All right, now for a deeply serious topic

Pencils.

The big annual crossword tournament approacheth, and I’d like to use a pencil that I don’t have to think about mid-puzzle. For the past few years I’ve used PaperMate SharpWriters, but at some point along the line, they eased up on the quality control: The plastic around the eraser splinters and splits if you use the eraser too much. Also it feels like I am constantly fiddling with the thing, adjusting the length of the lead. The SharpWriter is simply not a good ally when the clock is ticking down.

So what’s a good pencil to use? Help me out here. The precious seconds I save might mean the difference between being ranked 135 or being ranked 119.

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13 Comments

  1. Posted February 8, 2007 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I’ve gone back and forth between mechanical and non-mechanical. In the non-mechanical category, I vote for Mirado Black Warrior — they write more smoothly and are more comfortable for me to use than many.

    Lately, I’ve been using a (goes to look at brand name…) Pentel “Cometz” mechanical with 0.9 mm lead. Yes, that’s heavier lead than most — but I’ve yet to have the lead break on me while solving, which regular mechanical pencils do tend to. And I can get through a Sunday-size puzzle without adjusting the lead.

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  2. Posted February 8, 2007 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Somehow, Eric, the idea of either of us using a pencil (!) called the “Black Warrior” strikes me as wrong on many different levels. :)

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  3. Posted February 8, 2007 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    You may want to check out this site, though:
    http://www.pencilrevolution.com/2006/05/review-of-papermate-mirado-black-warrior/

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  4. Posted February 8, 2007 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    A pencil review blog! I should have known this would be out there somewhere.

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  5. Posted February 8, 2007 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Good lord. A pencil review blog. The mind boggles.

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  6. The Dan
    Posted February 8, 2007 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I second the Pentel 0.9mm, which is apparently Wei-Hwa Huang’s secret to doing well at the WPC. Although he specifically uses the Twist Erase (as do I now.) Worked for me at Pleasantville.

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  7. Toonhead!
    Posted February 8, 2007 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I’d always been a pen solver (better for newsprint, plus it makes you think more before you commit to an answer), but am trying to switch to mechanical pencils. Going ink was a great disciplinary measure when I was a greener solver but I don’t need it anymore.

    I’ve gone through a few pencils, and I just bought a Pentel Sharp Kerry in 0.7 (rather than 0.5). I’m a bigtime pencil lead snapper, and that 0.7 isn’t too bad in that respect, but I wonder if I should go even heavier.

    My biggest demands are a lightweight pen with a thin barrel. Not sure I’m for twist erasing. Maybe I’ll drop by the Bromfield Pen Shop (love that place) and check out the Cometz as well as anything similar they recommend.

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  8. Posted February 8, 2007 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Looking at the Twist Erase, I don’t quite see the point of it. Erasers aren’t exactly known for getting in the way, are they?

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  9. Toonhead!
    Posted February 8, 2007 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Actually since for some reason I always end up twisting those things while I’m using them, I get the eraser sticking way out and it annoys me to no end.

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  10. Posted February 8, 2007 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I stick with Eraser-Mate pens. They don’t have a fine-point option, and the side of my pinky gets ink-smudged, but I don’t like using pencils. (Just remember to wipe the blue goo off the tip of a virgin Eraser-Mate before you start using it.)

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  11. Posted February 8, 2007 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Sorry. I use the Paper-Mate Sharpwriter and I’m sticking with it. Unless I switch to my Crossword pencil. It has a nice feel and good erase, but I just don’t trust it in a speed situation.

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  12. Toonhead!
    Posted February 8, 2007 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Oh I got that same pencil for Xmas. Too heavy for long term use!

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  13. Posted February 9, 2007 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I use #2.5 pencils. Often Dixon Ticonderoga but I’m not too picky as to the brand. I do prefer the six-sided ones to the round ones (like the Mirado Black Warrior), though; feels like I get a better grip that way.

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