Archive for the ‘Daily solving’ Category

2010 Update … New decade, new puzzles!

January 17, 2010

OK, so I was lazy again last year — and so far this month. Maybe I just spent too much time solving and not enough time blogging.

Anyway, here are the new links for 2010. And thanks for your gentle reminders and your patience.

And once again, thanks to Will Johnston, Lloyd Mazer and Kevin McCann for their efforts putting this together. I simply post links to their work. They’re the ones who deserve our thanks as we enjoy the puzzles online.


2009 Updates

January 9, 2009

OK. So I’ve become lazy when it comes to maintaining this blog. That’s probably because I’ve been busy with work and family stuff, and I refuse to compromise on the time I spend with daily and weekly (and monthly) puzzles.

Anyway, there has been a change in the puzzle line-up on weekends, with the Washington Post running Merl Reagle’s puzzles (same as the Philadelphia Inquirer). As a result, I’m not including the Washington Post on my list, since it’s the same puzzle as run in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

For those of you who like the links all in one place, here they are:

Thanks again to Will Johnston, who maintains the calendars at his website, and to Lloyd Mazer who “Litzes” the Wall Street Journal puzzles and maintains them on his website. (Hope I havent forgotten anyone.)

Enjoy! I’ll try to be a little more active on the blog this year.

2008: another good year for crosswords

January 6, 2008

Someone beat me to the punch, but not by much. I was enjoying the Los Angeles Times sunday puzzle today, when I received a notification that someone had posted a comment asking about the 2008 puzzle links. I had remembered earlier in the day that I wanted to provide these updates (when I saw former President Bill Clinton, that well-known solver, on C-SPAN), but then got wrapped up in solving some other weekend puzzles.

Anyway, here are the links for 2008. Enjoy!

The Wall Street Journal 
The Washington Post
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Boston Globe
The New York Times

Remember, you need AcrossLite in order to open and solve the puzzles at these sites. You can still go to the Cruciverb site to access the Los Angeles Times puzzle.

2007 puzzle links updated

February 9, 2007

Someone just reminded me that the links I provided in an earlier post to the weekend puzzles online were all from 2006. Now that it’s a new year, I guess that means I should provide the updated links. Of course, you can always get the links from Will Johnston’s very helpful site (see recommended links at the right), but I know that when you crave a puzzle, fewer clicks is better, so here are the new links for sosolved puzzle 2me of the more popular weekend puzzles:

The Wall Street Journal 
The Washington Post
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Boston Globe
The New York Times

Remember, you need AcrossLite in order to open and solve the puzzles at these linked sites, so download and install that first. Also note that I did not include the Los Angeles Times puzzle because you have to first log-on at the Cruciverb website to access that puzzle.

Withdrawal symptoms

February 8, 2007

OK, I admit it: I’m truly addicted to crossword puzzles — especially the New York Times puzzles.

Last Saturday I participated in the Westport Library’s annual crossword puzzle tournament. (See prior post on this subject.) It was most enjoyable. But the puzzles used in the tournament were this week’s Monday through Thursday puzzles from the New York Times. So each day this week I was deprived of solving a fresh puzzle as I went through my morning routine with the Times.

I didn’t think I’d miss the puzzle that much. After all, I still have 3 or 4 other puzzles I can solve online, and it’s a chance to actually spend more time on articles in other sections of the newspaper that I enjoy. All that’s fine, but now I realize now how truly addicted I am to that ink-on-paper puzzle near the back of the Arts section of each day’s New York Times.

willshortz-copy.jpgI wonder if Will Shortz realizes that he’s not so different from the pushers who prey on drug users in our neighborhoods. He simply makes puzzles available for people who enjoy the mental challenge, but in the process he feeds a habit that’s hard for many of us to break. And perhaps he’s complicit in encouraging our addictive behavior.

My pen and coffee cup are ready for the Friday puzzle, so I can resume my former morning routine — including the crossword puzzle in the [hardcopy] New York Times.

Another level of crossword enjoyment

December 31, 2006

I’ve been very conscious in this blog to not make it esoteric — with in-jokes or trivia for only the truly addicted crossword crazies. I am well aware that most people don’t have a clue who constructs or edits the puzzles they solve, and most don’t solve more than 5 or 6 puzzles a week, if that.

But I’ve also noticed that there is a level of appreciation and enjoyment in solving a puzzle if you “know” the constructor and/or the editor. The process of filling in the squares with letters becomes more like a conversation with a familar friend. You start to know who uses a lot of puns, or who gives a lot of misdirection (i.e., “tricky clues,” usually with a question mark after them), or who is into trivia, music or pop culture, etc.

I’ve even developed a short list of “favorite constructors” who represent an extra incentive to attack the puzzle when their names are at the bottom.

If you haven’t paused to notice the constructor and the editor of the puzzles you solve, let me suggest you start making a mental note. After a while you’ll probably find, as I have, that you begin to recognize their individual syles — much as you would with a favorite author, singer, or composer — and enjoy crossword puzzles even more than you do now.

Creative Constructing

November 18, 2006

I covered the traditional elements that make a crossword puzzle enjoyable in a previous post — fill, cluing, theme, and challenge — but I completely missed a wild card: novelty.

What could be novel in a crossword puzzle, you ask? Aren’t puzzles just a series of interlocking words and phrases?

Well, Patrick Merrill, an accomplished and very creative constructor, has brought yet another form of crossword novelty to the party in his Sunday-sized puzzle for the Scientific American magazine. It’s in the December issue, or you can link to it here and download the PDFs (two of them, one for the grid and one for the clues).

While it helps if you’re a regular reader of the magazine and know the year’s top science stories, the puzzle isn’t so difficult that everyone can’t enjoy it. Just click on the “Set Theory” graphic link, download the puzzle, and you’ll see what I mean.

What makes some puzzles better than others?

November 5, 2006

I was struck this weekend by the cleverness and sophistication of several crossword puzzles, and it got me to thinking about why some puzzles are so much more enjoyable to solve than others.

There are probably four dimensions on which you can judge a puzzle — and together they determine how much enjoyment and satisfaction they will provide.

  1. First, there is the theme. If it’s clever, engaging, perhaps surprising, and novel, you’ll experience the satisfaction that comes with the “Aha!” experience of realization or discovery.
  2. Then there’s the fill — the words that fit into the grid. If they’re the same old words, with the same “crossword-ese” flavor, you probably won’t enjoy the puzzle. But if they are fresh and show unusual connection with the common usage of our language, you’ll probably appreciate the time you spend interacting with the puzzle (and indirectly with the constructor and editor).
  3. Third is cluing. The clues are what make a puzzle more or less difficult, and also more or less enjoyable. If there are a lot of clues ending with question marks (indicating misdirection) or referring to subjects with which you are less familiar, you’ll find that you get a different kind of enjoyment than if the clues are all “straight” and familiar.
  4. Finally, there’s the difficulty of the puzzle. If it’s too easy it isn’t much of a challenge, and it’s probably not going to be very enjoyable. And if it’s too difficult, you get frustrated and feel you need to “cheat” by looking up some words in a dictionary or online reference. That’s not very satisfying. So the difficulty has to be “just right” — the Goldilocks phenomenon.

The reason the really good puzzles are, well, really good is that the editors are keenly aware of these four dimensions and tweak them carefully to suit their audiences. A good editor is perhaps as important to a crossword’s final character as the constructor — and he or she is what separates the really good puzzles from the mediocre or poor ones.

Monday = Easy

October 24, 2006

The New York Times crosswords are easiest on Mondays, and they get more difficult as the week progresses. Friday and Saturday are generally too difficult for new solvers, and quite a challenge for even more experienced crossword solvers.

When discussing a puzzle’s difficulty, it’s not uncommon for regulars to say, “It was about a Wednesday level puzzle …” for example. The day of the week has become a unit of measure (for difficulty) within the crossword community.

Of course, the Sunday puzzle doesn’t follow the weekday “grading” system. It’s much larger than the daily puzzles, but the difficulty level isn’t usually much greater than a Wednesday or Thursday puzzle.

And Friday/Saturday puzzles have something else in common with each other (in addition to being more challenging): they don’t have a theme. They are “themeless.” Not having a theme doesn’t make them more difficult per se, but it removes a kind of inside “hint” that you might otherwise use as a crutch when solving. (And it means that you don’t experience an “Aha!” moment when you discover what the theme entries have in common.)

Fridays and Saturdays — at least in the New York Times — are really for solvers who love the challenge of a tough crossword puzzle.

Weekends are the best!

October 22, 2006

crosswordgrid.jpgWeekends are heaven for serious crossword solvers. All the newspapers and syndicates come out with their best and biggest puzzles on the weekends. And, for the most part, they are not outrageously difficult.

I usually start with the Wall Street Journal puzzle that appears in the Friday paper. It’s edited by Mike Shenk, one of the best in the business. Then I move to the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times puzzles (edited by Fred Piscop and Rich Norris, respectively). I also make sure to find and solve Merl Reagle’s puzzle in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It’s syndicated and appears in many different papers, but the Philadelphia Inquirer is easiest to get online in AcrossLite format. (Note that access to the Los Angeles Times puzzle in AcrossLite format requires that you be registered on the Cruciverb website.)

All of these puzzles (and more) are easily accessible using Will Johnston’s Puzzle Pointers or the Cruciverb website. And all of them are in AcrossLite format, so once you’ve downloaded and installed AcrossLite, you can solve the puzzles on your computer or print them out and use the “old fashioned” approach with pencil/pen and paper. (See the link to Litsoft’s website where you can download AcrossLite.)

I didn’t mean to slight Will Shortz and the New York Times puzzles. I don’t miss a day of those — weekend or not. It’s just that those are only available by paid subscription, so they’re “different” in that regard. (And the Friday/Saturday puzzles are the most challenging of the week!) Subscription cost is $5.95 a month, or $34.95 for the year. Real crossword fanatics find that a very reasonable price for so many high-quality puzzles. Plus you get access to hundreds of great puzzles from prior years in the archive.