I apologize for not seeing this earlier and providing additional context regarding my original question, which was meant to really tease out differences regarding the individualized evolution of top players, e.g., as they progress from inexperienced to experienced, rather than generational differences among top players now v. then.
For example, I've always felt that by the time I was at, what lots of observers would consider my historical peak, i.e., 2005, I was actually a less efficient, less sure player than I'd been in, say, 2003. And a lot of that has to do with the intensity of my studying from 01-03 (which included note taking, reading primary sources, flash carding, question writing, etc.). In those, "younger" years I was working super hard to learn everything I could about, say, a particular author or work, and constantly reinforcing that knowledge, so that if a particular clue came up, I wouldn't miss it... but I was very literal, very tied to the cluing in the question. In other words, if that particular thing I'd learned didn't come up, I'd probably be stymied till the second last or last part of the question. This would result in me playing tournaments where I'd be making 1-2 crazy early buzzes per game and then some towards the end of questions, but much fewer middle buzzes.
Looking back, what I learned to do as my career progressed-- and what I suppose I'm implicitly arguing arguing "older" players are better at-- was to get better at contextualizing clues that I didn't know thus allowing myself to make leaps about a potential answer with reasonable assurance. In retrospect, I suppose this also explains why I liked ACF so much more than NAQT for a long time. ACF questions, with their more rote cluing structure and more meaty content, rewarded my earlier form of study much more consistently. NAQT questions of the time, at least as I remember them, were much more about feeling out where the question was going, a skill I developed over time but one I had to work hard to learn. Of course, this glosses over the fact that Sudheer P. would eventually game the system by noticing the question recycling trend then inherent in the NAQT distribution and just learning all the shit that had come up in the past to become a powerful NAQT TU player. Having written for NAQT these past two years, I can say, without a doubt, that I would have been a much better player on these newer, modern questions which are much closer to ACF questions than they were in my day.
Anyway, I hope this clarifies somewhat what I was aiming at in my previous post and, of course, I'd be curious to hear what other folks think on the subject.