Saturday, June 1, 2024

Saturday, June 1, 2024, Thank You

The first Saturday puzzle I reviewed in this blog, on March 16, 2013, took Frannie and me, working together, an hour and thirty-three minutes to finish. In April of that year we spent nearly four hours on a David Steinberg puzzle before taking a D.N.F. Today's Saturday puzzle, which I solved alone with coffee, was done in thirteen minutes. 

Over these ten-plus years, Frannie and I have both become faster solvers. Whether Colum, who started blogging with us in 2015, or Philbo, who started last year, have gotten any faster, it's hard to say, because each was lightning fast to begin with. 

Solve times are a touchy subject. One reason I started this blog was to give a different perspective, to give average solvers a place to go where they wouldn't hear the jaded grumblings of someone who can finish near the top of most crossword tournaments. (Yes, I realize that Amy Reynaldo also finishes near the top of most tournaments. I love her blog, Diary of a Crossword Fiend. We link to it on the sidebar.) I haven't written this before, but I started this as an alternative to Rex Parker. His was one of the first blogs I ran across, and I found it to be petty and sour. I won't say I've never sounded that way myself - I have more than once told the story of when I met Bruce Haight for the first time, after having savaged a stunt puzzle of his, and how he changed my mind about constructing and made me regret my angry post (Sorry - and thanks - again, Bruce) - but I think that for the most part, we have tried to present a balanced viewpoint.

But back to solve times. During one of the breaks at the 2016 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, I started talking with another contestant in the hallway. We chatted for a bit, and I asked him how he was doing so far. He said the same thing I probably said to him, something like "Oh, I think I'm doing ok. I just hope I haven't made any stupid mistakes." I took note of his name, and when I had a chance to look at the leader board, I tried to find him. Turns out I didn't have to look very hard, because his name was Howard Barkin and he was sitting in third place. I found him again on Saturday night (he would win the tournament on Sunday) and I asked him more about solving so quickly. He seemed almost apologetic about the speed, saying that he wished he could go back to the way it used to be, to when he just solved for the joy of solving and didn't worry about moving on to the next clue so quickly. 

Some of my favorite memories in life involve a crossword puzzle clipped to a clipboard, being passed around on the porch on a lazy vacation morning. I can just hear my brother handing it to me saying "see if you can get 47-Across, I've filled in a few letters for you." or my dad asking "How do you know that?" to one of us. I will continue to marvel at the novel themes, and I will always smile at a clever clue, but for the next few months, I won't be writing about them. We here at HAFDTNYTCPFCA have decided to take the summer off. Tomorrow I will turn off the timer feature on the NYTX app, and I will try to just solve for the sheer enjoyment of solving a puzzle. In September, we will see if we miss the blogging, and if we do, maybe we'll start up again, but I cannot make any promises at this time. 

Thank you, Frannie, Colum, and Philbo, for agreeing to write reviews with me. Thank you to all our readers. To those of you who took the time to comment (Kelly, Jim, Huygens, and others), we give you an extra thank you. But even if you have only lurked, we appreciate that you have taken the time to visit us, and we wish you all happy solving.

- Horace

p.s. If you would like to contact me about the blog, or anything at all, please feel free to email at Thanks again for reading. I wish you all a sunny, peaceful, happy summer.

- Tom