Part of the reason sudoku have become so popular is that you don't really need to know anything to solve one. Crosswords, more the domain of the liberal elite than of Joe Six-pack, test more than a puzzler's logic circuits. They demand arcane knowledge of opera, European geography, and monograms of the rich and famous. The New York Times Crosswords puts more than a thousand of these challenges in one game cart. True to the Gray Lady's tradition, the puzzles are organized by the day of the week, with Monday grids being pushovers, and Sundays offering the most resistance.
Traditionalists may balk a little at the game's presentation: It's gussied up with a kind of coffeehouse kitsch that creates a twee NPR vibe. And clue lists can't be perused en masse. Rather, each hint displays individually as you wander the checkered field. There are several alternatives for jumping between blanks and entering words. The stylus is used to point to squares, drag the grid, and even hand-write letters. Myriad buttons allow for scrolling, flip-flopping between "down" and "across," and begging for clues.
Beyond the game: The grids are reprints from the past four or five years. Recent Times subscribers or Starbucks loiterers may have encountered a fair number of these puzzles before.
Worth playing for: No more peering over shoulders. Multiple players can work on the same puzzle via the Nintendo DS' wireless connectivity.
Frustration sets in when: Most of us can't hold a pencil to competitive crossword solvers. The game scores performance based on the time it takes to complete the puzzle. A casual approach results in shame-inducing letter grades.
Final judgment: A five-letter word used to describe Catherine, Alexander, and Tony the Tiger's favorite cereal.