If you've seen the 2006 movie Wordplay, you probably are a cruciverbalist. And if so, Stanley Newman's Cruciverbalism is your book.
The documentary film centered on an annual crossword puzzle tournament and its creators and solvers. One of them - both solver and constructor - was Mr. Newman, the syndicated crossword editor for Newsday and co-author (with Daniel Stark) of The Million Word Crossword Dictionary.
Few, if any, are more fascinated with words or more fanatic about crosswords than Mr. Newman. With him, it appears to be an addiction, though a positive one.
In this short book, kind of a blog in print, he confesses to the devotion with no thought of kicking the habit. He goes back to his childhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., to find the roots of his fascination and explains how he reached the competitive stage - and succeeded. He holds the record for the fastest completion of a New York Times daily crossword (2 minutes 14 seconds) and keeps trying to improve.
Mr. Newman spends much time here on the Times puzzles, daily and Sunday, and on their editors, including Eugene Maleska (thumbs down) and the current, Will Shortz (the savant savior). But there's more for puzzlers, including a chapter on Basic Rules and 100 Essential Words.
If you really want more than just a fun way to pass travel time and are thinking of getting involved in competition, he has some helpful hints.
Incidentally, you won't find "cruciverbalism" in most standard dictionaries, but there is such a word. It means "crosswordism" - especially among aficionados.
BY THE BOOK
TITLE: Cruciverbalism: A Crossword Fanatic's Guide to Life in the Grid
AUTHOR: Stanley Newman (with Mark Lasswell)
THE BASICS: Collins; 149 pages; $14.95
MR. NEWMAN'S WEB SITE: www.StanXwords.com
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