This is the crossword puzzle thread

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

I have been meaning to make this thread for a few weeks now, since Jordan and I have been derailing the Chicago thread lately with commentary about the Ben Tausig's Ink Well crossword (syndicated in a variety of alt-weeklies) and the Onion AV Club crossword, which Tausig edits. You can find both here.

Additionally, I have been constructing my own crosswords, which I've put up on Flickr. I just spent most of my weekend working on my first puzzle to utilize five theme fills (previous puzzles used only three theme fills or else were themeless).

Feel free to discuss the NYT puzzle, too. I wanted a thread broader than this one, but since that's the premier puzzle in the U.S., it surely belongs here, too. (I have to admit that I don't actually do the NYT one, but that has a lot to do with the fact that you have to pay to do it online.)

Anyway, go forth and tell me about your frequent encounters with "Sea eagle" or "Actress Skye."

jaymc, Monday, 24 December 2007 03:32 (sixteen years ago) link

Recently I picked up a copy of the Oregonian in order to do the NYTimes puzzle and I kept it aside for weeks and then finally did it -- it was a Wednesday puzzle and I had a few minutes to spare -- and it was all Latin themed clues, which was nice, and was almost enough to make be believe that divine providence had caused me to hang on to it, almost.

Also while cleaning up I found the enormous bag of old GAMES magazines from the 80s that my friend gave me and which I have yet to explore. Rah!

The difficult part about crossword making is the clues, of course...

Casuistry, Monday, 24 December 2007 03:43 (sixteen years ago) link

it was a Wednesday puzzle and I had a few minutes to spare -- and it was all Latin themed clues, which was nice

omg ysi?

anatol_merklich, Monday, 24 December 2007 03:50 (sixteen years ago) link

Yes and no. I mean, it takes me several hours to create the fills and usually I'm so relieved to be done that I can rush through the clues in mere minutes. But it's a challenge to make really good clues, ones that will make the difference between an easy and a (more interesting) difficult puzzle. For instance, I like to put a lot of pop-culture references in my puzzles, but a lot of times these are hard to create ambiguous clues for; some end up just being fill-in-the-blanks.

jaymc, Monday, 24 December 2007 03:54 (sixteen years ago) link


jaymc, Monday, 24 December 2007 03:54 (sixteen years ago) link

Re: YSI: Oh uh I did it and then recycled it. It might still be in my recycle bin though. But it'll have the answers.

Casuistry, Monday, 24 December 2007 04:01 (sixteen years ago) link

Har, no worries Casuistry. Are we talking about cryptics or non- here btw?

anatol_merklich, Monday, 24 December 2007 04:04 (sixteen years ago) link

Cryptic thread is another one, mostly UK posters, but jaymc and Casuistry show up too.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Monday, 24 December 2007 04:10 (sixteen years ago) link

i can do ny times up through wednesday 80-90% of the time with a fair amount of ease, thursday closer to 50-60% (usually with some help), friday almost never, and i dont think ive ever finished a saturday ny times x-word

max, Monday, 24 December 2007 04:15 (sixteen years ago) link

Oh. I have. Either I get hopeless stuck on a Saturday (30% of the time?) or it takes about 45 minutes. Or, it did when I was doing them all the time.

Casuistry, Monday, 24 December 2007 06:31 (sixteen years ago) link

last week's sunday ny times crossword i did in less than an hour (this is not usually the case for me).

i cannot, under any circumstances, ever finish a cryptic crossword

impudent harlot, Monday, 24 December 2007 06:37 (sixteen years ago) link

New crossword from me.

jaymc, Thursday, 27 December 2007 16:25 (sixteen years ago) link

Haha "what johns do."

The school clue is super-great, too!

I was momentarily thrown by two spellings not conforming to the way the NYT would render them -- and then in both cases yours seems more Korrect, and theirs seems more of the variEnt.

nabisco, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:43 (sixteen years ago) link

I'm pretty sure I know one of the two you mean. Is this the other? Because I think that's always spelled like that, even though a word that contains that word has a NYT-preferred variant.

jaymc, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:51 (sixteen years ago) link

Nope, two different ones -- 9 across and 48 across.

nabisco, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:53 (sixteen years ago) link

And actually, funny though it may be, I'm kind of annoyed with "what johns do," just because it's a bit of a stretch, even for a Tausig-type puzzle. Really hard to work with five theme fills, though!

jaymc, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:53 (sixteen years ago) link

Nope, two different ones -- 9 across and 48 across.

Ah! I had originally used the variant for 48-A until I looked it up in Wikipedia and saw that that was a common mistake.

jaymc, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:54 (sixteen years ago) link

my pops schooled me on that holiday sunday NYT puzzle. :(

i got ben tausig's book and i'm about halfway through it, although his cluing seems to have gotten harder as he went along.

Jordan, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:55 (sixteen years ago) link

I think you can get away with one giant stretch per puzzle, so long as it's , you know, funny.

nabisco, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:56 (sixteen years ago) link

Try to be a little sneakier with the clues, maybe? "When Romeo dies" -- the present tense gives that one away far too quickly. Make it past tense, so there's at least a chance that I'll panic for a moment trying to figure out if we know the year -- or, better, "Where Romeo died", and I might think you're going for "GENOA" and realize that won't fit and wonder if I am misremembering the story -- or, maybe even better, for a good Thursdayish clue, find some other character who dies in a similar place, but whose name does not immediately ring of Shakespeare, and I'll be mystified for a while, but it will eventually come to me. Because it's that sort of strip-tease, right?

"What johns do" is nicely phrased for sure, though.

Casuistry, Thursday, 27 December 2007 20:13 (sixteen years ago) link

That's a fair point, Chris. My thought process for that clue was basically, "I need something that happens there ... Oh, well, obviously: Romeo dies ... Is that too easy? ... What happens in Othello? ... *reads Wikipedia article about Othello* ... yeah, not really feeling that ... I should probably be working right now ... All right, 'When Romeo dies.'"

jaymc, Thursday, 27 December 2007 20:35 (sixteen years ago) link

That's sort of what I meant about the clues being the hard part. But you saw the movie, right? How Will Shortz basically rewrites half the clues for the puzzles he accepts?

Anyway I'm not trying to discourage you, of course. I just want more awesome crosswords to do.

Casuistry, Thursday, 27 December 2007 23:58 (sixteen years ago) link

Speaking of Tausig puzzles: the numbering of the clues in the Onion one this week (the sports issue) is completely off!

nabisco, Saturday, 29 December 2007 22:37 (sixteen years ago) link

Haha, rly? It was correct online.

Jordan, Saturday, 29 December 2007 23:06 (sixteen years ago) link

Yeah, it's bad enough that 1/3 of the down clues are sometimes randomly deleted; this time I was like, "Yeah, that's not gonna work."

jaymc, Saturday, 29 December 2007 23:17 (sixteen years ago) link

Another new one. Title is exactly the same as Ben Tausig's Ink Well puzzle last week but with a different interpretation.

jaymc, Monday, 31 December 2007 17:32 (sixteen years ago) link

I think this is your hardest one yet, for sure.

Jordan, Monday, 31 December 2007 19:28 (sixteen years ago) link


jaymc, Monday, 31 December 2007 19:35 (sixteen years ago) link

Do you have .puz files?

Casuistry, Monday, 31 December 2007 20:15 (sixteen years ago) link

Wow, jaymc, that last one is really good.

I used to want to make my own crosswords, and looked for books on how to construct them, but never could find any. Are there such things, or do you just get in there and figure it out?

Rock Hardy, Monday, 31 December 2007 20:45 (sixteen years ago) link

Most books about crossword puzzles seem to have an obligatory section on making them, I think. I read Eugene T. Maleska's book, and boy was he proud of the awful crosswordese he used to drill into his puzzles, but I'm pretty sure it had a chapter on making puzzles.

Casuistry, Monday, 31 December 2007 20:53 (sixteen years ago) link

No, I don't have .puz files. I need to look into that. Also crossword constructors are always talking about a software program called Across Lite?

And thanks, Rock. I just sort of figured it out through trial and error. All you really need to know is the basic rules for what the grid needs to look like: no words shorter than three letters, diagonal symmetry. But any good software (like Crossword Weaver, which I use) will help you make sure you don't do anything irregular.

When I started out doing themeless puzzles, I would just start at the top-right and work my way around the puzzle intuitively. With themed puzzles, I do the theme fills first and then work outward from the middle.

jaymc, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 15:57 (sixteen years ago) link

I'm still a little wtf over this Tausig one from the other day (I'm working through his book). The clue is "Good Buddy" and the answer is "CBER". I assume it's CB radio, but still doesn't quite make sense to me?

Jordan, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:04 (sixteen years ago) link


Jordan, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:04 (sixteen years ago) link

I'm guessing that someone who uses CB radio is a CBer, in the same way that Tausig uses the clue "Recipient of 'You've got mail' message" for AOLER.

jaymc, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:06 (sixteen years ago) link

just "CBer," as in one who does CB? seems ok to me

xpost dang it

n/a, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:06 (sixteen years ago) link

Yeah guys, I know that CBer is one who does CB, but how do you get that from "good buddy"?

Jordan, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:18 (sixteen years ago) link

that is CB slang, they say stuff like "ten-four, good buddy."

n/a, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:21 (sixteen years ago) link

n/a, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:21 (sixteen years ago) link

Across Lite is the program that you use to enjoy .puz files, and you can get it from the NYTimes website, and they distribute their puzzles to online subscribers in that format. Someone you know might have a year's worth of such .puz files, but he has perhaps already worked through them all.

Casuistry, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:50 (sixteen years ago) link

Also, you're supposed to have no more than [a certain number] of black squares if you hope to get published by the big-leagues, and certain black-square formations are frowned upon (full 90 degree right angles -- basically anything Tetris-y).

Casuistry, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:52 (sixteen years ago) link

I think it's 17% black squares, or 40 squares in a 15x15 puzzle. Though Tausig had one that was 46 recently.

certain black-square formations are frowned upon (full 90 degree right angles -- basically anything Tetris-y).

I didn't know this.

jaymc, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:57 (sixteen years ago) link

I'm not sure it's as hard-and-fast a rule as the percentage one, but on those rare occasions when I see such a puzzle, I'm always a little startled by it. I dunno, I should flip through one of my NYTimes books to make sure I'm not fooling myself about it.

Diagramless puzzles, of course, are all about that.

Casuistry, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 17:00 (sixteen years ago) link

jaymc, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 17:01 (sixteen years ago) link

A++ for "Paris's friend," Jaymc -- actually took me a while, with excellent payoff

nabisco, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 19:09 (sixteen years ago) link

Total pro-level theme on that one, too!

nabisco, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 19:09 (sixteen years ago) link

Ha, I sort of wrote that one with you in mind, N!

jaymc, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 19:10 (sixteen years ago) link

The "Paris's friend" clue, I mean.

jaymc, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 19:10 (sixteen years ago) link

I had to look that one up after I got the answer, I don't watch that show.

Jordan, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 19:13 (sixteen years ago) link

Yes, fun. I don't think I'd ever encountered 4 down.

Some people call me Maurice Chevalier (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 24 July 2023 15:18 (ten months ago) link

(And yeah the gimmick of two different words can work equally well takes a pretty skilled constructor to pull off.)

Some people call me Maurice Chevalier (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 24 July 2023 15:21 (ten months ago) link

This is an incredible feat of construction:

Hard AF (needed hints to get NE and SW of the right puzzle), but yeah, impressive construction.

Jean-Paul Satyr (Leee), Monday, 24 July 2023 22:52 (ten months ago) link

Re Saturday’s: I should just skip all of Sam Ezersky’s puzzles, we’re just on a completely different wavelength. I can appreciate difficult puzzles but I never feel satisfied or impressed by any of his

Roz, Sunday, 30 July 2023 15:59 (ten months ago) link

Freud puzzle was funny!

symsymsym, Sunday, 30 July 2023 16:56 (ten months ago) link

xp yeah the vagueness of his clueing is appropriately difficult for a Saturday but the solves are just kinda “sure…I guess”

KPH, Sunday, 30 July 2023 19:13 (ten months ago) link

today's is just groaners all the way down

donna rouge, Sunday, 30 July 2023 19:37 (ten months ago) link

56A was pretty good but yeah, otherwise meh.

Albert Canoe (Leee), Monday, 31 July 2023 02:12 (nine months ago) link

ya 56a was hilarious

flopson, Monday, 31 July 2023 02:29 (nine months ago) link

ok that two for the price of one puzzle was brutal - solved it as far as i could go by myself, then used a couple hints to get to the finish line. really challenging but pretty ingenious!

donna rouge, Monday, 31 July 2023 20:59 (nine months ago) link

I’ve made the bitcoin joke a few times over the years re silicon valley types

Grandall Flange (wins), Monday, 31 July 2023 21:04 (nine months ago) link

yeah I needed hints just to know which puzzle I was in - don't think I could have done it on pen and paper. cool to see how far it's possible to take the heisenberg puzzle concept

symsymsym, Tuesday, 1 August 2023 01:36 (nine months ago) link

Ugh today's is hard and bad.

Albert Canoe (Leee), Thursday, 3 August 2023 19:48 (nine months ago) link

I thought it was kinda charming but 16A was a new one for me

KPH, Thursday, 3 August 2023 21:35 (nine months ago) link

There's a fine line between "same old same old" gimmicks and "wtf, how dare you do this weird thing" gimmicks.

I am decades into this journey and I am along for the ride. If sometimes it rankles, well, ok.

Tomorrow morning it will be a different thing and I will do the best I can with that thing.

Steely Duran (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 3 August 2023 21:58 (nine months ago) link

i thought it was fine, but that the revealer should have been a dave brubeck reference

mookieproof, Thursday, 3 August 2023 22:25 (nine months ago) link

I was mostly complaining about the NW corner (16A also rang no bells for me); I didn't understand the gimmick and didn't feel like trying to figure it out on my own.

Albert Canoe (Leee), Thursday, 3 August 2023 22:38 (nine months ago) link

13A just as annoying imho

donna rouge, Friday, 4 August 2023 00:09 (nine months ago) link

16A is nice in that it also describes how I feel about the clue

, Friday, 4 August 2023 02:44 (nine months ago) link

today’s NYT puzzle features the most useless ‘theme’ i’ve ever encountered

embarrassed for everyone involved

mookieproof, Tuesday, 8 August 2023 07:06 (nine months ago) link

Mookieproof, do you mean Tuesday's?

The theme wasn't necessary, but it wasn't that bad imo. I don't think I could have constructed very many pairings like NY|PA.

Or do you mean the Monday, which is unsurprisingly boring... because it's Monday and is meant for beginners.

Bonobo Vox (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 8 August 2023 11:20 (nine months ago) link

I like Tuesday's theme but it was the kind of theme that only made sense after you solved the puzzle

, Tuesday, 8 August 2023 14:07 (nine months ago) link

Yeah I am pretty doctrinaire about solving top left to bottom right. There have been a LOT of puzzles that I solved 100% correctly without ever getting the theme, then I look back and I'm like "oh, okay."

Bonobo Vox (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 8 August 2023 14:49 (nine months ago) link

yeah, i meant tuesday’s

there’s nothing about it that’s integral to the solving process; it’s just at the end you learn that — wow! — four whole times they managed to put the two-letter abbreviations of abutting states next to each other. so what? it’s not a marvel of construction and it adds nothing substantive to actually doing the puzzle. it is neither hat nor cattle. much rather see a themeless than a theme so tenuous

mookieproof, Wednesday, 9 August 2023 06:41 (nine months ago) link

one month passes...

enjoyed today's theme

, Sunday, 1 October 2023 14:19 (seven months ago) link

Posted my best ever time of 3:01 with yesterday's (i.e. a Tuesday)!

Hoisted by your own Picard (Leee), Wednesday, 11 October 2023 17:14 (seven months ago) link

I'm only yet adept at Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday I can sometimes do without help, Thursday, Friday, and especially Saturday not yet. I hate that the NYT pushes the time in your face, I try to ignore it. They don't do that for Spelling Bee (my favorite puzzle), Connections (which I can take or leave) or Wordle.

Wordle fills me with the most anxiety. It is a great puzzle, but there are traps, and there is something about it that makes it a game I don't want to lose

Dan S, Thursday, 12 October 2023 00:05 (seven months ago) link

That's all fair; the main reason I pay attention to my time is that I very occasionally do tournaments (not often though). I think maybe I was overly influenced by the Wordplay documentary, which I watched early in my solving days.

Hoisted by your own Picard (Leee), Thursday, 12 October 2023 03:03 (seven months ago) link

you can turn the crossword timer off in the settings

mookieproof, Thursday, 12 October 2023 03:05 (seven months ago) link

Leee do you do the crossword on the computer or on the app?

, Thursday, 12 October 2023 11:56 (seven months ago) link

If I'm in bed, I'm using the app, but usually I'm on a desktop, especially if I'm solving for speed.

Hoisted by your own Picard (Leee), Thursday, 12 October 2023 14:36 (seven months ago) link

I use a laptop, not the app, and haven't found a way to turn off the time stats on the main page using the settings.

I try doing the crossword using the app on my iPad when I'm traveling, but it's always a mess for me

Dan S, Thursday, 12 October 2023 23:18 (seven months ago) link

if by laptop you mean 'on the nyt website', uncheck this

(i also hate the running timer)

mookieproof, Friday, 13 October 2023 23:54 (seven months ago) link

thank you mookieproof

Dan S, Saturday, 14 October 2023 00:06 (seven months ago) link

Themed puzzle today. NE was incredibly hard for me to get into until I took a few chances.

Hoisted by your own Picard (Leee), Saturday, 14 October 2023 15:42 (seven months ago) link

i found the one a few thursdays ago very difficult - the one about black ops maybe it was just because i hadn’t done one in a couple of months? felt more like a friday or even saturday tbh. v enjoyable tho

Tracer Hand, Friday, 27 October 2023 18:25 (seven months ago) link

one month passes...

Is anyone else having problems playing the NYT Xword on a desktop browser? It's not letting me log in, and so I have to play on mobile.

Rimbaud: First Blood (Leee), Tuesday, 12 December 2023 20:01 (five months ago) link

Clever puzzle today.

Rimbaud: First Blood (Leee), Sunday, 17 December 2023 15:51 (five months ago) link

I liked it too but had the (frequent) sensation that I would solve it completely and correctly, and only get the theme later. Which is what happened.

CthulhuLululemon (Ye Mad Puffin), Sunday, 17 December 2023 15:56 (five months ago) link

I’m gonna stream some crossword solving on twitch in about half an hour

G. D’Arcy Cheesewright (silby), Friday, 22 December 2023 21:29 (five months ago) link

very angered at ROLF on wednesday's xw

flopson, Friday, 22 December 2023 23:51 (five months ago) link

40-down in today’s NYT is wholly new to me

donna rouge, Wednesday, 27 December 2023 20:33 (five months ago) link

I think I'd heard the word before, but couldn't tell you what it meant.

The revealer is a 5/5 groaner.

Andrew Farrell, Wednesday, 27 December 2023 21:07 (five months ago) link

yeah good puzzle today!

Humanitarian Pause (Tracer Hand), Wednesday, 27 December 2023 23:03 (five months ago) link

40-down is the name of a character in dune messiah iirc

, Thursday, 28 December 2023 02:28 (five months ago) link


i guess you no longer need the weirding module

mookieproof, Thursday, 28 December 2023 02:30 (five months ago) link

three months pass...

Tomorrow's NYT theme is reminiscent of a puzzle I submitted to them 15 years ago, which was rejected.


Full-grown frontiersman?: FOX CARSON
Full-grown rock musician?: KOALA RAMONE
Full-grown inventor?: SAMUEL HORSE
Full-grown actor?: RYAN GOOSE

NYT, 4/16/24:

*Actor who played Oscar Wilde in "Wilde" [fish]: STEPHEN FRY
*Inventor who patented the first revolver [stallion]: SAMUEL COLT
*English essayist who wrote "Lawyers, I suppose, were children once" [ram]: CHARLES LAMB
*Mouseketeer peer of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake [gander]: RYAN GOSLING
*Certain immature adult … with a hint to both halves of the answers to each starred clue: MAN BABY

Today's puzzle is admittedly better, conceptually -- but it's funny now to remember that one of the reasons I was given for why my puzzle was rejected was that Ryan Gosling wasn't famous enough.

jaymc, Tuesday, 16 April 2024 03:36 (one month ago) link

three weeks pass...

Cute theme today, which I didn't notice until I'd solved it.

The Mandymoorian (Leee), Monday, 13 May 2024 17:35 (two weeks ago) link

Clever theme today.

Bottom Cruise (Leee), Thursday, 23 May 2024 16:58 (one week ago) link

I didn't love it because there's two ways to fill it in, one of which leads to writing down some non-words. Which, when I put it like that...

Andrew Farrell, Thursday, 23 May 2024 18:13 (one week ago) link

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.