It’s not every day that a Nova Scotian can find a reference to their home province in the New York Times.
But not only did Charlotte MacDonald find a reference to Cape Breton but she also found an error in a crossword that dates back nearly 80 years.
MacDonald, 25, has been interested in puzzles ever since she grew up in Cape Breton. She now religiously does the New York Times crossword through an app on her phone with co-workers in Halifax.
Back home in Cape Breton for the holidays, MacDonald was working hard on a special, reissued anniversary crossword when she spotted a clue that sounded familiar to her.
The clue for 43 down reads “Strait between Nova Scotia and New Breton.”
Although the answer — Canso for the Canso Strait — was correct, MacDonald was quick to notice that part of the clue included an error.
There is no New Breton. The Canso Strait actually separates Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.
The dedicated fan of the New York Times crosswords decided to reach out to the paper to notify it of the error.
“I thought to myself, ‘I finally have a reason to email them,'” MacDonald told Global News.
She was surprised to get a response from Will Shortz, the puzzle editor for the New York Times.
Shortz is a legend among the puzzle community and is world-renowned for his expertise.
Reached by phone he told Global News he was as shocked as anyone to receive the email about a historic crossword.
“It just seems to be an outright mistake and I wrote in that note, this is the first time I’ve ever heard about this,” he said.
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To make the error even more remarkable, the special, anniversary crossword that MacDonald was working on has its own place in history for the institution of the New York Times.
The crossword she was working on was printed in the paper on Feb. 15, 1942 as a way to provide Americans with a distraction from the dreary news of the Second World War.
It was also the first-ever crossword printed in the New York Times.
The crossword was created long before Shortz’s tenure and what happens next is still up for debate.
“I think the statute of limitations has passed… I guess I could contact the corrections department and mention this,” Shortz said with a laugh.
“There is a sell-by date on this, an expiration date, which I think we’ve passed. But it could be people might find it amusing.”
As for MacDonald, she told Global News that she’s happy she got an opportunity to talk to Shortz.
“You know, I’m sure he’s a very busy man to actually send me, like, a personalized email. I thought if anything, I would get something automated. And he got back to me the very next day. So I thought that was pretty cool,” she said.
She doubts that the clue will be changed in future editions.
“I doubt that they want to change that crossword because, you know, it’s kind of a piece of history for them,” MacDonald said.
“Even though it was mentioned, and it was wrong, it was a piece of history.”
But if there is a change she’s looking forward to seeing Cape Breton get a shout-out in the New York Times.