Maybe you’re just starting to do crosswords, and you’re finding that the vast majority are much too difficult for you. Or, it’s finally happened – you’ve encountered a crossword that you just can’t solve, no matter how much time you spend on it.
No matter the situation you’re in, one thing is for sure: You want to get better at crosswords. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of completing a puzzle with ease or finally finishing one you’ve been stuck on.
Follow the advice on the page and you will get better at crossword puzzles – guaranteed.
Start with fill-in-the-blank puzzles
If you’re still in the stage where everything is hard, it might be worth taking a step back and solving puzzles that are a bit… easier. Solving a crossword without cheating or looking up the answers is such a respected feat because usually, it’s not something that you can just jump right into.
Fill-in-the-blank puzzles are similar to crosswords, except instead of solving clues, you practice placement and lining up words with one another correctly.
Newspapers don’t run fill-in-the-blank puzzles, but you can find free ones online. Our favorites are BigOpolis and Puzzlers World.
Do easier puzzles
If you’re pulling random puzzles online or solving puzzles from a random newspaper, you have no idea how difficult each puzzle is.
In general, beginners will want to look for the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday editions of newspapers to solve crosswords from. The earlier in the week, the easier the puzzle is. At the extreme is the New York Times Sunday puzzle, which many can’t complete – even the most experienced players in the world.
If you’re playing online, you can check out our guide to free crossword puzzles – we sort each one by difficulty level.
Research problem categories
Start taking notes of clues that completely stump you. Once you have a list, run through them and see if they’re related in any way. If they are, you know the topics you should learn more about – our best recommendation is heading down to the library and picking out a general book on whichever topic you’re struggling with.
Pop culture is a popular topic in weekly crosswords – you can’t escape it. Immerse yourself in pop culture for an edge – or, just know where to look when you have a clue that completely stumps you.
Practice, practice, practice
Solving crossword puzzles is a skill that you need to build. It’s the same as with anything else – doing crosswords all of the time (or at least daily) will build the parts of your brain associated with solving them.
Making words “fit” is a particularly strange skill that you need to master – while trivia and spelling are relatively common skills, making words transect in the center of each other is not. As a beginner, you’ll notice that you start improving at a very rapid pace as this skill is learned, followed by steady progress as you improve your other skills (vocabulary, etc.).
Aside from starting with fill-in-the-word puzzles, doing easier puzzles, and just practicing, there’s not much you can do to get better. Just put the effort in and in a few months, you’ll laugh at how hard beginner puzzles once were – we guarantee it! Good luck!