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VINE VOICEon 22 October 2008
Until about 1988, The Listener crossword was the only puzzle of its kind easily available in the UK - a barred-grid cryptic crossword with difficult vocabulary and a different element of uniqueness about it every week. Now it has competition from the Independent's "Inquisitor" and the Telegraph's "Enigmatic Variations", but still seems to attract a more dedicated following. Make no mistake: Listener Crosswords are difficult. Even an easy one is likely to take about ten times as long to solve as a typical Times daily puzzle. If you can't solve the Times or a similar daily paper puzzle in full at least three days a week, you should probably stay away until you can. Experience with 'plain' barred grid puzzles like Azed or Mephisto helps a lot too. You will need a copy of Chambers Dictionary for all of these puzzles (if you solve in a room with a computer, the online version is worth considering as an alternative to the paper one), and for some you will need the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Other books are mentioned in the introduction, but Brewer and the Chambers or Bradford Crossword dictionaries are likely to be very useful. The Listener is the only newspaper crossword series to include mathematical puzzles - there are five of these in the book.

So much for the puzzles, what of the book? Puzzles are printed as two-page spreads with a decent amount of white space, which you will need - for the second puzzle, which uses a complicated scheme of misprints, I used most of this space. The paper used is thick enough to take a few rubbings out. The puzzles have been reviewed and some clues amended so that you can safely use current versions of Chambers (2003 or 2006 strictly - 2008 appeared too late to be taken into account). There's a four-page guide to solving Listener puzzles, with useful advice. Although the puzzles are ranked by the number of correct solutions received, don't be surprised if some seem out of order - difficulty of this kind of puzzle is very variable. Solutions include clear explanations of thematic elements, answer words before any treatment required to produce the grid entry, and explanations of the cryptic readings of the tougher clues.

Quick note in response to the review under "product description". "AGC" = Ascot Gold Cup - an annual award from the best Listener solvers to the setter of the year's best puzzle. All the winners from the period covered are in the book.
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on 19 March 2009
This has been thumbed through most days by the user of the book since he received it. All the favourite types of puzzle in one volume. Good solid stuff.
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