One of our favorite things about pencils has to be that they're very forgiving - a quick sweep of an eraser and all mistakes are brushed away. Pens, obviously, not so much - though I truly envy those brave enough to tackle some tasks with permanent utensils.
Possibly one of the most frequent requests we get is a recommendation for the best pencil for the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle. For those of us who aren't brave enough to do the crossword in pen, we need something quite specific for this task: we want the comfort of an eraser, yet the puzzle is printed on magazine paper in their special glossy insert, which is sort of non-ideal for graphite. Couple that with the challenge of besting the puzzle itself, and you can be in for some frustration!
Fellow pencil pusher Izzy and I peeled open the Times on Sunday to find one that's just right, and decided a few things:
- If the pencil is too hard, it will leave impressions on the page, which pretty much makes erasing a moot point. In addition, if it's too hard, it will be too light to read on magazine paper.
- If the pencil is too soft, it will smear on the glossy paper.
- An eraser tip is a must-have, but rubber erasers just won't cut it - in fact, several we tried tended to smear on the page, rather than take away graphite.
So basically, the pencil has to be the right balance between hard, dark and soft, and has to have a great plastic eraser. To be completely honest, even our favorites weren't completely perfect, but are up to the challenge of completing the puzzle. Here are some of our favorites:
The three HB grade pencils each have excellent erasers for magazine paper - they wiped mistakes away with hardly any leftover residue. Of the three, I preferred the CDT pencil, as it felt hard enough for my hand, but still dark enough to show up nicely.
With regards to the Blackwings, the smoother, softer graphite gripped the paper well without smudging too much. Izzy's favorite was the Pearl because it definitely wrote darker than the other pencils we tried and didn't leave hard impressions. Bonus: the shape of the eraser is ideal for erasing small corners, though I personally prefer the plastic erasers on the other pencils we tried.
Not doing the Sunday Times crossword? The three HB pencils we singled out are great for writing on newsprint - you don't really want anything softer than an HB for newspaper. These HB pencils are also a great choice for everyday use because of their point retention and superb eraser quality.
Now for our next challenge: actually finishing the puzzle!
Caitlin and Izzy