Cross words over crosswords
Our readers prefer more challenging puzzles
When we changed our newspaper’s format, beginning with the Aug. 19 issue, I was curious and concerned about our readers’ response.
Overwhelmingly, however, the feedback has been very positive.
Almost unanimously, people have told me they like the shorter tabloid format.
The brighter paper makes the color pop, I’ve been told a number of times.
However, one camp has been a vocal minority: the crossword puzzlers.
The change to the shorter size meant that, to continue with our previous crossword format, the size of the boxes and clues would have shrunk to an illegible size.
Fortunately, we were able to find a puzzle from a new service that fit our new size in an easy-toread way.
Unfortunately, the new puzzle was also too easy to solve, apparently.
While we received only one formal complaint about the new size and shape, we have received dozens of complaints about the puzzles being too easy.
Readers were not “down” with it, and it made many of them “cross.”
Beginning this week, we have a new puzzle that, I hope, finds a good middle ground.
People who regularly read the Bulletin, or any publication for that matter, typically read it for a few specific reasons, and additional material on top of that is an added benefit.
Lots of people tell me they love our entertainment calendar listings. Many say they love our feature stories. A lot of folks love the Baxter Black column. Our business section, featuring writer Alta LeCompte, has a great deal of fans. People say they like our feature stories, our sports columns, and the religion news. Every section of our newspaper has its supporters.
It wasn’t until recently, though, I learned how dedicated our crossword puzzlers are.
Newspaper folks have long known how loyal readers can be to specific sections, or even specific elements of specific sections.
In the late 1990s, when I was editor of the Alamogordo Daily News, we inadvertently left out one of our comic strips. The next day, after not receiving any calls, I asked our designer to hold it out again. “Let’s see if anyone notices,” I said. “I’ve been wanting to add a new comic strip, anyway. This one seems a little outdated to me.”
The next week, after five days without the old strip, I finally received the call. “I just have one question for you, Mr. Editor,” the caller said. “Are you going to put Snuffy Smith back in the newspaper, or am I going to have to cancel my subscription?”
Well, the Las Cruces crossword contingent is even more loyal and outspoken than the Alamogordo Snuffy Smith sect.
I haven’t done crossword puzzles much since I was in junior high, and my mom and I would tackle the TV Guide crossword. So I figured I would see how I fared with both the “hard” and “easy” versions of the Bulletin crossword.
I worked each one for 10 minutes and tallied my results.
“Hard” version: I got 24 clues right, and five wrong, out of 233. That was a 10 percent success rate that meant it would likely take me an hour or more to complete it (or give up).
“Easy” version: I got 34 clues right, and none wrong, out of 109, for a 31 percent success rate, and a likelihood of finishing (and probably not giving up) in 20 minutes.
My old TV Guide training benefited me, as I knew the name of a “Bewitched” witch in the hard one and the name of the actress who played Granny Clampett in the easy one. The hard one asked me about Elvis Presley’s birthplace, which, as a self-respecting Elvis fan, I knew, and how to say field in Italian, which I didn’t. Both quizzed me on baseball (Nolan Ryan and Felipe Alou), which helped. Both asked about geology, which hurt.
The biggest difference was the number of clues, with the hard one having more than twice as many. The new one has even more clues.
Will it sit well with the puzzle people? I bet we won’t have to wait until next week’s edition to find the answers.
From the Publisher