Crossword puzzles have been around for over two-hundred years. They are a popular pastime during breakfast in the early morning, while on holidays or when camping in the great outdoors. The goal of a crossword puzzle is to fill in an (often) rectangular grid using letters and words. This is done by solving a series of clues.
Solving a crossword puzzle can either be extremely frustrating, or it can be a source of meditation. However you feel about it, the time will come when you find yourself completely stuck in a clue. Just forgetting about the puzzle is not an option; once started, you have to finish it! Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and look at things a different way. Whether you are taking on the New York Times’ daily crossword puzzle, or you have a whole book filled with puzzles to get you through the summer, here you’ll find some tips from the crossword clues professionals
Analyze the puzzle
To really get a good start with your puzzle, don’t just start filling in clues: first, take a good look at what’s expected of you. How many clues are there? Are any of the boxes on the grid pre-filled? Are there ones you recognize from puzzles you did before? And is there a theme to the puzzle, which might help you in solving some of the clues later on? Every puzzle is different, so make sure you are well-focused and concentrated.
Arrange your own setup
Depending on the difficulty of the puzzle, you might be here for a while. Take a seat in a place where you’ll feel comfortable, and don’t get distracted too much. Work with a pencil to make it easier to correct yourself if you’ve made a mistake. This way, you avoid clutter in your puzzle, which, with every mistake you make, would otherwise be getting worse.
Start with the easy targets
Once you start the puzzle, focus on the clues you are familiar with first. This should help you get a proper start. Next, focus on the smaller words, which range from three to five letters. The English language doesn’t have a very large variety of these, which means they frequently repeat themselves across puzzles.
Keep track of the clues you’ve solved
Once you start making progress, make sure to keep a score of which clues you’ve solved. Cross out the clues you’ve filled in to make it easier to spot which ones are left. Don’t go too crazy, though: if the word you’ve penciled into the grid turns out to be a mismatch with a different word you’re trying to fill in, you might have made a mistake. Scratch out the solved clues, but keep them readable; you might need to rethink them at a later point.
Fill in singular letters
Solving some crossword clues is harder than others. To open up your puzzle’s grid a bit more, try scanning for clues asking for plurals and fill is a soft “s” at the end of each grid entry that could potentially be a plural ending is “s.” Other letters you can fill in are those of clues giving you a starting letter, or clues for which you known the answers exclusively start with a certain letter.
Ask a friend for help
Don’t be worried if the answer to a clue doesn’t reveal itself to you. Puzzling can be a fun activity to enjoy with a friend or partner, so don’t be too shy to ask for help! Your friend might know the answer right off the bat because he or she has a connection to the word you’re seeking that you don’t have. If no one is around, you can always grab a dictionary, or go to a useful website such as Crosswordclues.com to find a suitable answer.
Always remember: there’s no timer
If you still feel lost, no worries. There’s no angry headmaster coming to scorn you for not finishing the puzzle, nor will the New York Times’ crossword puzzle maker roll his or her eyes at you. Just put your puzzle aside for a day. Try starting again early in the morning, when you are fresh and have fewer distractions. If your second try is equally fruitless, leave it for a while longer. At one point, the answer just might hit you out of nowhere!
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A crossword puzzle is made to entertain you. If you really can’t figure a clue out, just leave the puzzle for what it is. After all, the process of solving the puzzle is supposed to be a relaxing task – there’s no need for stress! In the end, you can always choose to toss the puzzle aside and start another, or use an online crossword solver to get you going again.