Category Archives: Crossword Puzzles

The New York Times, And Newspapers In General

I subscribe to the New York Times Premium Puzzles, and it isn’t free, but it isn’t expensive either.  I do their puzzles every day, which you can do for free as long as it’s the same day.  Premium allows you to access previous days’ puzzles, plus access to what they call their Second Sunday puzzle, which includes the Acrostics.  I am addicted to Acrostics!  It also allows you access to Play With A Friend, so you can interactively solve the puzzle with another person or more than one person.  My sister and I do this together every Saturday (Saturday being the hardest puzzle and requiring two brains), so it’s very important to me to be able to access it.  My sister and I use it as our weekly catch-up time.

I remember a friend who used to call his mother every weekend, and he dreaded it.  This is never a dreaded contact, I look forward to it.  If we have nothing to say beyond doing the puzzle together, that’s fine too.  We don’t have to scramble to find a topic if there really isn’t one.   We touched base.  We had fun.  We know we are each okay.  Mission accomplished.

It’s a fixed appointment.  If either of us did not show up without prior notice, we would know something was wrong.

So this week…it would not allow me to type in either the Acrostic or Play With A Friend.  I discovered that Friday night and did everything I could do on my end to try to fix it.  Logged off the NYT and logged back on (about a hundred times).  Restarted the computer (about a hundred times).  Emptied the cache.  Cleared everything I know how to clear.  And it still didn’t work.

So, in desperation, I contacted the NY Times Help.  And…Arrgh. I’ve done this before, and should have remembered.  I got back an automated response suggesting I do all the things I’d already done.  I just wanted to scream.  I am so frustrated!  But what can I do?  Well, I replied, I already did that.  Could a real person look into this?

It does make me a little sad, because I’m well aware of the issues that newpapers are going through.  (Like, death.)  But if I have a problem with my Kindle or with my cell phone, I can get customer service help 24 hours a day from Amazon or Sprint. (Of course they will be from India or Uzbekistan, but…that’s another discussion.)  Sometimes while I’m searching for the answer to my problem, someone will pop up on chat and offer to help.  Or I can choose the chat option to begin with.

Not so with the NYT.  Apparently their people work Monday through Friday and have pre-set automated responses for when they are not there.  This seems like a scheduling problem to me.  You could have shifts that go from Tuesday through Saturday, or Wednesday through Sunday.  That way you would cover every day of the week….even if they were all 8 to 5 shifts.  Inquiries after that time would be answered the next day.  They need a manager.

I am sad about newspapers though.  Every weekday, I read the paper and ink version of my local paper.  I won’t subscribe to the online version, because the fees are more than the fees for the New York Times, which just seems wrong to me.  And the NYT lets you read 10 articles a month for free.  But I don’t see that lasting long.  I like newspapers.  I like real books.  I like libraries, and the smell of old paper.

And yet, as I mentioned, I have a Kindle, a cell phone, a Bluetooth.  I have Windows 7 and more than one email address (some of which I have to remember to check.)  I have a foot in both worlds, so to speak.  I know people who are steadfast in refusing to give up the “old ways”.  For instance.  I’m on the Board of an organization and there are various ways to notify us of meetings.  When that task falls to the former president of the organization, he calls you on the phone.  You will never get me that way.  He has an email address, but he doesn’t like it and doesn’t trust it.  Sad.   If you don’t change with the times, you will become very isolated.  I don’t know what he’ll do if they ever stop publishing the paper and ink version of the local newspaper.   Which has happened in other cities (Seattle).

However, it can also get out of hand.  I, for example, don’t have and never will have a Twitter account.  I think the whole concept is laughable and useless.  That said, apologies to Twitter fans. I once said a similar thing to a blogger friend and he was highly insulted.  I’ll leave it at, this is a bit too much connectivity for me.  The best thing about technology for me is that it has allowed me to become more disconnected, rather than less.  I need lots of down time.  To read in the back yard.  To contemplate how annoying and yet clever squirrels are.  To get stung by fire ants (or some other unknown critter)and take myself to the ER.  I don’t think sending a Tweet about it would be helpful.

Having said this about newspapers, next month I will be a somewhat reluctant “star” in the local newspaper.  They are participating in a campaign called Go Pink! Which is apparently a national endeavor by newspapers. Each day they are highlighting one local woman who has survived breast cancer.  I have very mixed feelings about the whole pink stuff thing.  But overall, I think this is a good idea.  This is the face of cancer:  someone who is your neighbor or co-worker.  And there were things I wanted to say.  When the article comes out, I will let you know, and provide a link to the online video of the interview (which I will probably have to pay for, Ha!)  The reporter did the video using an iPhone!  I am still amazed!

I love newspapers and I am prematurely mourning their deaths.  But I also love new ways to communicate too.  Like iPhones.

I Am SOOO Annoyed

I’ve mentioned that every Saturday, Fakesister and I do the New York Times crossword puzzle together online.  We do them every other day on our own.  Access to the NY Times website is free, as is access to the daily puzzle.  But for the ability to do puzzles together, or to access the so-called “Second Sunday Puzzle”, you have to subscribe to Premium Crosswords, which is $39.95 per year.  Well worth it, in my opinion. 

The reason we do Saturdays together is, well, first of all, it’s a convenient time to get together, but primarily it’s because Saturday is the hardest.  The puzzles start with the easiest on Monday, then progressively become harder until Saturday.  Sunday is kind of in a category all its own.   It’s medium hard, but longer than any other daily puzzle.  It also always has a theme, which today was “Flag Day”.

The puzzles often have “tricks” to them, the most common being what Fakesister calls a “housing shortage”.  (Maybe the Times calls it that too.)  For example…the clue for 1 Down in today’s puzzle is “1959 #1 hit for the Fleetwoods”.  Three letters.  The answer is, Mr. Blue–where blue is all in the final square.   So the answer is MRB.  I got that one.  The 2 down clue, also 3 letters is “‘The Trumpet of the Swan author”, who turns out to be EB White, or EBW.  3 down is “Bushed”, which I also got–it’s tired, or TIR. 

The problem arises when you get to 22 across.  What you get is BWRSBEANCOBAIN.  Which makes absolutely no sense.  And I even knew what her name really is. 

Now we skip to 90 across, for which the clue is “Country with a blue, white, and red flag”.  The answer is France.  And now, jumping back to 22 across, if you replace the BWR with the country whose flag is that color, you get FRANCESBEANCOBAIN.  So the answer to “Buy real estate” is ACQUGWO (green, white, orange), or in other words, ACQUIRELAND.

How do I know this?  Because I gave up and visited the Crossword blog, called Wordplay.  With one exception, all 22 of the commenters remarked on what a brilliant puzzle this was.  Well yes, it was brilliant, but so is astrophysics.  We like our puzzles to be hard, but doable.  We hate the ones that leave you feeling dumb as dirt. 

So I was moved to leave my own comment on Wordplay, which as you might guess was, “I am SOOO annoyed!”