RaveThe New York Times... a work so encyclopedic, its chapters can be read per your inclination ... When Congress proclaimed the song America’s official national anthem in 1931, almost 120 years after its composition, it was acknowledging a battle that had been won long before. The question, which this immensely interesting and readable history sets out to answer, is how that victory was earned ... Clague even creates a detailed military map of the engagement to demonstrate how \'perilous\' that fight really was.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewHe begins with the long history of games, going back 5,000 years to prehistoric Mesoamerican settlements, and asks: Why does almost every society engage in games and why have certain games survived for centuries? His suggested answers range from the simple — because we’re bored — to the complex ... But this book...is not truly a philosophical inquiry. Nor is it a deep consideration of any of the games or their star players ... Each of the primary sections of this book reads like a tragedy, a repeating myth of hubris told with different characters but the same ending, so that by the third or fourth telling you start to dread what you know is coming ... Oddly, the only game yet to be conquered by computers is contract bridge, and my sense of relief at this lone holdout from the onslaught of A.I. was extinguished when Roeder let us know that the game, a relatively recent addition to the pantheon of pastimes, is now dying out, its players trending older and smaller in number.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAt the end of this diverting, informative and discursive book, [Raphel\'s] love for crosswords is clear, but her reasons—despite a determined effort on her part to explain them—remain, in the end, a puzzle of their own ... Raphel proves a skilled cultural historian, dipping into newspaper archives and movie reels and private correspondence to describe how the crossword came to conquer the world ... It is in the modern era that this book loses its lapidary elegance ... We meet many constructors and their artful creations ... But none of these people seem as vivid as their long-dead predecessors ... no one now alive seems quite as, well, alive ... [Raphel\'s] affectionate exegesis of this pastime, this passion, this \'temporary madness,\' succeeds. Like a good crossword, her book challenges us to back away from our assumptions, allows us to think differently and apply ourselves again.