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No, it’s not a website error or your computer playing up. As of 2nd July 2012, members of the Times Crossword Club will no longer be able to receive the content from the rest of the Times website without paying. I discovered this when trying to get to the Sudoku – whichever route I took I ended up at a page detailing various subscription packages. I assumed that this was a technical glitch at first but eventually found a message on the Crossword Club’s home page which explained that this is a deliberate move. The message was hardly conspicuous, and it has now been removed. If it was there for some time I for one didn’t notice it. Nor did I receive an e-mail telling me that this change was about to take place. I suspect others may have missed it too if, like I do, they simply print the day’s puzzle(s) and leave without paying much attention to what else is on the page.

To be fair, Crossword Club members have had it good for quite a while. If memory serves, the original offer to Crossword Club members of free access to other Times content should have ended a year or more ago. Maybe it was extended as a result of the annoying problems back then with the Crossword Club website, which lasted for some considerable time before they finally got things working properly. Maybe it was an oversight. Either way, it was good while it lasted.

I can understand why a newspaper company would feel justified in charging for its online content. Newspapers are produced to make money, whatever their editors may claim about moral crusades and all the rest of it. Now that there are so many portable devices with Internet capability, it’s reasonable that a newspaper proprietor will be concerned that people will see no reason to buy the paper if it’s available for free online. Yet almost all other British newspapers offer all or some of their daily content online without charge, without any apparent loss of sales of the paper edition. So who’s right? To be honest, I don’t know.

I do know that I certainly shan’t be subscribing to the Times website (as opposed to the Crossword Club, which still offers excellent value for money). I hardly ever looked at it anyway, although I rather enjoyed Jeremy Clarkson’s Sunday column – and I can live without that. I will miss the Sudoku though. The Times Sudoku is pretty much the only example of this puzzle I bother solving. The “fiendish” and “super fiendish” puzzles are always a good challenge and are solvable by logic alone – no form of trial and error (i.e. guessing) is needed. I am not a regular solver, but usually print the puzzles for the proverbial rainy day (for example when I have nothing planned at the weekend and the Listener is a maths one). I suppose one Sudoku is pretty much the same as another, but I always trusted the advanced Times ones to be solvable without guesswork and just about the right level for me, and will miss them. 

I have suggested to the Times via the contact link that they consider making the Sudoku pages available in the Crossword Club. After all, Sudoku costs nothing to produce once you have the software. I am sure others would appreciate this too but I somehow doubt that a suggestion from little old me is likely to carry much weight at News International.

Crossword Club members may recall that when access to crosswords was severely limited by bugs and malfunctions, it was possible to use a "back door" link to bypass the faulty log-in process and get at the puzzles. If something similar were to happen here...

Then again, perhaps they’ve done me a favour. Instead of spending lots of time on a Sudoku only to end up with two nines in the same row, I can now use my time more productively!