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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Katz, Nikki: Zen and the Art of Crossword Puzzles

  Amazon  

3.5 stars

Nikki Katz's Zen and the Art of Crossword Puzzles is part of a series of Zen-related hobby books published by Adams Media (Zen and the Art of Knitting, etc.). In her contribution to the series Katz provides thumbnail histories of both crossword puzzles (first published in 1913) and Zen philosophy (considerably older), and she frequently points to intersections between the two--how Zen principles can be used to make one's crossword experiences more pleasant, how solving crosswords can be experienced as a kind of "working meditation." But Katz's book is hardly all Zen all the time. She discusses a great number of topics in the book's ten chapters: crossword solving rituals and methodologies, hints for solving puzzles, an explanation of British cryptic crosswords (for which I am especially grateful), the health benefits of puzzle solving, the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, crossword-related poetry and paintings and fiction (specifically, the Nero Blanc series of crossword mysteries). Some of what Katz has to say will be too lightweight for hard-core cruciverbalists, but there should be something new in the book for just about everyone.

Katz conducted a great many interviews while working on the book, which she punctuates with personal anecdotes gleaned from her interview subjects. As it happens, I am among those whom Katz contacted: she writes in chapter eight about my habit of blogging the New York Times Sunday crossword every week at the-deblog.com.

Katz ends each chapter with a tip for improving--or at least for altering--one's crossword experiences: in the last chapter, for example, she suggests that readers try solving a crossword online if they haven't before as a means of broadening their crossword experiences; elsewhere she suggests that readers try creating their own crossword-related poetry. An original puzzle follows each chapter, and Katz lists a number of crossword resources in a handy appendix--online crossword sites and dictionaries, anagramming tools, construction software, etc.

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