If you've been solving crosswords for ages and want to check whether your mental image of Araucaria, Enigmatist, or some of the Times setters is anywhere near the truth, this is the book for you. About half the pages are a set of biographies (about 85 of them), including most of the setters for the broadsheet newspaper cryptic puzzles, and a selection of setters for barred-grid puzzles like the Listener. There are plenty of good stories and gentle jokes, including a reputed spoof biography.
You also get about 20 pages of introductory material from Azed, about two-thirds of which is a quick summary of his own views about clue-writing.
At the end of the book, there are 43 sample puzzles representing half of the setters covered. These are split about 50/50 between daily paper style puzzles and more difficult ones. The latter have notes with their solutions.
The nuts and bolts side is very sound - good binding and paper ensure that this book will last.
on 30 July 2013
It is interesting to read Crowther's rather strict rules on setting - with which I have to say I agree. These cover a few pages as an introduction to the book. However, the main chunk of the book consists of pen portraits of various high profile setters. These are interesting mini (auto) biographies curated by Crowther along with puzzles by a selection of those setters to give a flavour of their style. Particularly revealing, in my view, were the setters who had chosen to put their own favourite cryptic clue in their short biography. To me, that gave an insight into the way that they thought cryptic clues ought to be set.