The only thing you need to consider when picking up a crossword puzzle volume
is the difficulty. If you're an experienced puzzle solver, then you'll know what to look for. If not, listen closely.
NY Times crossword puzzles scale in difficulty as each day passes. The higher the day of the week, the more difficult the puzzle will be. However, this stops on Sunday, as Sunday puzzles tend to be as easy as Tuesday puzzles. However, Saturday puzzles are the ones you really need to watch out for, as they’re the hardest.
The easiest, by far, are Monday and Tuesday puzzles. A few of our entries are designated Monday and Tuesday collections. These puzzles don't test all your most comprehensive mental faculties, but are more of an easy mental exercise, a way to wake your brain before you go to work. These are great if you're looking to start out and work your way up. In fact, one of our volumes has a selection of crosswords that scale in difficulty, and are ordered by day.
Friday and Saturday puzzles are another matter. They’re set to test you and give you a real challenge, so don't pick it up thinking you're going to nail one after another no problem – these are meant for experienced solvers and professionals. Also, the reason they're placed in the hind days of the week is that's when people have the most time (all weekend if needed) to mull over them.
And finally, there are the Sunday puzzles. Sunday puzzles are about as hard as Tuesday puzzles, making them quite easy – a relaxing way to wind down the weekend before work beckons again on Monday morning.
However you like to spend your time when travelling
or while away a Sunday
afternoon, a crossword puzzle collection is a solid option – so happy deducing!
Volumes of crossword puzzles aren’t very expensive. You can pick them up for 10 to 30 dollars. The price largely depends on the number of crosswords in the volume, the quality of the paper they’re printed on, and the stylistic approach taken in their production. Cheap crossword puzzles will probably be okay for a quick challenge, but expect regurgitated clues, simplistic puzzle design, and a general lack of panache.
Although our reviews are focused on NY Times crossword puzzle collections, there are certain aspects of these anthologies you’ll want to look at when deciding which to buy, and most of these can apply to any collection of puzzles:
- Difficulty / Day – A key element of crossword puzzles. Do you want easy, intermediate, or hard crosswords, and are you a fan of quiz, anagram, or cryptic clues?
- Number of Puzzles – A straightforward question of how long you want the book to last you and whether you’re a completionist!
- Style – Minor for some but not for others – do you like the way the book is presented? Does the cover reflect your personality?
- Size of Print – If you have trouble with your eyesight, you’ll want a book printed in a larger font.
- Book Format – Is the volume A4 size, portable (pocket size), or in between, and which of those suits you the best? Is it glued or spiral-bound, and is that an issue for you?
Let’s look at these features in more detail.
Construction and Design
It’s always worth considering how many crosswords you want in a single volume. A smallish collection will have 50 puzzles, whereas larger collections reach into the hundreds. Whilst more puzzles may seem like the way to go, some of us like to collect finished books to get that sense of accomplishment. If the book’s got 640 crosswords in it, that’s a long-distance target!
Don’t discount the importance of style to your puzzle book. Some like a more serious, somber tone to suit the idea they’re doing something difficult and in-depth, while others want the colorful, friendly look of a fun distraction. If you’re going to be embarrassed to be seen with it, then it’s probably not the one for you.
Also, consider the importance of format. Larger, letter-size books are great for sitting at your desk or the table for some evening or weekend puzzling, but they’ll be unwieldy if you try to use them on the train. Pocket-size puzzle books are brilliant for dipping into when you’re out and about but their small size is only tolerable when you need the benefit of portability.
Equally, the binding and presentation style can make a difference. Spiral-bound books can be opened out without damaging them, allowing the book to rest flat on a surface, while glued spines are less intrusive. Some collections are arranged chronologically, even in calendar format, while others will be ordered by theme. These may not be huge factors, but they’re worth bearing in mind.
Performance and Ease of Use
Difficulty is something worth getting right when you’re choosing a crossword collection, and there’s more to it than just finding puzzles at your level. If you’re after a bit of fun to pass the time and don’t want to be challenged, look for something slightly below your capability. If you want to develop your sleuthing skills, opt for something challenging to really stretch yourself. You want to have some challenge, but enjoy yourself at the same time!
Consider the accessibility features of your chosen book. The format will play a part in this, but font size can be a big issue for people with eyesight difficulties. If you need a book with larger lettering so you can use it without eyestrain, make sure the one you’re looking to buy provides this. Many puzzle books identify themselves as using large print, so keep an eye out (pardon the pun) for something along those lines.
As a final note, there’s not much care required with a crossword book – look after it, and it’ll last a long time!
Note that most of the volumes here have been compiled by Will Shortz. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re a blatant copy of one another – Will Shortz is a brilliant enigamtologist, delivering ever newer crossword puzzles. With him as NY Times' editor in charge of crosswords, you can expect something new every day, so no two puzzles are the same.
From the NY Times’ greatest editor, Will Shortz, comes volume five of the famed Smart Sunday Crosswords. Will Shortz is the only man alive to have a degree in enigmatology, and he certainly deserves it. Creating his first puzzle when he was only eight, Will showed a great inclination toward crossword puzzles, and, once he set out on the road to making them, he never looked back.
Volume 5 of Smart Sunday crosswords is a spiral-bound tome containing 64 pages. On those 64 pages, you’ll find puzzles of varying degrees of difficulty. The book contains 50 crossword puzzles, as is the norm with this series. The Smart Sunday series has been running for over 40 years, and has challenged and improved many a mind since then.
The only downside is that the font is small, so it can be a little difficult for the eye. Some of the harder puzzles are really hard and will test you to be sure, so this collection should last you a while.
All in all, if you want to challenge yourself on Sunday (you masochist!), then you should definitely pick up a volume of Smart Sunday Crossword Puzzles.
Second up, we've got Beginner's Luck Easy Crosswords. Again, the editor is Will Shortz. Will Shortz was born in 1952 on an Arabian horse Farm in Crawfordsville in Indiana. Like we said, he showed an affinity for the enigmatic from a young age, and, when he was thirteen, he wrote to Dmitri Borgmann, asking his advice on how he should proceed with his career.
As for Beginner’s Luck Easy Crosswords, it’s a paperback book containing easy, beginner level puzzles. The puzzles are perfect for somebody who enjoys crosswords, but is not a die-hard fan looking to push his boundaries. They’re made to be entertaining as much as they are challenging.
The book contains 96 pages over which are spread 75 fun crossword puzzles, filled with fresh vocabulary and pop references, making them enjoyable for even the youngest of readers.
All in all, if you’re looking to start your crossword career, Beginner’s Luck Crosswords is the perfect place to start.
Naturally, the culprit behind this book is, again, Will Shortz. After asking Dmitri Borgmann for advice, Will's resolve to keep pursuing the crossword puzzle career landed him at Indiana University. He graduated in 1974 and became the only person to bear a degree in enigmatolog[G8]y, through selecting his majors carefully. However, this is not his only degree, as he obtained a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1977, but didn’t take his bar exam to become a fully-fledged lawyer.[G9][G10]
Omnibus series of puzzles is another long-standing series that’s spawned a lot of books and even more puzzles. Omnibus series is known for its comprehensive books, each containing 200 crosswords you can solve. The book contains mostly Monday and Tuesday puzzles, which are pretty easy and entertaining.
Again, this is a good book for those who are just starting out their crossword-solving careers. On the same note, people looking for a challenge won’t find it here, aside from the sheer number of puzzles presented.
In the end, if you want a book of crosswords that will keep you occupied for some time, you should definitely check out this tome. Lots of entertaining puzzles, and lots of fun.
Our penultimate product is an even more comprehensive product than the Omnibus. This time, you get to solve day-to-day crosswords, all created by Will Shortz. Continuing his story, Shortz’s first step in his career was the Penny Press Magazines, after which he moved to Games magazine, and stayed there for 15 years. In 1993, he went to the NY Times and has been their crossword editor ever since.
As for the Day-to-Day Calendar 2017, it’s one of the best volumes of crosswords on the market. The book contains all the best crosswords from this and last year, arranged according to day and, thus, difficulty. This gives the reader a great gradient of skill, as they progress through the days and puzzles.
On the downside, the fact the puzzles are of different difficulty makes relatively half the book worthless to players of all skill levels. If you’re a beginner, you won’t be able to solve more difficult puzzles. If you’re an advanced reader, you will probably find little worth in Monday and Tuesday crosswords.
In the end, it’s one of the best calendars and crossword volumes in general, especially because of the increasing difficulty of the puzzles.
At last, we reach the final product for today, the Early Edition Crosswords. Again, the editor behind these puzzles is the esteemed Will Shortz, who is also the founder of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament that came to be in 1978. He also founded the World Puzzle Championship and became the director of the U.S. Puzzle Team in 1992. He even provided the Riddler’s puzzles in Batman Forever[G12]
As for Early Edition Crosswords, you're looking at a beginner-level volume with 96 pages and 75 puzzles. The book features a paperback cover and is the perfect thing for lazy Saturdays and Sundays. It's also a good book for someone looking to start out with crosswords, as all the puzzles in the book are easy and fun to solve.
Of course, if you’re a pro, then you won’t find this volume challenging. The book is good entertainment, but hardly any challenge for a seasoned crossword-solver, so you will have to look for something else. The book’s a good present to give to someone interested in crossword puzzles.
All in all, a great addition to your collection of crossword puzzle books, Early Edition Crosswords are light and entertaining, and tons of fun for everyone to solve.
And that’s all for us folks, the top five volumes of crossword puzzles of NY Times, right there. There are puzzles for everyone here, both the beginners and experienced solvers. Just remember to pick a volume according to your own skill level, and you’ll be just fine.