Sunday, August 12, 2007

Word Play

I've been into doing crossword puzzles since I was about ten years old or so. I probably got introduced to the concept in elementary school - when teachers would give us puzzles to help us with things we were studying. As a kid, I probably made my own share of simple ones as well on loose-leaf paper.

I think I got into them though because my father often did them. I recall fondly him sitting down with the Sunday paper, the section folded over for easier use, and working with a pencil or sometimes a pen (shudder!) working the puzzle. He'd occasionally ask me for help with some of the clues - since current pop culture was not his strong suit. But, man, could he get those historical and science clues.

I'd often pick up puzzle books at the local newsstands (US News, Pete's) if there were no new comic books to buy. They were a great way to keep my mind sharp, especially during summer vacation when school was out.

Today, we have technology to give us a way to do puzzles. Many newspapers have online sites that include the crossword. But a week or so ago, I picked up something very cool for my Nintendo DS system: the New York Times Crosswords game.

What is so cool about this portable game is that it uses the DS' touchpad and stylus for working the puzzles. There is a box where you 'write' the letter in with the stylus - and the character recognition part of the program converts the letter drawn into the box as part of your answer. Very neat. It has problems gettng my 'N's but that is probably because I do those too fast.

Now, this is a puzzle game so it doesn't have all the flash and action of other video games. However, it has long term playability which is a big plus for me. It includes over 1000 puzzles that have appeared in the New York Times over the past few years. The puzzles are organized in a daily fashion, Monday through Sunday, and just like the real newspaper puzzles they get harder as the week progresses. That means even the most seasoned puzzle solver can be challenged by this game.

I definitely give this game high marks.

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