Crossword puzzle fans and passionate readers are a Venn diagram with a lot of overlap. But even the most seasoned Saturday New York Times crossword connoisseur will bump into clues they’re unfamiliar with. So what should you study if you want to be the best of the best? Crossword Solver analyzed 6.3 million newspaper crossword clues from the last 110 years to find out.
Bad news, fellow book nerds: your literary knowledge will only take you so far in crossword puzzle solving. 14.5% of famous people in clues have to do with literature, so you’d better start brushing up on film & TV (30.9%) and music (20%). Explorers and inventors (0.9% combined), though, you can probably get away with ignoring.
Not all crosswords have the same focus. For example, if you’re doing crosswords in the New Yorker, Music is the biggest category.
These trends in clues have also changed over time. For example, in the New York Times crosswords in 1981, clues about sports stars were as common as clues about movie and TV stars. Clues about literature were the most popular in the 1960s — they’ve dropped in prevalence by about half since then.