A crossword is a word puzzle that usually takes the form of a square or a rectangular grid of white-and black-shaded squares. The game's goal is to fill the white squares with letters, forming words or phrases, by solving clues, which lead to the answers. In languages that are written left-to-right, the answer words and phrases are placed in the grid from left to right and from top to bottom. The shaded squares are used to separate the words or phrases.
Crossword grids such as those appearing in most North American newspapers and magazines feature solid areas of white squares. Every letter is checked (i.e. is part of both an "across" word and a "down" word) and usually each answer must contain at least three letters. In such puzzles shaded squares are typically limited to about one-sixth of the total. Crossword grids elsewhere, such as in Britain, South Africa, India and Australia, have a lattice-like structure, with a higher percentage of shaded squares (around 25%), leaving about half the letters in an answer unchecked. For example, if the top row has an answer running all the way across, there will often be no across answers in the second row.
Another tradition in puzzle design (in North America, India, and Britain particularly) is that the grid should have 180-degree rotational (also known as "radial") symmetry, so that its pattern appears the same if the paper is turned upside down. Most puzzle designs also require that all white cells be orthogonally contiguous (that is, connected in one mass through shared sides, to form a single polyomino).
The design of Japanese crossword grids often follows two additional rules: that shaded cells may not share a side (i.e. they may not be orthogonally contiguous) and that the corner squares must be white.
The "Swedish-style" grid (picture crosswords) uses no clue numbers, as the clues are contained in the cells which do not contain answers. Arrows indicate in which direction the clues have to be answered: vertical or horizontal. This style of grid is also used in several countries other than Sweden, often in magazines, but also in daily newspapers. The grid often has one or more photos replacing a block of squares as a clue to one or several answers, for example, the name of a pop star, or some kind of rhyme or phrase that can be associated with the photo. These puzzles usually have no symmetry in the grid but instead often have a common theme (literature, music, nature, geography, events of a special year, etc.)
Substantial variants from the usual forms exist. Two of the common ones are barred crosswords, which use bold lines between squares (instead of shaded squares) to separate answers, and circular designs, with answers entered either radially or in concentric circles. "Free form" crosswords ("criss-cross" puzzles), which have simple, asymmetric designs, are often seen on school worksheets, children's menus, and other entertainment for children. Grids forming shapes other than squares are also occasionally used.
Puzzles are often one of several standard sizes. For example, many weekday newspaper puzzles (such as the American New York Times crossword puzzle) are 15×15 squares, while weekend puzzles may be 21×21, 23×23, or 25×25. The New York Times puzzles also set a common pattern for American crosswords by increasing in difficulty throughout the week: their Monday puzzles are the easiest and the puzzles get harder each day until Saturday. Their larger Sunday puzzle is about the same level of difficulty as a weekday-size Thursday puzzle. This has led U.S. solvers to use the day of the week as a shorthand when describing how hard a puzzle is: e.g. an easy puzzle may be referred to as a "Monday" or a "Tuesday", a medium-difficulty puzzle as a "Wednesday", and a truly difficult puzzle as a "Saturday". One of the smallest crosswords in general distribution is a 4×4 crossword compiled daily by John Wilmes, distributed online by USA Today as "QuickCross" and by Universal Uclick as "PlayFour".
Typically clues appear outside the grid, divided into an Across list and a Down list; the first cell of each entry contains a number referenced by the clue lists. For example, the answer to a clue labeled "17 Down" is entered with the first letter in the cell numbered "17", proceeding down from there. Numbers are almost never repeated; numbered cells are numbered consecutively, usually from left to right across each row, starting with the top row and proceeding downward. Some Japanese crosswords are numbered from top to bottom down each column, starting with the leftmost column and proceeding right.
Capitalization of answer letters is conventionally ignored; crossword puzzles are typically filled in, and their answer sheets are almost universally published, in all caps, except in the rare cases of ambigrams. This ensures a proper name can have its initial capital letter checked with a non-capitalizable letter in the intersecting clue. Diacritical markings in foreign loanwords (or foreign-language words appearing in English-language puzzles) are ignored for similar reasons.
Some crossword clues, called straight or quick clues, are simple definitions of the answers. Some clues may feature anagrams, and these are usually explicitly described as such. Often, a straight clue is not in itself sufficient to distinguish between several possible answers, either because multiple synonymous answers may fit or because the clue itself is a homonym (e.g., "Lead" as in to be ahead in a contest or "Lead" as in the element), so the solver must make use of checks to establish the correct answer with certainty. For example, the answer to the clue "PC key" for a three-letter answer could be ESC, ALT, TAB, DEL, or INS, so until a check is filled in, giving at least one of the letters, the correct answer cannot be determined.
In most American-style crosswords, the majority of the clues in the puzzle are straight clues, with the remainder being one of the other types described below.
Crossword clues are generally consistent with the solutions. For instance, clues and their solutions should always agree in tense, number, and degree. If a clue is in the past tense, so is the answer: thus "Traveled on horseback" would be a valid clue for the solution RODE, but not for RIDE. Similarly, "Family members" would be a valid clue for AUNTS but not UNCLE, while "More joyful" could clue HAPPIER but not HAPPIEST.
Some clue examples:
In the hands of any but the most skilled constructors, the constraints of the American-style grid (in which every letter is checked) usually require a fair number of answers not to be dictionary words. As a result, the following ways to clue abbreviations and other non-words, although they can be found in "straight" British crosswords, are much more common in American ones:
Many American crossword puzzles feature a "theme" consisting of a number of long entries (generally three to five in a standard 15×15-square "weekday-size" puzzle) that share some relationship, type of pun, or other element in common. As an example, the New York Times crossword of April 26, 2005 by Sarah Keller, edited by Will Shortz, featured five themed entries ending in the different parts of a tree: SQUAREROOT, TABLELEAF, WARDROBETRUNK, BRAINSTEM, and BANKBRANCH.
The above is an example of a category theme, where the theme elements are all members of the same set. Other types of themes include:
The Simon & Schuster Crossword Puzzle Series has published many unusual themed crosswords. "Rosetta Stone", by Sam Bellotto Jr., incorporates a Caesar cipher cryptogram as the theme; the key to breaking the cipher is the answer to 1 Across. Another unusual theme requires the solver to use the answer to a clue as another clue. The answer to that clue is the real solution.
Many puzzles feature clues involving wordplay which are to be taken metaphorically or in some sense other than their literal meaning, requiring some form of lateral thinking. Depending on the puzzle creator or the editor, this might be represented either with a question mark at the end of the clue or with a modifier such as "maybe" or "perhaps". In more difficult puzzles, the indicator may be omitted, increasing ambiguity between a literal meaning and a wordplay meaning. Examples:
In cryptic crosswords, the clues are puzzles in themselves. A typical clue contains both a definition at the beginning or end of the clue and wordplay, which provides a way to manufacture the word indicated by the definition, and which may not parse logically. Cryptics usually give the length of their answers in parentheses after the clue, which is especially useful with multi-word answers. Certain signs indicate different forms of wordplay. Solving cryptics is harder to learn than standard crosswords, as learning to interpret the different types of cryptic clues can take some practice. In Great Britain and throughout much of the Commonwealth, cryptics of varying degrees of difficulty are featured in many newspapers.
There are several types of wordplay used in cryptics. One is straightforward definition substitution using parts of a word. For example, in one puzzle by Mel Taub, the answer IMPORTANT is given the clue "To bring worker into the country may prove significant". The explanation is that to import means "to bring into the country", the "worker" is a worker ant, and "significant" means important. Here, "significant" is the straight definition (appearing here at the end of the clue), "to bring worker into the country" is the wordplay definition, and "may prove" serves to link the two. Note that in a cryptic clue, there is almost always only one answer that fits both the definition and the wordplay, so that when one sees the answer, one knows that it is the right answer—although it can sometimes be a challenge to figure out why it is the right answer. A good cryptic clue should provide a fair and exact definition of the answer, while at the same time being deliberately misleading.
Another type of wordplay used in cryptics is the use of homophones. For example, the clue "A few, we hear, add up (3)" is the clue for SUM. The straight definition is "add up", meaning "totalize". The solver must guess that "we hear" indicates a homophone, and so a homophone of a synonym of "A few" ("some") is the answer. Other words relating to sound or hearing can be used to signal the presence of a homophone clue (e.g., "aloud", "audibly", "in conversation", etc.).
The double meaning is commonly used as another form of wordplay. For example, "Cat's tongue (7)" is solved by PERSIAN, since this is a type of cat, as well as a tongue, or language. This is the only type of cryptic clue without wordplay—both parts of the clue are a straight definition.
Cryptics often include anagrams, as well. The clue "Ned T.'s seal cooked is rather bland (5,4)" is solved by NEEDS SALT. The straight definition is "is rather bland", and the word "cooked" is a hint to the solver that this clue is an anagram (the letters have been "cooked", or jumbled up). Ignoring all punctuation, "Ned T.'s seal" is an anagram for NEEDS SALT. Besides "cooked", other common hints that the clue contains an anagram are words such as "scrambled", "mixed up", "confused", "baked", or "twisted".
Embedded words are another common trick in cryptics. The clue "Bigotry aside, I'd take him (9)" is solved by APARTHEID. The straight definition is "bigotry", and the wordplay explains itself, indicated by the word "take" (since one word "takes" another): "aside" means APART and I'd is simply ID, so APART and ID "take" HE (which is, in cryptic crossword usage, a perfectly good synonym for "him"). The answer could be elucidated as APART(HE)ID.
Another common clue type is the "hidden clue" or "container", where the answer is hidden in the text of the clue itself. For example, "Made a dug-out, buried, and passed away (4)" is solved by DEAD. The answer is written in the clue: "maDE A Dug-out". "Buried" indicates that the answer is embedded within the clue.
There are numerous other forms of wordplay found in cryptic clues. Backwards words can be indicated by words like "climbing", "retreating", or "ascending" (depending on whether it is an across clue or a down clue) or by directional indicators such as "going North" (meaning upwards) or "West" (right-to-left); letters can be replaced or removed with indicators such as "nothing rather than excellence" (meaning replace E in a word with O); the letter I can be indicated by "me" or "one;" the letter O can be indicated by "nought", "nothing", "zero", or "a ring" (since it visually resembles one); the letter X might be clued as "a cross", or "ten" (as in the Roman numeral), or "an illiterate's signature", or "sounds like your old flame" (homophone for "ex"). "Senselessness" is solved by "e", because "e" is what remains after removing (less) "ness" from "sense".
With the different types of wordplay and definition possibilities, the composer of a cryptic puzzle is presented with many different possible ways to clue a given answer. Most desirable are clues that are clean but deceptive, with a smooth surface reading (that is, the resulting clue looks as natural a phrase as possible). The Usenet newsgroup rec.puzzles.crosswords has a number of clueing competitions where contestants all submit clues for the same word and a judge picks the best one.
In principle, each cryptic clue is usually sufficient to define its answer uniquely, so it should be possible to answer each clue without use of the grid. In practice, the use of checks is an important aid to the solver.
Some crossword designers have started including a metapuzzle, or "meta" for short: a second puzzle within the completed puzzle. After the player has correctly solved the crossword puzzle in the usual fashion, the solution forms the basis of a second puzzle. The designer usually includes a hint to the metapuzzle. For instance, the puzzle Eight Isn't Enough by Matt Gaffney gives the clue "This week's contest answer is a three-word phrase whose second word is 'or'." The crossword solution includes the entries "BROUGHT TO NAUGHT", "MIGHT MAKES RIGHT", "CAUGHT A STRAIGHT", and "HEIGHT AND WEIGHT", which are all three-word phrases with two words ending in -ght. The solution to the meta is a similar phrase in which the middle word is "or": "FIGHT OR FLIGHT".
Some puzzle grids contain more than one correct answer for the same set of clues. These are called Schrödinger or quantum puzzles, alluding to the Schrödinger's Cat thought experiment in quantum physics. At least ten Schrödinger puzzles have appeared in The New York Times since the late 1980s, and they have been published by independent constructors as well. The daily New York Times puzzle for November 5, 1996, by Jeremiah Farrell, had a clue for 39 Across that read "Lead story in tomorrow's newspaper, with 43 Across (!)." The answer for 43 Across was ELECTED; depending on the outcome of that day's Presidential Election, the answer for 39 Across would have been correct with either CLINTON or BOBDOLE, as would each of the corresponding Down answers. On September 1, 2016, the daily New York Times puzzle by Ben Tausig had four squares which led to correct answers reading both across and down if solvers entered either "M" or "F." The puzzle's theme, GENDERFLUID, was revealed at 37 Across in the center of the puzzle: "Having a variable identity, as suggested by four squares in this puzzle."
In the 'Quick' crossword in The Daily Telegraph newspaper (Sunday and Daily, UK), it has become a convention also to make the first few words (usually two or three, but can be more) into a phrase. For example, "Dimmer, Allies" would make "Demoralise" or "You, ill, never, walk, alone" would become "You'll never walk alone". This generally aids solvers in that if they have one of the words then they can attempt to guess the phrase. This has also become popular among other British newspapers.
Sometimes newspapers publish one grid that can be filled by solving either of two lists of clues – usually a straight and a cryptic. The solutions given by the two lists may be different, in which case the solver must decide at the outset which list they are going to follow, or the solutions may be identical, in which case the straight clues offer additional help for a solver having difficulty with the cryptic clues. For example, the solution APARTHEID might be clued as "Bigotry aside, I'd take him (9)" in the cryptic list, and "Racial separation (9)" in the straight list. Usually the straight clue matches the straight part of the cryptic clue, but this is not necessarily the case.
Every issue of GAMES Magazine contains a large crossword with a double clue list, under the title The World's Most Ornery Crossword; both lists are straight and arrive at the same solution, but one list is significantly more challenging than the other. The solver is prompted to fold a page in half, showing the grid and the hard clues; the easy clues are tucked inside the fold, to be referenced if the solver gets stuck.
A variant of the double-clue list is commonly called Siamese Twins: two matching grids are provided, and the two clue lists are merged such that the two clues for each entry are displayed together in random order. Determining which clue is to be applied to which grid is part of the puzzle.
Any type of puzzle may contain cross-references, where the answer to one clue forms part of another clue, in which it is referred to by number and direction. E.g., a puzzle might have 1-Across clued as "Central character in The Lord of the Rings" = FRODO, with 17-Down clued as "Precious object for 1-Across" = RING.
When an answer is composed of multiple or hyphenated words, some crosswords (especially in Britain) indicate the structure of the answer. For example, "(3,5)" after a clue indicates that the answer is composed of a three-letter word followed by a five-letter word. Most American-style crosswords do not provide this information.
These are common crossword variants that vary more from a regular crossword than just an unusual grid shape or unusual clues; these crossword variants may be based on different solving principles and require a different solving skill set.
Cipher crosswords were invented in Germany in the 19th century. Published under various trade names (including Code Breakers, Code Crackers, and Kaidoku), and not to be confused with cryptic crosswords (ciphertext puzzles are commonly known as cryptograms), a cipher crossword replaces the clues for each entry with clues for each white cell of the grid – an integer from 1 to 26 inclusive is printed in the corner of each. The objective, as any other crossword, is to determine the proper letter for each cell; in a cipher crossword, the 26 numbers serve as a cipher for those letters: cells that share matching numbers are filled with matching letters, and no two numbers stand for the same letter. All resultant entries must be valid words. Usually, at least one number's letter is given at the outset. English-language cipher crosswords are nearly always pangrammatic (all letters of the alphabet appear in the solution). As these puzzles are closer to codes than quizzes, they require a different skillset; many basic cryptographic techniques, such as determining likely vowels, are key to solving these. Given their pangrammaticity, a frequent start point is locating where 'Q' and 'U' must appear.
In a diagramless crossword, often called a diagramless for short or, in the UK, a skeleton crossword or carte blanche, the grid offers overall dimensions, but the locations of most of the clue numbers and shaded squares are unspecified. A solver must deduce not only the answers to individual clues, but how to fit together partially built-up clumps of answers into larger clumps with properly set shaded squares. Some of these puzzles follow the traditional symmetry rule, others have left-right mirror symmetry, and others have greater levels of symmetry or outlines suggesting other shapes. If the symmetry of the grid is given, the solver can use it to his/her advantage.
A variation is the Blankout puzzle in the Daily Mail Weekend magazine. The clues are not individually numbered, but given in terms of the rows and columns of the grid, which has rectangular symmetry. The list of clues gives hints of the locations of some of the shaded squares even before one starts solving them, e.g. there must be a shaded square where a row having no clues intersects a column having no clues.
A fill-in crossword (also known as crusadex or cruzadex) features a grid and the full list of words to be entered in that grid, but does not give explicit clues for where each word goes. The challenge is figuring out how to integrate the list of words together within the grid so that all intersections of words are valid. Fill-in crosswords may often have longer word length than regular crosswords to make the crossword easier to solve, and symmetry is often disregarded. Fitting together several long words is easier than fitting together several short words because there are fewer possibilities for how the long words intersect together. These types of crosswords are also used to demonstrate artificial intelligence abilities, such as finding solutions to the puzzle based on a set of determined constraints.
A crossnumber (also known as a cross-figure) is the numerical analogy of a crossword, in which the solutions to the clues are numbers instead of words. Clues are usually arithmetical expressions, but can also be general knowledge clues to which the answer is a number or year. There are also numerical fill-in crosswords.
The Daily Mail Weekend magazine used to feature crossnumbers under the misnomer Number Word. This kind of puzzle should not be confused with a different puzzle that the Daily Mail refers to as Cross Number.
An acrostic is a type of word puzzle, in eponymous acrostic form, that typically consists of two parts. The first is a set of lettered clues, each of which has numbered blanks representing the letters of the answer. The second part is a long series of numbered blanks and spaces, representing a quotation or other text, into which the answers for the clues fit. In most forms of the puzzle, the first letters of each correct clue answer, read in order from clue A on down the list, will spell out the author of the quote and the title of the work it is taken from; this can be used as an additional solving aid.
The arroword is a variant of a crossword that does not have as many black squares as a true crossword, but has arrows inside the grid, with clues preceding the arrows. It has been called the most popular word puzzle in many European countries, and is often called the Scandinavian crossword, as it is believed to have originated in Sweden.
The title for the world's first crossword puzzle is disputed. Some such puzzles were included in The Stockton Bee (1793–1795), an ephemeral publication. The phrase "cross word puzzle" was first written in 1862 by Our Young Folks in the United States. Crossword-like puzzles, for example Double Diamond Puzzles, appeared in the magazine St. Nicholas, published since 1873. Another crossword puzzle appeared on September 14, 1890, in the Italian magazine Il Secolo Illustrato della Domenica. It was designed by Giuseppe Airoldi and titled "Per passare il tempo" ("To pass the time"). Airoldi's puzzle was a four-by-four grid with no shaded squares; it included horizontal and vertical clues.
Crosswords in England during the 19th century were of an elementary kind, apparently derived from the word square, a group of words arranged so the letters read alike vertically and horizontally, and printed in children's puzzle books and various periodicals.
On December 21, 1913, Arthur Wynne, a journalist from Liverpool, England, published a "word-cross" puzzle in the New York World that embodied most of the features of the genre as we know it. This puzzle is frequently cited as the first crossword puzzle, and Wynne as the inventor. Later, the name of the puzzle was changed to "crossword".
Although Eugene T. Maleska is usually credited with the first crossword phrase (as opposed to a single word) in The New York Times, an 1862 puzzle in the Lady's Book had phrases that are considered modern, such as the expression "I did it".
Crossword puzzles became a regular weekly feature in the World, and spread to other newspapers; the Pittsburgh Press, for example, was publishing them at least as early as 1916 and The Boston Globe by 1917.
By the 1920s, the crossword phenomenon was starting to attract notice. In October 1922, newspapers published a comic strip by Clare Briggs entitled "Movie of a Man Doing the Cross-Word Puzzle," with an enthusiast muttering "87 across 'Northern Sea Bird'!!??!?!!? Hm-m-m starts with an 'M', second letter is 'U'... I'll look up all the words starting with an 'M-U...' mus-musi-mur-murd—Hot Dog! Here 'tis! Murre!" In 1923 a humorous squib in The Boston Globe has a wife ordering her husband to run out and "rescue the papers... the part I want is blowing down the street." "What is it you're so keen about?" "The Cross-Word Puzzle. Hurry, please, that's a good boy." In The New Yorker's first issue, released in 1925, the "Jottings About Town" section wrote, "Judging from the number of solvers in the subway and "L" trains, the crossword puzzle bids fair to become a fad with New Yorkers."  In 1925, the New York Public Library reported that "The latest craze to strike libraries is the crossword puzzle," and complained that when "the puzzle 'fans' swarm to the dictionaries and encyclopedias so as to drive away readers and students who need these books in their daily work, can there be any doubt of the Library's duty to protect its legitimate readers?"
The first book of crossword puzzles appeared in 1924, published by Simon & Schuster. "This odd-looking book with a pencil attached to it" was an instant hit and crossword puzzles became the craze of 1924.
The crossword puzzle fad received extensive attention, not all of it positive: In 1924, The New York Times complained of the "sinful waste in the utterly futile finding of words the letters of which will fit into a prearranged pattern, more or less complex. This is not a game at all, and it hardly can be called a sport... [solvers] get nothing out of it except a primitive form of mental exercise, and success or failure in any given attempt is equally irrelevant to mental development." A clergyman called the working of crossword puzzles "the mark of a childish mentality" and said, "There is no use for persons to pretend that working one of the puzzles carries any intellectual value with it.". However, another wrote a complete "Bible Cross-Word Puzzle Book". Also in 1925, Time Magazine noted that nine Manhattan dailies and fourteen other big newspapers were carrying crosswords, and quoted opposing views as to whether "This crossword craze will positively end by June!" or "The crossword puzzle is here to stay!" In 1925, The New York Times noted, with approval, a scathing critique of crosswords by The New Republic; but concluded that "Fortunately, the question of whether the puzzles are beneficial or harmful is in no urgent need of an answer. The craze evidently is dying out fast and in a few months it will be forgotten." and in 1929 declared, "The cross-word puzzle, it seems, has gone the way of all fads...." In 1930, a correspondent noted that "Together with The Times of London, yours is the only journal of prominence that has never succumbed to the lure of the cross-word puzzle" and said that "The craze—the fad—stage has passed, but there are still people numbering it to the millions who look for their daily cross-word puzzle as regularly as for the weather predictions." The New York Times, however, was not to publish a crossword puzzle until 1942; today, the Times puzzle is one of the most popular in the country.
Today, there are many popular crosswords distributed in American newspapers and online. The most prestigious (and among the most difficult to solve) are the New York Times puzzles. The first editor of the New York Times crossword was Margaret Farrar, who was editor from 1942 to 1969. She was succeeded by Will Weng, who was succeeded by Eugene T. Maleska. Since 1993, they have been edited by Will Shortz, the fourth crossword editor in Times. In 1978 Shortz founded and still directs the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.
Simon & Schuster continues to publish the Crossword Puzzle Book Series books that it began in 1924, currently under the editorship of John M. Samson. The original series ended in 2007 after 258 volumes. Since 2008, these books are now in the Mega series, appearing three times per year and each featuring 300 puzzles.
The British cryptic crossword was imported to the US in 1968 by composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim in New York magazine. Until 2006, The Atlantic Monthly regularly featured a cryptic crossword "puzzler" by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, which combines cryptic clues with diabolically ingenious variations on the construction of the puzzle itself. In both cases, no two puzzles are alike in construction, and the intent of the puzzle authors is to entertain with novelty, not to establish new variations of the crossword genre.
In the United Kingdom, the Sunday Express was the first newspaper to publish a crossword on November 2, 1924, a Wynne puzzle adapted for the UK. The first crossword in Britain, according to Tony Augarde in his Oxford Guide to Word Games (1984), was in Pearson's Magazine for February 1922.
In 1944, Allied security officers were disturbed by the appearance, in a series of crosswords in The Daily Telegraph, of words that were secret code names for military operations planned as part of Operation Overlord.
According to Guinness World Records, May 15, 2007, the most prolific crossword compiler is Roger Squires of Ironbridge, Shropshire, UK. On May 14, 2007, he published his 66,666th crossword, equivalent to 2 million clues. He is one of only four setters to have provided cryptic puzzles to The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, the Financial Times and The Independent. He also holds the record for the longest word ever used in a published crossword – the 58-letter Welsh town Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch clued as an anagram.
Women editors such as Margaret Farrar were influential in the first few decades of puzzle-making, and women constructors such as Bernice Gordon and Elizabeth Gorski have each contributed hundreds of puzzles to The New York Times. However, in recent years the number of women constructors has declined, and crossword editors at most major papers are all male. During the years that Will Weng and Eugene Maleska edited the New York Times crossword (1969-1993), women constructors accounted for 35% of puzzles, while during the editorship of Will Shortz (1993–present), this percentage has gone down, with women constructors (including collaborations) accounting for only 15% of puzzles in both 2014 and 2015, 17% of puzzles published in 2016, 13% -- the lowest in the "Shortz Era" -- in 2017, and 16% in 2018. Several reasons have been given for the decline in women constructors. One explanation is that the gender imbalance in crossword construction is similar to that in related fields, such as journalism, and that more freelance male constructors than females submit puzzles on spec to The New York Times and other outlets. Another explanation is that computer-assisted construction and the increased influence of computational approaches in generating word lists may be making crossword construction more like STEM fields in which women are underrepresented for a number of factors. However, it has also been argued that this explanation risks propagating myths about gender and technology. Some have argued that the relative absence of women constructors and editors has had an influence on the content of the puzzles themselves, and that clues and entries can be insensitive regarding language related to gender and race. Several approaches have been suggested to develop more women in the field, including mentoring novice women constructors and encouraging women constructors to publish their puzzles independently.
In the spring of 2018, Patti Varol and Amy Reynoldo organized and edited a pack of 18 puzzles constructed by women called "Women of Letters". Inspired by this, Laura Braunstein and Tracy Bennett launched The Inkubator, a "twice-monthly subscription service that will publish crosswords constructed by cis women, trans women, and woman-aligned constructors." The Inkubator raised over $30,000 in its initial Kickstarter campaign, and began publishing puzzles on January 17, 2019.
From their origin in New York, crosswords have spread to many countries and languages. In languages other than English, the status of diacritics varies according to the orthography of the particular language, thus:
French-language crosswords are smaller than English-language ones, and not necessarily square: there are usually 8–13 rows and columns, totaling 81–130 squares. They need not be symmetric and two-letter words are allowed, unlike in most English-language puzzles. Compilers strive to minimize use of shaded squares. A black-square usage of 10% is typical; Georges Perec compiled many 9×9 grids for Le Point with four or even three black squares. Rather than numbering the individual clues, the rows and columns are numbered as on a chessboard. All clues for a given row or column are listed, against its number, as separate sentences. This is similar to the notation used in the aforementioned Daily Mail Blankout puzzles.
In Italy, crosswords are usually oblong and larger than French ones, 13×21 being a common size. As in France, they usually are not symmetrical; two-letter words are allowed; and the number of shaded squares is minimized. Nouns (including surnames) and the infinitive or past participle of verbs are allowed, as are abbreviations; in larger crosswords, it is customary to put at the center of the grid phrases made of two to four words, or forenames and surnames. A variant of Italian crosswords does not use shaded squares: words are delimited by thickening the grid. Another variant starts with a blank grid: the solver must insert both the answers and the shaded squares, and Across and Down clues are either ordered by row and column or not ordered at all.
Modern Hebrew is normally written with only the consonants; vowels are either understood, or entered as diacritical marks. This can lead to ambiguities in the entry of some words, and compilers generally specify that answers are to be entered in ktiv male (with some vowels) or ktiv haser (without vowels). Further, since Hebrew is written from right to left, but Roman numerals are used and written from left to right, there can be an ambiguity in the description of lengths of entries, particularly for multi-word phrases. Different compilers and publications use differing conventions for both of these issues.
In the Japanese language crossword; because of the writing system, one syllable (typically katakana) is entered into each white cell of the grid rather than one letter, resulting in the typical solving grid seeming small in comparison to those of other languages. Any second Yōon character is treated as a full syllable and is rarely written with a smaller character. Even cipher crosswords have a Japanese equivalent, although pangrammaticity does not apply. Crosswords with kanji to fill in are also produced, but in far smaller number as it takes far more effort to construct one. Despite Japanese having three writing forms, hiragana, katakana and kanji, they are rarely mixed in a single crossword puzzle.
A. N. Prahlada Rao, based in Bangalore, has composed/ constructed some 35,000 crossword puzzles in the language Kannada, including 7,500 crosswords based on films made in Kannada, with a total of 10,00,000 (ten lakhs, or one million) clues. His name has recorded in LIMCA BOOK OF RECORDS-2015 for creating highest crosswords in the Indian Regional Languages. His name has continued in the LIMCA BOOK OF RECORDS-2016 and 2017 also. A five volume set of his puzzles was released in February 2008 In 2013 two more crossword books released. In 2017 his 5 Crossword Books published. Bengali is also well known for its crossword puzzles. Crosswords are published regularly in almost all the Bengali dailies and periodicals. The grid system is quite similar to the British style and two-letter words are usually not allowed.
In Poland, crosswords typically use British-style grids, but some do not have shaded cells. Shaded cells are often replaced by boxes with clues – such crosswords are called Swedish puzzles or Swedish-style crosswords. In a vast majority of Polish crosswords, nouns are the only allowed words.
Swedish crosswords are mainly in the illustrated (photos or drawings), in-line clue style typical of the "Swedish-style grid" mentioned above. This tradition prospered already in the mid-1900s, in family magazines and sections of newspapers. Then the specialised magazines took off. Around the turn of the millennium, approximately half a dozen Swedish magazine publishers produced specialised crossword magazines, totaling more than twenty titles, often published on a monthly basis. The oldest extant crossword magazine published in Swedish is Krysset (from Bonnier), founded in 1957. Additionally, nearly all newspapers publish crosswords of some kind, and at weekends often devote specialised sections in the paper to crosswords and similar type of pastime material. Both major evening dailies (Aftonbladet and Expressen) publish a weekly crossword supplement, named Kryss & Quiz and Korsord respectively. Both are available as paid supplements on Mondays and Tuesdays, as part of the ongoing competition between the two newspapers.
In typical themed American-style crosswords, the theme is created first, as a set of symmetric long Across answers will be needed around which the grid can be created. Since the grid will typically have 180-degree rotational symmetry, the answers will need to be also: thus a typical 15×15 square American puzzle might have two 15-letter entries and two 13-letter entries that could be arranged appropriately in the grid (e.g., one 15-letter entry in the third row, and the other symmetrically in the 13th row; one 13-letter entry starting in the first square of the 6th row and the other ending in the last square of the 10th row). The theme must not only be funny or interesting, but also internally consistent. In the April 26, 2005 by Sarah Keller mentioned above, the five themed entries contained in the different parts of a tree: SQUAREROOT, TABLELEAF, WARDROBETRUNK, BRAINSTEM, and BANKBRANCH. In this puzzle, CHARTER OAK would not be an appropriate entry, as all the other entries contain different parts of a tree, not the name of a kind of tree. Similarly, FAMILY TREE would not be appropriate unless it were used as a revealer for the theme (frequently clued with a phrase along the lines "...and a hint to..."). Given the existing entries, SEED MONEY would also be unacceptable, as all the other theme entries end in the part of a tree as opposed to beginning with it, though the puzzle could certainly be changed to have a mix of words in different positions.
Once a consistent, appropriate theme has been chosen, a grid is designed around that theme, following a set of basic principles:
Crossword puzzle payments for standard 15×15 puzzles from the major outlets range from $50 (GAMES Magazine) to $300 (The New York Times) while payments for 21×21 puzzles range from $150 (Newsday) to $1,000 (The New York Times).
The compensation structure of crosswords generally entails authors selling all rights to their puzzles upon publication, and as a result receiving no royalties from republication of their work in books or other forms. This system has been criticized by American Values Club crossword editor Ben Tausig, among others.
In cryptics, as fewer of the letters are typically checked and as there is usually no theme, grid construction is far easier, and the constructor focuses instead on the difficult task of creating clues that contain a straight definition, a cryptic definition, and a "surface" meaning (each clue must parse as a phrase).
Software that aids in creating crossword puzzles has been written since at least 1976; one popular example was Crossword Magic for the Apple II in the 1980s. The earliest software relied on people to input a list of fill words and clues, and automatically maps the answers onto a suitable grid. This is a search problem in computer science because there are many possible arrangements to be checked against the rules of construction. Any given set of answers might have zero, one, or multiple legal arrangements.
In the late 1990s, the transition began from mostly hand-created arrangements to computer-assisted, which creators generally say has allowed authors to produce more interesting and creative puzzles, reducing crosswordese. Crossword Weaver was patented in 1997. Crossdown  and Crossword Compiler for Windows (which also handles sudoku) and Crossfire for MacOS are popular for this purpose.
Modern software includes large databases of clues and answers, allowing the computer to randomly select words for the puzzle, potentially with guidance from the user as to the theme or a specific set of words to pick with greater probability. Many serious users add words to the database as an expression of personal creativity or for use in a desired theme. Software can also be used to assist the user in finding words for a specific spot in an arrangement by quickly searching through the dictionary for all words that fit.
Web sites such as crosswordguru.com make such databases available for people to create or solve puzzles with computer assistance one clue at a time.
Originally Petherbridge called the two dimensions of the cross-word puzzle "Horizontal" and "Vertical". Among various numbering schemes, the standard became that in which only the start squares of each word were numbered, from left to right and top to bottom. "1 Horizontal" and "1 Vertical" and the like were names for the clues, the cross words, or the grid locations, interchangeably.
Later in the Times these terms commonly became "Across" and "Down" and notations for clues could either use the words or the letters "A" and "D", with or without hyphens.
Beaner is derogatory slang for Mexicans or people of Mexican descent. The term originates from the prevalence of pinto beans and other beans in Mexican cuisine.Crossword Book Award
The Crossword Book Award (in full: Crossword Book Award (1998–2003), Hutch Crossword Book Award (2004–07), Vodafone Crossword Book Award (2008–10), Economist Crossword Book Award (2011–13), Raymond & Crossword Book Award (2014–present)) is an Indian book award hosted by Crossword Bookstores and their sponsors. The Award was instituted in 1998 by Indian book retailer Crossword with the intention of competing with The Booker Prize, Commonwealth Writers' Prize or The Pulitzer Prize.
"While several Indian writers have won awards abroad, we had observed that there was no equivalent award in India. We therefore decided to take on the role of encouraging and promoting good Indian writing and instituted the Book Awards, in 1998. It is the only Indian award that not only recognizes and rewards good writing but also actively promotes the authors and their books."Nominations are on the basis of sales as tracked by Crossword, and the eventual winners are chosen based on a public poll that's partly online and partly real world (voting at Crossword outlets). As of 2018, the awards consist of ₹300,000 (3 lakh or $3,000) for winners in the jury award category, and ₹100,000 (1 lakh or $1,500) for winners in the popular choice category.The award was initially for a single work of fiction by an Indian citizen. In 2000, an additional prize was offered for an Indian writing in any Indian language translated into English. There was no award between 2001–03. Starting in 2004 the award was sponsored by Hutch Essar an Indian telecommunications company and called the Hutch Crossword Book Award. Starting in 2006 additional categories of a nonfiction prize and a popular award, voted on by the public, were added. Starting in 2008, Hutch Essar was purchased by English telecommunications company Vodafone Group and the award was called Vodafone Crossword Book Award. Beginning in 2011 through 2013, it was sponsored by The Economist in association with Principal Mutual Funds and Standard Chartered, and renamed the Economist Crossword Book Award. Beginning in 2014, it was sponsored by Raymond Group.Cryptic crossword
A cryptic crossword is a crossword puzzle in which each clue is a word puzzle in and of itself. Cryptic crosswords are particularly popular in the United Kingdom, where they originated, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, and in several Commonwealth nations, including Australia, Canada, India, Kenya, Malta, New Zealand, and South Africa. In the United States, cryptics are sometimes known as "British-style" crosswords. Compilers of cryptic crosswords are commonly called "setters" in the UK.
Cryptic crossword puzzles come in two main types: the basic cryptic in which each clue answer is entered into the diagram normally, and "themed" or "variety" cryptics, in which some or all of the answers must be altered before entering, usually in accordance with a hidden pattern or rule which must be discovered by the solver.Dzhe
Dzhe or Gea (Џ џ; italics: Џ џ) is a letter of the Cyrillic script used in Macedonian and varieties of Serbo-Croatian (Bosnian, Montenegrin, and Serbian) to represent the voiced retroflex affricate /ɖʐ/, something like the pronunciation of ⟨j⟩ in “jump”.
Dzhe corresponds in other Cyrillic alphabets to the digraphs ⟨дж⟩ or ⟨чж⟩, or to the letters Che with descender (Ҷ ҷ), Che with vertical stroke (Ҹ ҹ), Khakassian Che (Ӌ ӌ), Zhe with breve (Ӂ ӂ), Zhe with diaeresis (Ӝ ӝ), or Zhje (Җ җ).
In the Latin version of Serbo-Croatian, it corresponds with the digraph ⟨dž⟩ which, like the digraphs ⟨lj⟩ and ⟨nj⟩, is treated as a single letter, including in crossword puzzles and for purposes of collation.
Abkhaz uses it to represent the voiced retroflex affricate /ɖʐ/. The ligature џь is used to represent the /dʒ/ sound.Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words
"Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words" is the sixth episode of The Simpsons' twentieth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 16, 2008. In the episode, Lisa discovers that she has a talent for solving crossword puzzles, and she enters a crossword tournament. Lisa's feelings are hurt when she discovers that Homer bet against her in the championship match.
The episode was inspired by Patrick Creadon's 2006 documentary Wordplay, and was written by Tim Long, and directed by Nancy Kruse. Crossword puzzle creators Merl Reagle and Will Shortz guest star as themselves in the episode while Scott Thompson has a cameo as Grady, a character he first voiced in "Three Gays of the Condo". Reagle created all of the crossword puzzles that appear in the episode and as a promotion for the episode, a special Simpsons-related message (dedicated to this episode) that appeared in The New York Times Sunday crossword on November 16, 2008. The episode received generally positive reviews from critics, and finished fourth in its timeslot during its initial airing on Fox, with a 3.9 Nielsen rating.Kakuro
Kakuro or Kakkuro (Japanese: カックロ) is a kind of logic puzzle that is often referred to as a mathematical transliteration of the crossword. Kakuro puzzles are regular features in many math-and-logic puzzle publications across the world. In 1966, Canadian Jacob E. Funk, an employee of Dell Magazines, came up with the original English name Cross Sums and other names such as Cross Addition have also been used, but the Japanese name Kakuro, abbreviation of Japanese kasan kurosu (加算クロス, "addition cross"), seems to have gained general acceptance and the puzzles appear to be titled this way now in most publications. The popularity of Kakuro in Japan is immense, second only to Sudoku among Nikoli's famed logic-puzzle offerings.The canonical Kakuro puzzle is played in a grid of filled and barred cells, "black" and "white" respectively. Puzzles are usually 16×16 in size, although these dimensions can vary widely. Apart from the top row and leftmost column which are entirely black, the grid is divided into "entries"—lines of white cells—by the black cells. The black cells contain a diagonal slash from upper-left to lower-right and a number in one or both halves, such that each horizontal entry has a number in the black half-cell to its immediate left and each vertical entry has a number in the black half-cell immediately above it. These numbers, borrowing crossword terminology, are commonly called "clues".
The objective of the puzzle is to insert a digit from 1 to 9 inclusive into each white cell such that the sum of the numbers in each entry matches the clue associated with it and that no digit is duplicated in any entry. It is that lack of duplication that makes creating Kakuro puzzles with unique solutions possible, and which means solving a Kakuro puzzle involves investigating combinations more, compared to Sudoku in which the focus is on permutations. There is an unwritten rule for making Kakuro puzzles that each clue must have at least two numbers that add up to it, since including only one number is mathematically trivial when solving Kakuro puzzles.
At least one publisher includes the constraint that a given combination of numbers can only be used once in each grid, but still markets the puzzles as plain Kakuro.
Some publishers prefer to print their Kakuro grids exactly like crossword grids, with no labeling in the black cells and instead numbering the entries, providing a separate list of the clues akin to a list of crossword clues. (This eliminates the row and column that are entirely black.) This is purely an issue of image and does not affect solving.
In discussing Kakuro puzzles and tactics, the typical shorthand for referring to an entry is "(clue, in numerals)-in-(number of cells in entry, spelled out)", such as "16-in-two" and "25-in-five". The exception is what would otherwise be called the "45-in-nine"—simply "45" is used, since the "-in-nine" is mathematically implied (nine cells is the longest possible entry, and since it cannot duplicate a digit it must consist of all the digits from 1 to 9 once). Curiously, both "43-in-eight" and "44-in-eight" are still frequently called as such, despite the "-in-eight" suffix being equally implied.La Settimana Enigmistica
La Settimana Enigmistica is a weekly Italian puzzle magazine, published since 1932 in Italy and distributed also in other European countries.Puzzle
A puzzle is a game, problem, or toy that tests a person's ingenuity or knowledge. In a puzzle, the solver is expected to put pieces together in a logical way, in order to arrive at the correct or fun solution of the puzzle. There are different genres of puzzles, such as crossword puzzles, word-search puzzles, number puzzles, relational puzzles, or logic puzzles.
Puzzles are often created to be a form of entertainment but they can also arise from serious mathematical or logistical problems. In such cases, their solution may be a significant contribution to mathematical research.Scrabble (game show)
Scrabble is an American television game show that was based on the Scrabble board game. Muriel Green of Exposure Unlimited came up with the initial concept for a television game show based on the Scrabble board game. During 1983 Green convinced Selchow and Righter, who at that time owned the Scrabble board game, to license Exposure Unlimited the right to produce the television show. Exposure Unlimited hired and co-produced the show with Reg Grundy Productions and licensed the show to NBC. It ran from July 2, 1984 to March 23, 1990, and again from January 18, 1993 to June 11, 1993, with both runs airing on NBC. A total of 1,335 episodes were produced from both editions; Chuck Woolery hosted both versions of the series. Jay Stewart was the announcer for the first year and was replaced by Charlie Tuna in the summer of 1985, who announced for the remainder of the original version and the entirety of the 1993 revival.
The original 1984-90 version was the very first successful "board-game-turned-game-show" in history, the second was Family Game Night on The Hub (now Discovery Family) from 2010 until 2014 and the third was Celebrity Name Game (based on the board game Identity Crisis) from 2014 until 2017.The Clue in the Crossword Cipher
The Clue in the Crossword Cipher is the forty-fourth volume in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series. It was first published in 1967 under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. The actual author was ghostwriter Harriet Stratemeyer Adams.The Hungry Tide
The Hungry Tide (2004) is the sixth novel by Indian-born author, Amitav Ghosh. It won the 2004 Hutch Crossword Book Award for Fiction.The Listener (magazine)
The Listener was a weekly magazine established by the BBC in January 1929 which ceased publication in 1991.
The entire digitised archive was made available for purchase online to libraries, educational and research institutions in 2011.It was first published on 16 January 1929, under the editorship of Richard S. Lambert, and was developed as a medium of record for the reproduction of broadcast talks. It also previewed major literary and musical broadcasts, reviewed new books, and printed a selected list of the more intellectual broadcasts for the coming week.
Its published aim was to be "a medium for intelligent reception of broadcast programmes by way of amplification and explanation of those features which cannot now be dealt with in the editorial columns of the Radio Times". The title reflected the fact that at the time the BBC broadcast via radio only.
(The BBC version of The Listener was preceded by another magazine with the same title which was the Journal of the Wireless League.
The first issue was published as a four-page insert in the Wireless World magazine on 24 March 1926. The Listener was described as The Journal of the Wireless League and was edited by Prof. A. M. Low. A comment from the BBC was included: "The B.B.C. welcomes The Listener. We have always before us the need for constant progress and we gladly listen to constructive criticism and help from the large body of listeners you represent. The Listener should be a milestone in the advance of British Broadcasting."The New York Times Magazine
The New York Times Magazine is a Sunday magazine supplement included with the Sunday edition of The New York Times. It is host to feature articles longer than those typically in the newspaper and has attracted many notable contributors. The magazine is also noted for its photography, especially relating to fashion and style.
The magazine also includes various puzzles, which have been popular features since their introduction.The New York Times crossword puzzle
The New York Times crossword puzzle is a daily puzzle published in The New York Times, online at the newspaper's website, syndicated to more than 300 other newspapers and journals,
and available as mobile apps.The puzzle is created by various freelance constructors and has been edited by Will Shortz since 1993. The puzzle becomes increasingly difficult throughout the week, with the easiest puzzle on Monday and the most difficult puzzle on Saturday. The larger Sunday crossword, which appears in The New York Times Magazine, is an icon in American culture; it is typically intended to be as difficult as a Thursday puzzle. The standard daily crossword is 15 squares × 15 squares, while the Sunday crossword measures 21 squares × 21 squares (previously, 23 × 23 square Sunday puzzles were also accepted; in addition a special set of 25 × 25 Sunday puzzles, with two sets of clues—easy and hard—was published in 1999 to commemorate the upcoming millennium).The Riddle of the Sphinx (Inside No. 9)
"The Riddle of the Sphinx" is the third episode of the third series of the British dark comedy anthology television programme Inside No. 9. It first aired, on BBC Two, on 28 February 2017. The episode was written by the programme's creators, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, and directed by Guillem Morales. "The Riddle of the Sphinx", which is set in Cambridge, stars Alexandra Roach as Nina, a young woman seeking answers to the Varsity cryptic crossword, Pemberton as Professor Nigel Squires, who pseudonymously sets the crossword using the name Sphinx, and Shearsmith as Dr Jacob Tyler, another Cambridge academic. The story begins with Nina surreptitiously entering Squires's rooms on a stormy night and being discovered; this leads to Squires teaching her how to decipher clues in cryptic crosswords.
The plot of "The Riddle of the Sphinx" revolves around the clues and answers to a particular crossword puzzle. The idea to focus an episode on crosswords came from Pemberton; he had long been a fan of cryptic crosswords, but particular inspiration came from Two Girls, One on Each Knee: The Puzzling, Playful World of the Crossword, a non-fiction book by Alan Connor. The crossword featured in "The Riddle of the Sphinx" was set by Pemberton, and was published in The Guardian on the day the episode aired, credited to "Sphinx". This crossword contains multiple ninas—hidden messages or words. Along with many of the crossword's answers, one nina is integral to the episode's plot. A second was introduced accidentally, and then incorporated into the episode. A third nina is an Inside No. 9 in-joke.
Influences for "The Riddle of the Sphinx", which emphasises gothicism over comedy, include Anthony Shaffer's 1970 play Sleuth, the work of Anton Chekhov, and the 1989 film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. Critics responded extremely positively to the episode, lauding its writing and the precise attention to detail in the production. Commentators noted that the episode was very dark, and probably the cleverest episode of Inside No. 9 to date. Roach's performance was praised, as was the direction of Morales.Timothy Parker (puzzle designer)
Timothy Eric Parker (born April 7, 1960) is an American puzzle editor, games creator, author, and TV producer.Will Shortz
Will Shortz (born August 26, 1952 in Crawfordsville, Indiana) is an American puzzle creator and editor, and crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times.Word game
Word games (also called word game puzzles) are spoken or board games often designed to test ability with language or to explore its properties.
Word games are generally used as a source of entertainment, but can additionally serve an educational purpose. Young children can enjoy playing games such as Hangman, while naturally developing important language skills like spelling. While Hangman is a seriously dark game, what we like to focus on is the development of the children. Researchers have found that adults who regularly solved crossword puzzles, which require familiarity with a larger vocabulary, had better brain function later in life.Popular word-based game shows have been a part of television and radio throughout broadcast history, including Spelling Bee (the first televised game show) and Wheel of Fortune (the longest-running syndicated game show in the United States).Wordplay (film)
Wordplay is a 2006 documentary film directed by Patrick Creadon. It features Will Shortz, the editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle, crossword constructor Merl Reagle, and many other noted crossword solvers and constructors. The second half of the movie is set at the 2005 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT), where the top solvers compete for a prize of $4000. Wordplay was the best reviewed documentary film of 2006, according to Rottentomatoes.com
The movie focuses on the following crossword solvers:
Ellen Ripstein: editor living in New York City and 2001 ACPT champion. She is also known for her baton twirling.
Trip Payne: professional puzzlemaker living in South Florida and three-time ACPT Champion. He held the record as the youngest champion after winning the tournament in 1993 at the age of 24.
Tyler Hinman: student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. At the 2005 ACPT, he challenged Trip Payne for the title of youngest champion ever.
Jon Delfin: pianist living in New York City and seven-time ACPT champion.
Al Sanders: project manager at Hewlett-Packard in Fort Collins, Colorado. He is a frequent finalist at the ACPT.The movie contains appearances by many celebrity fans of the Times puzzle, including Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, Mike Mussina, Daniel Okrent, and the Indigo Girls.
A 2008 episode of The Simpsons, "Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words", is based on the film. James L. Brooks got the inspiration for the episode after watching Wordplay. "We felt both Will and Merl were very compelling, off-the-beaten-track personalities [in Wordplay], who would fit into our universe very well," Brooks said. The episode was written by Tim Long, and directed by Nancy Kruse, and guest starred crossword puzzle creators Merl Reagle and Will Shortz as themselves.
Wordplay features a theme song, "Every Word," written and performed by Gary Louris of The Jayhawks. The Wordplay DVD features a music video of "Every Word."