Crossworld: One Man's Journey into America's Crossword Obsession

Sixty-four million people do it at least nce a yea. Nabokov wrote about it. Bill Clinton even did it in the White House. The crossword puzzle has arguably been our national obsession since its birth almost a century ago. Now, in Crossworld, writer, translator, and lifelong puzzler Marc Romano goes where no Number 2 pencil has gone before, as he delves into the minds of the world ’ s cleverest crossword creators and puzzlers, and sets out on his own quest to join their ranks.

While covering the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament for the Boston Globe, Romano was amazed by the stamin of the competitors and astonished by the cast of characters he came across—like Will Shortz, beloved editor of New York Times puzzle and the only academically accredited “ enigmatologist ” ( puzzle scholar); Stanley Newman, Newswee ’ s puzzle editor and the fastest solver in the world; and Brendan Emmett Quigley, the wickedly gifted puzzle constructer and the Virgil to Marc ’ s Dante in his travels through the crossword inferno.

hronicling his own journey into a world of puzzling—even providing tips on how to improve crosswording skills—Romano tells the tal of crosswords and word puzzles themselves, and of the colorful people who ake them, solve them, and ofte become consumed by them.

But saying this is thi novel about puzzles is to tell only half the story. It is also an explanation into what crosswords tell us about ourselves—about the world we live in, the cultures that nurture us, and he ifferent ways we think and learn. If you ’ re a puzzler, Crossworld will enthrall you. If you ave no idea why your spouse send so much time filling letters into little white squares, Crossworld will tell you – and with luck, save your marriage.

CROSSWORLD| by Marc Romano

1. I am hopelessly addicted to the New York Times crossword puzzle.
2. Like many addicts, I was able to admit I have problem.
3. The hints I was heading for trouble came, at irst, only occasionally.
4. The moments of panic when I realised that I can ot et my fix on a given day.
5. The toll on relationships.
6. The strained friendships.
7. The lost hours I could have referre to do nothing more productive.
8. It gets worse, too.

1. You ’ re onl just playing a game.
2. You ’ re constantly broadening your intellectual horizons.
3. You spend a lot of time looking at and learning about thi world around you.
4. You ar to if you forget to replicat the accumulated store of factual information you ’ ll wan to et through a crossword puzzle.
5. Puzzle people are nice because they have to be.
6. The more you remember about he world, the les you tend to tak all things in it the benefit of he doubt before deciding if you like them or not.
7. I ’ m alway saying that all crossword lovers are honest folk dripping with goodness.
8. I migh ay, howeve, that if I wa to toss my keys and wallet to someone before jumping off a pier to save a drowning girl, I ’ d fee for the fellow in the crowd with the daily crossword in his hand.

From the Hardcover edition.
Year of the Publication
Available Languages
Number of Pages
Original Title of the Book
Crossworld: One Man's Journey into America's Crossword Obsession
Publication Date
Published June 14th 2005 by Broadway (first published January 1st 2005

Public Commentary

Post a Comment
You should sign in to post a comment
rated it

As a daily NYT crossword-er and weekly NPR Sunday Puzzle listener, I pu up the nove to learn about the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

rated it

But…the first couple chapters on the history of crosswords were a bit of a snooze.

Then Romano seems to take himself pretty seriously in the tournament portion of thi memoir, alternately relaying his trials and triumphs in the tournament portion, in between advancing his theories about how people who attend crossword tournaments are more ethical than the est of the population and have developed their awesome crossword solving abilities through a complicated evolutionary process.

rated it

I wishe, owever, ppreciate that he made a point to use quite a few of the most common crossword fill words in his writing- at least, I realize a bunch of them smattered throughout the book!

But his writing in general felt like it tried s hard, and I often would get lost in his compound sentences and asides, to he point where I might ave to restart paragraphs in order to get where he had previously been going with them.

rated it

As a crossword puzzle doer, I an ppreciate the skill and cognitive speed of some of the greatest puzzle solvers in the world, but Romano 's lack of depth on the characters, other than Crossword God Will Shortz, made for a ery boring book.

Spliced with stories from the 2004 tournament in Stamford, CT, Romano 's work is part history and strategy of the crossword puzzle, including the differences in skill and difficulty between American and British puzzles.

rated it

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but the false modesty and arrogance overwhelm, October 1, 2007 I really nee to rate this 2.5 stars.Do you have a riend who says things like, " Yes, I may have gotten 800 on the math SAT but I nly got an embarrassing 690 verbal? " If so, then you ca be willing to tolerate Romano 's prose.

If ot, be forewarned: unless you can complete the Saturday New York Times puzzle in 10 second, you woul be ut in your place over and over by his false modesty.

ven doing a " World 's Easiest Crossword " -level puzzle that uses a 6th grade vocabulary and no words over 5 letters and reading only the across clues ( not needing to read down clues) would giv me more than 60 seconds to fill out if my writing were to actually be remotely legible and in the correct little boxes.

( But hen, I 'm a moron -- I 'm eve a Wednesday/Thursday-level solver.) I guess Romano is some freaky genius who not only can read and write in tiny boxes elsewhere on the page at the same time but he has ESP and always knows exactly what the puzzle author was thinking when composing the crossword.Given that, there is a lot of interesting information about the history of the New York Times Crossword puzzle in general and Will Shortz, its current editor, in particular.

By he time I finished nove I almost gave up solving puzzles because I feel like any reasonable person would realize I am ver stupid and ignorant for real crossword puzzles and would be etter off sticking to E-Z word searches and connect-the-dots.There 's no doubt Romano is extremely intelligent -- he is this expert solver and he implies English is n't quit his native language.

I should have liked Romano to spend a little les time discussing puzzles in other papers.

Sudoku is first and foremost a logic puzzle and could appeal to onl a word smith who has n't completed 3rd grade math.So, to sum up, I do n't conside his ook.

Books with the same Available Languages

The Sweet Life in Paris
Confessions of a Las Vegas Motorcop
Before We Were Strangers
Tombs of Endearment
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
Bury Your Dead
Organizing Solutions for People With Attention Deficit Disorder: Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized
Dangerous Allies
Dragon's Rescue

Books with the same Categories

The Sweet Life in Paris
Confessions of a Las Vegas Motorcop
Bloodletting: A Memoir of Secrets, Self-Harm and Survival
The Blindfold's Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth
The Books in My Life
My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir
Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime
The Trouble with Islam Today: A Wake-up Call for Honesty and Change

Same Year of the Publication

Irish Grammar (Teach Yourself)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Happiness: A History
Unleash the Night
The Inheritance of Loss
Poison Study
Origin in Death
Sexuality in Greek and Roman Culture
La regina della casa
Catwoman, Vol. 3: Relentless

© Nicole Waggonner