From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. While opening up a window into the unique world of those who write, edit, and obsessively solve crosswords, puzzle writer, editor and self-proclaimed "acrossionado" Arnot (What's Gnu: History of the Crossword Puzzle) opens up a chest of insider secrets and solving tips worth the price of admission themselves. The title refers not to profanity, but a stable of commonly occurring crossword answers-"repeaters" to the insider-that form the foundation of nearly every standard crossword-and are cleverly highlighted, with an accompanying clue, throughout the text, equipping her readers with old-pro tools while keeping up a fleet, at times manic examination of the puzzle's people and processes. Bouncing with little or no warning from topic to topic, Arnot comes across like a close friend finally given the green light to unload about a lifelong obsession. She wisely outlines her thoughts into chapter topics like geographical words, the occurrence of "E," proper names, 3-letter words and crossword variations. Crossword fans should tear through this like a specimen from Monday's New York Times, but Arnot's enthusiasm alone could make anyone curious into a convert.
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Veteran crossword-puzzle creator and editor Arnot uses four-letter words, the staple of the puzzle composer and solver, as a jumping-off point for a journey through the world of crosswords. The book is full of little-known (to most of us, anyway) nuggets of information: the first crossword puzzle appeared in a New York newspaper on Christmas Day 1913; there are strict rules for composing a puzzle (no more than one-sixth of the spaces can be black, for example); future publishing giant Simon & Schuster’s very first book was a collection of crossword puzzles. The author also charts the evolution of the crossword puzzle, showing how certain words have been standbys since the beginning (they’re called “repeaters,” because they turn up in puzzles all the time), but their clues have changed over time—Omar, for example, is a proper-name repeater whose clue has evolved from World War II general (Bradley) to television actor (Epps). The book is like a crash course in crossword puzzles and should appeal equally to veteran solvers and novices. --David Pitt