Every Day I'm Puzzling

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been encouraging my ACT Verbal students to do more outside reading as a way of getting ready for the big exam.  And, as these students already know, I’m an especially big fan of the Science section of the New York Times.  Every week, the Science section turns out exceptionally well written articles that are fun to read, are accompanied by beautiful photographs and graphics, and just happen to be excellent practice for the reading sections of the ACT and SAT.

Whether or not you’re one of the LP students who’s already using the New York Times for reading practice, I’d encourage you get to know another one of that newspaper’s wonderful features:  the daily crossword puzzle.  The Times publishes a new puzzle every day, and the puzzles get progressively harder throughout the week, starting with Monday’s (the easiest) and building up to Saturday’s (the most difficult).  Sunday’s puzzle is the most well known; it’s bigger than the weekday ones, but its level of difficulty isn’t as high as Friday’s or Saturday’s.  The Times also publishes an online column, called “Wordplay,” for those interested in a behind-the-scenes look at crossword culture.

I got hooked on the Times crossword when I was in college, by a friend who used to solve the puzzles during lectures and surreptitiously pass them to me for the occasional assist.  (I don’t endorse this practice, by the way!)  Back then, crossword-solving seemed to me a hobby for older people; I didn’t know anyone my age, besides this one friend, who regularly solved them.

These days, though, things are much different:  A lot of colleges have crossword clubs, and there’s a thriving indie crossword scene, with many puzzle-solvers and constructors in their teens and twenties.  Just a few weeks ago, the Times published a crossword by its youngest-ever constructor, a thirteen-year-old named Daniel Larsen, from Bloomington, Indiana.

On June 3, many of you will be taking the SAT or else sitting for one last practice exam before the June ACT.  But I’ll be in Washington, D.C., that day, to take part in the Indie 500 Crossword Tournament.  It’ll be my first time competing in a crossword tournament, so I’m entered in the Rookie division.  I’m trying to do one puzzle a day to get ready.  Maybe you’ll see me practicing between sessions at LP.  Wish me luck!