July 06, 2005

The course of time has been reversed!

I just did the Wednesday trio of NYS, CrosSynergy, and LAT puzzles. Given last week's Wednesday time of just under 12:00, I granted myself 12:00 to tackle the threesome. They turned out to be easy—10:13. I look forward to a sub-Monday level of breeziness by Friday! (Actually, I would dread that.)

One of the advantages gained by doing tons of puzzles from a variety of sources is that what you learn in one crossword can often be applied to another puzzle within days. This reinforcement of an unfamiliar word, name, or definition cements it in the mind for future use. For example, Chicago isn't a big sports mascot town. We've got Benny the Bull, but I think that's it. If our baseball teams have mascots, they sure don't trot them out much. So MRMET was something I got mainly through the crossings a few days ago. 64A in today's NYS was "his head is a large baseball"—MRMET strikes again!

I'm guessing that the most important trait shared by speed-solvers is the ability to retain those new bits of information and retrieve them when needed. Other characteristics are quick recognition of letter patterns—I sometimes find myself filling words in before reading the clue because only one likely entry fits the pattern represented by the letters that are already filled in. I get the idea that other people are more tuned in to individual constructors' cluing styles. I have a handful of favorites whose clues I instinctively "get," but there are plenty of other constructors whose styles I can't predict just by seeing their byline. Is that something I need to pay more attention to? Do the Tyler Hinmans, Trip Paynes, and Al Sanderses of the world use much brain space to store up info about the constructors they do battle with?