Tips for (Crossword) Success
By Dave Straube
Tips for (Crossword) Success
By Dave Straube - Editor of CrosswordCorner.com
Can't ever seem to complete a crossword? Don't despair, you're not alone. Here are a few tips to help you improve your crossword solving skills.
Do easy clues like fill-in-the-blank
ones first. For example, "Pie ___ mode" for a 3-letter word is almost guaranteed to be "ala". Then look for factual clues with obvious answers. For example, "Honest Abe" for a 7-letter word is most likely "Lincoln". Next, try to fill in some crossing words using the existing letters as hints to what might fit the clue. Note what part of speech the clue is - noun, adjective, verb, etc. The answer will be the same part of speech. Avoid hopping around the grid if possible. Try to fill a small area at a time and extend steadily outwards using the partials you already have.
Recognizing the type of clue can help you figure it out. Here is a list of the typical kinds of clues you will encounter.
Use the Theme
- Plurals - A plural clue requires a plural answer. For example, "Pod partners" for a 4-letter word might be "peas". At a minimum, you could risk placing an 's' as the last letter to get started.
- Abbreviations - Clues with abbreviations require an abbreviation in the answer as well. For example, "NYSE watchdog" for a 3-letter word would be "SEC". Some clues are more direct like "Periodicals: Abbr." for "mags".
- Synonyms - These are often given as one word clues. For example, the clue "raspy" for a 6-letter word might mean "hoarse". But watch out, the simplicity of such clues belies how sneaky they can be. A clue like "set" can be almost anything since this is both a verb and a noun, and each has multiple meanings.
- Word with - Here a clue might read "Word with back or barn". For a 4-letter word this might be "door". Note whether the clue uses "or" or "and". In the latter case, the expected answer is plural, i.e. "doors".
- A and/or B - In this case the clue is given as two words connected by "and" or "or", like "Lamprey and electric". The answer is "eel" or "eels" depending on which connector word was used.
- Question mark - Sneaky clues often end in a question mark to warn you that a non-obvious interpretation is required. Here are some examples:
"Stern words?" for "home port"
"Part of a scam?" for "in on"
"Bad Spell?" for "voodoo"
- Foreign words - Here the clue provides a hint that the answer is from a foreign language. For example "Studio for Pierre" for "atelier" or "Broken in Bonn" for "kaput".
- Wordplay - These clues may try to dupe you by using words with multiple meanings in devious ways. For example, "Sign of summer" for "Leo" or "Stagecoach driver's right" for "gee". (opposite of "haw")
Puzzles often have a theme, which when recognized, helps in solving. The theme is almost always hinted at by the title of the puzzle and specific words in the puzzle relate to the theme. Theme words are often the longer entries and are always placed in the grid symmetrically. Theme words can be identified by their clues which are often identical for all of them, or they are given all in capital letters.
Take a Break
Stumped? Take a break and let your subconscious work on things for a while. You'd be surprised how often you come back to a puzzle and the clue which stumped you earlier is now intuitively obvious. But set yourself a limit as to how many unfinished puzzles you'll leave lying around. Too many mean you're not being persistent enough.
Collaboration is good. Crosswords are supposed to be fun, not an exercise in self-abasement. So get help wherever you can. Find a friend with more crossword expertise than you or at least a different way of looking at things. Sometimes a unique viewpoint is all you need to unravel a misleading clue.
You've no doubt heard how to get to Carnegie Hall - practice, practice, practice. The same holds true for mastering crosswords. Stick with it and you are guaranteed to improve. You'll be looking forward to late-running doctors and delayed flights in no time!
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- Not Your Typical Large-Print Crosswords #3 - Quotes, Quips, & Proverbs
50 original, themed puzzles from CrosswordCorner.com. (Large Print)
- Random House Webster's Large Print Crossword Puzzle Dictionary, edited by Stephen P. Elliott.
This new, large print edition features thousands of clue and answer words, including brand names, trivia related words, and terms associated with popular culture. (Large Print)
- The New York Times Crossword Puzzle Books
The New York Times crosswords are, without exception, universally acknowledged as challenging puzzles. Many of these fantastic crosswords puzzles have been collected and printed in a large print format, and in this review we will look at four of these books. (Large Print)
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