Some of the stories I’ve relayed often involved some of the “other” puzzles I run into in this journey into crossword-land. As well, I’ve shared some of my experiences in trying to learn how to do crosswords.
Initially, I would come across the Sunday New York Times and dabble with it a bit, along with an unlabeled 21×21 I later found out to be the Los Angeles Times Sunday puzzle. Eventually I made it a goal to be able to sufficiently and ably do it, which led me into this hobby. My first step was picking up editions of the paper other than Sunday to see what was present there. The first I ran into was something labeled “The Daily Commuter Puzzle”.
Now when I got into this one, I told myself I’ll do my best…
(*) – These are actual clues that appeared in the 07/13/2017 Daily Commuter Puzzle.
9-Across [Apple pie ala _______] – MODE!
13-Across [Strike with an open hand] – SLAP!
I got this!
1-Down [Blind ____ bat] – AS A!
3-Down [Ship’s pole] – MAST!
I can do crossword puzzles! This is awesome!
38-Across [Kilt pattern] – PLAID!
46-Across [Nation founded in 1776: abbr.] – USA!
I feel like Einstein. I can take on the world!
I probably made the same mistake of catching a late week New York Times grid when I was trying to find something more my speed, but yet challenging. Notably after I learned of the schedule, I was able to take the Monday and Tuesday on with a little less consternation and give me an opportunity to learn.
But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about something I don’t understand. Personally, I was willing to look around the market and find more examples of things, but at the same time I wonder if there are people that believe that these kinds of things are the limit of the offerings out there. I mean, I got bored in two weeks with the Daily Commuter, and got bored in less time with a Dell puzzle book I purchased. While not challengeless, it never posed much of a challenge. I eventually moved onto the Universal grids I found online (about a LAT Tuesday level for those keeping score), worked my way up, and then went from there.
This wonderment of mine increases when I run across things like this. We are told by the Kansas City Star public editor that:
It’s clear that the biggest complaint by far was with the new crossword puzzle that runs with the comics pages. Puzzlers were extremely upset at the new version that had taken its place.
I researched and found out that the “new version” was the Universal puzzles. So why where they upset?
“This new puzzle is an exercise in frustration,” said one representative caller.
I understand this next quoted person a little bit – that it’s that feeling there. But related too that it was challenging.
“It was challenging enough but also simple enough that you feel accomplished when you get it done,” said another.
So, I can’t say I really relate, as I got bored with the Daily Commuter for the lack of challenge – the same reason that most of us don’t play Tic Tac Toe anymore. It stopped being fun. So I thought I might ask: There’s obviously some kind of market for these puzzles or they wouldn’t run as widely as they seem to do. But I notice that the market seems to be there for Tuesday-level grids through the week – as I notice USA Today, Universal, Newsday, and CrosSynergy have all played in this market to varying degrees and seem to be okay with it.
So, while I can think of a lot of possible reasons, what is the consistent appeal that grids like this have? It’s a quality grid, which is why I put it in my list, but at the same time I don’t get the consistent appeal of it being this easy.
Maybe a lesson with all of this is the old adage “Be Careful what You Wish for”, because you just may get it. Given my conversations I’ve had, a lot of times I wonder if editors just say “We need to put a crossword in, let’s shop and find a good deal” without having any idea of what they are putting in. The key thing to remember is that often their readers are the only way they know exactly what they are getting. So be sure to give them feedback if they are running a grid you happen to like, as well as if you find a puzzlement in a grid like mine.
I’ll pick up this thought again once I get some samples of some other puzzles that are much worse, yet for some reason people are okay with. Caveat emptor!