>I don’t know if the New York Times crossword puzzle has become more difficult since I went on vacation in August, or if I’ve become dumber, but lately I almost never finish the puzzle every day of the work week. (I never could do Saturday, and usually don’t even bother trying.) In the last few years, I usually finished Monday-Friday puzzles on my subway ride to work, or at the latest, by the end of the workday. I was finishing up most Sunday puzzles too. I think my newfound hardship lies more with me, though, than a change at the Times. For example, two weeks ago, the clue for 1 Across was “Fudge maker?” and my immediate response was “ass.” As I went to fill in what I thought was obvious, I discovered that they sought an answer with four letters, not three. I had to admit that “rear,” “seat,” “tush,” or “butt” (all four letters) was probably not what the puzzle writer had in mind, either. The only other answer I could fathom was “elf” (as in Keebler, as in E.L. Fudge cookies), and that wasn’t even four letters. Eventually I figured out that the answer was “liar” (as in fudging an answer), but I decided that my answer was clearly better. Certainly funnier, anyway. And this is why I probably am having so much trouble finishing the puzzle lately.

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