God bless the publicist who sent Crushable a copy of Word., the pop culture crossword puzzle book by wunderkind Natan Last—because it’s like it was designed perfectly for me. I started doing the crosswords in our local free newspaper a few years ago when I worked in customer service and had a long commute and shifts where I’d sit around; my roommate and I would race to do them on the train to work in the mornings. However, I soon tired of the simple puzzles with the same clues, but I was too scared to attempt the intellectual behemoths in The New York Times. So, I kind of stagnated in crossword-land, never finding my soulmate puzzle.
Then along came Word., and I absolutely love it. It’s a collection of 144 crosswords where every hint and clue are handpicked from Millennials’ childhoods. I’m talking Pokemon species, Disneyland rides, Space Jam, Weird Al parodies—and that’s just scratching the surface! Natan Last and his crack team of fellow whiz kids have constructed puzzles that are sharp, up-to-the-minute, and still mind-boggling. (As you move up in levels, you find that the puzzles have extra challenges that have nothing to do with your pop culture IQ but rather your spatial skills or ability to think outside the grid. It’s an extra level of mental exercise that will keep you at a puzzle for at least an hour.)
Did I mention that Natan is only 21? It gives you even more respect for the painstaking research that he put into this book. But really, his introduction shows how above all it’s meant to be fun:
In short, these are not your parents’ crossword puzzles. Memories of your first Dr. Seuss book (or that one you just got as a graduation gift), explorations of the (notoriously messy) freshman college dorm room, the video games you played with your roommates, the hilarious YouTube videos you posted and reposted to Facebook walls—all experienced while testing your puzzle-solving mettle.
As with any time you do a bunch of crosswords in a row, there are downsides. I took this with me on my European vacation and scribbled away in the airports, on trains, and even during the siesta hours in Barcelona; as a result, I started to run into the same clues even when I switched from the internet memes chapter to the music aficionados’ section.
But this book is not meant to be devoured in a single week; rather, it should be an amusement you turn to when you have a spare minute or space to fill on the commute. You should stretch it out over months or even a year; and at only $10 on Amazon, it’s an incredible deal. If I’ve intimidated you with the references I threw out, don’t worry: Puzzles range from one star to five, and it’s clear that as you move through the book, practice will help you tackle more difficult crosswords.
So, yeah. I love Word., and I know you will too.