Many fans of The New York Times’ iconic crosswords will soon have to find a new way to play, as the paper announced it will stop supporting the popular Across Lite file format third-parties use to import the daily puzzles into their apps. Crossword fans are a passionate group, and many of them are a five-letter word starting with U that means not happy.
Upset. That’s the word. Crossword fans are upset that the daily puzzles, so popular they have their own $40-a-year subscription option, will no longer be available in their third-party applications of choice starting on August 10. After years of supporting the import-friendly Across Lite .puz format used by apps like Red Sweater’s Black Ink 2, the paper is switching to its own internal tools to create new puzzles. The crosswords will still be playable on the New York Times website, the official NYT Crosswords app, and physically in the paper or via a downloaded PDF file, but third-party app players will be out of luck. Not only will new crosswords be unavailable, the sizable archive of older puzzles in .puz format will be taken offline as well.
While that may seem like plenty of remaining places to play, fans are used to getting their fix in their own specific way. The .puz format has been in use since the ‘90s, and it’s what many fans are used to. It’s a sudden change in what for .puz devotees has been a comforting routine they’ve stuck to for years. So yeah, #NYTXW solvers are rightly miffed.
For some, it’s an issue of accessibility. On Twitter, in response to app developer Red Sweater’s call for users of its app to let The New York Times know how they feel about the change, one solver says they are visually impaired and have trouble getting the official app to work with voiceover. Others, like crossword champion Dan Feyer, feel the move is a sort of cash grab, squeezing out a little more revenue by forcing players to use NYT resources.
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In response to Feyer’s concerns, Everdeen Mason, The Times’ recently-appointed editor of games, accepted responsibility for the change and offered an explanation via Twitter.
Hi. I’m the one who made this call and I did it for editorial reasons. I’m trying to build something where the editors can actual edit and make games rather than adapt things for tools we can’t control. It takes a lot of time, and I’m confident this is the best move for my team.
Keeping tools updated and under control is an understandable reason to retire old tech in favor of new stuff that might not initially be as convenient for all users. Eventually this change could very well result in a new age of intelligent and topical games from the world’s most popular crossword puzzle provider. Or it could all go south, alienating thousands of daily solvers around the world. Stay tuned.