DES MOINES, IA—Forty-five minutes after sitting down with a cup of coffee and the USA Today crossword, local window fashions salesman Tom Dolan completed the puzzle's last three open squares and was filled with a sense of intellectual accomplishment.

Though he admitted to consulting the Internet for the tougher clues, such as "a Kentucky liquor aged in oak barrels," Dolan, 38, credited the successful completion to his amazing ability to follow word-based clues. "The clue said 'Charlie's' blank," Dolan said. "It took a little while, but I realized that it was 'Angels.' That was my Rosemary Stone for unlocking the rest of the puzzle."

Dolan's confidence in his superior cerebral faculties faltered slightly after he noticed the adjacent Sudoku grid, but then he realized that it was rated "hard" and was immediately relieved of the pressure to solve it.