Will Work For 5-Across

Ben Tausig, who makes and edits crossword puzzles for a living, reveals the economics of crosswords:

If you’re hoping for riches, you’ll be disappointed. Pay is—to use a puzzle term—olid (foul). Most outlets offer less than $100 for a daily crossword and less than $300 for a Sunday-sized, despite the huge number of readers who presumably buy the paper in part or in whole for the crossword, and despite the substantial labor and creative energy that construction requires. For aspiring constructors, things don’t look so rosy—but that’s changing.

The financial stakes of the crossword are higher than a casual solver might realize. The New York Times, which runs the most prestigious American crossword series, pays $200 for a daily or $1,000 for a Sunday, which is certainly more generous than its competitors. However, The Times also makes piles of money from its puzzles. Standalone, online subscriptions to the crossword cost $40 a year ($20 for those who already subscribe to the dead-tree edition of the paper). In this 2010 interview, Will Shortz, the paper’s famed puzzle master, estimated the number of online-only subscribers at around 50,000, which translates to $2 million annually.