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This review is from: Two Girls, One on Each Knee: The Puzzling, Playful World of the Crossword (Hardcover)
How can you not love a book that brings together Stephen Sondheim, Georges Perec and the Two Ronnies?
Though I'm not particularly good at cryptic crosswords - knowing enough to adore Araucaria but generally have to look a few clues up online, and I'll never join the 'done in twenty minutes' or even an hour, club - I loved it. That's because the book's strength is all the stuff it has in it which isn't totally about crosswords - a discussion of what being a bit too keen on crosswords might signify in film script shorthand (cue a lovely essay on Brief Encounter); a totally brill first chapter on the evolution of PG Wodehouse's relationship with crosswords, both fictional and in reality; a very entertaining dip into the murky scientific waters around claims that doing the crossword will stave off dementia.
Alan Connor's book is a great Christmassy sort of gift book, but it's also really beautifully written and constructed - he seems to me to have taken the same care over it as a good setter would over a set of clues. His sentences are lovely, his sense of humour very entertaining, and at the same time he seems to have an inexhaustible supply of funny crossword trivia (good sketches off the telly involving crosswords, people who've asked for crosswords on Desert Island Discs, etc etc).
There's also a lot more detail about setters, structures, what happens when things are misclued, and stuff like that probably of interest only to keen crossword solvers; in fact the only possible criticism I could make of the book is one touched on by the other reviewer - who is meant to buy the book - beginners, or experts? But I think on the whole the book is SO enjoyable that any fairly intelligent person would really love it.
(I was also glad of a chapter that finally explained the totally bonkers 'Listener' Crossword to me, and regalvanised my resolve about never actually trying to do one. Though I'm not sure it should have been quite so early in the book. The Listener actually came BEFORE the chapter on basic clue solving, which I thought could be interpreted as just plain cruel...)