Monday, August 11, 2008

Use Your Words

I love crossword puzzles. SO MUCH. Although my enjoyment of crosswords began in earnest during my freshman year Japanese class when I feigned a shared interest with the constantly-crosswording cute boy sitting next to me, it has since grown into an obsession. (I think my favorite part is the puns.) I've made it a habit to do at least one print crossword a day, but sometimes, that's just not enough. This is why I recently decided to try and find the best source for free online crosswords.

(Disclaimer: I used the highly sophisticated method of googling "crosswords" and going through some of the top results, so this list is by no means exhaustive or perfect. Also, I only tried each site on one day; the quality of each may vary over time. If you know of any great places I omitted, please comment and let me know.)

In no particular order:

USA Today

Being something of a snob, I expected the USA Today crossword to be a)too easy and b) all about celebrities, so I was pleased when I found it to be moderately difficult and nary a celebrity was to be found. Although a few of the clues were perplexing (Clue: XFs, XJs and XKs. Answer: JAGS? Someone explain this to me), this was perfectly fine. The site seems to update daily, but given the alternatives, it's probably not worth it to come here just for the one available daily puzzle.

Best Crosswords

I initially felt that this site would live up to its name; after all, they offer seven (seven!) new crosswords a day in the "competitive" section of the site. But as you might expect, it's a little too good to be true. On the second crossword I did, I was already receiving repeat clues from the first one, which makes me think there's just a giant bank of clues and a computer constructs the puzzles automatically. This site is good for a couple puzzles a day, but I fear that repeated visits would result in a severely diminished challenge.

Washington Post

This might be my top pick. Although the Post's crosswords aren't quite as great as the New York Times, they also don't charge you to play online. (I love you Will Shortz, but I am not paying a yearly fee to do your puzzles.) These are the same crosswords that appear in the paper each day, and the archives go back a week. I would say that these are a bit higher than average on the difficulty spectrum, since even the Wednesday puzzles can be somewhat perplexing at times.

Boatload Puzzles

Too small and too easy. Nope.

Between this site and the Post, you should never be wanting for an online crossword again. WebCrosswords offers ten reasonably challenging puzzles at any given time, and the hint system is standard when compared to other sites. My only issue with this site is that it doesn't seem to follow the typical difficulty curve, in which Monday is the easiest and the puzzles get harder as the week goes on.

And so ends my brief survey of Online Crossword Land. I was going to examine more, but the offerings seem to get pretty sucky after these. In summary, the Washington Post puzzles are my favorite, with coming in at a close second. Although it's so much more satisfying to actually solve a puzzle in print (and in pen!) these should tide you over. The others are probably skippable. If I've missed your favorite, let me know and I'll give it a try.

Links Contributed By You Guys:
Ellen suggested this link, which itself links to many other crossword sites.


Ellen said...
This site (by the moderator of the NY Times crossword forum) links to some very good puzzles, most of which are free.

Brian said...

Thanks for the tip Ellen! I'll add your link to my post.