Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to the questions about the blog that I am asked most frequently:

This isn’t the puzzle in my paper! What should I do?

Your newspaper probably publishes the syndicated New York Times crossword, whereas I work on the crossword published in the actual New York Times. Don’t worry, you can find a link to the solution to today’s syndicated New York Times crossword just below the solved grid for today’s puzzle in the New York Times newspaper. Just click on it. There are also links to recent syndicated puzzles in the pull-down menu (when accessing on a smartphone) or at the left side of the page (when accessing on a laptop/desktop). If that doesn’t work, check out “How do I find your solution to my crossword?”

On Monday through Saturday, the syndicated crossword is actually the puzzle published in the New York Times five weeks earlier, and on Sunday, it is the puzzle from the previous weekend.

How do I find your solution to my crossword?

There are a number of ways to find your crossword:

  1. The links in each day’s post should get you to today’s puzzle in the New York Times, and to the syndicated puzzle that’s published in all other papers.
  2. Each New York Times crossword has a 4-digit reference number, which most papers publish. You can enter this number in the search box that’s available in each page of the blog. This number is the month and date of original publication in the New York Times (MMDD). Unfortunately, the New York Times does not include the year, so this number repeats annually. You will get more than one crossword listed in the search results, but it’s easy to find which one you need. To help, I add the year (MMDD-YY) to the puzzle number when I publish it on the blog
  3. You can search by date using the search box that’s available in each page of the blog. Best results are obtained using the date format DD MMM YY, e.g. 12 Dec 10. Remember, when you find the post for a particular date, you will need to click on the syndicated link if you are doing the crossword in a publication other than the New York Times itself.
  4. Sometimes newspapers drop the reference number or publish a crossword on the “wrong day”, but you can still find your puzzle. Type the wording of a couple of distinctive clues in the search box that’s available in each page of the blog. This will pull up a shortlist of crosswords with those clues. Yours should be on that list.

What is the syndicated crossword?

The syndicated crossword is the New York Times puzzle that is published in publications other than the New York Times. The Times has an arrangement with other papers allowing them to use older New York Times crosswords. So, if you are doing a Monday-Saturday New York Times Crossword in your local paper, the crossword you are seeing was published 5 weeks earlier in the New York Times itself. The Sunday crossword in your local paper was published the week earlier in the New York Times. I include a link to today’s syndicated New York Times crossword along with my commentary on today’s crossword that was published in the New York Times itself.

How do I get picture/avatar to appear beside my comments?

This blog is published using WordPress. The most common avatars used across the WordPress universe are called “gravatars” (Globally Recognized Avatars). You can sign up for your own gravatar at Gravatar.com. You’ll be asked create a free account with Gravatar, and then you can upload an image to associate with the email account that you provide. Once you’ve signed up, just use that email address when leaving a comment here at LAXCrossword.com. The email address won’t be published, but your Gravatar will appear beside all of your comments.

My newspaper doesn’t publish the crossword’s title or theme. Why not?

Only the Sunday puzzles are given a title. I add a title to the Monday-Saturday puzzles myself. I started this practice a few years ago, and then tried to stop the practice when I realized that it was causing some confusion. I started adding a title again at the request of several blog readers. They sometimes use the title as a hint, should they need one.

How do you solve the puzzle so quickly?

It is true that I sometimes solve the puzzle quite rapidly, relative to a few years ago before I started this blog. However, my times are extremely pedestrian compared to many expert solvers (who can solve Monday puzzles in 2-3 minutes!). Also, I am solving on a computer. I find that typing in answers is quicker than writing in pencil, and there’s often no need to check my work because I get a “Congratulations!” message if I’ve made no mistakes.

How are you so quick, publishing your solution before I even get my newspaper?!

I solve the New York Times crossword online. The crossword is published online a few hours before it appears in the print edition. I usually do the puzzle late in the evening, just before I head for bed.

How long does it take you write up each puzzle?

After I’ve finished the crossword (hopefully I’ve managed to finish!), I take about an hour to do lookups and write up things that I hope will be of interest. It takes about another fifteen minutes to format and publish everything. I take about twice that time for the large Sunday crossword. Although the Blog is all my own original work, I do copy and paste from previous posts where it makes sense. I mean, how much original material can one write about OREO cookies?!

If you get only one letter wrong, why do you say you have two errors?

I tend to be hard on myself, I admit. I have two clues to help me with every letter in the grid, one in the across-direction and one in the down-direction. If I get a letter wrong, I reckon that I’ve missed two opportunities to solve correctly, so that’s two errors in my eyes.

I sometimes have to resort to looking up something in order to finish the puzzle. Is this cheating?

I don’t think that there are any rules that define “cheating” when solving a crossword.
Because I share my own solving experience here on line, I have created some rules for myself, but they’re my rules. I work the puzzle for a maximum of one hour, during which time I use no external references. I record the solving time, or if necessary, I record a “did not finish” on the blog. After declaring a “did not finish”, I then use my laptop to to help me with one clue, hoping that will be enough to get me solving again. If I have to, I’ll use the laptop again, seeking help with a second clue.

Can you contact the crossword constructor or editor for me?

No, I really cannot. Although I’ve been contacted by a handful of constructors over the years, I really don’t know many people in the world of crossword publishing. This is a personal blog, and there is no affiliation with the New York Times. I’m just a regular solver who writes about the puzzle each day as a retirement hobby.

Isn’t the clue about the Academy Award wrong, giving the wrong year/the wrong winner?

Readers of this blog have a real talent for spotting errors in puzzles, and every so often catch something that has gotten past the constructor, test solvers, fact checkers and editors. However, the apparent error that is most often brought up in discussion after solving is “That’s the wrong Oscar winner for that year!” Almost always, the clue is correct. The problem is that the Academy Award given for a particular year’s film is presented at an awards ceremony in the following year. For example, Sidney Poitier won the 1963 Best Actor Oscar for his performance in the 1963 movie “Lilies of the Field”, in an awards ceremony held in 1964.

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