April 20, 2024

The best place on the Internet

New York Times games, including Crossword, Spelling Bee, Wordle, Connections, and more, have a devoted fandom. But I think the word “community” is a better way to describe them.

I joined The Times in 2011, when Wordplay, the crossword puzzle column I write with Sam Corbin and Caitlin Lovinger, was a blog featuring well-written analysis of everyday puzzles, aimed at a small but devoted group of experienced solvers . My task was to appeal to a broader group of readers, who might love and respect the puzzle but find it intimidating and intellectually out of reach. In my opinion, it was a shame that these people, who were smart in other aspects of their lives, were missing out on the satisfaction of solving the puzzle and the joy of spotting clever puns in the clues.

So I set out to find ways to break that intimidation barrier. I told my readers that Wordplay was a party and everyone was invited.

We needed to show new solvers that crossword puzzles were nothing to fear by unlocking the rules to solve them; teaching readers, for example, that a question mark at the end of a clue is an indicator that they should not take it literally. or that the time of a response has to match the time of the clue. Wordplay started talking directly to beginners, because they knew that every day there are new people learning crosswords for the first time. More experienced solvers rose to the occasion in the comments and started helping beginners find their way.

As New York Times Games has grown, we’ve brought that sentiment to the communities surrounding our newest games.

Readers who comment on Wordplay or on the Spelling Bee, Connections, and Wordle forums are a warm and generous bunch. They greet newbies, help each other solve, and even check up on each other if someone hasn’t posted in a while. They have sat down to eat in North Carolina, California and England. When members of the community die, the group mourns their loss together. That sense of community even inspired one solver to take a road trip to meet some real-life spelling bee friends. One reader commented that she thought the Wordplay column and comments section must be the nicest place on the Internet. I can’t think of a greater compliment.

The conversation around these games gives our readers a sense of camaraderie that would otherwise be hard to find. Perhaps most importantly, the community gives readers the opportunity to do precisely what inspired the New York Times editors of the 1940s to publish a crossword puzzle: They can talk about something pleasant and, at least for a while, Leave your worries at the door.

  • Try this month’s bonus crossword puzzle, a look back at 2023 pop culture by Times puzzle editor Sam Ezersky.

  • Our Tiles game has a brand new palette, Soho, released as part of Well’s six-day challenge to prepare you for a more energetic year. Subscribers can select the palette in the settings menu.

  • Sam Corbin, one of the writers of Wordplay, reported from the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting to select the word of the year.

  • Elite chess players continue to accuse each other of cheating.

Nicholas Kristof A childhood friend was a good person who committed a monstrous crime. Who is really responsible for his mistakes?

Sunday’s question: Are the Republican presidential primaries functionally over?

Trump’s dominance in Iowa and near-total takeover of the Republican Party nationwide mean the race is likely to be over soon, Karen Tumulty writes in The Washington Post. But Haley still has a chance of beating him in New Hampshire, and if Trump is disqualified from the election or found guilty in court, she could take over as the nominee, CNN’s Frida Ghitis maintains.

Don’t laugh and drive: Federal officials want states to avoid humorous highway signs. State leaders say they are “cutting through the noise.”

American fears: What are people in the country most afraid of right now? Read a sociologist’s answer.

Stardom: Tetsuko Kuroyanagi has been one of Japan’s best-known artists for seven decades. At 90 years old, she is still going strong.

Votes: Josh Radnor, the star of “How I Met Your Mother,” and Jordana Jacobs, a psychologist, fell in love while tripping over mushrooms.

Lives lived: Lev Rubinstein was a Russian poet, essayist, and political dissident during the Soviet and Putin eras. He died at 76 years old.

Tom Hanks is co-executive producer of the upcoming Apple TV+ World War II miniseries, “Masters of Air,” premiering next week. He talked about that project and how to represent American history when I spoke with him in 2022.

His American history projects almost always offer some redeeming insight into the country’s values. But are there certain American stories, perhaps offering nothing redemptive, that you wouldn’t feel comfortable telling?

You have to take into account the economics of what I do for a living. We come in and say we would like $250 million, in the case of “Masters of the Air,” to make a miniseries. About? Americans bomb Nazis. That’s pretty commercial to me. But how are we going to do that? It’s not just a matter of, “Yeah, we bombed the Nazis.” So we can’t go back and just show white people saving the world, because the black airmen who were shot down were also in these stalags. So to answer your question, this costs money and it has to make money. That means we have to sneak up on the more complicated things.

You talked about the American sense of right and wrong. Has your faith been shaken by that?

There are events that shake those Americans who still believe there is a right way to do things. Now, a certain administration collapsed, and the screaming people seemed to rule the day. Because? Because the people who cared about what is right didn’t show up. Well, something pretty heinous comes up, and guess what? People will appear.

When I ask you for a memory from your career, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

I’ve been acting for pay since I was 20 years old. I now know that what was evident when I was 20 is what Spencer Tracy said: “Learn the lines. Hits the target. Tell the truth.” That’s all you can do.

Buy A sturdy but comfortable dog harness.

  • The Paris Fashion Week haute couture shows will begin on Monday.

  • The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the Oscar nominations on Tuesday.

  • The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists will announce whether the time of its “Doomsday Clock” will change on Tuesday.

The darkness and cold of the winter months can mean a slide toward unhealthy dining practices, Mia Leimkuhler writes in this week’s Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter. To help counteract bad habits, she offers simple recipes that allow for more plant content. Add a little more kale to Eric Kim’s gochujang potato casserole, drizzle the drippings from hot honey chicken over an extra helping of leafy greens, or double the amount of arugula in this buttery lemon pasta.

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