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Monday, March 17th, 2014
I've kept pretty much up to date on listing completed puzzle books. When I looked at the pile done since I last updated, almost all were sudoku or kakuro (I do them while waiting for food to cook, etc.). I have nothing to say about them and won't even list them. Many of the sudoku books were won at tournaments, where all the crossword prize books were NYTs or others I'd already done.
Because I'm on the iPad so much, I've gotten far behind on solving online puzzles. I was behind to begin with on Matt Gaffney, Newsday and others, so it's gotten even worse. I don't like solving on the iPad; Puzzazz is the best of the apps, but it's awkward to speed-solve without a real keyboard. Before the tournament, I concentrated on catching up on online BEQs
and am now in the fall of 2013. I like to read his blog and comments as I do each puzzle, so that takes time. I also made progress on Newsday, but insisted on solving them all and not just the Saturday Stumper, so still have a ways to go.
I finished these puzzle books:
Sit & Solve Spiral Puzzles
by Byron Walden - These were hard. Sometimes I even peeked at the answers.
Sit & Solve Tough as Nails Crosswords by Todd McClary - I don't remember these too well, but I guess they were hard.
Simon & Schuster Mega Crossword Puzzle Book #11 by John M. Samson (ed.) - This was sitting on the bed for ages, and I finally finished it shortly before the ACPT - and started #12, in which I'm already up to puzzle 223 out of 300. I only have #13 left after that, but see that #14 is scheduled for November. This is a decent series.
Bet You Can't Do This! Crosswords: 75 Really, Really, Really Hard Puzzles by John Samson and Sam Bellotto, Jr. - I bet I CAN do these puzzles. They were on the hard side, but not ridiculously so. I did have 5 wrong squares in the 75 15x15s. However, one was due to an editing error where the crossing did not work both ways (#71, 16A/11D). The last puzzle would have been right at home as an ACPT puzzle 5.
Merl Reagle's 100th Anniversary Crossword Book by Merl Reagle - This was just delightful. Merl has a unique sense of humor and makes solving fun. I've probably done some of these puzzles before, but am not consistent in downloading them online and I never remember puzzles anyway.
Since I signed up with NetGalley, I've downloaded 45 books to my iPad (usually Kindle app), but only reviewed 10 so far. So I need to get cracking on the reading, which got behind during tournament prep. I did finish 2 books from other programs:
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
by Morgan Matson (web copy from PulseIt) - After losing her father in an auto accident, Amy is barely going through the motions of living. Her twin brother is in rehab in North Carolina and her best friend has moved to Florida. Left alone in California to finish the last month of junior year while her mother gets settled in Connecticut, she won't drive and limits social interaction. With money tight, her mother arranges for college-aged family friend Roger to drive Amy and the car east, carefully mapping out their route and making hotel reservations along the way. Amy barely knows Roger, so is pleasantly surprised when he turns out to be cute and nice. They ditch her mother's regimented itinerary and take off across the country, visiting places and people of significance to them, and eating mostly junk food. I have never made such a trip, and it was fascinating. iPod playlists, receipts and handwritten lists every few chapters didn't add much for me (I'd never heard of most of the songs). Amy was a little too angsty and the details of the accident were slow to be revealed (and weren't that earth-shaking), but the journey was generally satisfying and enjoyable.
In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White (requested from LibraryThing Early Reviewers, but never arrived. I obtained a Nook copy) - When I was younger, I read Betty Martin's memoir Miracle at Carville, about life in a leprosy treatment facility in Louisiana (yes, that's the same family as politico James). I think I also read the sequel No One Must Ever Know. Betty Martin is a pseudonym; leprosy had such a stigma that patients used other names, and were often buried with aliases or numbers. Even the word leprosy has its own alternate name: Hansen's disease.
In later years, Carville shared its site with a federal prison. Magazine publisher Neil White was convicted of white-collar crime and sent there in 1993. When I started reading this book about his incarceration, images of sleepy, old, Southern, dignified grounds and buildings that I'd conjured up while reading Martin's books came back. The prison part of his story wasn't especially compelling, but the interaction with the leprosy patients was. I was most grabbed by the story of Ella, an elderly patient who was dropped off at Carville as a child and never saw her family again. Leprosy had quite a stigma. Yet she tooled around in her antique wheelchair, always upbeat, wise and giving.
After release, White managed to rebuild his life in Mississippi and published this book in 2009. I'm not sure I'd want to do business with him (ex-con has more of a stigma to me than leprosy), but I was intrigued by this glimpse into a vanishing world. Carville now houses a museum and camp for at-risk youth. The treatment center has been phased out and only a handful of patients remain.