Paper versus Computer Screen
One nice thing about solving on paper is that the puzzles are completely portable. You can work on them anywhere, from a crowded rush-hour train to a windswept sandy beach. Try doing that with a computer! Also, many people enjoy the tactile feel of a pencil (or, for the brave, a pen) in their hands. Many enjoy the daily ritual of sitting down at their kitchen table or in a cafÃ?Â©, taking the morning newspaper, folding the puzzle page just so, and solving the puzzle while enjoying a cup of coffee.
Solving puzzles on the computer offers its own advantages. When you make a mistake, you can wipe it out just by tapping the backspace key. Your puzzle stays neat – no messy pencil erasures, no ink letters scrawled on top of other letters until you can no longer read what you wrote! If you want, you can get answers for a particular letter you’re stuck on, or for a whole word. Also, when you’ve filled in all the squares, the computer will tell you if you got everything right or not, so you don’t have to wonder, or go through the hassle of checking it yourself against an answer grid. Plus, most programs will give you a little “reward” when you get everything right, such as a picture of a smiling pencil telling you “Congratulations.” One of the most popular features of online puzzles is the timer, which tells you exactly how long it took you to finish a puzzle. Many people enjoy adding this competitive aspect to their crossword solving. Some like to compare their time to other people’s, but even more like to play against themselves, seeing how they do from one day to the next.
Most online puzzles, with one notable exception, are free. You can play them on the internet using your regular browser, as long as it has java enabled (or in some cases, flash installed), which most browsers do. This is the simplest and most popular way to play, and is especially recommended for people who do not want to download anything, and/or who are playing on a computer that isn’t their own.
Some sites also give you the option of downloading puzzles and playing them with a free software program called Across Lite. Across Lite has many advantages. It allows you to play when you are not connected to the internet. You can save a partially completed puzzle, and go back to it later. You can customize the layout and many of the solving options. You can print the puzzles out, if you wish. It is easy to navigate around the grid. There are versions for many different computers and operating systems. In order to use it, you first need to download it and install it on your computer, which you can do here.
Finding puzzles online
Typing “crossword puzzles” into Google gives 12,500,000 hits! Since that may be just a few too many choices, here is a select list of some of the best puzzles on the internet:
The New York Times
This is the famous New York Times puzzle, recently celebrated in the movie Wordplay. As New York Times puzzle fans know, the puzzle starts off easy (well, relatively easy!) on Mondays, and gets progressively harder through the week until Saturday, when it becomes a real killer. The famous Sunday puzzle varies in difficulty. There is a lot of emphasis on word play and fresh language. The NY Times online puzzle is one of the very few that you have to pay for. It costs $34.95 a year, or $5.95 per month, which gives you access to the current puzzles, a 2000-puzzle archive, and some web-only puzzles and special features, including the ability to compete against other solvers.
The Los Angeles Times
This puzzle is about the same difficulty as an early-to-midweek puzzle from the New York Times. Online play requires Macromedia Flash (which most browsers will have).
The New York Sun
This is a relatively new kid on the crossword block, and it is clever and tricky. Play online with a java-enabled browser, or download with Across Lite.
This is a bit easier than the New York Times puzzle, and is designed to have broad appeal. Play online with a java-enabled browser, or print using Adobe Acrobat.
This is from a puzzle-writing collective called CrosSynergy. It’s similar to a Monday or Tuesday New York Times puzzle. Play online with a java-enabled browser, or download with Across Lite.
Well, that should keep you busy for a while! Happy solving!