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The Civil War Crossword Puzzle Book, by Timothy Beatty, Ryan Place Publishers, 3109 Knox Street, Suite 515, Dallas, TX 75205, 800-871-0563, Ryan 119 pages, softcover, $9.95 plus $1.50 for shipping.

Occasionally, when there’s nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon (scrubbing the bathtub and doing laundry may qualify as more important, but not “better”), I sit down with a cup of hot tea, a dull pencil–they’re easier to erase than sharp ones–and the New York Times crossword puzzle.

Before the tea cools enough to drink, I’ve skimmed through all the clues, filled in a few answers, and stared at the mostly blank grid long enough to realize I’ll find no sense of accomplishment here. Maybe scrubbing the bathtub would be better.

I sat down with The Civil War Crossword Puzzle Book expecting a similarly humbling experience. So I turned to the puzzle titled “Gettysburg” thinking that maybe I’d actually know something about the war’s best-known battle. To my surprise, 10 minutes later I’d filled all but a few of the blank spaces without consulting the answer key in the back of the book. It seems I’ve actually learned a thing or two in seven years at Civil War Times.

Experts may find these puzzles too easy, though the book does offer tougher fare than “Gettysburg”–“Trans-Mississippi,” “Tennessee in 1862,” and “Cold Harbor,” for example. The average Civil War history enthusiast, however, should find most of these puzzles challenging but largely solvable; in other words, more rewarding than my lazy afternoons with the Times puzzle.

Carl Zebrowski