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A few months ago I finally got myself together and upped for a year’s subscription to the New York Times. I was sick of clicking on links on Instapundit or Hacker News and finding myself up against a paywall for, well, clicking through to the NYT more than a couple of times a month. The price seemed reasonable at about a dollar a week, and I figured I would get that much value out of it even if I was just able to follow the links I was clicking already.

Since I signed on I have mainly interacted with the newspaper via the app on my phone. I skim the stories, occasionally tap on one that seems interesting, and I catch up with the opinion columns that generally, though not always, infuriate me more than they amuse me. 

But I also got in the habit of scrolling down to the daily (and free) Mini Crossword, a small 5x5 crossword puzzle that can usually be completed in less than minute, and sometimes as short as 17 seconds – I think that is my personal best, anyway. I liked to do them at the breakfast table with Jamie because the clues aren’t all that hard and, even if they are, with a couple of lines complete it is not too hard for him to fill in the blanks with me. I added the Mini Crossword to my ToDoIst list and made sure that I knocked it over before starting work each morning, a quick and effective way to wake up my brain.

And then about a week ago the NYT emailed me with a pre-Christmas special for their full crossword package. This would deliver me the daily ‘big kahuna’ from the Times, along with access to their archive of puzzles dating back to…well, a long time. For about $20 a year I would get the NYT crossword every day and be able to test myself daily against some pretty interesting puzzles.

I was in.

The full crossword, of course, takes a whole lot longer to complete than does the Mini Crossword. Instead of a few seconds or maybe a minute of thinking, these are taking me somewhere in the range of a half hour to work through. I think the very fastest I have got one done is about 24 or 25 minutes, with a couple of efforts at the weekend puzzles out over the 50 minute mark, too. It’s usually a little difficult, sometimes very frustrating, but it’s good clean fun, too.

The NYT crossword is now a new habit of mine. I’ll still knock over the Mini Crossword in the morning with Jamie, or quickly as I change from the metro to the tram on the way into the office. But the full crossword requires more time, more thinking, and is the sort of thing I am tackling on my lunch break, or on the couch at night while the Ultrawife watches some TV or works on one of her projects.

As habits go, I suspect it is one of the least destructive – now if only I could knock over the Saturday puzzle with the ease I manage the Tuesday one…