Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tips for using the New York Times Crossword Puzzles for Kindle - UPDATE


Released December 21, there are four sets for Kindle now from which to choose:
Vol. 1   30 World Famous Easy Puzzles
Vol. 2   90 World Famous Easy Puzzles
Vol. 3   30 World Famous Challenging Puzzles
Vol. 4   90 World Famous Challenging Puzzles

  Current pricing is $1.99 for each 30-puzzle set and $4.99 for a set with 90-puzzles.

As NY Times regulars know, the crossword puzzles that come out on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are easier to do.

By the end of each week, on Thursday and Friday, they get very 'challenging' (and I'm already challenged by the "easy" ones).

Of interest to me was that the larger set of 90-puzzles, Vol. 2 (probably chosen by crossword puzzle enthusiasts), has received 4 reviews, all 5-stars though they note the slowness of navigation.

  The smaller, 30-puzzle Vol.1 has more reviews, but they're quite mixed, with most liking it very much but not liking at all the lag time involved in the navigation of the puzzle, due to the clues-text changing with each cursor up/down and across.  The text has to change on the sides and at the bottom because the text shown is tied to the cell, column, and row that your cursor is in and it gives you new information with each movement to another cell.

  It seems to me that the programmers (who otherwise did a great job with this) could hold off on changing the surrounding text until a certain amount of time after a pause.  It'd be better if no surrounding text is changed until the player actually stops moving the cursor (whatever calculation would be involved).  It would also help battery drain also, since there'd be fewer page changes.

  In reading the reviews for both "easy" sets, I saw that those who chose the 90-puzzle set are, on the whole, happier, maybe because they show more evidence of having read the "Instructions" and "Options" and can use, among other features, the "Jump" method to get around more easily.  Also, they're probably more motivated.

  The Kindle's Menu button is used for quite a few help options.
      There's another important key though which gives direct access
        to game "Options," a choice too far down on the Menu button.

  The "Aa" Type- or Font-key (next to the spacebar) offers a choice of Layout (size of grid), Font Size, Timer Off or On (but it always gives you the total time it took you), and a few other options, including whether or not to use the Return Key for the next clue (we should) or instead use it as a toggle across/down (we shouldn't because the 5-key press already does that).

  Tip:  Just moving the cursor to the various options on the Aa-key popup screen menu changes the choices.  Don't click on them as that ends the screen and you have to call it up again to choose the other options.
  Do take a look at the Instructions selection on the main Menu (via the Menu button).

  Both the Menu and Aa buttons are "toggles" - you press them to open the menus and you press the same buttons to close them when finished.

For me, moving around these puzzles was often quite amazingly slow, but it's also the most addicting 'game' that I've tried on the Kindle, even though some of the others are absorbing too (so much so that I did read books less for awhile until I got control of myself).  With these Kindle crossword puzzles, you can check for errors if you want before you get too far, and you can get a one-letter hint if you're too stymied and time is short.  You can also get a full-word answer (though I don't know why anyone would choose that except for the most esoteric words).  Despite the awful lag time, I didn't move until I finished each puzzle.  I won't be going public though with how long it took me each time (I can always blame the lag time).

UPDATE 1/7/10 - A way to AVOID LAG TIME is to do what's recommended in the screen tips while playing. Press RETURN after finishing with a word and the game TAKES you to the "NEXT" set of cells that need attention.  You don't need to refresh the screen with many cursor up or down movements nor will you set up a full screen refresh when using Jump To Cell.  It's also faster working this way in general and explains why some don't find it that slow.

  AGAIN, press RETURN after finishing a a word and get taken to the next set of cells.

 I tried the crossword puzzle on the NookColor -- and of course a touch screen + LCD display speed makes it much easier.  Those who are used to doing these on the iPad or NookColor LCD devices will find this e-Ink experience a bit frustrating although the cultural/trivia aspects of the NYTimes versions can be both fun and frustrating (depending on your age and the things they think up from another era or from entertainment events you might generally avoid).

I think Kindle-2 and earlier-DX users will find it slower than those with Kindle 3, as the earlier models are slower than the newer Pearl display on the Kindle 3 (UK: K3) and DX Graphite.


Note that the first one requires excellent eyesight and will be faster to play because the greater amount of clue text on the right side and bottom of the puzzle won't have to change as much.  The second grid is considerably larger and much easier on the eyes, but with this choice you don't get much text at a time so when you want to move to another area, the screen changes with each cursor movement.

You can type NUMBERS to JUMP to a clue's cell instead of slowly cursoring to it while the text info on right and bottom slowly changes with each movement.  There are two ways to enter numbers:

  Pressing the Menu button will bring up the option to "Jump to Clue" -- to a cell number.
  However, just typing a "." or period will bring up the same numbers box (similar to the "Sym"-key process on the Kindle.
  I find entering numbers from the numbers-box a slow process if I want to JUMP to cell #27, say.  First, you have to arrow up TO the numbers and then you need to select each individual number and click them each in.

You can use the alternate method --  the Alt-key + (hidden) numbers combo.  The top keyboard row contains unlabeled numbers '1' through '9' and the '0' comes after the '9' (which makes it easier to know where the number you want would be, since the first key is '1'...

  With this method, you don't need to press the Menu key or the "." period.  Instead, you either just press the Alt-key and hold it with the left hand while typing the full number (in this case, '27'), selecting each (invisible) number in quick sequence -- or you can tap that Alt-key first and then with the same hand follow it quickly with each number key (this takes only one hand but more steps).

  Reminder: Whenever using the Kindle's keyboard for anything, you CAN hold down the Alt key while typing a sequence of several numbers .

The Alt-key combo is used on the DX models also, although the numbers on that one are visible since the keys are larger for that 9.7" screen model.
 When at the Menu/Settings screen, the Alt-key combo is the only way to enter numbers.

That should do it for this initial report.  I'll update this blog entry if I find any other interesting aspects or if commenters to the blog provide added tips.

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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  1. This is my first time on your site, and I'm impressed. One thing I hope you'll consider adding is an easy way to share your articles on Twitter, Plurk, and Facebook. My preference is one large button for each social networking site. :-D

  2. Joan, thanks.
    Good idea re the Twitter/Facebook buttons but I have to see what's allowed. Places like Digg and other buzz-type places are not supposed to be in the articles when they are picked up for the Kindle-Edition blog versions. I'll check to see if there is an exception for these.

    The Kindle-edition blogs pull the articles as-is and there are to be no ads or pushes for further exposure in those. But we'll see. Glad you saw something you'd like to retweet :-)

  3. I used these on the Kindle with Keyboard without any problems, but when I switched to the Kindle Touch, I keep getting errors that crash the Kindle and lose the progress in the crossword. The errors seem to happen if I do a lot of moving back and forth between parts of the puzzle. If I only go from one word to the next using "Return", it works fine. If I need to jump back or forward to correct something, it starts slowing down and eventually crashes. Workaround: as soon as you notice the slowing, pull up the menu, go to the Crossword Table of Contents (saves your puzzle work), and then go to the Kindle main menu and reenter the app. That seems to reset it, though it's annoying to have to do this.

    1. Anonymous, that's important feedback. Thanks for taking the time to detail the problems and workarounds here.

      Important to let Amazon's Kindle Feedback know, as those emails are forwarded to development team.


  4. how do you save a partial puzzle

    1. Wow, I last tried this app 5 years ago. Will have to try it again to see what it's like now. Sorry that I don't know more.

      In the meantime, ou could ask other Kindle users at KindleCommunity Forum

      Good luck!


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