They are flexed when genuflecting. What could that mean? Junior Carly Chandler looks at her phone in confusion and deep thought. After a few moments, an insight hit her, perhaps because the answer was right in front of her: knees!
Clues like these are part of The New York Times daily crossword puzzle, published weekdays at 7:00 p.m. PST and 3:00 p.m. PST on weekends. The New York Times created its miniature crossword puzzle — coined the “Mini” — in the summer of 2014 to help beginners practice their solving skills before moving on to master crossword puzzles.
Once a popular activity among older generations and avid linguists, word games have recently become a popular pastime for teenagers to play with their friends.
Fifty-seven percent of Palo Alto High School students said they regularly play daily word games such as the NYT Mini, according to a late January online opt-in survey of 237 students.
“It really made me joyful because when it was written, I was a little worried people wouldn’t be interested. But at lunch you can see a bunch of people doing it and someone even DMed me on Instagram asking for help.
— Ronak Monga, senior and creator of Campanile crossword puzzles
Junior Jia Hiremath discovered the NYT Mini last summer and has since completed the mini crossword almost daily, holding an impressive record time of 13 seconds.
“I introduced him [the Mini] to a lot of my friends and got them to play them as well,” Hiremath said. “Eventually I realized they had a leaderboard for the daily mini, so I tried to get as many people as possible to join mine.”
The NYT Mini Crossword has a leaderboard in the NYT Games app that players can customize – those they send their “NYT Mini Link” to can be added to their exclusive list of finishers. On this board, players can see each other’s solve times, creating an element of friendly competition and social media sharing that many teen gamers seem to enjoy.
Wordle is another online word puzzle that is gaining popularity among teenagers. Released daily at midnight PST, users have six attempts to guess a five-letter word. Once each player has guessed the word of the day, they have the opportunity to share their process with their friends in the form of a small graphic made up of colorful square-shaped emojis representing their journey to solve the puzzle. These simple yet widely understandable charts can also be easily shared on Twitter feeds and Facebook timelines.
“In the science dining room, I had at least one other teacher hooked above [Wordle]. Several of us play it [now].”
— Michael Lupoli, science teacher
Created by Josh Wardle, released in October 2021 and recently acquired by the NYT, Wordle has grown in popularity exponentially with over 300,000 daily users, according to the NYT.
“I love how you can share it with your friends and compete with your friends and family,” Hathaway Bush said. “It’s also a super short game, so it’s fun to help me wake up in the morning.”
Students aren’t the only ones who have become obsessed with Wordle lately – some of their teachers have too.
“In the science lunch room, I had at least one other addicted teacher [Wordle]”, said Lupoli. “There are a lot of us playing it [now].”
As the popularity of puns grew in the Paly community, school publications capitalized on this trend. In November 2021, Le Campanile began including its own unique crosswords in the lifestyle section of its newspaper.
The crossword is created by seniors Neil Rathi and Ronak Monga, who attempt to incorporate Paly themes, such as Spirit Week activities, into the key words of the puzzle.
Rathi and Monga both agree that the most rewarding thing about posting their crossword puzzles is seeing people solving them together at school.
“It made me really happy because when we were writing it, I was a little scared that people wouldn’t be interested,” Monga said. “But at lunch you can see a bunch of people doing it and someone even DMed me on Instagram asking for help.”
Play Today’s NYT Mini Crossword Here
Play today’s Wordle here