The Crossword Graveyard, Laid To Rest

Welcome to the third and final installment of The Crossword Graveyard, wherein I write a little about the crossword books I've solved over the years before relegating them to the recycling bin. (Also see Part 1 and Part 2.)

These two books are reissues from a four-volume series called Masterpiece Crosswords, published in the mid-1990s and curated by Random House editor Stanley Newman. Each book of 50 puzzles features two or three contributions each from all the top names in crosswords. The original volumes also included biographical sketches of the constructors. I can imagine that 25 years ago, these were the absolute favorite books of crossword aficionados. These puzzles still hold up pretty well, and the reissues from Puzzlewright under the Crossword Superstars title are very much worth a look.

Couple of unrelated titles, linked by their smaller physical sizes. David J. Kahn's Baseball Crosswords is an early entry in the Peter Gordon era at Sterling, and one of the first books I bought, crammed with baseball content. These puzzles have since been reissued in combination with Kahn's other baseball-themed crossword book. The Penguin Classics volume of literature-themed crosswords is a one-off from 2011, edited by Ben Tausig, with a wide variety of contributors. The puzzles are excellent, and the book is memorable to me because I solved it all during a run of the musical Company. I was playing piano in the orchestra, and had enough downtime during dialogue scenes to complete 75 puzzles in the space of two dress rehearsals and six performances.

Mr. Kahn is known for his tribute/obituary crosswords in the Times, so he went ahead and wrote a whole book of them for Puzzlewright! Francis Heaney's Trivial Pursuit-branded book uses actual questions and answers from the game as theme answers, so each puzzle is built around 3 to 6 trivia questions from the same category. If you're reading this, you probably already know that anything Francis writes is worth solving.

I put these together just because of the similar titles. Martin Ashwood-Smith's puzzles are the wide-open themeless grids that he's known for, but the clues are at a Tuesday/Wednesday level. (His Triple-Stack Crosswords, which is still unsolved on my shelf, works the same way.) Martin is a contributor to the Challenging volume, alongside a dozen other CrosSynergy authors. This is a collection of "Sunday Challenge" themelesses from the early 2000s, which tend to play around a Friday NYT level.

Finishing up with an olio of old-school Sterling offerings. These four are all comprised of original puzzles, with a few exceptions. Cathy Allis's book was reissued in 2014 as Humorous Coffee Shop Crosswords, and the puzzles are typically clever and fun. Trip Payne's fun volume cycles among three different styles: themed, themeless, and Siamese Twins. Rich Norris's gimmick, as advertised, is that every puzzle is a pangram. The first 26 puzzles are themed, each inspired by a different letter, and the rest themeless. Harvey Estes's book is a straightforward collection of themed puzzles, some larger than 15x15. It's a prime example of the silliness of the Mensa logo deal, mentioned in my previous roundup.

Matt Jones's and Ben Tausig's books are collections of their syndicated indie puzzles (Jonesin' and Ink Well, respectively). Trip's Pop Culture has original themed puzzles on various pop culture topics. Wrath of Klahn is one of the few crossword books I couldn't put down. Usually I stretch out a particularly special puzzle book as long as possible (I spent about five years working through Berry's Puzzle Masterpieces, and I'm over ten years and counting with Cox & Rathvon's Atlantic cryptic collection). Even though I'd already solved many of the previously published "Sunday Challenge" themelesses in the book, Bob Klahn's gorgeous grids and nonpareil cluing were addictive, and I finished it in a matter of weeks. Klahn has apparently retired from constructing, but deserves more credit as one of the all-time greats.

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