Solving crossword puzzles is so good for our brains because it keeps them active, it encourages us to keep on using our muscle memory, which can help the brain stay in good shape. Puzzles are also really good for our well-being because the time that we spend solving them can be extremely meditative. Spending time every day solving a puzzle, therefore, can help us relax and unwind. Another great thing about spending time with crossword puzzles is that they remind us that no problem is insurmountable. A puzzle that looks too difficult to solve at a glance can always be beaten with a bit of thought and effort, showing us how to approach other problems in our lives. It can be difficult to know where to start when you are just starting out with crossword puzzles but there are tips and tricks that can help. Read on to find out some of our favourites.
When you start off a new crossword puzzle you really want to get the ball rolling and fill in some letters as quickly as you can. The best way to do this is to look for the clues that are easiest to solve first. Generally, fill-in-the-blank clues are the ones that can be solved quickest, so start off with those by scanning through the list of clues. Solve one or two of these and you will have some letters that might be useful in your puzzle and it can increase your confidence in solving the puzzle, giving you the momentum to keep you going.
To keep the momentum going the next thing you should do is look for answers that have the fewest number of letters. Generally, there aren't many small words in the English language so these clues tend to be easier to solve than longer words. Scan through the clues list and look for the three, four or five letter answers and see if you can solve them easily. It can also be helpful to try and remember some of the words that you come across at this length, they do tend to be used over and over again in crosswords. Some of them you won't come across often in daily life, yet because there aren't too many small words that are usable in a puzzle they crop up all the time in crosswords.
Once you have scanned through the clues and solved some of the easiest ones it is time to start working through systematically. Look at each unsolved clue in turn, if you can solve it great, fill it in and move on. If not, see if you can form a guess as to what the answer could be. If you are not sure, fill in your guess lightly on the puzzle so that you can erase it if you do find that you are incorrect. If you have some letters in there you could prove yourself right (or wrong) when you fill in other answers as you keep working through.
Crossword devisers always follow rules when they create clues. For instance, an answer will always follow the same pattern of speech as a clue. Understanding this could help you fill in the ending of some answers, which can help you solve other clues. Look for clues that indicate that the answer will be plural and so end in the letter 'S' or for clues that indicate the answer will be in the past tense and so end in 'ED'. You could also have comparative words that end in 'EST' or verbs that end in 'ING'. Often, these types of word endings are easy to spot from the clue. If the answer is a foreign word, this will also be made obvious in the clue, often directly by stating the English word and giving the language that it should be translated into. Abbreviations are also often indicated directly by stating '(Abbr)' in the clue.
Crossword creators do love to create clues that confuse. They will often use words in a clue that will lead you down the wrong track. They could, for instance, use words that have two different meanings, such as bark, which could refer to the sound a dog makes or the outer covering of a tree. Try and approach every puzzle with an open mind and keep an eye out for the clever ways that the creator could be trying to trick you.
If you are struggling with a clue or two, don't be afraid to put the puzzle down and go off and do something else. You don't have to complete it in one sitting in order to be successful. Many people find that when they come back to a puzzle that they were stumped on just a few hours before, the answer instantly comes to them. It is a strange phenomenon, but it seems that having a break help us reach some sort of 'aha' moment, maybe because we are looking at the clue in a different way.
Remember, one of the purposes of completing a crossword puzzle is to keep the brain fresh and to learn a thing or two. It is, therefore, not a failure and you are not cheating in any way if you need to look some information up in order to complete a puzzle. You are merely learning something, whether that's a new word to add to your vocabulary or a new piece of information that you didn't know before. Plus committing new information to memory will help you become a better crossword solver in the future. Trust us, the same information does come up time and time again in crosswords, learning new things will help you solve future puzzles quicker. Never be afraid to consult a dictionary to find out a word, consult an atlas or use the internet to research a topic, it's all part of building up your crossword solving skills.