The enthusiasm of a crossword puzzler inspired the entire TikTok subculture

Crossword puzzles are very interesting…until they are not. For most casual crossword puzzle fans, they will eventually encounter a clue (or two, three, or four) that seems unsolvable when solving a puzzle. But this is not because puzzlers lack the knowledge or vocabulary needed to solve the problem; it’s just because they don’t know all the rules. The mission of a TikTok creator is to make crosswords easier to use and more fun.

Since February, Katie Grogg has uncovered the mystery of The New York Times crossword by sharing problem-solving tips and tricks on her TikTok account. @Crossword and coffee. These cover the scope of the basic rules (the tense of clues and answers) Will always match) The meaning of common clue terms and phrases (clues ending with a question mark) Represents word games).She also unlocked more challenging crossword strategies, such as detailing how to solve Theme puzzle, Each has its own set of rules that deviate from standard New York Times guidelines.

Grog has always been a fan of crossword puzzles, but she didn’t insist on doing so until about six years ago. Now, “They are just a part of my daily life,” the 26-year-old told Polygon through Zoom. As a professional singer who often works on cruise ships, Grog found that she had more free time than usual during the pandemic, a large part of which was used to cultivate a passion for crossword puzzles. (She got her The first full month of the perfect puzzle December 2020. ) This is why when Grog discovered that there was a lack of educational crossword content on TikTok, she decided: “Then, I will do it.”

When she started making TikToks, Grogg did not expect to gain more than 5,000 fans. But in the months after @coffeeandcrosswords was launched, her account has accumulated more than 161,000 followers, and will add thousands every week. With more than 17 million views, the CrosswordTok hashtag has almost become synonymous with Grogg accounts, although more and more creators are steadily adding their own crossword content. Grogg and CrosswordTok have even become recognized existences in the offline crossword community As a clue In this fall’s USA Today crossword. (Groger puts a copy of the puzzle in her room.)

The cornerstone of CrosswordTok’s appeal, at least in the Internet corner of Grogg, is that it is designed for everyone, regardless of their level of knowledge or experience. It’s hard to find one of Grogg’s TikToks. In the comments, at least one user shared how she motivated them to solve crosswords or help them appreciate crosswords in new ways-and Grogg is often there, sharing words of encouragement will come back soon. “I just want to thank Katie from @crosswordsandcoffee for looking at this,” user @tamaroulette said in TikTok as she showed off a whole month of New York Times crosswords on the screen behind her. “You are a star!!!” Grog replied in the duet, Absolutely triumphant.

“It’s really exciting to be able to break down clues and debunk elusive crosswords,” Grog said on Zoom. “most of the time […] I do this around other people and they will say,’Oh my God, I don’t know how to crossword puzzles. I am not smart enough. […] I just thought, that’s not true. I couldn’t do it at first, and then you learned the rules. “

Grog also celebrated the challenge of problem-solving and the skills of creating crossword puzzles, building a contagious excitement in her community. “Honestly, it has been a minute since a puzzle made me smile so hard,” Grog said on TikTok Compass themed puzzle Since April 2016, it has been published in response to commenters’ questions. When Grog began to solve the crosswords in the video step by step—the direction of each answer depends on its position relative to the central compass square—it was hard not to be attracted by her joy. “My heartbeat missed a beat!” She exclaimed at some point.

Live TikTok and Twitch flowGrog started doing it in the summer, giving her the opportunity to interact directly with the audience. In these streams. She made a New York Times crossword puzzle from start to finish. The audience in the chat came up with answers, theorized the theme of the puzzle, explained the definition of the obscure answer, and hyped each other. There are jokes, playful ribbing, and even drinking games. As long as there are clues in French or common answers, such as “Oreo”, “Times” or “Alan Alda”, participants will have a drink. It is impossible to ignore the friendship and warmth between Katie and the participants, many of whom are her names. The more intimate connections Grogg makes within the CrosswordTok community, the more it grows: on October 28, a record 6,000 people listened to Grogg’s TikTok live stream.

“This is the healthiest, most inspiring, and most active corner of our little Internet, and I am very lucky to be one of them,” Grog said. “with [the Twitch viewers] Is my friend. I really feel close to these people because we go out to play 3 times a week. In addition, Grog added, “I like to solve problems with other people because I don’t know many answers. ”

Of course, putting any content online will eventually cause a certain degree of negative feedback. But so far, for Grog, these examples are very limited. “I have a video and I messed up—for example, I said plurals instead of correct tenses. Someone said, “Girl, you are crazy,” or something. For a moment, I thought, ” God, they will never believe me anymore. “Then it’s fine. Like, it doesn’t really matter.”

During our Zoom call, the only smile on Grogg’s face was when her discussion was about to be interrupted on Twitch.In a few weeks, Grog will set off on a Disney cruise ship to the Caribbean, where she will perform freezing“Let it go.” Although she plans to continue making TikTok, the poor Wi-Fi on the cruise ship means she must leave Twitch until she returns to land.

Since the pandemic began nearly two years ago, Grog has been eager to return to cruise work. But now that the CrosswordTok community has become such an important part of her life, returning to work has become a bittersweet experience, and she is trying to parse it in real time. Reconciling her pre-pandemic life with this new life-hope she opened up this new parallel career for herself in CrosswordTok-is something that Grog has just begun to figure out.There are also concerns about burnout, which has become TikTok creators are becoming more common.

“I made some basic rules for myself,” Grog said. “One of them is, if this starts to make me not want to do crossword puzzles in the morning, I’m done. It’s too much of a part of the joy of my life, it’s not worth it. It’s not the case. It makes me even more excited.”

No matter how long Grog continues to produce crossword content, she is pleased with the belief that CrosswordTok will continue to exist. When checking the CrosswordTok Discord created by her Twitch viewers recently, Grogg learned that they formed their own resolution team during the interruption of Grogg’s live broadcast.

“It is too sweet. […] This is what I want,” Grog said. “It makes me feel like there really is a community. “