Who writes better crossword puzzles, humans or computers?

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July 12 2006 4:41 PM

The Ultimate Crossword Smackdown

Who writes better puzzles, humans or computers?

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No sample test proves anything with certainty. Different competitors, different judges, a different day—anything could've pushed the results one way or the other. Still, the computers won this battle on points, and they have other advantages that make the future ominous for human constructors. Their databases are getting larger every year, and they work much more quickly than we do. A typical human constructor may take between two and five hours to fill a challenging 15-by-15 grid. Longo's and Gordon's databases can sometimes do it in under a minute.

Will I be jumping onboard the database ship? It may be a poor career move, but I will not. I'd rather figure out how to win a rematch than join the other team.

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This piece has been adapted from Gridlock: Crossword Puzzles and the Mad Geniuses Who Create Them. You can buy the book here.