The Chambers Crossword Dictionary certainly is a fine book, a solid hard-back the same height as the familiar dictionary but only 800 pages long. It promises 290,000 solutions for cryptic and quick crosswords and will, I am sure, be popular and a safe Christmas present for any crossword fan. This is a thesaurus with 15,000 definitions as headwords. Each of the entries in the dictionary leads to a list of words with of similar meanings sorted alphabetically by length. For example looking for a horse of seven letters, I quickly picked out bronco, centaur, charger, hackney and mustang. However, this work also has extensive reference lists and I went on to the list of horse and pony breeds and discovered Comtois, Criollo, Finnish, Furioso, Hackney, Hispano, Jutland, Masuren etc. It is the reference listings that are the strong point of this book; for example the entry for city is followed by a section on ancient cities, capital cities and almost four pages of towns and cities. This is the place to find the names of famous people, cricketers, criminals, authors, actors, astronauts - they are all listed. Moreover because all of the entries are listed according to their length it is easy to find the correct answer. Project consultants for the Chambers Crossword Dictionary were Don Manley and Jonathan Crowther and short essays by both are included in the introduction. Azed writes lucidly on the art of the crossword setter and gives an interesting insight into his methods. One comment which bemused me was that he used Chambers Words to search for words of a suitable length to fit his puzzles. I too have a copy that I bought 20 years ago. I have tried to buy one recently to replace my tattered paperback but to no avail. Don has written a superb and individualistic piece on Crossword English, explaining how to read a crossword clue. He lists 20 clues and explains each one. This essay would make an excellent introduction to the cryptic clue for a beginner to the art. There is also a section on anagram indicators. The Chambers Crossword Dictionary is a lovely book and would be a great help in solving cryptics such as one finds in The Times and would make definition-only puzzles a piece of cake. Its reference sections, garnered from other Chambers databases such as their Book of Facts, will certainly be a help for me, if only to check the name of a protein or a physicist.
I was fortunate in that I was able to obtain this book very cheaply when joining a club. Having examined it, I think I would be reluctant to pay full whack. As with The Collins Thesaurus, it does have a large number of word-lists, which come in very handy for any cruciverbalist. However, as a hardened puzzler I was disappointed to discover that the vast number of weird and wonderful words that appear in the outstanding Chambers Dictionary were rather on the thin side in this volume. Being a Chambers crossword dictionary, I felt it would be natural to assume that fantastical and sometimes archaic words would show up in this volume, but, by and large, they don't. This is still a very good volume and I continue to use it for the word-lists if nothing else, but Bradford's Crossword Solver's Dictionary still remains the cream for all hardened crossword-addicts.
This is just the volume for those, who like me, need the occassional helping hand with cryptic crosswords. It gives alternative meanings for words arranged by the nuber of letters in the suggested word. I have now purchased a copy as a present for my son-in-law.