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Crosswords: Tricks of the Trade

Whenever I picked up a crossword puzzle, I always said to myself, “No, this isn’t for me,” and I know many of you have had the same experience. But if you have ever told yourself, “I am not one of those big brains” or “I don’t have a quiet enough vocabulary for this to solve”, then please allow me to let you in on a little secret :  

A crossword puzzle is not a test of your IQ, and solving it is not totally about the amount of vocabulary you have. They are about keeping your mind quick-witted and knowing what the sneaky trickster is asking you to do! 

Becoming a good solver is all about understanding what the clues are asking you to do. Crossword puzzles are basically a treasure hunt for words. Solving crossword puzzles might seem daunting at first but it will become pleasurable gradually. Plus, it’s fun, especially if you love words and wordplay as much as I do. I believe that with patience and daily practice anybody can figure out how to solve crosswords. When you ace a couple of essential tricks, you’ll see that puzzle-addressing isn’t just possible but highly addictive (it is, trust me). So sit back (straight duh!), put on your thinking cap, have a beverage and let’s get solving!

There are a certain set of rules that most of the experts follow, and so should you! It will help you in solving them in a jiffy.  Here are some of them: 

  • Start with Monday puzzles: They are much easier than a weekend or midweek puzzle. 

  • Start with ‘Fill in the Blanks’: These are easiest and will help you in ball-rolling. Thus, boosting your confidence at the very beginning!

  • Keep the theme in mind: Some puzzles are theme-based on some specific day of the week. So, it is important to keep the theme at the forefront of your mind while solving them, so that you don’t get distracted. 

  • Pay attention to the format of the clue: As it says, ‘Clues: obey the rules,’ so, it is time to obey some of them:

  1. The given clue will always be in the same part of speech as the answer. If it’s a noun, then you have to look for another noun. If it’s a verb, then look for another verb.

  2.  If a clue is plural, you can assume the answer will be too.

  3. The same goes for verb tenses. Past-tense clues call for past-tense answers.

    Tip: If a clue ends in “-ing,” see if pencilling in -ING at the end of the entry can help you solve the perpendicular clues.

  4. If the clue has an abbreviation, so will your answer.

  5. A question mark at the end of the clue implies that there’s certainly going to be some sort of wordplay involved. So, you might have to apply a little brain here.

  6.  Don’t necessarily start at 1-Across. Scan the puzzle for answers you know, technically they are called “gimmes”.

    Tip: You can always use these technical terms in front of your friends to flaunt yourself. You can thank me later!

  • Look up what you don’t know: Don’t feel like you are cheating, after all, who cares. It’ll help you learn. I guarantee you’ll start to see an improvement, plus it’s super fun to know new things — at least for me! 

Now you are ready to establish Bragging Rights among your friends!

If you’re already a puzzle pro, unlike me, and feel like The New York Times, Newsday, The Washington Post and the like are child’s play, and you’re itching to tackle a monster, have at them, dude, consider something with a personal flair. There are a lot of independent crosswords that can spice up your daily monotonous routine. Here are some recommendations:

  • The American Values Club: Formerly the Onion crossword, this weekly indie puzzle, edited by Ben Tausig, has a wicked sense of humour.

  • Fireball Crosswords: These are mind-blowing tricky puzzles from Peter Gordon, the former crosswords editor of the New York Sun.

  • Brendan Emmett Quigley: The renegade bohemian of the puzzle world, this guy practically invented indie crossword puzzling.

So, solve them and let us know the extent of your crossword’s addiction!

Prerna Mishra

Delhi North '22

An average eighteen year old from Delhi pursuing Economics Hons with millennial choices and issues. Like dancing to misogynistic Ed Sheeran songs. Makes nincompoop doodles and listen to Halsey when not testing people's attributes.
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