Review by GScotty
"A fun game for crossword puzzle enthusiasts"
In the broadly encompassing genre of puzzle games, crossword puzzles often get lumped in with the likes of Tetris and Sudoku games. This generalization is not apt; Tetris skill concerns dexterity and quick-wittedness, and Sudoku requires but simple logic. The noble crossword puzzle is elitist. To complete even the easiest Monday New York Times crossword puzzle, a familiarity of history, popular culture, geography and art, among other topics, is needed, as well as a strong grasp of the English language. For this reason, the understated crossword puzzle is truly the game for modern-day renaissance men.
The New York Times Crosswords, developed by BudCat and released in 2007, is exactly what one assumes it would be: a compilation of New York Times Crossword puzzles. The 1000-plus puzzles are taken directly from the newspaper, spanning from 2004 to 2006. The puzzles in this game were created primarily by crossword puzzle enthusiasts, and edited by master wordsmith, Mr. Will Shortz.
At this point, you can probably decide whether or not this game will appeal to you, but it is worth discussing how the game is put together. There are two single player modes. One allows you to progress through a week's worth of randomly selected puzzles, Monday through Sunday, and a final extra-big puzzle. Like those in the newspaper, the puzzles increase in difficulty as the week progresses. Personally, I struggle to complete anything past a Tuesday. The other mode allows you to select any of the puzzles available, although the extra big ones can only be unlocked through the former mode.
The puzzles themselves are fairly straightforward, in terms of navigation and letter-entry. The board can be zoomed in, and cells and clues can be selected by using the D-pad, shoulder buttons, or the stylus, so one should easily find a playing style that they find comfortable. To fill in a cell, the player has either the option of writing the desired character in a provided box, or selecting it from an onscreen QWERTY keyboard. From my experience, the handwriting recognition is quite good, and allows the user to use upper and/or lower case letters. However, the handwriting takes about a second to register, so I find the keyboard to be much more useful. It allows faster letter entry, with less motion.
The puzzles are timed, and a grade is given upon completion of the puzzle based on the time. The cutoff for a score of A+ is around fifteen minutes. To a somewhat experienced player, this may seem like a rather high minimum, but I have found that having only one clue on the screen at a time can be a bit of an impediment. Additionally, letters in the puzzle can be revealed by selecting a hint, which adds a time penalty to the final time.
My only real complaints about the game concern the presentation. The clues are clear and presented in an appealing font, but the typesetting used for the letters in the actual puzzle is quite foul, in my opinion. This may not seem like a big deal, but for such a minimalist game, a certain sort of elegance should be expected. Also, it is impossible to play the game with the sound on. While the music isn't terrible, it is indeed distracting, and the random piano notes that are played as characters are inserting gets quite irritating.
To conclude, I think this game's audience is fairly well-defined. If you have no interest in wordplay and crossword puzzles, you will not enjoy this game. However, if you don't fit into that category, this is a very reasonable way to solve some of the best crossword puzzles in the world. Aside from a few minor aesthetic missteps, this game is more or less perfect for what it is attempting to provide.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/24/08
Game Release: The New York Times Crosswords (US, 05/29/07)
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