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Cryptic Crosswords from The Nation Paperback – April 25, 2006

3.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Frank W. Lewis has constructed cryptic crosswords as a hobby for The Nation since 1947. Although trained as a musician (with a Master of Music degree) possessing some talent as a conductor, particularly for choral groups, Mr. Lewis worked for thirty years as a cryptanalyst for the War Department and the National Security Agency. Much of his work is still classified. He and his wife retired to the Caribbean in 1969 but had to relocate to Massachusetts after the Montserrat volcano blew. They have five children.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books (April 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560258721
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560258728
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am fairly new to cryptics, but have really enjoyed this book. There is a real sense of humor in many of the clues, and most are fairly to very clever. Sometimes downright devious - in a good way. I find the British cryptics too obscure because of cultural differences, and I love the fact that this book is more accessible to Americans. There are many challenging clues, it wouldn't be an interesting collection if there were not, but I do not think most experienced cryptic fans would find it so difficult that they cannot eventually solve the puzzles. I have the benefit of a British spouse experienced with cryptics who can help me. Those who are starting out, and don't have that kind of help available, might want to invest in a guide which explains cryptics before tackling this book. Others will most likely find it the right blend of challenging and accessible.
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Format: Paperback
First off, the format is horrible. The book is not spiral-bound, but the binding is too tight to keep open easily. The clues are below and to the right of the puzzle grid, so as a right-hander, my hand is always blocking the clues. There are no explanations to the clues in the back, just answer grids, which some may find bothersome.

If you've never done a cryptic crossword puzzle before, start someplace else--101 Cryptic Crosswords: From the New Yorker is excellent.

Frank Lewis apparently has been making cryptic crosswords since the late 1940s. He doesn't play by standard cryptic crossword rules. (Maybe they were developed afterwards?) You aren't guaranteed two "definitions" in a clue (there may be one or three), and there may be no straight definition anywhere in the clue. In addition, he often combines multiple words in the grid together and gives one clue. (e.g. NEO in one place and GOTHIC in another, and one clue that produces NEOGOTHIC). In essence, you have to obtain a lot more long answers than short answers, which, for me, makes the puzzles harder to solve.

The clues are very fun and playful, but I find the puzzles much more difficult than normal cryptics, because of the abnormal clue format.
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Format: Paperback
I would encourage cryptic fans unfamiliar with Lewis's puzzles to find a copy of the Nation and try out its puzzle before buying this book. Those used to the clues of puzzle writers like Henry Hook, Fraser Simpson, Emily Cox, Henry Rathvon, and Richard Maltby, Jr., will find Lewis's clues substantially different. Lewis's clues are long and rambling and contain a lot of stuff that is neither part of the definition nor part of the word-play. I suppose that some people might find the extra challenge of sorting the wheat from the chaff enjoyable, but I suspect that many (like me) won't.
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I'm a fan of the Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon style and consider their "Atlantic Cryptic Crosswords" to be the pinnacle of the art. I say this to give you a reference point for my comments. I found Frank Lewis' style to be confusing at best and sometimes incomprehensible. The clues are vague; he seems to take more of a gestalt approach. If it weren't for the shortage of American cryptic crosswords, I would say to give this one a skip. However, I think it does require more lateral thinking than derivation, so if you're doing crosswords to keep your brain in tip-top shape, this book will really get you scratching your head! If you're a fan of double definition clues, you might really enjoy this book. Some of the clues even
offer a triple definition!

In puzzle #28, I believe GRAYLEG is wrongly offered as an anagram of LARGELY. This sort of error makes me doubt the integrity of all the clues. It feels like it shows a lack of respect for the solver.
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These cryptic puzzles have given me a great deal of solving pleasure. I wonder if other less admiring reviewers who found the references obscure are from a (much) younger generation, as I thought most of the references, while often dependent on some knowledge of literature and culture, even pop culture, perfectly accessible. Lewis's word-play is fun and refreshing, making one rethink even the syllables of words. I enjoyed this book quite a lot.
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Frank Lewis' crosswords, as published in The Nation magazine, have been favorites of mine for many years. I was happy to find this book of his intriguing and absorbing puzzles. If you're not a fan of cryptic crosswords, it's not for you. But if you do like them, then this is a feast!
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After Frank Lewis left the Nation, we could not do any of the new puzzle makers' cryptic crosswords. Finally I sent for this book and while we are still not whizzing through them, we at least have a fighting chance.
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I do his puzzles in the Nation regularly. Many of these are a cut above them in difficulty. I was unable to complete several of them, and even after checking the answers was at times in the dark about how he came up with them. So the book is for the real aficionado. It pays to read the Introduction carefully.
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