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The Times How to do The Times Crossword Paperback – 2 Apr 2001
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From the Back Cover
'The Times' crossword has a reputation above all other crosswords. There are many techniques required to tackle the clues and this guide explains them.
Written by Brian Greer, the Crossword Editor of 'The Times', this guide provides the introduction to understanding The Times crossword. It provides advice on how to tackle the crossword and how to read the clues so that you can find the solution. What at first sight appear opaque in a clue is explained and made clear, showing the variety of different ways in which cryptic clues can be constructed. There are many examples of clues and the structure of the crossword.
About the Author
Brian Greer is a former Crossword Editor of The Times
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I do however have a number of quibbles that prevent me from giving it a whole-hearted recommendation. First, I found it difficult to navigate through the different types of clues. Second, an more importantly, the solutions are at the back, and are unnumbered. This format makes it really tedious to navigate through the examples. In some cases, I just gave up. Personally, in a tutor of this sort, I would have preferred the solutions on the same page as the clue. Finally, I didn't understand many of the solutions! More help in how they were derived would have been helpful.
It's a pity, because this book could have been great, whereas it's just another good guide.
The book is quite short (136pp) but covers a lot of ground in that space. There are hundreds of sample clues (often very celver ones) scattered through the text. The potential problem of attempting to solve them in isolation is alleviated by the "First Aid Section" listing some checking letters you might have if the clue was part of a puzzle. Answers to all the sample clues are included, including explanations of literary references and the less obvious bits of "General Knowledge" required.
The book is a little short on actual puzzles. Five sample Times puzzles are included, and three tutorial puzzles rather forbiddingly labelled as "Tests". However, there are plenty of newspaper and puzzle books out there.
Like most books on cryptic crosswords, a brief history is included, as well as material more specifically related to Times puzzles, and they way they have changed over the years. These sections managed to include some facts that this reader of crossword-related books hadn't seen before.
Any book explaining cryptic crosswords has to give major attention to the types of clues that are used. This is done elegantly, and each type is illustrated with plenty of examples.
Many aspects of the book agree with my own views - there are plenty of illustrations of good and bad practice in clue-writing, and I was pleased to see the world's sloppier cryptic crossword setters reminded of simple facts such as "an ion is not a charge".
One criticism: Times Books, like their parent newspaper these days, don't take enough care to remove mistakes. So we have a quoted letter to the Times that looks like three lines of unrhymed modern verse (p. 46), the words "themselves, like" with a mid-paragraph line to themselves (p.59), and the statement that words should ideally "appear in the Concise Oxford and Collins English Dictionary, and preferably both" (p. 61). I hope there are no similar mistakes in any of the clues or puzzles.