For puzzlers, no other puzzle has stood the test of the decades as the venerable crossword. It stretches your vocabulary, your trivia, and, when you’re done, the instant contest of clues and answers is a fun elixir of the brain. However, a full-size crossword can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to complete – and, by this point, you really have to want to solve one, as space and time are few. Enter The Mini: the diminutive 4-minute Daily Crossword from The New York Times. It’s surely one of the fastest and most challenging crosswords ever to be published. Solving The Mini isn’t just a matter of speed but also of knowledge and strategy. And this is your guide as to how to do it. From brand-new tips to revised time-tested strategies, we’ve got you covered. Our focus will be on improving your skill at solving The New York Times’ Mini Crossword, now in its third year. The puzzle appears daily on, landing one week before the Daily Crossword that’s published in The New York Times newspaper. But, of course, what we cover here applies to other Mini Crosswords too. We hope that this list of tips will help you on your quest to The New York Times Mini Crossword glory.


Crafting Your Speed-Running Arsenal

The Mini is a quick-fire gallop through a vast lexicon of facts and trivia. To keep up, you need to build yourself not only a wholesome but also a diverse armoury of knowledge, of gossip, facts and esoterica. The wider your vision, the happier you’ll make yourself with easy returns when it comes to those evergreen clues.

Tackling Evergreen Clues with Poise

If you know the clues and their typical answers, you can develop your own shortlists of what to look for in the grid. An ‘evergreen tree with aromatic wood’ is most likely a ‘Cedar’; ‘flatulent’ is a ‘Beano’. Once you get the hang of these ‘evergreen clues’, you’ll be able to shut down frustration and let the grid glide. You’ll breeze through puzzles faster than ever.

The Art of the Start

Work your way across the Across clues first, then down the Down clues or vice versa. This will help systematically eliminate possible answers, especially for those classic clues you’ve seen before. For clues you can’t figure out, move on. The answer may appear to you as you fill in surrounding answers.


Embrace the Theme

Some Mini puzzles allude to a hidden theme. Identifying the thread is the key to picking the lock on cryptic clues that might otherwise seem beyond the wit of the dictionary. A puzzle set just before the Olympics might allude to a huge amount of sporting terminology.

The Benefit of Breaks

If you get stuck, take a break. It’s never a bad idea to take a short hiatus – you might return to the problem with a rejuvenated perspective and, as we’ve known since Sherlock, that can lead to novel ways of seeing.

Utilizing Digital Aids

In the information age, basically no shame in using technology to improve one’s puzzle-solving prowess, whether that involves using a word-finder tool to work out the answer to a more obscure clue, or even a brief bit of Googling (hey, if it’s evergreen, you’ll want to learn it and remember it for next time).


Developing an Evergreen Routine

Begin relating The Mini to your daily life. The more you practise, the faster you will get and the more you will build an enduring bank of knowledge, one that makes even the toughest puzzles easy.

The Social Approach

Exploring exotic clues with friends or online groups can lead to insight and novel ways of approaching the problem. And the shared delight of a triumph over an evergreen clue can turn the solitary challenge into a communal success.

Record and Review

Keep a note of the clues that have stood the test of time and their answers so you can review that log when you’re quizzing, looking for commonalities to hone your approach, ever so slightly, with each new puzzle.


Every puzzle you finish – whether you blast through it or slog it out – is a win. Celebrate your progress; celebrate the accumulating skill set that each puzzle builds. When it comes to crosswords, after all, every completed puzzle is another step towards becoming a timeless genius.


This word ‘evergreen’ can be used to describe pieces of content, tricks or knowledge that remain timeless, useful and interesting indefinitely. Evergreen clues and strategies in The Mini are those that show up again and again in puzzles across the years. Learning an evergreen style or mindset is a way to prepare for The Mini, but also to equip yourself with a flexible set of tools that can be applied in a wide range of intellectual endeavours.

Whether you are an old hand or a newbie looking forward to entering the freshman nonagenarians level, these timeless tropes –Spoiler Alert! – can turn The Mini’s enticing Everest into a tiny molehill. With every crossword you finish, the small garden you have planted continues to flower and bloom, puzzle by puzzle and clue by clue.

Jun 03, 2024
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