coff crossword puzzles are so much fun … until they are no more. For most casual crossword puzzle fans, at some point while working on a puzzle, there will be a point where they’ll get stuck on a clue (or two, three, or four) that is seemingly impossible to solve. But that’s not because the puzzler lacks the knowledge or vocabulary to solve it; it’s simply because they don’t know all of the rules. And one TikTok inventor made it his business to make crossword puzzles more accessible – and more fun.
Since February, Katie Grogg has been demystifying the New York Times crossword puzzles by sharing tips and tricks on how to solve them on her TikTok account. @ coffee and crossword puzzle. These range from going through the basic rules (the tense of the hint and the answer) will always fit) on the meaning of common reference terms and phrases (a reference that ends with a question mark indicates puns). She also packs out more sophisticated crossword puzzle tactics, such as detailed instructions on how to solve them Themed puzzles, each of which has its own set of rules that differ from the standard New York Times guidelines.
Grogg has always been a fan of crossword puzzles, but she only started doing them consistently about six years ago. Now “they’re just part of my daily routine,” the 26-year-old told Polygon about Zoom. A professional singer who often works on cruises, Grogg had much more free time than usual during the pandemic, a good portion of which she spent nurturing her passion for crossword puzzles. (She has it First month full of perfect puzzles
When she started doing TikToks, Grogg didn’t expect to get more than 5,000 followers. But in the months since @coffeeandcrosswords launched, her account has grown to over 161,000 followers, with thousands more adding every week. The CrosswordTok hashtag, which has more than 17 million views, is almost synonymous with Grogg’s account, although more and more creators are constantly adding their own crossword content. In fact, Grogg and CrosswordTok became so well known in the offline crossword community that it was marked as a guide
The cornerstone of CrosswordTok’s appeal, at least in Grogg’s corner of the internet, is that it is suitable for everyone, regardless of their level of knowledge or experience. It’s hard to find one of Groggs TikToks that doesn’t have at least one user in the comments who shares how she inspired them to solve crosswords or helped them appreciate crosswords in a new way – and Grogg is often there and shares encouraging words right back. “I just wanted to thank Katie from @coffeeandcrosswords for watching this,” said user @tamaroulette in a TikTok, showing a month of completed New York Times crosswords on the screen behind her. “YOU ARE A STAR!!!” Grogg answered in a duet, beaming with pride.
“Being able to break down clues and expose the volatility or whatever of crossword puzzles was really exciting,” Grogg said of Zoom. “So often when […] I do them around other people, they will say, ‘Oh my god, I can’t do crosswords. I am not smart enough. ‘ […] And I’m just like that, that’s not true. I couldn’t do them either when I started, and then you just learn the rules. “
Grogg also celebrates the challenges of problem solving and the ability to create crossword puzzles, creating an infectious buzz in their community. “It’s honestly been a minute since a puzzle made me smile so badly,” Grogg said in a TikTok about a Compass puzzle dated April 2016, posted in response to a commenter question. When Grogg starts going through the trick for solving the crossword puzzle in the video – the direction each answer is written is determined by their placement relative to the central compass square – it’s hard not to get caught up in their joy. “My heart just skipped one beat!” she exclaims once.
Live TikTok and Twitch streams, with which Grogg started in the summer, gave her the opportunity to talk directly to the audience. In these streams. She does a New York Times crossword puzzle from start to finish, and viewers in the chat suggest answers, theorize on the subject of the puzzle, explain the definitions of obscure answers, and just hypnotize each other. There are in-jokes, playful ribs and even a drinking game where participants have a drink when there is a French clue or a common answer such as “Oreo”, “Era” or “Alan Alda”. It is impossible to ignore the camaraderie and warmth between Katie and the participants, with whom she has many by first name. And the more Grogg establishes intimate connections within the CrosswordTok community, the more it grows: A record number of 6,000 people switched on Grogg’s TikTok live stream on October 28th.
“It’s the healthiest, most encouraging, and positive corner of our little internet that I feel so lucky to be a part of,” said Grogg. “And [the Twitch viewers] are my friends. I really feel so close to these people because we hang out three times a week. ”Grogg also added,“ I love solving with others because I don’t have many answers. ”
Of course, putting content online will ultimately lead to a certain amount of negative feedback. But for Grogg, these cases have so far been very limited. “I had a video where I screwed up – I said something was plural instead of the correct tense. And someone said, ‘girl, you’re crazy’ or whatever. For a second I thought, ‘Oh my god, you will never trust me again.’ And then it was good. It literally didn’t matter. “
The only time Grogg’s smile ever slips off her face during our Zoom call is when she talks about her upcoming break from Twitch. In a couple of weeks, Grogg is setting off on a Disney cruise to the Caribbean where she will perform Frozen‘s “Let it go.” Although she plans to continue doing TikToks, the poor WiFi on the cruise means she will have to leave Twitch until she is back on land.
Grogg has been eager to get back to work on cruises since the pandemic started almost two years ago. But now that the CrosswordTok community has become such a big part of her life, getting back to work has become a bittersweet experience and she tries to analyze it in real time. Balancing her pre-pandemic life with this new life – and hopefully that new parallel career she created for herself in CrosswordTok – is something Grogg is only just figuring out. There is also concern about burnout, something that has become more and more common among TikTok creators.
“I’ve set some ground rules for myself,” said Grogg. “And one of them was, if I don’t want to solve my crossword puzzles in the morning, I’m done. That is too much part of my zest for life to be not worth it. And that wasn’t the case. It made me more excited. “
Regardless of how long Grogg continues creating crossword puzzle content, she comforts the belief that CrosswordTok will live on. During a recent glimpse into the CrosswordTok Discord their Twitch viewers were creating, Grogg learned that they are putting together their own solution group during Grogg’s livestream break.
“It is so sweet. […] And that’s what I want, ”said Grogg. “It gives me the feeling that there really is a community.”