The Hardest and Easiest New York Times Crossword Puzzles of 2021
2021 is officially behind us. Let’s take a look back at the 365 daily New York Times crossword puzzles from the year and see which ones were the hardest and which ones were the easiest. Using the crowd-sourced solve times from hundreds of solvers at XW Stats, I was able to rank the puzzles in terms of difficulty. I’ll describe the method below, but for you with short attention spans here are those rankings, along with links to the puzzles at XWordInfo.
Hardest Puzzles of 2021
Here are the 5 most difficult/slowest puzzles of 2021, based on comparing solve times to a solver’s average solve time on that day of the week.
- Friday, Dec 10 — Joe DiPietro, Themeless (68.1% harder)
- Friday, Mar 19 — Kameron Austin Collins, Themeless (60.3% harder)
- Wednesday, Oct 6 — Jules Markey, Pigeon Holes (49.9% harder)
- Tuesday, June 8 — Christopher Adams, Added H (49.4% harder)
- Sunday, May 16 — Joe DiPietro, A Shot in the Dark (48.2% harder)
Joe DiPietro, a veteran constructor with hundreds of published puzzles, appears twice on the list. His Friday, December 10 puzzle had some tricky crosses and difficult cluing. 19% of XW Stats solvers needed to cheat on that puzzle, compared to the 10% average cheat rate on Fridays. Jules Markey clearly caught the solvers off-guard with the rare Wednesday rebus puzzle.
Easiest Puzzles of 2021
Here are the 5 easiest/fastest puzzles of 2021, based on comparing solve times to a solver’s average solve time on that day of the week.
- Thursday, Nov 18 — Ori Brian, First Second Middle… (46.2% easier)
- Thursday, Sep 16 — Kevin Patterson, Silver Lining (45.8% easier)
- Friday, Oct 29 — Aimee Lucido, Themeless (43.69% easier)
- Sunday, Dec 5 — Chase Dittrich and Jeff Chen, Come Again? (43.67% easier)
- Wednesday, Oct 27 — Johanna Fenimore, SNL (43.5% easier)
A couple of Thursdays lead the easy list this year. Neither involved any kind of rebus or typical Thursday trickery which probably led to their faster than…