Friday, February 27, 2009

Crossword Dictionary

Before I touch on Crossword Dictionaries, I attach the link below to the (Chambers) Crossword Manual that is highlighted in the comments of my last post by "wxd_fiend". This is the updated version of the Chambers Crossword Guide that I mentioned in my previous post. This has 400 pages as against the 300 pages of the older version so I believe this would be a better buy if you are looking for a guide to solving cryptic crosswords.

The Crossword Manual

There are many aids to solving crosswords, one of which is the crossword dictionary and there are many in the market. The first one that I have is a 1967 edition of the Dell Crossword Dictionary by Kathleen Rafferty. Below is the latest edition (even then it is a 1995 edition).

The Dell Crossword Dictionary

This is more useful for straight crossword but I like the word-finder section where you can find all the 3 or 4-letter words if you already know 2 of the alphabets such as XX__, _XX_, __XX or X__X. This is useful to complete the missing words but unfortunately this provides only up to 4-letter words.

Most of the crossword dictionaries by American publishers are mainly geared for the American market and so is good for straight crosswords but if you are looking for one for cryptic crosswords, you have to look for British publications. The best will be the Chambers Crossword Dictionary since it mentions possible cryptic clues in the listing.

The Chambers Dictionary

Other useful aids for crosswords would by a Thesaurus. And of course, you can always turn to the Net for online assistance. Good luck.

Ronald Kwok

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Crossword varieties

Apart from solving Sudoku, my other daily activity is solving crossword. There are basically two types of crossword, the American or straight crossword and the British or cryptic crossword. The one I do daily is the cryptic crossword since I find it more interesting with the play on the English language.

For those not familiar, the straight crossword is one where the clue will direct you to a straight forward answer while the cryptic clue will usually consist of a secret clue that employs wordplay as well as a straight clue. You thus have two clues to one answer which makes the answer doubly sure. Visually, the straight crossword is more closely linked and solving all the across clues will solve some of the down clues automatically and vice versa while the cryptic crossword is less closely link and has more blank squares.

Over the years I have collected a number of books on crosswords and I myself am surprised how many I have accumulated.

Crossword Puzzles for Dummies.

This gives an very interesting introduction to the world of crossword puzzles. The bulk of the book is on the American crossword but there is a chapter on cryptic crossword to whet your appetite. There are of course sample crossword puzzles scattered throughout the volume.

The oldest crossword puzzle book that I have is "The Strange World of the Crossword" by Roger Millington. This traces the history of the crossword puzzle and its progress. Along the way are interesting snippets of related information and other varieties of the word puzzles. This is out of print now.

A more recent book along the same line is "The Crossword Obsession" by Coral Amende.

It is more like a collection of thoughts and comments by constructors and editors of the crossword puzzles interspersed with the history and anecdotes of the crossword puzzles.

The latest book is "Wordplay"

a companion to the hit movie of the same name which is a documentary about crossword puzzles. If you enjoy doing crossword puzzles, you will enjoy the movie and this companion book. The book contains some famous and historical puzzles for your enjoyment.

If you are interested to learn more about cryptic crossword puzzles and how to solve them, there are quite a number of books in the market. I have two of them.

"How to Solve Cryptic Crosswords" by Kevin Skinner is a basic book to get you started. It has 26 crosswords with solutions explained.

"The Chamber's Crossword Guide" is more advanced and has 84

puzzles of various levels of difficulty and different designs.

There are many aids that you can use in solving crosswords such as general and specialised dictionary, atlas, thesaurus and other reference book, especially for the straight crosswords. In addition, there are those that are specifically for cryptic crosswords. I have one such dictionary and it is titled simply "Clue-finder", a dictionary of Crossword Clues.

Examples of entries are:

electricity bill = current account

second child = Abel

strong drink = stout

Finally, there is the "Bradford's Crossword Lists"

which consists of about 100,000 items sorted into over 500 lists in the order of word lengths. This is useful not only for cryptic crosswords but also the straight crosswords.

So grab a pencil and turn to your crossword page of your daily newspaper and sharpen your mind.

Ronald Kwok