Monday, September 29, 2008


This weekend I enjoyed watching Wordplay. It's a documentary about crossword puzzles, the people who construct them and the people who solve them - specifically following an annual tournament where puzzlers meet and compete. These people they showed solving crossword puzzles competitively have high-capacity brains. Strange machines. The documentary showed one man finish a NYTimes crossword in 2:02! That's two minutes and two seconds. I can't even read all the clues in that amount of time.

Anyway, it spurred me to print out my own sample crosswords from the NYTimes and try my hand at them. And while I won't be puzzling competitively anytime soon (read, never), I did find myself having a great deal of fun. I've never done many crosswords in the past (I don't know why, being a word nerd) and so it was new ground for me.

The crosswords in the Times apparently are easiest on Monday and gradually become more difficult throughout the week, becoming extremely difficult by Friday and Saturday. My first go was at a Tuesday puzzle and my second, yesterday, I tried solving a classic Thursday puzzle. I was not able to finish either puzzle without the help of a dictionary and even then I had a few blanks. The Thursday puzzle I finished in 1:45 - that's one hour and forty-five minutes. I imagine the more you solve the easier they become. And I'll try to move away from cheating with a dictionary. Really. Or at least treat it like war - first exhausting all other options.


alison said...

No need to get extra nerdy and perfectionistic. Use the dictionary. We all know you're a smarty pants, just not a professional puzzler...yet.

Scott Lyons said...

Alison, I appreciate the permission. I will continue to use the dictionary until my brain is evolved enough or trained enough to do without. As long, however, as they use words like "bireme," I may just have to be happy that I get to spend more time in my Merriam-Webster.

I did just solve today's USA Today puzzle online in 24 minutes ("red letter" for beginners, of course)! Still a little slow - easy puzzle - but I'll get better. I suppose I should take a break and feed the baby though.