Tips for Solving a Crossword Puzzle

Tips for Solving a Crossword Puzzle

Whether you’re just starting out with crossword puzzles or are an old pro, these tips are geared toward helping you become more successful in completing any crossword puzzle that you attempt.

• Use a pencil or white-out.
This allows you to erase or cover up your mistakes so that you may keep going instead of having to throw out the entire unfinished puzzle.

• Use the same sources for your puzzles.
Using the same source for your puzzles will allow you to get familiar with the authors’ style and habits. If the person writing the crossword puzzle in your daily newspaper is partial to French, you will quickly find yourself able to fill in all the French clues right away.

• When stuck, mark the plural clues.
Clues denoting plural are almost always hinting that the word ends with an “s.” Find these clues and write an “s” at the end of each of their corresponding answers.

• Use references and resources.
It’s perfectly acceptable to use a thesaurus, dictionary, crossword solvers, or even a friend to help you solve your crossword puzzle. Most people simply cannot complete the tough ones with no external help.

• Think of uncommon meanings and homonyms.
Learn to see the base of a word with all its possible meanings. The clue “flower” could describe something that flows, such as a river. Also, watch out for homonyms – words which have the same spelling, but different meanings (such as tear, wind, bore).

• Try multi-word answers.
Answers do not always have to be just one word. Try thinking of answers with multiple word answers. For example, the 5-letter answer to “exit” might not be “LEAVE,” but instead, “GOOUT.”

• Fill in the small (less than 5 letter) words first.
Pick out all the shortest words, and attempt to fill those in first. This will get you off to a great start, as many of these short words are easy answers.

• Learn the language of “crosswordese.”
Speaking of small words, “Crosswordese” is a common tool employed by puzzle makers. This term is used for words often found in crossword puzzles but with rare usage in day to day conversation. These words are short (3-5 letters), and can be unofficial abbreviations.

Some examples of common crosswordese:
• Directions:
• ESE = East-southeast (112.5°)
• SBW = South by west (191.25°)
• Foreign words
• Erse – Scottish Gaelic
• Été – summer in French
• Srta. – abbreviation for señorita (Spanish)
• Words Found in Poetry
• E’en – contraction of “even”
• Erin – poetic name for Ireland
• O’er – contraction of “over”
• Roman numerals
• Remember, letters can double up as numbers. HENRYVIII is the answer to a clue about the famous Tudor King.
• Examples of U.S. States/Canadian Provinces:
• Ala. – Alabama
• Kans. – Kansas (unofficially; also “Kan.” or “Kas.”)
• Penn. – Pennsylvania (unofficially)
• Que. – Quebec

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