B A R E L Y B A D  W E B  S I T E  


VII. Reference works

A.  In this section A are the printed references works I have at hand to solve crossword puzzles, listed in decreasing order of frequency of use.

(The other references available in my house somewhere are listed in section B.)


1. Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Second edition, 1993

If you're trying to get by with an abridged dictionary or, God forbid, one of those puny paperback goofs, you need to move up to a full-bore, tons-of-words-nobody-ever-heard-of, real dictionary.

The Random House Unabridged 2nd (RHU2) cost me a hundred bucks, which ain't cheap unless you like dictionaries as much as I do, but it also comes with a CD-ROM version that includes almost everything found in the hard-copy version, plus with the CD version you get searching features and links and copyable bitmap art and a man and woman who pronounce certain words for you through your sound card.  I myself own two, one for at home and the other for at work, and I have bought two others for friends who needed a dic.

2. Hammond Ambassador World Atlas, 1985

This is an unabridged atlas, i.e., it has over one metric tonne of place names, and you should settle for nothing less.  If you can't afford a really huge atlas with around a hundred thousand (yes, seriously) different place names, don't give in and buy a cheap substitute; instead, save up a little more money and get a good one when you can afford it.

Ever since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, I've been on the lookout for a newer atlas (although the fact is that very few place names have changed; I mean it's not like the Ukrainians suddenly decided to change the names of all their cities and lakes and stuff just because the USSR folded).  Aside from the large number of place names, here are the features of the Hammond Ambassador that I've found particularly helpful for crosswording:

a. A single index with grid coordinates that shows every single place name that appears in the body of the book.  This is an extremely handy feature. If the clue is "Finznez's country," you won't have much of a clue where to get started unless you've got a single, all-inclusive index.

b. A separate page for pretty much every country and U.S. state, rather than pages that show only larger regions in a larger format.

c. A separate index of place names for each map of a country or a U.S. state.

This is a rare feature, but an extremely handy one for crossword players.

For example, if you've got " S __ L __ __ __" filled into the grid and the clue is "Washington lake," you don't want to have to slog through the thousands of words that start with "S" in the whole atlas.  But with a separate index for every map, once you've tracked down the state of Washington you find that there's only one lake that fits, the Sylvan.  Ten seconds versus ten minutes.

d. Additional factoids about the country, such as the capital and the unit of currency and the names of the major religions and languages and so on.

e. Those separate indexes should separate political names from the geographic ones.  If you know it's a river, there's little point in scanning through all the city names if you don't have to, and vice versa.

3. Information Please Almanac, 1996

Almanacs are cheap -- mine cost eleven bucks paperback -- and are well worth it for all the information they contain.  Mostly you'll need one for Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners and presidents and popes and the occasional sports factoid.  Just buy the biggest and most recent one you can find, and just resign yourself to just having to buy a new one every so often just to stay current.

Update of November 2001:  I updated to The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2000 (copyright 1999, which makes no sense).  Also, it doesn't list all the known moons of the nine solar system planets.

Update of April 2003:  I re-updated, back to what is now called Time Almanac 2003 with Infomation Please.

Update of December 2007: I re-updated yet again, this time back to The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2008, with a list price of $12.99 but for which I paid $7.99 plus tax and shipping and handling from AMAZON.  This 8-inch tall paperback edition was published November 13, 2007, so my timing was pretty good.

If you use either of these almanacs or any others of its kind you might want to do what I do to speed up the finding of the right pages, which is to digest the very best of the Table Of Contents and stick it on the front cover.  Click here to see what I mean.

I can pretty much guarantee you the categories you saw in that pop-up window will be the most popular on the list of any crossword player using an almanac.  The exception is the category of sports, which is too varied but is at least always lumped together.

4. Merriam Webster's Biographical Dictionary, 1995

An extremely useful if somewhat pricey reference work, this revision of their 1988 edition contains biographical information on over 30,000 dead people.  If a clue says, "Creator of 'Fantasies upon the Finding of a Glove'" and you know it starts with K-L-I, all you have to do is scan through the names starting with K-L-I till you find "Max Klinger, 1857-1920, German engraver, painter and sculptor" and a list of works he engraved, empainted and besculpturated.  I think the name is better known these days as the character in M*A*S*H played by Jamie Farr.

As another example, if the clue is "18th-century English student of manure" and you know the name starts with T-U-L, you can scan through those names till you find the third one, Jethro Tull, who wrote, as if you didn't know, The New Horse-Houghing Husbandry.  I think Jethro Tull is better known these days as the name of the successful English rock and roll band.

The front man, the guy who does all the writing and singing and plays all sorts of instruments, including his trademark flute, is not named Jethro Tull.  Jethro Tull is the name of the entire band (and it is named after the English agronomist).  The long-haired guy who plays flute standing on one leg is named Ian Anderson, incorrectly known as Jethro Tull.  See whether you can tell which is which.

Similarly, for that matter, the front man for Hootie and the Blowfish, the guy whose voice can be so hauntingly beautiful, is not Hootie.  The band is called Hootie and the Blowfish, but no one particular person is Hootie.  The front man is Darius Rucker, but he is no more Hootie than the other three members.

You might not have noticed, but I got a bit off track there.  I'm back now.

5. Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide, 1998

This paperback volume provides the year, the name of the director, the names of the principal actors, and a description and review of over 19,000 movies.  At the back is a list, sorted by actor's name, of the movies (and the years thereof) in which a whole bunch of stars have appeared, and following that is a similar list sorted by director's name.

Unless you really know your movies, this is an indispensable reference, and, as with an almanac, you will probably want to update it every so many years.

Update of January 10, 2004: I updated to the 2004 edition ($8.99 from AMAZON), and I'm sorry to report that Maltin's no longer lists the year of the movies in the still incomplete list of actors.  Furthermore, the list of directors is now missing altogether.  I should have held onto the 1998 edition rather than giving it away.

Also, oddly, this edition says it lists over 18,000 movies with over 300 new ones, yet the 1998 edition claims to list over 19,000 movies.

Update of December 2007: I bought the 2008 edition, now named Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide.  Again, no index of directors whatsoever, and an actor index of only the most proilific.  The only reason I bought this is that every once in a while it will list a movie that isn't listed in what is now my go-to movie reference, which is immediately below.

Notice that the number of movies dropped from "over 19,000" in 1998 to "over 18,000" in 2004 to "over 17,000" in 2007.

The Maltin's I bought this time lists for $20 and I paid $13.60 plus tax and shipping and handling.  The paperback edition I bought is the taller one, at 7.9 inches, shown here at AMAZON.

The one that's only 6.9 inches tall is only $9.99, but I'm willing to pay the extra $4 for the slightly larger type, especially considering that I replace this reference only every four years or so.

6. Video Movie Guide 1999, by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter, 1998

Similar to Leonard Maltin's version above, this one lists movies that are available on video.  Here are the other differences between them:

Maltin's covers more titles.  Unlike Maltin's, Martin and Porter's lists of actors and directors in the back is complete, which can be really handy, but they don't show the year, which isn't.  Martin and Porter's lists the top four Academy Awards from 1927 through 1996 (which makes you wonder why the year 1999 appears in the title).

As I understand it, new editions of both books arrive in bookstores every July, so if it's June you should wait a bit.

Update of January 10, 2004: I updated to the 2003 edition, which claims to list over 18,000 movies.  Also, the title is now Video and DVD Guide 2003.

The list price is $19.95, but I took a chance and bought it as a used book on AMAZON.  The grand total came to $5.82; better yet, the book was in absolutely pristine condition.

Update of December 2007: There's a full-size (8.3 inches tall) edition available on the British version of Amazon HERE.  It's used, and it costs 56.19 British pounds plus shipping and handling, or around $120.  I have been unable to find any other FULL-SIZE editions anywhere, so I imagine I'll end up having to buy the SMALLER (6.9 inch-tall) version at $8.50 after tax.

Also, based on the research I've done, it appears this title is no longer going to be published after the 2007 edition.  If you have reason to think I'm right or wrong about this, please let me know.

7. Books in Print, 1997 (50th anniversary edition, hence gilt-lettered covers)

     Volumes 1 - 4, Authors
     Volumes 5 - 8, Titles
     Volume 9, Publishers
     Volumes 1 - 5, Subject Guide

As advertised, this is the list of books in print, organized by author in the first four volumes and by title in the next four.  In its 35,000 pages, the 14 volumes cover more than 1.4 million active ISBNs published by 57,600 U.S. book publishers.  Can you believe there are 57,600 U.S. book publishers?   And can you believe I got all 14 volumes for only $15 at a library sale?  And can you believe that the guy who helped me load my car was a fellow crossword aficionado named BARRY HALDIMAN.

8. Larousse Standard French-English English-French Dictionary, 1994

With 220,000 references and 400,000 translations contained in 1,900 pages, for me this was worth $30, especially since I received it as a gift.

9. Vox New College Spanish and English Dictionary, 1995

1,450 paginas de translationos de wordos de Espa˝ol, at $22.

10. The New Schoffler-Weis German and English Dictionary, 1991

Also $22, with 150,000 entries in over a thousand pages.

11. The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version (autographed)

12. The Oxford Latin Minidictionary, plasticback, only 3 inches wide by 4.5 inches tall but 1.5 inches thick, 1995, over 60,000 entries, 693 pages, $6.95

13. Harper-Collins Italian Dictionary, College Edition, paperback, over 70,000 entries, $13.00

And yes, the masculine of ballerina is ballerino.

14. Oxford Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases, paperback, 2000, over 8,000 entries, 512 pages, $10.36 from amazon.com.

After conducting a fair amount of research in April of 2003 I decided this is the best single printed reference work listing and defining foreign terms used as such -- id est, untranslated -- in written English, terms such as cul-de-sac, Ecce Homo, and mano a mano.  It shows the pronunciation, the part of speech, the language whence the phrase comes, and in many cases citations and further explanations of why the phrase means what it does.

The International Phonetic Association.  The huge drawback -- at least for me, a purebred American -- is that all the pronunciations are rendered using the IPA format, which I can rarely decipher without help.  For example, do you know how to pronounce this?


(Hover your mouse over it to see the word.)

Here are some of the many, many characters in the IPA alphabet, roughly from the letter E to the letter J or so.  How many, if you're used to plain old American phonetic spelling, can you speak or even hear accurately?  Do you know how to rhotacize a sound, or what the differences are between a voiced uvular plosive and a voiceless epiglottal fricative?

ipa_samples02.gif (4,892 bytes) 05062003

So, now that I've stopped complaining, let me explain why the IPA alphabet exists.  It is an attempt to categorize and then visually symbolize the sounds humans make, which, if you think about it, is quite a difficult task.

The "letters" and the many other marks you can add to them are categorized by the state of certain body parts when you pronounce them.  The body parts whose state is described include the lungs, the vocal cords, the tongue, the teeth, and the lips.  By referring only to what the body does in producing a particular sound, and by describing each such state with high precision, one can indeed categorize every sound.  By assigning typewritten characters to those sounds, those states of the body, you can symbolize human sound so that others, no matter what language they speak, can know exactly what you mean.

Let me try to give an example by asking you to do this.

1) Place your tongue on your upper lip in such a way that it seals off the part of your mouth above your tongue from air.

2) Now, try to pronounce the word tea.

The initial phoneme, the consonant just before the long E, might sound like a T or a P to you, or even a D or a B, but if you keep making it you'll realize it's a sound you never make.  Because it's a sound that isn't used in English, there's no letter or mark in English to represent it.

But, as you've noticed, it's perfectly easy to make that sound, to consistently position your various body parts correctly and perform the various actions.  Which is why other people use that sound, even if it cannot be represented symbolically using American notation.

But that sound and many variations of it can be represented symbolically using the various characters and marks of the IPA alphabet.

The English alphabet consists of 26 letters.  The IPA alphabet consists of 58 pulmonic consonants, 10 non-pulmonic consonants, 28 vowels, and 10 other characters, for a total of 106 "letters."

But it's a lot more complicated than that.  There are 31 diacritics, which are marks that are added to the original letter to further modify its sound.

And it's yet more complicated than that.  There are also 33 suprasegmentals, which are marks that are added to the original word to further modify stress and tone level and contour.

And with all those hundreds of combinations  -- all those possible ways to position your body parts and perform actions to make sound -- you can spell out phonetically, using the IPA alphabet, any series of noises a human can utter.

If you've followed this so far, you want to know how the various body parts are described, and you want to know what the heck a voiced uvular plosive is.  For the terms used to describe speech go to the IPA Web site, where you'll see a chart listing every recognized character and mark.

What you won't find, disappointingly, are definitions of what uvular and plosive and rhotacized mean, or any other such term, nor will you find any sample sounds or sample words or any attempt to translate even the 26 letters of the English aphabet.  But then, that Web site is not written for you and me; it's written for specialists who know an open-mid central from a velar lateral approximant in their sleep.

Two places online to see and hear how some sounds are pronounced are HERE and HERE.

Update of February 2005: The IPA Web site now does indeed offer a link, which leads to HERE, to wav files of sounds.

15. Le Mot Juste -- A Dictionary of Classical and Foreign Words and Phrases, 170 pages, 1991.  (Le mot juste is French, and it means "just exactly the right word.")

This book serves the same purpose as Oxford Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases discussed immediately above, but it is not nearly as good.  Here are some differences.

  • It lists fewer words and phrases.
  • Not as many of the terms' original meanings are given, and there are no cites of the term in use or any other discussion per se of them.
  • Worst of all, the word list is not sorted alphabetically!  Instead, the first sort is on the language of each term.  This is an inexcusable mistake in design, because it means you have to look through as many as six alphabetical lists to find the term you're looking for.  Of all the similar books I reviewed, not one is organized  this way, and for good reason.
  • The one advantage this book has over Oxford, at least for me, is that the pronunciations are given like this -- PAHN shahn -- rather than in the IPA format discussed in the section immediately above.

Altogether, Le Mot Juste was a disappointment compared to Oxford, but it's not like I'm going to throw it away; I've already spent hours thumbing through it.

16. Bulfinch's Mythology, 957 pages

A classic, this tells the story of pretty much every personality, creature, place, and object throughout all of Greek, Roman and Norse mythology, with an especially helpful index.  Much better than that other one.  Also, note there's only one letter "l" in Bulfinch's.

17. Who's Who and What's What in Shakespeare, 419 pages

Actually, the full title of this 1887 work is (deep breath here) Who's Who and What's What in Shakespeare Giving References by Topics to Notable Passages and Significant Expressions; Brief Histories of the Plays; Geographical Names and Historical Incidents; Mention of all Characters and Sketches of Important Ones Together with Explanations of Allusions and Obscure and Obsolete Words and Phrases.

Well, that pretty much says it all.  What it doesn't say is that nowhere is there a list of Shakespeare's plays, which seems an odd omission.

Update of November 2006: I just now discovered that there is such a list.  It is not listed in the Table of Contents or anywhere else, it just appears in its own right on page 253 under the entry "Order and Dates of the Plays and Poems."  Stupid me for not thinking of that.

Works even better if you have the collected works of Shakespeare.

18. The Family Bible Dictionary, 122 pages of really teeny type

Lists a nearly exhaustive bunch of people, places and things in the Bible, including the book, chapter and verse in which they appear, as well as some unexpected appendices.

Works even better if you have a Bible.

19. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows: 1946 - Present, by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh.  1,592 pages, $19.57 on AMAZON

This lists more than 6,000 prime-time television shows by title.  Included for each show are its broadcast history, names of regular cast members (including their character names, which is really useful for crosswords) and a description of the show, sometimes in extraordinary detail.

This book comes out only once every four years or so.  The most recent one available as of this writing is the 2003 edition, published October 14, 2003, and it lists for $27.95.  It is the eighth edition, and it is 9.2 inches tall.

Now that I own and use this book, I regard it as an essential reference for crossword solvers and constructors.

Update of December 2007: The newest edition of this reference work was published October 16, 2007, according to the Amazon page HERE.  This ninth edition claims over 6,500 series listed, which is 500, or 8%, more than the eighth edition.  It's 1,856 pages, which is 17% more.  I paid $19.77 plus tax and shipping and handling.  I know of no other such reference so useful to crossworders.  If you do, let me know.

If the publishing cycle for this reference work really is every four years and you want to keep up (or watch a heck of a lot of television), you should set a reminder to check in late October 2011, then again in 2015.

20. VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever, 122 pages of really te

Here's the AMAZON page.

Update of December 2007: I never intended to buy this tome at the bookstore I patronize, but the helpful clerk mentioned it as a substitute for the most recent Video & DVD Guide (see above).

5 pounds, 15.75 ounces, or a quarter-ounce shy of 6 pounds (95.75 ounces).  The typical paperback novel is 8 ounces.  The introduction makes no apologies for the sheer mass.  "You hold in your hands (or hand-cart, forklift, whatever) one of the premier movie resources around, if we do say so ourselves."

2003 Video & DVD Guide is 2 pounds, 3.5 ounces (35.5 ounces).

So VideoHound is 170% heavier, but at that rate is fff % more expensive.

In terms of cost per unit of weight, which is how I usually decide which books to buy, Video & DVD Guide at 35.5 ounces costs $8.50, so the price per pound is $3.83.

VideoHound 2008 at 95.75 ounces costs $26.70 ($24.95 plus tax at the same 7%), so the price per pound is $4.46, which is 16.5% more expensive.

But that fails to take into account the weight of a single piece of paper, and that's where VideoHound really shines.  The way to calculate this is to multiply the area of one page by the number of pages, and the result is the area of all the pages.  The price divided by that is the cost per unit of area.


The 2007 Video & DVD Guide's page is 6.9 by 4.2 (by 2.4) inches.  A page is 6.9 times 4.2 inches, or 28.98 square inches, so 1,664 pages times that is 48,222.72 square inches, which is 334.88 square feet, which is 37.2088 square yards.  So, the price per square yard, another good way to choose books, is 22.84400382 cents.

The 2008 VideoHound page is 10.8 by 8.4 (by 2.7) inches.  A page is 10.8 times 8.4 inches, or 90.72 square inches, so 1,834 pages times that is 166,380.48 square inches, which is 1,155.42 square feet, which is 128.38 square yards.

The price per square yard for VideoHound is 20.79763203 cents, making it

2.04637179 cents greater.

So, VideoHound is .08958025949, or 8.958025949 cheaper.



For VideoHound a page is 10.8 by 8.4 inches


VideoHound's price per square INCH is $26.70 divided by 166,380.48 square inches, which is $0.00016047555.

VideoHound's price per square FOOT is $26.70 divided by 1,155.42 square feet, which is $0.02310848003, or just over 2.3 cents.

VideoHound's price per square YARD is $26.70 divided by 1,155.42 square feet, which is $0.02310848003, or just over 2.3 cents.

Video & DVD Guide 2007's price per square INCH is $8.50 divided by 48,222.72 square inches, which is $0.0001762654616.

Video & DVD Guide 2007's price per square foot is $8.50 divided by 334.88 square feet, which is $0.02538222647, or just over 2.5 cents.

Video & DVD Guide 2007's price per square yard is $8.50 divided by 37.20888 square feet, which is $0.2284400382, or just under 23 cents.

1834 pages, of which pages 39 through 1012 (974 in total) are the alphabetical list of movies.

Videohound lists a lot of the characters' names.  This is a boon to crossword players (and constructors) that is not available in the other two movie guides reviewed here.  Neither Maltin's nor Martin & Porter's mentions more than a few characters' names.

But I'll tell you that I was hooked before I even opened the book.  Just the spine told me I wanted to buy it, to own it, to see what else it had to offer along those lines.  Here's why.

VideoHound has an attitude.  Where some movie-review books tend to report only the facts, VideoHound feels free to add commentary and even gossipy tidbits.









B.  Other references

I have a few other references, all of which I've used at one time or another for crosswords.  If there's something you need me to look up for you, just let me know.


--The Compact Edition of THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY, Oxford University Press, 1979, 16,572 pages

The OED is the premier dictionary of English, as it has been for decades and almost certainly will be for some time to come.  It is the first source for serious writers wanting to know what a word means and why it means that.  The OED is not your usual dictionary.

One feature that sets the OED way apart from every other dictionary of English is its completeness.  It has definitions for more words you've never heard of than any other general dictionary.  Furthermore, it has more definitions you've never heard of for words you have heard of than any other dictionary.  It is the ultimate effort to define completely the words of the English language.

But what also makes the OED unique is its explanation of how every word it defines has come to mean what it does.  The OED not only defines an extraordinarily large number of meanings of an extraordinarily large number of words, it backs up those definitions with a citational history of their usage.  For each definition, cites from a plethora of works document exactly how that word has been used historically from its earliest known use till its most recent, including all the significant changes in between.  All told the 1989 edition lists 2,436,600 quotations.  The OED is an outstanding effort to document the words of English, possibly never to be duplicated.

The 1979 compact version that I have is a two-volume edition of the 1971 Oxford English Dictionary.  It is identical to the full 20-volume edition of 1971 except that, in the compact edition, each page of the original has been shrunk "micrographically" by a factor of four.  The result is the OED in two eight-pound tomes.  Now, to be sure, each volume is huge both in format (9 inches by 12 inches) and in the number of pages (4,116 total).  And each page is rendered in truly teeny type, so tiny that the set is always sold with its own magnifying glass (along with a case to hold it all).

--The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd edition, 1992, 2,140 pages

This is my backup dictionary, where I go after Rhu2.  If you like dictionaries, do take a look at this one at your local bookstore.

--Webster's Deluxe Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1979, 2,294 pages

I relied on this for years before I switched to the Random House 2nd.  It's rightly regarded as thorough and authoritative.

--Funk & Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of the English Language, 2 volumes, 1961, 1,505 pages

--The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1978, 832 pages

--The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, New College Edition, 1980, 1,550 pages

--Webster's New International Dictionary, 1927 (yep), 2,625 pages

General encyclopedias

--The New ENCYCLOPĂDIA BRITANNICA, University of Chicago, 1989, 33,284 pages

Simply stated, this is the best encyclopedia, as it has been for decades.  It is indisputably the finest, most comprehensive, most thoroughly researched general encyclopedia in the world.

The Britannica is available on CD as of this writing for around $120, which is a spectacular bargain considering that the 1989 hardcover edition in 33 volumes cost me, back in 1989, about eight times that much.  Also, the CD is, of course, searchable and full of links and multi-media stuff and swipeable art.  And it takes up somewhat less room.

It took me awhile, but as of October 1999 I've finished typing in the entire text of the Britannica for you.  I've also scanned in the photos and illustrations and converted everything to HTML.  Go HERE to see it all.

--The New Columbia Encyclopedia, 1975, 3,052 pages

--The Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary, 1991, 1,811 pages


--Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, aka "DSM-IV" (pronounced "D-S-M-4"), American Psychiatric Association, 1994, 886 pages

This is a more interesting book than you might think from the title.  For the benefit of professionals in the field of craziness, it specifically and categorically defines the various recognized psychiatric disorders.   Changes in the definitions in the DSM from one edition to the next can affect millions of dollars of grant and loan money and insurance coverage, not to mention whether homosexuality is a mental disorder or whether a criminal defendant is crazy.

--Complete Home Medical Guide, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, 1985, 911 pages

Written for non-professionals, this authoritative volume describes a veritable plethora of ailments and conditions one can acquire, how to diagnose them, and what to do.

--Physician's Desk Reference, aka "PDR," 1998, 2,530 pages

This is the publication, updated like clockwork every year, that lists pretty much all the prescription drugs available at the time of publication.  It's the bible of drugs that doctors turn to when they don't know for sure what to prescribe or what to tell the patient.  It's the official list of stuff to know about script meds.

Because PDRs go out of date so quickly (subscribers such as every doctor you ever go to, you hope, get special updates every so often throughout the year that they stick inside the back cover, which is specially constructed so that there's extra space there for just that purpose), you should be able to get one every so often by merely asking a doctor for his old one next time the new one comes out.  At least that's how I get mine.

--Gray's Anatomy, aka "Gray's," 1977, 1,257 pages

The classic narrative description of human anatomy, i.e., what connects to what and what it does, with color illustrations.

--Cecil Textbook of Medicine, 1992, 1,200 pages

I got this at a garage sale, and only after I got it home did I realize that it covered only A through M, and when I went back they had no idea it was a two-volume set   If you are tempted by my free surgery offer, you might want to stick with operations in the first half of the alphabet.

--Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, aka "Taber's," 1993, 2,590 pages

Another classic in the general field of medicine, this book is absolutely jam-packed with authoritative information about a huge variety of topics.  It's hard to imagine an emergency room or a doctor's office without a Taber's. 

--The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, aka "The Merck Manual," 1992, 2,845 pages

Yet another standard book that few medical practitioners don't own.

--Human Anatomy: the Male, Seton Hall College of Medicine and Dentistry, 1960, 16 pages, free,
--Human Anatomy: the Female,
Seton Hall College of Medicine and Dentistry, 1960, 18 pages, free

The two soft-cover booklets listed above are among my favorites, because they show the body in a series of cutouts, where only one system is shown at a time.  On one page is the skeleton from the front and on the reverse of that page is the same skeleton from the back.  Similarly, the nervous system is shown on a separate, cut-out page, as are the digestive and respiratory and other systems.  As you flip back and forth from one to another you can see more easily where the various body parts fit together.

--Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, aka "Dorland's," 1974, 1,748 pages

One of the two principal medical dictionaries, the other being Steadman's.

--The Anatomical Chart Series, 1993, 48 pages

A superbly chosen gift from my brother.  These are the classic drawn pictures of the gross aspects of the various human systems, e.g., the eye, the ear, the circulatory system.  The pictures are rendered in exquisite detail, and they're elaborately explained by arrows identifying the various parts.  Also, it's huge, 14 inches high by 11 inches wide, with thick card stock for pages, a flip-chart format, and a built-in easel.

--Atlas of Surgical Operations, Elliot C. Cutler and Robert Zillinger, 1940, 181 pages

--The Anatomy Coloring Book, Wynn Kapit, Lawrence M. Elson, 1977, 144 pages

This soft-cover volume is another good way to learn how the various parts of a human fit together.

--The American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine, 1989, 1,184 pages.



--Black's Law Dictionary, aka Black's, 1979, 1,511 pages

Mine is blue, but this is the gold standard of what terms in the field of law mean.

--McCormick on Evidence, 1972, 938 pages

A classic in the field of what's admissible in a court of law.

--Business Law, The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC of 1972), John W. Wyatt, S.J.D., Madie, B. Wyatt, A.B., LL.B., 1975, 1,014 pages

The Uniform Commercial Code is the law with regard to transactions and contracts (except, hilariously, in Louisiana).



--Astronomy in Color, Peter Lancaster Brown, 1983, 263 pages

--Stars and Galaxies, Donald E. Osterbrook, 1990, 184 pages

--Seasonal Star Charts, 1995, 23 pages

-- Cosmology, The Science of the Universe, Edward R. Harrison, 1981, 430 pages

--The Planets, Scientific American, 1983, 132 pages


Natural history

--The New Larousse Encyclopedia of Animal Life, 1980, 639 pages

--Fieldbook of Natural History, E. Lawrence Palmer, H. Seymour Fowler, 1975, 779 pages

--The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds, 1980, 1,109 pages

--Complete Field Guide to American Wildlife, 1959, 683 pages


General science

--Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, 1976, 2,370 pages

--Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, Isaac Asimov, 1982, 941 pages

--Understanding Physics: Motion, Sound and Heat, Isaac Asimov, 1966, 246 pages

--Understanding Physics: The Electron, Proton and Neutron, Isaac Asimov, 1966, 267 pages

--Understanding Physics: Light, Magnetism and Electricity, Isaac Asimov, 1966, 247 pages



--The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Archaeology, 1980, 495 pages

--Architecture of the 20th Century, 1988, 192 pages

--How Things Work, year of publication nowhere to be found!, four volumes, 1,240 pages

--The McMillan Visual Dictionary, 1992, 862 pages

This one is really handy, if a bit expensive, for showing your kid what stuff looks like.  Pretty much anything you have seen that's an object that has a name (even if you didn't know it did) is depicted and labelled in this book.

--The Columbia History of the World, Columbia University, 1972, 1,237 pages

--The Time Hammond World Atlas, 1980, 176 pages

--Seven Language Dictionary, (French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish) 1978, 829 pages

--World-wide Spanish Dictionary, 1966, 558 pages

--Pride and Prejudice, Austen, Jane (just checking to see whether you're still reading all this), 1813, 292 pages

--The Chicago Manual of Style, The University of Chicago Press, 1982, 738 pages

A complete description of the styles observed by writers published by the University of Chicago, this is considered a classic in the field of how to render all sorts of punctuation and capitalization and all that.  Just because I my own self corresponded personally with the editor about a fine point back in 1986 doesn't mean the CMS is any less a standard reference work today.

--National Zip Code Directory, U.S. Post Office Department, 1966, 1,772 pages

--Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, Abbott, Bud; Abelard, Peter; Abrantes, Duc d' Andoche Junot; Abu Muhammad al-Kasim al-Harir; Accius, Lucius (...OK, just kidding), John Bartlett et al., 1992, 1,405 pages

--Dictionary of Quotations, edited by Bergen Evans, 1978, 832 pages

--Catholic Word Book, Knights of Columbus, Oh, 1973, 44 pages

--The New York Times Guide to Reference Materials, 1985, 242 pages

--Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, 1979, 705 pages

--The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Joseph F. Kett, James Trefil, 1988, 586 pages

I can recommend this book to anyone who reads English.  Take a look at this book in a library and you'll want to get one from a bookstore.




More Unsolicited Mail:

Subj:    Crossword monograph
Date:    January 1999
From:    Daniel Stark

Hi Johnny!

I visited your web site yesterday and found it contained more useful information about crosswords than any other site I've seen. Your "Monograph on Crossword Puzzles" was both informative and amusing.

I learned of your site from Ray Hamel's WEB site, where he keeps an abundance of links to various crossword-related sites.  He contributes to the "Crosswords Challenge" books that I do and is also one of the perennial high-ranking competitors at the Stamford Crossword Tournament that Will Shortz puts on each spring.

One area of your site that I particularly noticed was section VII on references.

I use Video Movie Guide by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter (ISBN 0-345-42097-7) a lot since its indexes on actors and directors are complete, unlike Maltin's which has only a couple hundred people indexed.  I use Maltin's for everything else.  The Martin and Porter book is good to find first names of actors and directors and, when cluing, it's easy to see how many credits a person has to help judge the obscurity of the person under consideration.

I also use The New York Times Crossword Answer Book (ISBN 0-8129-2972-1) a great deal -- probably right after the Random House Unabridged.  It's very handy for finding words that fit patterns when two letters are known.  Unlike the Franklin handheld you mentioned for getting out of tight spots, it contains not only usual dictionary words but also proper names, phrases, abbreviations, Roman numerals, and song and movie titles.  Since the book was compiled from actual puzzles, it is more closely attuned to the needs of both constructors and players than any ordinary "dictionary-based" word-finder.  Will Shortz has it as one of the books closest to his computer. Give it a try, I think you'll like it.

Some notes about myself.  I've been in the crossword business for ten years and have constructed and sold over 10,000 crossword puzzles.  I edit a series of crossword puzzle books for Running Press called Crosswords Challenge, construct the daily United Feature Syndicate 15X15 crossword, and contribute heavily to Dell Puzzle Magazine and occasionally to The New York Times and Newsday.  I've also co-authored a book with Stanley Newman (editor of the Newsday puzzle and also of the Uptown Puzzle Club), the book I mentioned above, The New York Times Crossword Answer Book.

Your list of errors was fascinating, as was Will's reply.  The hardest puzzle was a real treasure!

By the way, I'll have to pass on your free surgery offer, tempting though it is; it's an amazing tour-de-force of presenting factual data in an entertaining style.  I'll check out the Dan Quayle page next time I'm on.

Hope to see more good stuff at your site!

--Daniel Stark



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