Warning: NYT crossword puzzle spoilers NYT Crossword puzzle Jan 3 2017

Daily NYT puzzle for Jan 3, 2017

Finishing a crossword puzzle has always been on my childhood wishlist (alongside my dream of being a webmaster, which I am kinda living now). I don’t remember how many crosswords I have attempted and failed at in the local newspaper. Was it discouraging? Hell yes. Not gonna lie, I was completely clueless (pun intended) about how to do crossword puzzles. Still am, kinda.

It wasn’t until I discovered the NYTimes Mini puzzles that actually made crossword puzzles accessible. The Mini is a 5 by 5 puzzle that you can play for free. They’re super fun and are a pretty good gateway into the full size puzzle.

Tip: the easiest puzzles are on Monday and they get progressively harder as the week goes on. Same goes for the full-sized puzzle as well. I wish I knew this before getting frustrated with myself for barely getting 5 entries in for a Saturday puzzle.

NYT Crossword mini puzzle Jan 3 2017 Daily Mini NYT puzzle for Jan 3, 2017

I eventually moved on to the full-sized puzzle and can now solve Monday to Wednesday puzzles (with some help). It’s hard to go by with no search engine assistance since the NYT puzzles in general have a lot of American references. I learned today that KMART has a thing called Blue Light Specials and that there’s a chair whose name has two hyphens: LAZBOY. For some reason Ohio and Lake Erie turn up pretty often as crossword clues or answers.

I love the tricky ones that make you go “aha!”. For example, “Apple that might be seen on a teacher’s desk” yields IMAC (I originally put in GALA, though the common rendition is usually a Washington apple) and “Fashionable Christian” is a reference to DIOR in todays puzzle.

And then there are the various pop music, sport, TV show (Westworld, GOT and Stranger things made appearences, none of which I have watched) references that I’m oblivious about. There was maybe one Malaysian reference a few weeks ago that made me irrationally happy – MALAYA is the country that was a British protectorate until 1957. Makes me wonder if there are more international or Asian-focused crossword puzzles out there?

Some learnings:

  • Crossword puzzles, like any other skill, requires practice. There’s no escaping it. You might suck at it in the beginning (no completion, or completion with lots of search engine help) and that’s okay. The more puzzles you solve the better you get at them.
  • That said, the first few puzzles might require plenty of search engine help. Do not get discouraged – you’ll get the hang of it. Even that may not yield your answer (unless you’re looking at crossword solution archives)
  • Is Googling considered cheating? I think not. You still have to work for it (edit: unless you’re straight up using crossword archives with literal answers). It’s like a detective sleuthing.
  • Some answers recur often, so it’s good to keep them in mind. The ones I’ve see often on the recent NYT puzzles are TACIT, NOGO, and CEL.
  • When you get stuck, sometimes all you need is a break. Some later week puzzles had to be solved over a span of two days.