times, but not since high school. Clues that bring out memories you didn't know you had are especially satisfying.
I always learn something from this constructor. STREET PROPHETS felt too generic, but in crosswords, phrases like that must be a "thing", not just a "description." As you probably already know, it is indeed someone who spreads the gospel through rap music or graffiti. Tupac and DMX are considered prime examples.
Too many "great clues" can make a crossword overly tricky, and this one played hard for me. PHONE RECORDS for [Some damning legal evidence] feels tenuous. Sicily's ENNA used to be a crossword staple, but it's rare now. BARBED WIT didn't come easily to me, so [Art of cutting cards] was confusing, although delightful when the pin dropped. These things are personal, though. Fast solvers will race through this puzzle and be sorry that it's over so quickly.
There's often something in each puzzle that reminds me of a Sondheim lyric, and I've learned to keep that annoying habit to myself. Today, though, two different clues point to the same song from "Funny Thing": the "one two" pun at 57-Across and the "Left right left right" clue at 12 -Down. Imperial Rome Captain Miles Gloriosus leads his troops into town singing:
One, ... Two, ... One, ... Two, ...
We not only fought but we won, too!
Left, ... Right, ... Left, ... Right, ...
There's none of the enemy left, right?
You didn't ask, but this month's Jim Horne Book Club selection is Dr. No. Not the Ian Fleming book, but the recent novel by the brilliant Percival Everett.
This is the ninth puzzle in our non-rectangular grids list.
And it's Christina Iverson's birthday today.
The music key F-sharp major (at 13-Down) sounds odd to modern jazz musicians, especially keyboard players. G-flat major is far more common, it's identical (at least for keyboard players), it's slightly easier to notate, and it's a favorite for many pianists, including me. There are philosophical differences between the two essentially identical keys that matter greatly to some people. Some classical composers, including Bach and Chopin preferred F-sharp.
The Great American Songwriter Irving Berlin famously could only play in only one key: F-sharp major! He had a special piano built so he could transpose to other keys by manipulating a lever that shifted the whole keyboard lower or higher.
Jeff's trick to find 30-character phrases that split exactly in half is clever. He didn't mention that it also comes up with HAVING KANGAROOS / IN THE TOP PADDOCK — a colorful Australian phrase meaning being eccentric or foolish.
Today's grid is 16 wide, so perhaps we should look for 32-letter phrases that split in the middle. Again, sort by length to see the real 32s. That's THE GREATEST THING / SINCE SLICED BREAD.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a fascinating book. Very hard to put down once you start it.
Ms. McBride joins our Teenage Constructors page.
Jeff's Quick Search link simulates entering ???*ING???*ER and clicking the standard Search button, but here's another case where our OneLook search button can also be useful since it knows about word spaces. Using the pattern *ING *ER (note the space) finds consecutive words that end with ING and then ER.
It's still close to New Year, so 46-Across gives me an excuse to link to this New Yorker classic: New Year's Resolutions for an Anteater.
We haven't done this in a while, and I know many find these notes annoying, but for the few who like to learn this stuff, It's time once again to play Fun with the Finder™.
Jeff mentioned that the X IN Y pattern is broad, and it certainly is, but suppose you were on the lookout to find interesting ones. Our Finder can help. Click the links below to see the results.
See our Finder Tips page to learn more.
Following up on Jeff's symphonic note, Napoleon lost his chance to have that great symphony named for him when he pissed off the composer by crowning himself Emperor.
I liked this puzzle more than Jeff did, because we made different assumptions about the theme. He imagined the black squares to be the center of roundabouts that drivers had to drive around, so they had to hit the additional letters that the car passed through. In my mind, each black square was the whole roundabout, including the traffic lanes, so the puzzle worked perfectly for me. I added some small circles to the grid to demonstrate how I saw things.
Correction from NYT: An earlier version of the clue for 28-Down misidentified the city in New South Wales. It is Sydney, not Canberra.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is busy playing TWISTER.
Look at this lovely progression. A new color is added at each step:
🔴🟡 are the circles in the MASTERCARD LOGO
🔴🟡🟢 in a TRAFFIC LIGHT
🔴🟡🟢🔵 on a TWISTER MAT
🔴🟡🟢🔵⚫ in the OLYMPIC RINGS
Finding this set amazes me, and presenting them in increasing order impresses me. I love it.
Which brings me to one of the great debates among the crossword cognizanti. I've been chastised for my view that a delightful theme can overcome other weaknesses in the grid, particularly flaws that result from thematic constraints. This Joe Krozel puzzle is one of my favorites, but since it suffers from "bad fill," not everyone agrees that it's brilliant.
Today's grid fails the typical analysis. There are 44 black squares — way too many! There are 24 3-letter words — not only a sin in itself, but ERA, ONE, ARE, ETA, and ERR are way too common. Each has appeared over 1,000 times! Clearly, this puzzle is crap.
But I look at that colored circle progression and think, I would have never thought such a theme was possible. Wow.
NYT can't do color in daily crosswords yet. Would you have enjoyed the puzzle more if the clues were just those colored circles instead of the color names? You can decide for yourself. Our goal is
always usually to match the NYT print version as closely as possible, but today we changed the clues below the grid. Don't tell Will Shortz!
For the record, the official italicized theme clues in print are:
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is dealing with a flurry of transcription errors.
We sometimes see complicated words in clues that we have to parse into likely component parts to divine their meanings. For example, "Suffering from nyctophobia" means AFRAID OF THE DARK.
Today's puzzle flips that around — we get the complicated word in the answer — and then there's the new twist that your usual parsing strategy might lead you astray.
ARCTOPHILE is obviously a lover of ARCTO. Arcto means "north" or "arctic", but arktós is also a Greek word for "bear."
The theme answers might feel made up, but they're all in your dictionary. I know some TYPOMANIAcs. The publishing business is tough to break into. PANTOPHOBIA is no longer in vogue. Medical professionals prefer generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder. MANDUCATES is perhaps more obvious, but the clue is funny. METROLOGY isn't even a debut answer. You probably remember it from that 1943 crossword.
The OK GO answer is more than reason enough to watch this amazing video. No tricks, no wires, no green screen:
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is playing a small role in a superhero movie.
One way to make a Saturday crossword challenging is to include words you might not be familiar with. Recent Saturdays have asked us to know the technical term PETABYTE, the modern novelist/poet OCEAN VUONG, and the recent slang word ZHUZH.
That's not the strategy today, where mostly common answer words could easily be clued at a Tuesday or Wednesday level. The difficulty is all in the clues, particularly those that play on initial assumptions.
Wait, what? ZAMBONI is a common answer word?
This explains why it's difficult to judge the difficulty of any crossword or write about it. It's natural to assume your common knowledge is, if not universal, at least common. If you grew up in Canada or if you love hockey, ZAMBONI is a delightfully clever answer to a misleading clue. Otherwise, it's just a string of letters in a disappointing puzzle.
Zamboni or not, today's (mostly) common words means that your experience depends more on your ability to think creatively. If you like this sort of thing as much as I do, don't ignore the Puns and Anagrams and even the Cryptic crosswords that appear every few weeks.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is making a game-saving CATCH in the World Series.
There used to be only two questions about ear piercing: how much will it hurt, and should I ask mom for permission or forgiveness? Now, you need to decide between industrial, helix, forward helix, rook, DAITH, inner conch, outer conch, tragus, anti-tragus, upper lobe, and standard lobe. (See chart here.) Oh, go for all of the above.
Saturday clues can be amusing even when they're not hard. "Phrase that's often contracted … or suffix for something contracted" is clever and memorable. Sometimes they pull memories from deep in your past. At one time, you knew pocketful of POSY, but if you don't have kids, you haven't heard that in a while.
As always, your personal experience can help or hinder your solve. I live in Seattle, so I'm unlikely to be fooled by "Washington can only mean DC," and I have much familiarity with SEA-TAC. If you live on the east coast, that might be trickier.
We use METONYMs so often that it's easy to forget they're figures of speech. No, the White House didn't literally make a statement, but hearing that it did doesn't sound weird at all.
Crossword clues don't have to always be true. Sometimes true is close enough. Only a tiny wee itsy fraction of IOS APPs are products of Apple Inc, but a few are, and, especially on a Saturday, that's fair game.
NENEH Cherry explained that Buffalo stance is "an attitude you have to have in order to get by. It's not about fashion but about survival in inner cities and elsewhere."
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who chooses to go to the moon, not because it's easy, but because it's hard.
Does today's grid look weird to you? Editors can and do, flip rows and columns on submitted crosswords. Which grid looks better?
The one on the right probably looks more normal. We're used to seeing long answers going Across. Sometimes they go Down for thematic reasons. Today's themeless seems to have long answers on the left and right edges purely for aesthetics. It looks a little like DNA strands, right? (Both those previous links go to Elizabeth C. Gorski puzzles.)
This is the NYT debut for Juliet Corless, but you can tell this is not the work of a crossword novice. Several of her other puzzles are at The Daily Princetonian.
I'm always happy to see Phillipa SOO in a puzzle, although that will be tough if you're not a Hamilnerd. HOREB was the mountain where Moses got the tablets with the Ten Commandments written by the hand of God. Too bad he broke them. The tablets, I mean. Maybe the commandments, too, I'm not sure. NCAA v Alston was a fight about the National Collegiate Athletic Association profiting from the namesakes and likenesses of college athletes. That's an antitrust violation, according to The Supremes.
Auntie Em and Uncle Henry are bit roles from a 1939 MGM movie musical. I wonder what films made today will be seen as iconic 83 years from now.
Congratulations, Ms. Corless. It's an Amazeballs crossword.
Jeff is right that finding words for this theme is best done by coding, but just for fun, let's try RegEx.
Transformation at the first letter finds POWER MOWER and the old toys ROCKEM SOCKEM and BETSY WETSY,
Changing the last letter gives us TALL TALE and BREAK BREAD, but also QUEEQUEG and SWEEPSWEEK (although the latter doesn't break nicely in half).
Mid-word transformations like DONT DOIT are also possible but harder on our poor web servers.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is still telling his often-repeated golf story.
I know, I know, you're disappointed Jeff's not available, and you're afraid I might bring up the dreaded RegEx. Fear not! Today, we talk Python. If you know a little bit about programming, I have a recipe for how you can find words that fit today's theme yourself at the end of this post. If not, we can still discuss technology in crosswords.
Everyone suspects that computers are somehow involved in construction. That might feel like cheating. There were undoubtedly some master craftsmen and women who created impressive grids before personal computers were available, but trust me, the overall quality of fill now is way better than it was 20 years ago. Still, we don't want our puzzles to feel computer-generated.
They don't because computers, at least today, can only take construction so far. Machines can quickly find many alternatives for your fill or, just as important, quickly determine if a corner is likely unfillable, but many iterations informed by a human's artistic sense are needed to create a puzzle worthy of publication. It's common for constructors to spend months working on an idea that might never work out.
Computers help in other ways too. If you're the thousandth person to include EMU or OREO in a grid, you can search the web for an interesting tidbit to include in a clue. If your theme is words that include some peculiar property, maybe all the letters are in reverse alphabetical order, you can find lists of such words. And if you want to find words with no vowels other than E or E is the only vowel, you can have your neighbor's kid write a Python script or a RegEx query after he mows your lawn.
Someday there will be a successful Crossword Turing Test where it will be impossible to tell if a new puzzle had any human intervention. Computers can already solve puzzles as quickly as all but the fastest humans. I hope they feel the same joy I do when I complete a grid.
Here are the promised programming steps:
Running that program returns many results, including all of today's themers, but most are boring: ONLY TIME WILL TELL and CAST YOUR MIND BACK are just phrases. LETT HERE CORD SHOW is better, but "show" is a full word. TWOD RINK MINI MUMS is better. There isn't a lot, and Mr. Seigel found an impressive set.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is taking swimming lessons at THE Y.
There are so many ways Thursday constructors can twist the standard rules. Here are some popular violations:
1 and 2 are well supported whether you solve electronically or on paper. No. 3 doesn't work well in an app, but paper solvers have no problem. No. 4 is unique in that, no matter how you solve, there's no good way to scribble inside already black squares. This makes people cranky. (We get mail.)
To overcome this solver reticence, you at least need a solid justification. Today's BLACK SHEEP works. Liz Gorski turned all her consecutive black squares into BARs. We've had a Solar ECLIPSE, BACK in Black, black JACK, black ICE, etc. Jeff Chen did one with black CATS.
Do you love these puzzles or consider this nonsense an unforgivable sin? Perhaps it's a case of MORAL AMBIGUITY.
Disclaimer: I was curious how often these various gimmicks occurred. The two starred links above are newly created for this post, and it's likely neither is complete. Let me know if one of your favorites is missing.
PS: What are the answers that hide LAMB, assuming you don't want it at either the beginning or end of the word? Here are the ones we know of. No RegEx required.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is trying to figure out whether NENE and ISIS are reduplicative or just duplicative.
The jokes in this puzzle, in case you've led a sheltered life, are called Tom Swifties. You don't need to know that, but if you find them amusing, you can now search for lots more. "I can't remember what I was supposed to buy here at the store," said Tom listlessly. And so on. A Tom Swifty crossword relies on the cleverness of the answers, and these are all good. I appreciate that two of the four end, not with simple adverbs, but with phrases. IN VERY POOR TASTE is tasty. FRANKLY INCENSED is hilarious.
LMFAO is clued delicately as "Electronic dance music duo," but we all know it stands for Laughing My Ass Off. Or something similar. Crosswords, at least at the NYT, has always danced close to the edge between titillation and offense, and that edge changes over time as culture changes. Innovative words creep in, sex references are more common, but it's not just an expansion of acceptability. As sensibilities adapt, we become squeamish about certain words that used to feel fine. (Anyone who watches the news knows that describing this as "woke" can praise or insult.) Why is it ok to see IDI AMIN in a crossword but not HITLER? It's complicated. Words like CANCER are avoided even though there's an anodyne astronomy meaning. Let's not talk about the baseball term BEANER.
Who gets to decide if an answer word is amusing or offensive? That would be the editor, and this is a game no editor can win. Will Shortz knows he can't please everyone, so he and his team try to thread the needle as best they can.
Indie puzzles can be instructive counterexamples, often finding humor by pushing traditional taste boundaries while striving to be more culturally expansive. From the perspective of mainstream publications, they provide a helpful laboratory for how their own puzzles might evolve.
There sure have been a lot of IAMB-related clues recently, I think. (Therefore, iamb?)
Ailee Yoshida is the youngest female constructor in NYT crossword history.
Super fun puzzle!
Jeff gave you a link to find words with at least 4 I's in a row, but what if you want at least 4 of any letter? I'm afraid we're going to talk RegEx again.
Pro tip: make sure "Show bogus" is checked to see all the results, because any word with that many repeated letters is likely to be specific to a theme.
Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen win the "first to include KETANJI BROWN JACKSON's full name" race. The new Justice was sworn in on September 30. The Andy Borowitz headline in The New Yorker was Ketanji Brown Jackson Bravely Infiltrates Shadowy Alt-Right Group.
We have yet another crossword co-constructed by Mr. Chen. I presumed he made so many with partners because he was too lazy to fill the whole grid himself, but it turns out Jeff genuinely loves team-constructing, both with established constructors like Mary Lou and with newbies.
In the NYT alone, Jeff has puzzles with a record 51 collaborators. His 92 crosswords trails only the great Nancy Salomon, who paved the way for so many new constructors, including Wordplay queen Deb Amlen. Other familiar top collaborators include Andrea Carla Michaels, Erik Agard, Brad Wilber, and Doug Peterson — all respected practitioners of the art. Some constructors like Erik, Brad, and David Steinberg are also editors. You could argue that every puzzle they publish on their respective venues is a collaboration too.
Building puzzles with friends is fun, but so is solving with friends. If you're a competitive solver, you might barely remember struggling through a mid-week puzzle, bouncing ideas off someone you love, and cheering together when a tough answer breaks through, but it's a joyful activity. I don't have real data, but I suspect most solvers work with others. Try it yourself if you're used to struggling on your own. Or even if not.
Anne Boleyn was Henry VIII's second wife (of six!), and if you recall the poem — Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived — you'll know she was, indeed, beheaded, as per 1-Down.
SIX is also the name of a recent all-female Broadway musical about those six wives. Anne Boleyn gets the best song. ("Everybody chill, it's totes God's will.")
Unrelated to Queen Anne, I predict an uptick in Hinge sign-ups today.
In Jeff's list of -LE games, he missed the brilliant LETTERLE. Word length is one, and you have 26 chances to get it right.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is on a press junket.
The capital of LIBERIA at 34-Across is Monrovia, named after James Monroe. Quick, name the only other world capital named after a U.S. president. (You'll kick yourself if you don't get it right away.)
In case this puzzle didn't make sense, WORKS WITHOUT A NET at 121-Across means "without an ET." So, ELECTRICAL OUTLET at 23-Across should read ELECTRICAL OUTL. Uh, no, that's a red herring. the ET expulsion happens on the clues. "What's in your wallet" needs to be "What's in your wall." Similarly, "Press junket" needs to be "Press junk", and so on.
The three stages of solve on puzzles like this:
You'll have plenty of company whichever stage three you fall into. Crosswords are puzzles, and that means always questioning your initial assumptions. The key to all the more interesting puzzle types is to keep an open mind.
We got some terrific clues today starting at 1-Across. "Do some backup dancing" for TWERK is perfect. "The before-times" isn't a religious reference. EVES come before holidays. "Fountain of youth" made me wonder what Ponce de León might have sought that was only three letters. I'm sure in his younger years, he attended a KEG party or two before sailing off to Puerto Rico on Christopher Columbus's second voyage to the new world.
Despite appearances, this video is not a scene from the musical CATS at 14-Across:
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is reading aloud to his kids.
It's been over three years since we've heard from Canadian constructor Martin Ashwood-Smith, and I'm pleased to see his byline again. Martin is mostly known for what is sometimes derisively called "stunt puzzles" but this one is a standard Saturday, complete with some great clues like "inheritance powder" for ARSENIC.
What is a stunt puzzle? Click on Martin's author page and you'll see many grid-spanning stacks and lots of open white space. This puzzle isn't a pangram, but pangram authors also get called out for the same sin: "making a puzzle that's fun for the constructor instead of for the audience."
This is clearly a grave moral failing. The sentiment that constructors should repress their own selfish desires to create crosswords that appeal to the masses is so obviously true, it's not worth questioning.
And so, I question it.
No other art form comes with this expectation. Can you imagine a painter or sculptor or opera composer being told that rather than do what pleases them, they should only innovate within comfortable standard forms? Fiction writers, for example, get the opposite advice. "Don't copy the formats or styles of others. Do what delights you. Let your authentic voice shine through. That's the only way to find both joy in your work and success."
I asked a few people why crosswords might be so different from other art forms, and the most interesting answer I got was that people don't consider crosswords art. To them, it's a service, like Internet or electricity. That hadn't occurred to me. But if crosswords aren't art, why not?
I'm often reminded that crossword commentators are not representative of casual solvers, but it's not just the critics who feel strongly about this. Joe Krozel, another ground-breaking innovator, was regularly both praised and pilloried for his creativity, including in online comments.
Crosswords are different, somehow. People take them very seriously, with rigid expectations.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who, though somewhat hard-boiled, is an exemplar of stick-to-itiveness.
ELIA Kazan is not only crossword royalty, he was legit Hollywood royalty too. An advocate for "method acting," he directed Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, and James Dean in East of Eden. And then his reputation nose-dived when he cooperated with the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Oh well, he still has 75% vowels in his first name.
ELIA has been in so many crosswords that it's increasingly difficult to invent new clues. You might never have heard of his granddaughter Zoe, but that famous last name makes the answer easy. If your grandfather is Elia or, say, John Barrymore, that comes with advantages but also expectations that must be tough for a young actress.
Themeless crosswords often include sketchy "words" like NOIRISH, but they live or die on their conversational phrases. HAS AN IDEA is pretty good, YOU NEVER KNOW and DRINK IT IN are better. EASY TIGER is outstanding. You don't expect crosswords to be that cool, and uncovering answers like that is a big part of what makes crosswords fun.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is counting the number of puppeteers needed to manipulate Topo Gigio, in Italian!
I think I understand this one. Some answers peek out the top. You have to raise oBJECTIONS, raise a sTINK, raise the mINIMUM WAGE, and raise a fAMILY to make the clues make sense.
Down below, you have to lower the VOLUMe, lower the TEMPERATURe, and lower the PRICe to fit the clues. And finally, in a bit of classic crossword humor, you have to please, for God's sake, for once in your life, lower the damn TOILET SEAt. (On the other hand, it bugs the heck out of me that some thoughtless people leave the seat down, which is just so very inconvenient! We aim for equally balanced offense here.)
Will Shortz insists that Thursday is simply "one harder than Wednesday," but we've come to expect Thursday to be gimmick day. NYT submission guidelines say they already have plenty of rebus puzzles, so what's a gimmickologist to do? One option is to color outside the lines. Today's example was brave because there's no explicit revealer, like GO OVER THE EDGE or DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS or THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX or MAN OVERBOARD. Hopefully, you had a nice Aha Moment.
If you're curious about how other constructors have broken through the outer wall, the complete list is here.
Several people were quick to report the error at 49-Down. Portland and Minneapolis are both further north than Toronto. Seattle will qualify too if the Sonics ever return.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is co-hosting the 1970s program "People Are Talking."
Kameron Austin Collins aims for diversity in his crosswords. There's the outstanding black blues singer SISTA Monica Parker, the Cherokee Oscar winner WES Studi, and a non-mainstream religion. (ZEUS!) OPRAH is a visible minority, but she hasn't been underrepresented since people were talking about her in the 1970s.
LEN BARRY was the lead singer of the Dovells (accent on the second syllable), and he's as white as they come. Here he is singing "1-2-3" (the song in the clue) but check out the video of The Bristol Stomp. Note the homogeneous audience members, decked out in their finest. Is this the era that Make America Great Again wants to recapture?
Diversity is about more than cultural differences. Crosswords traditionally expect a college-level familiarity with English Literature and Western History, but don't expect me to do math or science! You might have to dig back into 10th Grade Physics to remember the IDEAL GAS LAW, but it's no more obscure than that opera singer or rapper or Lord Byron poem that you love. By the way, it's the gas that's ideal (meaning theoretical), not the law, which is only an approximation.
I love the clue "Big sponsor of golf, sailing, tennis, motorsport and equestrian events." There's no way to guess the answer. Yes, there is! Those events all point to the well-heeled. ROLEX it is, then.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is shredding a solo with his ax.
Caleb Rasmussen had a Tetris-themed crossword a decade ago. Should Caleb sue Brandon? Should the famously litigious Tetris company sue the NYT? There are some interesting copyright issue parallels between Tetris and crossword puzzles.
You can't copyright "ideas" (like the rules of a game), but you can copyright expressions (implementations) of those ideas. That might seem clear, but it is open to vast interpretation that often has to be settled in court. Tetris Holdings, LLC v. Xio Interactive, Inc. confirmed that Tetris owned the shape of the pieces (called tetriminoes — that name now trademarked) and the exact 10x20 field size. If you make a Tetris clone, you will get sued. Even if the company doesn't consider you a threat, they have to take active steps to protect their claims, or they will lose them.
Some games are copyrighted, and some aren't. The maker of Sudoku didn't protect his invention and never made a penny despite the huge popularity of that game. The KenKen inventor was more careful and presumably has made many pennies. Wordle had prior art and so isn't protected, but the NYT gave "low seven figures" to its inventor for the Wordle name and for the URL, which now redirects to nytimes.com.
Crossword-like games were published as far back as the 1870s, and nobody claims they own that puzzle type, but crosswords uniquely contain themes and clues that are created anew for each puzzle. The NYT, like all publishers, claims copyright on each puzzle, and we dutifully include that mark on each we display, but it's not clear what exactly that protects. Themes, as we've seen, repeat. There are only so many ways to clue words like ALAI. The complete grid and clue set seems like it deserves legal ownership, but what about grids that are so similar they likely started from theft of another published puzzle? Or is that even theft?
Without a definitive crossword case like Tetris v Xio, nobody knows where the boundaries are. Timothy Parker got defenestrated from USA Today and Universal Syndicate not through legal action but by public embarrassment. (NYT neither uncovered the plagiarism nor promoted the scandal.)
I suspect publishers like it this way. If there ever were a court case that defined the rules — and copyright and patent case resolutions often seem random — then everyone would have to comply, even if the rules were stupid.
Constructors, let's see if we can improve Jeff's search results by learning more about the Finder. The IJI pattern is tough, so we might not get anything useful, but maybe we'll learn some useful techniques.
Jeff wants answers with some combination of three I and J letters, but not the boring III. For that, we need RegEx. Let's break it down.
Adam Simpson is a video game designer from San Francisco. The protagonists in the hot new novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin are video game designers too. I wonder if Adam can identify.
That novel is unusual and remarkable. It doesn't glamorize the profession, but it gave me some insights into why people are drawn to it.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is participating in Zener card experiments.
My impression is that Rudyard Kipling isn't taught so much in school anymore, at least in America. You'll know he wrote The Jungle Book and the Just So Stories, but he was also an influential poet. DANNY Deever is about soldiers watching the execution by hanging of one of their own. It sticks with you.
On the other hand, lots of people die in ROGUE ONE at 50-Across, and it's not sad at all. The only good Storm Trooper is a dead Storm Trooper.
The clue of the day is "Lead-in to hickey," which, as luck would have it, crosses DIRTY MINDED.
And now I'm going to kill your joy. DOO has been clued similarly before by the great Merl Reagle, who called it a "Prelude to a hickey." That brings me to a complaint I sometimes hear: XWord Info is bad for crosswords because it makes it too easy to surface prior art that nobody would otherwise remember. Pointing out repeated themes or clues is pointlessly pedantic.
There's another big complaint people have about this site which I'll share in a future post. Perhaps you can guess.
I leave you with this cringy Blast from the Past courtesy of 18-Across.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is high in Paris.
Themeless crossword constructors think hard about their 1-Across answer the same way novelists deliberate over their opening sentence — they want it to shine, to entice, to be memorable. Not every first answer will be "Call me Ishmael," or "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," or "I was born twice."
Today's 1-Across is pedestrian: ESTATE LAW. So, what's a constructor to do? Give it an outstanding clue. "Subject of some family planning" sends your brain off in the wrong direction. Plus, it hints at sex. (Just me?)
And speaking of sex, when did HOOKED UP start to imply a coital connection? It used to be such an anodyne phrase. And AMBI gets a sex clue at 8-Down. Maleska would be aghast.
"2003 search-and-rescue target" is a great clue for NEMO, and because of my Y-chromosome bias, it took me a while to see "Clutch, e.g." as PURSE.
Here's a tip for working out short words in themeless puzzles. Most short answers have been so overused that obvious clues have long ago been worn out. "Nwodim of S.N.L." is tough if, like me, you haven't watched that skit show since the early 50s, but there's a good chance that, even though the clue might mean nothing, the answer is a word you've seen many times before. Alternatively, it's a nice EGO boost if you knew that one right away.
Ah, Ms. Hilson. Her name is KERI. Don't hate her 'cause she's beautiful.
Fun fact: Every integer can be represented using only keys above the QWERTY row. It's true!
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is herding his pet nanobots.
That's a weird-looking grid layout. It reminds me of diagramless puzzles like this one or this one. There's a specific reason diagramless grids look odd — they try to disguise how the answers interlock as long as possible. But what basis might a standard Friday themeless offering have for looking like this?
It's unclear until you get to the revealer (a revealer on a Friday?) at the bottom right. Until then, you can enjoy it like a standard themeless, and it has plenty to enjoy. Then the EVEN ODDS answer explains the constraint that forces the grid shape into contortions. It's more a curiosity than a theme. It certainly doesn't help you solve, but it's a satisfying way to uncover the layout mystery.
Davy Jones (not the one of locker fame) was indeed, along with Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, and Michael Nesmith, a MONKEE. This constructed-for-TV group was one of the best-selling bands of the 1960s, even though everyone knew the actors didn't actually play on the recordings. Here's the great Cassandra Wilson showing how The Last Train to Clarksville can sound in the hands of master jazz musicians.
I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia TECH, and a hell of an engineer ...
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is practicing his modern dance moves.
Interstate flying is back, baby! No masks required, but everyone is cranky, and your luggage will end up in Barcelona, so there are pros and cons.
Smooth sailing today, though, as airplane-related answers complete the flight plan from abbreviated state to state. I'm a sucker for novelty, and I've never seen a theme like this.
Original theme, and a new constructor. That's not a coincidence. Fresh blood bringing in new ideas is part of the plan. The Times made an interesting decision to open-source crossword creation. Every Wordplay post includes tips on "How to Make a Crossword Puzzle" and this encouraging note for the construction-curious: "The New York Times Crossword has an open submission system, and you can submit your puzzles online."
The NYT is literally diversifying its crosswords by bringing in new DNA. I have no special insight, but that has to make the editorial team's job harder. Not only will they be sifting through many more submissions, but crosswords from neophytes will likely need more polish to get up to NYT standards. They're betting they'll find puzzle gems and promising new voices somewhere in that haystack. It's a good bet.
That work is not just important, it's necessary to keep crosswords evolving in a changing world.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is making a deal. Or not.
Maybe you saw this right away, but I did a triple-somersault at 18-Across — Words before and after "deal."
My brain went right away to deal OR NO deal, but that's clearly wrong. That would be DEAL is a word before and after "or no." Right? Well, yes, but look at that bolded phrase again, and you'll see OR NO is before the second deal and after the first one. Nobody said the order mattered. That's just plain unfair. Except on Saturday it's not only fair, it's expected, and it's what makes Saturdays fun.
Tricky puzzles benefit from footholds, and several clues seemed obvious to me. The RED SEA has a significant part in the Bible, a FUTURIST always thinks ahead, Arthur's demise was plotted by his illegitimate son (via Arthur's half-sister Morgan), MORDRED. Your gimmes will be different. I struggled with SISTER CITY, but Jeff got it right away because, "What else could it be?" Yeah, whatever.
A great Saturday needs at least a few great clues. "Moving film" for SHRINK WRAP is in clue-of-the-year territory.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is playing on his Slip 'N Slide.
If you're going to create a themed crossword, you typically have to cram four or five connected answers into Across slots and then find some way to fill around them. Mondays are particularly tough because that fill must be easy for new solvers.
But before you get to that point, you have to dream up a theme, and like trying to find an available URL for your new project, uniqueness gets harder over time. Jeff remembered an earlier puzzle this year with a similar take. Well, it was in a different venue, and the "strikes" were at the beginnings of the words not the ends, but same idea. My philosophy on such repetitions is different than some: I don't care.
Another admired theme aspect is "tightness". If your theme is names of mountains and the world has more than a couple of dozen mountains (I haven't checked) then a random set of five seems inelegant. If they're the five tallest or the five most active volcanoes, then it's a tight set. I have a bit more sympathy for this notion.
Mr. Marotte's theme set today might not feel tight, but it is. There aren't a lot of "strike a" phrases, and Simon picks up most of the good ones. But, if I need to do a web search to confirm that, does it really matter?
I didn't know what MICROSLEEP was, so I looked it up. It's "uncontrollable, brief episodes of sleep" lasting from a fraction of a second up to several seconds. This can happen while doing repetitive tasks like, say, driving. Yikes.
How I Met My Collaborator
XWord Info started in 2007, and when the NYT hired me to write Wordplay the following year, I was contractually obligated to keep my website going.
Maintaining and evolving a complex site is a lot of work, so in 2013, I announced that I was shutting it down. Several people reached out to ask if they could take it over. I sent them the lengthy list of technologies involved in XWord Info. That was enough to scare them off.
Finally, this Jeff Chen guy sent me mail with the same offer. When I asked him if he was familiar with the listed tech, he replied, "No, but it's just another puzzle, right?"
I'd never met Jeff before. I didn't learn until later that he lived just across Seattle's I-90 bridge from me. We've been collaborators and friends ever since.
New Flash: Crossword puzzles are not science, history, or theology textbooks. Prepare for outrage in the blogosphere anyway.
Crossword puzzles have their own rules. Or rather, they have no rules, only conventions, which they happily break whenever they want, all for your amusement. The grid art today looks vaguely like a slingshot. That's good enough. It doesn't matter that the slingshot David (if he existed) used against Goliath (if that event occurred) would look nothing like it.
In pre-modern times, the slingshot was a destructive and deadly weapon, similar in impact to a rifle today. A soft pouch held a rock or pebble. It was attached to a couple of long strands of leather. You'd swing it around your head a few times to build momentum and then precisely aim at your target. Unlike other weapons of the time, it was effective against armor or shields. See the photo in Jeff's note.
The David v. Goliath story is an odd one anyway. All poor Goliath had was a spear. You or I could have conquered the big guy as easily as David did with a bit of practice and the world's most deadly weapon. Hardly the "underdog prevailing" story we're used to.
Tina Labadie is a pseudonym for David C. Duncan Dekker.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is getting his weekly balayage treatment.
This puzzle is too hard for a Friday and needs to run on a Saturday instead. It's incredible how often Shortz screws that up!
Wait a sec, let's think about this...
There are two ways a crossword becomes difficult. The first is trickery or wordplay that sends you off in the wrong direction. "Eats" in "Eats outside" is a noun. "Making a lead balloon" requires you to pronounce it as LEED balloon. "Office binder" isn't a paper holder. "Church address" isn't a sermon, it's how you might address the person behind the pulpit. Cryptic crosswords are nothing but these kinds of twists, and they're fun. The more crosswords you do, the more you teach your brain to flex, the less likely you'll be fooled by clues like "Alaska has the highest one."
The second way to increase difficulty is more controversial: obscurities. Knowing that leporids are rabbits or HARES, and that a female swan is a PEN, feel like basic facts. But maybe you don't have kids, so there's no way to know Frozen's realm, or you hate basketball, so you don't know NBA analysts, or you never do fast-paced posing or have your hair hand painted. Maybe you've never even heard of A Black Lady Sketch Show. Maybe you read Emma so long ago there's no way you can dredge up the vicar's name. (More on "dredging up" in a future post.)
These are all obscurities if you don't know them, and when two obscurities cross, it feels like a failure. Let's say it feels like the puzzle is a failure, not you, of course.
The problem is that obscurities are in the brain of the be-solver. Different life experiences vastly affect what defines common knowledge or facts worth knowing. What is obscure to you will delight others and (I like to think) encourage them to join the fold.
Erik Agard and Brooke Husic are brilliant constructors, they both want to make more diverse crosswords themselves, and they both want to push the NYT and other venues toward more diversity by crashing through the long-standing canon of acceptable knowledge. That's a challenge tougher than a weekend themeless because the status quo has so much inertia. There's even a perceived financial risk for the Times if they delight a smaller new audience but annoy their larger traditional solvers.
This tension happens with all art forms. We shouldn't be surprised that crosswords are no different.
17-year-old Garrett Chalfin is the latest addition to our Teenage Constructors page. He slots in at #28.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is hawking CURE-ALLS at a medicine show.
Let's talk ASS. That convenient word has a long history in crosswords, usually referring to a beast of burden or a despicable person — "Jenny", "Jack", or "Jerk". Today it's an intensifier as in, "this is a good ass puzzle." Hmmm, that doesn't sound right. You want the puzzle to be bad ass. Apparently that intensifier is also sometimes a reverser. Pro tip: regardless of what you think of your neighbor's ass, do not covet! It's a top ten no-no.
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" is the famous opening line in Daphne du Maurier's novel, Rebecca. ENYA should watch her step! Fortunately, it's not the same place. ENYA renamed her Dublin castle Manderley. That was a popular thing to do.
I love clues like "The N.F.L. mascot Roary, for one." I have no clue about sports mascots. But yes, I do! The clue is in the clue. Roary is an odd spelling, right? Roary must be a LION.
Candide is sometimes called a musical, but it really is an OPERETTA. Leonard Bernstein wrote the music, Lyrics are by Richard Wilbur, John Latouche, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, Stephen Sondheim, and Bernstein himself. That's quite a list!
The surprise for me at 59-Across isn't in the answer (FRESNO) but in the clue. I would not have guessed that San Francisco is ranked as low as 4th in California by population.
A "future-altering decision point" is a SLIDING DOOR. You may know that metaphor from the 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow movie. It's a popular literary trope. The super-hot-now writer Taylor Jenkins Reid used it in her novel Maybe in Another Life.
Have a great ass weekend! Er, I mean an atrocious ass weekend. Nope, still sounds wrong. Phat ass weekend? Forget it. Have whatever kind of weekend you want.
Attend the tale of Titus Andronicus.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is unsuccessfully skipping stones. I'm excited (well, excited and scared) to credit Robyn Weintraub for including one of my favorite crossword gimmicks. NYT headline writers are famous for little in-jokes that might include, say, an innocuous near-quote from a musical. They do this knowing only a percentage of the readers will notice but those that do will get a jolt of joy.
Today at 58-Across, we're asked to remember an obscure Shakespearean gastronomic detail. Well, the detail isn't obscure, it's the climax of the story, but the gory play itself is seldom performed and is considered bottom-shelf Bard. The PIES in question are more Mrs. Lovett than Sara Lee. As Lavinia cleans off her plate, she learns that her murdered sons were baked into that tasty meat pie. Yuck, right? But also (maybe) hey, I knew that!
A more familiar gimmick is the fake sex reference. You knew "Fun times between the sheets" wasn't going to be naughty, but it's an example of the general category of clues that foil your first assumption. "Hall of fame collaborator" has nothing to do with The Hall of Fame. Pay attention to those capital letters! "Lead-in to street name" has nothing to do with names of streets. Slang is fair game. "It looks better with curls" has nothing to do with your own beautiful locks.
Many people assume RIM SHOT (4-Down) is some percussion "flourish" that involves a quick ta-da-dum and a cymbal crash. This is wrong. It's a single shot with a drumstick that hits the rim and the head of a snare drum simultaneously. I don't know where that other notion comes from. (If the drummer repeats a rim shot, is there a repercussion?)
Leviticus 11 does indeed prohibit eating PORK (37-Across), but that barely scratches the surface of what you are enjoined to not just avoid but even detest. It is fascinating reading. If you're a biblical textualist, you have your work cut out for you.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who will be back mañana.
John Lieb is the co-director (along with Andrew Kingsley) of the Boswords crossword tournament.
Boswords has only been going on for a few years, but it has quickly become one of the most important tournaments in the game. Like Lollapuzzoola (August 27) or ACPT (next March 31 to April 2), they have great puzzles from excellent constructors, but they stand out by having several tournaments a year and for absolutely nailing the online experience. This year you can participate virtually or in person, alone or in pairs. The summer tournament is tomorrow, July 24. Not sure if you should jump in? Go for it!
We have alternating current at our electrical sockets today because TESLA outmaneuvered Edison, who advocated for direct current. The consequences have shaped how electronics work ever since.
Marion COTILLARD is an outstanding talent with equal success in both her native French and in English. Keep an eye on her. DAR es Salaam (or just DAR) is the largest city in Tanzania. LEES is an old word for the sediment at the bottom of a wine barrel.
Slang in crosswords is controversial, AM I RITE? I'm not sure how I feel about that one.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is out for a quick drive, informally.
David Steinberg is a young man with a passion for both crossword history and for advancing the artform. You may know that he led The Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project, which is the only reason we have digital versions of pre-1993 NYT crosswords. You might not know that it's an ongoing concern. We get regular reports from users who spot bugs. An amazing woman named Jane Foley has found hundreds of mistakes, and she's but one of many who continue to contribute. Each error is then carefully researched by David before being updated here. It's a huge job, all for the benefit of getting history right.
Does WHOOPEE CUSHION advance the artform? Pre-Shortz editors would never have used it, but admit it, you smiled. And, yes, David passed a FART right underneath. Kids nowadays.
What are some "things people do in bars"? Do they RAWR to express appreciation for someone's level of sexual attraction? I wouldn't know, but what they do do is SHOTS.
Maybe they're looking for "Latin lovers"? Imagine their surprise when they end up going home with POPES. I hear the bedrooms at the Vatican are RAWR.
Cluing ETUDES as "Certain warm-up exercises" is one of my pet crossword peeves. Anyone else? Calm down, Jim. It's only a game!
I know what you're thinking: "Jim, is there any way that, without doing any programming, I can use the OneLook search button on the XWord Info Finder to discover more phrases that match Jeff's ?? X AND Y pattern?"
Your instinct to try the OneLook button is dead on. The standard Search button knows a lot about words but doesn't understand phrases. That is, it doesn't know where words break. The best you can do is ??*AND* which, if you'll click there to see, produces mostly crap.
OneLook search words better for this task. Click the query ?? * AND * (notice the spaces) which means start with a two-letter word, follow that up with anything, then the space-delimited word AND, and then something else.
The search does find all three of today's theme answers. Other interesting results include IN DRIBS AND DRABS, OF MICE AND MEN, IN BLACK AND WHITE, IN FITS AND STARTS, IS PART AND PARCEL, AT BECK AND CALL, TO CUT AND RUN. Not all great, but they demonstrate when our OneLook search can be handy.
Most constructors will never care about these details, but for some of us, WE LIVE AND LEARN.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who knows when to hold 'em, & etc.
I think I understand this one.
Step one is to figure out there's a rebus trick going on related to playing cards. Each rebus square has two parts corresponding to the value and suit of a card. The Across answers define the value (TEN, QUEEN, etc.) and the Down answers define the suit (CLUB, HEART, etc.)
For example, 1-Down and 8-Down will use the suits. 1-Down [Pop culture sister site of The Onion] refers to the web site AV CLUB, and 8-Down [Aplenty] means IN SPADES.
But 22-Across will use the values, so [Plant with clusters of tiny white flowers] is QUEEN ANNE'S LACE.
The square at the start of 22-Across will be QUEEN reading across and CLUB reading down, so the card is the Queen of Clubs. Similarly, at the end of 22-Across, it reads ACE going across and SPADE going down, so the card is the Ace of Spades.
Look at the grid. It explains this better than I can.
In Texas hold 'em, each player is dealt two cards face down, and then (eventually) five more cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table. (The detailed rules and terminology aren't important for this puzzle.)
The four Across answers near the top and bottom with two cards each represent hands dealt to four players sitting around a table. The top-left player has a Queen and an Ace. Combining with the center cards nets a pair of each. Two pair isn't bad.
The top-right player has a Two of Hearts and a King of Clubs. Not much going on here.
The bottom-left has an Ace of Clubs and a 10 of Spades. With the center cards, this player gets a Full House — two Aces and three 10s. Great hand.
Unfortunately for the others, the bottom-right player has a Jack and King of Hearts. Combining those with a 10, Queen, and Ace of Hearts from the center cards makes a Royal Flush — the best possible hand.
Over the years, there have been many attempts to combine crosswords with games like Chess or Pool or Clue or even Bowling. I admire the audacity of this attempt to combine with Poker. It's a lot of work to figure out that some random squares represent playing cards. Let's hope you love card games.
UPDATE: We've been asked how to enter the rebus values into the grids. We're not the NYT but I took a look at what their code accepts. For the Queen of Clubs, you can enter any of these options: "QUEEN", "QUEENOFCLUBS", "Q", "CLUB", "C", "QUEEN/CLUB", "CLUB/QUEEN", "Q/C", or "C/Q". The easiest would just be either Q or C, both of which work.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is auditioning for a solo part in "The Nutcracker."
When I saw the clue "Words on a jacket" at 22-Across, I had a horrible flashback which, of course, I now share with you:
Late-week themeless solving requires constant questioning of your assumptions. You'll find a BIO on a book jacket. (Kindle users can look up "book jacket" on the Internet. It used to be a thing.)
I should have guessed it had nothing to do with that former model. Kameron Austin Collins is a conscientious constructor who wants entries that reflect his personality, his experiences, his taste, his values. Crosswords is a game but, for better or worse, it's seen by many as outlining which areas of knowledge are important, and even what might be worthy of celebration. Crosswords should be Funshine, not yucky.
Well, DOG SLOBBER is yucky, but affectionate yucky. DEAR OLD DAD, DREAM LOVER, and CARE BEARS contribute more warmth. THOTH looks creepy, but I'm sure he was a swell guy. Er, God.
By now, the world is so full of published crossword themes that it's tough to innovate. Today's theme is original and clever, and ending with the dynamic duo of Popeye and God makes it funny too. Bravo.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is ROFL.
Sunday NYT puzzles have titles. (With rare exceptions, other days do not.) Sometimes the title gives away the trick, and for that reason, many solvers avert their eyes. Today, I was able to guess the gimmick from the title alone. Fortunately, I guessed wrong, and the real trick is more fun than just shifting ON within a word. Here's how it works:
These theme types work best when the modifications completely change the meaning of the base text, and that's where this puzzle shines. 3-Down transmogrifies BAT to BATON. That ON was stolen from SEASON in the answer below. Oh, Cap'n, 'TIS THE SEAS is the perfect answer to "Why art thou queasy?"
Entertaining themes only get you so far on a big Sunday crossword. You also need a sprinkling of outstanding clues.
This is the second recent puzzle where a word got transformed into COUP. Perhaps the next one will run on January 6.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is washing down his Rhode Island CLAM CAKE with a DRAFT BREW.
Crossword clues always allow a certain flexibility. "Flexible musical tempos" will consternate purists who insist that "tempos" should be "tempi." It's Italian, after all. But that allows the answer RUBATOS to be similarly non-snooty. I mean, it's the common way many musicians speak.
On the other hand, ask any singer what "Voi, che sapete" is, and they'll tell you it's an ARIA from Marriage of Figaro. Is it really an ARIETTA (a small aria)? Well, technically. Maybe. I suppose. This precision is the opposite of RUBATOS fuzziness. All's fair on Saturday. You may already know this tune, even if you don't recognize the name. If not, Cecilia Bartoli is the perfect singer to introduce you.
Constructor Kevin G. Der knows more about both music and the world than I do, but it was fun to remember that the Plain of Jars is in LAOS, and learn that Nollywood is Nigerian. 2,500 films a year! Lagos isn't the capital, but it's the largest city in that country.
What is the "Business of the Dutch East India Company"? I know this one! It's got to be something about spices or coffee or sugarcane. Oh, it's SEA TRADE. Generic, but ok. It's Saturday.
HIZZONER? Huh? From Political Dictionary: "William Safire has said that the term was first popularized during the mayoralty of Fiorello LaGuardia; LaGuardia, as Safire says, was definitely not a formal figure, so a nickname which played with his office's formal title sat well with him."
Oh, here's one I know for sure. Holden Caulfield's brother is, uh, D.B. something, right? Not right. He had another brother ALLIE who died before the story even started. Did I mention it's Saturday?
PS for Pool Side: Stripes and SOLIDS are the two sides in the game of pool.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is flitting here and there.
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat...
I memorized that poem during my childhood Edward Lear phase so I was ready to slap the right color into 41-Across immediately. Only PEA-GREEN doesn't fit. PUTTING GREEN fits "Where golfers practice short strokes" from the set of random Notepad clues, but what does that have to do with either owls or pussycats?
Tom McCoy is one of the more creative constructors. Click his photo to see his Author Page, select any of his 34 other puzzles, and you're likely to think, "I've never seen a gimmick quite like that before." He's a deep thinker about math and words, which comes through in his themes. Watch his fascinating video in the notes to his previous puzzle.
In case today's theme didn't click for you, it's a homophone initialism puzzle. Read PUTTING GREEN as P GREEN, and it sounds right. CHARLEY HORSE (which fits "Leg cramp") becomes C HORSE which, when sounded out, fits "Fish with a prehensile tail."
In a sign of cruciverbal professionalism, his long Downs are fun too. LET'S GET ON WITH IT, and WHAT'S YOUR SECRET are outstanding.
FALSE TRUTH at 53/54 Across is an interesting phrase. I presume that's something like alternative facts?
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"
They don't write poems like that anymore.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is remapping his keyboard shortcuts.
Saturday puzzles ask you to dig up facts you may have forgotten (Rachel DRATCH left SNL in 2006), figure out terms at you that you may have never heard (NOSE ART?) ,or decipher what some non-English words might mean (Saya for a katana?)
But the pleasures of a Saturday puzzle can also derive from how common short words are clued. As the Inchworm song reminds us, two and two ARE (make) four. Here are some more that remind you that you're working on a late-week themeless:
Then there are some less famous names:
And some misdirections:
ROE is clued carefully these days to avoid sensitive political associations. Fortunately, it's Saturday, so we can get away with "Tobiko or masago." (You got that one right away? Well, fine.)
A TANKINI combines a tank top and a bikini bottom. You get the modesty of a one-piece, but you don't have to remove your entire swimsuit to use the toilet.
Hey, constructors, are you looking for phrases where each word starts with T? A regular T*T* search will clutter up results with words like TATTOO that don't fit this theme because tattoo is a word, not a phrase.
But wait, our new OneLook Search button knows about phrases. We can help! Operators are standing by! Free shipping!
Click on these examples:
None of these are perfect solutions. We still get some phrases with more than two words, we're missing phrases with non-THE Hs, etc. But, with zero programming, you've found several good options.
To get a better solution, you might try writing a Python script. We have some examples. You can make that as sophisticated as you want, but this solution also has a problem. You can only find answers your word list knows about. OneLook searches the Internet.
You don't have to understand any of this to be a good or even a great constructor. But sometimes, finding out more about how these tools work can make your job easier. Much easier.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is practicing for his mellophone recital.
["Macbeth," but not "Hamlet"] is one of my favorite clues of the year. Note the quotes. "Hamlet" stresses the first syllable, so it's a trochee. "Macbeth" stresses the second, so it's an IAMB — that thing where, when you string five of them together, you get iambic pentameter. At that point, you're basically Shakespeare.
For this fine crossword, I will now explain
The bonus theme and all that it entails.
Today, we take well-known movie titles and add an extra letter (a "bonus", I suppose) to fit the goofy clue. Beverly Hills Cop becomes a "Rodeo Drive uprising" when we add a U to turn COP into COUP. By now, we're conditioned to expect a bonus layer in add-a-letter puzzles. We highlighted the bonus letters and, reading top to bottom, they spell OUTTAKES which are often included in movie bonus features.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is performing in both the Winter and Summer Olympics, in different sports.
This one is easy, right?
Whoa, Jim, you know better than that! Your life experiences, including the percentage of your life you devote to crosswords, are uniquely your own. You know things that I don't, and vice versa. But still. 1-Across has to be IMHO, and 5-Across is clearly SPACE FORCE, so before we've completely settled into our Eames puzzle chair, we've got two Across answers and the first letter of fourteen Downs. Fortunately, my ego boost was temporary, as the rest of the puzzle provided more resistance.
TELENOVELA ("soap in Mexico") ought to be a constructor's dream word, with its alternating vowels and useful consonants, Jeff tells me it's more common in other venues, but this is only its second appearance in the NYT. Juliet CAPULET is a prototypical "star-crossed lover." (I hope I didn't spoil the ending.) REAL MATURE is an evocative phrase. "Chains of churches" describes literal ROSARIES.
Pro tip: "Home" as in "Standing at home" often refers to baseball. "Course" as in "Course pro" often refers to either golf or meals. Other seemingly odd words like "shell" often refer to food, although not pasta this time. You "put away shells" at a TAQUERIA. Poke is often food too but, PSST, it's a literal finger poke today.
Are you Team Stridex or Team OXY? I have no opinion.
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who's stuck at a red light.
The first national color television broadcast in the United States was the 1954 Rose Parade, but crosswords are mostly still monochrome. For 25 years, NYT relied on Across Lite's .puz format to distribute puzzles to their most enthusiastic solvers, a format that didn't support color, most foreign characters, or other modern gimmicks. That format is now history, but color is still rare. Even at the Times, some of their distribution channels are black and white only.
Today's gimmick couldn't work without color. Blocks of three black squares have colored circles representing traffic lights. What's more, they're rebus elements. And, the rebus has to be interpreted differently Across and Down. That's a wild combination we've never encountered before.
This will be confusing for newer solvers, so I'll spell it out:
Note that the orientation of the lights is correct — red on top and green on the bottom. Why is this important? So RED/GREEN color-blind drivers know which pedal to press as they tootle around.
Electric cars don't have MPG (39-Across), but they do have MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), so you can compare efficiencies.
Back in 1999 when USENET (18-Down) was still a thing, the Times invited Usenet users from around the world to contribute to this Cryptic Crossword.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who's working on his skincare routine.
What do you want to get from solving crosswords? What do you want to accomplish by constructing one?
The answers feel like they should be obvious. Constructors like Lynn, Robyn, and Patrick get praised, here and elsewhere, for their skill in building smooth puzzles within a crossword's crazy constraints. And no question, they're brilliant, and their puzzles are fun. You usually learn a few facts from them, but the learning never feels forced.
Crosswords are changing, though, and more constructors with a point of view realize they have a platform and an opportunity to express an opinion. To push people out of their comfort zone. To point out what the quiet, comfortable puzzles are leaving out, and open a window to worlds and people and cultures that NYT crosswords have neglected. I've come to appreciate that, and I have constructors like Brooke Husic to thank.
Consider the top-left corner. I haven't read comics since childhood, but I had no idea there were queer DC characters. SUPERMAN wore his underwear over his blue tights, so maybe "heroine" is his preferred identifier? No, it's BATWOMAN. Fascinating! (Are gay references in NYT crosswords becoming more common? Yes!)
[Literally, "high city"] is another great clue. Acrophobia is a fear of heights, and OPLIS seems like a city, so it's an answer you can get by thinking about it. It's Saturday-tricky because you think about the Acropolis of Athens which itself isn't a city, per se.
Then we get to CHIWETEL EJIOFOR at 16-Across. Even if you saw the film and even if you remember his name, you might have no idea how to spell it. Unfair! It's a weird name, so it's not remotely inferable!
The point is, it's weird to you. Others will celebrate his inclusion and feel that the NYT crossword welcomes them in too. Mr. Ejiofor's successes and awards make him worthy of inclusion in a crossword.
Do you feel like you're being preached to? Get used to it. There will always be gentler puzzles but expect Saturday puzzles, in particular, to keep expanding the traditional ambit of knowledge.
Jeff's least favorite theme answer is ATTENDEES. That's my favorite.
The reason that we have different opinions is that we're different people. At least we agree that the puzzle is brilliant.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is listening to Luigi Russolo "music" on Spotify.
Will Nediger. Will Nediger. That name sounds familiar...
The mission statement for XWord Info — to celebrate NYT crosswords and the people who make them — came from an early observation I made in 2007 when I was first experimenting with what I could learn from NYT puzzle data. At the time, The Times made their crossword archive back to 1996 available in digital format, so it was easy to extract clues and answers, and analyze them. As I worked through past puzzles, I discovered that many of the ones I most enjoyed were by the same constructor, a medical doctor in San Francisco named Manny Nosowsky.
When you read novels, you're aware of the authors and you seek them out. Sophisticated filmgoers follow their favorite directors. (Why not screenwriters? Long story.) I wanted to help crossword solvers have that same connection with the geniuses behind the grids.
Will Nediger has a particular style, and it's independent of venue. His New Yorker crosswords bear his personal mark too. Every constructor has a personal style. They can't help it. Some styles and some constructors will resonate more with you. I happen to love Mr. Nediger's. Knowing who wrote the puzzle helps me enjoy it more, and knowing their proclivities can make me a better solver. You can get a sense for a constructor's individualism by looking at the words they debuted and their word cloud.
Today's theme is phrases about repeating things that repeat a key word from earlier in the grid. Excellent Sunday theme. A few notes:
One more observation. Crosswords, for better or worse, shy away from words that might offend, but they revel in clues that seem titillating, Did "Be on the bottom" at 42-Down make you think of sex? You pervert!
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is celebrating Día de los REYES (Three Kings' Day) six months late.
If you drive out to Belle Fourche, South Dakota this weekend (and why wouldn't you?) you'll encounter a cairn with a hand-written sign declaring it the Center of the Nation. That's not what 38-Down asks, though. It wants the "Home of the continental U.S.'s geographic center" where we must somehow believe that Alaska isn't part of a continent, so we push down to Lebanon, KANSAS, and that's our answer.
Part of the joy of crosswords is that you learn something new or, even better, dredge up some factoid you'd forgotten. Clues are different than school tests. You don't have to calculate the geographic center of mass, let alone show your work. You make educated guesses based on other information you collect — how many letters, what letters you already have with what level of confidence, etc. The clue could be "state somewhere in the middle of the U.S." or, since it's a Friday, "place somewhere in the middle" but that would deny you the joy of feeling smug next time a geographic center question comes up at Trivia Night.
The previous NYT crossword editor, Eugene Maleska, targeted solvers who had, what was known at the time as a "classical liberal education." You had to know your Byron, Shelley, and Keats, Norman Rockwell and the Norman Invasion of 1066, and world geography. You also had to know some French, the International Language of Diplomacy, in case you ever needed to negotiate a treaty or sentence a war criminal.
Modern puzzles like today's reflect modern America, relying more on Spanish language and Mexican culture. That makes it tougher for people like me who grew up in a country where French is an official language, but it's fairer for everyone else.
If your computer actually crashes (35-Across) can you still get a "spinning beachball of death"? Well, no, but this is another example of the crossword convention of "close enough."
Jim (he/him/his) here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who's binge-watching Claire FOY in "The Crown."
It's been ten years since Daniel INOUYE retired from the U.S. senate. He was the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in U.S. history, making him a great 1-Across even if he didn't have such a spectacular name.
What makes a great Saturday crossword? I have no idea, but what makes a satisfying one for me is:
You might recognize EDIE Windsor from the Supreme Court case, United States v Windsor that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, thereby legalizing same-sex marriage.
Part of the joy of Saturday crosswords is that puns get stretched far beyond any reasonable limit. "A strain in the theatre" for ARIA? That's so outlandish, it's hilarious.
The NRA at 34-Across (1930s Depression-fighting org.) is the National Recovery Administration.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who's getting his tarot cards read.
Rules? What rules?
Puzzles of all kinds have rules, but an odd property of crosswords is that the rules are secret. You figure them out by playing the game. How do you know that puzzles get more difficult as the week progresses? Or that wordplay outweighs strict definitions? Or that clue/answer tenses must match? Or that answers might involve multi-word phrases, writing more than one letter in a square, or entering answers backward? We often get angry email from solvers encountering such tricks for the first time. These learned conventions make regular solvers feel like they're part of a fun secret society, but they can be frustrating for new solvers.
Fortunately, early-week themed puzzles often have an explanation answer called a revealer that "justifies" the apparent nonsense. Not today!
Mr. Dittrich gives us four phrases where the first word of each hides in circled letters in the remaining words. We learn by playing the game that the four long answers make sense when you extract the word spelled in the circles and prepend it to the initial phrase. It's not explained, but it's a good gimmick because you know it's correct once you figure it out.
Does it feel inelegant that two of the four raw theme answers can stand alone and two can't? I imagine it's challenging to find phrases that fit this puzzle's rules. Of course, solvers don't care how hard the crossword is to construct any more than audiences at a magic show care how technically difficult the effect is, but these are questions that constructors and editors chew pencils over.
Matisse at MOMA (51-Down) continues through to Sep. 10.
An historic performance of The Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore:
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff who is rewinding his overdue Blockbuster tapes.
ASAP at 1-Across is an "Order with four periods." Really? Well, at the NYT it is. In fact, at the NYT, NYT is N.Y.T.
When I worked there, the style guide had a complicated section on the question of whether to include periods. It involved the length of the abbreviation and whether it was an acronym (pronounced as a single word like LASER) or an initialism (spelled out like A.S.A.P.) The oddest example (now finally abandoned) was that IBM had to be I.B.M., even though the official company name was IBM and the letters officially no longer stood for anything. Traditions evolve slowly.
PASTA SAUCE on bow ties is an amusing image. Obvious misdirects can still be humorous.
Saturday puzzles often include a category of clues I call "Fun facts you don't actually have to know." If you're not familiar with zardozi embroidery, the clue asking where to find it (48-Down) feels impossible. But it's probably a country name. Four letters, so that narrows it down. 47-Across gives you the starting I, so that leaves two options. Zardozi sounds, what? Persian maybe? IRAN is more likely than IRAQ anyway, so in it goes. Who was the British poet-laureate in 1668 (two years after the Great London Fire)? Who knows, but it's a better clue than "old-timey British poet you've heard of that fits the squares." Similarly, let's imagine you're the type of person unfamiliar with the exact percentage of the world's wood various companies use, but 1% is a lot, and that points to an easy answer. There. I've gone from complete ignorance of three important clue elements to learning three interesting facts.
Stacked grid spanners go in and out of style, and today we get three outstanding answer phrases dead center. The long answers throughout are excellent. Bravo.
Jim here. sitting in for Jeff who's getting his mustache waxed.
CATFISHES is already a decent answer, but it's an interesting editorial choice to clue it as a verb since the slang sense it points to is creepy. It doesn't mean pretending to be a Nigerian prince to get your SSN, it means preying on the vulnerable lovelorn by faking romance, with the ultimate goal of, well, let's leave it at just financial gain. It's an evocative term. It's new. It's an important concept in modern digital life. It's today's 1-Across.
Lots to love today. My themeless endorphin levels vary with the clue cleverness, and there are some good ones here: "Follower of many state names" for EDU, and "Modern-day scroll" for TWITTER FEED stand out.
OPEN MATTE is obscure enough that it gets a dictionary clue, but it's sandwiched between two good answers with outstanding clues: "Where to find 55 and over" for RADIO DIAL, and "Parents obsessed with play dates" for STAGE MOMS.
SALOME would have to be considered a tragedy, at least for John the Baptist whose head gets served on a platter to the spoiled title character after she strips to the famous Dance of the Seven Veils. That's how it goes in Strauss's opera version anyway, and also in the play, and I'm guessing also in that old book from which the Herod v John story derives. Sex and violence. Two staples of both opera and the Bible.
Crosswords are full of conventions you just have to learn. One is that clues like "They're used during film production and promotion" can be puns. Those are different kinds of TRAILERS but having the same name is good enough for crosswords. Too much logic will spoil your fun.
Another convention you need to internalize is the occasional focus on spelling rather than meaning, like "What makes Dr. Dre?" for ANE, or "Aisle's head" for SILENT A. Today we have "Myanmar has two" for EMS. As you solve more crosswords, your reaction to these will go from "So unfair!" to "Damn, I got fooled again!" to "Yeah, totally saw that coming. Next."
Oh, and Mr. Distenfeld, your resplendent constructor notes are amazeballs.
On our Finder page, you can enter **CAST** and click OneLook search to find phrases with the word cast.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is testifying before the Jan. 6 committee.
Another great start with an outstanding clue at 1-Across. "Rolls dough" isn't a verb. It's the do-re-mi you need to finance your Rolls Royce. I know, I know, you paid cash for yours.
That aside, today's clear star is "Nipple ring" at 2-Down. AREOLA is a popular answer going back to the 1940s thanks to its useful combination of letters, but cluing has been handled delicately. "Interstice on an insect's wing" isn't fooling anyone. Last August, for the first time in the NYT, the protective reticence got punctured with "Spot for some piercings." Today's clue ups the ante a bit more. Can other useful (but crappy) words like ANUS and ENEMA be far behind?
Some solvers will be offended by a nipple reference. Others will be relieved to see the NYT dial back its prudishness and acknowledge the existence of a body part we all have. Editors have to carefully balance competing concerns. They don't always get it right.
It's impossible to be objective about crosswords because they tie together whatever topics happen to work. Some of those topics will resonate with you, some will annoy you, some will confuse you; it depends on your background and interests. I saw an IBSEN play a couple of weeks ago. Jules and Jim is one of my favorite films. Today's crossword won my heart before I was halfway through it. This personal aspect is why I find it difficult to say whether a puzzle is good or bad, only if I enjoyed it. It's also what makes crosswords unique among puzzles and why they're such great fodder for bloggers.
Jeff's back tomorrow, and if you've been following his lack of POW picks this week, it's apparently with a crossword he admires.
Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who's on assignment.
"Kids and their parents" is a terrific way to start a crossword, and it shows the psychological power of selecting the perfect clue words. If the clue were just "Kids" you might guess GOATS right away. The seemingly helpful "parents" addition tricks you into looking for a slang word for families. One of the keys to solving well is the ability to quickly discard assumptions. "Drink that comes with a buzz cut" is another example. It's not an alcoholic drink (did you go there first?) and the cut is to the caffeine buzz, not the head locks. Oh, and just in case your parsing skills are as bad as mine, the answer is DECAF LATTE, not DECA FLATTE, which is an obscure S.I. unit for, uh, flatness or something.
On the other hand, I don't think "That's ___ business" at 57-Down is a misdirection. I don't get why that's a clever clue for YOUR. (This is why Jeff is the usual commentator.)
Today's theme is a solid Tuesday idea. SPELL BOUND is accomplished phonetically from the starts of the other theme answers. Does it bug you that all but one "letter" is a complete word?
I found the puzzle tough for a Tuesday thanks to my ignorance of college basketball coaches and Italian rhyme schemes. (Ottava rima goes ABABABCC in iambs. You knew that already.)
SUBSECTION might need explaining too.
Finally, it's Stanley Cup playoff time, and I take extreme umbrage at the clearly incorrect clue for REFS at 69-Across. Refs don't call offsides, linesmen do! Shortz is such an idiot. Oh, wait, there are sports other than hockey that have offsides? Nevermind. Sorry I brought it up.
PS. It's been a long time since I've been a crossword commentator and I've completely forgotten how this works. Jeff is back tomorrow. Go Kraken! (Next year.)
I liked this one more than Jeff did. The concept is genius, the execution is brilliant. I wish I'd thought of it.
You probably know the so-called "Curse of Disneyland." If you even once hear the song It's a Small World After All, you can never, ever get it out of your head.
The new Disney curse is We Don't Talk About Bruno. If you're not already infected, DO NOT watch the video in Jeff's notes.
No, no, no!
Seattle traditions are dying. It used to be that every time you were seated at any restaurant here, a waiter would bring ice water and hot sourdough bread to the table before you could even order. No more.
Seventh-inning stretches at Mariners games meant singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame and then (41-Across) Louie Louie, a catchy tune that no two people can agree what the lyrics are. It was great. That 32-year-old tradition ended this year. Now it's some Macklemore song. Bah!
You can't go home again. You can't even stay home again.
Oh, the puzzle? I loved it.
In his comments, Jeff links to a site called Rhyme Zone to find rhymes for attaché. XWord Info can also find rhymes. We use the same data source that Rhyme Zone does. Here's our list of attaché rhymes. Why duplicate their information? It's part of our ongoing drive to provide maximum value for constructors.
Rhyme Zone is part of the OneLook family. OneLook data knows a lot about words — what they mean, how they're used, how they're pronounced. This blog post shows how you can, for example, find words that match a pattern within a particular topic, or find phrases that include a specified word. XWord Info knows a lot about crosswords — which words are useful or dangerous, how words have been clued, etc. We aim to combine those two knowledge sets.
For example, our attaché rhymes are color-coded (key below chart) so you can see which words have been used in modern NYT crosswords, which ones have only been used in pre-Shortz puzzles, which come from Jeff's database but have never been used in a NYT puzzle, and which come only from a dictionary. Clicking words that have NYT history shows all the clues for that word. Other words link to definitions.
Our two main search buttons labeled Search and OneLook search are useful for different reasons. For pattern matches, it's often a good idea to click both.
Importantly for constructors, both result sets can be sorted by NYT usage frequency, word length, or by Jeff's word score.
Note that you may have to click More OneLook... to see advanced features like synonyms, antonyms, rhymes, triggers (other words that tend to occur with your word), and words that precede or follow yours.
Yes, I own two THEREMINS. Why do you ask?
Ms. Simon has a blog.
I'm going to disagree with Jeff on this one. The theme is excellent. Even if you don't know your metonyms from your synecdoches, it's clear these are all place names that represent something related. Adding a revealer would be like overexplaining a joke. We get it already.
Grids with unchecked squares are rare, but this is the third this month.
SYLLOGISM (46-Across) always reminds me of Lewis Carroll because he published so many great ones. This one is easy:
Work through the logic and you end up with something like "Anyone who can manage a crocodile is not a baby."
Fair enough. Here is a longer one for you to tackle on your own:
And finally, an even longer and somewhat rude one:
With this puzzle, Jeff Chen has at least eight crosswords for each day of the week.
Christina Iverson was just named Patti Varol's assistant crossword editor at the Los Angeles Times.
The last word of the first sentence of Kafka's The Metamorphosis depends on the translation. I've seen "insect" but also "cockroach" and even "beetle."
This is the first one where the moisture seeps in between consecutive horizontal cells.
For some reason, this puzzle has me thinking about this iconic song from the musical SIX about the six wives of Henry VIII.
A. A. MILNE shows up often in crosswords. "People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day" is a great quote.
Milne wrote all those stories that allow giddy children to say POOH out loud. He also wrote poems for them. The King's Breakfast is charming, amusing, and clever. Try reading it out loud. (You have to know that an Alderney is a dairy cow.)
This Thursday DOT THE I'S theme is a companion piece to the previous Thursday's CROSS THE T'S.
This Thursday CROSS THE T'S theme is a companion piece to the following Thursday's DOT THE I'S.
Reader Pete Campbell sent us this comment that I thought was interesting:
For Australians, the plural of our "gum trees" is eucalypts (drop the u) — one of those unusual plurals that is shorter than the singular but, in this case, not because of a Greek ending such as -us to -i or Greek/Latin -on to -a.
Speaking of D&D, XWord Info has a feature for constructors that helps them polish their work. Drag & Drop a .puz file here to see a statistical analysis of your crossword and generate private test links for your beta testers.
"Cup holder, usually" — I love it! Two clues are different in print:
Speaking of collective nouns, William Shakespeare is credited with coining two good ones. One is the name of a play. The other is from his most famous soliloquy. You'll know when you get them.
I was charmed by this one. The first NYT puzzle editor already understood something important about why people love crosswords. Her sentiment is still true today.
The clue for 16-Down seems to be an error. The Thriller lyric is "I can thrill you more than any GHOST could ever dare try." The word "ghouls" does occur later in the song, but in a different context. And no, the A TRAIN (43-Across) doesn't quite make it all the way to Kennedy Airport.
RegEx is the wrong tool for what Mr. McCarthy was trying to do but a quick Python script would do the trick.
We have some templates here to help you get started.
I don't get to pick the POWs around here, but this is my favorite crossword of the week. The gimmick is seasonal and pretty and apparently obvious, until the deeper levels reveal themselves. It's unique and clever, yet easy to understand. That seems perfect for a group solve around the kitchen table after overindulging in a family holiday meal.
Film snobs will go on and on about how You've Got Mail is a poor remake of Ernst Lubitsch's masterpiece The Shop Around the Corner, and that Tom Hanks is no Jimmy Stewart and blah, blah, blah. So annoying.
But, yes, they're right.
It's funny how individual experiences with just one or two clues can color your view of an entire crossword.
Jeff mentioned my reaction to the RADIO SHACK clue. I spent many hours there as young electronics experimenter picking out just the right diodes and capacitors. (You kids nowadays with your fancy-dancy integrated circuits have no idea what you're missing!) So right away I'm hooked.
Then I hit SALOME. As much as I love Puccini and Wagner, Salome is probably my favorite opera. I love every note. It jumps right into the story without any prologue, and it finishes the whole sordid tale in a single act. The plot, from a play by Oscar Wilde, is well known. Herod pleads with Salome to dance for him. She complies with the infamous Dance of the Seven Veils. Herod is so delighted that he offers to grant Salome anything she wishes. Her recent attempts to seduce John the Baptist had failed, so she asks for John's head on a platter. Seems a bit much, but a promise is a promise. The opera ends when Salome kisses the decapitated John on the lips.
The clue is correct, but that Han Solo reference is cringey for astronomers. PARSECS are units of length, not time. Oops.
ADDED NOTE: To answer a question we've been getting; the reason today's puzzle doesn't appear on our Schrödinger page is that we don't consider it a Schrödinger puzzle. Schrödingers have single clues that work with multiple answers. We call today's a "Slash" puzzle because there are different clues (separated by a slash) for each answer variation.
Schrödinger and Slash puzzles are both fun. One isn't superior to the other. We consider them to be distinct categories.
"Reason the zombies are, of course, skipping the empty house" is a clue-of-the-year candidate.
It's tough to find new clues for ALB, but as someone who spent half his life in Edmonton, I'm not sure anyone there would recognize it as an abbreviation for Alberta.
The hugely popular TRUE CRIME podcast (35-Across) Serial is brilliantly parodied in the Hulu series Only Murders in the Building, starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. Tiny Fey is the Sarah Koenig stand-in.
Listen for the music. It's not exactly the Serial theme, but it's cleverly reminiscent.
Mr. Lee-Kovach checks in at number 5 on our Teenage Constructors page.
This mini-theme is one that even I could understand. "Atomic batteries to power! Turbines to speed!" DA-da-da-da-DA-da-da-da...
Unlike Jeff, I loved seeing MONOPLANE in the grid.
At the end of Mozart's Don Giovanni, (you may know him as Don Juan), the titular seducer dies and is dragged down into hell. Heavy stuff, but the video in the constructor notes here provides some extra humor just for opera fans. Even the conductor at the harpsichord gets into the fun.
This is the third CRETAN reference in four days. It's just a coincidence, but it's an odd one.
Billy Bratton is the 50th teenage constructor published by Will Shortz.
XWord Info started 14 years ago today.
The clue for CHLOE ZHAO at 17-Across was changed from "Asian-American" to "Chinese-born."
The clue for HELLCAT at 37-Down was corrected from "aircraft carrier" to "fighter plane."
Post-publication corrections are rare in NYT crosswords, but a change was made for 35-Across. ESO was clued as [This, in Spanish] but [That, in Spanish] is better. We show the corrected clue here.
MOIL will be familiar to Robert W. Service fans thanks to The Cremation of Sam McGee.
You can learn a lot from poetry. Pro tip: that's an excellent one to read aloud.
Fun puzzle. This one impressed me.
An astute reader pointed out that 19-Down is easy if you happen to remember The Weavers. They don't make pop hits like this anymore.
What I (anonymously, apparently) told Jeff is that I appreciate jokes like this one where the humor isn't in the words themselves, but in the story you mentally construct afterwards. Chacun à son goût.
Since Mr. Carpenter brought it up, here's the relevant excerpt from the XWord Info Word List FAQ:
Did you like seeing ROY COHN in the grid?
There are different schools of thought about what entries are suitable for crosswords, ranging from "include nothing that makes me sad or might trigger anyone anywhere" to "anything in the newspaper itself is fair game." I tend toward the latter, but I understand the former.
Crosswords have been criticized for including words that might be used as an insult in other contexts, under-representing various groups, etc., but controversial names seem to be especially tricky. There's an implication that grid inclusion implies endorsement. If you saw your own name in an NYT crossword, you'd feel honored. I get that.
Crosswords would look much different if they completely eschewed the despicable and the evil. MAO and IDI are grid staples. IVANKA is a great combination of letters that will attract ambitious constructors. WAGNER and PICASSO and JFK and MLK are more famous for their work than for their moral failings.
As we learn more about the rich and famous, our opinion evolves. GIULIANI used to be an American Hero. Now he's a national embarrassment. WOODY ALLEN used to be an admired filmmaker. Now he's too toxic to include in a puzzle.
For the record, I loved seeing Roy Cohn today, in the same way I enjoy seeing BILLY THE KID. That doesn't mean I don't have my own triggers. ENOLA has been clued over 200 times in reference to that infamous B-29 bomber. Whatever you think of the military strategy behind the decision to bomb Japanese civilians, 70,000 deaths is a tragedy. Would JACK THE RIPPER be better because it was longer ago and fewer people died? Is that worse or not as bad as a lawyer who corrupted American democracy? Those are crazy calculations to try to make.
[Added note] Reader Mike Knobler makes this astute observation: "For some of us, seeing a name or an organization or an institution in the puzzle isn't offensive if the bad thing the person or organization or institution did or does is addressed in the clue. ROY COHN clued as a McCarthyite is much less offensive than, say, Henry Kissinger clued as a diplomat or the NRA clued as an advocacy group."
That makes sense to me. even though It doesn't completely solve the problem of you and I disagreeing on who is despicable and who is heroic.
4-Down [Sole survivor of the Pequod.] This is a great clue. Even if you only know the first line of Moby Dick, you know it's narrated by someone called ISHMAEL. He must have survived since he's telling the story, so if there's only one survivor, it must be him. Plus, "Spoiler alert" is funny.
17-Across [Like many old video game soundtracks] is EIGHT-BIT. I suppose that's true for the soundtracks, but the charm of old games now comes from the EIGHT-BIT graphics. Those big chunky pixels could only display 256 (2^8) different colors, so forget any ideas about subtle shading or realism.
2-Down: Exhalation: Stories is a stunningly great collection of short stories by Ted CHIANG.
Anyone who carries around an NPR totebag is familiar with the phrase DRIVEWAY MOMENTS.
No, table hockey is not remotely the same thing as air hockey.
If you can't solve today's puzzle without thinking of this song, you're officially a Hamilnerd:
Here are the other NYT grids with no three-letter answer words.
Kazuo Ishiguro (from 45 Down) won his Nobel prize after writing The Remains of the Day.
His latest novel, Klara and the Sun, seems completely different. It's set in the future, not the past. The first-person narrator isn't a BUTLER, it's an android of sorts. And yet the gradual revelation through subtext the reader understands even when the characters don't is in that familiar, brilliant Ishiguro style.
The Seattle Mariners were victims of an unassisted triple play that completely fooled the announcers:
Today's crossword reminds me of a favorite, not haiku, but poem anyway:
There was a young girl from Japan
Whose limericks never would scan.
When someone asked why
She replied with a sigh,
"It's because I always try to fit as many syllables into the last line as I possibly can."
There's a companion poem that goes like this:
That girl had an intimate friend
Whose limericks came to an end
Canadians everywhere thank Mr. Moore for correctly calling those birds CANADA GEESE, not Canadian Geese.
ELOPE and its plural variant we see today have seen a number of outstanding clues over the years:
And my personal favorite:
Tower of Hanoi is a game where you have to move all the disks from the first post to the third, one at a time. The catch is that you're not allowed to place a larger disk on top of a smaller one. The animation here shows a four-disk solution.
When programmers first learn a technique called "recursion" their first assignment is often to solve the Tower for an arbitrary number of disks. These weird functions that recursively call themselves are an example of STRANGE LOOPS from the Monday puzzle.
Young Mr. Hasegawa is the latest addition to our Teenage Constructors page.
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid nearly cost me my education. I was studying physics at the University of Alberta when that book came out, and for two weeks, I didn't study, do homework, or go to class because I was so caught up in that damn book.
It felt like Douglas Hofstadter had written it especially for me by combining all the obsession of my youth — logic puzzles, art, music, math, and wordplay — before I realized that none of them were ever going benefit me in real life.
Today's puzzle marks Will Shortz's 10,000th daily crossword as New York Times Puzzle Editor.
In my blog post, The 10,000 Days of Shortz, I share some of my own stories and observations.
Over at Wordplay (my old job, as Bill Maher likes to say). Deb Amlen has an extensive interview with Will.
Puzzle is ingenious. English is weird.
A fascinating talk on words and crosswords by Tom McCoy:
A simple RegEx will find plenty of DOUBLE DOWNs, but here's a more restricted search that looks at internal duplications, i.e., ones ignoring the first two and last two letters.
In the answers below the grid, we have arbitrarily used T for the Across answers and V for the Down ones.
Four BEERs and a NOONER? Ms. Fenimore is clearly a BADASS party girl.
"Penultimate" is a great word, but as English continues to erode, I mean evolve, it's in danger of losing precision. It means "second to last" but (sloppy) people sometimes use it to mean the very last. That makes jokes like "post-penultimate" or clues like 20 Across lose all sense.
Flanders and Swann famously included the lyric, "Then there flashed through her mind what her mother had said, With her antepenultimate breath" in their cautionary song Have Some Madeira, M'Dear.
Peter Gordon is one of my favorite constructors and, as usual, I liked this one more than Jeff did. Chacun à son goût, and all that.
Mr. Gordon famously based this 2001 puzzle on Scrabble scores.
I like this one a lot more than Jeff does. Fun puzzle.
I was surprised to see ["The Gray Lady": Abbr.] as a clue for NYT.
When I started Wordplay years ago, I was given two rules to follow about the Times:
There's nobody better to help you understand the amazing KOMODO DRAGON than the World Renowned Komodo Dragon Authority from Upper Montclair New Jersey, Dr. Darryl Dexter. (I miss you, Bob and Ray!)
A couple of music notes today (haha.) First, OBOE really is featured in Beethoven's Fifth, as Peter Schickele makes clear in this famous bit imagining how sportscasters might call the first movement.
More importantly, 4-Down is all the excuse I need to embed the official Love Like a Yeti video. Musicians aren't performing in front of audiences these days, but some friends and I got together in a socially-distant outdoor way to record this brilliant song by our drummer Jeremy Stone. Some of you may recognize ace crossword solver Jeff Brumley on bass.
Jeff doesn't appreciate SQUALL LINE or ET ALIBI, but I like them both.
SQUALL LINE I happen to know. ET ALIBI is unfamiliar, but it's the kind of clue I love. The clue is [Latin for "and elsewhere."] The answer isn't immediately obvious (Latin isn't my prima lingua) but it has to start with ET (remember ET ALIA, ET AL?) and ALIBI is the perfect excuse. It literally means you can't be guilty because you were "somewhere else!" Once ET ALIBI comes to mind, you know it must be correct.
This is the second time this week we've seen ABACI clued as if they are counting devices. This seriously underplays their utility. With your abacus, you can do addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and even square roots.
Brendan Emmett Quigley mentioned on Facebook that his identity was hidden in the grid. We've highlighted his Easter Egg.
I have a theory. Patti Varol waited this long to get an NYT byline just so she could snag Shortz Number 1000.
When I got PRESSURE COOKERS down the middle, and then SOFTWARE COMPANY at 17 Across, I thought the theme was going to be "things that are examples of pressure cookers." :)
Did this play tough for you Americans? Ah, sorry, eh?
Think of it as payback for all the Canucks who have to deal with American college names and mascots, American government agencies (like 65 Down), and American spelling. Yes, I realize, it's an American puzzle, but having one crossword that caters to your friendly (and apologetic) northern neighbours seems like the neighbourly thing to do.
Do Canadians apologize too much? Yeah, sorry. Do they claim Maple Syrup as their own? You bet your mukluks. (Sorry, Vermonters.) In my Québec childhood, I have fond memories of boiled maple sap being drizzled onto fresh snow until it solidifies enough to become the most delicious treat any kid could imagine.
And who or what is Tim Horton? Only one of the greatest defencemen in the history of hockey. After retiring from the Maple Leafs, he started the now-ubiquitous restaurant chain. Think of it as like Starbucks, only with better coffee. And donuts! Speaking of drinks, here's some Canadian advice for our American friends:
Finally, HOCKEY NIGHT might sound generic, but to a Canadian, that phrase sparks a Pavlovian response. Hockey Night in Canada has been an institution for close to a century, first on radio and then on television. If you're not Canadian, stop reading now, because this link will mean nothing to you, but it's trippy nostalgia if you grew up in the True North Strong and Free.
CFLAT is a tough word to clue. There are no famous orchestral works in that key. It's the enharmonic equivalent of B Major (five sharps), so there's no obvious reason to go to the trouble of writing music in C Flat (seven flats.)
Ms. Weintraub's clue is "Harpist's home key." That's brilliant, and it's mostly true, especially for modern Concert Harps, the kind you see in orchestras. It does raise the question, why are harps tuned to such an awkward key?
To understand, you need to know how harps work. There are seven strings per octave (like the seven white keys on a piano), the strings are color-coded according to their letter names, and there are pedals that stretch the strings, altering their pitch, but only in one direction — sharp.
So, the strings all start in C Flat (all seven notes in the scale are flat.) Pushing, say, the D pedal and locking it down causes all the Ds to rise to D natural. Another notch down, and they all sound as D sharp. Correctly positioning all seven pedals allows you to play in any key and keep the color-to-note-name mapping consistent.
If you started in, say, C instead of C flat, you could still play in any sharp key (G, D, A, etc.), but playing in a flat key (F, B flat, etc.) would require you to drop down to a different (now raised) string. That messes up the color mapping, but critically, it would make that string unavailable for the correct note in whatever key you're in.
Why don't harps have 12 strings per octave so every possible note could be played in any key? For one thing, harps already have so many strings it's difficult to keep track of them all. More importantly, you'd lose the ability for harps to do that effect they're most famous for — the glissandos where strings are strummed to make that familiar shimmering effect. That only works if the notes blend because they're all in one key or one chord.
Fun fact: Harpo Marx, who played beautifully, didn't use a C Flat home key or any normal scale. He had his own unique tuning scheme — not surprising given that he was completely self-taught.
I love these themeless Sundays.
Adeste Fideles doesn't ring a bell? You may know that melody by another name:
Rudders of the Lost Ark is especially brilliant because it flips the meaning of Ark between "boat" and "box."
My proof that the two-thirds of the Fibonacci numbers must be odd:
The sequence starts 1, 1. Each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two.
We will never see two even numbers in a row. The only way there could be consecutive even numbers is if we started with two even numbers, and then all numbers in the sequence would be even. That's not the case.
Now, look at any even number in the sequence. I'll use 8 in this example, but any even number will do. The number before it (5) must be odd because there are no consecutive evens, so the next number, the sum of those two, the sum of an even and an odd (5+8), must also be odd (13.) Continue to the number after that. It must be odd too because it's the sum of the previous odd number (13) plus the one before that (which must be even, in this example, 8.)
After that, we have the sum of two odd numbers, which is even, and the odd-odd-even cycle repeats.
I've often said that crosswords is unusual among puzzles because your life experiences greatly affect your solving experience.
Is BRAE obscure for you? I'll never forget it. On my first trip to the UK, I hired (not rented) a car in London and drove it all the way to a fishing town on the north coast of Scotland to meet a shirt-tail relative. The further north you go in Scotland, and the further you travel from large cities, the stronger and more incomprehensible the accent becomes. By the time I got to Buckie, I could barely pick out a word per sentence.
My directions in town were spotty, so I stopped the car to ask a boy on the street how to get to the Council House that I knew was close to my destination. "De ya nae ken Buckie?" he asked. This much I understood. I explained I was a visitor.
"Aye, then, well ya see the wee quinie doon the brae?" I was at a complete loss. The young loonie (boy) was frustrated with my stupidity but I eventually came to understand that a quinie was a girl and doon the brae was down the hill. I think of that story with great pleasure every time BRAE pops up in a grid.
Because of your own life adventures, you know plenty of obscure things that most people nae ken. I bet each time you encounter one in a grid, it makes you smile.
Homophone themes are tricky.
Jeff is sure the French city is pronounced KAHN. I've only heard KAN, even when I was there. Wikipedia agrees with me (French: kan.) Merriam Webster agrees with me (preferred pronunciation kan, but to be fair, also accepts kän.)
Case closed? Maybe if you're a Parisian, but in France, the further south you go, and the closer you get to Italy, the more people tend to follow the Italian tradition of pronouncing every vowel. Cannes is right on the Mediterranean, very close to Italy. This native speaker adds the very French sort-of "uh" semi-vowel. So, we're both wrong.
Let's play RegEx again: BACK-ORDERED words at least five letters long.
Fun puzzle. To paraphrase Ms. Zellweger, "You had me at VEGEMITE."
Everyone loves the High Anxiety clue, but let's give some credit to Mel Brooks here.
66-Down is MIXED REVIEWS. In theatre-speak, that's code for universal pans.
Apollo XI had two pilots. Buzz Aldrin was the Lunar Module (not LEM) Pilot, and Michael Collins was the Command Module Pilot. Neil Armstrong had to settle for Commander.
The clue for 4-Down should be, "Like Tom Brady's balls."
The best thing about TINKER TO EVERS TO CHANCE is that it reminds us of the glorious phrase, gonfalon bubble.
And it is, it is, a glorious thing, to be a PIRATE KING.
W. S. Gilbert's lyrics do tend to stick in your brain. If you've seen even one production of The Pirates of Penzance, 26-Down is a gimme.
I think I finally figured out what my job is here at XWord Info. I read about how Jeff writes Python code to find Thursday gimmick patterns, and then I show how to get the results more easily using RegEx instead. No coding required.
This is the seventh NYT crossword for Olivia Mitra Framke. Jeff Chen has awarded his POW to four of them.
Bloggers, prepare for diatribes on why LEM at 59-Down is inaccurate.
I've skated on plenty of ice rinks, but never on an OVAL one (24-Down.)
This is the kind of nit-picking that exasperates solvers. Rinks are rectangular with rounded corners. Their opposite sides are parallel straight edges. Ovals are nothing like that.
Well, more or less. Crossword clues, especially later-week ones, have this strange balance where sometimes absolute parsing precision is required — is "flower" a plant or a river? — and other times, over-generalization is the key. Both approaches are designed to fool you, which is the point of the game.
ELLIPSE would be clearly wrong, right? OVAL is more mushily defined. And since English dictionaries are famously descriptive rather than prescriptive, if "people" call rinks oval, then they're oval.
Much hair has been yanked over these sorts of details. As a solver, you can either choose to be annoyed or amused. You'll have plenty of company in either camp.
My opinion on this particular clue: I don't like it. I realize, though, that I'd likely live a longer, more enjoyable life if I just went with the flow-er.
Since you asked, yes, there's a regex to find words that match the EIEIO pattern with no other vowels.
Interesting that besides PRESIDENT WILSON, three others make the list: PRESIDENT CLINTON, PRESIDENT NIXON and PRESIDENT LINCOLN.
You'll also find REINFECTION. Uh, don't use that one.
Theda Bara was a huge star in pre-code Hollywood. The image above shows she was also a snappy dresser.
"The play's the thing." The Murder of Gonzago, you'll recall, is Hamlet's ploy, "Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King."
A terrific puzzle, and "Groin pulls" is a clue-of-the-year contender.
Paper solvers don't see cross-referenced clues. We've tried to duplicate the print experience here.
Mr. Charlson notes that he's the founder of Z.J.X.Q. — Americans Against Accurate Acronyms.
Let's all hope he doesn't run afoul of the A.A.A.A.A.A.A. — the American Association Against Acronym and Abbreviation Abuse.
Bloggers need to be prepared for a revival of the great "Is it DUCT TAPE or DUCK TAPE?" controversy. Just stay out of that one. You can't win.
Jeff Brumley is the famous bass player from the band Rise Up. (Full disclosure: I happen to know him personally.) In response to Mr. Chen's write up, Mr. Brumley sent us a video link along with this comment: "You wanted more rap involving a rhinoceros? You got it."
TENSEGRITY has never appeared in an NYT crossword, but you can see an example on Wyna Liu's beautiful website.
Jeff's not hot on WICKED GOOD but for me, it's the highlight of the grid.
Oops! The original published clue for EVA at 58-Down was [Wall-E's love in "Wall-E"] but while Wall-E pronounces the name "Eva", that robot of romance spells own her name EVE.
"Businessman Gates" at 57-Across gave me pause. For the last 20 years, he and his wife have been focussed on philanthropy.
Yes, constructors, RegEx can find words with the left-straight-edge property. Here are some that are at least 7 letters long.
A WaPo article explains how Animal Crossing's massive popularity has made it less like paradise and more like Wall Street. Note: the dupe glitch chart assumes an exchange rate of 60,000 bells per ticket. (Just nod.)
Jeff's recollections of our conversations rarely conform exactly with my own, but one thing is true — we certainly laugh a lot.
Ignore Jeff. SUR + JURY VERDICT, SUR + PRIZE FIGHTERS, SUR + LEE MAJORS, SUR + FURBALLS, SUR + PAST PERFECT, and SUR + FIT OF ANGER are all terrific.
Wondering how to find more answer words with this unusual "What goes up must come down" property? You could use RegEx on the XWord Info Finder Page. Try this query.
Many people (me included) were surprised that "See 17-Across" is the most common clue in NYT crosswords — 242 times, including pre-Shortz!
Here's the Modern Era most frequently used clues list, including an explanation for that odd winner.
The print version of this puzzle in the Sunday Magazine has a numbering error. It's a mistake, not related to the mystery. The row with a repeat 92 should read 93, 94, 95.
It's rare to see a new three-letter answer word that's actually good. IVF debuts today.
They don't let me choose the POWs here at XWord Info because Jeff Chen is a Crossword Expert, and I'm Just Some Guy, but this is my favorite puzzle of the week.
Oh, what does Jeff know? This is a terrific puzzle. I love it.
I love clues that whip my brain around in unexpected ways. 7-Down asks for the name of a Pro Bowler. Wha???? It's bad enough that I'm supposed to know the names of NASCAR drivers and Mel Ott's teammates, and now I need to be familiar with Professional Bowling? On a Monday?
Oh, that kind of professional bowler. Oops. Nevermind.
Ben Zimmer and Will Shortz each took over high-profile word-related jobs after the deaths of beloved predecessors — William Safire for Ben, Eugene Maleska for Will. Both faced initial criticism. Both turned out just fine.
Congratulations on your debut, Mr. Ferguson.
I've remarked before about how personal your crossword experience is. Your life history informs what you know or don't, what you admire or dislike, what your personal triggers are. I was doing fine until I hit COULD CARE LESS. I realize I'm being pedantic. I know it's in the language. But the sheer illogicality grates. IRREGARDLESS gives me a similar fingernails-on-chalkboard response. I'm sure you're more forgiving than I am.
The print version of this puzzle has arrows, not merely lines, driving through the tunnels.
The most famous stage direction from the world's most famous playwright seems more than fair to me.
Does it bother you that the name of the film is actually Æon Flux?
This puzzle reminds me of a 2004 crossword, also by Patrick Merrell, that includes my favorite NYT clue: "Extinct Namibian shrub genus: Var."
It's the "Var." that makes it genius. If you've got some time on your hands — and hey, you do! — you might want to try solving that older puzzle by printing out the PDF. If you're too anxious and just want to jump to the answer, first reconsider the PDF because it's a fun puzzle. Ok, fine, here's the answer grid.
Happy April Fool's Day.
Peter Wentz is the rarest of rare-letter wranglers. He currently leads our Scrabbliest constructors list.
Cute. David Kwong had a similar idea in this 2015 crossword.
Today, most people's knowledge of Ms. Oakley comes from Irving Berlin's musical Annie Get Your Gun. Rob Kapilow's recent book Listening for America: Inside the Great American Songbook from Gershwin to Sondheim has a fascinating chapter contrasting the fictional Annie with the amazing life of the real woman.
Billie Eilish is a bad guy:
The other father/daughter puzzle that Will Shortz references in his notes is called Green Eggs and Hamlet. It's one of my all-time favorites.
Added note: There's at least one more father/daughter constructor team. Ronald and Nancy Byron have six NYT collaborations.
I'm very impressed with this grid. 32 letters are each a part of three different answers, but the solve is relatively smooth and interesting. Bravo.
I don't understand Jeff's diagonal objection.
Yes, you can make your own Glitter Bomb!
The emojis in the clues below the grid here may look different depending on your browser and operating system. For the definitive view, see the PDF. (NYT puzzle subscription required.)
The print version of this puzzle was published with a typo at 17-Across. The correct spelling of the author's name is Burroughs.
Eugène Ionesco is well known to theatre people. His absurdist play The Bald Soprano (La Cantatrice chauve) holds a peculiar record. It started a run at a theatre in Paris in 1957. It's still there. Tickets available here.
A meme floating around crossword circles last year was that a great clue for MRED (101-Across) would be "Stable genius."
One might say the "One" clue is one singular sensation.
Click Help on our Finder page for some helpful RegEx web links.
Note that in each case, the diagonal STATE LINE divides two states that are contiguous. As you'd expect.
If you're not familiar with DEAR EVAN HANSEN, then you're probably neither a teenager nor someone who lives with a teenager. My band sometimes programs Waving Through a Window, and as soon as it's announced from the stage, half the audience goes nuts.
If you're curious about what Alex Eaton-Salners means when he talks about supersymmetry, you can see examples here. (Scroll down.)
XWord Info counts this as Mr. Merrell's 90th puzzle because we don't include PDF-only puzzles like this Special Delivery from 2011. (Link requires NYT Puzzle Subscription.)
Here's an old music joke: "The French Horn isn't French, it's English. The English Horn not only isn't English (it's French), it's not even a horn (it's a woodwind.)"
NYT fact-checkers — darn them — weaken the punch line by pointing out that the English Horn originates from Central Europe. Oh well. :)
I'm loving these themeless Sundays. Keep 'em coming!
We haven't seen Frank Longo's byline for a while, but he's a constructor with an extraordinary history of amazing grids. Some examples: the only crossword in our database with no 3-, 4-, or 5-letter answers, the grid with the longest average word length, this amazing grid with only 17 Across words, beautiful grid designs like this one, and many of the most memorable diagramless puzzles. Take a look at his constructor page and scroll down to the bottom to see more innovative grid shapes.
While his name hasn't been seen on a daily NYT crossword for a decade, his anonymous fingerprints are all over many modern puzzles through his work with Will Shortz on the NYT Crossword team.
17-year-old Saul Pink is the latest addition to our Teenage Constructors page.
Some solvers have strong feelings about quip puzzles. I like them in general, and this one in particular.
How frequent are daily crosswords with a multi-part quip, quote, maxim, lament, joke, riddle, lyric, poem, etc.? I scanned our database and came up with about 180 examples in the Shortz Era, depending on how you count them. For comparison, there are 425 rebus puzzles in the same period.
To answer Ms. Bérubé's question, this is the 229th non-square grid in the Shortz Era. Check out these examples.
Notice that seven of the Down clues have radical (square root) signs before their clue numbers. Good Monday gimmick.
Grids with no three-letter answers aren't as rare as you might think. This is the 61st in the Shortz Era.
Wordplay has more of the story, along with some video.
I'm going to disagree with Jeff about HUAC. Jeff calls it unfortunate. I say it represents one of the most significant and dramatic times in recent American history.
Perhaps 2019 will find someone as brave as Joseph Welch who famously said to Senator McCarthy: "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last. Have you left no sense of decency?"
Anne Larsen is the latest addition to our teenage constructors page.
Humor is so subjective. All the theme answers amused me. Fun puzzle.
Very tough. And I knew AZIMUTH.
The four BALLs rotate 90 degrees through each iteration. Nice touch.
The first theme answer I got was SWAN turning a corner to fall vertically, so I thought the theme was going to be BIRD DROPPINGS. Oh well. Excellent puzzle anyway.
I like this one more than Jeff does because the theme is delightful.
Tell me if this analogy works for you. If Jeff and I were hired to be Olympic judges, he'd handle figure skating pairs and I'd take care of ice dancing. The two categories seem similar, but one focuses more on technical merit, and the other on artistic impression. If a puzzle has a slight wobble when landing the triple axel, Jeff would mark down his score while I might not even notice, being caught up in the beauty of the flow between moves instead.
That makes Jeff more sophisticated than me. On the other hand, I'm a better hockey player so why listen to him?
Congratulations Jeff Chen on hitting the Century mark. One hundred NYT crosswords is no small feat. I hope he plans a wild celebration. Careful, though. Jason Mueller is only 94 behind.
You can see where Jeff ranks in our list of most prolific constructors.
The notches in the top of the grid here qualify this crossword for our Odd Shaped Grids page. Even with those six square carved out, we still don't have correct grid art. You'll see on the PDF (NYT subscription required) that there should be an additional black square sitting above the middle of the top row to make it look more like a complete A-frame roof.
I liked this more than Jeff did for a few reasons:
Fun fact: this is the first 22x22 NYT crossword.
Update: One of the great things about the Internet (truly) is that when you say something stupid online, you get a flood of responses pointing out your, let's not say abject stupidity, but rather, uh, well, stupid is close. I previously somehow claimed that squares without circles or triangles were not legitimate chess symbols. Not even close. There are extra Rs, an extra N, and even an extra K (We Three Kings!) Even my first comment about innovation is incorrect. Patrick Blindauer created a similar puzzle in 2007 for the New York Sun, edited by Peter Gordon.
Thanks to all our loyal readers who called me out.
I don't recall that conversation, but I'm sure Jeff wouldn't lie.
Is this grid asymmetric? We've had this exact controversy before in a previous Bruce Haight puzzle. The squares that make the bats have diagonal symmetry. The rest of the squares have standard rotational symmetry. Mushing them together makes, what? Something new, I guess.
Stop me if you've heard me say this before: crosswords are a deeply personal experience. Your level of joy is hugely influenced by the intersection of things in the puzzle and things you love. That Venn Diagram overlap is enormous for me today, so it's impossible to be objective.
Crossword commentators sometimes ding puzzles because they either don't know or don't care about the theme. Today I get to express the opposite viewpoint when my endorphins are gushing.
To answer Ms. Weintraub's question: Proposals? Probably not. But wedding announcements are real. At least they were; I doubt you could get away with it any more. Here's the most recent NYT example.
I like this trend of having an occasional themeless Sunday puzzle. Patrick Berry started it last year.
That fewest answers in a Sunday record Will Shortz mentions was set over 57 years ago in a grid constructed by Brice Metcalfe and edited by Magaret Farrar, NYT's first crossword editor. Even with 76 black squares, it's still very clunky.
Joel Fagliano created today's much smoother puzzle while using 20 fewer black squares. The art of crossword construction has advanced a great deal since those days. Software helps, of course, but like any art form, practitioners bring their own creativity and build on the foundations of their predecessors.
Crosswords will thrive for years to come, and it's anyone's guess what innovations the next generation will bring.
Until Jeff highlighted the theme answers, I didn't realize they were distributed symmetrically in the grid. Nice touch.
In 1989, Kazuo Ishiguro won the Booker Prize for his novel The Remains of the Day. Oh, right, he later won this other thing — the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Like many people, I read that book and then wondered what else this wonderfully restrained and understated British novelist had written, so I turned to Never Let Me Go. The clue at 19 Across calls it "dystopian" and it's certainly that. It's also about as far from Remains stylistically and thematically as you can get.
Both books are well worth reading and both were adapted for film. Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson were among eight Oscar nominees for Remains. Never Let Me Go was a much less successful film. Stick to the book on that one.
Well, Jeff, I would consider Howard Ashman famous enough for even an early-week puzzle. It all depends on your personal interests. Here, I'll prove his worth with a sample of his lyrics. If this song doesn't choke you up, you have no heart:
I know Seymour's the greatest, but I'm dating a semi-sadist
So I got a black eye and my arm's in a cast
Still that Seymour's a cutie - well, if not, he's got inner beauty
And I dream of a place where we can be together at last
A matchbox of our own, a fence of real chain link
A grill out on the patio, Disposal in the sink
A washer and a dryer and an ironing machine
In a tract house that we share, somewhere that's green
He rakes and trims the grass, he loves to mow and weed
I cook like Betty Crocker and I look like Donna Reed
There's plastic on the furniture to keep it neat and clean
In the Pine-Sol scented air, somewhere that's green
Between our frozen dinner and our bed-time, nine-fifteen
We snuggle watching Lucy on a big, enormous, twelve-inch screen
I'm his December bride, he's father, he knows best
The kids watch Howdy-Doody as the sun sets in the west
A picture out of Better Homes and Gardens magazine
Far from Skid Row
I dream we'll go
Somewhere that's Green
I understand Stanley Newman's reticence to avoid well-worn clues, but no sneaky international law reference is going to stop me from being reminded of one of my favorite films, The Prisoner of Zenda. Of course, I mean the 1937 version with Ronald Colman and Madeleine Carroll. There are several other film versions including two previous ones from the silent film era and a near shot-for-shot color remake in 1952 starring Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, and James Mason. The Colman version is best.
The point is, crossword solving is personal, and a single answer that happens to spark joy, even for tangential reasons, can elevate the whole experience. I enjoyed today's puzzle far more than Jeff did. "We are, in fact, amused."
Evan Kalish, in his notes above, dismisses ANTE-PENULTIMATE as uninteresting. It's a great word! Perhaps he's unfamiliar with Flanders & Swann, whose brilliant song Have Some Madeira M'dear includes this verse every word lover should cherish:
There's a technical reason why Will Shortz would choose not to shade the central CATERPILLAR as Mr. Eaton-Salners wanted, at least for digital distribution, and it has to do with software limitations.
Shaded squares aren't supported by Across Lite at all. When the NYT uses them, circles are encoded in the grid, and publishers get notified that those circles should be interpreted as shades. That breaks down when grids have both circles and shaded squares.
XWord Info has no such limitation, so we added the shaded squares here to realize the constructor's intention.
Alex was curious about how this stacks up (down?) to other puzzles with low average word lengths. It just makes the top 10.
I quickly put together a thumbnail view sorted by word length. It's a little hard to see, but you can get the idea.
How Natasha Lyonne Created a Times Crossword Puzzle — nice NYT article about her experience.
In 2014, David Steinberg went there and back in an interesting twist on the A to Z idea.
Jeff and I often disagree about puzzles, but today I must object.
In his list of esoterica, he includes delicious VIENNA COFFEE, the fun word BURKINI, and most egregious of all, one of the great songwriters in American Musical history, the brilliant Frank LOESSER.
Messages have been hidden in clues before, of course. Here's a list of the other examples we could think of.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is a strange and wonderful book.
You might not remember Peter and Gordon, but I bet you can recall this song.
Sam Trabucco is right. Chicago's Cloud Gate, commonly called The Bean, is oddly compelling. It's fun to watch people walk around and stare at it.
Jeff is better at tongue twisters than I am. I can't say SHOE SECTION even twice fast.
I'm so impressed with this puzzle, because of its bilingual novelty, and its relative smoothness despite significant constraints.
Fun puzzle. I like this one.
Congratulations to David Steinberg, the new editor of Universal Crosswords.
In print, the clue for 57-Down looks like this:
This weekend's Variety puzzle is a form I particularly like called Going Too Far. We have the solution here.
My favorite "mirror" puzzle didn't exactly require entering answers backward. Check out this Joe Krozel gimmick from 2008.
Will Shortz or one of his minions came up with the clue [Contents of some childproof containers, for short] for MEDS.
This is clever clue-writing. Instead of a simple definition or a sneaky pun, the clue takes a side-step away from the obvious to build a tiny story that points indirectly at the answer. This kind of once-removed creativity is something I struggle with. I suspect Will, with his decades of experience, does this naturally.
Today marks Jeff Chen's 55th collaboration puzzle in the NYT, more than half his total count. Only Nancy Salomon has more. Well, a lot more; she has 116. Here's the list of NYT constructors sorted by the number of collaborations.
And what about that clue for APOSTROPHE? Not ours either, but awesome.
This puzzle nearly doubles the number of I's in the previous record. I particularly admire WILD THING and TIGHT KNIT; two 9-letter entries with 7 consonants and 2 I's.
In 1994, Cathy Allis went big, accomplishing this single-vowel feat in a memorable E-only Sunday puzzle called, of course, ELAND.
There's a double hint in the "Slip covers?" clue — the question mark and the extra space. The fitted cover that slips over a chair or sofa (or book!) is a (single word) slipcover. Did Will Shortz need both? For me, probably, but I imagine there might have been some internal debate.
Two-letter answers were common in Margaret Farrar's day. They disappeared from the NYT crosswords in 1952, until Patrick Merrell broke the two-letter ban and nine other rules in this memorable 2004 puzzle. Joe Krozel gave us eight two-letter State abbreviations in 2008. In 2014, Peter A. Collins's Mother's Day grid art required four two-letter entries.
This is a terrific puzzle. Thanks, Obama!
Fun puzzle. I like this one.
Clues and grid numbering here match how this crossword appears in print. Some electronic versions will differ.
It's interesting to see the evolution of clues. THE SOUND OF MUSIC has appeared many times. In 1959, it was a "Coming production about the Trapp Family." By 1962 it was a "Broadway hit." By 1978, it was the "Most popular film ever produced." Today's "noted" clue is the first time wordplay has been used for this answer.
Now that the contest is over, we can reveal the answer. The rebus squares have KEY in one direction, and a single letter in the other. Collecting those four single letters, we get A, T, W and Y. Placing them in the correct corners and reading the updated Down words gives us YOU ARE OUT NOW.
If, like Jeff, you like to track down puzzles by a constructor you love, this page is full of solving links organized by the people who made them. Print out your own book of great crosswords for on your next trip. An NYT Crossword subscription is required.
What's this? A Sunday puzzle with the clearly deceptive title, "Unthemed"? You're not going to fool me!
Why yes it is, and that makes it a rare treat. Themes are fun — they let you uncover hidden connections between answers, and they often help you solve the puzzle — but they have a downside. All that thematic material constrains the grid, forcing the rest of the answers to work around inconvenient letters in awkward locations. Then people like Jeff complain that "the fill" is suboptimal.
Themeless puzzles don't have that excuse, but then they have to deliver with great answers and clever clues. It takes a constructor with special skills to pull that off in a big Sunday grid. Patrick Berry has special skills.
I love this puzzle, and I hope it starts a trend. I wouldn't want this every Sunday, but now and then would be appreciated.
Today, we get great clues right from 1-Across. ARE WE DONE HERE is an evocative phrase. "Shade in the woods" is a terrific clue for FOREST GREEN. It goes on and on. Even the odd ars MAGNA, Latin for "great art," gets a fair clue with the anagram hint.
Jeff and I have decided to do "Jeff and Jim Cross Words" only on puzzles where we disagree, and he doesn't share my enthusiasm today. Let's see what he has to say.
Mr. Ginsberg loves to play with convention. Check out this mind-bender from 2010.
Peter Gordon is a long-time puzzle maker and crossword editor. Serious solvers love his challenging Fireball Crosswords, available by subscription. How hard are they? "If you have to ask, too hard for you."
I particularly enjoy his Fireball Newsflash Crosswords, with their amazingly timely content. They must, indeed, be constructed in a flash.
This is a great example of a crossword where, once you figure out the theme, it jump-starts the rest of the solve. Fun puzzle.
Very clever, Mr. Fogarty. And very satisfying when I finally saw the light.
Jeff's Kid-lit debut, Ultraball #1: Lunar Blitz is available January 15. You can pre-order now.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously coined the phrase "suspension of disbelief." You can't enjoy fiction without it. You can't enjoy any art without it. Art and Nature are two different things; non-overlapping magisteria. A painting of a pipe is not a pipe.
To me, a triple stack of PANCAKEs on a PLATE with a PAT of butter on top and syrup dripping down the sides all within a 15x15 block of black-and-white squares full of fun words is close to miraculous.
Crossword commentary decrying the lack of accuracy in grid images confounds me. Of course, this breakfast isn't exactly what you find at IHOP. Jeff complained last September that the chemical bonds represented in this puzzle didn't show the correct angles, and that last year's Space Needle didn't have quite the right dimensions. Of course not. Use your imagination. It's fun!
At a software company I used to work for, I got to know some of the artists who created icons. It's a crazy, specialized skill to make something so small represent something recognizable, but they had a couple of advantages over constructors — even at the smallest size of 32x32 pixels, that's four and a half times the number of squares available in today's puzzle, and they got to take advantage of subtle color tricks to fool the eye into seeing detail and dimensionality that wasn't really there. Crossword art is necessarily more primitive.
Finally, and this might seem unfair, I seem to recall a Christmas puzzle last year by Mary Lou Guizzo and her collaborator. Who was that again? Oh, right, it was Jeff. Call me crazy, but I've never encountered a reindeer that looked exactly like this.
Jeff and I love to argue crosswords. Now and then, one of us even manages to change the other's mind. It's fun either way.
The theme works for me. I don't understand Jeff's objections.
RATSO is a surprisingly common crossword answer; this is its 53rd appearance in the Times. Surprising both because Midnight Cowboy came out nearly 50 years ago, and because there's no way to clue the word without reference to that film.
"City from which the U.S. moved its embassy in 2018" is a modern clue, and one seemingly designed to either raise hackles or cause you to lovingly stroke your red MAGA cap. Is it ok to stoke political outrage in a crossword? Sure, why not? I love NOBAMA too, not because it echoes my sentiments, but because it's a lively clue tailor-made to evoke a reaction.
Baseball lingo clues carry a regionalism danger. Your local broadcaster may refer to a "singleton," but it's tough to know if that's universal language or just how your play caller talks. Still, easy enough to figure out given a few letters.
The RATE clue is a little geeky, which I like. NASAL CAVITY is a snotty answer. I didn't know EPIZOA. "Little protestation" is a terrific clue for PEEP. The 2007 film "LARS and the Real Girl" is delightful. Lars's companion Bianca, not exactly a real girl, is a sex doll. No, really, it's more charming than it sounds.
That wraps up another Jeff and Jim Cross Words week. If we get enough feedback, we might do this once a month or so.
I love reading the comments from new constructors. Old pros might become a little jaded, but I'm sure they all remember their own debuts. It's a special thrill to get your first crossword published.
Despite what some insist, IRONICAL isn't wrong; it's just old-fashioned. Modern writers prefer IRONIC, but crosswords aren't limited to what's currently in vogue.
Saturday is Peak-Difficulty Day and, under Will Shortz, that tends to mean hard clues rather than hard words. There are plenty of ways to clue HEARTS AND MINDS, but to make it Saturday hard, we get a reference to a four-decade-old documentary. That sounds unfair, but even if you haven't seen that film recently, and you haven't, it's the kind of phrase that, given enough letters, makes enough sense to guess. This is how Saturday works. KNEECAP is a simple enough word, but you have to go back to your med school days to remember "sesamoid bone." Or more likely, you ran across that somewhere, and it's still stuck in some corner of your brain.
"Woman's name that rhymes with a part of the world" is a tough clue because the various common parts of the world that rhyme with ERICA have different syllable counts, making the rhyme less obvious. Still, it's fair.
I often enjoy phrase answers like LABOR INTENSIVE and SLICED AND DICED. "Now you're talking!" is a perfect clue for THAT'S THE SPIRIT.
Did "Regurgitate, as a baby would" make you throw up in your mouth a little? I'm less squeamish than some solvers; it's hard to offend me, and particularly hard in a game. We do get email, though, from indignant solvers who disapprove of certain clues or answers, and I'm sure NYT receives far more than we do.
I like "What isn't legal for copying" for LTR, and I love "R.E.M. show?" for DREAM.
The best clues are poetic gems, and this puzzle has plenty. Two clues cleverly separate normally-combined compound words. "King maker" (you expect to see kingmaker) and "Honey bunch", (not honeybunch.) Those innocuous extra spaces point to SERTA and WORKER BEES. Brilliant.
"Protector of the heart" is a romantic clue for RIBCAGE; the image here was hand drawn by da Vinci. AND WE'RE OFF might be my favorite 1-Across ever. "Crux of 'The Crucible'" is fun.
"One who's got game ... but shouldn't" for POACHER is outstanding. That clue alone makes this puzzle memorable.
We've been conditioned to expect something radical on Thursday — words turning corners or going backward or busting out of the grid or, well, anything goes. So, we approach Thursdays with a combination of excitement and trepidation, knowing that things are unlikely to be as they appear.
"It might pop out of a kids' mouth" turns out to be BUBBLE GUM. No obvious wordplay there, so our antennae go up. Something must be wrong, but let's go on. JUDAS PRIEST and GAS PIPES have straightforward clues too. Wow, this is going to be sneaky. "Swinger's club" is cute, but BASEBALL BAT comes to mind easily. Yikes, what are we missing?
The revealer, pointing to the ends of the other theme answers is SODA MIXER. Looking back, well, we have anagrams of SPRITE, PEPSI, COKE, and TAB. After the build-up (self-imposed, but not unreasonable) we have simple soft drink anagrams.
The only one left is UGM or GMU or, well, it must be MUG. Is there a MUG soda too? Perhaps it's a regional thing. A quick search pulls up MUG root beer which, while not a brand I've encountered, is legitimate.
After whining earlier this week that complaining about the day of week that the puzzle runs on is dangerous, this doesn't feel like a Thursday theme. In the rest of the grid, there are some odd facts to uncover, but little wordplay. So, I don't know; it's a well-constructed puzzle. I was fooled because I wasn't fooled. That's a meta crossword for you.
Feel free to publicly embarrass me if I'm missing something here.
Cassiopeia is one of the easiest constellations to spot if you live in the northern hemisphere, and it's visible year round. Look for the bright stars near Polaris forming a big W. It will immediately evoke an image of a beautiful Ethiopian queen chained to a throne. Or, at least it did to ancient Greeks. The fate of Cassiopeia's daughter was even harsher. Andromeda was tied naked to a sea-side rock, to be devoured by a sea monster. Good times, back then.
Yes, Jeff does obsess over grid work. That's what you want from a constructor. I appreciate outstanding word-crossing skill too but, he's right that, for early-week puzzles, a delightful theme will atone for a few duds in execution. This is a near-perfect theme, combining astronomy and mythology. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone came out 21 years ago, but Greek myths are even older. Mark my words, they will withstand the test of time.
Did THE NEREIDS feel like a cheat to you? The definite article was necessary for grid symmetry, but it made it harder to suss out the word.
GUS Van Sant mostly directed smaller films like My Own Private Idaho, but his Good Will Hunting was a hit. MARX, sadly, gets a non-Groucho clue. "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" is, indeed, from EVITA. Do those lyrics make any sense to you? Listen carefully the next time you hear that song and ask yourself what, if anything, they might mean.
Editors work mostly in the background, so we rarely know for sure what their contributions are. They select which submitted puzzles get published (the vast majority don't), they choose the day to run the puzzle on, they vet every clue.
Whether puzzle brilliance comes mostly from constructors or from the editor himself, at least we know that the editor has approved of the various decisions, and the decision today of how to reveal the theme is brilliant. Maybe.
"Megacorporation? [1996, 1970]" turns out to be BIG COMPANY. That's likely to be the first theme answer you uncover, but whatever does it mean? A quick scan shows there's no classic "revealer clue." There are lots of big companies and some probably have something to do with the listed years, but, uh, what?
If you love musicals, you'll get about halfway through the grid before the penny drops. Each theme answer is a combination of two one-word musicals, and the numbers are the years of their respective Broadway debuts. That revelation sneaks up on you and, if the light goes on, it's very satisfying. It's also a great nudge that the unnumbered GUIDE DOG and MAKE GOOD are not thematic.
But, if you're not a theater geek and you never make the connection, the puzzle won't be satisfying, and that's the crucial editorial choice. How do you balance a satisfying aha moment for drama nerds against the certainty that some solvers will be confused? Today, Mr. Shortz decided on the brave route. There will be letters.
Before I leave BIG COMPANY, those are both worthy of comment. Maltby & Shire's BIG was based on a hit film, but the play was a BIG BUST. Ah, but there's life after Broadway, and touring companies and regional theaters have turned it into a favorite.
COMPANY debuted to mixed reviews, but time has shown it to be one of the most popular and significant musicals, even plays, in American theater. Broadway tunesmiths had tended toward escapism, but Stephen Sondheim's musical (book by George Furth) took a gritty look at real people with real problems in real relationships. Once you open that Pandora's box, it's impossible to go back. I've seen at least a half-dozen different productions of this musical; all different, all revealing, all engrossing. A new gender-reversed production starring Patti LuPone recently opened. And now "Barcelona" is stuck in my head.
Crosswords are an unusual puzzle type because your experience as a solver depends so much on your life experience. Bloggers and other crossword commentators have to be careful with their "this puzzle is running on the wrong day of the week" objections. It's a normal tendency to assume that "stuff I don't know isn't common knowledge" but that's a trap.
If you grow up loving Shakespeare, DRAMATIS PERSONAE is a gimme. If you love classical music, Claudio ARRAU drops right in. This puzzle is too easy for a Monday!
But, wait a second. 51-Across asks me about some random stupid American college team? How is anyone supposed to know that stuff? Put this disaster of a puzzle on Saturday where it belongs!
Seriously, though, FIGHTING ILLINI is the kind of answer I love. I didn't know the term, but it's inferable enough. Once you parse the theme and when enough crossing letters drop into place, it seems correct. It may well have been a gimme for you. That's how this game goes.
Like many people, I get Hamilton lyrics stuck in my head:
Wooh! There's nothin' like summer in the city
Someone in a rush next to someone lookin' pretty
Excuse me, miss, I know it's not funny
But your perfume smells like your daddy's got money
Why you slummin' in the city in your fancy heels
You searchin for an urchin who can give you ideals?
Burr, you disgust me
Ah, so you've discussed me
I'm a TRUST FUND, BABY, you can trust me!
Melinda French was my boss's boss at Microsoft, until she married an exec, changed her name, and left the company to go save the world. I'm a fan.
Ceci n'est pas une répétition. As a recent crossword reminded us, simultaneous invention is common in science and technology. The same thing happens in puzzles when constructors get similar ideas, even if their executions are different. A diagramless last April by David Steinberg, one of my favorite Variety puzzles in the past year, tackled the Treachery of Images in a grid you had to build yourself.
Clues and grid numbers here match the puzzle as printed. Some electronic versions may differ.
I've been waiting for PHABLETS to make it into an NYT puzzle. Like most portmanteau words, it's odd at first but easy to figure out. Smartphones are getting bigger, tablets shrink, and eventually, they overlap into a new device category.
"Tube tops" and "Case load" are clever. I like the green juice provider too. "What ... may represent" is a fun, modern clue.
As for the theme answers, here's why I'm disappointed. I'd love to end our Argument Week with bitter disagreement, but I'm afraid I concur with Jeff. They're all outstanding. Well, I love OREGON TRANSPLANT just as much as the others, but that's the extent of my divergence. Bravo, Joel Fagliano.
This wraps up our Jim and Jeff at the Puzzles experiment. I don't think we learned anything we didn't already know — Jeff and I sometimes look at puzzles differently — but it was fun to put it out for the world to see. Let us know what you think, and maybe we'll try this again sometime.
How much I love a Saturday crossword depends on a couple of factors largely outside the control of the constructor or editor. The first criterion is whether I can finish, chiefly affected by the overlap of things the puzzle thinks are worth knowing and things I happen to know. The second is how amused I am by the clues, which says more about my sense of humor than anything else.
What makes today's puzzles satisfying (so, yes, I finished and with an amused smile) is that several common words get nicely diverting clues that at first seem impossible but nicely click into place. I know nothing about college football in 1890, but with a couple of letters in place, "Something STATE" seemed likely, leaving four letters to fill in. Utah or Iowa feels less probable than OHIO. I know little about Islam, but the first letter J pointed right away to JERUSALEM. I speak no Farsi, but STAN seems obvious. I don't play Risk, but SIAM fell easily. That's three fun facts I learned from one puzzle.
SELF-DRIVING CARS is a topical entry. "M" or "Z" is an impressive clue for MOVIE. The Edison clues are fun. Senate coverage isn't DOME at all, but TOGA. ASPS are cousins of garter snakes.
The equation x + 0 = x is indeed an AXIOM. Mathematics (also science, technology, etc.) depends on accepting such things on faith. If one of the famed Peano axioms is found to be untrue, your iPhone will suddenly stop working. If you have a Galaxy, it will catch fire.
In 2010, I wrote an article for the Science section of the New York Times called The Rush of the ‘Crossword Puzzle Moment.' I contended that we all have all keep information at the edge of our consciousness, things we don't know that we know. Part of the joy of crosswords is that tiny clues, sometimes just one or two letters from crossing words, can unlock these facts, and unlocking them can be very satisfying. That happened to me today with DANGER MOUSE. I have no idea what their music is like, but somehow, even though I'm not tuned in to it, I know that Danger Mouse is a thing and that it had to fit the clue. Endorphins are a great drug.
Jeff, Jeff, Jeff, how could you not have fallen in love with Sarah KOENIG? Like everyone in America except, apparently, Jeff, I followed the weekly podcast drops of Serial with great anticipation. Season 3 begins September 20th. I'll be there.
And SHTETL? Have you never seen Fiddler on the Roof? Talking crosswords with Jeff is a constant reminder that different life experiences lead to different crossword experiences. How audacious of this rectangular art form to take as its ambit of allowable topics, everything worth knowing! Personally, I haven't known everything since I was in my mid-teens.
I liked the science clue for WAVELENGTHS but it didn't feel quite right, implying subtraction was somehow involved. "Color determinants" would have made me feel better.
Jeff is right about the clues for HAS BEENS and BARBS. Outstanding.
Jim and Jeff at the Puzzles continues through to Sunday.
We expect to get fooled on Thursdays. When we get a Thursday without gimmicks, are we, then, fooled? No need to contemplate this deep philosophy because today we get the standard ins and outs of a regular rebus.
There are hundreds of possible entries that include IN somewhere followed by OUT somewhere, but if you restrict your search to entries where IN doesn't mean "in" and OUT doesn't mean "out" (not possible with our software; you need to do this by hand, I mean eye) you end up with a much smaller set. The non-revealer theme entries today all pass that test. Ponce de León gave the trick away, so I wish it had appeared further down, but the puzzle was still fun. IN BOX and OUT BOX are solid rebus justifications.
I didn't know about KEFIR. Does the Wikipedia comment that "Fermentation of the lactose yields a sour, carbonated, slightly alcoholic beverage, with a consistency and taste similar to thin yogurt" make you more, or less, intrigued?
YOU AGAIN first appeared in 2011 with a more positive clue: "Well, look who's back." I like today's snarkier "Question to a returning pest." AFRO tip-toes around controversy by giving it a music clue. RAINBOW TROUT is delicious. I've lived in America for years, but I still find the LITER spelling jarring. LXX is a cheap entry, but IN BOX stacked over OUT BOX makes it well worthwhile.
Let's see what Jeff has to say. In my experience, if you give him three barleycorns, he'll take 1.60934 kilometres.
I imagine something I call The Editor's Dilemma. Suppose you're responsible for 365 daily puzzles a year, not just to edit, but to select. How do you choose? Crosswords that rely only on wide-spread knowledge become tedious. Ones that target specialized knowledge risk turning off as many solvers as they please.
If you speak French (being Canadian helps sometimes!) and you love to eat, today's puzzle is a delight. I quickly entered theme answers, all the while realizing that if Mr. Wechsler had targeted literal meanings of, say, Mexican food, my experience would have been less satisfying. Is this fair? Is fair even relevant? We sometimes see puzzles that rely on intimate knowledge of Manhattan geography, Sondheim musicals, or professional tennis. Me? I'm still waiting for a grid with all eight of Brünnhilde's Valkyrie sisters from The Ring. (How do you spell Roßweiße again?)
I agree with Jeff that crossing SHINZO with TZE is rough, especially since those are both transliterations.
"CRY havoc and let slip the dogs of war" is just one of many great lines Mark Antony gets. Trust me; that Shakespeare guy is going to be a household name.
Jim and Jeff at the Puzzles continues all this week, and today, I get to go first.
One staple of comedy is the character who takes metaphorical phrases literally; think of Hymie the Robot in Get Smart. It's also a rich source of crossword themes. Today, FLOWERY LANGUAGE is, literally, phrases with flowers.
I haven't talked with Jeff Chen about this puzzle, but I can anticipate his objection. Two theme entries are noun phrases, one is a verb phrase, and one is a comparative expression. One and only one is an actual flower, as well as an epithet. Purists like more consistency than that. If the theme phrases are fun, I'm happy leaving the hobgoblins chained in the basement. Don't feed them. You'll enjoy life more without them.
WOE IS I is a fun title for a surprisingly entertaining and useful book. I don't often see GAWP outside of crosswords. OXYMORON gets a straightforward clue, but "original copy" and "open secret" are amusing examples. "Ambulances' hosp. destinations" struck me as an odd clue for ERS since Emergency Rooms aren't typically the destinations for the ambulances themselves, but I get the idea. With an entry as common and as awkward as ERS, it's tough to plow new ground, especially for an early-week puzzle.
ENGLISH ROSE was considered quite a compliment when, say, my grandmother used it. I suspect it's now mostly used ironically. Maybe it's time to resurrect more flowery language.
I do not understand Jeff's objection to BLEU. Like the other circled words, it's a kind of cheese. One might as well complain that some of the cheeses here are from cow milk, but others are from sheep milk. (FETA can, apparently, even include goat milk.)
I love the BURL IVES clue but, Jeff is right, it's less satisfying if you don't know the man. He was a popular folksy singer in his day with a gentle, engaging voice. The "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" reference elevates the entry. When you think of that iconic film, you probably flash to Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. It takes a few seconds to remember that, oh yeah, Burl Ives played Big Daddy. "There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity!"
Mr. Stulberg is right about 10-Down. "Grp. making after-work plans?" for AARP is sublime.
I'm looking forward to arguing with Jeff this week. Well, we always argue, but this week we'll do it in public. Let's see if we're still friends after seven days. It's been years since I've written regularly about crosswords. This should be fun.
I liked this crossword way more than Jeff did. Clever idea, and fun puzzle.
This is an XWord Info milestone. Five years ago today, Jeff Chen began writing his daily crossword commentary, starting with one of his own puzzles.
For the answers below the grid here, we've randomly chosen to use H for the Across words, and T for the Down ones.
This is the 15th puzzle from the J.A.S.A. Here's the complete set.
I have to stand up for PIANO REHEARSAL. It's a thing. Just before opening night, opera or Broadway singers will get a chance to rehearse with the full orchestra, but until then, they have to settle for piano rehearsals. They're cheaper (obviously) and it's much easier to start and stop to polish tough sections.
At publication, only one Sunday NYT puzzle had a lower word count than this one.
This is a milestone puzzle for Will Shortz. His NYT career began 9,000 days ago with this delightful, controversial, and very non-Maleskan Sunday crossword.
I just returned from Scotland where, yes, I hired a car, meaning I rented it for a week. It's a phrase that often amuses Americans.
25 is indeed an accomplishment. Congratulations, Sam Ezersky!
Hmmm. I thought this one was fun.
We've seen this grid pattern before, in a groundbreaking 2008 puzzle by Frank Longo.
Crosswords are such a personal experience. I would expect the vast majority of NYT readers would know Seiji Ozawa "off the top." Neither Jeff nor I know for sure.
The XWord Info Regex search capability is very useful when trying to construct puzzles like this. Here are the words in our database with triple letters. Many are bogus (thematic) but there are several good entries in the results list. (The number of entries you see depends on your account level.)
Echoing the constructor notes, the 62-Down clue is outstanding.
The idiom "of a piece" (or "all of a piece") means "of the same kind."
For the second day in a row, my note is about a puzzle from 20 years ago. Green Eggs and Hamlet is near the top of my most memorable puzzles list.
Counting Variety puzzles, this is crossword #24 for Sam, and he won't be 23 years old until later this month. David is only 21 and this is his puzzle #80.
This is only the sixth NYT crossword where every answer is 5 or more letters long, and the only one that's a pangram. You can see the other ones here, including two by Patrick Berry and one more by Mr. Krozel.
I found this puzzle to be remarkably smooth given the constraints.
I hate to disagree with Jeff (actually, it's fun to disagree with Jeff) but each theme answer here is both perfect and necessary. The most dramatic possible walk-off hit requires each of these elements exactly as written. Watering down the scenario just so you could employ re-usable phrases would kill the tension. For this baseball fan (and my oh my, it's tough to be a baseball fan in Seattle) Mr. Kahn's puzzle is outstanding.
This is the 14th published puzzle from the J.A.S.A. class. Here are the rest.
RMS at 1-Across is presumably a nod to the Rachel Maddow Show.
I play in a Hamilton tribute band so LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA is a big part of my life, but I wasn't expecting to see that name in a daily puzzle. It's 16-letters long. Finn Vigeland didn't care, making room for ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE too. Bravo.
This is only the fifth time diagonal slashes have been used in NYT daily crosswords. The first was this 1992 Crytocrossword by Eugene T. Maleska himself which included the awesome word SPLACKNUCKS, followed by this Tic-Tac-Toe grid by S. E. Booker.
We added helpful slashes to a couple of grids to explain themes, but those slashes didn't appear in print. In 2012, Ian Livengood pulled a clever trick with keyboard digits and their shift-key equivalents. Just a few weeks after that, Joel Fagliano tried to confuse us with his W vs. double-U grid.
Added geeky note: David Steinberg mentioned Regular Expressions, which is as a way to do complex word pattern searches. And yes, of course, the XWord Info Finder Page supports them!
You don't hear the term torch song so much anymore, and that's too bad. Love song is a rough equivalent, but that term is safe and sappy by comparison. If you're singing lyrics like "I'm going to love you, like nobody's love you, come rain or come shine," you're addressing someone you're "carrying a torch for." Love songs imply sweetness and cuddling. Torch songs promise at least the possibility of furniture-busting sex.
Terrific puzzle! Here's the A. J. Jacobs page on Amazon.
The Elizabeth Gorski year-end connect-the-dots puzzles is the greatest tradition in NYT crosswords. Liz is caught up in her own delightful weekly puzzles now, so Mary Lou and Jeff have taken up the tradition, at least for this year.
It seems like a good time for a Liz Gorski Year-End Visual Crossword Retrospective. Her year-end puzzles include:
There's more write-on-the-grid creativity on our Visual Puzzles page.
Thanks to our database, we know exactly who Alex Eaton-Salners can thank for introducing left-right mirror symmetry to NYT crosswords. The first such puzzle ever in the Times was on June 14, 1942 (the 18th NYT crossword in history) by former Times Editor Charles Merz and former Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger.
It wasn't their invention, of course. Will Shortz tells me that there were mirror symmetry grids as far back as the 1910s.
Mr. Kahn memorialized another artworld controversy back in 2008.
46 Ms is a record. In 2010, Mr. Probert tried the same trick with the letter B.
I love the ELLEN DEGENERES clue at 61 Across.
Be sure to view the PDF to see what this puzzle looks like in print.
See this page for notes from Will Shortz on how he edited the clues in a previous Kevin Der puzzle.
This is the 29th asymmetric grid of the Shortz Era. Here are the rest.
We have no idea who the little guy over Mr. Poulos's shoulder is. Jeff thinks it might be one of Philip Pullman's dæmons. There's a new book in that series.
Benjamin Lauring is the latest addition to our Teenage Constructors list.
Yes, PIE SHOPs are a thing, mostly meaning meat pies. Mrs. Lovett's had the most interesting flavours. Patti LuPone and George Hearn are brilliant.
Reading Mr. Lithgow's notes makes me even more of a fan of his. Constructing a puzzle you're proud of, and then seeing it published, is a special thrill.
I enjoyed this one more than Jeff did. I found the gimmick to be clever and satisfying. See more Grid Art here. Mr. Krozel is responsible a number of cleverly creative grids. Click here to see them all.
Yes, it's The Little Things.
Not only did Mr. Raymon find four different ways to add the Y sound after the first letter, none of those ways needed the letter Y.
There was a longer version of the Dickens quote in this 1990 puzzle.
There was a rare error in this puzzle as first published. The original clue for PANTO at 26 Across was "Silent dramatic performance, to Brits." Pantos are anything but silent.
This is Mr. Kahn's fifth collaboration puzzle in the NYT. His first, back in 1998, was one of the most memorable puzzles of the Shortz era.
I'm old enough to appreciate any Beatles theme. Do check out Patrick's "this arrangement" link in his notes.
This is Mr. Greer's NYT daily crossword debut, but he has contributed three cryptic crosswords already.
I love the 1 Across clue.
In 2008, Liz Gorski used a similar string of I's to hold up an arachnid.
If I told you how much I admired this puzzle, you'd probably accuse me of in-house bias, so I'll stick to factual observation. This is the third NYT puzzle using this grid pattern. The first two are also by Mr. Chen.
Jeff and I both admire XKCD. You may know that XWord Info has a Crossword Blogosphere page that pulls recent blog posts from RSS feeds on several well-known sites. About a year ago, for no reason other than our own amusement, XKCD was added to that mix.
I love this puzzle. Language Log has a nice post about it.
Elizabeth Gorski had an interesting color mixing puzzle back in 2013.
Trivia question: Besides Benjamin Harrison, name two other former White House denizens whose names are double dactyls. You'll know them when you get them.
Update: Reader Jordan Cahn caught an error in my previous remarks in this section. HAWAII is, yes, the southernmost state. Alaska is the northernmost. Alaska also stretches out over the 180th Meridian, making it the westernmost and the easternmost state as well. Thanks, Jordan!
Very clever, Mr. Chen. Very clever.
We count this as Mr. Blindauer's 63rd puzzle because we include his eight Variety puzzles. (Click his photo to see thumbnails of all his work.) Seven of his Varieties are Diagramless, but the eighth, called Out of Order, is clever and original and highly recommended. Try it before you jump to the answers.
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears" is the first line of a speech by Mark Antony in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act III, scene II.
I love the title on this one.
This is Mr. Chen's 17th NYT crossword in 2016. Others in double digits are David Steinberg (12), Zhouqin Burnikel (12), Patrick Berry (11), and Timothy Polin (10). Here's the breakdown by year.
Terrific puzzle. One of my favorites this year.
I liked this one even more than Jeff did. It had me at 1 Across.
LAVABO is a nice treat for Sondheim fans who know the word well. Sweeney Todd is described: "His needs were few, his room was bare, a lavabo and a fancy chair."
Did you notice that the grid is asymmetric? Mr. Kingsley's way to avoid this problem (caused by the way the words in the quote break) is to bend the usual symmetry rule, but in a way that nearly fools your eye.
Beautiful grid. Here are some more. Also, for those who like to freak out about cheater squares, this one has 12. Click Analyze below.
They don't let me award POWs around here but this was my favorite puzzle this week.
"Certain logic gate" is a tough clue for NOT but every once in a while it's nice that mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists or logicians get to have something to feel smug about.
Mr. Bennett is branching out. His first two puzzles had similar grids, including shades/circles. This one, with mirror symmetry no less, is different.
In the print version of this puzzle, the clue for 24 Down is: Language in which "hello" is مرحبا
Pronouncing each number in the appropriate language makes: set pieces, dry martini, sex therapist, trace elements, wheat fields.
Very clever theme.
Here are the anagrams:
Across: 1. Tori 5. Teen's 10. Neuter 14. Kin 15. Nation 16. Drove 17. Part 19. Jihad 20. Top 21. Region 22. Avis 24. Shade 26. Ship 27. Slog 28. Glided 31. Secured 32. Caper 34. Nap 35. Triage 36. Part 39. Dawn 42. Name 43. Pepsi 46. iPad 47. Posh 49. Large 51. NaCl 53. Blaise 55. Straying 56. Spots 58. West 59. Things 60. Part 63. Deseret 64. Nerve 65. Steins 66. Former 67. Diary 68. List
Down: 1. Producer 2. Animal 3. Strain 4. Slump 5. Slashes 6. Weak 7. Resort 8. Casual 9. State 10. Golfer's 11. Mail 12. Plane 13. Agreed 18. Item 23. Sources 25. Hasbro 26. Gardenia 29. Agree 30. Lead-in 33. Cruise 37. Maher 38. Decimal 39. Relents 40. Run 41. Fighter 44. Singer 45. Rahm 48. Actor 50. First 52. Sister 54. Bat 56. Risqué 57. Shoe 61. Vote 62. Cool
Humor is such a personal thing. I was amused by the punchline and thought it tied the theme together perfectly.
This is the first ever QUINTUPLE pangram in the NYT. Double pangrams appeared occasionally even in pre-Shortz grids. The first triple was by Matt Gaffney in 1998. Then, Peter Wentz managed a quadruple in 2010 but required 16 columns. In 2013, Raymond C. Young squeezed a quadruple into a standard 15x15 grid. Today we have another milestone from David C. Duncan Dekker who had a triple pangram just last year.
Here are thumbnails of all seven Shortz Era multi-level pangrams and for a slightly different view, here are the same puzzles with the scrabble values colorized so you can more easily see the letter distributions.
This page shows pangrams organized by constructors so you can see who has been most enticed by the challenge. One pre-Shortz constructor seems to have been obsessed by them.
Amazingly, or perhaps inevitably, today's puzzle destroys another record as well. It has by far the highest scrabble average of any NYT crossword.
Brendan Emmett Quigley is one of a very few top constructors who have established a strong, unique voice. Congratulations on 20 outstanding years.
Relying on AUNT Sally and her order of operations acronym has fallen out of favor, and for good reasons. There are plenty more operators beyond the simple ones Sally happens to mention. Even if you do understand the arbitrary rules, it's easy to write confusing or misleading mathematical expressions.
Software programmers in particular are taught to avoid reliance on them. Extra parentheses clarify intent with no downside since compilers strip out unneeded ones for you. Worse, computer languages don't all agree on the order rules and some, like APL, ignore them completely.
Fans of Hamilton or Harry Potter and the Cursed Child may disagree but I still insist that Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (the so-called Ring Cycle) is the greatest theatrical work you can ever experience. It forever changed music and drama in fundamental ways and is still a huge influence on everything from visual art to movie scores. Whatever you might think of opera, see it at least once in your life.
Timothy Polin had a similar theme last year.
This blocky puzzle is reminiscent of what sometimes happens in diagramless grids, like this one by Frank Longo from 1999.
This is the 75th NYT puzzle for Ms. Lempel.
The marks in question have been added to the four letters below although, depending on the device you're reading this on, they can be hard to see. Patrick Merrell had a similar idea in 2010 with tilde Ns and David Kahn crossed acute Es in 2012.
Impressive puzzle. I love this innovative theme.
Fans of French film are familiar with Pathé. The great Children of Paradise, for example, is a Pathé production. ETRES looks odd but it's legit, and no odder, if you think about it, than the English word beings. "Les êtres humains" translates to "human beings."
Congratulations to Mr. Steinberg on his 50th NYT crossword.
Finn Vigeland used a similar gimmick in 2013.
Longfellow's ode to Seattle, The Rainy Day is a quick read.
This is my favorite puzzle of the week.
Accentuate the Positive was written by two of the greats from the American Songbook era. Music is by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer.
Sarah Palin has been honored (if that's the right word) in crosswords before but this is the debut for her full name. Why did it take until 2016? Clearly, it's a conspiracy by the NYT and the rest of the lamestream media.
All good things must end but I, for one, am sad to see NYT Crosswords wrap up. At least I'll now have time to work on my table tennis game.
This grid pattern has only been used once before, 18 years ago.
Jeff feels that BEG THE QUESTION "feels like a tenuous connection" to this theme. The word pedant in me disagrees — that's the answer that made this puzzle sing. While the phrase has come to be (mis)used as a synonym for "raise the question" (this makes no sense to me!) it has traditionally meant "take for granted or assume the truth of the very thing being questioned" which is exactly circular reasoning.
If this feels wrong to you, take comfort in knowing that we word pedants always lose in the long run. "Irregardless" will become standard form, "I could care less" will somehow make sense, and the original (Aristotelean, apparently) meaning of "beg the question" will be lost forever.
Anyway, I love logic puzzles and I love crosswords so a crossword about logic works for me.
Patrick Berry had a similar puzzle in 2007 where the undoubled letters spelled LEFTOVERS.
A rare correction: The crossword puzzle on Wednesday provided an erroneous clue for 1-Across, seeking the answer "Elmira." The clue should have read "Upstate New York city where Mark Twain was buried" — not "born." (He was born in Florida, Mo.)
Circles in grids have referred to circular things in the past. Elizabeth C. Gorski did it with champagne bubbles and with car wheels. Mr. McCoy goes a step further. As Jeff points out, today, the circles represent circles. Nice.
"Head Stone" (41 Down) made me laugh.
This is the sixth Leap Day puzzle in the Shortz Era.
Jeff's right, humor is personal. I found these amusing.
We've seen similar ideas before, and in fact three of the theme answers are identical to puzzles past: these two in the same grid from 2009, and this one from 2006. But wait, there's more! This crossword from 2008 has the same theme but with all different answers. Some ideas are rich and thick enough to invite recycling.
Starting with ONE (its own square root) is cleverly misleading. Note that publication date is 2/4/16.
I like MACH TWO because that's the speed of the Concorde I took from Heathrow to JFK. (That's not even a humble-brag; it's just a brag.)
Jeff apparently skips over the theatre section of his newspaper. Julie TAYMOR was in the news for months over the "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" debacle. She co-wrote the book and began as the director, only to end up suing her producers and eventually settling out of court.
Here's a nice touch; each entry that extends beyond the grid is also a legitimate crossword answer in its truncated form.
Solving crosswords is such a personal experience. Your own background hugely affects your enjoyment of each one. For this long-time audio guy, TEAC is a great entry. Oh, and Broca's Brain is a fascinating book.
Oops. The clue for 34 Down has what programmers call a sign error. Marcus Claudius MARCELLUS captured Syracuse in 211 B.C.E, not A.D. 211.
This crossword was part of a unique four-puzzle Monopoly by Ben Tausig.
The brilliant podcast "99% Invisible" did a fascinating episode on The Landlord's Game just last month. You can listen to it or read about it here.
Simply put, the RIEMANN hypothesis is a deep mathematical conjecture which states that the nontrivial Riemann zeta function zeros, i.e., the values of s other than -2, -4, -6, ... such that ζ(s)=0 (where ζ(s) is the Riemann zeta function) all lie on the "critical line" σ=R[s]=1/2 (where R[s] denotes the real part of s).
On a somewhat unrelated topic: while CASUAL SEX may be new to NYT solvers, it's a colorful and welcome phrase. Crosswords can be somewhat staid but they also have a history of lightly flirting with the slightly risqué. Who can be surprised when such behavior eventually leads to casual sex?
Since Jeff called me out, let me try to defend myself and this theme. English is full of amusing curiosities, and one of the curiouser is that some nouns exist only in plural form (you can't use a scissor or wear a pajama, a sunglass, or a trouser) yet when they're used as adjectives, they are singular. Why? It's a mystery. And like most amusing curiosities of English, it makes for a fine word puzzle theme.
If math puzzles are more your thing, proving that integers from 1 to n sum to n(n+1)/2 is a fun challenge. Try drawing pictures. You'll get a nice Aha moment when you realize why it works.
Pinocchio was the theme in this memorable 2008 Diagramless puzzle by Patrick Blindauer.
Mr. Steinberg is a crossword historian so he knows all about the contributions of Margaret Farrar (27 Across). He runs The Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project which has digitized every known crossword in NYT history going back to the first one in 1942.
Regular Expressions are a powerful way to find patterns like this and the XWord Info Finder supports them. See all the "three-peats" in our database with this regex query: (\w\w\w)\1 where \w means "any letter".
I love my Amazon Echo. (47 Down)
There was a similarly themed puzzle 10 years earlier.
Yes, a baseball QUADRUPLE PLAY is at least theoretically possible according to the rules. A fourth out can be called to cancel a scored run on a triple play that should be disallowed because of, say, a base-running error. Baseball-Reference.com has an example.
I applaud a puzzle that encourages you to look up something that you not only didn't know, but that you assumed must be impossible. Bravo.
Jeff and I don't always agree. To me, "Fits on a hard drive" is a Clue of the Year candidate.
With this, his first Friday, Mr. Donaldson has now hit for the cycle.
Yes, only the 4th Wednesday for Mr. Berry. The only reason he has even one Monday and Tuesday is that he needed six consecutive days for his 2011 "Cross" word meta challenge. If you somehow missed this terrific puzzle set, try them.
A remarkable achievement. I'm impressed.
The NYT published this amusing correction: The crossword puzzle on Tuesday provided an erroneous clue for 1-Down, seeking the answer "Baa Baa." The clue should have read, "Salutatory cry to a black sheep, in a nursery rhyme" — not "Black sheep's cry, in a nursery rhyme" — because it is the unnamed speaker of the rhyme (not the sheep, of course) who says, "Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?"
In only his seventh NYT crossword, Jacob Stulberg has already established himself as an extraordinarily creative constructor. His previous puzzles have included Five Golden Rings and the clever two pints make a quart. He gave us a cubist Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 and then cracked me up with a reference to the classic Who's on First. He even classed up the puzzle page with a lovely William Carlos Williams poem. Today's theme is yet another innovation. Bravo.
My kind of puzzle — a fun NORWAY fact, a reference to a great Mike Leigh film, and a poem.
Jane Krakowski singing Muffin Top.
This puzzle by Ian Livengood was published on his 32nd birthday.
This puzzle was constructed by 1 Across and 55 Down.
Stacked grid-spanning theme answers is a stunt that gives me a nice endorphin rush — how is that even possible? I wish I'd thought of Will's example when I used to blog about crosswords (I used to blog about crosswords) because it's perfect. A long palindrome judged by the standards of poetry or literature is very likely to come up short, but that's not the point. It's cool!
Jeff tends to be less forgiving of the consequent clunky compromises so I'm curious to read his thoughts. In the meantime, I have one of the most beautiful Lennon-McCartney songs stuck in my head, "She's Leaving Home" from Sgt. Pepper. Which, by the way, is a stunt song because of its very repetitive chord structure. (None of the Beatles play on it; there's a small string orchestra instead.)
Numerals in the grid are unusual but this is the fifth occurrence of H2O. The first was in a 1964 Sunday puzzle edited by the first NYT crossword editor Margaret Farrar, and constructed by her successor, Will Weng.
Electronic versions of this puzzle had the clue for 111-Across as you see it here. The magazine had a different one, with an error. The NYT published this correction: "The crossword puzzle on Page 48 of the Magazine this weekend, seeking the name of a company as the answer for 111-Across, transposes the Hebrew letters in the clue. It should be: אל על, not לע לא."
Mr. Wiesenberg's first three NYT puzzles have an identical grid shape.
It's interesting to see how the name choices differed in a similar theme 32 years earlier.
Grid-spanning triple-triple stacks are not that uncommon any more but this is the first time they've intersected. All previous examples laid them out horizontally.
This is an important myth for crossword solvers. We get our word "clue" from the "clew" (ball of thread or yarn) that Ariadne gave Theseus to help him find his way out of the labyrinth.
Back in 2002, Elizabeth Gorski had a different twist on the famous double helix.
In 2009, Jeremy Newton had a standard version of this automatic puzzle.
I liked this one even more than Jeff did. Each of the theme entries was fun.
I think there are a couple of reasons for the theme confusion. First, assuming Jeff's analysis is correct, the theme is entirely contained in the clues. That is, you can uncover the theme without entering a single letter in the grid. This isn't unheard of, but it's rare in the NYT.
Second, the first two long answers seem to be related in a way that is thematic. Searching for similar connections in the other two clues yields nothing further.
Mr. Lafargue is an experienced constructor with 53 NYT crosswords dating back to 1982. This is only his second puzzle for Will Shortz.
The constraints here are huge — 33 different squares have letters that are part of 3 different words.
Amazing construction and an awesome achievement.
NYT puzzles often reference Apple products so it's nice to see two Microsoft Office clues today — 76A and 99A.
Grids with both 90- and 180-degree rotational symmetry are often pretty.
Actual errors in NYT crosswords are extremely rare but this puzzle has one. The clue at 20 Across reads: [Playwright who wrote "What is originality? Undetected plagiarism"].
The answer was INGE, as in William Inge. But it wasn't the playwright William Inge who was responsible for the quote. It was the Anglican clergyman and author William Inge, better known as "Dean Inge," who said it. So the word "Playwright" in the clue is wrong.
I liked this one even more than Jeff did. In fact, I named it my Puzzle of the Year for 2014.
Since I've been asked, the other two theme answers Jeff didn't cover are: REPEATEDLY is MANY times OVER, and BATTLEFIELD is PLACE divided by WAR.
Shameless plug for the free radio play I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe.
I have highlighted the X's in all the contest puzzles. Each is in a numbered square: 20, 5 13, 16 21, 19, 6 21, 7 9 20. The corresponding letters in the alphabet spell TEMPUS FUGIT, Latin for "time flies".
Using puzzles as a recruiting tool has a long history. In 1941, the Daily Telegraph ran a crossword contest to find Nazi code breakers for Bletchley Park. Google ran its famous billboard contests in 2004.
Body parts are symmetric in grid. cf. this 2006 puzzle by Patrick Blindauer.
Mr. Wiesenberg's first two NYT puzzles have an identical grid shape.
This is the third NYT crossword with cardinal points in unchecked squares. Patrick Merrell did it in 2002 with N W E S near the center, and then in 2009, Joe Krozel put his points around the outside edge. See this Frank Longo puzzle from 1997 for a different approach to compass crosswords.
For me, AMERE is saved by an outstanding clue. Bravo!
Martin Ashwood-Smith took issue with calling this grid asymmetric. He sees it as a new kind of symmetry that superimposes diagonal symmetry on the normal rotational kind. The suggested name for this: Goldfish Symmetry.
In this puzzle by BQ we change B to Q. Probably just coincidence.
Here's the famous Van Gogh at 42 Across from Musée d'Orsay.
from Shakespeare in Love:
Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.
Elizabeth Gorski's comments are always great and if you sign up at Crossword Nation you get her puzzles and her stories every week. Ravishly recently interviewed Ms. Gorski in their Ladies we Love section. And yes we do!
The cycle in only eight! Congrats.
I'm not sure who celebrates Flag Day other than constructors but it has inspired some awesome puzzles. The year before Francis Heaney made us construct our own flags, Alex Boisvert had us color R words red and circles blue with this result.
A WALK-OFF HOMER is a home run hit by the home team in the bottom of the ninth or later inning that gives them the lead. The home team gets to walk off the field without finishing the inning. The visiting team walks off in shame and disappointment. Everyone gets to walk off except the batter who still has to run around the bases, probably doffing his hat to the adoring home-town fans who now get to walk off to their homes.
The "London Trilogy" at 16-Across begins with Money: A Suicide Note, an excellent introduction to MARTIN AMIS if you're not already a fan.
Mr. Wentz is, by far, the scrabbliest NYT constructor.
The grid shape resembles a Z. Does that mean this puzzle has a theme?
The largest painting in the Louvre (32-A) is The Wedding at Cana.
This theme has been used before with identical 3-Down and 9-Down answers.
2013 was a step up from the previous year when there were only seven Sundays by women.
Six Beatles songs: "Ain't SHE Sweet" (1961), "I Want You (SHE's So Heavy)" (1969), "SHE Came in Through the Bathroom Window" (1969), "SHE Loves You" (1963), "SHE Said SHE Said" (1966), "SHE's a Woman" (1964).
Statistician Nate Silver of FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.com famously predicted 49 of 50 states in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, and then 50 of 50 in 2012. The blog name comes from the number of electors in the U.S. electoral college.
Even though the 2 is formed out of blocks, the grid still has normal crossword symmetry. Almost exactly ten years ago, Patrick Merrell used circles.
For some reason I'm reminded of this Grant Wood painting I see every time I visit the Art Institute of Chicago.
Jeff asks why 2 π R instead of π D. One reason is it makes the math easier when dealing with circles and spheres. Note that if you differentiate the area of a circle, π R2, you get the circumference, 2 π R. Integrate and quadruple to get the volume of a sphere, 4/3 π R3.
Or, there might be one other reason. π D is too short for a crossword answer. :)
80 words? You'd think that by looking at the grid but it depends how you count. There are 76 sets of clues and answers. Some bend.
"I'm walking here! I'm walking here!" Midnight Cowboy is the only Best Picture in Academy Award history to be RATED X.
The ACPT ended this past weekend. Mr. Rosen famously co-wrote this homage to a former champion.
"Carlito's way" is an awesome clue for VIA.
A more extreme example of this kind of reverse crosswordese can be found in this 2009 puzzle by Arthur Schulman where the theme clues were "Ais", "Ocas", "Moas", "Eri", "Ara", and "Ers".
Grid numbers correspond to the Across Lite version of this grid. The printed puzzle was slightly different.
A related instrument complete with tuning pegs was cleverly revealed in this 2010 Diagramless by Michael Shteyman.
Here is the famous Rembrandt from 1 Down.
Compare with this 2009 grid by Randall "J" Hartman.
Clue numbers here correspond to the print version of the puzzle. Note that numbers 23, 39 and 56 are absent from the grid in the print version and solvers have to figure out where to put them. Across Lite cannot number grids like this correctly so most electronic versions have different numbering and somewhat different clues, unfortunately giving away some of the aha moment.
This isn't the first crossword where clues reference numbers that don't appear in the grid.
"Black-and-white horse?" at 11D is the best clue ever for MRED.
The print edition of the NYT ran a different puzzle on this day. This is the one that was distributed electronically and was also supposed to be in the paper.
AP has a nice video about Ms. Gordon, her birthday, and her work.
Jimmy WEBB at 62 Down wrote an amazing number of hit songs.
Yes, this is the first puzzle in our database with a one-letter answer. A couple of puzzles have two-letter answers: this 2008 icing-around-the-outside grid by Joe Krozel has eight of them, Patrick Merrell's famous Mistakes puzzle from 2004 has two, and Henry Hook's puzzle from the same year has one.
The title is brilliant. I named Ms. Gorski my Constructor of the Year for 2013.
Here's a nice article by Merl Reagle on the 100th birthday.
This is the first NYT daily crossword to use heavy bars to separate answer words. Across Lite can't handle this so most other solving software uses circled squares with combined and renumbered clues. Just to prove it can be done better, XWord Info has created a special HTML 5 solving experience that duplicates the intended effect.
This is the 17th Shortz-era grid with repeated answer words. Manny Nowsowsky and Jeff Chen have two each. Compare with this April Fool's puzzle from 2000 where Mr. Nosowsky teased out 12 different definitions for TTT...
This is the second Einstein quote puzzle this year.
Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.
Puzzles with blanks in the solution are very rare. The only Shortz-era precedent is this 2006 puzzle by Pete Muller. Charles Deber had a similar idea exactly 25 years ago in this 1988 crossword edited by Eugene Maleska.
I named this my puzzle of the year for 2013.
This puzzle blows away the old record for most Ms. There are 25 of them.
Update: Clive Probert squeezed 46 Ms into this 2017 puzzle.
Here are the people in question.
At first, it seems like the Across theme answers are unclued. Nothing corresponds to TOPEKA, DENVER, JUNEAU, BOSTON, AUSTIN, ALBANY, HELENA or PIERRE. But then, did you notice the puzzle's title?
"Putting out on an anniversary, maybe" at 47 Across is an outstanding clue.
Jeff is right that modern fill is often much cleaner but, for me, the value of the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project is that it demonstrates how much creativity and downright cleverness existed from the earliest NYT crosswords. Many of the gimmicks we consider to be modern actually have a long history. Every era builds on the pioneers who came before but constructor ingeniousness, humor and imagination have always been there.
This is Sarah Keller's 50th NYT crossword.
This puzzle set a new record for most I's in a 15x grid. It held until 2019 when this puzzle with I as the only vowel smashed it.
PRESSURE=FORCE/AREA, SPEED=DISTANCE/TIME, DENSITY=MASS/VOLUME
Number 23 in the grid is shifted one square to the right. Apostrophes have been used before.
The highlighted squares must be read S or C in one direction and I in the other. When those letters overlap, they create symbols for $ and ¢.
"But wait, there's more!" Ten theme answers turn a corner to add MORE.
Vertical theme answers are each two words starting with M and W. Blocks form an M at the top of the grid and a W at the bottom.
Yes, it's true. Bernice Gordon is 99 years old and David Steinberg is 16, a difference of 83 years. Ms. Gordon is a veteran constructor — her first Sunday puzzle was published on January 23, 1955 — but perhaps her most amazing accomplishment is that she's had an NYT crossword byline every year from 2009 on. This is her first collaboration.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has a great article about the creation of this puzzle.
This puzzle is kind of the inverse of this one.
Answers in the central 5x5 box can be arranged in two ways. The circled letters are the same in either case.
Ms. Gorski is the inventor and still the master of this ingenious connect-the-dots puzzle form. Is that an eye or maybe even a blinder on the horse? And reins?
Five theme answers have a FALLING OUT.
Five snakes snake through the shaded squares.
Those colored squares mix BLUE across with RED down to get THE COLOR PURPLE.
17-, 23-, 37- and 51-Across not only have to be read EAST TO WEST, they each start with E and end with W. Or is it the other way around?
The twelve 15-letter answers (six Across and six Down) and the 44 three-letter ones both tie the record set by David Levinson Wilk back in 2009. In fact, the shapes of the two grids are identical.
Interestingly, there are two other NYT grids with the same 29 blocks, 72 words, 68 open squares, and an average word length of 5.44, and they're both by Paula Gamache. Her beautiful grids in 2010 and 2011 only have eight 15s but they're also evenly split four Across and four Down.
All four of these grids have the rare property of supersymmetry, that is, they are symmetric about horizontal, vertical, and diagonal axes
This puzzle has a cleverly disorienting use of circles that I've never seen before. The letters in the circles themselves have no special meaning. It's only their positions relative to the squares above them that matter.
Speed solvers probably dislike Ms because they take longer to write. This grid has 16 Ms, breaking the record for most Ms in a standard puzzle. Don't be surprised if your hand is getting sore. The puzzle just three days ago had 15 Ms.
Update: This is no longer even close to the current record.
This grid ties the record for most Ms in a 15x grid.
This is similar in concept to a 2005 puzzle by Courtenay Crocker III where the key phrase was MAN IN OUTER SPACE. A few other puzzles required scribbling beyond the lines. Here's one from 2006 that asked you to think outside the box and more recently, there was this outsiders puzzle from 2012. For a rather different but equally clever MAN rebus, see this 2003 crossword by Dan Reichert.
The print puzzle has "*taking into account its 61-Across" in italics after the clue list, referring to 4 clues with asterisks. For online, that phrase was added to the clues themselves.
I recently teased Martin Ashwood-Smith that one way to avoid overused words in his stacks of 15s would be to stack 16s instead. Derek Bowman beat him to the punch. This is the first time 16s have been stacked in any NYT crossword.
The print version of this puzzle has lines (representing chemical bonds) connecting the H-O-H squares instead of circles. See the PDF.
Five theme answers (three of them Across and two Down) start with the words A, E, I, O and U.
I've highlighted the meandering theme answers with the range of ALPs so you can see how nicely symmetric everything is.
I've highlighted the wraparound sunglasses. Each breaks on a different letter.
Mr. Cee has a similar theme published later outlining a football rather than baseball play.
The special squares added to the feature films have been dyed blue so you can see what they spell.
This puzzle crosses its only two grid-spanning answers at a rebus entry in the center square.
The NYT published this correction on March 28: "The crossword puzzle on Tuesday provided an erroneous clue for 26-Across, seeking the answer 'Gee whiz.' The clue should have read, 'Wow, you're a regular expert at turning right!' not 'Wow, you're a regular expert at turning left!'" I have corrected it below.
STIR FRIES to finish each theme answer.
This is the first crossword to squeeze a quadruple-pangram into a standard 15x15 grid. Peter Wentz included four of each letter in 2010 but needed 16 columns. Click the Analyze button below and marvel at the letter distribution.
Joe Krozel has made a habit of pushing the envelope. This grid has a mere 18 blocks. As of this puzzle, there have been nine NYT crosswords in history with 19 or fewer blocks. Mr. Krozel constructed seven of them.
Rebus squares are read WATER across and HHO (i.e., H2O) down.
With this, only his 9th NYT crossword, Mr. Steinberg has now hit for the cycle (he has a puzzle published on each day of the week.)
The Across answers below include the missing PROs and CONs.
"Back down" answers are read backwards to the beginning and then down from there.
Sound out the first syllable of each of the six(!) long theme answers.
Compare with this 1998 grid by Robert H. Wolfe. It even has the same central answer, only running vertically. The puzzle here differs in that, for the Down answers, the punctuation marks must be spelled out.
FROST/NIXON was the answer to one of my favorite recent clues: Slashed picture of 2008?
Note the T shapes in the black squares. And every clue begins with T.
This is the 7,000th daily crossword Will Shortz has edited for The New York Times. Adding the weekly Variety puzzle puts his lifetime NYT total at 8,000. Congratulations, Will!
This grid is notable for several reasons. Most remarkably, it's the first to stack five 15-letter answer words. That's an amazing accomplishment few believed possible. The grid is asymmetric. Notice the additional 15 in the top half but none in the bottom half. (I've long held that strict adherence to symmetry limits interesting grid and theme possibilities. Would a quintuple-stack be possible if symmetry were required? Do you care?) And finally, this is the first puzzle dropping HORSE MANURE into the grid.
It's interesting to compare this with Mr. Schoenholz's previous rebus.
Side-by-side circled words combine with "by" to form new phrases like KNEW by HEART.
This original grid has four "rebus" squares containing IO. Each crosses a short and a long answer. The short answers fit the clues with either I or O. (I arbitrarily chose to use I in the answers below but you can see that either satisfies the clue.) The long answers use both I and O in that order. So, 14 Across can be either WRITE or WROTE, and 3 Down is SING-SONG VOICE.
DING DONG DITCH at 34 Down is a game where you ring someone's doorbell and run away. It's a favorite each year at the ACPT.
We last saw this theme nine years ago. It's interesting to compare the clues.
x + y = 16 and x - y = 4, so substituting...
x = 4 + y
y + (4 + y) = 16
y + y = 16 - 4
2y = 12, so y = 6
x + 6 = 16, so x = 10
UPDATE: This solution from reader Dave Reynolds is more elegant:
If you add the left and right sides of both equations you get:
2x = 20 --> x = 10
10 + y = 16 --> y = 6
10 + 6 = 16
10 - 6 = 4
The giant X in the middle of the grid forms part of the 14 highlighted answers.
The six És with acute accents work both Across and Down. Patrick Merrell did something similar with Ñs.
Per 73 Across, CC is BLIND (hidden behind blocks) in theme answers.
There was another Tetris theme a decade later.
Puzzle Editor Will Shortz writes about the contest and announces the winners here.
Didn't win? Purchase The New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzles 2013 Weekly Planner Calendar.
The four special squares are read as SUN on the way Across, but are eclipsed by MOON on the way down. This solar eclipse crossword is a nice complement to Kevin G. Der's 2010 lunar eclipse puzzle.
Peter Abide used this same clever theme 11 years ago, even including FROFFTONICE. His other theme entries were OFFSIDEKICKON and one I especially liked, "A Star is Born" co-star KRISTONERSOFF. Elizabeth C. Gorski had a related notion in a 2006 puzzle called Light Thinking.
The circles trace a football shape with laces tied up in the middle.
The monstrous NESSIE pops her head out the top of this grid, joining PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL and the infamous HANGING CHAD as breakout answers. The PDF with slightly different grid numbering looks like this.
In this rare themed Friday, you can find the four BEATLES in the corners.
Not only is the grid shaped like a big 8, EIGHT-TRACK TAPES, OCTAGONAL, and SPIDER SOLITAIRE all invoke eightness.
The Yiddish answers are, appropriately, read right to left.
Duck Duck Goose is a children's game.
This grid, with only 17 blocks, holds the most famous record in crosswords.
Rebus square are read as double-U going Across and as W going Down.
Theme answers must be interpreted literally. So, for example, ARETE is RET inside AE, EAGLE is L inside EAGE, SCOURING is CO inside SURING, etc.
Not only are the crossing theme answers symmetric, the Down part precedes the Across part in each case, from THEN & THERE to FAST & LOOSE.
For squares with two answers inside, use the digit for the down clues and the SHIFT-KEY keyboard equivalent of that digit for the Acrosses. So, SASQU[AT]CH, EX[POUND]ING, SAND[DOLLAR], [PERCENT]AGES and [CARET]AKERS.
Bernice Gordon was 38 when she had her first crossword published in the NYT. That's probably older than average. It was also 60 years ago, in 1952, and that's something to celebrate! Ms. Gordon constructed this one at age 98.
Types of TIME FRAME the entire grid.
A set of five squares can be connected along their edges to form 12 unique shapes. You can see each of them here. This gimmick necessarily breaks some of the standard construction rules — symmetry is not possible and, because of the so-called U pentomino in the bottom left, there's an unchecked square. The 12 pentominoes can be interlocked to form rectangles of various sizes.
Connect the atomic symbols for Carbon to see the shape of a footprint.
Include the clue number itself in the highlighted symmetric answers.
The only vowel in this grid is O. There are 69 of them, more than twice the previous record set in 1993.
The publication date is Paul McCartney's 70th birthday.
Turn right on RED to read the seven theme answers.
The first letters of the Across clues spell out "The Robert Redford film A River Runs Through It."
This tricky theme confused many solvers. Look closely at the circles in the grid. TUBE and FASTBALL are inside circles. GIFT is wrapped by them. SELF is contained by them. PLANETS are ringed by them. ORGANS are internal to them. UP is bubbled inside. The especially nice coincidence is that the Nine-banded ARMADILLO gets nine bands because Armadillo has nine letters.
Dick Clark died on April 18, six weeks before this tribute was published.
States are divided into quarters with perfect symmetry. This grid breaks the previous record for most rebus entries.
This is the first grid in my database that includes every letter except the most common one — E. Three other puzzles are E-less: this one by David Kahn which uses only 10 letters, this one, also by Patrick Berry, where the only vowel is A, and this one by Gayle Dean which has no E's in either the answers or in the clues.
A Friday puzzle with a theme! Long answers end with words that are anagrams of each other.
If you've been doing puzzles for a while, you might have guessed Mr. Krozel was the author from the grid shape alone. There are no 3-letter answers. Clues are numbered differently and rather more elegantly in the print version of this puzzle.
Cleverly disguised as a typical word-that-can-precede puzzle, this crossword has an extra gimmick. Down answers must JUMP over the circled letters to make sense.
A similarly themed puzzle from 2008 also included both MILLENIUM and PERSEVERENCE. The correct spellings are: genealogy, perseverance, questionnaire, millennium, occasion and, uh, one other... Oh yeah, and misspelled.
The CROSS answers have lovely symmetry so I've highlighted them.
I've highlighted the numerical components of the various in-fractions. Do the division to get the answer. So, for example, "like grandchildren" is 1/3 GENERATION or THIRD GENERATION and "high-end retail chain" is SAKS 1/5 AVENUE for SAKS FIFTH AVENUE. At 33-Across, "execute in a way" is not DRAW AND FOURTH. You have to go with the grislier interpretation of "execute." The answer is DRAW AND QUARTER. Clever puzzle!
As explained at 35-Across, the three long vertical answers have OUTSIDERS, read as OUTSIDE Rs. There is an R missing from the top and bottom of each so you have to draw them outside the grid.
I've highlighted the "reflection" squares. They spell out SHIP OF DREAMS. This titanic puzzle stretches several conventions. It's the first Shortz-era grid with up-down mirror symmetry. It is by far the widest. It's even bigger than Kevin's previous huge rectangle. It's not a size record, though, falling nearly 100 squares short of the seven 25x25 Millennium puzzles from 1999. (Here's one.)
I claim this is the world's first cubist crossword. There's the profile view of the ship and its reflection you have to draw yourself and, just maybe, if you squint at the arrangement of black squares, a top view of a ship sailing west. Do you see it? Also, GRID IRON is a great title for a puzzle that looks like a football field but isn't. The constructor tells the story of how he made this puzzle here on Quora.
Theme explanation: circled letters denote words IN-side the longer answers. So, "1997 Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones flick" is MEN in BLACK (African American,) "Preventive measure, proverbially" is STITCH in TIME (it's told using a watch,) "Headstone phrase" is REST in PEACE (treaty result,) "Lurid 1979 film about John Dillinger's girlfriend" is The LADY in RED (color for Valentine's Day,) "To be on the safe side ..." is JUST in CASE (judge's matter,) "Golf ace" is HOLE in ONE (the loneliest number,) and "One who looks friendly but isn't" is WOLF in SHEEP'S CLOTHING (wool, facetiously.)
I like to think of this PLAY BALL theme as describing an inside-the-park home run. Following the ends of the theme answers in order, the batter starts with a SWING, and manages to HIT the ball. Then he starts to RUN. Finally he executes a successful SLIDE which must be into home plate because his team chalks up a SCORE.
As noted at 63 Across, the black squares are arranged NONCONTIGUOUSLY. See also this grid by Patrick Merrell.
Theme answers go back to the start. Append the first three letters to the end for the answers to make sense.
AROUND must be added to the answers around the outside edge for the clues to make sense.
I have shaded in the Nations at the Core of each theme answer.
I've highlighted them.
Ms. Lempel is stirring up controversy yet again, bless her cheeky soul. Is MID-ASS TOUCH at 25 Across cute, clever, or offensive? The New Yorker weighs in.
This puzzle has a wonderfully creative angle I've never seen before. State abbreviations are added to certain answers to provide information for other clues.
So, for example, at 6-Across, "Posed (for)" is SAT. Then, at 33-Down, we see "6-Across near Indianapolis?" Add IN (the abbreviation for Indiana) to SAT to get SATIN, making the answer for 33-Down SMOOTH FABRIC.
Correction: Errors in NYT puzzles are extremely rare but this crossword has one. The clue for 30 Across reads "New Jersey town bordering Rahway" and the answer is ISELIN. It turns out they're very close together but they don't actually touch. You can see for yourself in these closeup maps of Iselin and Rahway.
Today's constructor is 16 years old. He joins the list of other constructors who debuted as teens. Check out Mr. Trogu's blog to learn more about him and listen to him play some Chopin, Debussy and Bach at the Steinway.
This Three Musketeers theme "all for one, one for all" tripped up many solvers. It means that each occurrence of ONE is replaced with ALL and vice versa. Apparently the Kansas City Star staff was so confused they published an apology for some of the clues being "switched."
Mr. Krozel made two versions of this puzzle. The companion triple-stack grid contains 3/4 of the same quad-stack plus black squares in all the same places. You can see the two grids together here.
A Scrabble set has only one Z. It also has two blank tiles which could be Z or any other letter but PIZZAZZ has four Z's so it's impossible.
TOP is missing from the three answers at the top, BOTTOM from the bottom, and SIDE from both sides. In addition, MIDDLE is missing from three answers in the center row.
This beautiful design gets added to my Grid Art page.
Reading the associated letters in numerical order reveals the answer NWODTNUOC. Hmmm.
Many solvers complained about 44 Across claiming the "Dir. from Gramercy Park to Central Park" should be NNW not NNE. Indeed, many maps seem to show just that. As usual, the crossword turns out to be correct.
Manhattan maps often artificially "straighten out" the island to appear more aligned to true north. This maps shows the correct orientation. Gramercy Park is marked with a pushpin. Central Park is up and, yes, to the right.
This grid underwent significant changes during the editing process. Mr. Vratsanos was kind enough to allow me to post the original submission so you can see the changes. Very interesting. Even the grid shape changed.
I have highlighted the 12 "upside down" cakes.
I have filled in the circles on all six puzzles. Note the "pips" on each side of the die are correctly located. Wordplay interviewed Will Shortz and Patrick Berry. I named this set my puzzle of the year for 2011.
The first letters of each clue in order spell out, "The corners of this week's grids read in order: Spell a famous Leader and his crossing words."
Rebus squares are BLACK in one direction and WHITE in the other. The top entry corresponds to the Across answer.
This is the 146th puzzle Mr. Berry has created for the NYT, and his first ever Monday. Tomorrow he will hit for the cycle with his first ever Tuesday puzzle.
The shapes form OVAL OFFICE, SQUARE INCH, DIAMOND NECKLACE, ARTIFICIAL HEART, LOVE TRIANGLE, and ARCTIC CIRCLE.
The 20 C's in this grid is a record.
In this Quora answer, Kevin Der explains how today's tribute puzzle was put together within hours of the announcement of the death of Steve Jobs.
Mr. Feyer is the reigning American Crossword Puzzle Tournament champion.
The ten celebrities are RAY CHARLES, GREG NORMAN, BOB DYLAN, ANNE RICE, ELI MANNING, ALEX TREBEK, JOE TORRE, LOU RAWLS, DON CHEADLE, and TINA LOUISE. Quite a party!
In an unusual feat of construction, today's theme-revealer at 34-Down intersects three of the themed entries.
It's interesting to compare how this theme was handled when the day in question fell on a "themeless" Friday in 2008.
This is the 15th Shortz-era puzzle with repeated answer words, and its SPY vs SPY gimmick is one of my favorites. Here's the complete list.
Ten answers have to be read by going around a corner. So, for example, at 1 Across, "Nitty Gritty, as of negotiations" should be parsed as BRASSTACKS.
The 11 grid-spanning 15-letter answers here is just one short of the record set in this 2009 puzzle by David Levinson Wilk.
In this unusual puzzle, rebus Across answers must be read twice. For example, 14 Across, "Deprecate", is POOH POOH. For a different take on this kind of theme, see the 1995 April Fools puzzle.
Bernice Gordon constructed this crossword at the age of 97. Her first NYT puzzle was published in 1952.
As of the publication date of this puzzle, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt still holds the world and Olympic records in the 100 and 200 metres, and with his teammates, the 4x100 metres relay.
Sometimes crossword editors tweak a few clues or a few grid entries. Sometimes the grid undergoes substantial change. Usually, we never know, but Mr. Beckman posted his original submission so you can see the dramatic changes in this one yourself. Note the two additional theme entries in the top and bottom rows.
The shaded HIDDEN TEXT is a list of abbreviations commonly used in text messages. They stand for On The Other Hand, In My Humble Opinion, Rolling On the Floor Laughing, and Talk To Ya Later.
In this zero-based puzzle, OOO is in the top right, and ZIP is opposite. The most frequent letter in the grid is O. There are 24 of them.
Wordplay has the remarkable story of this constructor and this puzzle.
In an Atlantic article titled How Will Shortz Edits a New York Times Crossword Puzzle, this puzzle is used as the example.
Note that in each theme answer here, each three-block "bar" divides a type of bar. We hop over a singles' bar, piano bar, space bar, candy bar, and salad bar.
Let's call these 51 Ts the official record for most in a 15x puzzle, although Manny Nosowsky used an artificial April Fool's gimmick in 2000 to squeeze in 54.
Note that every answer here contains a T and every clue begins with T.
A work (of ART) progresses through all the 10-letter Across entries starting at the far left and inching over to the far right.
In this UP rebus with a twist, Down answers that include UP must be read upwards. For example, 3 Down, "Prince's partner," is PAUPER.
This seems to be a homage to one of my favorite crosswords by the great Manny Nosowsky. Mr. Quigley and Mr. Livengood do the master one better by including the parallel Ps to the left of the diagonal.
Each time an answer goes through one of the six U's in the grid, it takes a right-angle turn. (That's a turn at the U, not a literal 180° U-turn.) So, for example, 18-Across, "Disagreeably direct" is BRUTAL, and 10 Down, "Transmitter, of sorts" is NEURON.
The circled letters can be arranged to spell DINER.
With this puzzle, 18-year-old Kelsey Boes became the youngest female constructor in the Shortz Era, and probably in NYT crossword history.
Using H is S (HISS), M is O (MISO), L is P (LISP), etc., 39-Across represents SPOT THE CODE. Compare to this 2005 puzzle by Patrick Blindauer: Across Lite, Solution, and this one from 2001 by William I. Johnston: Across Lite, Solution.
Mr. Steinberg is 14 years old and just graduated from 8th grade at Lakeside School in Seattle, making him, at the time, the second youngest constructor of the Shortz Era.
Mr. Vratsanos set a goal for himself to have a published puzzle before he finished high school. Today's debut appears on the date of his graduation.
Following the doors from room to room, the circles spell out the EMERSON quote, "EVERY WALL IS A DOOR." Patrick Merrell created this nice graphic.
In this chromosomal puzzle, XY is read as HIS, and XX as HERS.
Mr. Dubner won the C division at the 2011 ACPT (photo).
This puzzle has a remarkably high number of theme entries — nine, including the explanation at 63 Across.
The print version of this puzzle is slightly different. Appropriately, there is no square numbered 13. Note the puzzle title is Fri, May ___, 2011.
It's unusual to have a science or math theme in an NYT puzzle, particularly one of this depth and complexity. The FIBONACCI SERIES F(n) starts 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144,… Each number is the sum of the two preceding ones. The ratio of successive numbers in the series approaches the GOLDEN RATIO (an irrational number approx 1.618) as n approaches infinity. Like pi or e, it is a constant that pops up surprisingly often.
Artists have traditionally considered this relationship to be the most aesthetically pleasing. It is said to be observed in nature in, for example, the growth of nautilus chambers, and the patterns of artichoke leaves or sunflower seeds.
The black squares across the middle spell "Jr" in this puzzle about Juniors.
There's nowhere to go but UP in this grid where each bottom-dwelling theme answer curls up at the end to get the final letter.
Mr. Quigley announced he was going to become a father via 17 Across.
The missing clues are all UMBRELLA. Spell that word by connecting the dots letter by letter to see the shape.
In this cold-war themed puzzle, the black squares spell out 1961, the year the Berlin Wall was constructed.
The theme is DOUBLE HEADERS. Four theme answers consist of two words that can be made into new words by appending HEAD to each. So, "Thor, for one" is THUNDER GOD which becomes THUNDERHEAD and GODHEAD. Similarly with WARHEAD and BRIDESHEAD, STEELHEAD and DRUMHEAD, DEADHEAD and LETTERHEAD.
Puzzle solutions are intended to be unique (except in a few odd cases where they are intentionally ambiguous.) Unlike, say, sudoku, it's hard to prove that crossword solutions are singular.
The puzzle here seems to be a case of an unintentionally non-unique grid. Dictionaries support two correct answers for 90A and 77D, as shown below.
This Saturday puzzle has a bit of a theme with two related long answers crossing at the center. You can read about the Cardiff Giant here and learn who really coined the famous sucker birth frequency stat.
Down answers in the right side of the grid are NORTHBOUND LANES, meaning they have to be read bottom-to-top. There have been some great April Fool's Day puzzles over the years.
Read the back story on this remarkable puzzle in this New York Times story.
This puzzle is a play on the scientific concept of "red shift" — a little red paint is mixed into some common phrases. So, WHITE WASHED becomes PINK WASHED, BLUE PRINT turns into PURPLE PRINT, and YELLOW FEVER becomes ORANGE FEVER.
In this bowling theme, a ball spins down the alley, avoiding the gutters, in an attempt to knock out the remaining pins split two per side.
Play the notes indicated in the circles and you'll plink out a familiar theme from the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
The NYT published this correction: The crossword on March 13 provided an erroneous clue for 93-Across, seeking the answer "Nausea." The clue should have read, "Sartre novel" — not "Novel for which Sartre declined the Nobel Prize." (The award he declined in 1964 was for his body of work, not for that particular novel.)
From Matt Ginsberg: "Oh, no! Will left out what was — in my opinion! — the most important part of this puzzle. There is supposed to be an asterisk in front of the clue for 36-Across. Think about it ..."
The Ts form a nice tail trailing off the end of the KITE.
The 30 R's here was a record until David Steinberg smashed it in 2015.
This is the fifth Modern Era "Schrödinger" puzzle. See the others here.
This lovely grid has two unchecked squares but like most such puzzles, they're not really unchecked. 19 Vs is a lot. Peter Collins also shares the record for most Vs in a daily puzzle. If that were his first V puzzle, this would be his V-2.
In 2002, The New Yorker magazine ran this profile of today's constructor.
Blacks squares in this grid are either isolated or clumped together in linear groups of three. Such groups, in each case, represent BAR, which completes each theme answer.
Each of the first four theme answers goes over the LINE. The first of each pair ends with an anagram of LINE and the second begins with its margana (that same anagram reversed.)
Official NYT correction: The crossword puzzle on Tuesday provided an erroneous clue for 51-Across, seeking the answer "Grasshopper." The clue should have read, "Term of endearment used by Master Po for young Kwai Chang Caine in TV's 'Kung Fu' " — not "Term of endearment for the Karate Kid."
This puzzle cleverly takes advantage of the shape of the circles used to highlight special squares. Elizabeth C. Gorski did something similar in 2009. So did Michael Shteyman with this innovative 2010 diagramless crossword: PDF, solution.
This PDF file shows how the puzzle appeared in print where the theme is more elegantly displayed. Clue numbering in the print and electronic versions differ.
Seven long Across answers are made up of shorter words. 12 Across, "One in on the founding of a company", is CHAR+TERM+EMBER. Similarly, PLAN+TMAN+AGER, WIN+ETAS+TER, OPERA+TIN+GROOM, EAR+THAN+GEL, FORT+HERE+CORD, and NOTRE+SPAS+SING.
American crosswords traditionally ignore diacritical marks, even with foreign words, but this puzzle carefully handles both N and Ñ so the words are correct both Across and Down. In 2012, David J. Kahn did something similar with És.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune ran an article about these constructors and this puzzle.
An L in five common phrases gets shifted three places to the left.
The graphic here is courtesy of Patrick Merrell who created it for his Wordplay post. Click it for a slightly larger view.
Here's the PDF. There is an especially elegant aspect of this puzzle that shouldn't be missed. When every O inside the die shape is colored in, the spots on each side are properly oriented, but notice that the sides themselves are correctly aligned as well. So, for example, each pair of opposite sides adds up to seven, as they should.
Nine pairs of side-by-side seven-letter answers share common clues.
Unusual for a Monday, many people had trouble parsing this theme. The central theme answer is HEAD BAND. The HEAD (that is the front or the first word) of each long answer is the name of a BAND: Queen, Kiss, Traffic, and Cream.
Who says crossword construction isn't a risky business? Despite 3 Down and 5 Down and many years of a Wednesday tradition, the Tree Lighting Ceremony in 2010 was held on a Tuesday.
Here's a construction feat I never thought I'd see — a quadruple pangram. Every letter of the alphabet is used at least 4 times. Purists may note that with the grid stretching to 16 columns, there are more squares available to fit in those extra Scrabbly letters. True, but the central theme answer at 43 Across nicely justifies the extra width.
Update: Raymond C. Young managed this feat in a 15x15 grid in 2013.
This grid must be rotated 90° left or right, or turned upside down, to make sense of five of the answers.
The previous day's puzzle, also by Mike Nothnagel, shows the locations of the holes. On today's grid, they spell out G O R L U F O N D which can be rearranged to form GOLF ROUND.
This was part one of a two-day puzzle contest. See the next day's crossword for details.
Wired Magazine did a blurb on this puzzle. The article includes a clip from The Colbert Report.
The 2x2 block near the center of this necessarily asymmetric 15x15 grid must be interpreted as BLOCK in eight theme answers.
This is another debut from a teenage constructor. Mr. Vigeland constructed this puzzle while a student at Horace Mann School in Bronx, NY (hence 58 Across.) At publication time, he was an 18-year-old freshman at Columbia University.
There are 15 M's tying the record for most in the Shortz era.
There is a rare error at 5 Across. "I'll never be hungry again" is Scarlett's last line before intermission but she has plenty more to say after the popcorn break.
This theme eluded me. The "and literally so" is key, here. As joon pahk explained on Wordplay, "STAY is literally "between the lines" MASON-DIXON and WHITESTAR, and READ is between the FREE-THROW line and a PRODUCTION line."
The answers to the 12 starred clues start with abbreviations for the months of the year, in order.
The answers on the side are all SIDE, making a six-sided HEXAGON. Each SIDE answer bends around a corner.
Bernice Gordon constructed this crossword at the age of 96. That sets a new record for oldest NYT constructor. The previous record holder? Bernice Gordon, last year, at a mere age 95. Her first NYT puzzle was in 1952.
Each across answer has to be entered into the grid backwards. Remarkably, all the across entries except for the three long ones are legitimate crossword answers in either direction.
In this very clever construction, identical words cross five times, symmetrically distributed: ADDRESS, CONSOLE, EXPLOIT, INCENSE, and PRESENT. Each word is two syllables. In each case, the Across definition requires the first syllable to be accented, and the Down definition needs the second.
In this crossword, every answer and every clue contains at least one letter B. More than a quarter of all white squares contain a B. There are 48 in all.
This is likely to be the last Manny Nosowsky puzzle we'll see in the NYT. Including his 8 pre-Shortz puzzle, his lifetime total is 254. Most are excellent. Many are great. It's quite a legacy.
This grid, with only 18 blocks, tied the most famous record in crosswords. Wordplay has constructor notes where Joe Krozel outlines some of his strategy. Note the unusual diagonal symmetry. Mr. Krozel broke this record on July 27, 2012.
The circles contain state codes for the Midwest, arranged in correct geographic relationship.
The print version of this puzzle was a normal 15x15 grid that mysteriously referred to the non-existent 66 Across. I've attached the secret answer below.
This puzzle is the antimatter counterpart of this ODD puzzle by David J. W. Simpson a few months earlier.
A 2002 Manny Nosowsky puzzle had a similar theme. It repeated PAR. This puzzle repeats ONE.
Read the first letter of each Across clue to reveal a hidden message. Here's the wedding announcement in the NYT.
"Byron and Robin today will be saying 'I do.'"
Three 18-letter theme answers snake across the grid, each taking a nose dive on the word NOSE.
Here's another example of a crossword with an unusual visual element that Across Lite can't reproduce. Hence, the convoluted notepad. The print version had no notes.
As referenced in 50- and 60-Across, there are three Zodiac SIGNs above the dotted lines.
Cleveland.com has a story about Corey Rubin and this puzzle.
In this ingenious puzzle, we need to read the names of the colors for the Down answers as in a normal rebus, but the Across answers work differently. Consecutive color bars combine to form flags of six different countries. Substitute the associated country names for the blocks of colors, and it all makes sense. See Wordplay for the full story including an interview with the constructor.
In my year-end wrap up Notable Puzzles of 2010 on Wordplay, I named this crossword my Puzzle of the Year.
Some clues in the print version are written using non-standard font styles. Across Lite and other electronic versions replace those clues with descriptive text which makes the puzzle solvable but not as fun. This PDF shows how the puzzle appears in the magazine.
I have made the clues here conform to the print style whenever it was possible to do so in HTML. For example, some of the clues are in bold, italics, or strike-through text. The drop-shadow and gothic font clues can't reliably be reproduced in a way that works across browsers.
One of the goals of XPF is to provide a standardized way to specify font variations in crossword clues, although even the current version of XPF could not handle all the gimmicks in this puzzle.
John Farmer responded a few months later with this EVEN puzzle.
The answer to the bonus question is BOARD.
Click the thumbnail to see a larger version of the 1944 Matisse painting Annelies, White Tulips and Anemones mentioned at 33 Down.
There are EIGHT NOTES that, when connected in order, form a pair of EIGHTH NOTES. Also, every clue starts with a solfège name: Do, Re, Mi, etc.
The old ST/PA trick replaces PA in common phrases with ST.
This is the first NYT puzzle, in fact the first published crossword anywhere as far as I know, with two stacks of four 15-letter answers. There's another full-width answer dead center.
I have shaded squares along the main diagonal to make it easier to see the full name of 62 Down.
The grid in the printed paper looks something like this.
Click here to see how the empty grid appears in print and here to see the folded answers. I did an extended interview with the constructors for Wordplay.
Here is how to parse the long answers: FOLD PAGE SO A AND B ARE LINED UP IN THE TOP AND BOTTOM ROWS. The A and B refer to the only As and Bs in the top and bottom rows of the grid. In Mad Magazine, you had to fold the page so that A matched up to B above and below the drawing. When this puzzle is folded the highlighted answers reveal more things that fold.
The print version of this puzzle (PDF) has nothing in the corners.
With this puzzle, 19-year-old Zoe Wheeler became the youngest female constructor in NYT crossword history. See Wordplay for an interview.
Animals march to NOAH'S ARK in pairs.
Starred answers end with DO, RE, MI, FA, SOL, LA, TI.
Every Across clue follows the same form.
This is a rare Friday puzzle with a theme. It came out Thanksgiving evening.
Ben Pall was 14 years old when this puzzle was published, making him the youngest constructor of an NYT crossword in the Shortz Era.
This is the first NYT puzzle to stack four 15-letter answers.
This is generally considered to be the most difficult puzzle of 2009.
The theme answers here are standard phrases that contain an X, but that X is changed into an O (a tic-tac-toe reference maybe?) and then each resulting phrase is clued as if it's a real thing.
So, instead of BOXING MATCH, it's a BOOING MATCH, and so on.
There are twelve 15-letter answers in this grid, an NYT record. The 44 three-letter answer words is also a record for a 15x grid.
See the response to this puzzle in this NBC report.
This is one of my favorite NYT puzzles ever.
In the print version of this puzzle, the four "-" clues are simply blank. PUB + LICE + DUCAT + ION = 36 Across.
Four theme answers are compound words made up of "kinds" of TIME. 18 Across is DOUBLE PLAY and both DOUBLE TIME and PLAY TIME are common phrases. Similarly, HALF TIME and LIFE TIME, GAME TIME and FACE TIME, and AIR TIME (when a show is broadcast) and QUALITY TIME. Since the two kinds of TIME are together, one follows another and we have TIME AFTER TIME.
The print version of this puzzle varies from the Across Lite version. There is a blank square in the centre as shown here, 18 Across has a longer clue: "With 55-Across, direction indicator (and what to draw in the center of this puzzle)" and there is this mysterious clue for 55 Across: "See 18-Across." Click here to see one particular compass rose.
Each rebus square is "normal" in one direction but in the other direction, you have to pronounce the letters individually. So, for example, 24 Down is BED KNOBS but 31 Across is TOOTH DK meaning TOOTH DECAY.
This grid is a map of Manhattan. Broadway diagonally crosses 8th, 7th, 6th, and 5th Avenues.
This theme is tricky. CUT removed from CIRCUMSTANCES = take out of context, GORE removed from GOVERNMENT UNREST = bloodless revolution, TIE removed from ARTICLE describes "the" (the article) missing "tie" (the link), RIMS removed from PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIANS = doctors without borders, FEE removed from FIFTH WHEEL means a spare (tire) but with no expense, WHAT A PANDA DOES IN LEISURELY FASHION minus PLUS means "eats shoots" (what the panda does) but "and" (that is, PLUS) leaves or is taken out, WORTHLESS ROADSTER is a lemon so with OREO cut out it's lemon, drop cookies. See blog commentary for more discussion.
I have shown the Greek letters in the grid but to read the crossing answers, you must spell those letters out. So, for example, 39 Down is β θ π but the crossing answers are TI[BETA]NS, ON[THETA]KE, and AMERICAN[PI]E.
The original NYT Across Lite file inadvertently had a circle in each rebus square. The print version was correctly SIR-cle-less.
As the long answer at 7 Down implies, there are ten symmetrically arranged Across answers which need the word DOG added to make sense. 1 Across is HOT DOG, 9 is DEVIL DOG, 15 is ALPHA DOG, 36 is DOG EAR, 34 is DOG CATCHER. Those are all in the top half.
Rotating the grid to see the symmetric answers in the bottom half you get DOG TAG, DOG BREEDER, LUCKY DOG, SALTY DOG, and at 74 across you need to add the missing word twice to get DOG EAT DOG.
Here is a link to the portrait in question at 20 Across.
The circles outline a shift pattern for a five-speed standard transmission.
You could fill this grid by putting a circle in each corner. The four rebus squares must be interpreted differently Across or Down. As shown here, the top entry is for the Across answer and bottom is for the Down. Notice that this makes a nicely symmetric set.
NYT published an official correction for the 24 Across clue, "Adoptee in Genesis." Moses doesn't appear until Exodus.
In the print version of this puzzle, each block of four circles is represented by a single larger circle covering all four squares in that block. Click here to see what the grid is supposed to look like.
This clever puzzle confused many people. Despite the answer at 33 Across, the key is to read the FIRST letter of each clue. Then it all makes sense.
"Any clue for a word of eight or more letters is the opposite of the word to be entered."
This exact quote was previously used in 1997.
This grid looks like a compass and the four unchecked squares on each edge place N, W, E and S in their appropriate locations.
This unusual rebus puzzle by Carolyn Stewart doesn't follow the normal rules. Each rebus square can contain either IN or OUT. Both work in each direction.
This is the first puzzle for Mr. Wechsler in the Will Shortz era but it is not, in fact, his NYT debut. His previous puzzle was published the day after Apollo 11 launched on its historic mission to the moon in 1969. That's a forty year gap!
This clever Saturday puzzle has a hidden theme. Nestled into the four corners are the words SEX, DRUGS, ROCK and ROLL.
This puzzle appeared the weekend before the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. OBAMA appears in each theme answer.
This crossword celebrating Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 presidential election briefly held the record for the most rebus squares of any puzzle in the database — 28.
Shaded squares outline planetary orbits in the print version of this grid. Each of the eight rings hides a planet name in order of mean distance from the Sun. See Wordplay for details about a couple of hidden Easter eggs.
There's something very unusual about this puzzle. Click the grid to turn it upside down. Wordplay has an interview with the author.
The big gray boxes contain only vowels.
As explained by 29 Down, the letters OR are missing from the ten starred theme clues.
This puzzle was used for set of granite coasters sold at the NYT Store.
The second half of each theme answer recycles the letters of the first half.
Click the thumbnail above for a larger image of the upside down Matisse masterpiece Le Bateau.
This amazing puzzle has a direct tie-in to the episode of The Simpsons that aired the same day. Both the show and the crossword are self-contained but key plot elements are hidden in this puzzle. See the Wordplay blog post.
The message from the first letter of each clue reads: "Dear Lisa. You make me so happy. Really, really, really happy. Sorry, he told me I needed a hundred-forty-four letters. What was my point again? Oh right. Bouvier or Simpson, I cherish you."
With this puzzle, 15-year-old Caleb Madison became the youngest ever constructor of a Sunday NYT crossword, breaking the record set the previous January by 17-year-old Natan Last. (This record was subsequently broken by 14-year-old Ben Pall on Nov. 23, 2009.)
Tyler Lewis Hinman's initials are spelled out in the black squares.
Clues with lies, or at least errors: 1-, 14-, 19- and 24-Across; and 8-, 9-, 28-, 47-, 49- and 50-Down. In an interview with the Yale Daily News, Will Shortz called this his favorite puzzle of 2008.
The way to read the rebus squares depends on your perspective. If you're looking at Across clues, read them as ACROSS and for the down clues, read them as DOWN.
Caleb Madison was 15 years 3 months old when this, his debut puzzle, was published, making him the youngest constructor in the Shortz era at the time.
Be sure to see 65 Across for an explanation of this unusual puzzle.
There are so many horsey theme answers it's easy to miss one: Silver (Lone Ranger), Scout (Tonto), Trigger (Roy Rogers), and Topper (Hopalong Cassidy.) Then in the middle, Had a Bit crosses Ride 'em Cowboy.
Following the convoluted notepad instructions yields the bonus phrase SOLAR SYSTEM. Note that the planets spelled out in the circles are listed in order of mean distance from the sun.
The instructions in the print version of the puzzle are far more elegant. The squares indicated in the notepad are shaded light grey and the clue for 9 Down reads "Center of many revolutions (whose first letter starts a bonus phrase reading clockwise around the shaded squares.)"
In print, the clue for 57 Across is blank, so the four theme clues drop one letter at at time: "INK", "IN", "I", and "", making DISAPPEARING INK.
Every clue starts with the letter C. Four of the clues are simply the letter C.
I have highlighted squares to show where the splits and mergers happen. The second clue in each theme entry requires a right-angle turn at the highlight so, for example, 31 Down is KILLER BEE and 59 Across can be read as EVEN THOUGH.
I have added highlights to show the theme answers. The Forward Thinking letter substitutions go through the alphabet in order. In 1 Across, A becomes B. In 29 Across, C becomes D, through to 126 Across where Y becomes Z.
Some clues are missing so you need to "follow the instructions." For example, 11 Across is UPSIDE followed by the DOWN answer CAKES, so UPSIDE DOWN CAKES. Similarly, 29 Across is PICKED UP SPEED, 34 Down is TWO LEFT FEET, and 41 Down is EXTREME RIGHT WING, etc. All nine such clues are modified appropriately in the answers below.
The print version had different grid numbers. Here's a hand-solved grid from Linda G's old blog.
Natan Last was a 17-year-old Brooklyn high school student when he became the youngest ever Sunday NYT constructor with this puzzle. The record lasted until 15-year-old Caleb Madison broke it on August 17, 2008.
This crossword was specifically compiled to form a part of the MIT Puzzle Hunt in 2008. MIT solvers were pointed to this puzzle and had to use information from the crossword to finish the original puzzle. The NYT crossword ran at the same time as the MIT Puzzle Hunt, so it was all planned in advance.
More information at the solution page for that puzzle.
Lynn Lempel joins the Consecutive Constructors Club.
When you connect the Os you get a bow tie. So what's the clarinet relative? Ellen Ripstein had to tell me: "It's an O-bow (bow of O's, pronounced like the instrument oboe.)"
The 16 circled letters, starting in square #34 and proceeding roughly counterclockwise, ending at #38, spell the opening lyric of a popular song. If you use your imagination, you can see a snowman in the pattern.
This is generally considered to be the most difficult puzzle of 2007.
Rather remarkably, not only are there no missing letters but the four rarest letters in Crossword puzzles, J, Z, Q, and X, are placed symmetrically in the four corners. Bravo.
The missing three-letter word is BUD.
The normal rebus rules don't apply to this Halloween puzzle. Six squares read TRICK in one direction and TREAT in the other. Three have TRICK Across and TREAT Down; the others have the reverse. The grid here shows the correct Across rebus entry stacked above the correct Down entry.
Falling stars drop off the edge of a cliff.
DEMs on the left, REPs on the right, and the sole IND at dead center.
Nine theme answers contains all five vowels, once each, in order.
They are all Broadway musicals.
I don't count "theme squares" on XWord Info because the definition is too subjective but this collection of seven 15-letter law-related theme answers is remarkable.
Letters not used TWICE (see 127 Across) spell LEFTOVERS. Joel Fagliano had a similar puzzle in 2016 where the leftover letters spell REMAINDERS.
Todd McClary and Jeffrey Harris are uncredited co-authors of this puzzle.
This is an unusual uniclue puzzle. Shared answers are homonyms rather than synonyms.
Every answer on the far right wraps around to the far left so, for example, 1 Across is not clued and the answer to 10 Across is NOT ONE.
Constructor Peter Collins celebrated his 50th birthday on the day this puzzle was published.
Ten clues have answers which are CONTINUED ON THE NEXT LINE.
Each "&" crosses a two letter abbreviation with a longer phrase using the same initials.
David Kwong who co-constructed Magic Words is a working magician.
Until David C. Duncan Dekker broke the record in 2016, this grid had the highest Scrabble score in NYT history.
Note that the abbreviated states along with Canada and Mexico are all correctly geographically distributed.
The central H is an integral part of seven crossing answers. For example, 67 Across is TENDER HEARTED and 13 Down is OLD AS THE HILLS.
As 7-Down explains, all the clues here are in ALPHABETIC ORDER.
This puzzle literally includes the entries CROSS-EXAMINES, CROSS-FIRES, CROSS-HAIRS, CROSS-ROADS, CROSS-SECTIONS, and, of course, CROSS-WORDS.
In this schizophrenic puzzle about emperor penguins and daily newspapers, the answer for 46 Across can be either BLACK or WHITE. Each works for all the crossing clues.
In 2016, Mr. Gulczynski followed up this puzzle with a similar one about 90s FADS.
The 10 hidden body parts (see 38 Across) are ARM, EAR, EYE, GUM, HIP, JAW, LEG, LIP, RIB and TOE.
To understand this, you have to divide the word QUOTE into its five letters, Q, U, O, T, and E.
I love this puzzle. Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon, Hannibal crosses the Alps, and so on. And, although I don't know why, at 57 Across, a chicken crosses the road.
The rebus entries should all be read OFF horizontally and ON vertically.
The secret to solving this puzzle is to THINK outside the box. Write that word outside each corner and it all makes sense. See answers below.
An interesting counterpart was published a few weeks earlier.
Joel Fagliano had a similar idea about 8 years later.
This puzzle has a clever trick. To understand the answers for 1 Across, 29 Across, and 58 Across, you have to think INSIDE THE BOX. Follow the squares all the way around. See this interesting counterpart published a few weeks later.
G.K. added to LADY'S NIGHT = GLADYS KNIGHT; O.S. added to LIVER TONE = OLIVER STONE; etc.
This puzzle has an embedded grid. This PDF file shows how the crossword appeared in the NYT Magazine.
I have highlighted the squares that we're asked to circle at 65 Across.
The mystery person is WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART.
The 22 rebus squares in this puzzle is the third highest count in the database. The other two are both Sundays.
This puzzle uses only 10 different letters.
Reading as directed in the notepad: "The grid contains all the letters and only the letters touchtyped using the left hand."
In this unusual grid, no two black square touch each other, even at the corners.
I have shaded in all the squares that contain the letter O so you can see the O-RING (22-Down.) After the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986, it was determined that an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster had failed at liftoff.
Shifting each letter in 38-Across one letter earlier in the alphabet produces the message YOU BROKE THE CODE.
The empty squares must be read as the word EMPTY.
As the central Across answer MAN IN OUTER SPACE suggests, the six words at 1-, 18-, 27-, 47-, 62- and 68-Across (CHESTER, MILITIA, HANDLE, DRAFTS, SERVANT and TRIGGER) need to be preceded or followed by MAN (MANCHESTER, MILITIAMAN, MANHANDLE, DRAFTSMAN, MANSERVANT and TRIGGERMAN) to answer their clues.
You can watch Merl Reagle construct this puzzle in the movie Wordplay.
Former ACPT champ Dan Feyer calls this one of his favorite crossword gimmicks.
Mr. Merrell has provided this PDF which elegantly shows the complete answer.
This amazing former record holder still has one of the lowest block counts of any published crossword. It was eclipsed on August 22, 2008.
It still holds the record for longest average word length.
This grid has only 63 vowels, the fewest of any 15 by 15 puzzle in my database.
The word RED is needed to complete LETTER DAYS, LOBSTER, SKELTON, HOT CHILI PEPPERS, HERRING, BLOODED, EYE SPECIAL, ANT, HEAD, ALERTS, SHIRT, BREAST, CENT and INK.
As 40 Across explains, all the answers along the top and bottom edges are folded into the next row. So, 1 Across is QUESADILLA, 68 Across is NEWSPAPERS, etc. They are all, of course, things that can be folded.
The #@%*& symbols are used in the grid but the words are spelled out in the answer words below.
Here's what this puzzle looked like in print.
This puzzle has a visual element that cannot be reproduced in Across Lite or on this site. The block in the top left corner has been chipped off. Click here to see how it looked in print.
38 Across should be interpreted as THREE SQUARES.
The clue for the three theme answers is WED.
The rebus squares represent the stars as arranged in an EARLY US FLAG.
Many of the Down answers here have extraneous letters in this ingenious themed Saturday puzzle. To read them correctly, you have to drop in, drop by, drop out, or drop off as directed in the appropriate Across clues.
The original printed Sunday NY Times Magazine puzzle included comics. See this PDF.
Click the grid to turn it upside down. Seven * answers must flip to make sense. So, for example, at 18 Across, NOISSIWNOOW should be read as MOONMISSION.
Across rebus squares are interpreted as YANG, and down ones as YIN.
For Across answers only, X is interpreted as KISS.
This extraordinary grid has only 17 Across clues.
The experience here is not quite the same as the print version so it's best to print this out and solve it on paper. Here are the errors:
This minder bender (literally) is considered one of the toughest puzzles of the Will Shortz era. To read the answers correctly you have to follow the instructions and turn where indicated. So, for example, 4 Down is SATURN'S RINGS and 17 Across is LOW TURNOUTS.
Every single clue starts with the same letter you see in the center: S.
I believe this is the first puzzle where solvers draw an image by connecting the dots in alphabetical order.
Words with rebus-like squares need to be read twice, once with each vowel. So, for example, 16 Across is FLIPFLOP and 12 Down is PINGPONG.
1 2 3, 4 5 6, 7 8 9, * 0 # are arranged as on a telephone.
The black square immediately preceding or following 24A, 25A, 48A, 50A, 4D, 28D, 29D and 57D should be interpreted as a "block" and considered part of the adjoining answer. For example, 24A = SUNBLOCK, 25A = BLOCK PARTY, etc.
Lance Armstrong was already a "four-time champ" of the Tour de France, going into the 2003 race, which was just starting when this puzzle was published. If he won again that year, he would be a "five-time champ." Either answer fits at 35-Across.
The first letter of the first seven Across clues spell FARRELL. This is a tribute to Jeremiah Farrell, who created the famous CLINTON/BOB DOLE puzzle which made this two-answer gimmick famous.
Mr. Armstrong went on to win seven consecutive Tours from 1999 to 2005 and then, of course, lost them all to a doping scandal.
I have shaded in squares with the letter that appears 21 times.
In this "turn the corner" puzzle, the second half of each right-angle answer (for example, 13 Down) was clued "More of the answer" in print. Later similar puzzles eliminated those clues altogether.
16 answers rhyme: GOOEY, PTUI, DEWEY, CHEWY, LOUIS, SUEY, BUOY, etc.
MAN + MAN needs to be read as MEN.
"Catty-corner" answers: STRAY CAT, SIAMESE CAT, FAT CAT, TOM CAT, HEP CAT, etc.
This puzzle was never published in Across Lite format on the NYT website and it's available here for the first time. Clues shown here as ellipses (...) were simply omitted in the print version.
The first and last names of famous people are clues to consecutive answers.
This colorized version makes it easier to see the charming four-leaf clover in the center of the grid.
In this beautiful super-symmetric puzzle, the four long theme answer have to be read in the indicated directions.
X marks the spot in this pirate themed puzzled. The letters N, W, E, and S are arranged appropriately near the center.
Solving this puzzle reveals Patrick Merrell's sense of humor too:
"The good news is you've spotted the hidden message. The bad news is that this is all it has to say."
Every clue starts with the letter L. The four theme answers each have two words, each starting with L as well. There are 12 other L's in the grid. Can you spot them?
This could be considered a pangram since the rebus squares contain every letter pair from AB to YZ.
ONE under PAR at the top, and ONE over PAR at the bottom.
I've highlighted the famous quote.
Baseball positions are in their appropriate locations.
This same theme was used in a 1994 puzzle by Sidney L. Robbins.
Look closely. This puzzle has unusual symmetry. April Fools!
A is the only vowel used in the entire grid. There are, amazingly, 69 of them!
Every answer word in this grid is 6 or more letters long. It's the only puzzle in our database with this property.
The letters in the fifth, eighth and eleventh rows, reading left to right, spell the theme entries.
This puzzle has the lowest average Scrabble score in the database. In fact, if you look closely at this crossword you'll see that this is a record that can never be broken. See 65 Down.
This is a double pangram. Each letter is used at least twice.
In this block-jumping puzzle, clues missing below (like 26 Across) all appeared in print as [See title, and proceed].
Note the words along the top and bottom rows. This champion-themed puzzle is an homage to Ellen Ripstein. After coming close several times, she finally won the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in 2001.
In this April Fool's puzzle, eight theme answers "turn down" at the end to complete the phrase.
The answer to 39-Across, when translated by the cipher key at 20- and 55-Across (A = Z, B = Y, C = X, etc.), spells OUR COVER IS BLOWN.
There is a rare error in this puzzle. The "China Beach" star at 14 Down is Dana DELANY, not DELANEY. Ms. Delany was a guest solver at Wordplay in 2011.
Connect the numbers in order to "make the face."
Several answers "take a turn" to complete their solutions. So, for example, 1 Across is BUT I DIGRESS.
See the notes on this puzzle for a charming story on what all this pregnancy was about.
This puzzle was originally and erroneously credited to Manny Nosowsky.
Note from constructor Charles Deber in his Wordplay interview.
There are no E's in either the answers or the clues.
In this taxing puzzle, IRS is dropped from eight answers.
In this Prohibition puzzle, various sorts of alcohol are missing from the theme answers, but only in one direction. So, TNEDPLANE becomes T[WINE]EN[GIN]EDPLANE, XANDERNOY is [ALE]XANDER[PORT]NOY, DSTICKS is D[RUM]STICKS, MAXBOHM is MAX[BEER]BOHM, and HAIRDRS is HAIRD[RYE]RS.
Only one vowel is used in the entire grid. It appears 78 times.
Symmetrically distributed symbols punctuate this clever grid. There's one subtle factual error. At the time this puzzle appeared, JEB Bush at 10 Across was still only the Gov.-elect.
This is the first triple pangram published in the NYT. See 34 Across.
Delightful puzzle! Hillary Kahn is David Kahn's daughter.
This puzzle April Fooled many solvers who thought they saw an accidental repeat from the day before. The grid pattern and the first three clues are identical.
The theme answers all have common phrases with the word ANT omitted making for "a nice picnic."
Missing clues: Grant, Ford, Pierce
In this audio interview, Will Shortz calls this marriage proposal from Bill to Emily his second favorite crossword ever.
Each of the long theme answers contains a string of five consecutive different vowels:
This clever and elegant puzzle has no IFs, ANDs, or BUTs in the 5 theme answers. CHERKNE becomes [BUT]CHERKN[IF]E, YGRFITHSHOW is [AND]YGR[IF]FITHSHOW, JPEANUTTERSWICH is J[IF]PEANUT[BUT]TERS[AND]WICH, BEAVISTHEAD is BEAVIS[AND][BUT]THEAD, and NOSSORS is NO[IF]S[AND]SOR[BUT]S.
This exact quote was reused in 2009.
The empty squares must be read as the word BLANK.
This amazing puzzle appeared the morning of the 1996 U.S. presidential election. The answer word at 39 Across can be filled in with either CLINTON or BOBDOLE and all the crossing Down clues work either way. In a since-deleted audio interview for Slate, WIll Shortz called this his favorite crossword ever.
This is the only puzzle in our database known to be constructed by Mr. Farrell so it shows up here as a debut. About half the pre-Shortz puzzles are uncredited and, according to this Wikipedia article, he constructed NYT puzzles back as far as the Margaret Farrar era.
The 22 Clues starting with + indicate answers made up entirely of consecutive two-letter U.S. state abbreviations.
E is the only vowel in the grid.
This Schrödinger puzzle is the earliest known Shortz Era example. When letters alternate in the grid, the clues match either way.
The published puzzle (PDF) had diagonal lines through each ambiguous square to clue you in.
The seven theme Down clues have to be read from the bottom up.
The three wise men, one of the seven seas, and the sixties.
The images can be seen here but since they are hard to read, I'll describe them. 23 Across is the letters "Quakerism adherents" arranged in a circle. 32 Across is "Approximately" arranged again in a circle. 105 Across is "Extension" in a wavy pattern. 117 Across is "Somers Islands formerly" shaped like a triangle. 4 Down is "Floor covering" in a circle. 16 Down is "Waltzing" in a box. 34 Down is "Pugilism" in a circle. 50 Down is "Place of business" in an oval. 58 Down is "Victoire" in an arch. 84 Down is "Castor Pollux" arranged in two peaks.
This is also the only NYT puzzle to include PENIS as an answer.
The stepquote reads, "It is the most beautiful of games."
This April Fool's puzzle has a double twist. Four words require each letter to be doubled for the crosses to work, and must be parsed as "double ___." So, for example, "Like an oboe, but not a sax?" is RR-EE-EE-DD read as DOUBLE REED.
This is the first NYT crossword that required solvers to write outside the grid.
There's something unusual about this grid.
The rebus squares below indicate where answers take a right angle turn. The first letter of each pair belongs to the answer that starts from the left and bends down. The second letter is from the answer that starts above and bends to the right. In the print version, those squares are bisected with a diagonal line from the NW to SE corner.
The stepquote reads, "What is essential is invisible to one's eye."
Symbols are used in the grid but the symbol names are spelled out in the answers below.
The circles spell out SEEING DOUBLE.
E is the only vowel used in the entire grid. There are a record 138 of them.
The Shortz Era began with this rainbow grid from Peter Gordon, a tribute to the much-heralded Roy G. Biv. There was an earlier more straightforward rainbow theme back in 1981.
The clues are labeled Across and Up.
The blank squares are intended to mean "White CHRISTMAS."
The following correction was published:
In [this puzzle], part of an answer was misspelled. The "complicated collaboration" (114A, third line from the bottom) included Richard Rodgers (not Rogers).
The cryptogram answer is — Some outspoken fans make this plea: "Put Rose into the Hall of Fame, for Pete's sake!"
Four theme answers need to be read backwards.
The "0" rebus at 40 Down and 52 Across means AUGHT.
The stepquote reads, "The step is short from the sublime to the ridiculous."
Four theme answers must be read backwards. April Fools!
The stepquote reads, "Have either a clear conscience or none at all."
You have to think twice to solve the theme answers. First, find a word that answers the clue. Second, find a meta clue that points to that answer. For example, at 97 Across, "Memorable humorous poet" could be NASH but for the answer, think twice, and enter ANTIQUE CAR.
Here's another. 36 Down, "Edward or Norman" points to LEAR so that would make the meta-answer REGAN'S FATHER.
The highlighted squares are presumably intended to represent the Æ and Œ ligatures as shown in the grid here. The published NYT answer grid showed them as normal AE and OE rebus entries.
The original grid had some missing grid numbers. Here's a PDF of how it looked.
This is the only Schrödinger puzzle from the pre-Shortz era. See the modern Schrödingers here.
The split stepquote reads, "Cheers to good health, happiness and wealth."
The stepquote reads, "Lord, make me wiser every year and better every day."
The stepquote reads, "The fashion wears out more apparel than the man."
The stepquote reads, "For labor, a short day is better than a short dollar."
This puzzle was originally published under the name Mike Miller. To avoid confusion with another Mike Miller, we have changed the byline to read Michael W. Miller.
This puzzle was originally published under the name Mike Miller. To avoid confusion with another Mike Miller, we have changed the byline to read Michael W. Miller.
This is the largest crossword in our database. See the other big ones here.
The circled letters spell out: "Have more than thou showest. Speak less than thou knowest."
This is the first NYT crossword with circles.
The stepquote reads, "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream."
The stepquote reads, "There is more pleasure in loving than in being beloved."
The stepquote reads, "Imagination is more important than knowledge."
The stepquote reads, "Life is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament."
The stepquote reads, "The man who can make hard things easy is the educator."
The stepquote reads, "Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits."
The stepquote reads, "The achievement of justice is an endless process."
This is the first double pangram published in the NYT.
The slide-quote reads, "Learn to labor and to wait."
The stepquote reads, "Better three hours too soon than a minute too late."
The stepquote reads, "Is it harder to toot or to tutor two tooters to toot?"
The stepquote reads, "Great things are done when men and mountains meet."
The stepquote reads, "I'm not a politician, and my other habits are good."
Bernice Gorden is often credited with inventing the crossword rebus (this is her first) but there were predecessors in the 1950s.
The stepquote reads, "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted as wise."
The stepquote reads, "Contentment is a warm sty for eaters and sleepers."
This is the first pangram published in the NYT.
Scapa Flow in the Orkneys was the location of the naval base in 1- and 6- Across. The Orkneys are fascinating; full of history from Viking settlements to stone rings rivaling Stonehenge to WW II battleships still sunk in a harbor.
Peter Zenger (see 87 Down) is a key figure in the historical fight for freedom of the press.
This is the first Times crossword with mirror symmetry.
Arthur Hays Sulzberger was the publisher of the New York Times, and Charles Merz was an editor. You can read more about this puzzle here.
This is the first crossword published by the New York Times. (Charles Erlenkotter's biography.)