How to get better at full crosswords

Crossword Solving Skills

Before deciding which games will help you solve crosswords, take note of what skills will make you a good crossword solver. What do you need to know to be good at crossword puzzles?

You’ll need a strong vocabulary and good spelling skills. Knowing a lot of synonyms and familiarizing yourself with the thesaurus will help, too. Often times, crossword clues appear to have more than one answer. By knowing lots of synonyms, you’ll have a better chance of finding a crossword answer quickly.

Then, of course, knowing lots of trivia will help you with crosswords, too. Many crossword clues reference specific people, places, or events. Knowing a little about a lot will make you a better crossword solver.

If spelling, vocabulary, and trivia are key to solving crosswords, then games that will make you better at crosswords will focus on these skills.

‎Crosswords on the Mac App Store

2020-7-7 · Download Crosswords for macOS 10.6.6 or later and enjoy it on your Mac. ‎Play Crossword puzzles from newspapers around the world right on your Mac! Each day many newspapers provide their crossword puzzles online; with one click you can download and solve them, get hints, view clues, and track how quickly you're improving.

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The Crossword – The New York Times

Play the Daily New York Times Crossword puzzle edited by Will Shortz online. Try free NYT games like the Mini Crossword, Ken Ken, Sudoku & SET plus our new subscriber-only puzzle Spelling Bee.

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Are Sunday crosswords the hardest?

Contrary to popular belief, the Sunday puzzles are midweek difficulty, not the hardest. Mondays have the most straightforward clues and Saturday clues are the most vague or involve the most wordplay. Some later-week puzzle clues may require specialized knowledge.

Can I make a crossword puzzle on Microsoft Word?

Word lets you create large and small puzzles for different skill levels. Crossword puzzles are excellent mind-flexing activities and serve as effective teaching tools — and you only need Microsoft Word to create your own. You may find it easier to sketch out the puzzle beforehand and then use Word to put it together.

Ximenean Principles

The first thing to understand is that all cryptic clues tend to be made up of what are called the Ximenean principles – which say that all cryptic clues can be divided into three basic parts: 

1. An exact definition, in much the same way as a conventional or ‘quick’ crossword clue2. Some sort of wordplay – this is known as the ‘fair subsidiary indication’ 3. Absolutely nothing else!

So bear in mind that you need to tease out which parts of the clue are straight definitions and which are wordplay. Don’t do what many who are new to these kinds of crosswords do, which is to read the entire clue as a single phrase. This will hardly ever give you the right solution. 

One tip when learning how to solve cryptic crosswords is to try solving a crossword puzzle with a friend in the first instance – it can help to have someone to have ideas you can bounce off. 

Another one, which may seem slightly odd initially, is to actually try and set a few clues yourself, so that you see it from the point of view of the crossword setter. If you’re wondering, most crossword setters are keen, ultimately, to let the solver emerge victorious, with a finished grid and a grin on their face. Equally, though, most solvers will insist on putting up a fight first.

The famous crime writer Agatha Christie once said that writing her whodunnits was not unlike setting a cryptic puzzle.

“You reckon it’s too crazily easy and that everybody will get it straightaway, and then you’re terribly surprised when they don’t guess it at all.” 

Do crosswords improve memory?

Brain Fact: Crosswords are fun and may improve your ability to find words, but they don‘t help your brain’s overall cognition or memory. A lot of people do crossword puzzles each day with the belief that this activity will help keep the brain young and even keep Alzheimer’s or dementia at bay.

The Shame

As I write this, I imagine academic purists clutching their pearls. Crosswords aren’t just a game like 2048 or Ballz (heh). Crosswords are supposed to be a more worthy way of passing the time, simultaneously exercising your mind and improving your knowledge. Sure, other puzzle games like Candy Crush or Sudoku still exercise your mind. But the crossword is the tweed-wearing grandpappy of passive time well spent.

Moreover, crosswords are a status symbol of mental superiority and education. If you play crosswords, it says that you care about not wasting time, that you’re smart enough and with a large enough vocabulary to play word games. You’re bookish and witty. Crosswording is perhaps one of the only endearing manifestations of elitism.

Refined parental figures I know do crosswords in the actual newspaper. New Yorker tote-toting subway riders do crosswords in the app. Writers and journalists talk about their crossword wins and frustrations on Twitter. The crossword play I observe in the real world even mirrors the puzzle’s portrayal in film and TV, where crosswords are reserved for learned, lovably anxious characters. Brooklyn 99‘s Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) teases, then reveres, and ultimately loves, his romantic interest Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) for her detail-oriented intelligence — which the show frequently signifies through her love of crosswords.

So, part of the point of doing crosswords is to show off to yourself, and anyone who happens to learn that you crossword, how much you know, and what kind of a person you are.

If I’m honest, it’s this perception that caused me to pick up (or, actually, download) crosswords in the first place. Playing mindless games felt somehow beneath me, a New York City graduate student, at the time. It was about bolstering the writerly persona I was adopting; helping to convince myself that I belonged.

Which is why it feels so sacrilege to divulge my cheating ways in digital print. Cheating at crosswords seems wrong because it sullies the integrity of the vaunted game; the app itself shames you when you cheat, with a patronizing pop-up that informs you “checking” will disqualify you from counting this puzzle towards a “streak.”

Admitting that I cheat goes a step beyond the ignobleness of the act. Acknowledging my crossword smarts inferiority is particularly shameful because I risk exposing the fraudulentness that I always feel is lurking at the center of my intellectual worth. I can’t do crosswords without help. There is a lot I don’t know. Who am I to play the crossword?

But without cheating, I never would have gotten anywhere with the game. What I imagined as the pastime of the educated urbanite would have been closed to me, just as sure as friendship with a Prospect Heights bar patron would be if I’d entered in my Southern California athleisure and Uggs.

Cheating does not confirm the fears of impostor syndrome that nag when I press that life boat. Conversely, playing crosswords does not make me a type, just like those subway riders or TV characters. Playing crosswords, and cheating at crosswords, neither confirms nor negates the idea that I am educated or sophisticated or clever. It means that I like word games, and I’m still learning this one.

Which is why I implore you to cheat. Crosswords actually are a better use of time than bouncing a ball around a screen. Winning them, and building my knowledge and skills, is an accomplishment that I haven’t gotten from any other iPhone game. Don’t let any sense of purist elitism, or perhaps your own feelings of inferiority and embarrassment, keep you away.

Crosswords can be for anyone, I promise. Use that “check” button with abandon, for as long as you need it. But don’t let it become a crutch forever. Notice when it’s time to rely on yourself, and not the little life raft. Soon you’ll be able to swim on your own.

Related Video: The fascinating story behind the explosive success of Candy Crush — MashTalk


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