Who are the Most Mentioned Authors in Crosswords?

Such is the fate of the author: to toil over the creation of long and mighty tomes, only to find their name and oeuvre trivialized among the clues on a smudgy crossword page.

But is being mentioned in a crossword puzzle really such an insult to a writer? Of course not: it’s a highly appropriate compliment.

Great authors put an awful lot of work into translating entire universes into sequences of artful prose. And the ones we remember are those whose sentences are structured into paragraphs and plots that hold together with the same delicate precision as that of the daily crossword. Not a letter out of place; every revelation a delicious payoff on the reader’s (or crossword-solver’s) investment.

So which authors do crossword compilers consider worthy of this tribute? In our previous study, we discovered that 14.5% of the people whose names have featured in crosswords are from the literary realm — more than royals, politicians and religious figures put together. Now Crossword-Solver has got a little more granular: by consulting massive banks of data about millions of crosswords, we can now reveal which authors are most commonly cited in crossword clues and answers.

What We Did

Crossword-Solver created a list of thousands of well-known prose authors. We then consulted a database of 6,393,331 crossword clues published by 62 major newspapers in the U.S., UK and Ireland from 1913 to June 2023 and calculated how many times a particular author was mentioned in a crossword clue. We further categorized our results to find the most-mentioned authors in each decade, of each genre and in each newspaper, as well as revealing the most-mentioned authors writing in the 21st century.

Key Findings

  • Stephen King is the author who has featured in the most crosswords — a total of 437.
  • Dr. Seuss is the children’s author mentioned in the most crosswords (418).
  • King took over as the most-mentioned author in the 2010s after three decades of crossword domination by Dr. Seuss.
  • Agatha Christie is a detective fiction author who has appeared in the most crosswords (213).

King, Seuss and Twain Rule the Realm of the Crossword

Three very different titans of American literature tower over the newspaper crossword imaginary. Mark Twain, perhaps the country’s greatest literary humorist and a master of the mind-bending aphorism, might have made a great crossword compiler had he not left this mortal coil three years before the first crossword was published. A crossword clue set by Dr. Seuss would have been a little less intuitive. His image associations were lateral, to say the least, and he was prone to inventing single-use words (preep, nerkle) that hardly made it into the average puzzler’s vocabulary.

Authors in Crosswords IG

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Stephen King, the only living writer among the top five, is perhaps the world’s most famous living author. And the argument over whether he’s America’s greatest — or whether he’s even a great writer at all — is a testament to how embedded his characters and settings have become in our society. With his latest novel out in 2023 at the age of 75, and several dozen behind him, he is the most commonly mentioned author in crosswords and is likely to remain so for some time.

Agatha Christie is the Most Crossworded Mystery Writer

Popular Crossword Authors by Genre IG

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Seuss and King lead across multiple genres, but for those genres in which they don’t write, the most mentioned author is always a woman: Agatha Christie for detective fiction, Jane Austen for romance and George Eliot — whose real name, Mary Ann Evans, would also make a good crossword clue — in the genre of historical fiction.

“Words, mademoiselle, are only the outer clothing of ideas,” as Christie’s regular hero, Hercules Poirot, points out in The A.B.C. Murders. That may be so, but you still need to get the letters in the right order, or the crossword will just fall apart.

The Times of London Favors British Authors

Popular Crossword Authors by Newspaper IG

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While Charles Dickens and Jane Austen appear regularly across international crossword puzzles, The Times (of London) is the only newspaper in our chart to feature only authors from the British Isles (Oscar Wilde was born in Ireland and is generally referred to as Anglo-Irish).

Stephen King is not such a big player among these big papers; Dr. Seuss and Mark Twain are equally represented in the New York Times (115 times each), while King has been named just 71 times. Langston Hughes has had 10 mentions in the WaPo crossword. “Langston Hughes poem affirming racial equality” was one such clue. The answer? ITOO (I, Too.)

Alphabet Mysteries Writer Sue Grafton Among Top Modern Writers

21st Century Authors in Crosswords IG

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The 21st-century authors most commonly mentioned in crossword clues and answers are something of a who’s who of airport literature. King is air miles ahead, but second-placed Sue Grafton warrants a respectable 171 mentions.

Like Agatha Christie, Grafton turned to the alphabet for inspiration on more than one occasion; in fact, she is best known for her series of mysteries named after letters, beginning with “A Is for Alibi.” It was successful enough that she could quit her regular job after reaching “G.” Sadly, she died in 2017 before she could complete the series with “Z Is for Zero.” Her daughter announced that “as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”

Pearl Buck Among Authors Overlooked by Contemporary Crossword Compilers

Crossword Authors by Decade IG

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The top five most-mentioned authors in crosswords have remained remarkably consistent over the past 40+ years, with Agatha Christie and George Eliot drifting in and out alongside mainstays Stephen King, Dr. Seuss and Mark Twain. Only the 1980s has a flavor of its own: pre-Grafton, pre-mega-fame-King, we find regulars Dr. Seuss and George Eliot joined by a roster of unique names.

S.S. Dine was a pre-war detective novelist, “one of the oddest ducks one could ever hope, or dread, to meet.” Pearl Buck was a Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winner who wrote “over seventy books, which include novels, translations of Chinese literature, children’s literature, and biographies.” Both have receded somewhat in the public consciousness but are more than deserving — through Dine’s notoriety and Buck’s accomplishments in arts and activism — of gracing the puzzle pages of our most dignified papers for generations to come.

The Square Plot

There is another conceptual meeting point between the crossword and a good novel: the devil’s in the details. Either can turn on a frivolous observation or morsel, which carries, in micro-scale, a key to the overarching structure in which it operates. Authors like Georges Perec or Anne Carson, whose writings toy with puzzle-like ideas and interlocking or systematically constructed works, are testament to the power of the written word: that each sequence of letters can operate as both clothing and idea; a word is an object, a concept, a puzzle and an answer.



We first gathered a seed list of authors sorted by genre and nationality, excluding categories such as playwrights, poets and non-standard genres of writing where the writer wouldn't be considered an author.

Each author was then assigned one or multiple genres.

21st-century authors were defined as authors who have been active since 2000.

To determine the frequency with which each author appears in crossword clues, we examined a total of 6,393,331 crossword clues across 62 major newspapers in the U.S., UK and Ireland, spanning 1913 to June 2023.

The data of this analysis is correct as of  July 2023.

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