AOL history through the NYT Crossword


Quartz tells the history of AOL, 1997-2011, through clues and answers in the New York Times Crossword Puzzle. They did it using their simple app for searching NYT Crossword clues. Above, "105-Across: Co. that owns Moviefone"


  1. That link doesn’t work for me.  I see the title appear briefly, then it jumps to their main page… and I can’t even find the article after that.

  2. Direct link.
    This is great, though. One of my back-burner long-term plans as a cultural historian is to do a sort of longitudinal study of NYT crosswords. I’m glad to know it’s technically feasible.

  3. Do you have cryptic crosswords in America? Or ones with slightly more taxing clues? You’d never get “Popular I.S.P.” = AOL in a British crossword.

    Never really thought the way crosswords worked would vary by culture.

    1. The Times crossword gets more difficult throughout the week – a Monday crossword can be easily completed in under 5 minutes, while a Saturday can be extremely difficult (Sundays are usually around a Wednesday or Thursday in difficulty but are significantly longer). Most likely the rather simple clues are from early week puzzles.

      Of course the site won’t load for me at work so I can’t see if they list the days of the week each clue is from.

      1. Sundays are usually around a Wednesday or Thursday in difficulty but are significantly longer

        That’s one helluva good way of putting it, I never would have thought of it.
        You sir, have hit the nail firmly on the head.

      2. Yes, but they aren’t cryptics. An cryptic crossword clue consists of two parts: definition and wordplay, while an ordinary crossword clue is limited to a definition. 

        Here’s a cryptic clue (it’s a down clue)
        Questionable money supports Republican presidential candidate (6)
        And here’s an ordinary clue
        presidential candidate 

        Both refer to Romney. However, in the ordinary crossword, the dense grid of intersecting clues insures that, even if you’re clueless, you can still fill in the clue by solving the six intersecting clues.

        A cryptic uses a less dense grid. You might be able to get three or four of the letters, but no more. The real trick is figuring out that “R” (for Republican) is the first, or topmost letter, and the other five letters are “MONEY”, scrambled– thus R-OMNEY.

    2. The Nation, a leftist magazine, runs a weekly cryptic. It’s great fun– bad puns and anagrams abound. It’s not part of the Nation’s free content; so subscribing or buying it from a newstand is your only option. However, Five vie for Puzzler Mantle, a 2011 contest which was used to pick the successor to Frank W Lewis, is free. According to the current setter’s blog, Cosima K. Coinpott won the contest.

    3. The Sunday NYT crossword has approximately 125 vertical and 125 horizontal clues, so it’s bound to have several easy ones.  Some of the clues, however, are quite challenging, with double meanings and/or surprises, such as a recurring three-letters-in-one-square theme all over the puzzle.

      But if you really want a masochistic challenge, try the Saturday NYT crosswords.  Mondays are extremely easy and they get progressively more difficult as the week goes by.  By Saturday… those things are made by people with high IQs who have chosen the path of evil.  Sundays are a large, stand-alone showcase.

      EDIT: Yeah, I’ve just underlined what Chris Daly said above me, more or less.

      1.  While true that the early week crosswords are easy, at least they aren’t brain-dead easy. Will Shortz seems to make sure that they are at least amusing.

Comments are closed.