My stats site is down again because my provider discountasp.net is having problems. That means I can't post my answers to the Tuesday Feb 19 puzzle by Victor Fleming. If I weren't so lazy, I'd do the same as Linda and scan my hardcopy version, but of course Linda's already done that (her answers are the same as mine) and besides her handwriting has the distinct advantage of being legible. Good puzzle. I love "Talkativeness" becoming LOQUACITY.
So, instead of the usual deep, thoughtful, analysis that this blog is known for — or am I thinking of some other blog — I thought I would ask for your help on an important philosophical question. One of the problems with Crosswords as a sport is that there is a barrier to entry. Any puzzle rich enough to be interesting is likely too difficult for a novice. Most fans of this site are seasoned pros, but think back to that first time you tried to solve and remember how frustrating that experience was. How did you get past it?
I received this email from Afshin Haghgoo, a UCLA student majoring in Global Studies and Political Science. I want to help him. For one thing, I hope he gets famous enough so his mellifluous name gets into a puzzle one day.
I'm trying to learn the intrinsics of solving a crossword puzzle. I'm currently a college student, age 21, and I've been trying dutifully to solve the NY Times crossword puzzles without cheating. At best I've only been able to solve a handful of answers of each puzzle on my very own. I've looked around on the web to see if any other crossword solvers would divulge some personal experiences in their time as a crossword novice, but I run into people who either seem to have a natural ability in solving crosswords or seem to have reached a threshold that they can't go back to the moments when they had the same difficulty as I'm having in solving crosswords. I'm hoping that maybe you can give me some pointers in just learning how to grow as a crossword solver so with each week I can see the puzzle in a broader perspective and maybe even solve some more clues. I hope that's not too much to ask. Thanks for your consideration and look forward to reading more of your blog.
I'm not sure what to tell him. Are there any good books for beginners? Other puzzles to try before tackling the NYT? Web resources? I started back in Canada doing cryptics and I could never have managed without helpful friends. Is that the trick? Post your thoughts as comments or send me mail.
Ah, I see the stats site has just come back up, so the Tuesday answers are here.
Update: A comment here suggested that I add Amy Reynaldo's book as a recommendation for beginners. Despite my admiration for the author I haven't read it but if I click the image above I can buy it from Amazon. And that's what I'll do.