To keep up with the high demand for new crosswords, more and more computer-generated ones are taking over the industry, replacing the patient crossword setters racking their brains over new witty grids. Nevertheless, there are still some genuinely inimitable setters left behind all of these grids and clues. One of them, Mister Don Manley, is the greatest English crossword setter of all time and author of the bible for setting and solving crosswords – the Chambers Crossword Manual.
Accordingly, professional crossword setters, editors, solvers and enthusiasts all have one thing in common – a copy of Don Manley’s Crossword Manual on their shelves.
But can this 34-year old classic still keep up with new trends in the world of solving crosswords or is it in need of a proper update? Is it easy enough for tentative newcomers to read or is it written so that only professionals can understand it? Let’s have look.
Solving Crosswords with the Help of the Master himself!
The book’s topic can obviously be found in its name – it is all about crosswords! And that is a broader topic than many might think. Manley divided the book into five main sections, or main themes so to say.
First he takes us on a surprisingly exciting history tour detailing how crosswords evolved and changed over time, and teaches us the most common clues and puzzles. This part is not only essential so that every crossword lover can understand the roots of crossword puzzles, but is also good for anyone interested in improving their crossword solving skills. Along the way, Manley provides some tutorial puzzles so that the reader can apply the knowledge they have just acquired, with answers and explanations featured in the last and fifth part of the book.
“Requests jobs not using the head” with four letters
He then moves on with a chapter for the more experienced solvers and setters in particular. It is called “Advanced Cryptics” and advanced it is indeed. Being a casual crossword solver myself, I have had real problems understanding this part of the book. I do, however, believe that it offers great value to those who are more familiar with the topic of cryptics.
It is followed by a very handy third chapter about setting and editing crosswords, which gives interesting insight into the origin of our beloved puzzles. I personally consider this part very, if not even most interesting for enthusiasts who like to solve crosswords, since Manley reveals how he himself sets a puzzle as well as some of his very own types of clues.
Manley ends the book with a refreshing, but to short overview of new trends in the realm of crossword setting in the times of the internet, a section about women in the field, and some crosswords from Down Under, before leaving us with his answers and explanations for the puzzles scattered throughout the previous chapters of the book.
Is it worth it?
Manley’s Crossword Manual is indeed a classic and a must-have for all genuine crossword lovers. It gives a comprehensive and interesting overview of where crosswords come from and of how to solve crosswords. It is well-written and easy to read, just right for every newcomer to the realm of solving crosswords.
Nonetheless, Manley’s manual also has some pages to offer for the advanced and more versed crossword solvers, setters, and editors of course. His valuable tips for crypting and insights into how he sets puzzles himself will surely get every professional’s blood pumping with excitement about it.
However, I really would have liked for there to be a more elaborate fourth chapter with more details on recent trends and scenes with an opinion piece on what the author believes will be the future of our cherished crosswords. Since, to be honest, it could do with some updating in regard to its form, accessibility and look – I sure will be taking a gander at the online Scrabble and other word games communities to get fruitful ideas. Maybe this chapter will grow with the next edition.
The Bottom Line
Altogether though I really enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to everyone interested in solving crosswords, newcomers and professionals alike. It remains a classic and must-have for both of them.
Couldn’t solve the clue? Practice with more crosswords from the book and with the help of our crossword solver and you will improve soon. Good luck and lots of fun!