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Armchair Crosswords: A Book for Leisure Moments Paperback – 20 Mar 2009


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Paperback, 20 Mar 2009
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Product details

  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Rendezvous Press; first edition (20 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 095554002X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0955540028
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 14.8 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 494,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Publisher

While A F Ritchie was working as the energetic headmaster of the Wells Cathedral School he was also making a name for himself compiling crosswords. He loved solving and the puzzles that he set for The Listener were extremely difficult. However, he also compiled some easier puzzles for The Sketch under his pseudonym of Afrit. In 1949 he published 40 of these in a collection that he called Armchair Crosswords.

With the first crossword only appearing in the UK in 1922 with definition clues and it was only in later years that the first attempts were made to write cryptic clues. Afrit revelled in the cryptic clue and was among the first to develop the sort of clue that we accept today.

Givest tips, from which the caddies receive what's coming to them (8).

This is a superb clue to TEA-CHEST, with a cryptic definition and a charade with the old verb TEACHEST.

What made Afrit's little book an important step in the history of the crossword was the introduction. For the first time ever, someone had written down some ideas about the rules of writing clues. Here we have the first explanation of the types of clues that we still recognize today. Afrit's emphasis was on fairness and his ideas were later enlarged by Ximenes in his Art of the Crossword, which was published almost twenty years later.

The book became extremely rare. Most crossword books are discarded once the grids have been filled. In 1975, in his book The ABC of Crosswords, Alec Robins said, "(Armchair Crosswords) is unfortunately out of print and virtually unobtainable. In that book's introduction he laid down rigid standards of fairness and accuracy for setters; and it was his very scrupulousness in applying them to himself that set so many of his successors on the twin paths of idealism and self-discipline." I think that there may be less than a dozen of the original books remaining. The book is now re-published and hopefully the wit and ingenuity of A F Ritchie will reach a wider audience. Derek Harrison

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Afrit is a famous name in cryptic crosswords, partly from a description of the setter's duty to the solver in this book's introduction - summarised as "You may not mean what you say, but you must say what you mean." Rather surprisingly, much of that introduction is advice to solvers. When you tackle the puzzles you'll see that Afrit's practical implementation of fairness was not as strict as that of current "Ximenean" setters who are seen as influenced by both Afrit, and Ximenes in his 1966 "Art of the Crossword" book.

You will find "forbidden practices" if you compare the puzzles to current broadsheet cryptics. (Examples are from Puzzle 1 in the book). First, indirect anagrams - "Upright attitude of a Mediterranean island (5)" = ERECT from 'Crete', with 'attitude' presumably intended as the anagram indicator. Second, partial wordplay - "Soft drink introduced by the Wild Man of Borneo (9)" = ORANGEADE as it starts with Orang (Utang) - the EADE part is not indicated. Clues are often wordy - "The man to see there's been no foul play: he'll have nothing done in a corner (7)" = CORONER - modern setters would use about 8 words. There are also a few clues that would count as racist or sexist by modern standards.

For the puzzles, you need to get used to an older style, but readers of one-puzzle-a-year anniversary collections for the broadsheets will know what to expect. In the 25-30 of the 40 puzzles I've now tried, there were a few words I didn't understand, but nothing so dated or obscure that it caused a serious problem. I gave up a few clues short of about 3 of the puzzles, and had the odd mistake in maybe 5 others.

The grids are different to present-day ones. Word-lengths in most are only from 5 to 9 letters.
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This is quite simply an essential book for anyone interested in the history of crosswords. A F Ritchie was one of the founding fathers of cryptic crosswords and in this wonderful work, you can read about his life and see many of his most famous puzzles. These puzzles contained rules and guidance which paved the way for today's cryptic crossword setters.

I recommend this book highly.
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The forward says it all. An essential bit of history for the avid clue seeker. I cannot recommend this little book highly enough.
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