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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking the Cryptics
If you like crosswords involving, say, a three-letter clue beginning with D and going woof, then this little book is not for you, yet. If on the other hand you've wondered what on earth Morse got out of doing a difficult crossword, or more probably if you tried a cryptic yourself and pulled away in irritable confusion, then 'Cracking Cryptic Crosswords' is worth a close...
Published on 22 Jan 2010 by Aidan

versus
36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I can't be 100% sure, but the rather glowing 5-star review from "jackie", which was the only other review here when I wrote this, looks suspiciously like a review from the publisher. The note from the publisher at the end of the book is signed "Jackie Gray".

I'm sorry to be negative about a book by someone who has produced many sparkling clues in the Azed...
Published on 21 Dec 2009 by Peter Biddlecombe


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking the Cryptics, 22 Jan 2010
By 
Aidan (Carlisle, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cracking Cryptic Crosswords (Paperback)
If you like crosswords involving, say, a three-letter clue beginning with D and going woof, then this little book is not for you, yet. If on the other hand you've wondered what on earth Morse got out of doing a difficult crossword, or more probably if you tried a cryptic yourself and pulled away in irritable confusion, then 'Cracking Cryptic Crosswords' is worth a close look.

Colin Dexter provides the keys, one by one, for getting into the mind of the crossword setter so that you can get the pleasure of actually being able to understand, and then hopefully solve, the various types of clue and start to fill in the grid. A good crossword will tax your knowledge of just about everything in life and fantasy, and test your command of English to limits you didn't realise you were capable of. This little book is the entrance ticket to a world of such surprise and delight, and is to be recommended.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 21 Dec 2009
By 
Peter Biddlecombe "peterbiddlecombe" (Bucks, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cracking Cryptic Crosswords (Paperback)
I can't be 100% sure, but the rather glowing 5-star review from "jackie", which was the only other review here when I wrote this, looks suspiciously like a review from the publisher. The note from the publisher at the end of the book is signed "Jackie Gray".

I'm sorry to be negative about a book by someone who has produced many sparkling clues in the Azed clue-writing contest, but this book is not what it might have been. Its main big idea is that if you know what kinds of cryptic clue there are, recognising them will help you to solve cryptic crosswords better. It certainly helps, but I'm not convinced that it's the "essential pre-requisite to success" as the back cover states. And like some other "how-to-solve" books from small publishing companies, this one demonstrates that unless the author is really strict with himself or gets expert friends to read the text, the lack of strong editing means that significant flaws are not spotted.

The book is short, and there's no harm in that, if the content is good. But the presentation of clue types is somewhat confusing, and some sample clues are questionable or seem inappropriate. We start off with anagrams - handled well except for the set of sample clues which has no anagrams of more than 6 letters. I guess this is to keep them easy, but in real puzzles, anagrams are quite often used for long answers, and not getting any practice at these seems a mistake. Hidden words come next - mostly fine but we get a final misleading clue using an obscure plural for which you need Chambers dictionary - fair game in a barred-grid difficult cryptic but not in a book which later recommends Daily Telegraph puzzles as a good starting point. At Chapter 3 it all starts to go a bit wrong. This chapter is about abbreviations. As Dexter says, "abbreviation" is not a clue type but abbreviations abound in cryptic clues. Fair enough, but most of the sample clues in the text are charade clues. Given the "big idea" already mentioned, it would surely make more sense to deal with this clue-type first. The next chapter is about double definition clues, and describes them well enough but then Dexter warns us that the sample clues are not his best bunch. He's not kidding - of the twelve, I reckon four rely on incorrect definitions and are therefore dud clues, and there are also obscure defs used. Example: "Brass elephant" as a clue for TRUMPETER. As any dictionary will confirm, "brass" decribes a group of orchestral players, not an individual, except in the phrase "brass player". Skipping on to the final clue type covered, the impression is given that &lit clues only exist as anagram-based clues. This chapter has the only mention of &lits in the book - even though there are other &lits or near-&lits in many of the other examples. (And the standard structure for many clue types - definition and separate "wordplay" - never gets properly explained. This (along with the times when it doesn't apply) is surely as important for beginners to understand as the range of types.

At the end we get a crossword by Dexter, based on Morse and Lewis. I can understand his desire to include his own characters, but the effect is that the book's only complete puzzle is one with a theme. The fact that this is quite unusual in some newspapers goes unstated. As the puzzle relies on knowledge of Morse, including book titles, and contains clues which Dexter freely admits are poor, it's a pretty hopeless choice as a single sample puzzle. And some clues are explained in an unhelpful way - such as the subtle anagram clue for an author's name, whose "anagram fodder" appears with no information about where it came from.

Finally, of the 104pp in the book, about 21 are blank or unnecessary - whole page chapter headings or blank pages for notes, at the ends of chapters that happen to have an odd number of pages.

Conclusion: unless there's something about Colin Dexter's treatment that the rivals can't provide (and that seems to boil down to the Morse connection), the books by Don Manley and Tim Moorey still lead the field, and this ranks with the also-rans.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 27 July 2013
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I bought it to help me understand the nuances of the clues it did this well. To others who think it isn't very good, it gives you the basics and ideas to use but you then have to apply them and practice, a lot.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A corker - how would anyone else get started?, 8 Jan 2010
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This review is from: Cracking Cryptic Crosswords (Paperback)
The answers to cryptic crosswords, as printed in most newspapers, seem to bear no relation to the clues. Here's a little book that shares some ways of solving the clues. Cracking Cryptic Crosswords So what before seemed gobbledegook becomes uinderstandable, but there are still some compilers who defy comprehension!
This l;ittle book is a guide a friend to help you through the maze.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars morse code, 8 Jan 2010
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This review is from: Cracking Cryptic Crosswords (Paperback)
Every thing you would expect- v. instructive, entertaining,and a small book which gives hours of crossword solving and explanation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Most informative, 21 April 2013
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Although I have not yet finished following all of Colin Dexter's hints, thus far I have been helped greatly. I would recommend this book to anyone who is just starting out on the cryptic crossword journey...a good purchase.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars short and good for beginners, 9 Jan 2010
By 
Rosalind Healy "fernhill gardener" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cracking Cryptic Crosswords (Paperback)
I bought this book for my 21 year old son who is a recent enthuiast for cryptic crosswords but who puzzles over clues for a long time. I did expect the book to be bigger but he is pleased with it - and actually anything much longer might have put him off. Experienced crossworders would not need it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Crossword Mania, 2 Jan 2011
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This review is from: Cracking Cryptic Crosswords (Paperback)
I found this book very interesting even though I have been solving cryptic cross words for years - I did glean some helpful little hints from it which I'm sure will make me even more proficient!!
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NEW Morse short story by Colin Dexter!, 7 Dec 2009
This review is from: Cracking Cryptic Crosswords (Paperback)
There's a wonderful brand new Morse and Lewis short story at the beginning of this super little book by Inspector Morse's creator Colin Dexter. In this easy to read new book Colin Dexter explains, with examples, the various types of crossword clue so the reader can get to recognize them, and begin to grasp how to tackle a crossword. For example how do you spot an anagram type of clue? Or what about abbreviations? It is a masterful guide on how to tackle crosswords which manages to be fun and very enjoyable reading at the same time, and there's a crossword at the end for the reader to do, personally instructed throughout by Colin Dexter. It's just the sort of book that everyone who'd like to be able to do crosswords, or who wants to improve their crossword skills, needs. It's excellent value, and a great present!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 30 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Cracking Cryptic Crosswords (Paperback)
An excellent transaction and I am delighted with my purchase thank you :o)
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Cracking Cryptic Crosswords
Cracking Cryptic Crosswords by Colin Dexter (Paperback - 28 Nov 2009)
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