New to crosswords?
Becoming a good solver is not about knowing everything, it’s about understanding what the clues are asking you to do.
Here is a (not exhaustive) list of some general guidelines:
- “Follower,” “preceder,” “lead to,” and similar terms usually refer to prefixes and suffixes
- A question mark at the end of a clue is signaling to think about maybe not-so-obvious meanings
- References to “in + [city/country/region]” mean that the answer is in the language of that place
- Tenses have to match. If the clue is in the past tense, your answer must be as well
- Singulars and plurals have to match
- “Partner” usually signals the other word in a popular pair (e.g., the answer to the clue “Partner of live” would be “learn”)
- Parts of speech must match. If a clue is primarily a noun, the answer will be too
- Abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms are very common in crosswords, usually marked by “Abbr.,” “for short,” “briefly,” or an abbreviation in the clue itself
- The answer will generally not be any spelled-out word in the clue
- “Again” in a clue means that the answer starts with “re”
- Starting a clue with “Like” usually signals that the answer is an adjective or adverb
Stuck? Skip it! Fill the ones you know first and then come back to the harder ones. You’re not sure about an answer? See if you can figure out the clues that cross it to check. And…practice.
There are certain words that are very common in crosswords (often because they contain many vowels) that you will pick up along the way—for example, “ADO” as three-letter pandemonium or “OREO” as the cookie of choice.
Everyone has different philosophies, but I am firmly in the camp that there is no such thing as cheating on a crossword. Did as much as you could and you’re still stuck, but some of the clues look cool? Look them up 🙂
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Camila Valle is an editor, translator, and writer based in New York. She is also an avid crossword solver.