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August 28, 2008


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Sudoku can be amusing (esp. the USA Today online version that plays a funny little drum jingle when you solve it), but the NYT crossword puzzle is sacred. At least it is in our house, where my husband and I tackle it together. For however long it takes us each week, we set aside the complexity, the unknown, and the messiness to meander through a tidy, inventive, and engaging world of Will Shortz's devising. What a party pooper Mr. Rosenbaum is!

Well, sudoku isn't about the numbers. It could just as easily be done with any ten letters. But it's a logic puzzle, quite a different experience from the verbal and literary joys of crosswords.

I suspect Mr. Rosenbaum's dim view of crosswords is based on limited experience of American-style fill-in-the-blanks-with-information puzzles. He might feel differently if he gave a try to British-style cryptic puzzles, which have little to do with your supply of information and a lot to do with your sense (and love) of wordplay. I recommend the Saturday Financial Times cryptic (accompanied on the puzzle page by a sudoku, a US-style "polymath" puzzle, and a chess problem). --And bless both of you for your devotion to the NYT puzzles. I'll bet you do them in ink. Keep the faith!

@Bob: I've never gotten the hang of cryptics (or acrostics or diagramless, either). They're too clever by half, as our UK cousins might say. But I do like those forward-backward word puzzles that occasionally appear in the Sunday NYT Mag (word chains?) and also the "missing links" puzzles.

P.S. Yes, in ink. Is there another way?

I like to do all the puzzles mentioned, including soduku (which Dell magazine called "Number Place" at least twenty years before the Japanese hijacked it). But, at least from my local perspective, the suduku craze is over. The news-stands now have fewer issues displayed, with crosswords once again dominating.

I do puzzles all the time (yes, in ink). Crossword, sudoku, jumble, acrostic, you name it. They each require my brain to perform and respond in a different way. Studies have shown that puzzle-doers are less likely to get Alzheimers, and I believe it. My brain is more limber and supple from the exercises I put it through daily -- more so than from "just" reading, which I do also.

I've theorized before that, at least for me, a sudoku every evening is the perfect antidote to a word-filled day. (I copyedit for a living and am a "wordie" in my soul.) Just before bed, I can clear my mind of all word-related thoughts and worries and just be logical. Fill in all those little boxes? Love it. My only problem is in finding sudoku puzzles that are really challenging.

No, I'm not fleeing the complexity, the fear of the unknown -- I'm escaping from Alzheimers in my advancing years (well, maybe that is fear of the unknown) when I do crossword puzzles. On a recent trip across the continent, I completed the airline magazine crossword puzzle *and* read a book. Mr. Rosenbaum just doesn't get it.

Sheesh. Where I do Sudoku puzzles there isn't much opportunity for social interaction. Nor is it a place conducive to reading Proust or Derrida. Also, the 5-star puzzles take me just about exactly the right amount of time.

Sudoku is mental floss.

Karen, there are sudoku varieties that are much more challenging. I'm not sure where you'd find them, exactly, but they're out there. I have a book of "Circular Sudoku," but they're mostly easy.

Nancy, I've grown fond of cryptics and diagramlesses. The added crosswordy challenge is welcome.

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