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Gridlock: Crossword Puzzles and the Mad Geniuses Who Create Them Paperback – June 15, 2006
The Amazon Book Review
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is a veritable potpourri of facts, interviews, and anecdotes about crosswords. Gaffney interviews New York Times puzzle superstar Will Shortz, of course, but he also talks to New York Sun puzzle editor Peter Gordon and provides a humorous look at the Times/Sun crossword wars. He draws an interesting and touching portrait of reclusive constructor Henry Hook. He visits the offices of Penny Press, a large publisher of puzzle magazines. He discusses the marketing of original and reprint crossword collections, and describes the mind set needed to create and clue a specialty crossword for a niche market. He even takes the book to a personal level as he offers frank details about his own struggles, frustrations, and triumphs in getting his puzzles marketed.
There is ample information about the cardinal rules of crossword construction and about what makes a puzzle good enough to beat out the competition for publication in the New York Times. Although the reader gets to look over Gaffney's shoulder as he creates a puzzle, there is not enough information about the mysterious mechanics of filling a grid so that I would be able to successfully construct a puzzle myself.Read more ›
Puzzle mavens will find much that is new here--and much that is familiar. The new includes: (1) an attempt to determine how badly sudoku and other logic puzzles are undermining the more literate and humanistic discipline of word puzzles; (2) a peek at the judges' room at Stamford; (3) a visit to Penny Press publications; (4) a sad/funny description of his attempt, with Matt Jones, to market hip, alternative crossword puzzles; (5) in-depth discussion of grid construction. Not so new are the obligatory Will Shortz bio and house tour, and the run-through of the Stamford tournament (though not the same one covered in Crossworld and Wordplay).
There are many new insights, some quite funny. I agree with him that it is counterintuitive that so many crossword constructors are math-based, and that it would be difficult to imagine witty solving stories involving sudoku conquests. I can also personally vouch for the fact that solving giga-sized crosswords can produce lower back pain!
However, the big problem with the book is that he misses many opportunities for making his chosen topics more interesting and useful.Read more ›
Gaffney, an experienced puzzle constructor and editor, offers glimpses into the history of crosswords and their attributes, but the real strength of his book is its insight into the effort that constructors go in making gems for puzzlers.
He discusses the way that puzzle themes have evolved over time, the limits of themed and non-themed puzzles, challenges that constructors have posed themselves, and how new-wave constructors have pushed the boundaries of puzzles using technology to help them fill grids and using their twisted brains to find ever-more-intriguing clues.
This book is well written in a conversational style filled with humorous anecdotes and includes interviews with many editors and constructors.
Of most interest to me was a chapter in which four constructors are given partially completed grids and are asked to use their brains or computer assistance to generate "fills" that they think are best. The results are beautifully divergent, and the way that judges viewed them and rated them points out that the nature of "beauty" in crosswords is still a contested area.
Like Amende's "Crossword Obsession" and Romano's "Crossworld" this book focuses on a very small field, but the thoroughness and humor that suffuse it make it a strong addition.
This book will offer you insights into puzzles if you are a novice and will generate laughs of recognition and empathy if you are an expert or constructor. I recommend it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book for crossword geeks, and I am one, my favorite being the big Friday one in the Wall Street Journal. Read morePublished 6 months ago by northkona
Not very interesting from someone who makes great puzzles...too bad.Published 9 months ago by Nancy Blanford
This is a great book for crossword puzzle lovers, but it might be over the heads of general readers. Gaffney is an engaging writer who really knows his subject. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Lou Sander
Gaffney rocks, he writes great puzzles and is seemingly a very nice man. But, I was lukewarm on this purchase and still am. Read morePublished on March 20, 2014 by Andrew Rooney
This was a fun read I consumed in a single sitting. I enjoyed it and learned a lot. However, it just ends seemingly in midthought. Read morePublished on January 1, 2014 by A. D. Nelson
It is very interesting but a little too much boasting about his own puzzling prowess. I wish you wouldn't require so many words!Published on November 15, 2013 by Jane Blanshard
Helpful for aspiring cruciverbalists and entertaining with wordy anacdotes about the world of Crosswords, from its roots to its new indie wave. Read morePublished on November 10, 2013 by Kyle Scholten
This is a marvelous book, intertwining biography and crossword construction.
Now the ideal crossword revels in paradox, in the pun, in the word defined or used or linked... Read more
The crossword puzzle construction racket is one of the most corrupt, violent, depraved industries in America. Read morePublished on May 18, 2013 by MaharajaMack