Beginner Tips on How to Solve the NY Times Crossword

Well if you have never solved crosswords before or have done so very rarely, start with a Monday. In the New York Times Monday is the easiest puzzle of the week and gets progressively harder on Friday or Saturday. If you start on Friday or Saturday you are likely to be smashed and quit in frustration.

Start with the Monday.
Fill in what you know.
Find something that you are positive of and build out from there/

Uncommon Letters
It’s a good idea to use the more unusual letters of the alphabet to help you.
For example a K or an F or a Z will be more useful to you in a crossing answer than an A or an E. As said earlier wherever you are build out from what you know and if you get stuck don’t be afraid to guess.

Take a Break
If you really get stuck. Put the puzzle aside. Come back later. You will be amazed how often that trick works, you will get a new answer on the grid and be ready to run again.

“Fill in the blank”.
These clues are very easy and often the best ones to start with because they are easy to spot in a list of clues and often times they have unique answers. So if the clue was
“One [blank] Customer.” you know the phrase is “One to a customer” so go ahead and fill TOA

If you have been solving crosswords for a while you will know ‘crosswordese’. Crosswordese are those short vowel heavy answers that show up in crosswords way more often than they do in everyday life. For example lets take Brian Eno. He was one of the founders of Roxy Music. Also an important artist in ambient music. So if you see musician Brian you know is gonna be ‘Eno’. Fill that in and work out from there.

David one of New York Times Crossword Puzzle Constructors

David Kwong a cruciverbalist and his process of crafting a puzzle for the times.

What is a puzzle?
Well puzzles are all around us, if you think about it there are problems everywhere. A good puzzle makes the player feel smart when solving it.
The task of a crossword maker is to present a challenging puzzle, make you think out of the box and hopefully have that ‘Aha!’ moment when you feel smart. The Aha! moment is when you crack the puzzle. You are solving a puzzle and everything just clicks.

Crossword puzzle is the type of word puzzle where there is always an across and down. Every letter is checked. Which means if you don’t know one way, you can probably figure out the other way. It was invented in 1910s, it’s well over 100 years old and appeared in new york.

David started constructing crossword puzzles while in college. A friend told him how to do it and he started mailing them in the nytimes magazine. The rejections of course followed because you cannot possibly get it right since the first time. He finally broke through and managed to get his submission published, he has been writing for The Times and a bunch of other newspapers ever since.

The first thing you need to do when making a puzzle is come up with your theme – a bit of word play that will run throughout the puzzle. So for example your theme would be ‘Playing Cards’. After you have come up with the theme you need to write down the long answers and these are parallel and length. So if you have a 8 letter answer you will need another 8 letter answer. If you only have one 12 letter answer that is ok – because it can go right in the middle of the grid.
Now the goal of the the puzzle maker would be to hide
inside other words in the grid.

So in this imaginary puzzle we have
and if you can see ‘ace’ is right in the middle of it.

another answer would be
and inside that word we would have ‘king’

then in
we would hide ‘jack and so on.

Another thing to consider when making a puzzle is keeping a diagonal symmetry. It is not horizontal, it is not vertical. So if we flip the board 180 degrees the black squares will be in the same position. There are also rules related to black squares because you can’t create a clumpy black squares so you must have nice diagonal lines often.
Black squares also are needed to break up difficult letter combos.

Another rule is that there are now 2 letter answers, the minimum for an answer is three letters and every letter has to be checked both across and down. So if there is a piece of obscure trivia you should be able to access it from the other direction.

So after the grid is set. It is time to write the clues. There are easier clues in the Monday, harder clues in the week.
So lets start with PEACEFULNESS

the clue would be
A state of peace or a state of calmness.

a possible clue for Monday would be
A hammer to break pavements.
or a Saturday Clue
You could break pavements with it.

And Voila, you now know how to make New York Times Crossword Puzzle.

Bert & Ernie appear on NYT Mini Crossword

On the May 19 NYT Mini Puzzle a clue appeared
Bert’s pal on “Sesame Street”

and the answer of it is Earnie.
Bert and Ernie are two best friend characters who have appeared in multiple episodes of the children’s series “Sesame Street”.

Bert and Ernie live together in a small apartment at 123 Sesame Street. Despite sleeping in separate beds, they are roommates although they sleep in sepparate beds.

How Will Shortz makes a Crossword

While it is not like drugs Will admits that it is an addiction. And it is in fact a beneficial addiction because it is going to make your brain bigger, form new neural paths especially for the part of the brain related to linguistics. And it can very well happen to make you more capable of tackling life challenges you face.

He confesses that he has always been a puzzle head who solved puzzles ever since he was a kid. An interesting fact about him as that he created a whole CV in puzzles and he has the World’s only CD in enigmatology. Enigmatology is a term devised by Shortz himself. While he is not a magician or a talented singer, his ability to craft a puzzle and write clues that will engage people is a special talent too. Tickling the cruciverbal center in your brain is what he jokingly calls it.

While everyday would be a little different for him as the editor of the NYT Crossword, his typical day consists of reviewing the submissions he receives. Generally about 70 to 110 puzzles are submitted in a given week, all of which need to be carefully looked at by Will. As a very hands-on editor who is very much in touch with the puzzle publishing process, half the clues are edited by him. Putting an emphasis on accuracy because obviously everything has to be correct.

He consults his most used reference books: World Almanac, A Collegiate Dictionary, Movie Guides, Proper names, Literature Books. He often needs to find out how common is a word or a phrase thus figuring out if it would make a good crossword entry. Google has a feature that will tell you how common a word is, and let you can see its popularity over time.

When Will decides a puzzle is good enough and accepts it for publication, the first thing he does is choose which day of the week it will be published on. Monday is the easiest puzzle and everyday the difficulty increases with Friday and Saturday being very difficult. After the puzzle is edited they are typeset and sent to 3 or 4 test players, who conduct another test and if necessary provide corrections or comments, so that Shortz will polish the puzzle for publication in The Times Crossword. Every times crossword puzzle is seen, reviewed and played by a lot of people before it is finally published.

Two New Games join NYT Games

New York Times has revealed that players of its Games will be able to play Tiles and Sudoku via the app. If you are a regular you must remember that Sudoku was also added in late January early February of this year.

Little by little or we the NYT games app has been enriched and it now has a diverse portfolio of games for just about any type of player. We must admit that not everyone is a crossword person, but if you are and don’t have the time The Mini is the perfect choice. You might prefer spelling words in the Spelling Bee. You might like a short puzzle like Wordle. Each game is different not only in the in the method of playing but also the difficulty level. The newest addition ‘Tiles’ for example. can be categorized as a Logic Visual Game and beginner friendly.

Sudoku game players worldwide has increased by more than 50%. This is due to the popularity and influence that NYT has. The amount of time the players spend on the app has also increased

Tiles, which The Times introduced in June 2019, is a color and pattern matching game where, using layered patterned squares, players are challenged to create the longest possible sequence of tile pairings with matching components. Tiles has been growing its audience over the past year, with almost one million people playing the game each week.

Offering a breadth of handcrafted puzzle experiences is critical to what subscribers look for in a Games subscription, and we’re pleased to announce that Tiles and Sudoku are now being offered in the NYT Games app.

Since the launch of The Crossword in 1942, The Times has captivated solvers by providing engaging word and logic games. In 2014, we introduced The Mini Crossword — followed by Spelling Bee, Letter Boxed, Tiles and Vertex. In early 2022, we proudly added Wordle to our collection. We strive to offer puzzles for all skill levels that everyone can enjoy playing every day.

From Making Crosswords out of Boredom to Being Published in Nytimes

Mike Robin a real estate agent thought that it would be interesting to start making his own crossword puzzles in the early days of the pandemic. Little did he know that not long after he would get his puzzle published in the New York Times crossword.

He compares the process of creating a puzzle as riding a bike. In the beginning it is a hard exercise then as you do it more, you get used to it and enjoy doing it, figuring playful punny words while brainstorming for ideas. It is no longer a challenge.

To make matters more serious Robin, bought a crossword making software and dedicated a good amount of time to the puzzles almost every day.

He then started hoping or dreaming about being good enough one day, to be able to get his crossword published by the NY Times crossword. Even though the NYTimes magazine encourages everyone to give it a try, among hundreds of submitted puzzles only a fraction make it to the publication.

And so he did. He dedicated some time to his new goal. Make some crosswords, send them to the times and see what will happen. The rejections followed as you can imagine. But with each rejection came the instructions on how to improve and send a better puzzle. Hobin was very persistent and this puzzle hobby got the hold of him because he started seeing clues everywhere from daily chitchats to songs or movies, everyday he was engaged in this word play you might say. Every hobby you invest yourself to will dictate your daily routine. Then in the last Dec after being rejected more than 20 times Hobin got a new response.

The response was not a yes but it was not rejected either. He was asked to rework it a little bit, make a few improvements here and there and then a few days later he was published and as a Sunday puzzle. The theme of the puzzle was “Bring Your ‘A’ Game”. As you probably already know, each puzzle on the NYTimes comes with a compensation of $1,000 or more. Nobody does it for the money though, it is the pleasure of being published that tops anything else.

Player Wins $2M from Crossword Scratcher

A woman got lucky and won 2 Million Dollars from A Crossword Lottery Ticket.

Ruby Evans a woman from Compton, California bought an Instant Prize Crossword Lottery Ticket at a Donuts shop in her town. Upon scratching the ticket in her car she realized she had won and thought he won the 2000 USD prize. But it was a day of big surprises because Evans had actually won a prize 1000 times bigger than that.

She ran back to the store and scan the ticket only to realize that $2,000,000 was her prize. It is the top prize for this game. The shop owner was happy too because of her win it will receive a $10,000 bonus.

Evans was joyful but not so shocked because it turns out that this was not her first time winning the lottery. She had won before at least three times.

She also won another $100,000 lottery ticket back in 2013.
Well we guess we could say the lightning can strike twice in the same place – even thrice.

She considers it a big blessing and it will obviously help her pay her bills and mortgage but she admits that she enjoys the game – it’s not only about the money. She has played the game for a long time and not long ago she won the 5,000 prize as well. Some friends even tease her for this, jokingly saying Ruby have you not won enough?

AI Crossword Solver – Can it be any good?

Being that ChatGPT has become a media sensation as of late for its problem solving capabilities, we thought that it would not struggle solving a cryptic crossword.

Not long ago people would have not have an idea what we were talking about, if we were to ask them about artificial intelligence bots.

We are talking about the time before the launch of the famous ChatGTP from OpenAi, which has taken the media by storm. People are divided in how they perceive chatGPT. In one hand it is perceived as a tool that provides you the ability to create texts or articles that cannot be differentiated from those written by a human. It will find it’s uses for students who want to finish their homework quickly or it will be a dangerous tool that some believe will bring existential threats like the one in Terminator movie.

It has many many applications and it has the potential of changing the world as we know it. However being that we are a crossword fans community our concern is a rather simple one.

Could it solve a difficult crossword puzzle? The ones that keep challenging sharp minds ever since they came out. We decided to give it a try.

Once you know the most basic rules most of the clues can be solved. Clues have a definition for the answer. And oncw you know the letter and the length and how it crosses with another word then you will probably come up with the correct word (from a wordlist). That looks like a easy enough job for the AI.

We tested the first clue which was a simple one.
The clue was
Outlay a meal and it had 6 letters.
The ai had a correct answer which was the word s-p-r-e-a-d..

Solving the next clue, which also contained two definitions, wasn’t as successful:

The second time the bot was not able to solve the clue:
German song told a tale which had 4 letters.
The correct answer would have been l-i-e-d. which is the word for a german song.

The results were quite disappointing and the ai came up with unrelated and incorrect answers. Out of 25 clues only 5 were solved so, at least for now it is safe to say that crosswords are best solved by human players as AI is far from correct.

Crosswords: More effective than other games in Memory Loss Prevention

Crosswords, while not a treatment by itself, could be come a home based, cognitive improvement tool for seniors with cognitive impairment if the results are replicated and confirmed in other studies.

Crosswords have shown a slight advantage compared to other digital games, they have proven to be better in improving the memory in old adults which have been diagnosed with light cognitive problems according to yet another study on this matter.

A controlled and randomised study took place in which participants with a median age of around 70 years old. They trained and played crosswords and a notable cognitive improvement was detected. The results are not surprising but they are important because of the fact that another study confirms the benefits the crosswords have in reducing the risk of cognitive problems and dementia in adults. Crosswords are very popular and have been played for around 100 years but just recently they have been the focus of such studies which focus on finding ways to slow down dementia which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

This study which was conducted by Columbia & Duke University recruited around 100 people which had shown signs of soft cognitive impairment. It demanded them to complete 10 to 14 weeks of crossword puzzles or cognitive puzzles. The medium difficulty puzzles were similar to those of other popular puzzles like LaTimes or WSJ. While the trivia puzzles included matching, spatial recognition, and speed thinking tasks.

In late years many advances and clues have been examined, all geared towards understanding Alzheimer’s better and find new treatments or beneficial activities that support slowing down the progress of it. It has been clear that besides drugs and diagnostic tests, alternative methods must be given attention to. Most people never thought of crosswords as a therapy for any brain condition, they dimply enjoy playing them.

New studies are needed to confirm the findings and re-examine crossword puzzle benefits in a much broader study with more participants, in order to better understand.

Thursday’s Puzzle Commentary

If you remember we told you before that if a clue includes “e.g” it most certainly means that the item in the clue is part of a speficic category. For example in the clue “Lemon, e.g” might lead us to an answer such as LEGUMES.

Sometimes however you might want to forget all that. And remember that puzzle creators are very playful and make tricky connections. One way to imagine it is to imagine the puzzler as they climb and swing on various ideas of crossword conventions as if they were playing on monkey bars. Very few things are off-limits in terms of using or breaking a “convention” except of course if you were to push another puzzle construction off the monkey bars.

This Thursday Trenton returns with a crossword that will leave you bamboozled, unless you talk back to it or experiment with another puzzle such as WSJ Crossword which comes up several times per week.

1A/14A. Kinda cute cross-referenced clue. (Yes, it is possible.) A “Creative nugget” is an IDEA,  the “Start” of which is not the letter I but a GERM.

5A. I had POOF before PFFT for “[Just … disappeared!]”

20A. “Introduction to physics?” sounds like a freshman college exam, but here in this puzzle we are only looking for a prefix. The solution  is ASTRO, as in ASTROphysics.

21A. I you are a puzzle history nerd, It is always fascinating to see entries that have not been used for a long time. INKSAC returns to the New York Times Crossword for the first time since 1947.

Thats it folks for today’s puzzle commentary

For full solutions for today’s puzzle open this Link.