The New York Times Crossword Puzzle: Providing New Life for Old Reference Books

By , March 2, 2010

In the Internet age, it’s easy to forget the importance of reference books. Lately, a family activity has led me to remember, use and appreciate the family reference library we’ve accumulated over the years: crossword puzzles.

We enjoy most word and number puzzles. My favorite type is cryptograms. Michelle and Aly like Sudoku; Aly enjoys logic puzzles as well. We solve crossword puzzles, but haven’t pursued them particularly until recently, when I found a collection of New York Times crosswords at the Salvation Army thrift store.

I now understand the complaints I’ve heard over the years about the NYT puzzles. I don’t like the focus on the concerns of upper income urbanites, such as the frequent questions about stock abbreviations, the names of actors in Broadway productions, and famous clothing designers. I’ve always felt that multiple word answers are a bit of a cheat, as are questionably contorted words or roman numerals. And, not being interested in professional spectator sports, I don’t like having to guess the names of famous athletes. On the plus side, griping about these and other annoyances enhances the recreational aspect of the puzzle somewhat.

Primarily, I work the puzzles during the evening radio news. Most of the time Aly joins me, and Michelle listens in and helps out now and then. We can keep an ear cocked to the news while entertaining ourselves with the puzzle. It works well for us.

Even though we try not to look up answers to clues, the more puzzles we do, the more we consult our reference books. This surprised me at first, since any of the clues could be Googled, until I realized that if we were on line, we’d be on line—not solving crossword puzzles! Crosswords are, in this family, specifically for times when the computers and modem aren’t being used.

While I have added to our reference library recently, most of the older books contain information that’s becoming more and more dated. I’ve noticed that this isn’t a problem when solving the NYT puzzles. None of them seem very cutting edge—in fact, a lot of the questions seem every bit as dated as my older reference books. It’s a perfect match!

In its defense, the value of our reference library extends far beyond helping solve crossword puzzles. I love the Internet, but also appreciate having hard copy information on hand as needed. As I’m fond of saying, I love the Internet, and I’ll miss it when it’s gone. The party will have to end sometime, somehow, I’m sure. When that day comes, our reference library will still be here, waiting to be needed.

Leave a Reply

Panorama Theme by Themocracy