Forum > State Puzzle Project

Solver's perspective?


Ashish Vengsarkar:

I have watched this ambitious project with growing interest and wanted to throw out a few basic questions that came to my mind as a solver, not a constructor.

From a solver's perspective, is there a need for another outlet or another crossword book that I would pay for? Is this space already crowded? I can see why we (constructors) feel the need for another book or outlet, but do we know if solvers are craving for more puzzles (be they via websites or books)?

Based on a few solvers amongst family and friends (including myself as one datapoint), the following profile comes closest to summarizing their solving habits:

1) Subscribe to the NYT (Shortz).
2) Solve the daily Yahoo Puzzle (CrosSynergy, a peer-reviewed group of top-notch constructors).
3) Solve LAT (Norris).
4) Visit websites for extra puzzles from a group of extremely talented constructors (Quigley, Gaffney, Tausig, Jones).
5) Despite the fact that all my datapoints (if I can call them that) were fans of Peter Gordon and the Sun puzzles, they have not subscribed to the Sun puzzles.
6) They will not buy crossword books unless they have puzzles from their absolute favorite constructors (Salomon, Gorski, Lempel, Gamache, Nosowsky, Tracey, Kahn are usually mentioned). And there are a lot of anthologies and books out there by famous crossword editors and brand-name publishers - check Patrick Jordan's monthly publication calendar.
7) They quite like the inherent irreverence and the defenestration of the breakfast test on the Quigley site and in the Onion puzzles, but respect the Shortz-Norris constraints.

Although I am a non-prolific constructor, I diligently track all puzzles that appear in the top outlets just to stay in touch with themes and ideas. BEQ's new blog/website where he posts three absolutely high-quality puzzles a week is stunning in its creative expanse and I love watching how he demolishes established constraints with panache. I also get pings from co-constructors asking me to check out a mind-boggling Walden or Nothnagel puzzle I may have missed. And the three Patricks (Berry, Merrell, Blindauer) continue to amaze me with new ideas and puzzles-within-puzzles. Not to mention the newly emerging teen-phenoms who have demonstrated brilliancies on all days of the week.

So my point? Is it possible that there is truly an oversupply of high-quality puzzles [and I hasten to add, puzzles that someone will pay for, given the plethora of free high-quality puzzles on the internet]? Despite the burgeoning popularity of crosswords in mainstream media (and the blogosphere), is there already an established group of brilliant constructors who can whip out puzzles on any theme in a short period of time? (Look no further than the Kahn Sunday in today's NYT).

Now to my real point (I think) of this long post: I don't think that this group should be discouraged and give up before starting. I do think you should find your customer who is willing to pay before embarking on this ambitious project - talking to customers helps fine-tune your ideas, and in understanding what will work, what won't. AAA may ask that this book be edited by an established name, which will point you in this direction and make it a requirement and not a "nice-to-have". This will help  prioritize some of the first things you may want to do from a business perspective.

The point, that you can't just "build it and they will come",  has been made before, but I couldn't help re-emphasizing its importance with some more color from a solvers point-of-view.

If, on the other hand, as Nancy points out, this is purely a labor of love and a hobby, my points are moot. But at least I had the opportunity to use 'defenestration' in a sentence! :-)


Todd G:

Well, I wouldn't say there's a need for a book like the one we're considering.  But then, what's the mantra of marketing: Create a need, then fill it.

I like to think this is different because it's a collection of related crosswords with a common idea, not just a collection of top-notch crosswords with little more in common than maybe difficulty level.  Is there a need for this?  No, not really.  But maybe we can create one.

I take hope in the various books of crosswords put out by People magazine.  This would seem to show that one can create a marketable book of puzzles based on some common interest, even with a spate of top-notch free stuff out there.

That's my take on it, anyway.


I'd like to speak on behalf of crossword enthusiasts whose solving habits are less intense than those described by Ashish.  For example, I do the Boston Globe puzzle daily, the LAT puzzle online occasionally, and keep a crossword puzzle book handy to work on during TV commercials. I like good puzzles of course, but until recently I never even noticed the constructors' names (sorry guys).
FWIW, I for one would be interested in buying crossword puzzle books organized around a theme.  In fact, when I first saw some of the titles Will Shortz has published (like "Weekend in the Country Crossword Puzzles"),  I was disappointed that they were *not* about a weekend in the country.

A final point, crossword puzzle books sell not just to solvers, but also to people who buy gifts for solvers.  No online source can meet that need.

Okay, this may not be the right place for this post, but I couldn't figure out where else to put it. And I promised myself I would shut up about this, because obviously nobody is really interested in forming an organization and trying to do this seriously, but I will at least suggest, that if y'all want a marketable product, you can't be having your discussions like this.
I mean, there's a reason why the Colonel's recipe is secret!
One of the strengths of this collective would be a variety of experience and viewpoints, and ideas. And there are lots of other producers of this kind of material out there who are also looking for these things. I'm not saying they're unethical, I'm saying they're thinking like business people. And we're totally giving away whatever we come up with. We are having an essentially public discussion of a marketing plan, the conducting of market research, etc. If we were a soft drink, we'd totally be RC. And we need to think like Coke.



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