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Cruciverbalism: A Crossword Fanatic's Guide to Life in the Grid Hardcover – October 31, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (October 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060890606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060890605
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.8 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #997,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Crossword puzzle fans will eat up this entertaining stew of history, arcana and personalities in this memoir–cum–instruction manual by longtime Newsday crossword editor Newman and Wall Street Journal deputy books editor Lasswell. And woven into the mix is a great lesson in how to engineer a midlife career switch. Newman, an advocate of "new wave" crosswords, gleefully describes his "war" with "pedantic" Eugene Maleska, the New York Times crossword editor from 1977 to 1993, a David-vs.-Goliath tale. But Newman doesn't neglect the nuts and bolts about difficulty levels (contrary to popular belief, Sunday isn't the hardest puzzle of the week: it's about midweek-level, but bigger), the types of clues used by constructors and the most effective ways to approach puzzle solving (start with an easy clue and try to fill in that entire section before moving on). Newman touts the health benefits of puzzling, citing studies that show it can help ward off Alzheimer's and senile dementia. He also provides some interesting trivia bits, among them, that the late Seagram's chairman Edgar Bronfman's passion for puzzles helped Newman finance a Lincoln Town Car, and many of the puzzles appearing in daily newspapers are constructed by prison inmates. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Crossword puzzle fans--solvers and constructors alike--will find a wealth of useful tips in this book by Newsday's crossword editor (and world record holder for the fastest solving of a New York Times crossword). The book is part autobiography, part how-to guide, and part manifesto: while telling us how he got to be a full-time puzzle editor, Newman both rails against editors and constructors who try to hold back the evolution of the crossword and celebrates the new wave of constructors and solvers, the brave men and women who risk their reputations on the front lines of the new crossword battlefield. Yes, the author does take his subject a little too seriously (and he has a troubling hate-on for former New York Times crossword editor Eugene Maleska), but he also has a good sense of humor, and his knowledge of his field appears to be virtually encyclopedic. For veteran crossworders, a fascinating glimpse into their special world; for newbies, an introduction to a world that can be intellectually stimulating and, at the same time, childishly petty. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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I heartily recommend this to all Crossword enthusiasts.
T. Byrne
It presents both historical information that long time puzzle solvers will enjoy as well as basic info sure to help the beginner.
Ronfed
Stan is a gifted writer, employing his marvelous vocabulary in a clever and often humorous manner.
Harmon M. Williams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This work is marred by unexpected self-aggrandizement and mean-spiritedness. In the first chapter, the author lets us know he was able to beat competitors to win three major crossword competitions in a row. He also tells us he was brave enough to attack, in writing, Eugene Maleska, then crossword editor of the New York Times. Dr. Maleska's approach, and one of his apparent flaws as Mr. Newman sees it, was to encourage and use many crossword clues based on classical and obscure references, including Latin words, rather than the more pun-oriented wordplay, and contemporary references approach used by most modern crossword constructors. There is some irony that Mr. Newman's book is titled, "Cruciverbalism - A Crossword Fanatics's Guide..." rather than simply "Crosswords - A Fanatics's Guide ..."

Word play and current references make crossword puzzles accessible to a wider audience, while less common "academic" references often inform and educate. Thus, it is appropriate to contrast and discuss each of these approaches, and consider if one approach is always more appropriate and desirable, or if both should co-exist to appeal to different audiences, or to the same audiences at different times. However, Mr. Newman's comments are not just a reasoned explication and evaluation of these two construction approaches. Rather, his attacks are ad hominem, and appear to reflect a strong and extended personal animosity that has continued even after Dr. Maleska death in 1993.

Mr. Newman has, to me, the ill-manners to note that after Dr. Maleska's death he, Mr Newman, was assigned to edit Dr. Maleska's puzzles. To quote Mr. Newman, this is what the phrase "spinning in his grave" was invented for.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David M. Tack on November 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a longtime fan of anything crossword related, this book answered every behind the scene question I had. Newman relates tiffs between he and long time NY Times editor Eugene Maleska that sound more like heated rivalries between two all-star pro sports teams. Highly recommended to anyone, fan to fanatic, who wants to know more about what truly goes into creating the puzzles we love doing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Nicholson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
An interesting book for crossword lovers and fanatics alike!

I've had a strong interest in crossword puzzles for years now and after playing some related word-games, I've recently begun to wonder about the crossword puzzle construction process. So it was with this in mind that my curiosity became tweaked when I saw Newman's book "Cruciverbalism: A Crossword Fanatic's Guide to Life on the Grid", available on amazon.com. So I bought it and its turned out to be a good purchase.

The book in quite short; only 140 pages long and is divided into six chapters.

The first chapter deals with Newman's ongoing 'annoyance' with the late Eugene Maleska editing techniques as Editor of the NY Times Crossword in the 1980s and 90s. I've noticed some other reviewer were somewhat taken aback by this 'assault' on Maleska, but after reading this section, I think I can at least appreciate Newman's point of view. It was Newman's disagreement with Maleska's methods that ultimately lead Newman into his strong affiliation with crossword puzzles.

One chapter deals with the history of crosswords and yet another gives some background as to how Newman got into the crossword puzzle business as a lifetime vocation.

The real meat of the book resided in the three remaining chapters. Here we find several topics of interest...

1.)what puzzle constructors think about when constructing a grid; i.e. the basic rules. What's allowed and what isn't.

2.)100 commonly found 3 and 4 letter words (that are at least 50% vowels) and make up significant number of the short words that surround the main themes.

3.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Willard L. Goode Jr. on December 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was delightfully entertained and informed by this book about the how-tos and what-not-to-dos involved in crosswords. As an aspiring constructor and experienced solver, I found the chapters very helpful and the writing exremely funny, with many clever word usages that you might expect from a master wordsmith like Mr. Newman. The book has also inspired me to be more diligent and thorough in my crossword-solving, as he himself became when he sought to improve his own skills, as he sets out for us the stories of his own struggles and crossword conquests. This book should appeal to anyone, from the accomplished puzzle-solver to those of us who think: "we don't do crosswords". It's a most enjoyable evening's read, stimulating and extremely intelligent with lots of insightful anecdotes about the fascinating machinations from inside Mr. Newman's "world of the grid." It will have you running to Newsday or your local paper for the daily puzzle after you read it. Respectfully submitted, Kinsey...er, Bill Goode, Jr.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. Picca MD on April 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A pleasant little book. Mostly for the casual solver who wants to learn a little more about crossword puzzles: their history, unwritten rules that apply (eg "Cancer" can only refer to an astrological sign: diseases are usually not allowed in the puzzle), helpful hints on solving puzzles etc. There is also a list of the 100 "essential words" to know for solving puzzles. A pleasant,easy read. Only real complaint is that book is very short: 142 pages with not many words on each page.
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