Clue: A hint that the solver must interpret to find the answer.
Constructor: The person who devises a theme, designs a crossword grid, fills the grid and writes the clues. Sometimes called a writer, cruciverbalist, compiler or setter.
Crossing: The intersection between an Across and a Down entry. A difficult or obscure word ideally is always crossed by more "gettable" entries so that the solver doesn't get stuck on one impossible square.
Cross-reference: Sometimes two clues are linked to each other; e.g., 14-Across's clue might read [With 29-Down, iconic young actor], and 29-Down's clue would be [See 14-Across], with the answers being JAMES and DEAN.
Crosswordese: The definition of crosswordese is fluid. Traditionally, the word applied to obscure words like PTAH or a little-known tropical tree name. Some people use it to describe the short words and names composed of common letters that pop up far more frequently in crosswords than in daily discourse. Examples include OONA, ORT and ESNE.
Crossword puzzle: In this book, crossword puzzle refers to standard American-style puzzles.
Cryptic crossword puzzle: Cryptic crosswords make up a small portion of American crosswords, but are the primary crossword type in the United Kingdom. Cryptics involve anagramming, hidden words, reversals, homophones, letter deletions and other forms of wordplay. The New York Times Magazine includes about six cryptic puzzles a year, printed below the regular Sunday crossword.
Diagramless crossword puzzle: A diagramless crossword grid is Blank, requiring the solver to deduce the location of all the Black squares. General rules governing symmetry, fill and Cluing apply, though diagramless puzzles typically have many more black squares. The New York Times Magazine includes one of these about nine times a year, printed beneath the regular Sunday crossword.
Editor: The person who selects crosswords for publication, edits clues to comply with house style, accuracy and the intended level of difficulty, and polishes the fill as needed.
Entry: Any answer that's written in a crossword grid.
Fill: The general term for the words and phrases that fill a crossword grid. Entries that are not part of a theme are referred to as fill entries.
Fill-in-the-blank: A clue that contains a blank space, for which the answer is the word that occupies that space (e.g., ["Many years ___"] for AGO).
Gimme: Any answer a solver knows instantly. An opera buff's Gimmes: may differ from a basketball fan's.
Grid: The diagram of black and white squares. Most daily puzzles are 15¥15 squares; most Sunday puzzles, 21¥21.
Partial: At times, two words that cannot stand alone are used in the grid. The clue for a partial may be a fill-in-the-Blank: (e.g., [Take ___ (suffer loss)] for A HIT) or something like [Break or time follower] for OF DAY. In The New York Times, partials generally do not exceed five letters.
Rebus: In New York Times crossword circles, "rebus" can mean not only a crossword square occupied by a little picture (say, a triangle or bell) or symbol (such as @ replacing the letters AT), but also any sequence of letters that fill a single square.
Solver: A crossword consumer. Solvers may work alone or with others. Use of reference books and online resources is a matter of personal preference.
Symmetry: Standard crosswords have 180° rotational symmetry, though occasionally left/right symmetry is used.
Theme: A crossword theme consists of several longer entries that have something in common with one another.
Themeless: A crossword with no theme entries is called themeless. In The New York Times, most Friday and Saturday crosswords are themeless.
Triple-stack: In some themeless puzzles, three 15-letter entries that span the entire grid from left to right or top to bottom are stacked together. Crosswords with triple-stacks are difficult to construct but often easier to solve than other themeless puzzles.
Understanding Crossword Themes
Most New York Times crosswords feature a theme (Friday and Saturday puzzles are generally themeless). Crossword constructors devise many creative new ideas for puzzles, but often they call upon several basic theme varieties. The more common types of themes include the following:
categories--The theme entries are phrases or words that have something in common. These might include colloquial phrases that mean the same thing, phrases that can all be defined by the same clue, phrases that start or end with a related set of words, puns that change a word's pronunciation so that all the theme entries have related puns, and more.
commemorative--These themes may mark a notable person's birthday, the anniversary of an important event, a holiday or current events. A commemorative crossword may also honor a celebrity who has recently passed away.
gimmicks--Gimmicks include twists on the usual conventions of crosswords. They may have rebus squares (see below), the theme entries may run backwards or upwards, certain squares may be left blank, or some words may extend outside the grid. In The New York Times, you'll generally see gimmicks on Thursdays and Sundays more than the other days of the week.
letter restriction--A puzzle with a letter-restriction gimmick uses only certain letters of the alphabet--e.g., the only vowel used is E, the letter B is absent from the grid (and clues), only the letters from the left side of a standard keyboard are used, or only the letters in a certain phrase (e.g., CHRISTMAS CAROL) are used.
pattern matching--Theme phrases may share a certain letter pattern. A puzzle with a FIND THE LOST DOGS theme included WATER OVER THE BRIDGE, which has a hidden dog name (ROVER) embedded within it; several other dog names were hidden in the other entries. Other pattern-matching themes may contain the same hidden word or letters in each theme entry. Another pattern-matching puzzle contained famous people whose initials were also academic degrees (e.g., PHIL DONAHUE for Ph.D.).
quote/quip--A quotation or joke is broken into symmetrical pieces; the author's name may also appear in the theme.
rebus--In a crossword with a rebus gimmick, rebus squares contain a picture (face, square, etc.), multiple letters (such as the word UP), numerals (sometimes using the letters in the number's name, such as ONE) or symbols (#, +) instead of the standard single letter.
word transformation--This variety of theme may rely on anagramming, word reversals, or adding, removing or changing a letter (or letters) to create theme entries.
Copyright © 2007 by The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.