Thursday, April 6, 2017
The History of the Crossword (2016) by John Halpern and Richard Browne
Perhaps the most striking aspect of this book is that the history of the crossword takes up 2-3 of the book's 200 pages. And the most fascinating thing about that history is how crosswords got their name. The original name was Word-Cross but a typographical error shortly after they first appeared changed the name forever to Crossword. The forewards by Richard Browne (who also is a co-author but is not credited as such on the cover) and Will Shortz are nicely done, and easy to get through given that they are 1-page each. In reality, rather than a history of the crossword, what this book does is explain (and give hints to solving) all kinds of word puzzles, including, for example, cryptic puzzles that heretofore had been a complete mystery even for our famed Department of Word and Games (WAG), which recommends as its favorite puzzles, besides the NYT and WSJ crosswords, the Spelling Bee that appears every week in the NYT Sunday Magazine and Split Decisions that appears occasionally therein. In sum, the book reminds us that word puzzle devotees, to use the terms from Richard Browne's forward, might be a little "quirky," but damn-tootin, they are quite "intelligent."