Don Manley preaches the gospel of the crossword better than anyone else I have read. The object of this book is not just to help the reader have a stab at the cryptic on the back of the daily broadsheet - though it certainly does that. Rather, the author opens the door and invites you in to the inner sanctum of the advanced cryptic and the special crossword.
Manley does not plod. He covers all the basic cryptic clue types in fewer than forty pages, and nearly a third of those are taken up with tutorial puzzles. He certainly does not attempt an exhaustive list of indicator and other giveaway words; he takes the view that a large part of the fun of crosswords is learning such things for oneself.
What Manley does provide is an excellent guide to crossword grammar with plenty of discussion on what distinguishes a sound clue from an unsound one. This is vital knowledge for aspiring setters of crosswords, but invaluable too for the everyday solver; recognising what interpretations of a clue cannot possibly be sound is a big time-saver.
Perhaps this book is not for the complete beginner, but it is great for the solver with some experience who is in a rut. When I first read this book I could usually get more than half way through the daily crossword in the Times, sometimes finishing it completely. I was vaguely aware of the more advanced crosswords with barred grids, but never expected to be able to tackle one. Manley's introduction to advanced clueing, coupled with his evangelical zeal for crosswords in general, inspired me to attempt the Listener puzzle, and now I sometimes, very rarely, actually finish it - even though I still can't always complete the Times. I don't believe any other book would have moved me on. Thank you, Don Manley.