June 13, 2005

Book reviews and a contest!

From time to time, this site will include my reviews of various puzzle publications. First up is Henry Hook's Twisted Crosswords, published by Sterling and carrying the "official Mensa puzzle book" imprimatur. Henry has created 70 variety puzzles, including maze, honeycomb, cubic, spiral, pathfinder, and zigzag grids. Some puzzles are merely hard; others are wickedly tough. All are distinguished by a glut of great entries (LLCOOLJ, STIEGLITZ, AARDVARK) and creative and contemporary clues. If you're looking for a challenge and you're open to filling in answers backwards, upside-down, and at crazy angles, this is the book for you.

More standard but almost as challenging is Volume 8 of The New York Times Toughest Crossword Puzzles: 100 Saturday Puzzles (Random House). This one contains puzzles from December 1995 through November 1997, all edited by Will Shortz. The difficulty level varies considerably, but every puzzle is harder than any early-week offering. Last year, I tore through the online archives and did all the Saturday puzzles from 1998 on, so this book was a welcome addition. It includes puzzles from constructors we don't see in the Saturday paper much any more—Rich Norris, Mike Shenk, Trip Payne, and Frank Longo were some of my favorites in this volume.

I bought two other books of tough NYT puzzles that I probably don't need—everything in Volume 7 of NYT Saturday puzzles (Random House) is likely to be included in the giant New York Times Ultimate Crossword Omnibus (St. Martin's) of 1,001 puzzles, which I bought last week and have already begun devouring. At some point, I also bought Volume 12 (St. Martin's) and did just a couple puzzles—it covers October 2000 to September 2001, and darn it, I did all those puzzles online last year.

Clearly, these last two books need a new home. I am willing to give them both away, but to make it interesting, let's have two contests. To win Volume 7, write a puzzle-related haiku; the funniest one (as judged by me) wins. And what about Volume 12? I need another contest idea. Leave your haiku or contest idea in the comments.