New York Times crosswords

So I’m just now starting to get into doing crossword puzzles, and I figured I might as well do this right and and jump into the “best” ones. I bought a book of NYT puzzles, edited by Will Shortz, all Mondays, which they claim to be “very easy”. :dubious:

Anyway, I just wanted to get a discussion going about it. If anyone has any tips or remembers any interesting clues they want to share, go for it. Personally, even though I’ve only done a handful so far, I think the most creative one that I’ve come across (I didn’t finish it; I had to look at the answers) had heart symbols in all four corners of the puzzle. Like, one of the clues was “Jilted lover’s woe” or something, and the answer was “Broken [heart]”, where there were 7 letter boxes and you literally were expected to draw a heart in the last box. So that’s the game you want to play, eh, Mr. Shortz?

If you are just starting out in crossword puzzles you should read “My Crossword Life” by Melissa Balmain.

Monday puzzles are pretty easy. You just have to get used to them. Like all things, there are certain conventions and clues that get used over and over. Once you get into the crossword state of mind, you’ll be doing Mondays in your sleep.

If you want to look into the abyss, check out Saturdays. Every answer seems to be ten letters long.

Really creative crosswords (like the heart one you described) are usually fairly rare, so you don’t have to worry about them. I’ve seen fractions or even whole words that are meant to fit in that one square.

I thought only Sunday had the weird constructions e.g. double letters in a box, running over the edges, and the heart symbol example.

I tend to do Saturday (too hard) and Sunday (tricky and fun) only.

Not every daily NYT puzzle has a theme, but many of them do. They don’t generally tell you what the theme is though - figuring out the theme is part of figuring out the puzzle.

They run the NYT Sunday puzzle in the Detroit papers. It can keep you stuck sometimes until you get the theme. It can be putting 2 letters in a box even.

It’s been several years since I wrote puzzles, but the Times standards require that any Sunday-Thursday puzzle MUST have a theme.

The Friday and Saturday puzzles don’t have to have a theme, BUT they must be far more challenging than the Monday-Wednesday puzzles, and they can’t have nearly as many entries.

That is, a 15x15 Monday-Thursday puzzle can have up to 78 entries. That means you’ll have 3 or 4 long theme-related entries, and a lot of 3, 4 and 5 letter entries. For a Saturday puzzle, they want no more than 72 entries, which means a LOT of very long entries.

Sorry to have been unclear, by “daily puzzles” I meant the non-Sunday puzzles. As you note, they are not all required to have a theme.

Actually, I thought it was the Thursday puzzle that has stuff like card symbols or multiple letters in one box in a thematic clue. I certainly would not have expected it on a Monday puzzle.

Yeah, here’s a link from the New York Times that supports that:

So Thursdays and I guess Sundays (I don’t really do Sunday puzzles, but from what I’ve seen they seem to be “anything goes” affairs) are where rebus clues usually appear. I probably would be slightly annoyed if Will Shortz edited in a puzzle with this type of trickery on a Monday.

Thanks Pulykamell for clearing that up. I’m going to have a look at Thurs from now on.

I don’t know if Shortz was solely responsible for making xwords more fun but what a difference from 20 years ago… doing xwords back then was basically researching a dictionary.

For your next step, try some of the cryptics. The Times is the best and most challenging of regular puzzles, but even a simple cryptic is a major challenge.

The New York Times crossword is pretty much the only one I enjoy doing. Crosswords have come a long way since being basically a dictionary game, but there’s still a lot of boring and plain bad clue-writing out there. (Pick up one of those Jumbo Crossword books at the airport or gas station and you know what I mean. Bo-ring. I’ve since bought an NYT collection to keep me sated.) If you have any recommendations for others that are similar in style, I’d be curious to hear them.

Merl Reagle, who does the Sunday crosswords for the San Francisco Chronicle, among others, is also a fun constructor. Once in a while he’ll do one for Shortz.

I do the NYT Sunday puzzles, and while they do occasionally include such things as rebus clues, symbols and numerals in the puzzle, and word patterns, I’d say that most Sunday puzzles are pretty normal.

I’ll also thank Will Shortz for making puzzles more fun. Eugene Maleska’s puzzles were more like work.

Diagramless adds an interesting element. And cryptics can be great, they can also be frustrating, depends on the composer.

Yeah, I like the patternless a lot, too. The Sun-Times has (or had, I’m not sure what it is now) three crosswords: the previous week’s New York Times, their own, and a patternless one. The NYT and patternless ones were fun. The in-house one was relatively boring. Not terrible, but not really a lot of fun compared to the other two.

Cryptics simply drive me insane. I’m happy if I can get two or three clues in a puzzle.

I’ve been doing the (mostly) Sunday NY Times puzzles for years - even finish one once in a while. :smiley:

My best tip for you: pay close attention to the title of the puzzle. You can often figure out the theme from the title alone, and once you recognize the theme you can usually cruise.

For about four years I did the NYT crossword every day.

I usually could not finish Sunday’s puzzle.

The biggest “tip” I have - crossword creators seem to latch on to a few favorite pet words and then use them - over, and over, and over. They’ll try to make the clue interesting each time but the words are useful to them so they pop up a lot. Take note of these repeated words and look for them in puzzles.

For instance, it seemed like every puzzle I ever did had either the word “Agar” or the word “Oleo”. I suspect both were attractive to the puzzle creator because they are short and have multiple vowels. But neither come up in normal speech much; in fact I hardly ever hear them used outside a crossword puzzle.

Here is a link to one of the most amazing crossword puzzles ever made: