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Natasha Lyonne waxes rhapsodic about crosswords after debuting her own NY Times puzzle

Photo: Dia Dipasupil (Getty Images)

Natasha Lyonne is best known for her roles in TV shows like Russian Doll and Orange Is The New Black, as well as classic late-’90s movies like Slums Of Beverly Hills and But I’m A Cheerleader. Now, having made her debut as a crossword creator for The New York Times this week, she’s ready to take a break from talking about boring stuff like acting and writing to take an opportunity to discuss a more important topic: the joy of answering cryptic trivia questions by writing words into little interconnected squares.

In an article by Alexandria Symonds, Lyonne is described as “a devoted Times crossword solver for about five years.” (You can tell this is serious business by the use of the term “solver.”) “I feel a deep transparency about how true my love of the puzzle is; I feel very clean about it,” Lyonne says, later describing crosswords as “a great joy in my life.”


There’s a good bit of sarcasm peppered into her praise—“I think, probably, most people who are interested in the crossword are too busy to tweet because they’re thinking big thoughts, they’re changing the world”—but mostly Lyonne is just laying it all out in one of the strongest odes to the crossword in recent memory. Further testament to her devotion, the piece describes her apartment as containing a framed print of “an across clue in the Nov. 29, 2018 puzzle, ‘Actress Lyonne of Orange Is The New Black,’ seven letters.”

As for her own Times crossword, section editor Will Shortz calls Lyonne a celebrity contributor who “took this more seriously than almost anybody else.” Her collaborator, crossword columnist Deb Amlen, says that she and Lyonne spent around “10 to 15 hours in person, plus many more texts” before they “agreed on a theme, brainstormed clue ideas, and worked on filling in the puzzle.” Amlen also says that Lyonne, “in her pursuit of an authentic, all-in crossword-creating experience, [even] went so far as to buy crossword-constructing software.”

Read the rest of the article for more on Lyonne’s Times crossword and her effusive praise for spending your free time counting the letters in every word you know.

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About the author

Reid McCarter

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.