From Square One
A Meditation, with Digressions, on Crosswords
By Dean Olsher
(Scribner, Paperback, 9780743287630, 192pp.)
Publication Date: September 10, 2011
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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Public radio personality Dean Olsher explores the fascinating history, lore, and addictive appeal of crosswords in this clever and entertaining narrative—featuring the construction of an actual puzzle by professional puzzle writer Francis Heaney.
Filled with lively, original reporting,From Square One is a captivating and in-depth exploration of the puzzle world. It delves into the psychology—even the meta- physics—of crosswords. Olsher assesses the claim that solving crosswords helps prevent Alzheimer’s and discovers, in fact, that the drive to fill in empty spaces is more likely a mental illness than a cure. Puzzle obsession, while it can be a light- hearted metaphor, can also be indicative of actual addictive behavior.
Skeptical of the widely reported claim that more than fifty million Americans do crossword puzzles on a regular basis, longtime crossword enthusiast Dean Olsher does his own research and finds that the estimate is conservative. Along the way, Olsher looks into the origins and traditions of this popu- lar pastime, which made its debut in a New York newspaper in 1913. And, he revives the quest of musical theater legend Stephen Sondheim—who composed crosswords for New York magazine in the 1960s—to introduce American solvers to a British crossword style that demands a love of verbal playful- ness over knowledge of arcane trivia.
Informative, engaging, and often surprising, From Square One is a unique and enjoyable cultural history for puzzlers and non-puzzlers alike.
Dean Olsher has been a broadcaster for more than thirty years, most of which he has spent in public radio. He was an arts and culture correspondent for NPR News as well as the creator and host of The Next Big Thing, a popular national show. Olsher is currently a visiting professor at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.
"From Square One takes the reader into stranger and more illuminating corners of the world glimpsed in Wordplay. Dean Olsher shows the wide-ranging and nimble mind you'd expect of someone who loves crosswords." -- Stewart O'Nan, author of Last Night at the Lobster and Songs for the Missing
"This is my kind of book. If you like words, and wordplay, and the oddities of the imagination, and the company of an engaging and witty narrator, then it is your kind of book, too." -- Meg Wolitzer, author of The Ten-Year Nap and The Wife
"Dean Olsher is the Robert Pirsig of crossword puzzles." -- Jon Delfin, seven-time American Crossword Puzzle Tournament champion
"If Dean Olsher wrote a book on the history of plumbing supplies, I would snap it up. He whips the subject in a blender of love, curiosity, elation, mystery, humor, and obsession (plenty of that). Plus, you learn a lot of odd and interesting facts about crossword puzzles -- and human beings." -- Maira Kalman, author of The Principles of Uncertainty
"Dean Olsher has written a great book that everyone will love, not just crossword people." -- Isaac Mizrahi