I am mostly keeping up my daily ritual of doing the NYT crossword and generally getting faster, with most of my solves now below my historical average, but it’s getting harder to set a personal best. Every once in a while a puzzle comes along that is abnormally easy for the day-of-the-week, so that my best times are fairly far from the mean. It would be interesting to see the whole distribution over time, but as far as I know that data is not available.
Anyhow, determined to meet my entirely arbitrary goal of a sub-5 minute NYT crossword solve, I sat down today and did eleven Monday puzzles in a row. The eleventh (April 13, 2020) clocked in at 4:48. Success! When you do them back-to-back like this, it’s comical how frequently the same answer will appear from one to the next. Not just well-worn friends like ASEA, but slightly further out words: for example OKRA came up in almost the same grid location between this one and May 11, 2020. The other interesting thing about speed solving is how infrequently I’ll even notice the theme. I only just now went back to see the theme on this puzzle. DROPS/OCEAN were a nice touch.