Our Favorite Crossword Clues of 2020 – The New Yorker

This may have been the year that no crossword went unsolved. As a source of at-home entertainment and an antidote to the mind-numbing effects of lockdown, crosswords became a staple of many quarantine diets. With Partner Mode, which we introduced in April, they could even be occasions for long-distance socializing.

For some, crosswords offered a reprieve from reality, a portal to a logophilic DREAM WORLD (Place like Oz or Wonderland: ten letters). But our favorite puzzles went beyond escapism. They wrangled with the politics of language; they shone a spotlight on remarkable people and felicitous phrases; they informed as well as delighted (to paraphrase a crossword-friendly text, Horaces ___ Poetica: three letters).

In June, we added a third weekly puzzle, plus three more constructors: Wyna Liu, Caitlin Reid, and Robyn Weintraub joined our roster, alongside Erik Agard, Patrick Berry, Kameron Austin Collins, Elizabeth C. Gorski, Natan Last, Aimee Lucido, and Anna Shechtman. From this abundance, it was daunting to pick only a handful of favorite clues, so, instead, we decided to look for patterns. Youll find the result below: a taxonomy of New Yorker Crossword clues. As with all taxonomies, worthy categories have been left out. (Speaking of dream worlds, Wizard of Oz clues could have been a class of their own.) But we hope you enjoy this glimpse, however unscientific, of the gestalt.

As is now tradition, we will, starting today, bring you a new year-in-review crossword every day through the end of the year. These puzzles will test your knowledge of 2020 across eight subjects: language (Thursday), literature (Friday), science and tech (Saturday), TV (Sunday), movies (Monday), music (Tuesday), sports (Wednesday), and news and politics (Thursday). Once youve finished those, be sure to visit the Puzzles & Games Dept. next week for a bonus puzzle to ring in the New Year.


Theres a fine line between crossword humor and DAD JOKES, a coinage that made it into Patricks language-themed puzzle last year. But we defy you to groan at these puns.

One with four legs and many hands?A: CARD TABLE

Matching outfits?A: DATING SERVICES

Disappearing ink?A: TEMPORARY TATTOO

Desert after the meal?A: DINE AND DASH

Like gangbusters?A: TRISYLLABIC

Support staff?A: CANE

Apple products not intended for kidsA: HARD CIDERS

Soprano of note?A: JAMES GANDOLFINI

Solve for yourself:

Event involving dough, in two senses (November 25th)

Because wordplay is the bread and butter of crossword constructors, this category merits a few subdivisions, such as:

Bardolatry wordplay, a fitting tribute to the man who added hundreds of words to the English language:

Kingdom for a horse?A: ANIMALIA

Measure for measures?A: TIME SIGNATURE

Meta wordplay, or clues about figures of speech:

Subject of Jon Agees So Many Dynamos!A: PALINDROMES

Start of spring and frosts parting, e.g.A: ANAGRAMS

Wordplay not suitable for all ages:

Sexy frames for womens eyes?A: FEMINIST PORN



This may be our fact checkers least favorite category, because famous quotations are so often misquotationscoins rubbed smooth by circulation, to quote Louis Menand. Still, in the cross-world, theyre the coin of the realm.

Kitchen Confidential author who deemed truffle oil about as edible as AstroglideA: ANTHONY BOURDAIN

Somali-British poet who wrote, no one leaves home unless / home is the mouth of a sharkA: WARSAN SHIRE

Whence the line Women come to New York in search of the two Ls: labels and loveA: SEX AND THE CITY

One of the six words in Hemingways apocryphal six-word storyA: SHOES

Solve for yourself:

Rapper with the line real Gs move in silence like lasagna (March 20th)


No disrespect to Enya, Brian Eno, or Yoko Ono, but were always grateful when constructors feature people (and characters) who rarely make it into crosswords.

French Surrealist photographer known for Portrait of Ubu (1936)A: DORA MAAR

Bleak House character who was one of the first detectives in English fictionA: INSPECTOR BUCKET

Le Djeuner sur lherbe: Les trois femmes noires painterA: MICKALENE THOMAS

Frankfurt School philosopher who said, To those who no longer have a homeland, writing becomes homeA: THEODOR ADORNO

Solve for yourself:

Civil-rights lawyer and activist who coined the term Jane Crow to refer to institutional discrimination against women (December 14th)


Some solvers argue that trivia has no place in a crossword; we humbly disagree. Its a bonus when you can hone your Jeopardy! skills (we miss you, Alex Trebek) while working through a grid.

Term that comes from the name of a news photographer in Fellinis La Dolce VitaA: PAPARAZZI

Org. that once funded the Museum of Modern Art, Partisan Review, and The Paris ReviewA: CIA

Italian salad featuring the colors of the Italian flagA: CAPRESE

Literary family with a widely misremembered nameA: BERENSTAIN BEARS

Solve for yourself:

Band thats named after a fictional sex toy (July 15th)


Sung to the tune of [Showstopping number performed by Jennifer Hudson in the 2019 movie Cats: six letters].

DJ ___, former third member of Salt-N-PepaA: SPINDERELLA

Song written by Graham Nash called an ode to countercultural domestic blissA: OUR HOUSE

1976 self-titled album with Love Hangover and Theme from MahoganyA: DIANA ROSS

Bessie Smith song with the lyric My springs are getting rusty, sleeping single like I doA: EMPTY BED BLUES

Chick Corea album inspired by a Lewis Carroll novelA: THE MAD HATTER

Solve for yourself:

Swedish pop band once named Tech Noir (February 17th)


Just as crosswords can resurface the pop culture of yesteryear, so, too, can they forecast the dictionary additions of tomorrow.

Activity requiring an exit strategyA: ESCAPE ROOM

Aesthetic mixing soft, delicate colors with dark, punkish fashionA: PASTEL GOTH

Teen-age micro-demographic based on use of a popular photo-editing appA: VSCO GIRL

Sure. Keep telling me avocado toast is the reason I cant afford a home.A: O.K. BOOMER

Solve for yourself:

Captcha confirmation (March 16th)


Our first and only. So far...

Solve for yourself:

(October 16th)

Wishing you a year of smooth solving ahead, and a 2021.

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Our Favorite Crossword Clues of 2020 - The New Yorker

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