Top positive review
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The best single book for the job
on 15 November 2008
If you want to do better at the Times crossword, this is definitely the book to read. The product description should show you why Tim Moorey is well-qualified for the task. In the past, I gave five stars to the previous book by Brian Greer - How to Do the "Times" Crossword (The Times) - and I think this book does a better job, so five stars it must have! The other 5-star review already here, from someone in the target readership, should convince you as much as this one.
Like any "how to solve cryptics" book, an essential part is the coverage of the various clue types. Tim does this elegantly, listing 12 types and putting them in two groups - those which always include an indicator word, and those that don't (or don't always) do so. He's not scared to give some of the types names that differ from the norm, but these are all well-chosen - e.g. All-in-one to replace that rather dusty name "&lit.", and "sandwich" for the clear but lengthy "container and contents". This section uses a consistent diagrammatic way of explaining the structure of clues, which is continued in the rest of the book.
But the clue-types are dealt with in about 20 pages, and for many intended readers will just confirm what they already know - so good as this part is, it can't sell the book on its own. You then get over 100 pages of advice to help bridge the gap between understanding a list of clue-types and seeing how to solve clues. Some of this is general advice, which I must count as good, having said much the same to many people myself! Equally important is 40-odd pages on the "Finer points of clues", which shows you lots of the tricks that can make good clues so tricky to solve.
At the end of the book are 120 practice clues, a short but interesting exercise in trying a bit of clue-writing yourself, and 12 practice puzzles, the first of which has the type and definition indicated for each clue. The solutions to these are all annotated, so that if you fail to finish a puzzle you're not just presented with a grid of inexplicable answers. As a treat at the end, you get one of the very best Times puzzles to try, with a couple of levels of "clue-hinting" provided if you need them, as this puzzle is difficult.
The book pays a huge indirect compliment to setters and editors of the Times puzzles over the years - the clues used as examples are from the top drawer, showing you the entertainment in store when you solve the puzzle in future.
If you're not particularly interested in the Times puzzle, but in solving broadsheet daily cryptic crosswords in general, this book is equal to any other currently available - and it's clear which information is specific to the Times puzzle.
Declaring a small interest: I used to be the organiser of the "Times for the Times" blog which Tim both recommends and quotes from in the book. I now edit the puzzles Tim writes for the Sunday Times.