Posts Tagged ‘language’

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:

two_girls_connor_reviews

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

A Talk at the York Festival of Ideas

16 June 2014
140619york_bicycle

I’m giving a talk about crosswords at the York Festival of Ideas:

Update 20 June: Thank you to everyone at the festival and the university. The slides are here:

Two Girls, One on Each Knee: The Puzzling, Playful World of the Crossword — a Penguin Paperback

5 June 2014

My book about crosswords, Two Girls, One on Each Knee, is out today as a paperback.

Two Girls One on Each Knee

It costs no more than £8.99, and I have removed an error, one concerning the PG Wodehouse story with the strawberries. It now begins with some commendations:

‘Connor’s wry, good-natured tone and his commitment to the serious business of play make him the perfect guide to a great pastime’ John Gallagher, Telegraph

‘Alan Connor’s charming, fascinating history of how the crossword went from a space filler in the back section of an American newspaper to one of the world’s most ubiquitous and addictive habits – he estimates that in Britain some 14.7m people do a crossword at least once a week – is the guide you have been waiting for. In a single, gloriously decipherable chapter he lays out with perfect clarity the entire range of rules and devices through which cryptic clues work their magic’ Robert Collins, Sunday Times

‘Connor’s scholarly knowledge doesn’t stop him extolling the vocabulary of The Simpsons. The solution to the title, by the way, is ‘patella’.’ Ben Felsenburg, Metro

No crossword addict, be they a compiler or a solver, can ignore itAlan Taylor, Herald

‘Connor’s book is cleverly constructed around an initial cryptic crossword in which each clue provides the title of a chapter. And each chapter can be read independently of the others. There is something to entertain even the most infrequent dabbler, from a primer on how to actually do a cryptic crossword to the puzzle’s famous fans – the Queen, Sepp Blatter and Frank Sinatra among them – and its connections with the trains (one line in the US used to carry dictionaries)’ Carl Wilkinson, Financial Times

‘The brilliant new book on crosswords . . .  Delivers fun galore whether you’re a doer or a duffer . . . Two Girls, One on Each Knee consists of a series of short, sparky chapters on topics as various as ‘Crosswords and detective fiction’, ‘Can machines do crosswords?’ and ‘The many ways of being rude in a crossword’. . . And this is also the guiding principle of his book — it favours the byway over the highway, and can never say no to a red herring’ Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

‘This book shows you, among other things, how speaking aloud unpromising phrases such as ‘Tooting Carmen’ and ‘Servants Tease’ can yield obvious answers, and how sociable the crossword is. Of course, it can be tackled alone, and in Brief Encounter, it represents the antithesis of the longed-for romance, but it’s also perhaps fun to tackle with two or more heads rather than one’ Michael Caines, The Times Literary Supplement

‘Connor writes with great flair . . . it is nice to dip in and out of his entertaining essays’ Don Manley, Church Times

‘It is the relationship between setter and solver, between words and fun which provides the narrative thrust for Two Girls, One on Each Knee … ‘The experience of reading this book’, Connor says in the preamble, ‘should be equivalent to that of solving a cryptic puzzle…’ In fact it is rather better; it does not demand as much of the reader as a good puzzle does of the solver, but it delivers far more of its own accord. It is witty, charming, encyclopaedic and highly readable – and it can be read in any order. Take a chapter or a paragraph, a puzzle or a clue. In each the reader will find something to intrigue and delightSandy Balfour, Spectator

‘A wonderful little book that looks at the fascinating, often baffling world of the cryptic crossword. What connects Bletchley Park and the Daily Telegraph? And why should you always start in the bottom right-hand corner? Most of all, it’s a celebration of languageJon Stock, Daily Telegraph

Delightful . . .
Verdict: Top rating for odd number of celebrities (4,5)’ Brandon Robshaw, Independent on Sunday

A joyous paean to the history of puzzlement and an essential guidePD Smith, The Guardian

Delightful celebration of crosswords’ The Observer

‘A glorious guide that explains the history and universal appeal of the crossword’ Sunday Times, 100 Best Books for the Beach

You can buy it from your local bookshop, or from Penguin, Waterstones, Amazon, on Kindle, via Google etc…

Two Girls, One on Each Knee (7): The Puzzling, Playful World of the Crossword

7 November 2013

My book to mark the centenary of the crossword is published today by Penguin. Here it is…

2girls_kew_quotes03

…in Kew Bookshop.

Reviews, etc: Sunday Times; Mail on Sunday; Spectator; Telegraph; Scotsman; Financial Times; Metro; Times; Herald; Globe & Mail.

Hear me: on The Verb and on Weekend.

From the blurb:

• How have crosswords helped international relations, caused a strike by welders, become embroiled with espionage and even caused a moral panic?

• What have Frank Sinatra, P. G. Wodehouse and Stephen Sondheim got to do with the humble grid?
 
• What connects Bletchley Park and the Daily Telegraph?
 
Two Girls One On Each Knee• Which famous fan starts each day with the Telegraph crossword and kippers?

On 21 December 2013, the crossword puzzle will be 100 years old. In the century since its birth, it has evolved into the world’s most popular intellectual pastime. In Two Girls, One on Each Knee, Alan Connor celebrates the wit, ingenuity and frustration of this addictive sport and how it has grown.
 
The story of the crossword takes us from the beaches of D-Day to the banks of the river Neva, via Fleet Street and the Old Bailey. It involves the most fiendish setters, such as Torquemada and Ximenes; famous fans (both real and imaginary) from P. G. Wodehouse to Frank Sinatra, Inspector Morse to Reggie Perrin. You’ll discover how crosswords have featured in films such as Brief Encounter and songs by Madness and Ian Dury; how they intersect with espionage, jokes, class and morality; and how they reflect back how our language and behaviour has changed over the last century. You’ll also discover how listening to white noise can help you do a crossword, why you should start in the bottom right-hand corner, and why cryptic crosswords are actually easier than quick (honestly).
  
This is a book about language and how it speaks to itself, twisting and transforming through cryptic clues before resolving itself, with a bit of luck, into an answer. Where else would you find words such as Intussuscept, Obtemperate, Zibet and Raisiny?

You can buy it from your local bookshop, or from Penguin, Waterstones, Amazon, on Kindle, via Google etc…

Twittiquette – or Twemes among Tweeple who Tweetup for Twirting and/or Twisticuffs

5 September 2011

The

I’ve written a piece for the BBC about words beginning with “tw-”, and why people enjoy coining them on Twitter.

“Flick through a dictionary and you’ll notice something about the English language’s ‘tw’ words. We have a few related to ‘two’: twin, twelfth, twilight and so on. And there’s a tiny minority of what you might call fairly sensible words: tweezers, twig and of course tweed.

“The rest, though, tend to be of a type that’s more playful or, depending on taste, more grating. ‘Tw-’ words can be about inanity or ignorance: twit, twerp, twonk or twaddle. They can suggest lightness, smallness or delicacy: tweak, twiddle or twinkle. Or they can flag up that you’re being self-consciously old-fashioned: ’twas and ’twere; ‘twixt and ‘tween. All very twee.”

Sadly there was no room for the etymology of “twonk” – coined/popularised, according to the Telegraph, by John Sullivan to give Del Boy a non-sweary swear word; nor for gay slang “twink” (“with a slender build, little or no body hair, and no facial hair”).

Also, now that we know that “twilight” relates to “two”, why not let’s enjoy some twilights I’ve seen?

The Guardian Crossword Blog

18 August 2011

Guardian crossword

I’ve started a blog about the fun of doing cryptic crosswords at the Guardian. The first post is now live:

“Others suggest [that] those of us hooked on crosswords might want to justify the time passed by pointing to the large vocabulary we’ve amassed – or, perhaps, to our pleonasm, to our Brobdingnagian prolixity. Well, boo-poo to that. (I admit I enjoyed learning the word ‘pleach’ from last Tuesday’s Times, but it may be many years until I get to use it in a sentence near a hedge.)”

It’ll be a mixture of the week’s best and funniest clues, tips for n00bs and features on awesome stuff like when crosswords feature in programmes like Rubicon and The Hour.