"Look how fast I did the Times Puzzle today! 57 seconds!"
So probably says the kook known as fwongstaal on the New York Times Crossword Puzzles timed applet. Every single damn day.
Guess what? It isn't funny anymore.
And we're going to do something about it.
We made a proposition to the New York Times online contingent at the Stamford tournament two months ago that anyone with what is regarded as a "superhuman" time on the New York Times timed crossword applet should be thrown out of the forums. We'd still like to see that happen, but we have something more intriguing to propose, and we're not so sure how the progress on this is going.
We believe there can be some sort of "cookie" on the site itself or on the user's computer that if a solver opens up the non-times Across Lite version of the puzzle, the solver can not compete on that day's timed applet. We think it's possible to do. And we think, at this point, with the ten or fifteen jerks who think it's a riot to cheat on the applet, it's necessary.
We also think every one of the other good solvers on the applet -- Barry Haldiman, Tyler Hinman, Susan Hoffman, Amy Reynaldo, Byron Walden, and a few others we're too modest to mention -- is appalled that this should keep going on with nothing in place to stop it. We've got to start putting some serious pressure to stop this cheating. Take a look at it this way: the SudokuFun website, which features a new Sudoku game nearly every ten minutes, almost never has cheaters. There is a healthy honor system in place over there, with their moderator James Pitts promising from the start that anyone who cheats by using solving applets would be banned for life from the site. Why can't it be that way at the Times?
This little board of "Today's Best Times" means absolutely nothing when you take into account the dozen or so scurvy little cheaters. So the last part of this is a challenge. Those of you who "do" this puzzle on the timed applet in under two minutes...how about starting tomorrow, you do the puzzle on the timed applet at 10PM sharp, once it goes up, before you have even seen the puzzle? Then you'll be one of two things: hailed as a superfast solver, or totally humiliated. Better yet, why don't you go to Stamford next year? If you can solve a puzzle in 57 seconds as you claim, fwongstaal, surely you can beat Tyler Hinman. There's an easy $4000 for you right there. And if Tyler wins, it's $4000 of your money he wins. That oughta make it damn interesting.
So the screws are on, you cheaters...and the joke is over. Don't insult the real solvers anymore by cheating.