The Crossword Century: 100 Years of Witty Wordplay, Ingenious Puzzles, and Linguistic Mischief for Gotham

3 July 2014

Amusing and informative
— Pultizer-winner Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

such a fun read
— Dinesh Ramde, Washington Times

the_crossword_century_alan_connorMy book about the fun of crosswords, The Crossword Century: 100 Years of Witty Wordplay, Ingenious Puzzles, and Linguistic Mischief, has been published by Gotham.

A couple of responses…

“Alan Connor’s Crossword Century is a fun and fascinating tale of language, commerce, culture and play. Before reading this book, I didn’t have a clue about the crossword’s checkered past. Now I can see its extraordinary future, too.”

— John Pollack, author of The Pun Also Rises and Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation and Sell Your Greatest Ideas

“If you love language and history and marvel at the genius of puzzles, codes, and game design, Alan Connor’s deep dive into the crossword will keep you smiling and eagerly turning pages. Connor playfully explores the history of the beloved, gamified fever dream of sentences, definitions, letters, and words that is the modern crossword and reveals the dance that strange invention has enjoyed with its caretakers across history. If you adore words and wordplay, if you see language as an endless mutating jungle of puzzles and experimentation, you need this book in your life.”

— David McRaney, author of You Are Not so Smart and You Are Now Less Dumb

…some press…

…and the reviews of the British edition as a word cloud:

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It is available at your local bookshop, or at IndieBound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Books-A-Million, The Book Depository, iTunes, and so on.

And… it contains a puzzle by Brendan Emmett Quigley.

Listen: Think, from KERA

Charlie Brooker’s 2014 Wipe | BBC2

22 December 2014

I am a proud member of Team 2014 Wipe, the fruit of whose toil will be on BBC Two on 30 December:

Update 29 Jan 2015: The new series of Weekly Wipe begins tonight:

Board Games | The Guardian

13 December 2014
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A short piece for the Guardian about “the best board games you’ve never heard of“:

Cosmic Encounter: Ignore the name. And the scifi-flavoured box. This is a strategy game, but the brilliance is that each player can utterly break the rules in a different way. One might be permitted to play out of turn; another might be allowed to declare themselves the winner if they go out first. What you do, and who you trust, is determined far more by this rule-breaking than by the straightforward mechanics underneath. The possible combinations of these disruptive powers mean that each time you play, it’s a thoroughly new experience – and each time, it’s the greatest board game you’ve ever played.

Why Nick Drake’s is music of comfort, not of despair | BBC News

25 November 2014

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On the 40th anniversary of Nick Drake‘s death, a short piece for the BBC News Magazine:

His first album, the pastoral Five Leaves Left, correspondingly begins with the lines: ‘Time has told me you’re a rare, rare find / A troubled cure for a troubled mind’.

The second, Bryter Layter, is purposefully upbeat and the last, Pink Moon, ends: ‘So look, see the sights, the endless summer nights / And go play the game that you learned from the morning’. This is music of comfort, not of despair; rebirth, not death.

Here’s the documentary mentioned, A Skin Too Few:

And there’s a John Peel version of my favourite track, Cello Song, at the Guardian.

The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows for the BBC

9 October 2014

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A piece for the BBC about how Brian Wilson and Tony Asher composed God Only Knows.

These conversations were fractured. Wilson, who had been denied a childhood, would break off to show Asher his mechanical parrots or to watch episodes of Flipper, an “aquatic Lassie” series about a dolphin which invariably reduced him to tears.

In time, Wilson played Asher the pieces of music he had in mind for an album called Pet Sounds and Asher essayed some lyrics to fit the themes Wilson had in mind. When they got to God Only Knows, things didn’t start well. Wilson felt that “I may not always love you” was absolutely the wrong way to kick off a love song. Too negative, he insisted.

Indebted to Nick Kent’s The Dark Stuff, Kingsley Abbott’s Pet Sounds: The Greatest Album of the Twentieth Century, Timothy White’s The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys and the Southern Californian Experience and Brian Wilson’s Wouldn’t it be Nice: My Own Story (with Todd Gold (and Eugene E Landy)).

How to Win at Quizzes, and Solve Cryptic Crosswords, for the Guardian

13 September 2014

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Two pieces in today’s Do Something supplement: How to win quizzes – from pub contests to Mastermind and How to solve a cryptic crossword.

Also, I will be signing Two Girls, One on Each Knee (7) at the reception for the keynote of the Chiswick Book Festival this evening.

  • 6.00pm, Sat 13 Sept: Festival Drinks Reception
  • St Michael & All Angels Parish Hall, Bath Road, London W4 1TT
  • Tickets

Only Connect — Now on BBC Two

28 August 2014
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Series ten of Only Connect, with me in the question-editor chair, begins on BBC Two on Mon 1 September 2014 at 20:30.