For pretty much any fan of Scouting, the clue was black and white: What’s a six-letter word for a “new Cub Scout”?
But for others playing The New York Times Sunday crossword on July 26, 2020, this Scouting-themed clue might have been a stumper.
Same with this one, also from one of the larger Sunday puzzles: On July 2, 2017, readers were asked to provide a five-letter word for “like a good Scout.”
The answers — BOBCAT and LOYAL — are just two of hundreds of Scouting-themed crossword clues and answers that have appeared in The New York Times over the years.
As a lifelong Scouting supporter, avid crossword player and occasional crossword solver, I sat up in my chair on May 20, 2021, when I spotted this clue in my New York Times Crossword app.
“Scouts ___, rebranded name since ’19.” As I tapped the letters B, S and A into my phone, I started wondering just how many clues over the years have referenced Scouting.
So I contacted the folks at XWord Info, which provides a database of every NYT crossword since the very first one was published on Feb. 15, 1942. Jeff Chen, who runs the site, agreed to let me share what I found in his database, as long as I credited my source.
A Scouting tradition
As it turns out, it didn’t take the Times puzzlemakers long to start including Scouting references in their clues.
On Nov. 29, 1942, solvers were asked to come up with a three-letter word for a “prospective Boy Scout.” The answer: CUB.
Thirty years later, on July 9, 1972, clue 45-down asked for a nine-letter word for a “good-turn group.” That answer: BOYSCOUTS.
And on Jan. 21, 2018, the grid-builders called for an eight-letter word for a “Scout’s magazine.” The correct answer: BOYSLIFE, the youth magazine that continues wowing readers today as Scout Life.
Puzzle creators are always looking for three-letter answers that are clever, use some common letters, and aren’t too easy or too difficult to guess. That makes “BSA” a perfect fit, and it explains why “BSA” has been an answer in at least 169 New York Times crosswords to date.
Clues designed to get solvers to guess “BSA” have included “Eagles’ org.,” “Character-building youth org.,” “ Org. of which 18 U.S. presidents have been members,” “Big inits. in camping” and “Grp. that holds Blue and Gold Banquets.”
OK, enough games. It’s time for … a game.
If your confidence in your knowledge of all things Scouting had you reaching for a pen — instead of a pencil — when filling out the BSA-themed crossword answers at the top of this story, it’s time for a true test of your skills.
Here are 10 actual clues printed in The New York Times. I’ve listed the publication date and original clue, followed by the number of letters in the correct response. Find the answers at the end of the post.
- Jan. 27, 2021: Merit badge holder (4)
- Jan. 25, 2019: Neil Armstrong or Steven Spielberg, as a teen (10)
- Sept. 19, 2016: Cub Scout leader named after a character in “The Jungle Book” (5)
- June 26, 2016: Scout’s shelter (7)
- Jan. 9, 2013: Did or didn’t participate in the Boy Scouts outing? (9)
- Jan. 4, 2011: Something good for a Boy Scout? (4)
- July 24, 2009: Local or regional Boy Scout gathering (8)
- Sept. 7, 2006: Org. receiving royalties for “God Bless America” (3)
- Feb. 17, 1994: Boy Scouts of America founder (5)
- Jan. 4, 1991: Scout gathering (8)
Ready for the answers?
Just a bit more.
Almost made it!
OK, here we go.
- BSA (read more)
How’d you do? Did you get all 10 correct? Go ahead and leave a comment below with your score.
Try some Scouting-themed crosswords
Ready for some crosswords where every clue is about Scouting? Head over to this page on the Scouting magazine website for printable puzzles about the BSA.