Breaking the pattern here to discuss newspaper crosswords online. This seems appropriate given the announcement that The Independent is to have only an online presence from the end of March. Like most newspapers, The Independent has had quite a significant web presence in recent years; though this hasn’t extended to its crosswords.
For some time you could get the daily crosswords via the main website,with the curious feature that on Saturdays you got the prize crossword from the previous week. This was somehow explained as being to do with the need to prevent the solution appearing with the next daily puzzle (and thus well before the closing date). This wasn’t a problem with other sites, but it has continued into the current site, which has a plethora of other puzzles, games and quizzes. The setting up of puzzles.independent.co.uk does provide a platform that could be readily expanded to incorporate the barred grids from the weekend editions, the omission of which has been a bone of contention for some time. There is now a petition to encourage the paper to retain its crossword capability in the online version.
The Independent site is free, as is that at The Guardian. The Guardian did try a subscription service for its puzzles for a while, I believe, but found it difficult to secure payments, and has reverted to a free site. The site has recently been overhauled as part of a review of the whole Guardian site, and it still has some teething-like problems. Today, for instance, there appear to be ‘revenants’ – old prize and Genius puzzles inserting themselves into February 2016 menus. And the method of entering the Genius puzzle (typing a list of answers into a long entry form) is still a bit perverse, given that you used to be able to type them into a grid (which was a useful double-check on your typing skills (just let me take that P out of ‘dopuble’…)). And the Azed puzzle can be a bit erratic. But it is free, and it is reasonably well-designed, and you can search and find lots of things.
You can however subscribe at The Telegraph, and that site has always worked that way. It provides access to a full spectrum of the Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph puzzles, and a comprehensive search facility. The subscription seems to be entirely separate from a subscription to the newspaper site itself, and I can’t say whether getting a subscription to the paper gets you access to the crosswords included.
One used to be able to say that of The Times – there was a separate Crossword Club, with a separate subscription. A couple of years ago the Crossword Club was rolled up into the main sub package, and you now get complimentary access with a sub to the papers. This used to mean you could get a PDF of the day’s puzzles sent out, and a jolly useful little thing it was too, containing the puzzles as they appeared in the paper but without photographs of footballers hovering above them. That seems to have gone now, which is a shame. The version in the iPad app is a reproduction of the newspaper itself, and is dreadfully – and unreadably – pixelated when you print it off. You can solve online (which I don’t really like doing), or you can print off some of the puzzles from the Crossword Club (not the second, easier cryptic, for some reason). Alas, my printer rebels at the Crossword Club puzzles, displacing some rows by half a square – thought not for The Listener or Mephisto. So, all a bit vexed re access, but the site does have a compendious selection, including a monthly special.
What all this suggests is that the culture of accessing crosswords online is still in flux: free, free but wasn’t in the past, subscribe to a ‘club’, and subscribe to the lot, but get access to a ‘club’. Take your pick.
It seems necessary to be able to print off things – indeed, all the barred puzzles involved are print-only (though Azed didn’t use to be, now I come to think of it). Given the ubiquitous image of the commuter solving the puzzle on the daily train journey, then a print-off option seems necessary, at least until the apps improve, or until the barred puzzle can be solved interactively. (Given the time taken to solve some barred puzzles, interactive does not feel quite the word…) I use PDFs on the site and my own experience of the Times Mind Games PDF was very positive. It would be nice to see The Independent move to such a model.
Note: I write of course from my own experience of the sites. I may well be missing something, and I’d be delighted if site users could expand my knowledge if so.
Back on schedule next week with the Jeremy Morse puzzle, and there’ll be a blog about the EV Star Quality on Thursday or thereabouts.