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Way Too Hard! | The Nation

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Word Salad

Kosman and Picciotto on their Nation puzzle, cryptic crosswords, wordplay and puzzles in general.

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Way Too Hard!

[First, three links:
• The current puzzle
• Our puzzle-solving guidelines
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog]

We recently received a letter from a solver who stated: “The puzzles are WAY TOO HARD! I can never solve more than one or two of the clues. I have a suggestion which would increase MY enjoyment, at least: Do as the crossword puzzle editor of The New York Times does: vary the difficulty of the puzzles.” 

Another correspondent wrote: “For the most part, the clues and answers pass muster. But too often, the answers are too convoluted and hard to reconcile with the clues.” He is not renewing his subscription.

Those comments came to us via the US Postal Service. The following three came by e-mail:

“You guys have some great, interesting and challenging clues and answers. Most satisfying is to work on puzzle while eating, say, for about 20 minutes at a stretch and get all that I can get, which might be five or six, and then do the same for about three more times in the week before the next mag comes. The combo of challenge and relaxation often works out very well. Best if I can get almost all, such as in 3231.”

“You have to slow down and keep at it. I start by going through the clues in order. I mark up the grid to show where multiple-word answers fall and fill in any answers I get as I go (not many), trying not to get frustrated if I go through, say, all the across clues without getting a single one. After the first pass I have a few answers. I look to see if the cross letters are any help. Then it’s time to go back though. I get a few more. I put it down and come back to it later. More answers. I keep doing this over a day or 2 et voilà! Done.”

“I really, really, really like your work. All of us were bereft by the death of the irreplaceable Frank Lewis, and I have no higher compliment than to say that you are worthy successors. I’m also happy to say that the past two puzzles were the very first of yours which I have succeeded in solving completely before the next issue came out, so I think I’m beginning to get on your wavelength—for better or for worse.”

Are you getting on our wavelength or canceling your subscription? Are the puzzles too hard? What is your approach to cracking them? We’d love to hear from you. Please share below, along with comments, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle or any previous puzzle.

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