New York Times CrosswordBy Tom Dougherty
28 January 2020
The New York Times Crossword is its own a brand, truly
As newspapers fade away into irrelevance, only a few remain in the public lexicon. The Washington Post remains the top dog for dealings in our nation’s capital. The New York Times also stands as a relevant national media outlet, but not for all the reasons you might think. One of the most popular features of the paper is the famous New York Times Crossword.
Thing is, the Times’ crossword puzzle is a poignant brand onto itself. Heck, I might even call it a form of art. And it may point the way for how other papers can survive.
The New York Times Crossword is a brand? Come on, now.
Yes, it is. And it comes with its own rules, always a key component to any brand. Did you know that each puzzle (aside from Saturday) hones in on a particular theme and that theme is applied consistently throughout the puzzle. Or that each day it increases in difficulty? Completing the Friday and Saturday puzzles is a bitch.
What’s more interesting to me, each New York Times Crossword has rational symmetry as “they can be rotated 180 degrees and remain identical (in shape),” according to a Wikipedia entry. Other idiosyncrasies include the question mark – each time a clue closes with one, players know the answer is a play on words.
“In fact, there’s a separate subscription for the New York Times Crossword, and another for its ever popular Cooking section. There’s also a newsletter for streaming TV enthusiasts. It’s difficult for newspapers to create a sub-brand of sorts that appeals to a smaller section of their community. But if you own one, those followers are immensely loyal. The days of a newspaper being everything to everyone are over.”
The New York Times Crossword demonstrates newspapers need sub-brands
All of these aspects round out to make an offshoot brand of the New York Times. And really, there is nothing like it in the industry — it owns a unique place.
In fact, there’s a separate subscription for the New York Times Crossword, and another for its ever popular Cooking section. There’s also a newsletter for streaming TV enthusiasts. It’s difficult for newspapers to create a sub-brand of sorts that appeals to a smaller section of their community. But if you own one, those followers are immensely loyal. The days of a newspaper being everything to everyone are over.
The New York Times Crossword follows many of the rules of a meaningful brand. It says who it is for and who it is not for. (Many are too intimidated to try, others enjoy the challenge.) Its long-time editor, Will Shortz, has become something of a folk hero since he took over in 1993.
Finding those niches is difficult with the internet covering nearly all the bases. But if you make it meaningful, with its own set of rules (a story is key to a brand’s success) and not trying to be for everybody, you have something. Even the Cooking section feels a little too high brow for most because it appeals to the cosmopolitan in some of us.
No one said creating meaningful brands was easy. If it was, then mediocre minds could do it. But mediocre minds can’t finish the New York Times Crossword.
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