A solute and solvent mashup (8 letters)
August 26, 2020 2:09 PM   Subscribe

How To Solve the New York Times Crossword. "A crossword puzzle is not a test of intelligence, and solving is not really about the size of your vocabulary. Becoming a good solver is about understanding what the clues are asking you to do."
posted by storybored (91 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
Each crossword puzzle writer will receive one thousand years in hell for every crossword clue that ends with a question mark.
posted by selfnoise at 2:13 PM on August 26 [13 favorites]


Question mark clues are the wind beneath my sails. My own disdain is reserved for when Word In French Language crosses with Sport Fact Only Truefans Would Know, basically demanding you Google one or the other to complete.
posted by JHarris at 2:16 PM on August 26 [33 favorites]


*Pencils in "solution" but waits for confirmation from cross-letters from other clues before inking*
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:26 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


I find it invaluable to read Rex Parker every day (after finishing!); you learn a lot about construction & crossword politics that you probably never considered.

Obviously influenced by Rex, I would like a) more diverse constructors b) more contemporary content in the NYTXW, and I'd be perfectly happy if they never used NRA, Dies or Irae, INRI, olio, and ole ever again as answers.
posted by chavenet at 2:35 PM on August 26 [27 favorites]


Earlier.
posted by PhineasGage at 2:40 PM on August 26


I hope Megan Amram will be immortalized in crosswords herself because of the juicy vowel placement. There's a reason why Charlie Chaplin's fourth wife (Oona) is always used.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:41 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


The home of the University of Maine -- Orono -- shows up frequently for the same reason.
posted by riotnrrd at 2:44 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


If you're as addicted to crosswords as I am, you might like Matt Gritzmacher's Daily Crossword Links newsletter and remarkably comprehensive associated spreadsheet. I still do the Times puzzle every day for some reason, but its stodginess and lack of diversity are really apparent after getting into some of the indies.
posted by theodolite at 3:01 PM on August 26 [10 favorites]


I know the usual tips and tricks for solving a crossword, but boy howdy if I don't get stuck on the clues that require me to know a celebrity's name or other piece of trivia. So for me, at least, it is 100% about the size of my vocabulary.
posted by LSK at 3:03 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


By the way, my single least favorite word-that-shows-up-in-a-million-crossword-puzzles-as-glue is "Alb" because I can never, ever remember it.
posted by selfnoise at 3:04 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


The home of the University of Maine -- Orono -- shows up frequently for the same reason.

I've always wondered how big the crossword tourism economy is there.
posted by thelonius at 3:08 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


If Esai Morales got a royalty check every time his name was used as a clue, I imagine he would be able to buy a good chunk of the NYTimes.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:13 PM on August 26 [9 favorites]


Enid, OK and Ada, OK are both notable primarily for how often they show up in crosswords.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:32 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


As I've said before, a future or extraterrestrial civilization reconstructing our via analysis of crossword puzzles -- an unlikely scenario, I grant -- will know Melville not for Moby-Dick or Billy Budd but as the literary giant beloved for Omoo.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:40 PM on August 26 [22 favorites]


There's a reason why Charlie Chaplin's fourth wife (Oona) is always used.

Our local paper's crossword is most enamoured of Uma Thurman, eons, and oleo - also both Jean Auel (author) and Ayla (her character).

I started doing them pretty regularly - there are now answers (like that Terri Garr was in Mr Mom) that I only know because it's shown up in two crosswords in one week.
posted by jb at 3:41 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


there are now answers (like that Terri Garr was in Mr Mom)

Teri. If they're adding a surplus r, no wonder you're facing difficulties in crosswords.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:45 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


"Hawaiin goose"

'Nuff said.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:48 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


The question mark clues are my favorite. I cut my crossword teeth on the cryptic crosswords at the end of The Nation, to which magazine I was given a subscription by my well-meaning, left-leaning uncle, starting in 1987 when I was a junior in high school. (The crossword and the book reviews were the only things that really resonated with me until they started featuring Calvin Trillin's deadline poetry sometime in the nineties.) They used to have a little inset under the crossword that said something like "Lures? (6, 5): If you don't know why this means "Ground Rules" then send to P.O. Box [whatever] for ours regarding how to solve our crossword." The NYT crossword has always seemed kind of pedestrian in comparison.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:49 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


It's not included in these tips, but here's one of the most useful things I've realized about NYT puzzle logic:

The clue will almost always use the most basic and neutral vocabulary -- unless a particular word is used in the answer. So any clue that includes a "fancy" word will usually have the simpler form in the entry. The word "canine" in the clue will have "dog" in the answer; "libation" will have "drink"; "domicile" or "abode", "house" or "home"...etc.
posted by neroli at 3:50 PM on August 26 [9 favorites]


In addition to Rex Parker, a few years back an English immigrant to the US blogged his adaptation to the NYT Crossword. He was polite and bemused. One of the things he recommended to anyone serious about solving regularly and quickly was to compile and commit to memory lists of common subjects that aren't familiar to you. In his case, this included a lot of US sports teams, particularly college sports teams; if you can also remember the sport (MLB/NFL etc) that can help. Another area for non-Americans to bone up on includes the names of a few Native American tribes (though in practice UTE/S and OTOE/S are the most common ones). Non-native New Yorkers would do well to expand their command of a few dozen basic Yiddish words. Non-Americans also need to pick up other soft cultural terms like the names of chocolate bar brands (this is a topic where being Canadian feels about as far away from American as a Mongolian or Indonesian might).

I'm a competent solver these days, finishing every day and usually managing to shave a few seconds off my average times for each day of the week. But I am still thrown by NYT crosswords that contain rebus squares (i.e. multiple letters in one square).
posted by senor biggles at 3:52 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


I sometimes muck around with crossword construction for fun, and a couple of years ago I made a puzzle that consisted entirely of the most common/laziest Shortz-era answers - ELI, ALOE, ESAU, stuff like that. To make it interesting and an actual puzzle, though, I either used an unusual clue for a common answer or I combined multiple common words into one answer.

As examples:
One of Cirque's Las Vegas hosts.ARIA

Abbé de L'____, the French 'Father of the Deaf'.EPEE

Captain Hook whispers to his second in command (2 words).PSSTSMEE

Ante was I, _____ I saw ____. EREETNA

Anyway, I sent the puzzle to my friendly little online crossword group and I think that's the most anger I've ever created in the world.
posted by ZaphodB at 3:53 PM on August 26 [31 favorites]


Oh and a little off topic but I only just recently noticed that the NYT Crossword App on my iPhone (though not my iPad) includes the Spelling Bee game. I'm still not sure I love it. The concept is great, but the choice of which words count seems arbitrary to the point of deliberately irritating - certainly anyone with a reasonable Scrabble vocabulary is going to be enraged to find that a perfectly reasonable English word has been excluded.
posted by senor biggles at 4:01 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


A friend and I have been getting together on zoom every week to do crosswords together like we used to when we were roommates. We have a book of NYT Saturday crosswords - we each have a copy and have been going through the book. They don’t tend to have as many annoyingly overused weird words like EMU.

I cherish this ritual. But in a whole book of nearly 100 crosswords I think there is only one where the constructor is a woman (I’m guessing, don’t know for sure the gender identity of all the constructors). I want to do puzzles with similar difficulty but actual diversity among the constructors - does anyone have a good resource for that?
posted by mai at 4:02 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


mai, I think you'll find a bit more diversity among the constructors for American Values Club crosswords - there are some sample puzzles there, and they've got a free trial subscription offer as well.
posted by kristi at 4:08 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


There's a reason why Charlie Chaplin's fourth wife (Oona) is always used.

As is Yoko Ono.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:13 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Oh, wow, theodolite - thanks so much for the Matt Gritzmacher links! I am definitely going to mine that spreadsheet for new links.

I've mostly been grabbing things from Will Johnston's Puzzle Pointers, plus the Cruciverb LA Times archive (free registration required). I enjoy the Universal daily puzzles more than I thought I would.

Also, for anyone who misses Merl Reagle puzzles, you can download four weeks' worth of PDFs from Sunday Crosswords, and buy his collections there as well.
posted by kristi at 4:14 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Non-Americans also need to pick up other soft cultural terms like the names of chocolate bar brands (this is a topic where being Canadian feels about as far away from American as a Mongolian or Indonesian might).

Any future free trade agreements that brought you guys Crispy Crunch and us 100 Grands would have my full support.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:21 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


My grandmother would clean the house in Boggle with the four letter words she had memorized doing crosswords. Then you could ask her, is that a real word and she'd say oh that's a type of forest bird, that's an old English hat, that was a flavoring used in African cooking, etc. It was very impressive how many words she had memorized.
posted by newper at 4:22 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


OH, and one more - clicking around the links from the American Values Club, I found The Inkubator: "crossword puzzles by women — cis women, trans women, & woman-aligned constructors." They also have a free trial.

Sometimes (often, in fact) I love the Internet.
posted by kristi at 4:24 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I saw it in the documentary about the NYTimes crossword puzzle, but I'm still flabbergasted when I think about the one they ran on election day 1992 with the clue: 42nd president of the United States.

It turned out you could fill it in with BOBDOLE or CLINTON and there were vertical answers that would work in both cases.
posted by nushustu at 4:30 PM on August 26 [12 favorites]


Bob Dole was not the Republican candidate in 1992.

In addition to "Hawaiian goose" (NENE), there's also "sea eagle" (ERNE) and "servant" (ESNE) a lot.
posted by briank at 4:37 PM on August 26


Well, there wasn't a US presidential election in '92, so I'm guessing it was '94 ...
posted by JawnBigboote at 4:39 PM on August 26


Um.... Clinton beat Bush I in 1992. Or else my mind is failing me.
posted by hippybear at 4:43 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Let's see.. the ones I always see in the NYT.
AIOLI
AVA
AVE
AWW
EEG
EEL
ELAN
EPEE
ETON
ILL
IMPS
ODE
ORE
ROO
SHY
TEE

But I don't mind.. I'm almost through the month having completed all of the crosswords and all but 4 are gold starred in the app. (my wife tells me I'm a dork)
posted by drewbage1847 at 4:44 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Election Day 1996, and the clue was “The headline in tomorrow’s newspaper (!)”.

Hmm, BIDEN and TRUMP both have five letters...
posted by madcaptenor at 4:46 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


Oh crud, Presidential elections don't happen in all years ending in zero, do they? Nothing to see here folks.
posted by JawnBigboote at 4:46 PM on August 26


The Clinton/Dole election puzzle in 96
http://www.alaricstephen.com/main-featured/2017/7/3/the-clintonbobdole-crossword
posted by drewbage1847 at 4:47 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


jai alai

My junior high school math teacher (all 3 years) was Fraser Simpson. He was a really good teacher and also really into cryptic crosswords. I think he's been making the weekly cryptic crossword in the Globe and Mail for something like the last 25 years and also had a cryptic crossword in the New York Times for a while. I remember one class he went over some of the rules for how to understand the clues in a cryptic crossword. I consider myself good at puzzles and normal crosswords but have never been able to work out the cryptic ones.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:07 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


I've gotten deep into the NYT puzzle during pandemic. Tomorrow will mark my 100 day streak on the app, although I was solving in pencil on an off for a couple years before that. It's been a great distraction and relief to me in this time of uncertainty. I'm not the only one who feels this way - the Sunday NYT puzzle began in 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger encouraged the features editor to run it as a way to get people's minds off the war and give them something to do while sheltering in place. The first editor of the crossword said, "I don't think I have to sell you on the increased demand for this kind of pastime in an increasingly worried world. You can't think of your troubles while solving a crossword."

For a little while each day, I'm finding that to be true.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 5:08 PM on August 26 [13 favorites]


Don't forget the fun option when you're doing the crossword (or sudoku) in public - just put random letters or numbers in the boxes as quickly as you can, say 'Done', and put it away.
posted by jjderooy at 5:35 PM on August 26 [9 favorites]


I promise to read the article but this seems like the place to confess that in the before-time when I rode on airplanes I’d do a very bad thing which was inking either nonsense or plausible-but-wrong answers into the in-flight magazine’s crossword and I’m both sorry and desperate to do it again
posted by Caxton1476 at 5:44 PM on August 26 [15 favorites]


ORE
posted by Windopaene at 5:49 PM on August 26


The daily ritual for my PICU (Partner In Crime Until death do us part) before she has her first appointment now that she works from home is to print The NY Times Crossword, walk to window service at our favorite coffee shop, and then sit at the empty outdoor amphitheater where we drink our beverages and work on the crossword as a team. A wonderful distraction and a lovely bonding activity.
posted by haiku warrior at 6:32 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


We do rely on Rex Parker for solutions, but jeesh, he almost never had a good word to say about any crossword. I generally don’t read the commentary of his blog except for the solution—it’s too much of a buzzkill.
posted by haiku warrior at 6:35 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


The concept is great, but the choice of which words count seems arbitrary to the point of deliberately irritating

I get that, but one thing I actually really like is that when it rejects a word, it says "word not in list." As opposed to so many apps that I rage quit yelling "it is TOO a real word." Oh, it's just not in your particular list? OK, well at least we both agree the failing is yours, not mine.
posted by solotoro at 7:26 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


Caxton1476: I promise to read the article but this seems like the place to confess that in the before-time when I rode on airplanes I’d do a very bad thing which was inking either nonsense or plausible-but-wrong answers into the in-flight magazine’s crossword and I’m both sorry and desperate to do it again

This brought back a memory of being on a flight and doing the airplane magazine crossword (I had finished my book and this was before we had laptops, let alone iPads or cell phones). My seat-mate was also doing the puzzle. Out of nowhere, she slammed her pen down and said "You can't be doing it that fast," in a kind of dismissive disbelief. I was taken aback, and just blurted out "I am?" She insisted that I must have done the same crossword on another flight and was filling in words I already knew, and was passively hostile to me for the rest of the flight.

You guys know this is not a brag - this isn't the NYTimes Crossword or any other, more difficult puzzle, or a Cryptic, or anything. Just the airline magazine.

Weird thing to choose to be rude about to a total stranger on a plane.
posted by tzikeh at 7:56 PM on August 26 [11 favorites]


I do the mini NYT crosswords in the app, but the amount of American (and New York-specific!) clues puts me off. It’s just enough sand in the gears that I think I should spend more time getting better at cryptics, which are my country’s premier form of crossword.

And then I go back to my drawer full of Japanese logic puzzle books and remember that I am probably set for puzzles for ten years without learning either.
posted by Merus at 7:58 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


My grandmother would clean the house in Boggle with the four letter words she had memorized doing crosswords. Then you could ask her, is that a real word and she'd say oh that's a type of forest bird, that's an old English hat, that was a flavoring used in African cooking, etc. It was very impressive how many words she had memorized.

or she was pulling definitions out of her ass very fast hoping none of you would call her on it
posted by taquito sunrise at 8:03 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


I'm on day 151 of my covid-induced NYTimes crossword streak... (my one self-allowed cheat is 'reverse-lookup' for answers I'm not 100% sure of when trying to find the one wrong box somewhere in the grid.) obvs, I am like ten times better at the crossword now than at any other time in my life. The joy of nailing a long answer in a saturday puzzle without any cross clues is profound. (and then quickly discarded as I attack the next problem.)

I find the rebus puzzles to be hard-then-easy: once you know it's a rebus puzzle and have an idea of what the theme is things move very quickly. But getting past the first rebus clue is sometimes a pain.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:13 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Francis Heaney's guide Cryptic Crosswords: What Is Their Deal Anyway is a good place to get started if you're interested in cryptic crosswords; he explains the types of clues and the rules behind them in detail. I've been solving cryptics for a while, and he pointed out a couple things I'd never noticed.
posted by ectabo at 8:36 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


I love the question mark clues. The groan of annoyed disbelief and self-satisfied appreciation when you figure out the pun!
posted by Emily's Fist at 8:52 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


207 streak...starts out fun, then you dread Thursday through Saturday.
posted by spacewrench at 9:16 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Oh and

NYT ACROSTIC ARCHIVE NYT ACROSTIC ARCHIVE NYT ACROSTIC ARCHIVE

(I've been working backwards since lockdown began in Chicago and I am currently in March, 2009!
posted by tzikeh at 9:33 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


Jesus, I was about to brag about my 10 day streak.

I’m surprised this wasn’t highlighted in the article, but solving it with your sweetie is totally not cheating, is a great thing to do early in a relationship over breakfast after staying over, and really hones your skill by seeing how someone else approaches difficult clues.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:01 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Hmm, BIDEN and TRUMP both have five letters...

Here you go, thanks to a Python script I whipped up:

1 down: Skee-lo aspiration: [_] A L L E R
2 down: Negatively charged and always spinning: E L E C T [_] O N
3 down: Kid's anxiety source: A [_] D I T I O N
4 down: First level Maslow need: [_] A T I N G
5 down: Sold in pairs: S [_] E A K E R S

1 across: we find out if we still have a country or not
posted by kurumi at 10:36 PM on August 26 [109 favorites]


kurumi, that is seriously impressive. Really, really well done.
posted by ZaphodB at 11:10 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Seconded. That is a fantastic comment, kurumi.
posted by vernondalhart at 11:31 PM on August 26


Thirded.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:54 PM on August 26


“Giants slugger Mel”
posted by non canadian guy at 1:41 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Also Eero. Every damn week. Finnish-American architect and industrial designer Eero Saarinen. and its almost always a "down word" in the lower left corner.

And it should be the "Otoe" tribe of "western Indians" And the Sauk (three letter "western tribe"... Sac!) are not exactly a western tribe.

This stuff haunts my dreams.
posted by zaelic at 2:06 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


and ULEE. Damn, I am never going to watch that film starring Peter Fonda about a beekeeper, but I feel like I already know the entire story.
posted by Orkney Vole at 2:21 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


also EKE and EEL and UTE and RELEE

[it was interesting in that BOBDOLE/CLINTON puzzle that one of the binary answers was for the clue "Much-debated political inits." and the answer was NRA for Clinton and ERA for Dole; that's some subtle shade.]
posted by chavenet at 2:40 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


When did rebuses become part of crossword puzzles.?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 3:28 AM on August 27


They aren't. The NYTimes crossword app has a button marked "rebus" that let's you enter multiple letters in one square. Despite the name, I haven't seen any puzzles use pictures to represent words or sounds, and even if they did, as long as they wrote the puzzle to have the norm of one letter per box, you wouldn't need to use the "rebus" button.
posted by solotoro at 5:07 AM on August 27


Hmm those are some very clever BIDEN/TRUMP clues indeed but I think it's gonna be hard to find a word that contains the string AODAE to go under it. Which maybe just helps illustrate how deft a construction the CLINTON/BOBDOLE really is.
posted by scrowdid at 5:14 AM on August 27 [8 favorites]


scrowdid: "Hmm those are some very clever BIDEN/TRUMP clues indeed but I think it's gonna be hard to find a word that contains the string AODAE to go under it. Which maybe just helps illustrate how deft a construction the CLINTON/BOBDOLE really is."

you could scatter the five letters in circles around the grid and get away with it that way. not as elegant, of course.
posted by chavenet at 5:34 AM on August 27


I do the mini NYT crosswords in the app, but the amount of American (and New York-specific!) clues puts me off. It’s just enough sand in the gears that I think I should spend more time getting better at cryptics, which are my country’s premier form of crossword.

Try the Guardian's Quiptic! They have a ton in the archives. Of course, this might just trade your annoyance at American clues for annoyance at British clues (pegleg = RN? Fuck off, Paul!)
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:36 AM on August 27


I've been in the UK for nearly four years now, but I still can't get used to their crosswords. I loathe cryptics and I'm not a fan of the lattice format in general – except for codewords, which aren't quite crosswords but I've found really satisfying to solve. With the whole COVID situation and being furloughed from work, I decided to resubscribe to the NYT crossword and am on a 27-day streak. My in-laws managed to hit their 1000th day straight some months back.

Oh and a little off topic but I only just recently noticed that the NYT Crossword App on my iPhone (though not my iPad) includes the Spelling Bee game. I'm still not sure I love it. The concept is great, but the choice of which words count seems arbitrary to the point of deliberately irritating - certainly anyone with a reasonable Scrabble vocabulary is going to be enraged to find that a perfectly reasonable English word has been excluded.

I like the Spelling Bee but have the same gripe as you. Yesterday, for example, with the letters KAEILTV, they included tikka but not kiva.
posted by HumuloneRanger at 7:23 AM on August 27


Despite the name, I haven't seen any puzzles use pictures to represent words or sounds

I've seen many where a picture--or at least a shape or other non-letter--would make more sense to use if I were solving on paper. For instance there was a recent-ish one where the rebuses were all black/white or white/black. If I were solving on paper I would have simply filled in half the square.
posted by lampoil at 7:55 AM on August 27


OH! Yes, I see what you mean. I remember the white/black one.

[mild spoiler alert]

Then I almost said today's wouldn't have worked with pictures, but given the answer to 58 Across, I can see the argument.
posted by solotoro at 8:19 AM on August 27


I'd be perfectly happy if they never used NRA, Dies or Irae, INRI, olio, and ole ever again

For me it's ogle and leer. There was a while where it felt you could barely get through a puzzle without them, which was a bit of a counter to the "doing crosswords lets your troubles melt away" thing.
posted by trig at 8:57 AM on August 27


I only just recently noticed that the NYT Crossword App on my iPhone (though not my iPad) includes the Spelling Bee game. I'm still not sure I love it.

It's really tough for me, especially the whole ability to repeat letters. I cut my teeth on many many games of Boggle where you *do not* use the same letter more than once. It just seems wrong.
posted by hydra77 at 9:32 AM on August 27


Hmm those are some very clever BIDEN/TRUMP clues indeed but I think it's gonna be hard to find a word that contains the string AODAE to go under it. Which maybe just helps illustrate how deft a construction the CLINTON/BOBDOLE really is.

posted by scrowdid


Wait, I can't be the only mefite who follows Instagram celebrity Aodae Msarwe can I??

Oh, please, please publish your crossword. He needs the followers and this could be his big break!
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:32 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


If you think American crosswords are hard, try the ones that keep asking for a four letter European river:

Otra, Ehre, Elbe, Sula, Kara, Main, Ouse, Spey, Yula, Vaga, Luza, Umba, Neva, Lule, Oyat, Suna, Syas, Pola, Luga, Tsna, Msta, Wkra, Oder, Bobr, Eure, Oise, Aire, Aube, Loir, Cher, Isle, Tarn, Esla, Sado, Ebro, Audo, Arno, Liri, Nero, Reno, Drin (or Drim), Arda, Prut, Ibar, Sava, Enns, Hron, Mare, Tara...

Imma gunna stop here, but I think that was less than half of them.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:45 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Tyne and Tees are both nearby for me
posted by HumuloneRanger at 11:22 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Future me thanks all of you for this post, the links, the suggestions....I can hardly wait to get home tonight and investigate further!
posted by lyssabee at 6:44 AM on August 28


I definitely signed up for that crossword newsletter! I would do the occasional crossword when I had access to one, but I bought an online subscription to the WaPo a while back and started doing the crossword regularly. I still get enraged at some of what I think of as "crossword bullshit" but it was funny to see how much of it was learning the tricks that get relied on. The cookie will be an oreo, the slang term of endearment is bae, and eon will make an appearance somewhere.

I've discovered that the easy to hard, Monday to Sunday thing doesn't always track for me, because sports trivia will definitely trip me up, and I will frequently run over to IMDB because I don't watch a lot of movies. So depending on how many of those clues appear, I'll end up having to cheat.

I've looked at British crossword puzzles and I don't even know how to approach solving them. They mystify me.
posted by PussKillian at 6:51 AM on August 28


Outside of the NYT dailies, I only bother with cryptics (called "British crosswords" above). My favorite is from the former Nation setters Kosman & Picciotto, now with their own Patreon: Out of Left Field. These are American cryptics, so USians aren't burdened with British slang and idiom.

At first, cryptics seem completely off the wall and unstructured, but there is actually a very precise structure to them. Here are a couple of introductions to solving cryptic clues:
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/may/03/how-to-solve-cryptic-crossword
https://solving-cryptics.com/
posted by hypnogogue at 8:24 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Thanks for those links, hypnogogue. This made me laugh:
The clue here, on a surface reading, seems to be about lovers and courting and so on. It almost certainly isn't. It's probably about death or something.

I knew they were called cryptics, but I associate them firmly with the UK, thanks to "The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager's Will" which is where I first encountered them.
posted by PussKillian at 9:35 AM on August 28


I'm almost through the month having completed all of the crosswords and all but 4 are gold starred in the app.
We -- and, critically, I mean that my wife and I do them as a team -- have Gone Hard in pandemic mode, and are on a 102 day streak of gold-star solves. This just means we've done the puzzle before midnight (eastern) on its publication day without using cheats.

Monday is dead simple (avg, per the iPad app, is under 9m). Often I can do it more or less as fast as I can type the answers. Tuesday is harder (~15 min) but still pretty simple.

Wednesday (avg 25m) is the first day I start out in "pencil in" mode.

Thursday is a jackass -- it's the only day I read the solving notes article before I even start, because it's always got some too-clever-by-half bullshit going on. Even with the notes, our average here is 35m. But I dread it, and really only do it to keep our streak.

(Also: Rebuses are bullshit.)

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are meals (33m, 38m, 1:08). We sit down together on the couch and work through them as a team. As someone uptopic noted, this is a lovely thing to do with one's partner in crime. It's my favorite thing about the puzzles now, and I can definitely see us doing this together for a long long time -- COVID or no.

(I wrote this post while reading the thread, and I'm super amused that there appear to be at least 2 other MeFites who started their Corona Crossword streaks around the same time we did.)
posted by uberchet at 2:50 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Surprised to hear so many folks here who feel otherwise - I love rebus puzzles.
posted by PhineasGage at 5:38 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


I didn’t know of the existence of rebus puzzles until today. I wonder how many abandoned puzzles could have been saved with that knowledge.
posted by Night_owl at 5:43 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Yeah I really enjoy the Thursdays, specifically for their jackassery.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:12 AM on August 29


Thursdays are the best. The thing I love about Thursday (and often Sunday) puzzles is the fact that crosswords have pretty strict rules, and a Thursday is pretty much guaranteed to break a rule - but it's going to break it using some other logical rule in its place, and once you've deduced the new set of rules it's not going to break those. Figuring out the particular way in which the regular rules of crosswords have been broken is very satisfying and lots of fun. I love that combination of lawlessness and rigor.
posted by dfan at 8:17 AM on August 30 [2 favorites]


An important part of successful crossword completion is to avoid consistently terrible crossword writers. Like the writer of the one that comes with red plum flyer bundle.
posted by srboisvert at 8:18 AM on August 30


Let me chime in towards the end of the life of this thread to state unequivocally that THIS Thursday puzzle is *especially* bullshit.
posted by uberchet at 8:11 AM on September 3 [3 favorites]


I absolutely loved this one. It's complete horseshit.
posted by selfnoise at 8:42 AM on September 3


This one is particularly egregious and gross, and rife with clues that are clearly setup as "fuck you" clues, like the reference to Bond's watch.

Bond is associated with Rolex first (8 films) and Omega more recently (also 8, 9 when No Time is released). The filmmakers put tacky Seikos on him 5 times in the 70s, but the brand was never "James Bonds' watch." You may as well have the answer be "Tag Heuer" because Tim Dalton wore one, or "Breitling" because the geiger counter watch in Thunderball carried that brand.

There's a line between "clever wordplay" and "just being a dick." This clue was on the wrong side of it, which is fair, because that's where the whole rest of the puzzle is.
posted by uberchet at 11:59 AM on September 3 [1 favorite]


I liked the Thursday puzzle! I was all 'wow, I guess I really don't know my Jewish foods as well as I thought I did' until figuring out the gimmick. (Which I figured out on the 'fruity loaf' once a few of the cross clues were filled in...)

I think I had the 'e' and 'i' in 'Seiko,' which made it pretty easy, as that's the watch brand with those letters, regardless of Bond. I can see how that would suck if one actually knew Bond better, though.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:35 PM on September 3


I loved today's puzzle.
posted by PhineasGage at 1:56 PM on September 3


So.... Anybody big on the Cubs a hundred and ten years ago?
posted by kaibutsu at 6:35 PM on September 6


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