The New York Times Crosswords
On a digital crossword, no one can see you erase.
Platform: Nintendo DS
When I was younger and even more pretentious, I loved crossword puzzles. They combined many of my interests—orderly conceptual spaces, the mnemonic retrieval of words and facts, and the opportunity to show off my supposedly vast stock of knowledge. Of course, this was a red herring. Any crossword nut knows that puzzle solving relies more on familiarity with the form than it does on knowledge. Eventually, you learn that “Albee” is almost invariably the answer to a clue about a playwright, and that any mysterious reference to curvy shapes is probably asking for “ess.” This was the true joy of crosswords—they stimulated the ego under the guise of stimulating the intellect.
More than 1,000 NY Times crossword puzzles have now gone paperless for the Nintendo DS, and while the translation is faithful (with superb character recognition and intuitive navigation), certain qualities of the game make the ego-stroking potential greater than ever before. Wireless multiplayer allows you to flex your mental muscles in front of your friends. While paper crossword puzzles bear telltale damage where you’ve screwed up, erasures on your DS leave nary a trace. And somehow, Googling your way through a tough Sunday puzzle feels less shameful in this digital medium than on humble paper. Purists might miss the inky odor of newsprint, but it beats carrying 1,000 papers in your pocket, by a long shot.