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More than just a good present idea
on 10 November 2013
This book certainly would make a good present for a crossword-loving friend or family member. With its tasteful cover and erudite subject this is perfect for a coffee table. However, I also recommend reading it! It's good: well-written, fun and informative. It is also challenging - but it's up to you how challenging you want to make it. Some chapters I read quickly, others in detail - poring over sentences and not moving on until I understood them fully and had solved their clues. And there are lots of clues in this book. The table of contents is a crossword. Even the index contains clues! I was going to describe this as a 'concept' book, but that has a specific meaning in publishing, and this most certainly isn't a children's book.
The 'Preamble' says that the book is like solving a cryptic puzzle, and that you can read it in any order. This put me off at first as I am something of a traditionalist when it comes to reading a book - I like to start at the beginning and read each word in turn until I reach the end. In fact that's what I did, and I don't think I missed out by doing that. However I can see how some readers might want to pick-and-choose from the chapters- in particular, if you already know how to tackle cryptic clues then you might find some of the earlier chapters a bit suck-eggs-ish.
Which brings me on to a question I pondered while reading this book: is it aimed at a dabbler like me (think P.G. Wodehouse rather than M.R James) or a crossword aficionado? I think it is trying for both, and in my (dabbler's) opinion it succeeds. It is packed full of facts and anecdotes, told in a chatty, entertaining style. It seems meticulously researched - I doubt there's a crossword fact, or reference in history, politics or popular culture that Connor has missed.
Some sections are undoubtedly challenging for a dabbler, but then so are cryptic crosswords and if you don't like those you wouldn't be here.