Yreka! How this North State city landed in the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle

Bill Choy
Siskiyou Daily News
A fall scene along West Miner Street in Yreka's historic district. Downtown restaurants remain open and seem to be handling the same number of diners they attracted before the Rain Rock Casino opened in April 2018.

Sharp pencil alert — the city of Yreka received a bit of national recognition on Sunday, Oct. 3 when it was an answer in the famous and iconic New York Times Crossword page. 

The question posed for 36 down in the crossword was, “What is the Northern California town once home to the Palindromic Bakery?” The answer? Yreka, of course. 

Yreka Mayor Duane Kegg said it's always welcome news when Yreka, population 7,765, receives a bit of positive national attention.  

“I think it’s really nice and pretty cool we made the crossword,” he said, adding that the Yreka Bakery's name contains the famous palindrome, something the city has been recognized for having for a number of years.  

So, what is a palindrome? Well, it’s a word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backward as forward. 

The bakery was an actual place on historic West Miner Street. It was in the Brown-Nickell-Authenrieth Building, which is still standing at 322 and 324 West Miner St. It houses Strings Italian Café. 

According to a plaque put up by the City of Yreka at the building site, the Yreka Bakery was founded in 1856 by alleged Civil War deserter Frederick Deng.  

The plaque said that there were several bakery owners over the years, and the Palindromic Bakery operated continuously until 1965.

When the bakery vacated, the plaque said that another business moved in with a name that carried on the palindromic tradition: Yrella Gallery. 

More:

The New York Times Sunday Crossword answers stated that Yreka developed from a miners’ camp called Thompson’s Dry Diggings. “Yreka” derives from the name for Mount Shasta (wáik’a) in the Shasta language, which translates as “North Mountain” or “White Mountain." 

But there is another story on how the name Yreka came to be by the famous author Mark Twain.

The Times crossword said that Twain related a story that said that “Yreka” comes from the word “bakery." 

The story goes, according to the New York Times crossword answers, that back when the area was a mining boomtown, a baker was preparing a canvas sign with the word “BAKERY." Leaving it out to dry, all but the B could be seen through the canvas. This reversed “-AKERY” was read by a stranger, and he presumed that the sign gave the name of the camp and read it as “YREKA”.  

Bill Choy covers sports and general news for the Siskiyou Daily News/Mount Shasta Herald/USA Today Network. Follow him on Twitter at @SDNBillChoy. Email Bill at bchoy@siskiyoudaily.com. Support local journalism by subscribing today.