Is there a book on the history of the crossword?
November 25, 2008 6:15 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is mildly addicted to cryptic crosswords. She’s also mad about History. Is there a book available that combines the two?

I want to buy her a book about crosswords as a Xmas present. I’ve taken a look on Amazon and there are many how-to-solve-cryptic-crossword guidebooks available, but ideally I would like to find one that deals with the history of the puzzle, its most celebrated setters, and so on. A biography of the crossword, for want of a better term.

Would anybody have any recommendations for such a book?
posted by Del Chimney to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Okay, I know you are in search of a book, but I can't help but not suggest Wordplay.

It's a superb study of crosswords by Will Shortz, editor of the NY Times crossword. It's been a while since I last saw it, but I do believe it delves into the history of the crossword puzzle.
posted by mrhaydel at 6:42 AM on November 25, 2008

Er, can't help but suggest.
posted by mrhaydel at 6:44 AM on November 25, 2008

I don't know of any books, and I am sure she is already aware of this, but if not she needs to subscribe to nytimes online where there are archives of cryptic crosswords going back for years. I am addicted to these too, so much so that I have been writing my own. If I ever publish a book of them I'll send you a copy (highly unlikely that will happen, but you never know)!

If she is not aware of this vast archive of cryptics, I can give you step by step instructions to find it. Its kind of hidden in the depths of the nytimes website. Just let me know.

Also, if she likes that kind of stuff, I would recommend the NPR wordgames workbooks. I don't know the official title off the top of my head, but if you google "NPR Wordgames" I bet you can find them...and they definitely are available on the NPR website giftshop, along with tons of crossword workbooks.
posted by junipero at 6:53 AM on November 25, 2008

Crossworld by Marc Romano has some of this material and is a fun read.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:08 AM on November 25, 2008

My apologies for suggesting something that deals with regular, plain-jane crosswords.

I quickly read "cryptic crosswords" as meaning crosswords that are fiendish and difficult.

Ignore my answer then.

posted by mrhaydel at 7:10 AM on November 25, 2008

I see that you're in the UK, where cryptic crosswords are a slightly different beast than in the US. But Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon (collectively, Hex) are the reigning monarchs of the US cryptic, but it looks like their Random House book (which goes a little into the history) is out of print, as is their collection of Atlantic puzzlers, but that looks to be coming back into print in May.

One of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels has a plot point that revolves around cryptic crosswords.
posted by blueshammer at 7:33 AM on November 25, 2008

How about The Cryptonomicon?

I first misread the question as "cryptic passwords", which is why I thought of it. It's about cryptography and history.
posted by low affect at 10:03 AM on November 25, 2008

I've read Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose. It is about cryptic crosswords, but it's more of a memoir, than a history of the crossword. It's good for budding cruciverbalists though, because it explains the clues, and gives some context.

I haven't read it, but I would think Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword, (maybe an original 1966 edition), might fit the bill better.
posted by roofus at 11:11 AM on November 25, 2008

I came here to recommend Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword as well. My father borrowed a copy of this book from an acquaintance and then lost it many, many years ago. The acquaintance was heartbroken especially as books like that were hard to come by in India at the time. When Amazon started shipping to India my dad was able to find an old used copy and present it to him. And that was when I read it. A wonderful book.
posted by peacheater at 2:19 PM on November 25, 2008

I would have to 2nd "Crossworld" by Romano...I think it's pretty much exactly what you are looking for.
posted by smithygreg at 3:42 PM on November 25, 2008

Thanks for all your suggestions. I think the Ximenes book fits the bill.
posted by Del Chimney at 5:24 AM on November 26, 2008

« Older Scrobbler and firewall woes   |   Will my computer work when I put it together? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.