Expectations ran high as I started to read Tim Moorey's How To Master The Times Crossword. Excited as I was to have my own new copy of the book, I also wondered if it will match up to the glowing praise I had read of it.
I need not have wondered. Tim Moorey's book does a magnificent job of explaining the nuances of the Times cryptic crossword in an eminently readable style. Whether you are a new solver taking your first steps towards cryptic crosswords or an experienced solver wanting to raise your game, this is THE book for you.
Inside The Book
The 218-page hardcover volume is divided into four parts – Crossword Basics which covers the clue types, indicators and tips for very new solvers; Mastering the Times Crossword with advanced tips; Practice Time with lots of clues and 12 full grids to try; Appendices including a list of crossword abbreviations.
One of the most commendable aspects of this book is its positive, friendly tone. Many guides read like impersonal instruction manuals, or else have so much of the author's personality in them that they obscure the knowledge they're trying to impart. Tim Moorey's book falls into neither trap – his voice is like that of a mentor genuinely interested in helping us learn. He says in the introduction:
I would not wish to be seen as laying down rules on solving; there are really no such things. Ultimately, everyone finds their own way of doing crosswords and my hope is that I will help you to find yours
Graphs and visual cues are used to explain clue types and the breakdown of clues. If you are familiar with the Times crossword, you will marvel at how easy and accessible the author makes the Times clues look.
The book uses slightly different terminology for clue types such as all-in-one for &lit and sandwich for containers. These terms are perhaps less intimidating for a new solver, and well-used on the Times blog even if not elsewhere.
The practice clues and puzzles have some handholding in the initial stages – definitions are italicized, clue types mentioned. Thereafter you are given full grids to attempt on your own.
My favourite sections of the book are in Part 2: Mastering the Times Crossword – a solving sequence in which Tim Moorey takes us through his solving of an entire grid, and a setting sequence in which he walks us through the process of creating clues. I enjoyed comparing notes with Tim Moorey's solving sequence – mine was rather different but eventually I had the same last few blanks as he did. The setting sequence is a fascinating insight into the setter's mind as he writes clues for the grid (Tim Moorey is a setter for the Sunday Times crossword).
Each chapter begins with a nice quote relevant to crosswords – extracts from books and magazines, also an excerpt from a 1934 letter by PG Wodehouse to The Times.
In the end is a treat as Tim Moorey calls it – a puzzle that is hailed as one of the best ever to be published in the Times. As with the rest of the book, here too the author shows consideration for solvers at different levels of solving ability. The clues for this puzzle are published in three formats – one is exactly as it appeared in the Times, the second with definitions italicized and the third with definitions italicized plus indicators underlined.
Is this any good for a non-Times solver?
Absolutely. Most of the book applies to any cryptic crossword, not only the Times. Whatever is specific to the Times - such as the no living persons rule - is clearly mentioned.
I suspect that by the end of this book, you will convert into a Times solver even if you are not one today. The clues used as examples in the book showcase the cream of the Times stable. Many of the clues were chosen in the past as the 'Clue Of The Week', a feature of The Week magazine.
What do you think of the book?
I'd love to hear from other readers, especially new solvers. Did you enjoy the book, did it help you improve your game?
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