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on April 12, 2008
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.

During Eugene Maleska's tenure at the New York Times he produced irritation and anger among some solvers and many constructors, not primarily by his approach to crossword construction which many disagreed with, but more by his notoriously sharp rejection letters to crossword constructors whose work he would not accept. An earlier perceptive reviewer told Mr. Newman to "deal with it"; I agree. Mr. Newman's obsession with Dr. Maleska, and the author's self-promotion, fatally damages what should otherwise have been an outstanding work.

Some reviewers here refer to the author as "Stan". Whether they already know him or not, its clear many folks hold him in high regard. Additionally, the book carries a short endorsement from the current and widely respected NY Times crossword editor. Thus, this work appears atypical of Mr. Newman's attitudes and relationships in the crossword world.

The author is clearly in the top tier of crossword solvers and constructors, and very well versed in the business side of crossword publishing. This work already contains some quite fascinating anecdotes and stories about crossword solvers and constructors, discussion of solution strategy, as well as some interesting history about the growth of the U.S. crossword interest/obsession. Its list of 100 essential words for crosswords puzzles is excellent. If the egregious personal attacks and egocentric references could be removed from any later editions, and the work expanded -- the relatively small format, page count, and margins make this almost more pamphlet-sized than book-sized -- to include more for Mr. Newman's clearly outstanding knowledge of crossword solution strategies, history, construction, and the crossword business this would be an exemplary work for crossword enthusiasts.

The often stated, "It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It" applies here. Mr. Newman's stories and anecdotes are frequently informative and often fascinating. Rewritten with less animus, this would be an exceptional work. Unfortunately, in its current state, it reflects an inappropriate pettiness, and contains so much vain and boastful writing that it cannot be highly rated.
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on November 15, 2006
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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on August 15, 2008
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 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.)There is one section called 'Hidden Rules of the Grid' that is an extensive list of the different categories of clues that constructors use when building a puzzle e.g. quips or quotes, foreign words, starters and enders, comparatives, fill in the blanks, plurals, hedgers, rivals...and many more. Each category is accompanied by a brief explanation and examples .

4.)The penultimate chapter discusses several useful tips as how to improve your solving abilities, but only if your intensely interested and willing to spend some time and considerable effort to do it.

5.)And finally, on the last 2 pages there are a couple tips on how to approach the more difficult 'Sunday Stumper' puzzle. With regards to items 1-4 above; I was vaguely aware of them to begin with and not truly surprised to see in this book. However, these last hints were something I'd never considered and would be very useful as an approach to solving harder puzzles.

Although this book was not exactly what I was looking for, it was enjoyable and interesting to read. I was really looking for some useful ideas as to how to actually construct the physical puzzle itself. The main part of this book deals with how constructors think about tinkering with 'clues' to make an answer range from very easy to 'a revelation in the science of word-play'; and it succeeds famously in this regard.


In my meager attempts to construct even the simplest puzzle, I became acutely aware of just how hard it is to get even a corner of a puzzle to meld, let alone an entire grid. I've even consulted computer crossword puzzle makers, put in a couple of witty phrases that I want to use as my theme; the result, the program whirled for a long time and in the end came up with nothing usable. So my admiration (and some degree of jealousy as well) has increased for these cruciverbalistic heroes, since my humbling experiment with CW construction.
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on December 24, 2006
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,, Bill Goode, Jr.
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on May 4, 2007
This is a great book for those who have been living in the grid for a while or for those who are new to the grid. Experts can enjoy the historical anecdotes and the feeling of validation as they learn about the eradication of the evils of triviata in crossword puzzles in favor of honest wordplay (for which we all owe Stanley Newman some thanks). Beginners can get good information on what to expect from high-quality daily puzzles and lots of useful tips on how to increase their enjoyment by learning to solve them more quickly and easily to get that thrill of accomplishment.
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on April 21, 2009
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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on March 13, 2015
An interesting book, but it is clear that the author has a very large ego.
If I were interested in doing crossword puzzles (like my wife is), the hints in the book would probably be very helpful.
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on March 11, 2007
I recently purchased the subject book by Stan and could not put it down. I am a veteran, addicted "crossword-er", having competed in several contests and have met several of the stars of cruciverbalism, including Stan Newman. Stan is a brilliant, engaging individual much as is this book. The book delightfully recounts Stan's dedicated drive to become a champion solver, but much more meaningfully, provides excellent insights for solving puzzles. And, importantly, reconfirms the increasing scientific support that crossword puzzles can be beneficial to one's health. He provides good background on the fascinating history of "the puzzle", including hints in addressing the foreseeable challenges faced by cruciverbalism in light of the increasing use of electronic devices combined with the continuing decline in newspaper circulation. Stan is a gifted writer, employing his marvelous vocabulary in a clever and often humorous manner. In sum, Curciverbalism is easy and stimulating to read -a positive, up-to-date, "with-it" publication! If you love crossword puzzles this book is a must.
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on July 30, 2007
As a late entrant into the world of Crosswords (53 years old), I found this gem amazingly helpful in refining both my knowledge of and style in working these word puzzles. By following Mr. Newman's simple suggestions, I hae whittled down my time (remember, small case letters!) and increased my ability to take the "Saturday Stumper" challenge.
Loved the history, characters, wordplay, especially the puns, and easy style. Mr. Newman's writing made me feel like I was part of an interactive discussion of the crossword with his multi-leveled presentation of crossword construction.
I heartily recommend this to all Crossword enthusiasts.
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on July 1, 2007
I have been doing xwords for 60some yearsand this book told me that I have doing them right. I really love the older style themeless puzzles, but the newer ones are great as long as they are difficult. I read a lot and have been a good speller, vocabulary is so helpful. Stans's book is entertaining and also instructive, and I picked up some hints from him. I am 70 and they say xwords are the way to keep your brain cooking S Linley, Ilwaco ,Wa
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