These JNotes are Jim Horne's personal observations.
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 was 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 [Show instructions] 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.
Adam Nicolle is the latest addition to our Teenage Constructors page.
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.
We count this as Mr. Asgard's 33rd puzzle because we include his Puns and Anagrams variety puzzle.
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 Across Lite 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.
Was RMS at 1-Across 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. (The \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?
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
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.
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.
View the puzzle as it appeared in print.
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.
There's a story about today's constructor at thetimes-tribune.
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. Click the graphic for a larger view.
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.
The author Adam Langer blogged this puzzle for Wordplay.
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.
On July 14, 2010, Mike Doran's local paper, The Times Record, ran this interview with him.
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. Stare at the answers until you see it. 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.
Seven * answers have to be turned upside down 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.
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.
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 four 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.
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."
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.