Show Random September 18, 2011
Secrets of the NYT Crossword Puzzle

Stuck on the answer for 34-down? Perhaps you should take a break from the Sunday puzzle; over at The Atlantic there's a fascinating as-told-by post from New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz, who explains his editing process by showing the actual edits and notes he made on a puzzle-maker's first draft submission.


From the Atlantic story:

"Every crossword in the Times is a collaboration between the puzzle-maker and the puzzle editor. On average, about half the clues are mine. I may edit as few as five or ten percent of the clues, or as many as 95 percent for someone who does a great puzzle but not great clues. Why accept a puzzle when I'm going to edit 95 percent of the clues? Well, if someone sends me a great puzzle with an excellent theme and construction--you want fresh, interesting, familiar vocabulary throughout the grid--I feel it would be a shame to reject it on account of the clues, because I can always change them myself."

Some of Shortz's changes are minor - spellings and the like - but the majority are substantive and stylistic decisions that regular puzzlers will recognize as distinctly Times:

"Her clue for 1 Across was simply "Coach Ewbank"--perfectly fine--but I thought there would be some solvers who didn't know who Ewbank is, so I added the words "who led the Jets to a Super Bowl III Championship." That way, if you don't know the name, you'll learn something."

For more insights like the one above, the entire article is worth a read. But if you don't have time because you want to get back to 34-down, we'll leave you with the trailer for the 2006 documentary about Will Shortz, Wordplay.



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