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Puzzling Out An Answer



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Since mid-October when we switched providers for our crossword — readers were happy to remind us they considered the puzzle up to that time to be on par with the New York Times crossword — we have been seeking a suitable replacement for this entertainment that is near and dear to the hearts of many.

We have fielded complaints from those who have found the new crossword and Sudoku to be “dummied down,” as well as those who find them too challenging. The loss of the cryptogram has been decried.

What was disheartening was to hear from readers ready to cancel subscriptions because they felt the replacement was a substandard option, or the suggestion of lost revenue when readers no longer purchased the paper, apparently, only for our puzzle section.

While we love to provide entertainment opportunities for our readers, our mission is to provide the news. Our staff works diligently, hours at a time, to bring news that matters to our readers. Thousands of communities have lost local news in recent years and regional papers will never provide that kind of insight.

Whether digging into news or lighter fare, journalism is not free. And therein lies the issue with our puzzles, for those still puzzling over our change. Rising costs affect all aspects of the print newspaper industry, from newsprint to ink, from insurance to utilities and technology. The crossword/Sudoku package we printed for so many years bumped up in 2020 to a price at odds with the paper’s budget, forcing the search for affordable alternatives.

Coupled with the impact of social media and the slow recovery from pandemic closures and cutbacks, revenue from advertising has been crippled. With thousands of Newtown Bee readers daily seemingly satisfied with free content available at newtownbee.com (charging for which is another financial challenge) or from word of mouth information, new subscriptions lag. While we provide our online news at no cost as a benefit to the community, we are grateful for those who find value in subscriptions or regular purchase of the paper; but currently, that is not enough.

For news that requires extended hours of research or further investigation; for in-depth dives into town government and issues in town; and, yes, for puzzles for our most discerning readers, we need the financial support of the community. We need businesses to put a value on ads that reach thousands of households every week; we need readers to place value on the full content of The Newtown Bee.

A puzzle desert is hardly a make-or-break situation for a community. But a news desert? That is not a plus for the local economy, for businesses, or for the individuals who call Newtown home.

Puzzler alert: We hope to offer another series of crosswords and puzzles in coming weeks as we continue to assess the popularity and affordability of this complement to our news — and hope for fewer “cross words” toward our efforts.

Thank you for reading The Newtown Bee.

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