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How to Play the New York Times Crossword Puzzle for Free

Solving the daily New York Times crossword puzzle is a beloved ritual for many. The clever clues and satisfying interlocked answers make completing the grid a fun challenge. But a digital subscription to get access can be expensive.

As a fellow crossword enthusiast, I‘ve explored all the tips and tricks to play the NYT crossword free or more affordably. Read on for my complete guide to accessing the top-quality puzzles without paying full price.

Get Your Daily Mini Crossword Fix

The good news is the New York Times offers a free daily mini crossword puzzle. At just 5×5 squares it‘s smaller than the full crossword, but packed with smart cluing.

The mini crossword is a great option to get your quick solving fix, without taking up too much time. I like to use it as a warm up for tackling the larger puzzles.

You can play the mini on the NYT Crossword app, or on the website with a free account. There are no limits or paywalls for the mini crossword, so you can enjoy it every day.

On weekdays I find the mini to be a nice bite-sized challenge to start my coffee break. The clues have enough pop culture references and wordplay to be satisfying.

Come the weekend, the mini crossword offers a taste of the signature NYT style, without getting bogged down for hours in a larger grid. It’s the perfect accompaniment to my Sunday morning routine.

Dive Into the Crossword Archives for Free

While the full daily crossword requires a paid subscription, the New York Times also offers a selection of archive puzzles for free.

On the NYT Crossword website, you can access three puzzles from previous years that refresh weekly. Just look under the “Archives” section once you’ve created a free account.

Within the NYT Crossword app, you can try one classic crossword puzzle from the archives per day. I like browsing the list of dates to find anniversaries or historic events I want to themes solve.

One tip is that the NYT tends to make puzzles freely available once they are more than one calendar year old. So focus your efforts on archives from 2022 and earlier for the best free pickings.

Diving into the crossword archives allows me to experience the evolving style of the puzzles from editors like Will Shortz. I appreciate how themes and language have changed over the decades while maintaining quality.

Use Promo Codes and Free Trial Offers

Every now and then the New York Times runs promotions that grant short term free access to their paid games and crosswords. Here are some ways you can unlock these deals:

  • Check for NYT coupon codes on deal sites like RetailMeNot. Occasionally they offer 1 month free on subscriptions.

  • Subscribe to the NYT Crossword newsletter email list. They often gift free 1 or 2 week trials for new subscribers.

  • Ask friends already subscribed if they have a spare free trial to share through the NYT referral program.

  • Look for sponsored offers like from Spotify giving 1 month free subscription access.

  • Consider signing up for an annual subscription to get the best free trial deal, then cancel and re-sub when it runs out.

The key is to act quickly to redeem these promo offers when you spot them. Set a reminder to cancel before the paid subscription auto-renews at the end of the free trial.

As an example, I recently used a 2 week free gift link from my mom’s account. I was able to satisfy my craving and make good progress on a tricky Saturday Stumper puzzle.

Supplement With Other Free Crosswords

When you need a break from the NYT, there are plenty of other free crossword puzzles that can satisfy your craving:

  • Universal Crossword – Edited by the same team as the NYT, these puzzles offer clever themes and fun fills. You can play online daily for free.

  • BestCrosswords – A user submitted crossword hub with over 15 different free puzzles refreshed daily. Levels range from easy to expert.

  • Boatload Puzzles – Print out any of the thousands of free crossword pdfs from Boatload‘s archives. Lots of variety from different constructors.

  • Crossword Labs – For the ultimate custom experience, build your own personalized free crossword using this intuitive online app.

  • Your Local Newspaper – Many local papers offer free crosswords through their websites and apps like the LA Times and Washington Post.

Venturing beyond the NYT for some puzzles often helps renew my interest and enjoyment. The different styles and novel themes revitalize my solving skills.

Plus when I‘m not on a time limit from a free trial, I can relax with a coffee and leisurely pencil in some indie crosswords. It scratches the itch without getting overwhelmed.

Split an NYT Subscription with Friends or Family

While we’d all love unlimited free access to the treasury of NYT crossword puzzles, keeping their quality level takes subscriber support.

However there are ways to share the cost burden of a digital subscription to make it more affordable:

  • Split the price with a fellow crossword fan roommate or family member. Many subscriptions allow sharing logins online.

  • If you have kids interested in puzzles, a subscription can be educational. Take turns solving as quality family time.

  • Rotate years paying for the subscription with a group of friends. Gift the login to share year by year.

  • For avid competing solvers, split a subscription 4+ ways. Doing just 1-2 puzzles a week each can justify the price.

I‘ve found that by sharing a subscription 3 ways with friends, we each spend about $10 a month for enough puzzles to stay satisfied. That‘s much more reasonable than individual plans.

By thoughtfully sharing access, we can continue enjoying the NYT crossword while providing reasonable revenue given their operating costs. The community of solvers stays thriving.

Consider an Annual Subscription for the Best Deal

While the New York Times also offers monthly subscription plans, the best savings come from an annual commitment:

  • Currently an annual digital subscription is $40 for the first year, compared to $15 per month. That‘s over 25% off by paying annually.

  • For the first year, look for promos offering 60-70% off the annual price. This lets you try it very cheaply.

  • Before renewal at full price, cancel and wait for the next discount offer if needed. As a previous subscriber they often extend the best deals.

  • Even at the regular $40 annual price, that‘s just over $3 per month. Very affordable for unlimited access to an entire year of puzzles.

  • You can cancel and resubscribe intermittently to keep extending the intro deals. Just set reminders so you don‘t get stuck paying full price.

Going annual works well if you‘re an avid daily solver looking to maximize puzzles for the dollar. The savings add up quickly compared to monthly billing.

Support Quality Journalism Thoughtfully

While it may be tempting to find workarounds to "freeload" past the NYT paywall, crossword puzzles cost time and money to produce.

As a fan of the art form, I believe we should support constructors and publishers fairly for their efforts through subscriptions or patronage.

However, there are thoughtful ways to reduce costs as a consumer while still providing revenue:

  • Only subscribe during months you‘ll have more free time to actually use the puzzles frequently. Cancel and resubscribe periodically.

  • Take advantage of discounted gift subscriptions from loyal subscribers willing to share deals.

  • For avid solvers, compare the yearly cost to time spent solving. $40 annually is just 10 cents per day.

  • Write the NYT sharing constructive feedback on how pricing affects your ability to subscribe.

  • Share links to favorite NYT puzzles socially to help promote their work. More subscribers means lower prices.

  • Donate occasionally to crossword constructors directly through Patreon or sites like the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

Our thoughtful support keeps inspiring constructors to create clever puzzles. Moderate use and cost-sharing sustains this uplifting community.

Solving the NYT Crossword Ethically

While hacking past newspaper paywalls or accessing pirated PDFs may provide free access, it undermines support for professional journalism and puzzle construction.

Here are some ethical tips for accessing the NYT crossword affordably while still providing revenue:

  • If hit an article limit, try again in 24 hours rather than bypassing. Or take out an affordable digital subscription.

  • Avoid sharing full copied puzzle PDFs online without permission. Support creators by linking to proper sources.

  • Consider your budget and how many puzzles you‘ll actually use before choosing a subscription tier. Don‘t overbuy.

  • Split subscription costs fairly among a reasonable friend group. Don‘t share logins with unlimited strangers.

  • Use promo discounts judiciously if you genuinely can‘t afford full price. Cancel before auto-renew if needed.

  • Provide constructive feedback to publishers on pricing and access – they may offer discounts to loyal solvers.

With thoughtful moderation and cost-sharing, we can enjoy the delightful NYT crossword community. A few dollars per week or month is a small price to pay for hours of fun, escapism and brain exercise.


I hope these tips help you access and enjoy the iconic New York Times crossword puzzle as affordably as possible. With the free mini puzzle, archive access, promotions, subscriptions sharing and constructive support, you can be a regular solver.

Stay updated on deals by signing up for their newsletter. Seek out coupon codes around the holidays when sales are more likely.

Most importantly, savor the satisfying feeling of fully completing a clever NYT crossword grid. With good humor, flexibility and moderation, solvers and publishers thrive.

Now grab your favorite pen and get solving! Let me know if you have any other tips for affordably enjoying this classic puzzle.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.