Cryptic All-Stars Volume 3

I’ve noted before how hard it is to review a book of puzzles, particularly when my sampling has to be fitted around all the other solving and setting that goes on.  This is doubly or even trebly the case at Christmas.  So I cannot pretend to have plunged into this yet.  I have, however, tried its two predecessors with much enjoyment, so I shall write an anticipatory review based on pleasures already experienced.

The book is presented in the same style, with the same logo perched above a list of contributors.  These include many names from the world of American cryptics: Kosman, Picciotto, Quigley.  (This time round, I should note, the list also includes me.)

The heavy lifting is done by the editor Roger Wolff and Bob Stigger, familiar from GAMES World of Puzzles. Between them they supply more than half the puzzles, sometimes in collaboration with other setters or each other.  However, this doesn’t make for much similarity, as the ideas are lively and varied.  Bob Stigger provides two substantial puzzles, each covering a double A4 spread, one of which introduces American solvers to the joys of the British roundabout.  Other themes include hockey, the pattern of flower petals, and Euler and the bridges of Königsberg (which, as anyone who remembers Listener no. 3,500, will provide some interesting comparisons for yours truly).  Other titles include Higher Education, Circling the Square, Così Fan Tutte, Too Tired and…well, I could go on; there are 45 puzzles in all.  My own puzzle sits opposite one where some of the clue numbers in the grid have been placed at 45 degree angles.  The book starts with a puzzle in memoriam Henry Hook, who had provided crosswords for the earlier volumes.

It’s not a book to rush through, even though most of the puzzles – certainly in terms of vocabulary – are at the easier end of the barred cryptic spectrum (not all, mind!).  I luxuriated in volume 2 (in PDF form) over several months, and, truth be told, I still haven’t quite finished volume 1 on the Puzzazz app.

There are full notes albeit with rather small solution diagrams, and the book is ring-bound to lay flat or even flip back to front.  Roger Wolff (rogers.cryptics@gmail.com) will be happy to supply you with one, with payment by PayPal preferred.  You might even be able to secure a PDF version if you ask nicely.  Or go here, where payment can be made online for this and other books of puzzles.

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