Go on and on about crossword
Crossworld: One Mans Journey into Americas Crossword Obsession by Marc Romano
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but the false modesty and arrogance overwhelm, October 1, 2007
I really want to rate this 2.5 stars.
Do you have a friend who says things like, Yes, I may have gotten 800 on the math SAT but I only got an embarrassing 690 verbal? If so, then you might be able to tolerate Romanos prose. If not, be forewarned: unless you can complete the Saturday New York Times puzzle in 10 minutes, you will be put in your place over and over by his false modesty. He says things along the lines of It once took me a humiliating 20 minutes to do a Saturday NYT puzzle. If its humiliating for him, whats that mean to the rest of us? He goes further to make-fun of and out-right condemn anyone who doesnt follow is own code of crossword conduct. If you look a word up, youre cheating and he cant imagine why you would do that. (Perhaps so you can learn words you dont know? Maybe to fill in a tough spot in the puzzle so you can continue to finish the rest of it and still have fun?) He implies that this is akin to just copying the answers from the next days paper.
There are also facts that I really have to question. He says he can finish a Monday puzzle in something like 60 seconds. It would take longer than that just to write the answers down if someone were reading the clues to you. Add in the time to flick your eyes from the clues to the grid and it becomes absurd. I can speed read but your comprehension deceases when you do. In a crossword puzzle, theres no context to help you when you misread a word. One letter difference changes the meaning entirely. In addition, even the easiest puzzles have clues that have more than one answer that is commonly used (genetic material can be RNA or DNA; mid-east leader can be EMIR or AMIR or any of a number of different spellings; there are several five letter GREEK LETTERs.) It takes time to go back. Even doing a Worlds Easiest Crossword-level puzzle that uses a 6th grade vocabulary and no words over 5 letters and reading only the across clues (not needing to read the down clues) would take me more than 60 seconds to fill out if my writing were to actually be remotely legible and in the correct little boxes. (But then, Im a moron-- Im only a Wednesday/Thursday-level solver.) I guess Romano is some freaky genius who not only can read and write in tiny boxes elsewhere on the page at the same time but he has ESP and always knows exactly what the puzzle author was thinking when composing the crossword.
Given that, there is a lot of interesting information about the history of the New York Times Crossword puzzle in general and Will Shortz, its current editor, in particular. I came to respect, admire and actually like Shortz, who comes off as a nice, reasonable, easy-going fellow. Theres information about who creates these teasers, the difference in puzzles across the Atlantic, and the anatomy of a puzzle. I also found the description of what a crossword puzzle tournament is like and the quirky people who attend to be entertaining.
I found myself over and over wishing this had been written by someone else who couldnt possibly compete in the tournament (or would come in last) or that Romano had left his own role out of it and was more objective. While personal anecdotes and opinions can add to a story, make it more human, his arrogance and randiness (he is constantly on the prowl) are not just distracting, theyre offensive. Instead of being appropriately impressed by and interested in all the contestants who compete (I think even the person who comes in last place is probably pretty darn good) I could only focus on him. By the time I finished the book I almost gave up solving puzzles because I felt like any reasonable person would realize I am too stupid and ignorant for real crossword puzzles and would be better off sticking to E-Z word searches and connect-the-dots.
Theres no doubt Romano is extremely intelligent-- he is this expert solver and he implies English isnt even his native language. But does he have to rub it in every other sentence?
Last thoughts: the book was a little longer than it needed to be but it does include almost all of the puzzles from the competition, which was fabulous. I would have liked to see a few more puzzles, perhaps a sample from the New York Times for each day of the week and puzzles from some of the other publications (very briefly) mentioned like the Washington Post. While I certainly didnt buy the book for the puzzles, it would be very interesting to compare methodologies. I would have liked Romano to spend a little more time discussing puzzles in other papers. Also, acknowledging that people have to start somewhere and encouraging people to improve their skills with recommendations on how to do so would have been much more appropriate than his constant bragging. Then he might help people discover just how fun it is to do this pastime, recruiting people to the game rather than making people feel like outsiders who shouldnt even try.
One more thing: He denigrates Sudoku as being just a math puzzle (whats wrong with math puzzles?) but Sudoku has absolutely nothing to do with math. There is no math involved at all. Any 9 characters or shapes would do. Ive seen some using letters. Numbers are just easiest for us to recognize and pattern quickly, not to mention that it crosses language barriers by using Anglo-Saxon numerals which are more commonly used than the English alphabet. Sudoku is first and foremost a logic puzzle and could appeal to even a word smith who hasnt completed 3rd grade math.
So, to sum up, I dont recommend this book. Watch the movie Wordplay about the tournament. Or better yet, Will Sholtz wrote a companion book to the movie Wordplay: The Official Companion Bookwhich I havent read but might be a better insight in to the tourney. I cant believe it could be worse.
How crossword puzzles mess with your mind
By Deb Amlen. Would you like to improve your mental flexibility, learn a few interesting things every day and establish bragging rights among your friends? Solving crossword puzzles is like mental yoga — both challenging and relaxing at the same time. I believe that with patience and practice anyone can learn to solve crosswords. You can absolutely learn to do that.
A crossword is a word puzzle that usually takes the form of a square or a rectangular grid of white-and black-shaded squares. The game's goal is to fill the white squares with letters , forming words or phrases , by solving clues, which lead to the answers. In languages that are written left-to-right, the answer words and phrases are placed in the grid from left to right and from top to bottom. The shaded squares are used to separate the words or phrases. Crossword grids such as those appearing in most North American newspapers and magazines feature solid areas of white squares. Every letter is checked i.
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