Because I’m the creator of the New York Times Mini Crossword, people often assume that I’m a trivia expert. The embarrassing truth is that my trivia knowledge is heavily weighted toward things with four and five letters and a lot of vowels. Sure, I can tell you Elvis Presley’s middle name (Aron), or that a small sewing kit is known as an “etui,” but I’m not going to be much help at your local pub trivia night.
People who don’t do crosswords often believe that you need an encyclopedic knowledge of arcane facts to complete a puzzle. My mission with the Mini is to change that perception.
As much as possible, I avoid obscure words that solvers would know only if they’ve done 1,000 crosswords before. Instead, I test solvers on the stuff of everyday life: state capitals, street signs, internet slang and the occasional random animal fact.
In a perfect puzzle, the trivia clues draw you in, leaving you wanting to know the answer.
That idea guides today’s custom Mini crossword, specifically designed for The Morning. If you’ve never tried a crossword before, you can warm up with a few trivia questions. Solve these brainteasers for a head start on today’s Mini:
What word becomes shorter when you add letters to it?
What is the only seven-letter word to use all five vowels and Q?
What is the only planet in our solar system not named for a deity?
For those who have never tried a Mini crossword before, it’s a free, daily 5×5 puzzle (7×7 on Saturdays) available to all Times readers. The small grid takes only a few minutes to complete (even less once you get good!), and it is packed with lively vocabulary, timely references and witty minithemes. You can even compete against your friends for the fastest solving time by using our Leaderboards feature. I hope you’ll check it out!
The answers to today’s brainteasers are found in the Mini crossword and at the bottom of this newsletter.
Other Big Stories
🎬 “Insidious: The Red Door” (Friday): The actor Patrick Wilson has had a long and interesting career. Starting in Off Broadway and Broadway productions, he has now become somewhat of a “scream king,” flourishing in successful horror movies like the “Conjuring” franchise and this series, the fifth entry of which he both stars in and directs. Here, the boy from the first two “Insidious” movies is all grown up and headed to college, as are those spirits with the scary faces.
📚 “Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis” (Tuesday): In 2018’s “Dopesick,” her book about the opioid crisis in Appalachia, Beth Macy tried to explain why so many people have become addicted to these drugs. As Jan Hoffman wrote about Macy’s latest, soon out in paperback, the author, “no longer struggling with why, has moved on to an even more impenetrable question: How the hell do we extract ourselves from this quicksand?”
I have a deal with my husband and my mother: They work together to pit enough fresh cherries for baking, and I’ll make them any cherry-based dessert they want. This time, I’ll subtly nudge them toward this new cherry pie recipe from Melissa Clark, a fairly classic take on the ne plus ultra of summer pies. You can make this with either sweet cherries or sour ones — your choice. Not up for debate, in my opinion: a scoop of vanilla ice cream or dollop of whipped cream to serve. (A cherry pitter is the tool you need for this job; my colleagues at Wirecutter recommend this one.)
36 hours: Spend a long weekend in Martha’s Vineyard.
Old fashioned: Upgrade your Klondike bars with a better ice cream sandwich.
Mixing booze and exercise: You shouldn’t do it. But if you do, here’s how to stay safe.
For the hangover: Rich people are paying for IV drips.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
Try a beach wagon
If you’re a parent, you may have long ago said goodbye to the days of minimalist beachgoing. But a wagon can restore that simplicity: It’s a great way to lug toys, sunshades and chairs over sandy hillocks. Wirecutter’s super-durable pick has wide wheels and 6.7 cubic feet of space, making it easy to pull your mountain of gear — and even your little kids — across the sand. There’s value off the beach, too. Our favorite folding wagons work for all kinds of jaunts. — Rachel Hurn
NASCAR Grant Park 220: NASCAR drivers will race through downtown Chicago, reaching speeds of 140 miles per hour as they navigate tight turns around Grant Park. It’s the first time NASCAR’s top series has raced on city streets, and drivers have little chance to prepare outside of computer simulations, so the race could get chaotic. “Part of me is nervous because we’ve never been to a street course before,” the driver Ryan Blaney told NBC Chicago, “but I think it’s going to be a hell of an event.” 5:30 p.m. Eastern tomorrow on NBC.
NOW TIME TO PLAY