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  • Emmett Brosowsky

Crossword-Solving Tips From the Expert

Crosswords can be daunting. Scary grids, too-long words, too many open squares — unlike related puzzles like Sudoku or KenKen where a few numbers are already filled in, crossword puzzles give you nothing; just getting started can be the hardest part of a solve. But don’t worry! Here, I’ve got some tips that’ll help you not just with our Rookery puzzles, but with any crossword you may come across.


Tip 1: Start with the easy clues — every crossword has them! Scan through the puzzle until you find a clue you’re sure about (generally a short one) and fill it in. That’s your foothold: once you’ve got letters in the grid, the harder clues start to fall into place.


Tip 2: Think about clue patterns. See a plural clue? Most likely, the corresponding entry is going to end with an -S. Past tense? Get your -ED ready! Think about common prefixes and suffixes — RE- and -ING show up a ton.


Tip 3: Work in sections. Focus on one area of the puzzle at a time, using solved clues to help with adjacent ones, rather than jumping around from clue to clue. And if you get stuck on a section, just switch to a different one.


Tip 4: Take breaks. Stepping away from the puzzle for a short time can help you approach it with a fresh perspective.


Tip 5: Don’t be afraid to erase. If you’re unsure about an answer, pencil it in lightly and be prepared to erase and revise if needed. Getting letters on paper can help you visualize the crossing answers, even if you end up being incorrect.


Tip 6: Practice! There are a number of common clue styles that you’ll get better at recognizing if you solve crosswords more regularly, like the following:


• Quotes signal that you’re looking for a synonym (“Count me in!” = IMDOWN) • Parentheticals mean that the answer and phrase in parentheses combine to form a synonym of the clue (Search blindly (for) = GROPE)

• Question marks signal some type of wordplay — usually groan-inducing (Final four? = WXYZ)

• Foreign-language words in the clue tell you that the answer will be in that language (Color of el cielo = AZUL)


I hope that these tricks can help make crosswords more fun and fulfilling for those of you who choose to use them. Happy solving!

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