A&B Computing1st February 1989
Published in A&B Computing 6.02
The Times Crosswords Volume 3
You may recall I was very impressed with Volume 1 of this series and I'm pleased to have seen Volume 4 as well as The Times Jubilee Puzzles 1932-87 and The Sun Computer Crosswords Volume 4 (Sun Volumes 1-4 at £10.95/£15.95). Why? Well, partly because I love cryptic crosswords, even when I'm not too good at them, and partly because these are very, very good.
Of course, they're not going to appeal to the shoot-'em-up fan, but for anyone looking for something cerebral (to go with Colossus Chess perhaps), these are ideal.
All volumes have about 60 puzzles, taken from the papers by David Akenfield, son (I believe) of the former Times crossword editor. Each puzzle and clues appears just as it did in the paper but, for computer players, there are option help levels. For example, it will tell you what type of clue it is (anagram, perhaps, or quotation or even concealed solution in-clue) or just give you the first letter.
The help levels can be annoying at times, as they work through the options, but a bit of perseverance pays dividends. At first, I missed being able to pencil in a solution before cross-checking it with other intersecting clues but the game's insistence on right or wrong is, I suppose, the only way it could be coded.
Don't be misled either into supposing that, once you've solved the puzzles, you'll never load them up again. If you're anything like me, you'll find you can return to them again and again - the memory seems quite short-term in this respect. Certainly, I would expect these releases to make ideal presents for bright teenagers, who'd be able to use them over a number of years.
And, even if you're unable to solve crosswords, these releases form an ideal way of understanding the twisted mind of the compiler.
They might seem expensive; after a while, they'll certainly seem essential. I can't wait to see the volumes I've missed!