Friday, June 19, 2009
I have some recommendations for you all, based Entirely on the free @#$! people send me out of
a desperate desire for free publicity the goodness of their hearts. You should know, however, that some of the free stuff I get is crap, and thus you will never hear about it. Thus sending me gifts is win-win. I like it, I talk about it; I don't like it, it's as if it never happened...
I'll start with the puzzle-related stuff:
1. Puzzle Masterpieces: Elegant Challenges for Crossword Lovers, by Patrick Berry
This is the prettiest puzzle book anyone has ever produced. So pretty you won't want to write in it. The cover is kind of froofy-Victorian, but endpapers are Fabulous. Oh, and there are puzzles, printed not only in black and ... whatever color the paper is (creme?), but also two tones of reddish brown. Unusual. Or, as the title says, "Elegant." Whichever. None of the puzzles are straight crosswords, and yet I still enjoy doing them — that's a very high bar, and says a lot for the caliber of puzzle constructor you're dealing with in Patrick Berry. Almost all puzzles have crazily-shaped grids and also require two and three levels of thinking to solve. An incredibly varied and eye-popping array of puzzles. Get this book.
2. Double-Doku, by Patrick Blindauer
I hate Sudoku. It is a scourge upon the earth. Double-Doku involves letters and words and definitions and words in a way that nearly completely alleviates the agony of being mercilessly pummeled by the soulless dictates of the 9x9 grid. Seriously, if you enjoy sudoku and crosswords, you will like this book. You will like anything Patrick does, frankly, if you have your wits about you and are at all sentient.
From the not-yet-released-and-thus-impossible-to-get-for-Dad- this-Father's Day pile, we have...
3. From Square One: A Meditation, with Digressions, on Crosswords, by Dean Olsher
This comes out from Scribner on Tuesday, I believe. I read my advanced copy in one sitting (partly because I'm writing my own book about xwords and needed to know if this was going to put me out of business, and partly because it's really captivating). He's not kidding about the "digressions" part. Lots and lots of amusing and thoughtful little anecdotes about himself, New York, and puzzle people of all stripes. Commissions his own poll to find out exactly how many Americans really solve crosswords (answer = higher than he thought). Two marquee interviews with Richard Maltby and Stephen Sondheim. A pretty ruthless account of his time spent on a Crossword Cruise. Lots of rhapsodizing about cryptics. All in all, very engaging stuff. [update: I'm told that despite its stated release date, it is, in fact, on shelves, at least in some places...]
4. Diagramless Crosswords, by Brendan Emmett Quigley
For those of you looking for a new challenge in your puzzle-solving life, try these out. All the wit and artistry of a BEQ puzzle, but ... no black squares. Find them for yourself! A lovely long introduction to this book explains the tricks to approaching the dauntingly empty diagramless grids. This one's not out 'til October, but pre-order now, or, you know, just send BEQ money because he deserves it. PS the cover is super-hot. It involves a leggy housekeeper and a vacuum.
And finally, from the Not-related-to-puzzles-at-all Department...
5. Dad's Awesome Grilling Book, by Bob Sloan
Info about this book was sent to me by one of my readers. At least I assume it was one of my readers. Either that, or it was spam. Still, on the off chance it was one of my readers, and because it seems appropriate for Father's Day, I'm going to recommend it. Check it out. It's a very coolly-designed book. And I don't even eat meat. Who says I'm not lookin' out for all y'all?
6. Taza Chocolate, Somerville, MA
OMG so good. And the ingredients list — it's like a Whole Foods shopper's wet dream. Basic ingredients, all organic, all fairly traded. Chocolate is stone-ground, making it way different in texture and taste than your high-end Belgian chocolates (which I have also been known to enjoy). Tasty as all git out, and highly eatable (which is to say, easy to break apart, chew, etc, and Not At All waxy). Also, Beautifully packaged. Here are two wheels of chocolate I received in the mail yesterday:
As my wife says, "like little soaps" (but no soapy aftertaste ... or soapy taste at all). I think the first sentence of my wife's review says it all: "Unlike the Rapunzel chocolate we tried last night, this doesn't smell like rotten fruit." Unless you live in the Boston area, you aren't likely to be able to get this before Father's Day. But you should get it.
Have a lovely weekend.