M2M Day 246: I can already tell this isn’t going to work

This post is part of Month to Master, a 12-month accelerated learning project. For July, my goal is to solve a Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle in one sitting without any aid.

Yesterday, I declared my training plan for the next week: Work through 52 Saturday NYT crossword puzzles, using ‘cheats’ (like Check and Reveal) to expedite the process.

Today, to get a head start, I completed ten puzzles, and came to the conclusion that this is a bad plan.

Well, it’s not necessarily a bad plan, but there’s no way for me to know if it’s a good plan.

Basically, as it stands now, my plan requires that I suspend my disbelief, do the same thing for a week, and then, at the end of the week, see if I’ve progressed along some currently unknown axis.

Theoretically, this approach might work out. But it might not. Either way, it’s irresponsible for me to burn through 25% of this month’s training time to find out.

Accelerated learning is all about finding ways to receive fast or immediate feedback, and adjusting the training approach in real-time based on this feedback.

Right now, my feedback loop is a week long, and that’s just not good enough if I want to have any control over the outcome of my training.

I need to find a way to reduce this feedback loop so it’s measured in minutes, not weeks. In this way, I’ll have a much better chance of identifying patterns and productively evolving my training methods over time.

Since I’ve completed a handful of puzzles in the past few days, at least I have a better sense of what kinds of patterns I’m looking for. There are three types:

  1. Common answers. Which words appear most often in the puzzles? Do I know what they mean? Do I know the ways these words are most commonly clued? Etc. This is the most obvious of the patterns.
  2. Common clue types. It seems that the New York Times crossword editors control the difficulty of puzzles not based on the obscurity of the answers, but based on the crypticness of the clues. In particular, the editors use a lot of plays on words, double meanings, misdirection, etc. I sense that there are common types of deceptive clues, and I should try to identify and learn these types.
  3. Best solving practices. Do I find that there are certain solving techniques or approaches that I can use that are consistently more effective? Should I always start with a complete pass through all the clues first, or should I build out the puzzle in stages? Etc. I should try to find a rhythm that works best for me.

To create quick feedback loops for #1 and #2, I’ll likely need to aggregate crossword data and build some kind of training tool (that lives separately from actual puzzles). For #3, I’ll need to continue solving puzzles more or less as I already am.

Tomorrow, I’ll investigate how I might be able to aggregate and analyze crossword data, and then go from there…

Read the next post. Read the previous post.

Max Deutsch is an obsessive learner, product builder, guinea pig for Month to Master, and founder at Openmind.

If you want to follow along with Max’s year-long accelerated learning project, make sure to follow this Medium account.