Yesterday morning I dropped my daughter off for an early church event and, with 2 hours to spare, went in search of a Sunday New York Times. I found one at Starbucks (along with a venti hot chocolate and a piece of their to-die-for crumb cake). I dug through the newspaper to find the magazine section, turned to the back to locate the crossword (which I usually work in LEO, but why wait?), and stopped cold at the sight of something new:
A diagramless puzzle. I’d never seen one before. It seemed impossible — how could I fill in the words when I didn’t know where they should cross? Then I realized that I knew the answers to the first several clues I looked at, and that I could see how 1, 2, and 3 down would branch off from 1 across, which showed me how 7 across would neatly mesh into the grid, and ….
Soon I was laying out parts of the puzzle in the margins of the page. Later, at home, I expanded onto a separate sheet of paper. Once I knew where 1 across had to be located, I began filling in the blank grid, relying on crosswords’ traditional diagonal symmetry to dictate the location of the black squares. (As I did this, both of my children, at separate times, wanted to know why I was using pen instead of pencil — after all, if I made a mistake, it would be tough to overwrite a square filled with ink. How can I explain to them my aversion to doing puzzles in pencil? To be able to erase shows uncertainty. Weakness. A willingless to admit possible error. “I just like using pen,” I said.)
I finished diagramming the diagramless puzzle in bed last night. It was eminently satisfying to see the formerly empty grid now filled with words, numbers, and solid squares. Apparently I’ll have to wait another 6 weeks or so before another one appears in the Sunday Times; to tide me over, I just ordered an entire book of NYT diagramess puzzles from Half.com (Amazon and eBay let me down). A day later than I planned, I’m ready to tackle the regular Sunday Times crossword.