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How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle: Tips, Tricks and Techniques to Master America's Favorite Puzzle Paperback – July 10, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First Edition edition (July 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312365543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312365547
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #670,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Will Shortz has been the crossword puzzle editor of The New York Times since 1993. He is also the puzzlemaster on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday and is founder and director of the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. He has edited countless books of crossword puzzles, Sudoku, KenKen, and all manner of brain-busters.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Crossword Glossary
Clue:  A hint that the solver must interpret to find the answer.
Constructor: The person who devises a theme, designs a crossword grid, fills the grid and writes the clues. Sometimes called a writer, cruciverbalist, compiler or setter.
Crossing: The intersection between an Across and a Down entry. A difficult or obscure word ideally is always crossed by more "gettable" entries so that the solver doesn't get stuck on one impossible square.
Cross-reference: Sometimes two clues are linked to each other; e.g., 14-Across's clue might read [With 29-Down, iconic young actor], and 29-Down's clue would be [See 14-Across], with the answers being JAMES and DEAN.
Crosswordese: The definition of crosswordese is fluid. Traditionally, the word applied to obscure words like PTAH or a little-known tropical tree name. Some people use it to describe the short words and names composed of common letters that pop up far more frequently in crosswords than in daily discourse. Examples include OONA, ORT and ESNE.
Crossword puzzle: In this book, crossword puzzle refers to standard American-style puzzles.
Cryptic crossword puzzle: Cryptic crosswords make up a small portion of American crosswords, but are the primary crossword type in the United Kingdom. Cryptics involve anagramming, hidden words, reversals, homophones, letter deletions and other forms of wordplay. The New York Times Magazine includes about six cryptic puzzles a year, printed below the regular Sunday crossword.
Diagramless crossword puzzle: A diagramless crossword grid is Blank, requiring the solver to deduce the location of all the Black squares. General rules governing symmetry, fill and Cluing apply, though diagramless puzzles typically have many more black squares. The New York Times Magazine includes one of these about nine times a year, printed beneath the regular Sunday crossword.
Editor: The person who selects crosswords for publication, edits clues to comply with house style, accuracy and the intended level of difficulty, and polishes the fill as needed.
Entry: Any answer that's written in a crossword grid.
Fill: The general term for the words and phrases that fill a crossword grid. Entries that are not part of a theme are referred to as fill entries.
Fill-in-the-blank: A clue that contains a blank space, for which the answer is the word that occupies that space (e.g., ["Many years ___"] for AGO).
Gimme: Any answer a solver knows instantly. An opera buff's Gimmes: may differ from a basketball fan's.
Grid: The diagram of black and white squares. Most daily puzzles are 15¥15 squares; most Sunday puzzles, 21¥21.
Partial: At times, two words that cannot stand alone are used in the grid. The clue for a partial may be a fill-in-the-Blank: (e.g., [Take ___ (suffer loss)] for A HIT) or something like [Break or time follower] for OF DAY. In The New York Times, partials generally do not exceed five letters.
Rebus: In New York Times crossword circles, "rebus" can mean not only a crossword square occupied by a little picture (say, a triangle or bell) or symbol (such as @ replacing the letters AT), but also any sequence of letters that fill a single square.
Solver: A crossword consumer. Solvers may work alone or with others. Use of reference books and online resources is a matter of personal preference.
Symmetry: Standard crosswords have 180° rotational symmetry, though occasionally left/right symmetry is used.
Theme: A crossword theme consists of several longer entries that have something in common with one another.
Themeless: A crossword with no theme entries is called themeless. In The New York Times, most Friday and Saturday crosswords are themeless.
Triple-stack: In some themeless puzzles, three 15-letter entries that span the entire grid from left to right or top to bottom are stacked together. Crosswords with triple-stacks are difficult to construct but often easier to solve than other themeless puzzles.
Understanding Crossword Themes
Most New York Times crosswords feature a theme (Friday and Saturday puzzles are generally themeless). Crossword constructors devise many creative new ideas for puzzles, but often they call upon several basic theme varieties. The more common types of themes include the following:
categories--The theme entries are phrases or words that have something in common. These might include colloquial phrases that mean the same thing, phrases that can all be defined by the same clue, phrases that start or end with a related set of words, puns that change a word's pronunciation so that all the theme entries have related puns, and more.
commemorative--These themes may mark a notable person's birthday, the anniversary of an important event, a holiday or current events. A commemorative crossword may also honor a celebrity who has recently passed away.
gimmicks--Gimmicks include twists on the usual conventions of crosswords. They may have rebus squares (see below), the theme entries may run backwards or upwards, certain squares may be left blank, or some words may extend outside the grid. In The New York Times, you'll generally see gimmicks on Thursdays and Sundays more than the other days of the week.
letter restriction--A puzzle with a letter-restriction gimmick uses only certain letters of the alphabet--e.g., the only vowel used is E, the letter B is absent from the grid (and clues), only the letters from the left side of a standard keyboard are used, or only the letters in a certain phrase (e.g., CHRISTMAS CAROL) are used.
pattern matching--Theme phrases may share a certain letter pattern. A puzzle with a FIND THE LOST DOGS theme included WATER OVER THE BRIDGE, which has a hidden dog name (ROVER) embedded within it; several other dog names were hidden in the other entries. Other pattern-matching themes may contain the same hidden word or letters in each theme entry. Another pattern-matching puzzle contained famous people whose initials were also academic degrees (e.g., PHIL DONAHUE for Ph.D.).
quote/quip--A quotation or joke is broken into symmetrical pieces; the author's name may also appear in the theme.
rebus--In a crossword with a rebus gimmick, rebus squares contain a picture (face, square, etc.), multiple letters (such as the word UP), numerals (sometimes using the letters in the number's name, such as ONE) or symbols (#, +) instead of the standard single letter.
word transformation--This variety of theme may rely on anagramming, word reversals, or adding, removing or changing a letter (or letters) to create theme entries.
Copyright © 2007 by The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 126 people found the following review helpful By P. W. Mitchell on July 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
Many people are simply not interested or motivated to solve a crossword puzzle. Ever. This book is clearly not for them. On the other hand, there are people who live and breathe crossword puzzles, doing multiple puzzles every day, competing in crossword tournaments, discussing puzzles daily, or even constructing puzzles. This book is not so much for them, either. This book targets the masses in between, the occasional solver, the one who is trying to get more consistent, the one who wants to be able to tackle puzzles of higher difficulty than those found in "TV Guide" or airline magazines.

So, does it succeed? That depends on your expectations. The title, "How to Conquer The New York Times Crossword Puzzle (Tips, Tricks and Techniques to Master America's Favorite Puzzle)", makes it sound easy -- read this book and KAZAAM, you'll be good at puzzles. The truth is, solving a crossword puzzle requires a combination of general knowledge (vocabulary, literature, pop culture, art, sciences, geography, etc.), crossword conventions (i.e. an abbreviation in the clue implies an abbreviation in the answer), and puzzling logic (recognizing letter patterns, interpreting tricky clues, discovering unconventional tricks, etc.). This book is a great introduction to the latter two, especially for those that are just starting out. The general knowledge part is still up to you.

The book break roughly into sections -- easy, medium, Thursday, hard, and Sunday puzzles. Thursday puzzles are medium but often gimmicky, and Sunday puzzles are medium/hard but considerably larger than weekday puzzles. Each section starts with a couple pages of basic strategy relating to that difficulty level. It's not rocket science, but it sets a nice context for the puzzles that follow.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Kellmanson on October 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
As an avid crossword fan of modest ability, I found this to be a most helpful tutorial. It delivers just what the title promises -- all sorts of tips and strategies for solving the NYT crossword (or any crossword for that matter).

I found the list of words any crossword fan must know as well the lists of common crossword answers to be particularly helpful. But perhaps the best praise I can provide is that after reading Amy Reynaldo's book, my solving skills have noticeably improved -- from a confident Tues. solver at best to someone who can now tackle a Thur. puzzle with a relatively high degree of confidence (Fri. and Sat. remain a significant challenge, but I'm working on it).

Also, if you're looking to get a taste of this book, you might want to check out Ms. Reynaldo's blog, Diary of a Crossword Fiend ([...] which provides great daily insight into the NYT and other crosswords.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Zhouqin Burnikel on April 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
I received this book as a Christmas gift. And it has changed my world. I was born and grew up in Xi'An, China. Moved to the US when I was 30 years old. So American crosswords were almost impossible for me to crack, until I read Amy Reynaldo's book.

Her chapters on "100 Must-Know Words" & "Word Banks" have saved me hours and hours of google time. Without her succinct explanations on "Crossword Glossary", "Understanding Themes" & the "Constructor's Tricks", I would have been forever lost in the darkness of this puzzling crossword world.

I was so excited about Amy's book that I started my own LA Times Crossword Corner (formerly Star Tribune Crossword Corner) before I even finished her chapter on "Step-by-Step Thursday Puzzle".

I've also emailed Amy (Orange) many times as I constantly encounter all sorts of crazy clues when I am blogging. She has never disappointed me. She always provides me with the concise information I need, always in a very efficient manner. And she is so patient in explaining the WHY and HOW to me (a total stranger to her).

If you want to start doing NY Times, or LA Times, or any crossword, you should consider buying this book. It's full of gems, and so easy to carry around for reference (little over 200 pages).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Burnham VINE VOICE on March 14, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For a few dollars, you get over 63 NYT puzzles, hints for solving them, step-by-step walkthroughs for a few (extremely helpful for beginners), plus a list of the 100 frequent words in the puzzles with their common clues (such as "OLEO: Bread spread; butter substitute; toast topper"). If you're not yet capable of solving Thursday's puzzle on your own, this book will help you get there faster.

If you're looking for something even more basic, try The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crossword Puzzles and Word Games.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. Parson on February 20, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the puzzles in the book, and I believe I really have benefited from the tips. My crossword game is definitely a step or two above what it was prior to going through it. However, I can't say I've the "conquered" of the New York Times Crossword puzzles yet. So, you probably shouldn't buy completely into the promise of the title.

One other thing to keep in mind - this is not a book you just read, or a group of puzzles you just complete. Its really more of a workbook and it takes some commitment to really absorb the lessons. A few times, I caught myself just enjoying the puzzle and not really focusing on learning the tricks, tips, and traps.
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