Reshuffle the cards
On March 7, the New York Times has completed its call for applications to identify new verbicrucists, that is to say people who design crossword puzzles. To imagine future grids, the daily wants more women, LGBT or non-white people. “Crossword puzzles are a reflection of today’s world, and that is why they must be accessible to a wide variety of people”, explains Everdeen Mason. The editorial director of games at the New York daily noted that, in recent decades, games have been designed by and for white men in their 50s. And this is reflected in the choice of words and the references used in the definitions. Pop culture, for example, is completely absent. the New York Times therefore wants to attract more cruciverbists thanks to these new cruciverbists.
Front de diversion
A sport for elitist intellectuals, crossword puzzles? In the 1920s, when the game had just been launched by the New York World, a fairly popular newspaper, the New York Times is frightened by its dazzling success. “A particular form of madness”, headlines the daily. Another article relays the concerns of doctors about the cases of insomnia of his fans. There are even stories of breakups caused by a spouse who has become addicted! On February 15, 1942, the New York Times believes that Americans need drift in times of war and presents its first grid. The success has never wavered since.
Crosswords are – also – a visual art. The grids of New York Times, always square, have a nice symmetry in the arrangement of the black squares. They can be turned over and viewed upside down. A convention respected in most Anglo-Saxon countries but not in French-speaking countries. Other constraints are imposed on American authors: the black boxes must be limited to one-sixth of the total number of boxes and the words, in other words the white boxes, cannot have less than three letters. In France, the talent of a verbicrucist is measured more by his ability to put as few black boxes as possible – less than 6% being a must. The subtlety of definitions remains the common point of crossword puzzles around the world.
Investment, in six letters
A new frenzy has gripped American word lovers. Wordle, digital game launched in October 2021, went viral in record time, growing from 90 players on 1is November 2021 to 300,000 on January 2. What is it about ? Each day, a new grid is unveiled. Only one word must be guessed by all players in five attempts. On each trial, the correct, well-placed letters appear in green and the correct but misplaced letters in yellow. Convinced of having a hit, the New York Times announced, on January 31, the acquisition of Wordle for an undisclosed seven-figure amount. Enough to prepare the future of its paid offer solely devoted to games, which has just exceeded one million subscribers.