Last week, the New York Times shocked the crossword community by announcing that they would drop support for the Across Lite download format in just one week. What a week it’s been! As I write this on Tuesday morning, August 10, 2021, the Across Lite formatted puzzles have indeed been removed from the New York Times web site.
Since the 1990s, the Across Lite format has granted paying subscribers to the New York Times Crossword the ability to download the puzzles they’ve paid for, and to solve them in a desktop or mobile application of their choosing. Black Ink, Red Sweater’s crossword solving app, is one of the many options available to these subscribers.
When I first heard the news of the decision, I assumed the worst: New York Times subscribers would never again be able to download and solve these puzzles in Black Ink. But, after sulking a bit, I got to work questioning whether that was necessarily true. After all, as a paying subscriber to the New York Times Crossword you can download and solve the puzzles within a web browser. Maybe Black Ink could somehow do the same thing on behalf of my customers, finessing the data into a format that the app can work with?
I’m excited to share the news that Black Ink 2.1.7, which I’m releasing today, achieves that goal. It might be a bit underwhelming from a customer point of view, because when you launch and download the New York Times puzzle using this version of the app, it should … just work exactly the same as it always has! The mechanism for downloading and manipulating the data is completely different, but the end result is a consistent experience for customers. You’ll enjoy all the same downloading, printing, and solving features you’ve come to rely on over all these years.
This is all great news for Black Ink customers, since downloading the New York Times puzzles should continue to work as it always has. But for people who have been accustomed to solving or printing in other apps that depend upon the Across Lite format, the outlook is not so good. If you’ve ever been curious to give Black Ink a try, now might be the time to give it a shot!
The update contains a few other important updates. Here’s the complete list of changes:
- Now downloads NYT puzzles without requiring Across Lite format
- Improved memory usage performance when opening and closing puzzles
- Prevents editing and deletion of built-in puzzle sources. Disable them if you want to hide them from the list.
- Further improvements to the compatibilty of saved puzzles with Across Lite
At the end of a tumultuous week, I’m overall still disappointed by the New York Times’s handling of this situation. The short notice and apparent disregard for a whole community of offline solvers was difficult to digest. I come out of the week with some sense of triumph at having overcome the obstacles laid before us, but I’m still worried about where this change will leave us in the weeks, months, and years that lie ahead.