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

3.05  ·  Rating details ·  203 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Sixty-four million people do it at least once a week. 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 t ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published June 13th 2006 by Three Rivers Press (first published January 1st 2005)
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Rating details
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Kelly H. (Maybedog)
Apr 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: what-nonfiction

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 want to rate this 2.5 stars.

Do you have a friend who says things like, "Yes, I may have gotten 800 on the math SAT but I only got an embarrassing 690 verbal?" If so, then you might be able to tolerate Romano's prose. If not, be forewarned: unless you can complete the Saturday New York Times puzzle in 10 minutes, you will be put in your place over
Oct 20, 2007 rated it liked it
If you're one of those people whose eagerness to get to the New York Times crossword puzzle every day sometimes worries you a little, you'll want to have a look at this book, which profiles some of the more puzzle-obsessed among us. The book isn't without its problems: for example, if you're annoyed by an intrusive narrative voice, you'll want to steel yourself for Romano's -- he's quite taken with himself, and rarely lets five pages go by without his reminding you that he's a polymath who speak ...more
Jan 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
I am trying really hard to like this book. The writing is very stilted and sometimes downright convoluted, making it less enjoyable than I thought it would be. And, I'm not sure if it's supposed to be reportage or memoir. It should be way more interesting than it is, and yet I keep going with it.

How's that for faint praise?

I give up....Life is too short to waste on crappy books.
Oct 31, 2011 rated it did not like it
Anyone know a 6 letter word for a smug, mildly chauvinistic, painfully self-aware writer? Oh, yeah....ROMANO. I heart crosswords and loved the movie Word Play. Many of the puzzle people in the movie are clever and likeable. Can't say the same for this author.
Nov 14, 2007 rated it liked it
This book certainly made me crossword-mad again; I downloaded a crossword app to my (Android) phone - Shortyz, I believe it was? And spent quite a bit of time playing in between reading sections of Crossworld. However, the writing itself kind of bothered me - Mr. Romano just kept sounding way too self-congratulatory and self-involved; I got the impression he was trying to be self-deprecating, but he came up short and just sounded like rather too much of a braggart, to me. His writing felt preten ...more
Joy Messinger
As a daily NYT crossword-er and weekly NPR Sunday Puzzle listener, I picked up this book to learn about the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. After finishing, I realize I probably could've just read parts of chapters five and seven to get what I'd hoped for. The writer seemed to fashion himself a cruciverbalist Hunter S Thompson in relaying his first day of ACPT experiences through an Ativan-induced haze. His tone was arrogant, entitled, condescending, and a strong reminder of why I usually ...more
Apr 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult, non-fiction
For the crossword-obsessed individual, Marc Romano shares his journey into the world of crosswords. He begins with a history of crosswords and then details his personal journey to competing at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Scattered throughout are some of his theories about how to become a pro crossword solver and the moral superiority of those who engage in crosswords.

There were a few interesting things about this book. I learned a bit about how crosswords are created, the terminolo
Brian Ayres
Apr 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
What is it with authors writing about their neurosis with games and puzzles? First came the Scrabble obsession in the book World Freak. Now Marc Romano bows down to the Gods of crossword puzzles in his quest to finish high at the American Crossword Puzzle tournament.

It wasn't that I didn't enjoy the book. As a crossword puzzle doer, I can appreciate 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 Crosswo
Susan B.
Feb 10, 2008 rated it liked it
How much of a nerd am I? Not only do I do the NY Times crossword everyday, now I've also read an entire book about crossword culture. This book provides some interesting details about the emergence of crosswords in the early part of the 20th century, the way that their structure and norms vary nationally, and the style of various editors of the NY Times puzzle over time (including Will Shortz's decisions to make the puzzle steadily more difficult through the week and to include pop culture and s ...more
Dec 26, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: corssword fanatics
One thing really stood out early on in this book: author Marc Romano loves himself almost as much as he loves crossword puzzles. He gives a good history of crossword puzzles, of their entry into newspapers, of the differences between American and British styles. After several mentions though, this becomes an annoying comparison.

Romano does bring the readers along into the world of top crossword puzzlers, but only as far as he is interested in going. It seems like is someone is going to write a
Dec 01, 2007 rated it liked it
I love crosswords, and I'd venture to say that anyone who picks up a book like this would have to be a cruciverbalist (to use Romano's word) as well. That said, it's unclear why the author spent so much of this book addressing his words to those who have never attempted a puzzle -- in turns justifying his love for them and trying to explain how to complete one.

The parts of this book that really shone for me were when Romano lost his supercilious attitude (does he need to remind us AGAIN that Wi
Mar 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, gaming
The author, a Yale graduate, writer and translator, investigates America’s love for crosswords and enters himself into the Crossword Championships at Stamford. An interesting piece, perhaps a bit more superficial than it promises to be. The scenes of drama at Stamford are the heart of the book. The interviews with such cruciverbalist luminaries as Will Shortz, Brendan Emmett Quigley, and Stanley Newman (the fastest solver around, once beating a constructor at his own puzzle!) also give the book ...more
Aug 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: passionate puzzlers
Like pretty much every other review here, I'll say that parts of the book were interesting and enjoyable but the author's choice of tone could be quite irritating. For someone who repeatedly tells us how smart he is, it seems like an obviously dumb move to take a prescription anti-anxiety drug you haven't been prescribed and have never tried before the night before your big competition begins. It also seems beyond petty to bring up Will Shortz's small grammar mistakes not once, but twice, when S ...more
Dec 23, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I bought this book hoping that it would be the WORD FREAK of the crossword community. It's not. To be fair, the author states right off that the book is really about him, and boy is it ever. The author went to Yale. We know because he mentions it. A lot. The author is reading Pynchon. We know because he mentions it. A lot. The author does crossword puzzles better than 90% of people. We know get the picture. Ugh.

The good news is that there is still room for a well-written book abou
Jun 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: word-nerd
A look at the history and culture of crosswords with emphasis on the construction and the competition. I had seen the documentary about the Stamford competition, and wondered what sort of take the book would have. It was very informative. I enjoyed the discussion about the history of crosswords and what separates American, British, and Russian crosswords. The tone was light and sometimes funny which made it a good read, though I'm not a competitive cruciverbalist, nor will I ever be. I am one of ...more
Aug 31, 2012 rated it liked it
A non-fiction book about the history and current craze of crossword puzzles. Author Morano obviously idolizes Will Shortz and has great things to say about him. I enjoyed the descriptions of Will, his house, and the inner working of the crossword competitions in Stamford, CT. I found Morano to be a pompous, self-absorbed, unlikeable guy - he continuously sprinkles in comments about how bright he is while throwing in obscure words to impress the reader. The parts about the crossword puzzles and c ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Some critics saw Romano, who frequently injects himself into his narrative, as irritating and biased. ("I am hopelessly addicted to The New York Times crossword puzzle," he writes, thereby never distancing himself from his subject.) Small factual mistakes will annoy attentive readers; after all, crossword puzzles are about the details. Romano's writing style also irked some critics, who viewed it as clunky and at times elliptical. Yet despite Romano's focus and style problems, Crossworld

Jul 26, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006
i picked this up because it was on the shelf next to the excellent word freak, and i enjoyed the crossword documentary, wordplay, although not as much as the scrabble one. unfortunately, i didn't really like this book. i found the author's tone and frequent irrelevant side notes about things like the women he found attractive kind of annoying.
Oct 06, 2008 rated it liked it
What I learned is that I don't like being condescended to because I'm not very skilled at the NYT crossword. The author constantly ridicules those people who do Monday/Tuesday (easier) puzzles... the information was interesting, but this book was only so-so for me, not Good and especially not Great.
Apr 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book dealt mainly with crossword puzzle construction, the annual American Crossword Tournament in Stamford, CT, the NY Times Crossword Puzzle, and puzzle editor Will Shortz. Much as I enjoyed this book and much as I love doing crossword puzzles, I don't think I'd ever want to compete. Too much pressure. I think it would take all the fun out of it.
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author's writing style may suit itself to reporting, but not to writing a full-length book. Very repetitive, self-congratulatory, and ultimately without greater merit. Sorry Marc, but you would have done better to just go ahead and include some photocopied crosswords to at least give entertainment value.
So far, this isn't as good as Cruciverbalism, but still interesting.

I mean, I'm a NERD!

Update: On the way to bowling with friends tonight, I started reading about the tournament. By the time I got to the bowling alley and found out that the scoring screens also show the speed of your bowling ball, I had an urge to be a little competitive. I think this is funny.
Jul 26, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006
i picked this up because it was on the shelf next to the excellent word freak, and i enjoyed the crossword documentary, wordplay, although not as much as the scrabble one. unfortunately, i didn't really like this book. i found the author's tone and frequent irrelevant side notes about things like the women he found attractive kind of annoying.
Emily Von pfahl
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
I really enjoy crossword puzzles, and so I was really interested in reading this book. However, I found it to be disappointing and didn't manage to finish it, although I came close. The author tended to be a bit whiny and there was a little too much focus on his love life and attractions to women than on the actual subject of his book.
Jul 31, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A fascinating look into the obsessive lives of crossword editors, lovers, and professional puzzle solvers that gets completely hijacked by the author's relentless need to illustrate to the reader his own innate hipness. We get it Mr. Romano... Gravity's Rainbow is your favorite book. You mention it twice. We know you're smart. Now stand aside and let your subject speak for itself.
Lee Berger
Feb 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Good read, but I don't like reading books where I feel the author is sneering at me and acts as through everybody reading is as smart as he is (though he knows they aren't). Regardless, a fascinating look into the history of crosswords and how the people who truly are addicted relate to them.
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, own
This description of the world of competitive crossword puzzle solving was a bit disappointing after Scrabble was given such excellent coverage in Stefan Fatsis's Word Freak. It was interesting, but it could have been so much more.
AmberBug **
Nov 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
A crossword history is a sure thing right? I liked the book, didn't love it due to the snobbishness of the Author. I actually really disliked this guy enough to want to stop reading. I'm glad I didn't because the non-personal bits of this book are quite good. A good read for any crossword lover!
Dec 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
What can I say? I love doing crosswords. I also love to read. So, what could be better than reading about crosswords? I found this book not only a lot of fun but quite enlightening ... lots of behind the scenes dish and lingo clarification.
Jun 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: nerd-stuff
very much like a lot of other journalists turned non-fiction writers on the topic of leisure activities (turned competitive). interesting.
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