Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Service Station: The New York Times Crossword

I don’t play as many games as I used to. Part of it is just that I don’t have as much time as I used to, so I find myself squeezing in those leisure pursuits in the nooks and crannies between all those adult responsibilities, like making sure the dishes are clean and then making more dishes by cooking dinner.

So I place a high value on those pieces of entertainment that I can pick up and put down, that have a recurring challenge to them that’s not just mindlessly staring at a phone and trying to do the same inane task over and over again. It’s why I’m willing to pony up the princely sum of $40 every year for a subscription to the New York Times Crossword puzzle.

I’ve been doing the puzzle for years now, but it’s really in the last five or six that I’ve become devoted to finishing the puzzle every day. That’s thanks in no small part to the NYT Crossword app’s tracking of your streak-how many days you’ve done the crossword puzzle on the day it comes out, without resorting to using its check or solve features.

As I write this, my streak stands at a rather paltry 36 days. (I recently had a 100-plus day streak but lost it when I forgot to finish a puzzle late one Saturday evening.) I’ve gotten as far as 201 days before I slipped up (itself rather meager compared to my wife’s 380-some day streak). But given that I keep doing the puzzle every day, what seemed like a high $40 price tag works out to the much more reasonable cost of 11 cents per puzzle. (And even less if you include the daily mini puzzles and access to the extensive archives.)

Now, as a “service”, the New York Times crossword puzzle might seem rather…less than featureful? After all, it really only lets you do the crossword every day. But I’d argue that in this era of constant technological barrage, where we’re regularly bombarded with all sorts of services for streaming audio and video, cloud storage, and other online memberships, the NYT Crossword is not only a brief respite from the maelstrom, but also an insurance to help keep your brain working well, to help you stretch your mind and see things a different way.

Are there some missing features I’d like to see? Sure! There are more puzzles still in other editions of the Times that aren’t available in the app. At one point, the app added a leaderboard feature to compare your success on the mini puzzle to your friends, but it’s never worked properly for me, and I’d like to see it expanded to the main daily puzzle as well. And much as I value my streak, I’d love a limited option-say once a month?-that gives you a 24-hour grace period, for those days when you’re too slammed to even get to the puzzle.

All of that aside, I can wholeheartedly say that my yearly subscription to the NYT Crossword puzzle is worth it sheerly because it’s my little island of sanity in this world gone mad. And $40 is hardly too steep a price to pay for that.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]

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