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50 Variety Cryptic Crosswords
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To me, these are not very hard. I solve the cryptic clues fairly quickly and then take a bit longer to figure out the trick. I only got the book yesterday and have done three so far, thoroughly enjoying the process. For any solvers who find these to be challenging, I would suggest finding easier ones but holding onto the book and returning to it when you have some more experience with this genre.
I thought the price was steep for a self-published book, but now that I have it in my hands, I think it’s well worth it. Spiral bindings are not cheap and the book is very well constructed. The paper is of such high quality that I solve the problems in light pencil and easily erase them so that when I’ve finished the book, I can bury it in my stash for a few years and do them again! Kudos to the author for such a delightful album!
Update: Have dropped a star because of erroneous and misleading clues. I understand that part of the fun is in misleading the solver, but when a clue is super tricky the puzzle writers I generally go to will mark the clue with a question mark. In addition, I just almost solved a puzzle with frankly erroneous clues. For example, by definition of the genre, one end of the clue is a synonym for the answer, the other end a type of wordplay. In the clue, “Blade quickly cuts around top of ear,” the answer is Snip(e)s, i.e. blade = snips around the first letter of ear. One can argue that snips are a cutting tool but not a single blade but, more importantly, where is the synonym? It should be there but it isn’t. A second example from the same puzzle, “Abbey refuge hiding Bronte”: the answer is Eyre, which is hidden in the wordplay end. Except that Eyre is part of the title of a novel written by Charlotte Bronte and neither her name nor her pseudonym. I will stop here, but there were a few more such cases from this last puzzle that I’ve done and I am sorely disappointed. I will continue to update as I work through the book. I love tough puzzles and don’t even mind obscure words such as milliradians, but I do expect there to be an integrity in clue writing.
Update 2: Have dropped another star. Some definitions incorrectly define a term. Very disappointed.
I share this for a reason. I ordered this book with great anticipation. I've worked through several cryptic crossword books, and have come to really enjoy them. So, I opened to the first puzzle, and here are the instructions: "This diagramless puzzle has standard crossword (180 degree rotational) symmetry. To help you out, all Qs have been entered into the grid. If you find yourself shouting '17 Across,' you should at least be thankful that you have this 25 Down to help."
Second puzzle: "Fourteen answers need to be modified before being entered into the grid. If you can't figure out how to make the modifications and are 19 Across, then perhaps you should try it."
And so the puzzles continue. Each one has one or more bags of concrete along with the cryptic clues. Thank God they aren't all diagramless (my least favorite puzzle type), but none are just what I had come to expect as a "Cryptic Crossword" per se.
I am not writing this to complain. Just wanted to warn folks that this book is a level or three above any cryptic crossword book I've previously purchased, and I wasn't expecting it.
I'm taking it as an educational opportunity, but so far I am totally overmatched and it does take some of the fun out of the solving since I have to refer to the answers in the back early and often.If I manage to slog through the entire colllection, I'll revisit the review and see if I still feel the same.
It's worth noting that there are no first-timer instructions included on how cryptic clues work. Furthermore, these are harder than the "industry standard" Cox/Rathvon cryptics you will find in the Mensa books of theirs, and there are lots of curve balls both in terms of grid construction and the clues themselves. Some puzzles involve two separate grids, some are diagramless, some answers have unknown lengths or require alteration prior to putting them into the grid, etc. So this is not suitable for cryptic-beginners (the puzzle books from Fraser Simpson are great for learning...lots of instructions and easy puzzles). The idea of having these extra layers of obfuscation will either make you excited or frightened. Or perhaps both.
Back when I first started solving conventional cryptics in Games magazine, I became obsessed due to the amount of satisfaction I got in solving just a single clue. I have since done so many hundreds of cryptic puzzles that I no longer get the same pleasure anymore, but this book brings back that feeling somewhat. So if regular cryptics don't hold the same difficulty or excitement that they once did for you, this is a mandatory purchase. Can't wait until Roger's next book.