It’s only fitting that a serious crossword puzzle app has a seriously verbose title.
The daily puzzles offered up by The New York Times are a classic staple in many crossword puzzle players’ diets. Kicking off each week with Monday’s easy offering, the puzzles get gradually more difficult each day, peaking with a fiendishly difficult grid on Friday.
The New York Times Crosswords Daily 2009 is the official NYT crossword app. The app features daily downloads of the latest New York Times crossword puzzle, alongside leaderboards and player profiles.
Sophisticated and Stylish (6 letters)
The game opens with a seriously smooth New York vibe: the Big Apple’s skyline sits atop the menu, rendered with a newspaper-style aesthetic, all backed with light-hearted jazz.
The cheery music and mellow tone was initially off-putting, perhaps due to my current diet of awful iPhone action games. After a few minutes though, I had adjusted to the breezy pace of the game and started to appreciate the gorgeous menu animations.
Zipping through the different menu screens, the animations are utterly gorgeous. Before even setting a single letter on to the grid, it was clear that this is a different breed of iPhone game — it’s smart, paced and incredibly classy.
To Make A Link (7 letters)
Prior to playing, you’ll need to set up a profile, which enables you to access the game’s array of community features and downloadable puzzles. Even though the registration process takes place within the app, it’s still a bore. I resented having to give my email address away, simply to access the game content.
Another issue with the registration process is that you’re automatically given a Magmic Profile. Magmic, the developers of the app, had, quite unexpectedly, created a profile for me on their site. It seems somewhat inappropriate for Magmic to be harvesting user-data for the game in order to create unrelated public profiles on their site (and without prior warning, too).
Once registered, the app is given an injection of content. You’re immediately able to download and play the latest daily crossword from The New York Times. There’s also a small archive of puzzles available to play, dating as far back as 2002. And best of all, downloading happens in a snap, which means you can be playing a fresh puzzle only moments after opening the app.
Corbijn’s Directorial Debut (7 letters)
Once a crossword has been opened, the timer starts ticking, giving the game a sense of pace and competition. Navigating each crossword is surprisingly intuitive. I expected clumsy navigation, and yet the interface design is solid and incredibly easy to grasp.
To select a square on the grid, you simply tap it. The clue is then displayed at the bottom of the screen. Tapping the same square again toggles between Across and Down, while using the left and right arrows (which flank the clue text) scrolls through the clues sequentially. You’re even able to zoom in and out of the grid by pinching, Mobile Safari-style.
Separate to the main crossword grid is an excellent clue view screen. The clue view screen is a useful tool when attempting to solve a grid; it’s a space where the clues are clearly laid out, enabling prolonged perusal and consideration. Plus, solutions can also be entered on this screen, too, enhancing its usefulness.
Magmic says that the app “includes access to daily and archived puzzles until the end of 2009.” It’s not clear exactly what this means, though. Does the app stop downloading all crosswords — even old ones from the NYT archives — when we hit 2010? The lack of clarity is an issue; if the app is essentially a subscription, it should be made clearer from the offset.
Setting the app’s description discrepancy aside, despite it’s overly verbose title, The New York Times Crossword Daily 2009 was an unexpected pleasure to play. The app’s design is classy, and the excellent user interface means that solving the crossword on the iPhone is just as engaging as the real thing.
The real joy of this app is the way in which it stretches your mental capacity. And taking on such a challenge — giving your brain-box a thorough testing — really does make you feel immediately smarter.