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Still, reading Crossworld is almost as much fun as working a crossword.

Where do crossword puzzlers go to strut their stuff? To the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament held each spring in Stamford, Connecticut. Now, you can go there, too.

Yale alum and a former New York Review of Books staffer Romano is an inveterate puzzler, addicted to crosswords. He can do the Sunday New York Times crossword in under 20 minutes. As our guide to the world of super crossworders, Romano tours the annual tournament and introduces us to some of the greats, like New York Times puzzle master Will Shortz (also famous for his weekend brainteasers on NPR). Romano pontificates about what makes a good crossworder. A love of words helps, obviously, but so does the type of mind that can do math or music. He includes a dab of history: the impulse to play with words goes back eons, but the first known crossword puzzle, then called a word-cross, didn’t appear until 1913. The slightly tongue-in-cheek concluding chapter, “The Eschatology of Puzzles,” offers an apologia for crosswords. Working puzzles isn’t just a hobby, Romano claims, it’s actually a road to self-improvement. There’s even a bit of gendered analysis thrown in. Women puzzlers get to wear cool shirts with slogans like “Real Women Do It In Pen,” but men tend to dominate the upper echelons of the puzzling world. The spatial relations and hankering for trivia that serve crossword fans well, suggests Romano, represent “a challenge to women, who until very recently haven’t, on the whole, been encouraged to develop, in grade school especially, their faculties in this respect.” That sentence highlights the author’s capacious perspective—and his one failing here. At times, Romano is, simply, a clunky writer, using too, many, commas, and unwieldy, phrases.

Still, reading Crossworld is almost as much fun as working a crossword.

Pub Date: June 14, 2005

ISBN: 0-7679-1757-X

Page Count: 225

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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