Frequently Asked Questions

I get lots of questions. Lots. I answer the same questions over and over it seems. Thus, I have come to understand the logic of the FAQ. I will add to this list as seems necessary. For now, here are this site's Frequently Asked Questions. I will try to answer each one as if it were a perfectly valid question (not always easy).

1. Why do you highlight one answer in every grid?

I download the puzzle from the NYT puzzle site (for link, see above). I then solve it using special software (I use Black Ink—most people use AcrossLite, available free via the NYT puzzle site). The highlighted answer is simply the cursor. This is a long-winded way of saying there is no particular significance to the highlighted answer. Cursor's gotta go somewhere. I never pay attention to where it is when I scan the grid image.

2. Why are you writing about a puzzle that's different from the one in my paper?

You are five weeks behind, in syndication-land. Click on the "Syndicated Puzzle" link above to go directly to your puzzle.

3. Why don't you write about the [insert paper title here] puzzle?

I just don't. I do all the major daily and weekly puzzles (see Question #12, below). I just don't write about them. Maybe someday. Not today. For write-ups of many, many different puzzles, see Orange's Diary of a Crossword Fiend.

4. "Why did you rate Monday's puzzle 'Challenging' and Saturday's puzzle 'Easy' — I solved Monday's puzzle much more quickly blah blah blah" (and variants)

I rate puzzles according to RELATIVE difficulty: that is, I rate their difficulty relative to the typical difficulty for That Day Of The Week. This baffles people so much that I may stop doing it.

5. How do I post a link in the "Comments" section?

You must code it in HTML. It's Very Easy.

Go here for an explanation.

5a. You have a "Comments" section?

Yes. Just click on "Comments" at the bottom of any write-up to view what other people are saying about the day's puzzle (and my write-up). I recommend reading the "Comments" section before commenting yourself or emailing me with some question about the puzzle — there's a good chance someone else has covered the issue you're concerned with.

6. Why do you talk about your solving times? You must think you are So Superior. I think I enjoy the puzzle more than you because I savor it blah blah blah x infinity...

I like to time myself on occasion, especially on early-week puzzles. I'm always in a kind of low-level training for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (again, above link). I don't care if you are faster / slower than I am, or if you don't care about timing at all. More power to you. Everyone does the puzzle differently. There are solvers of all different speeds who read this site. There's no reason for anyone to feel defensive / self-conscious.

7. How could you not know [fill in the blank]?!

Either a. I am stupid, or b. I am not 80. Or both, I suppose.

8. Why was my comment deleted (you jackass)?

Take your pick: a. you were rude to someone, b. you were way off-topic, or c. you were talking about tomorrow's puzzle (you jackass).

9. Why won't you return my email?

No one has ever asked this. And yet I feel compelled to respond. I reply to most mail I get, but I get a lot, and some days it's just overwhelming. I do my best to send a polite response to every email, but this doesn't always happen. If I don't reply, don't take it personally ... unless your email said something like "Fuck you" (actual text of recent email), in which case, you can't honestly have expected a response, can you?

10. How can I find your write-up for [insert puzzle date here]?

Check in the "Blog Archive" — last item in the sidebar. You can pinpoint any day from there.

11. I can't read your posted grids. Is there any way to make them bigger?

Yes. Click on them. Ta-da!

12. What other puzzles do you do?

Every weekday, I solve the New York Times (NYT), LA Times (LAT), CrosSynergy (CS), and Newsday puzzles. On Wednesdays, there's The Onion AV Club puzzle. On Thursdays, Matt Jones's "Jonesin'" puzzle. On Fridays, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE), and Village Voice (VV). And on Sundays, The Boston Globe (BG), The Philadelphia Inquirer (PI), and The Washington Post (WP). The NY Sun folded, but now there's "Fireball Crosswords," also edited by Peter Gordon, a superior puzzle to which you can subscribe here. I also do Matt Gaffney's and Brendan Emmett Quigley's puzzles — see "Independent Puzzles" in my sidebar.

13. Where do you get the other puzzles you solve every day?

I subscribe to the NYT puzzle on-line. For almost everything else, I use Alex Boisvert's "Crossword Butler," a nifty little software program that downloads virtually all available puzzles on any given day straight to your desktop. It's invaluable. Get it here. It's free, but worth a donation. You may also go to "Ephraim's Crossword Puzzle Pointers". The only major puzzle Ephraim doesn't feature is Matt Jones's "Jonesin'" puzzle, which you can get at Will Johnston's "Puzzle Pointers."

14. Why are there tiny little clues in parentheses above the title of each post?

These are clues I've chosen to highlight for one or both of the following two reasons:

a. They seem likely to move people to Google.
b. They are strange, challenging, colorful, or otherwise noteworthy.

15.  Could you please tell Will [whatever complaint you have]?

No. Please contact him directly via whatever contact info the NYT provides.

16. The puzzle has an error! I am indignant!

99% of the time, you (the complainer) are wrong. Sometimes the clue is inelegant. Sometimes the clue is stretching the meaning of a certain word. Sometimes the clue is using a word in a way you aren't thinking of or haven't heard of. But flat-out errors are Rare. Very Rare. So reconsider your position. Then, if you must, see 15, above.

16a. The clue says Marisa Tomei won the 1992 Oscar, when she clearly won it in 1993. I remember because I hosted an Oscar party that year. Why would the NYT make such a stupid error?

You are the one who has made the error. Oscars are handed out for achievements that took place in the preceding year. Thus, 1992 Oscars are handed out in 1993, but they are still 1992 Oscars. If your complaint is about a different awards show, chances are the same system applies.

Some helpful vocabulary:

  • APPLET — the online solving software at the NYT puzzle site.
  • CHEATER SQUARES — black squares that do not change the puzzle word count, called "cheaters" because they make filling the grid much easier for the constructor.
  • CROSSWORTHY — worthy of being in crosswords, i.e. sufficiently famous.
  • MALESKA — Eugene T., former editor of the NYT puzzle — Will's immediate predecessor. I came of (puzzle) age under MALESKA's Draconian tutelage.
  • NATICK PRINCIPLE — "If you include a proper noun in your grid that you cannot reasonably expect more than 1/4 of the solving public to have heard of, you must cross that noun with reasonably common words and phrases or very common names." Go here for the answers that occasioned my coining this phrase.
  • OOXTEPLERNON —the god of bad short fill, called into being by this puzzle (see central horizontal line in the grid).
  • ORANGE — my fellow crossword blogger, without whom this site might still be a backwater.
  • PANGRAM —puzzle that uses every letter of the alphabet at least once.
  • REBUS — a puzzle in which multiple letters or a picture or symbol can be written / drawn into a single square. Here are some examples.
  • SPOOR — a word I use sometimes for what others call "crosswordese" — i.e. horrible little words that appear in crosswords all out of proportion to the frequency with which they appear in ordinary human speech. They are nuisance words that are in the grid ONLY because of their ultra useful letter combos. They are inevitable, but a glut of them can really ruin a puzzle.
I'll add to this as necessary.

Best wishes,
Rex Parker


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