XIMENES ON THE ART OF THE CROSSWORD Hardcover – 1966
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Top Customer Reviews
Swallowtail Books have done a magnificent job in reproducing the book in an authentic font and with the original diagrams. The foreword by Colin Dexter echoes many of my own feelings. When I was a student in the late sixties I was very proud of my solving abilities and could usually finish the Guardian puzzle during the tube journey from Kentish Town to Warren Street. When I came across the puzzles of Ximenes it was as if I had entered a different universe. For weeks I attempted the puzzles without solving more than a half dozen clues. By the time I came upon his book in a public library, and developed my solving skills, Ximenes was no more and Azed had taken over. I read the book from cover to cover and continued to borrow it for many years. Recently I have been searching the book-shops for a copy, but in vain.
Dexter calls this book 'a seminal treatise' and its influence on the world of cruviverbalism was immense. Ximenes unfurls his banner on the very first page when he says that the purpose of the book is "the ambitious one - perhaps too ambitious - of trying to arrive at a system of principles which can make the crossword more enjoyable and rewarding to solvers". The early chapters deal with the history of crosswords and the coming of the cryptic clue before going on to diagram composition and types of clue. In the chapter Crossword Principles he acknowledges his debt to Afrit (A F Ritchie), who made the first moves towards fair clueing but still used unsymmetrical grids.Read more ›
I turned to this one after having read others on the market and can see that this is the original, the template, for all those books dissecting clue types and devices and walking you through puzzles.
As I understand it, 'Ximenes' is the first to write down basic rules of fair play in this cruel but amusing pass-time. That such rules are flouted and twisted by revered setters such as Araucaria matters not one jot. They are there and it is good to have them there, as reassuring (and as heeded) as UN weapons inspectors.
The book is written with wit and panache, and you cringe before a towering intelligence (albeit a kind, fatherly one, who at times breaks his narrative to tell you to go and have a cup of tea or a lie down). The sections where the writer guides you through the creation of a relatively simple (Everyman) puzzle and those diabolical Azed things I won't even look at yet, are fascinating and illuminating.
Order this book. It's worth the wait.