In the 17 years that he has been at the Times, Shortz has helped the country's most celebrated crossword make a profit during trying times for print media. While a puzzle is printed in every newspaper, the crossword is the only same-day feature in the Times that the website charges for.
Over 50,000 people had paid the $39.95 annual subscription fee to access the day's puzzle as well as the Times' archive of over 5,000 crosswords, according to Shortz. In addition to subscriptions, there is also an 900 number line for people desperate for a hint as well as Times Crossword Books, the best-selling books of its genre.
"Lots of people subscribe to The New York Times and other newspapers specifically for the puzzle and it's a fairly inexpensive feature," added Shortz.
"All that money, all the reprints, flow to The Times, so the crossword is a very successful and profitable feature for the newspaper," said Shortz.
By Shortz's count, there are at least six daily blogs devoted to the Times' crossword, always an accurate gauge of popularity. The Times also has a blog devoted to their crossword.
With the software the Times uses for readers to solves its puzzles online, as well as the iPhone apps developed for puzzles, the crossword has successfully embraced the transition to digital media without sacrificing its content for free.
As for the future of crosswords, Shortz admitted it is difficult to predict. "Crosswords were ideally suited for print and on paper. So, if media becomes almost entirely electronic I think crosswords will be hurt somewhat. I think they'll always be around but they won't be quite as successful as they were in print," Shortz told the Chronicle.
"There is something nice about having a single crossword arrive in your newspaper each day," Shortz continued. "There's lots of them online there's nothing stopping you from doing two, three, four or 10 a day. And yet somehow there's something not as special about that."
Despite the digital options, for many cruciverbalists - crossword enthusiasts - that sentimental reason is enough to keep on buying the Times in print. It seems the puzzle is one feature the Times cannot afford to cut.
Sources: The Hofstra Chronicle