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  #51  
Old 05-19-2020, 09:41 AM
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I’ve been doing a ton of crosswords during lockdown. I still can get almost nowhere with the Thursday-Saturday NYT puzzles. Will I just ‘get it’ after continuing to plug away?
There's an old joke, where the punchline fits your question. A tourist is walking through New York and asks a local "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?", and the man answers "Practice, practice, practice."

My mother was a crossword fanatic. She could have used a pen, but still used a pencil. Growing up, I thought my vocabulary was small, until I got out in the real world and realized I was just comparing myself to her.

Bottom line - the more you solve, the larger your vocabulary gets and the more you begin to understand the nuances of the clues. If it ends with a question mark, it's a pun. NYT has a different flow than the Dell books, and it takes a little bit to get into the flow.

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they quit publishing games about 3 years ago ...I had a sub received a small note about it and made the subscription service cash out the rest of the sub ......
One of the crosswords they had in every issue they called "Worlds Most Ornery Crossword", where they gave two sets of clues - easy and hard. You folded the page over to obscure the easy clues if you wanted to solve using the hard clues. I actually liked that because if you were stumped, you could get a hint from the easy clues.
  #52  
Old 05-19-2020, 09:48 AM
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NYTimes Thursday puzzles are almost all gimmick puzzles. It's actually my favorite puzzle day! Now I must go do that November 18 2010 puzzle and see if I agree with you.
Finished! Took me right under 36 minutes, and I did look up a couple of them. I'm horrible at sports clues, for example.

That was a fun one, I liked the gimmick. That said, they're definitely tougher, and they drove me nuts for a long time.
  #53  
Old 05-19-2020, 10:04 AM
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One of the more famous crossword puzzles to appear in the New York Times was the one for November 5, 1996, which was the day of the presidential election between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. Right in the middle of the puzzle there was a seven-letter space in 39 across, followed by ELECTED in 43 across. The gimmick was that you could solve the puzzle with either CLINTON or BOB DOLE in 39 across, and the down clues worked either way. (39 down, for example, was "black Halloween animal" and either BAT or CAT worked.)
  #54  
Old 05-19-2020, 02:14 PM
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Sometimes, you have to consider whether a clue has a double meaning. They make it look like there's an obvious answer, but you're unable to build from it.

Example: Lighted sign, 4 letters

I immediately thought NEON, but couldn't build anything from those letters. In this case, it wasn't what the sign was made of, but a prime example of such a sign. The answer turned out to be
SPOILER:
EXIT


There are other occasions where a clue might have a ? after it, meaning there's some kind of wordplay.

Example: Bashful roommate? (3 letters)
SPOILER:
DOC

Double meaning again, this time taking advantage of the rule that the first letter of the clue will be capitalized. In this case, it was already a proper noun.

I use thesaurus.com frequently, but sometimes it's not really a synonym. It's more like poetic license.

Example: Formal will (5 letters)
SPOILER:
SHALL

The way the clue was presented made me think of a lawyer reading a will in front of the deceased's relatives and everybody's dressed to the nines. I was looking at synonyms for "will" but to no avail. In this case, it turned out to be a shortened version of Formal version of the word "will". Bastards.
  #55  
Old 05-19-2020, 02:49 PM
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One of the crosswords they had in every issue they called "Worlds Most Ornery Crossword", where they gave two sets of clues - easy and hard. You folded the page over to obscure the easy clues if you wanted to solve using the hard clues. I actually liked that because if you were stumped, you could get a hint from the easy clues.
A couple of weeks ago they included a special emergency puzzle section with the Sunday paper (print only, possibly) and the giant regular crossword had this feature. There are also three mini-crosswords and a medium sized one in the Sunday At Home section which replaced Travel. And a mini-puzzle every day on page 3 which I do in my head, no writing required.
  #56  
Old 05-19-2020, 03:05 PM
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The trouble with British cryptics for Americans is that there are lot of location dependent clues, and clues or answers involving rugby or cricket. It also helps to have a classical education, the advantage Inspector Morse has. I'm doing London Daily Times puzzle book 2 which I bought in 1980. It is tough.
Chambers has a crossword puzzle book with many fewer culture specific items. Chambers publishes the standard dictionary used for cryptics.
The NY Times publishes a cryptic every few months, and a while ago there was a flurry of American cryptic books, but they died off. I guessed that people picked them up and then had no "clue" about how to do them, so sales of Vol. 2 plummeted. twickster who was in a position to know confirmed this.
Just came across this. I have two London’s Times cryptic books from the early 90s, and I think I’ve actually completed six or seven puzzles. Sure, most of them are partially filled in, but finishing one is actually an event for celebration.

The nice thing is they were gifts from one of my best friend's dad, who has since passed away. On those rare occasions I finish one, I let her know and we have a nice little happy cry.
  #57  
Old 05-19-2020, 07:00 PM
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Practice, Practice, Practice.

I have the NYT app, so I do that puzzle every day. The good/bad thing about the app is that it keeps you honest. There are times where I've filled in the whole puzzle, but it pops up "keep trying" rather than playing the happy solving song, so I'm forced to go back into the puzzle to find the right answers. When I would finish filling out all the boxes on paper, I just assumed that I got them all right.

Most weeks, I'll get Monday-Wednesday without any issues. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are crapshoots for me. I'm about 50/50 for the puzzles at the end of the week with little to no help, but sometimes even a Tuesday will have an intersection of two things I do not know and cannot guess (golfers? why do NYT crosswords love golfers so much?) There's usually two or three a month that I end up having to brute force the answer.

My personal rules are that I have to go through the entire thing at least twice each direction in a row (across/down/across/down) without making any entries before I google or alexa an answer. If I get at least one entry, i start over so that I completely make sure there's no way I can build on anything before looking something up.

Over time, I've gotten much better at them. I also know what an etui is.
  #58  
Old 05-20-2020, 09:53 PM
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Oh, sure, the question mark flags it as a sideways-thinking clue, but something like "Apple variety" wouldn't generally be clued with a question mark at the end, in my experience. But, yeah, if you see that question mark, that definitely means you're looking for something beyond the literal.
The question mark is mandatory for punny answers. In the case of "Apple variety," it is not a pun. The iMac is literally an Apple variety. They exploit the fact that all clues are written starting with a capital letter. There are many clues like this that start with a proper noun, but you don't realize it's a proper noun because it's also a common noun.

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Bottom line - the more you solve, the larger your vocabulary gets[....]
I would say that the larger your crossword vocabulary gets. Crosswords have a collection of words that show up all the time that do not show up in daily speech. When is the last time you heard a confused person earnestly say they were "at sea"? You would think that Yoko Ono is the only artist in the world. How many people do you know who actually own an awl, or an adze?
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  #59  
Old 05-20-2020, 11:27 PM
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Lots of great advice.

The only thing I'd add after many years of doing crosswords, is there's no need to feel like you should (or must) be able to do every crossword from every source.

There are some sources I enjoy and some I dislike and stopped doing. Personally, I really enjoy ones where I can reason out the answer from the clue like "Apple variety" cited above.

I have no time for the ones that have a lot of questions like "Sumerian King" "Former Secretary of State" or other really obscure "crossword-only" trivia questions like that. I try a puzzle once or twice and if they have a lot of those questions, I just drop that brand from my list.

For those interested in the NYT Crossword, Stuff You Should Know podcast recently did a short episode on its history, how they do them etc.
https://www.iheart.com/podcast/105-s...word-61536541/
  #60  
Old 05-21-2020, 01:16 AM
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You all might be interested in a documentary about Shortz called Wordplay which came out in 2006.
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Old 05-21-2020, 10:57 AM
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Well, I got through today’s NYT in just under 20 minutes.

Reversing my usual procedure, I figured out the “gimmick” early — 37 Down was obvious, and a huge help — and got stuck on the edges. Could NOT remember how to spell that thing Dryden translated. Came up short with the “sonata closers,” wanting either “codas” or “prestos,” neither of which fit. Took a risk on the African country on only the initial letter...has to be Liberia, right?

Another recommendation for the Rex Parker blog. Love reading it right after finishing to see him snark all over it; he really seems to have it in for Shortz.
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Old 05-21-2020, 11:30 AM
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Well, I got through today’s NYT in just under 20 minutes.

Reversing my usual procedure, I figured out the “gimmick” early — 37 Down was obvious, and a huge help — and got stuck on the edges. Could NOT remember how to spell that thing Dryden translated. Came up short with the “sonata closers,” wanting either “codas” or “prestos,” neither of which fit. Took a risk on the African country on only the initial letter...has to be Liberia, right?

Another recommendation for the Rex Parker blog. Love reading it right after finishing to see him snark all over it; he really seems to have it in for Shortz.
17 1/2 minutes for me. I knew Liberia was on the coast, so I came up with the other L African country that could fit.

Rex Parker gets really tiring for me, but I do read his column every time I finish a puzzle.
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Old 05-21-2020, 01:20 PM
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I was at right under 18 minutes (17:53 to be exact) on today's puzzle. Got 37 down fairly quickly and understood the gimmick immediately so, like Ukulele Ike said, that helped a lot. This was a nice, easy, fun one.

The Rex Parker blog is new to me. I'm checking it out right now!
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Old 05-21-2020, 07:02 PM
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Thursday June 21, 2018 is a fun easy one.
  #65  
Old 05-21-2020, 07:46 PM
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If you need a good look up for after you get stuck, try www.wordplays.com

It gives a space in which you type in the clue and then it gives the answer(s). Then, with no need to refresh or enter another search code, you just type in the next clue.
  #66  
Old 05-21-2020, 09:50 PM
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You guys beat my time handily on today's puzzle. Took me just shy of 30 minutes.
  #67  
Old 05-24-2020, 09:10 AM
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As long as we’re talking NYT crosswords, this Sunday puzzle (5/24/20) is one of the most fun I’ve ever solved. Really a creation of genius.
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Old 05-24-2020, 10:31 AM
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That was fun, but I had to read the Wordplay write-up to get some of the intricacies (although I solved it nonetheless).
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Old 05-24-2020, 10:48 AM
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17 1/2 minutes for me. I knew Liberia was on the coast, so I came up with the other L African country that could fit.
Curse my wretched ignorance of African geography! To the atlas, posthaste!

My other kryptonites are nearly anything to do with sportsball and contemporary teevee, which I haven’t watched in ages. Rex occasionally mocks Eugene Maleska for his reliance on old movies, opera, and dated slang, but those are three of my strong points.

Geez, you guys use chess timers or something? I never thought of timing myself, but got into the habit of glancing at the clock after I began following Rex. I never have an exact minute/second count.

Glad to hear today’s puzzle is a good one. I ventured outside for the first time in two weeks to mail letters and buy tobacco, and picked up my first Sunday paper in two months (we get M-F delivery). We’ll have to put that front page away with the 9/11 edition. 9/12, I guess.
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Old 05-24-2020, 11:15 AM
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As long as we’re talking NYT crosswords, this Sunday puzzle (5/24/20) is one of the most fun I’ve ever solved. Really a creation of genius.
I agree. Very clever. Too bad about letter box 92 being duplicated so the 93, 94, & 95 DOWN were numbered 92, 93, & 94. First time I recall seeing that type of goof.
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Old 05-24-2020, 11:36 AM
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Now I’m hoping that the Sunday NYT isn’t sold out due to the front page.
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  #72  
Old 05-24-2020, 06:43 PM
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As long as we’re talking NYT crosswords, this Sunday puzzle (5/24/20) is one of the most fun I’ve ever solved. Really a creation of genius.
I felt the exact opposite - for me, it was a giant "what the hell is this mess?"
And then, after I solved it and read the blogs, I hated it even more. de gustibus non est disputandum.
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Old 05-24-2020, 08:07 PM
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I felt the exact opposite - for me, it was a giant "what the hell is this mess?"
Yeah, I’m with you. Didn’t recognize half the names, for one thing. But the fill was so easy I didn’t need to.
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Old 05-24-2020, 08:19 PM
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Geez, you guys use chess timers or something? I never thought of timing myself, but got into the habit of glancing at the clock after I began following Rex. I never have an exact minute/second count.
If you do them online, the timing is automatic. I suspect that's what most of us who are reporting times are doing; I'd never time it manually. They even track your best/average/max times by day-of-week, which is.... stressful.

Saturday 5/23 was a wash for me; it was Mr. Athena's birthday, so I didn't get any real traction on it, and it seemed difficult even Sunday morning when I picked it up. Sunday, on the other hand, had me laughing. I got a key "name" clue right away (it was a tech thing, one of my strengths!) and that led me into the other answers. A fun one, for sure.
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Old 05-24-2020, 08:24 PM
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I felt the exact opposite - for me, it was a giant "what the hell is this mess?"
And then, after I solved it and read the blogs, I hated it even more. de gustibus non est disputandum.
That's how I often feel on Thursday, so I get it.
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Old 05-24-2020, 11:14 PM
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Geez, you guys use chess timers or something? I never thought of timing myself, but got into the habit of glancing at the clock after I began following Rex. I never have an exact minute/second count.\.
If you solve it online or use the app, which I do both, it keeps track of time and stats. Like, i just don't understand Rex's times. Those are just nuts. Like my best Monday is 4:07, but he's constantly like in the low 3s on those, sometimes, sub 3 minutes. Like I don't even know if I knew all the answers ahead of time I'd be able to fill them in that quick.
  #77  
Old 05-25-2020, 08:16 AM
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If you solve it online or use the app, which I do both, it keeps track of time and stats. Like, i just don't understand Rex's times. Those are just nuts. Like my best Monday is 4:07, but he's constantly like in the low 3s on those, sometimes, sub 3 minutes. Like I don't even know if I knew all the answers ahead of time I'd be able to fill them in that quick.
I have to assume he’s doing this with pen and paper, not on an app... Even when all the answers fall into place for me, typing them out on my iPad takes four or five minutes.
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Old 05-25-2020, 09:22 AM
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Rex uses one of your newfangled electronic methods. I know this because one of his best lines over the past year came on a day he had no computer access: “I had to do today’s puzzle with pen and paper, like an animal.”
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Old 05-25-2020, 11:10 AM
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I have to assume he’s doing this with pen and paper, not on an app... Even when all the answers fall into place for me, typing them out on my iPad takes four or five minutes.
No, he does them on an app (not sure if computer or iPad -- I assume computer.) When he doesn't, he mentions that it was done on pen & paper. I do it on the computer -- it's faster than iPad. Like I said, my fastest Monday is 4:07, so I can see getting sub 4, but the sub 3s astound me. I think he's had some around 2:30 even (!?!) Like, today's he called "medium-challenging" (it wasn't, but there were a few holes in his knowledge that made it difficult for him), but he still hit a 3:20. My time today was 6:40. (My average time usually ends up being about 3 Rexes, so this one was only 2 Rexes! A success!) I thought I was going to finish somewhere in the 4 or 5s, but I got knotted up somewhere. Can't remember where.

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Old 05-25-2020, 01:21 PM
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I started today’s at 2PM EDT and finished at 2:06 by the digital kitchen clock, meaning I got through it somewhere between five and six minutes. And that was the time it took to write in the answers (pen and newspaper), because I sure didn’t slow down anywhere. The long across that screwed Rex Parker came to me right away, as it was the last movie I’ve seen by that particular director. I didn’t know the second long across, but it was easy to suss, and the downs filled it in for me. And the third was a ridiculous gimme.
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  #81  
Old 05-25-2020, 02:05 PM
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No, he does them on an app (not sure if computer or iPad -- I assume computer.) When he doesn't, he mentions that it was done on pen & paper. I do it on the computer -- it's faster than iPad. Like I said, my fastest Monday is 4:07, so I can see getting sub 4, but the sub 3s astound me. I think he's had some around 2:30 even (!?!) Like, today's he called "medium-challenging" (it wasn't, but there were a few holes in his knowledge that made it difficult for him), but he still hit a 3:20. My time today was 6:40. (My average time usually ends up being about 3 Rexes, so this one was only 2 Rexes! A success!) I thought I was going to finish somewhere in the 4 or 5s, but I got knotted up somewhere. Can't remember where.
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I started today’s at 2PM EDT and finished at 2:06 by the digital kitchen clock, meaning I got through it somewhere between five and six minutes. And that was the time it took to write in the answers (pen and newspaper), because I sure didn’t slow down anywhere. The long across that screwed Rex Parker came to me right away, as it was the last movie I’ve seen by that particular director. I didn’t know the second long across, but it was easy to suss, and the downs filled it in for me. And the third was a ridiculous gimme.
6:13 for me today, I did get briefly stuck somewhere. I think I'm going to try doing it on the laptop, I'm just used to the iPad because I also do spelling bee.

ETA: posted before I finished. Whatever method he uses, I am hugely impressed by his times....

Last edited by Maserschmidt; 05-25-2020 at 02:06 PM.
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Old 05-25-2020, 03:52 PM
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I started today’s at 2PM EDT and finished at 2:06 by the digital kitchen clock, meaning I got through it somewhere between five and six minutes. And that was the time it took to write in the answers (pen and newspaper), because I sure didn’t slow down anywhere. The long across that screwed Rex Parker came to me right away, as it was the last movie I’ve seen by that particular director. I didn’t know the second long across, but it was easy to suss, and the downs filled it in for me. And the third was a ridiculous gimme.
I didn't know the first across, but that was easy to figure out when the downs fell in. The second long clue and third one were both gimmes to me (as I use that particular feature on the iPhone a lot and, even though I don't watch Star Trek, come on, everybody should know that.)

Yeah, I think it was the SW that slowed me down the most. Probably lost a minute there. And there was some other place that went slower than it should. Out of the gate, I thought I was shooting for a possible new record.
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Old 05-26-2020, 09:24 AM
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My best Monday time is 7:34. I'm not sure I could copy the answers from a completed puzzle in 4:00. I do try to force myself to only answer clues that are connected to others that I've already filled in, so that may slow me down a bit.
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Old 05-26-2020, 12:03 PM
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Yeah, I think it was the SW that slowed me down the most. Probably lost a minute there. And there was some other place that went slower than it should. Out of the gate, I thought I was shooting for a possible new record.
In the SW I had “loo” in instead of “lav.” Didn’t take long to see I’d screwed up.
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Old 05-26-2020, 12:38 PM
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My best Monday time is 7:34. I'm not sure I could copy the answers from a completed puzzle in 4:00. I do try to force myself to only answer clues that are connected to others that I've already filled in, so that may slow me down a bit.
Now try to imagine doing it in 2:30-ish like Rex does?

My strategy for speed-solving Mondays is just to tab through all the across clues and if I don't know the answer within a second, move on to the next one and fill in as many of the obvious acrosses, then tab through the downs. Sometimes I'll do the strategy of getting a few accrosses and then go through the downs that branch off there. I'm not sure if that works better for me, as I just try to fill in as many "gimmes" the first pass through the puzzle and go from there. I don't bother thinking about the theme; most of the time, for the early days of the week, thinking about the theme and trying to figure it out just slows me down. Later in the week, the themers are more important to me to suss out the puzzle.

Today's time was 7:42. Got knotted up in the NE for some reason. Reasonably average Tuesday puzzle. I got annoyed because in the NW, there was a "score after deuce" clue, and I've seen that clue a million times, and I've watched and played tennis, but I couldn't remember anything beyond the first two letters of that answer. Couldn't think of the word. So obvious when I got the fill, but it should have been a gimme.
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Old 05-26-2020, 02:18 PM
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Now try to imagine doing it in 2:30-ish like Rex does?

My strategy for speed-solving Mondays is just to tab through all the across clues and if I don't know the answer within a second, move on to the next one and fill in as many of the obvious acrosses, then tab through the downs. Sometimes I'll do the strategy of getting a few accrosses and then go through the downs that branch off there. I'm not sure if that works better for me, as I just try to fill in as many "gimmes" the first pass through the puzzle and go from there. I don't bother thinking about the theme; most of the time, for the early days of the week, thinking about the theme and trying to figure it out just slows me down. Later in the week, the themers are more important to me to suss out the puzzle.

Today's time was 7:42. Got knotted up in the NE for some reason. Reasonably average Tuesday puzzle. I got annoyed because in the NW, there was a "score after deuce" clue, and I've seen that clue a million times, and I've watched and played tennis, but I couldn't remember anything beyond the first two letters of that answer. Couldn't think of the word. So obvious when I got the fill, but it should have been a gimme.
Similar here. For Monday through Wednesday I generally grab the first three acrosses if I can, then the downs off them, then back to acrosses, etc. Later in the week, I go looking for answers that I know.

My iPad app is a little quirky, I don’t know my best times in some cases because for a while at the start I didn’t notice that it wasn’t counting...I have some absurdly low scores for some days. Now I take a look when I start, and if it is not counting I refresh.

Last edited by Maserschmidt; 05-26-2020 at 02:19 PM.
  #87  
Old 05-26-2020, 03:36 PM
amarinth is offline
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For me with the app, it seems easier to just hit next, next, next, next (and that's where the cursor goes when you fill in an answer) - and then go through all of one direction and then all of the other direction. Because the "theme" answers on Sunday through Thursday tend to be across more than down, I do Down first, then Across so that when I do hit the theme answers, they have enough filled in to make them easier to guess.
I think the faster people do them in sections, but I think that would take more time fiddling around with the app.
7:36 today. the top left corner was out of my wheelhouse.
  #88  
Old 05-27-2020, 09:41 PM
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Thursday is often my bete noire, but a reasonable puzzle led to 14:29 on tomorrow’s.

I’ve tried going back and doing some older puzzles on the keyboard, that will take some adjustment if I want to stick with it....
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