Volume 15, Issue 2 ~ January 11 - January 17, 2007


Xwords for a New Year

With this issue, the frustration of many long-suffering readers comes to an end, as a crossword puzzle returns to Bay Weekly’s pages after more than a decade’s absence.

As millions of people know, crossword puzzles make a fantastic pastime and are a great form of mental exercise. In youth, they sharpen our wits by building miles of neural connections. In age, they keep us mentally agile by building a safety net to keep out the mice of senility. Puzzling soothes stress and may even promote healing, releasing dopamine, the neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of well-being, at the challenge of making new connections.

The crossword puzzle you’ll find beginning this week at the end of our classified pages is not just any crossword puzzle. Ink Well Xwords by syndicated puzzler Ben Tausig, a New Yorker, is a puzzle for our times.

“Many of us,” Tausig says, “were a little frustrated having to contend with too many clues about racehorses from the 1920s and members of Warren Harding’s cabinet. I started Ink Well to give younger generations of solvers the chance to solve puzzles focused on their own interests, including contemporary music, film, food, art, sexuality and pop culture.”

Like Rob Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology and Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird, Ink Well Xwords is syndicated in alternative newspapers, including Chicago’s The Reader and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Thus, Tausig says, “it can also be a bit edgier than the mainstream papers, touching on topics that they generally avoid. It can even be a bit political, when it’s called for. At the same time, the precision and wit of the clues and themes is meant to be as good as The New York Times on a given day.”

Indeed, Tausig even sells the odd puzzle to The New York Times. Those are a little tougher than Ink Well Xwords, which Tausig says, an expert solver can finish in about 10 minutes and an average solver in 45 minutes to an hour.

Now and again, you’ll also find regional references in Ink Well Xwords, so don’t let familiarity get in the way of a right answer.

With Ink Well Xwords, you can even share your frustrations with the man who caused them. “Being able to interact with solvers is important to me,” says Tausig. You can reach him at datageneral@gmail.com.

Let us know, too, how you’re liking these Xwords.

Download this weeks puzzle HERE

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.