NY Times Redesigns Digital Crossword Puzzles

I’m a word person, but I’ve never been any good at crosswords. I’ve always thought my vocabulary was a hindrance, not so much that I don’t know the right word but that I know too many possible words that my brain can fill in the blank with two or three options and, even in pencil, that makes me afraid to commit to a potentially wrong answer. I’m more of a Sudoku gal, personally.

Nonetheless, I thought it was interesting to see that the New York Times — the de facto crossword king — has redesigned its digital crosswords games this week. It’s an interesting development because, while I’m all about the journalism, I like to see news agencies realize their mission isn’t just to inform but also to entertain. That’s why newspapers print things like movie reviews, comic strips and yes, crossword puzzles. I know several people who only (or in large part) pick up the newspaper for the puzzles or who save outdated editions for the day off someday when they’ll have time to work through them. (I hope they get some of the news while they’re there, though.) So it’s nice to see the Times devoting some of their IT power to improving the digital presentation and play of one of their most popular non-news features. Note: They do charge a few bucks a month for premium access to the daily puzzles, but do offer older puzzles from the archives for free.

Not only have they rolled out an HTML5 version of the crossword, but they’ve also coupled the new style with a very in-depth tutorial and explainer on the changes. They even have puzzle maestro Will Shortz on video explaining how he works and giving tips for Crossword beginners.

Among the changes the Times says they’ve made:

  • Clean and simplified layout
  • One entry point with various options on how to solve
  • Redesigned personalized scorecard
  • New bonus puzzles
  • Larger squares
  • Redesigned leaderboard statistics with top 10 puzzlers
  • Cleaner color scheme of blue, gray and white

The new game play is intuitive, and because it’s running on HTML5 it’s played right in browser without me needing any extra plug-ins or anything. Even on my older Mac, it worked seamlessly and swiftly. I might even be able to get into crosswords with a platform like this. Maybe.