The University of Michigan’s Central Student Government added the New York Times Games subscription to its catalog of news subscriptions in February, giving all U-M students free access to the full-size daily crossword and a number of other mini-games.
Currently, CSG offers a free subscription to the Wall Street Journal for all students, faculty and staff who sign in through their U-M email account. The New York Times subscription, which is only available to students, allows users to activate their free New York Times subscription to gain access to online news articles, NYT Cooking — and now — NYT Games.
CSG added access to NYT Games about three weeks ago, making it the newest addition to the catalog. In addition to providing access to the crossword puzzle, the subscription also allows students to download the NYT Crossword app onto Apple and Android devices.
Rackham student Hayden Jackson, Student Organization Committee Director for CSG, said news sites with paywalls can pose financial obstacles to students. Jackson added that this opportunity also gives students a return in value for the fees they pay to CSG every semester.
“We have this opportunity to just get more students … both reading this news and playing the crossword,” Jackson said. “Students pay $9.19 a semester (in CSG fees). I ran the numbers, and they’re getting over $100 worth of value out of both of these (subscriptions) every year. So it’s just a way that every single student can get a massive return on their student fee, which is something we definitely always want.”
The NYT Crossword, as well as the NYT Mini Crossword — a bite-size crossword puzzle — have been popular games for years, Jackson said. Other word games like Wordle — which was launched in October 2021 and then bought by NYT in January — has also risen in popularity among the campus community. All of these games are under NYT property and are free to play for all users regardless of subscription status.
“(The full) New York Times crossword has existed for (decades),” Jackson said. “It’s just really a cultural icon that I’m glad that students are getting to experience … (And) it was between the time we did we approved the money (for the Games subscription) and the time we signed the contract that (the) New York Times bought Wordle.”
The Times’ decision to purchase Wordle from its creator, Josh Wardle, in January spurred debate, especially after the publication said the game would “initially remain free.” But no promises were made to keep Wordle freely available to everyone in the future.
Jackson said talks to provide U-M students with a NYT Games subscription began after witnessing a significant demand for it within the campus community after CSG obtained access to NYT Cooking in November 2021.
“I put the (NYT Cooking) link behind a survey that we asked people to fill out to assess our subscription programs,” Jackson said. “In that survey, that was where people really expressed a desire for Games. And that was really unprompted, we didn’t ask ‘Do you want games?’ … CSG sometimes has trouble connecting with the student body (and) this was a place where we really saw a chance to give the students what they’re asking for.”
Andy Wright, senior vice president and head of global institutional subscriptions at NYT, wrote in an email to The Daily that NYT has worked with CSG over the past two years. Wright wrote that NYT is excited for U-M students to have the opportunity to enjoy NYT Games.
“Over the past two years, The New York Times has worked closely with the Central Student Government to bring University of Michigan students digital access across our suite of products,” Wright wrote. “Now they can explore and understand the world through our quality journalism, build confidence in the kitchen with our Cooking app and enjoy a meaningful mental break by playing games like Spelling Bee, Wordle and our Crossword.”
Rackham student Paul Chao, who said he filled out the CSG subscription survey, wrote in an email to The Daily about his experience using the subscriptions provided by CSG.
“My daily source of news starts with the NYT and it keeps me up to date with current events,” Chao wrote. “I love that CSG provides all students with free access to the various products as it enriches my daily (life) in a small way.”
Engineering sophomore Katelyn King said she was excited to see CSG providing access to the Cooking and Games add-ons and said she appreciates the convenience of being able to play the full crossword on her phone.
“I had already been subscribed to the news from the New York Times,” King said. “I had always been using whatever I could get (from) the free Cooking version. So when they came out with the full subscription, I was excited … And now with the full Games access, I play the crossword a lot with my friends. We’re all on each other’s leaderboards competing with each other.”
Jackson said he is also interested in expanding student access to a Washington Post subscription and also allowing U-M faculty and staff to access the New York Times as well. However, he also acknowledged budget constraints and a lack of financial support from the University as obstacles for these goals.
“I wish that we could pursue further subscription products (but) I don’t know that we’ll find the money for something unless we can get a really good price,” Jackson said. “I love hearing from students about what other subscriptions they want … but financially, I don’t think it’s gonna be a reality anytime soon.”
Daily Staff Reporter Irena Li can be reached at email@example.com.