The Decade Evolution in New York Times Crosswords

by Max Fragar
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Ever since Arthur Wynne created the first-ever puzzle on December 21, 1913, crosswords have come a long way.

Starting from a traditional Sunday newspaper edition, it has now turned mobile and can be solved on any online device as far as you have an internet connection. How cool is that, isn’t it?

New York Times has the best crossword solvers have always loved. And why not, when the puzzles are super engaging.

All the credit goes to Will Shortz who has an amazing team of editors. Although anyone can send in entries it is edited by Shortz and his team while making a slight change.

The Story of NYT Puzzles

We will be writing a story in this post and this one is about how the New York Times Crossword has changed over the past decade.

Recently, few crossword solvers were asked to share their opinion on how crosswords have evolved over the years.

And also how solving has changed. Some love the new concept of online puzzles as they can solve it anywhere, anytime.

While others criticized a few points. All of it was valuable.

All comments cannot be included in this particular post however, we have compiled the best ones by lightly editing them for clarity and brevity.

A solver said that he has learned to solve online crosswords from someone he loved. His best friend made him sit and understand the technicalities involved in solving a time-based puzzle.

Another one said that he doesn’t like solving crosswords alone. He either needs someone by his side or wants to compete with someone. This helps him feel excited. Well, this is quite interesting.

Online crossword games are the best place where learning and laughter are valued. And solvers from across the globe don’t remain strangers for long.

However, every crossword community is thankful that they have active participants as this makes a healthy community.

First, There Was the Puzzle

Initially, during World War II, there was the New York Times Crossword, although it wasn’t always spelled with a capital C. This is something that came much later.

Editors’ Picks

In the beginning, the editors have described that crossword puzzles are “primitive mental exercise.

There was a decision made to come up with something unique as well as interesting so that people get diverted from the unpleasant news of the war.

First, Sunday puzzles their readers as an escape from the unpleasant news of the war.

The editors are still skeptical, they had no way of knowing at the time that this bit of frivolity.

This has passed through the hands of only four crossword editors in 77 years. It further became the stalwart gold standard of the puzzle making industry.

Well, that was only the starting point. Next, we will be talking about 2010.

How the Puzzles Have Changed Ever Since

Over the years, the puzzles have become more interesting. The level of difficulty has also increased. The crosswords have picked up considerable steam over the years, culminating in a dizzying number of changes and additions over the past decade.

Here is a brief:

  • There have been new ideas on presenting puzzles online, including one that you had to print out. There has also been a popular magical celebrity crossword by Neil Patrick Harris and David Steinberg. In this puzzle, when you solved online, the revealer disappeared.
  • New crossword constructor Joel Fagliano and Sam Ezersky were added to Will Shortz’s team. They were the ones who brought new perspectives to the puzzle entries and clues.
  • The Crosswords team has been expanded to approximately 40 extremely talented people. It not only included creators and editors but also developers, game designers, art directors, quality assurance engineers, product managers, marketers, customer care representatives, and social media strategists.
  • You will agree that there has been an incredible improvement in the online solving experience.
  • Further, the development of iOS and Android apps has allowed solvers to solve on the go.
  • Then there was the evolution of Wordplay, from the original crossword forums before the 2010s. The NYT times introduced a helpful blog that began in 2008. This was under the auspices of Jim Horne and Patrick Merrell. In this daily column, new solvers could get help with solving, wring every drop of enjoyment out of the crosswords, gain confidence in the abilities and enjoy the company of a passionate community of like-minded people.
  •  Last but not least: there always have been plenty of new games to play!

What Solvers Have to Say

It is a fact the largest change to the New York Times Crossword has been Will Shortz’s tenure.

He came from The Times from Games magazine, and older solvers familiar with the Crossword before Mr. Shortz was the editor who recognized that his contribution to pop culture and vernacular made the Crossword more interesting.

“I have known each of the Times crossword editors and I have enjoyed each of their individual styles, but I think that Will Shortz edits and publishes the most interesting ones,” said Miriam Raphael of Rye, N.Y., a nonagenarian who is still competing at crossword tournaments like the  ACPT.

Crossword puzzles are more interesting as they require less dictionary-type knowledge and more creative thinking.

It can, however, be a challenge to keep up, solvers feel Will Shortz’s creativity and editing to Will Weng’s puzzles.

There are many who seem to know less and less about pop culture. Although it feels good to stay “current.”

What strikes many the most is the embrace of vernacular. They love the conversational long answers.

The clues and answers are often so timely. They love being up-to-date with the latest slang and rap stars.


The Crossword welcomes new, younger, and more diverse solvers. Solvers like clues and fill are skewing to younger and more diverse solvers.

You can see more puzzles created by women and people of color, although there is still progress to be made in this area.

And the New York Times Crossword is not just for iPhone owners. Will, the cluing these days is stronger, the wordplay funnier and there are many fewer ‘N.Y.C. residents only need to apply’ clues.

Technological Advances Make the Puzzle More Accessible

Digital solving brings in more solvers, allowing for themes to be implemented visually and makes keeping up with the puzzle easier for even veteran solvers.

In addition to this, the vocabulary has been enhanced.  Puzzles have also helped in memory retention.

The most significant changes that have been noticed have been around technology and making the crossword more approachable to different people.

Solvers love that they can solve the puzzle while switching between all of my devices. You can be on my phone for a Monday puzzle but move to my iPad for the larger Sunday puzzle.

 There are many who can try any puzzle any day. The Wordplay blog plus the app have made it more accessible.

Everything is always interesting and entertaining, This has introduced solvers to new facts, events, and music that people go on to explore.”

Diving Into the Week

It’s gratifying to know how beginners turned into regular solvers of harder crosswords.

Who Made My Puzzle?

New York Times has also brought the crossword constructors forefront.

Many players have never noticed about the ones who actually created puzzles and this is a truth. But “Who made my puzzle” is something that helps to showcase the struggles, interest, and the complete journey of the puzzle makers.

Knowing about them definitely helps in enhancing the solving experiences for every solver and for the ones who are interested in becoming constructors.”

Also, a few crossword lovers have noticed and understood the different styles of puzzle makers.

It’s Not Cheating, It’s Learning

In crossword, if you look up for hints, it is not called “cheating” as long as solvers are learning something.

Many crossword solvers look for things online when they are completely stuck. And that’s absolutely okay.

NYT puzzles have set a standard for online puzzles. Every crossword puzzle app looks up to them.

We hope you liked the story. 

Happy solving, have fun!

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