The Crossword Graveyard, Continued

Here's another bunch of completed crossword books that I'm not keeping in my library, but want to send off with a photo shoot and blog post! (Part 1, if you missed it)

These books hooked me on cryptic crosswords. The puzzles were originally published in Canada's National Post, where easy cryptics by Cox & Rathvon still run every Saturday. This blogger posts a PDF each week along with an answer breakdown, and I highly recommend it especially to novice cryptic solvers. I print and solve all the National Post puzzles (usually a year or two behind publication), because even though they're easy, they're smooth, elegant, and sometimes even themed. Side note: The "Mensa" branding was part of a long-term deal between Mensa and Sterling Publishing, which is why the logo appears on so many covers and even in book titles. It's not an indication that the puzzles are particularly tricky or smart - just marketing!

Sterling/Puzzlewright editor Peter Gordon had the idea to publish mini puzzle books in cute shapes, geared to commuters and, well, poopers. It was a huge success, and presumably helped keep parent company Barnes & Noble solvent for an extra few months. The notable title in this batch is Tile Crosswords, a unique style devised by legendary puzzlers Mike Selinker and Thomas Snyder.  I haven't seen those puzzles anywhere else, so check out the book if you can get your hands on it.

Pretty self-explanatory! Most of these are from my early solving days, before I subscribed to the NYT puzzle and worked my way through the entire online archive. For the yellow and orange books, I tore out pages to speed-solve and tracked my times by day of the week. I was excited to find Super Saturday in some bookstore, since those puzzles are from the early Will Shortz era (1994-1996, before the NYT crossword went online). These old Saturday puzzles were challenging enough to be worthwhile, and fun enough to actually bother solving, unlike a book of Saturday puzzles from the Maleska era that I am recycling without the courtesy of a photographic tribute.

Here's a whole series of "topical" crossword books, either edited or fully written by Matt Gaffney. I think there are a few more, but these are the ones I acquired and solved. Many of these puzzles are surprisingly terrible - the standards of fill quality have really changed in the last 15 years, and I imagine the great Mr. Gaffney would be embarrassed at some of his old work! There's not a lot to say here except that these fall in the rare "do not recommend" category.

Spicy!! Banned Crosswords was a self-published collection spearheaded by Jim Jenista, who's famous as the "costume guy" at the crossword tournament. Crasswords comes from Sterling editor Francis Heaney, with contributions from top constructors, most of them pseudonymous (I remember being very proud of myself for figuring out that "Eli Dunbar" is an anagram of "Blindauer"). Both books have themes and fill full of sex, drugs, swearing, and whatever else couldn't be seen in mainstream puzzles. (Both books also predate the rise of indie puzzle sites, which is where such filth can be published these days.) I have a copy of the second edition of Crasswords (The Enhanced Edition - Bigger - Longer - Harder), which I intend to solve someday even though I've done most of the puzzles already.

This is a bind-up (as they call it in publishing) of four previously issued books, two of which are collections from the '50s and '60s and thus not worth solving. The Cox/Rathvon offering is First-Class Crosswords, puzzles from the U.S. Airways in-flight magazine. Some are written by other A-list constructors, and half are 17x17, which gave me a chance to practice speed-solving those "intermediate" sizes. The real draw was Beat the Champs Crossword Puzzles, featuring 72 original puzzles and including the solving times of the three top tournament solvers as of the 2000 publication: Jon Delfin, Doug Hoylman, and Ellen Ripstein (who was not yet an ACPT champ, but would be soon). I beat the champs on most but not all of the puzzles!

Stay tuned for one more installment of the Crossword Graveyard...