Crossword conundrums – Tips for solving puzzles like a pro

Crossword puzzles seem easy or frustratingly difficult, depending on the day. There are strategies you use to improve your solving skills and finish puzzles like an expert, even when you run into tricky clues or hit a mental block. Don’t just start from 1 across and work your way down. Scan the whole puzzle for easier clues you knock off quickly, like filling in the blanks for common phrases or vocabulary you know. Getting those gimme answers on the board gives you a foothold in the puzzle. Also, look for clues that go with already completed words. Crossword constructors have go-to phrases they use for certain types of clues. A “kind of” clue usually means a synonym, or “usually” before a clue indicates a plural answer. Familiarize yourself with common patterns so you can decode clues faster.

Separate definitions from wordplay

Many clues have both a definition and wordplay that points to the answer. Identify each part and solve them separately. If the clue is “Fishing pole” = ROD, “fishing pole” defines the answer, and “rod” satisfies the wordplay. Distinguishing the two leads you to the solution. Don’t latch onto your first answer idea, no matter how perfect it seems. Especially with tricky clues, brainstorm all word options that could potentially fit. You’ll often find another word that fits better once you check all the letter crosses. Cast a wide possibility net.

Use already completed words

Check which letters are already on the board from intersecting answered words. This gives you insight into what will and won’t fit for a clue you’re stuck on based on the puzzle letter pattern. Let crosses eliminate improbable answers. Deconstruct long, convoluted clues piece by piece to make them more workable. Identify parts like anagrams, homophones, prefixes, rhymes, or synonyms. Solving step-by-step reveals the path to the right answer vs. trying to take on the whole complex clue at once. Creators love to throw in wordplay like anagrams, reversing letters, homophones, or using initials for phrases. If a clue doesn’t make sense directly, play around with the letters and see if you can rearrange or work with them differently to get to a solution.

Use crossword dictionaries

Keep crossword-solving aids handy, like a dictionary of unusual תשחץ, an atlas, an encyclopedia, or word origins reference. For archaic or niche terms you won’t know offhand, resources can provide the education needed to get unstuck. Sometimes the key is abandoning normal logic and thinking creatively. Pursue unlikely word associations, puns, slang uses, or unconventional approaches if you hit a wall. There may be a clever solution versus a straightforward fill-in-the-blank type answer. It’s easy to make mistakes and write an incorrect answer that seems right at the moment. Once you complete the puzzle, scan all your answers again with a fresh perspective. Make sure everything aligns logically and you didn’t misread any clues. And you can get more info about תשחץ  here.