Newman has now written a little book about crossword puzzles called Cruciverbalism: A Crossword Fanatic's Guide to Life in the Grid. It's a small book, about 5" by 7" and with 140 pages. I read it in one night.
Whether you are a puzzle fan or not this book might be appealing to you. It's witty, provided you have a certain tolerance for puns (and if you don't you won't be solving crossword puzzles these days.)
Newman tells us the history of his career in cruciverbalism. He is one of a very few people in the US who have been able to support themselves in that particular career. Payment for a crossword puzzle that could take the composer days to create is a couple of hundred dollars at most.
But more interestingly Newman gives us a primer for the enthusiast who has just started to solve or is trying to improve her skills. He lists the words that a solver has to know (adit, nene, eos, yser, ute) and explains that they can be vital to a composer because of their vowels. Oreo is another, as is Ocala. A four-letter word for a college in North Carolina is always Elon, never Duke.
He lists ways in which the clues signal to us. If the clue includes an abbreviation, so will the fill. (Crossword people call the letters you write in the puzzle "fill.") If the clue used the first name of a person, so will the fill. A question mark at the end of the clue means it's a trick.
He also tells us what some of those tricks are. Keep in mind that a word like "fine" or "figure" may have more than one meaning. A clue like "What Crete and Greece both have" might be referring to the words Crete and Greece and not the countries, and what they have in common is a long e.
He urges the solver always to look up the answers and to remember them because they will probably pop up in a future puzzle.
He also explains the Monday through Saturday system of increasing difficulty. Monday's puzzle is designed to be solveable by a high school student (and not necessarily a National Merit Scholar who got a score of 800 on his SATs.) Each day's puzzle becomes a little harder until you come to the hardest of all, which is Saturday's. I'm pretty good at crossword puzzles and it routinely takes me until Sunday to finish the Saturday New York Times puzzle. It's really difficult.
So what about the Sunday puzzle? It's about a Wednesday level of difficulty. It's just a lot bigger (21 blocks across vs 15 for the weekday puzzle.)
There's a lot more in there, but for somebody who is interested in crossword puzzles or who saw and enjoyed the documentary, Wordplay, this is a good place to get started.