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Try These Tips To Improve Your Crossword Puzzle Skills

Unfortunately, for a lot of us, a fully completed puzzle can seem like an impossible goal. For those individuals, hours of slaving away at one complex puzzle can result in just a few words filled in. If you’re one of those people, then go easy on yourself – some words are better than none! Still, the chances are that you’re pretty keen to enhance your crossword skills.

The good news is that, by joining the almost 50,000 Americans who complete a daily crossword, you’re already halfway towards achieving this goal. But, we want to take things even further with some foolproof tips for ensuring that you’re able to complete even the most complex crosswords before long.

Keep on reading to find out what they are!

Why do you Find Crosswords so Hard?

It’s first worth asking yourself why you struggle so much with your crosswords right now. Often, you’ll find that a few key things are holding you back and, surprisingly, intelligence is rarely one of them. After all, crosswords are a skill like any other, and we all have the power to master them. So, what’s stopping you?

Obviously, you’ll need to consider your own crossword habits to answer that question, but a few of the things that can prevent us from ever becoming crossword pros include –

Irregular practice: An irregular crossword practice is one of the main reasons why you might be finding crosswords tricky. After all, how can you perfect this skill if you only complete one crossword every few weeks or less?

Trying difficult quizzes first: Crosswords are available in a range of different difficulty levels. For obvious reasons, jumping right in with a puzzle that’s well above your skillset could end up setting you back when you can’t fill in any of the clues. You’ll certainly struggle to gain any real knowledge by staring at a puzzle that makes no sense to you.

Rushing the process: Even crossword pros sometimes need to take their time over a puzzle. If you’re rushing, then you’re at risk of becoming frustrated, feeling like your efforts aren’t going anywhere, and ultimately giving up.

Not using the right tools: Jumping into a crossword without tools like a dictionary, a pencil, and a much-needed eraser (or delete button, if you’re completing your crosswords online!), can result in mistakes. By preventing you from learning where you’ve made those mistakes, not using a dictionary, in particular, can stop your crossword knowledge from ever developing.

Self-doubt: Sometimes, not believing yourself is enough to hold you back. Severe self-doubt will even prevent you from trusting your instincts, and may also stop you from ever trying to push your crossword knowledge.

Why is it Important to Develop Your Crossword Skills?

If you’re happy with your crossword knowledge as it is, then there’s no pressing need to develop your skills. After all, crosswords should be enjoyable, and sometimes, adding too much pressure can take the fun out of things. But, if you feel like your faltering crossword skill level is holding you back from doing crosswords despite a love for them, then taking your skills to the next level can be undeniably beneficial.

Just a few of the benefits you can start enjoying when you push your crossword puzzle skills beyond the basics include –

Increased enjoyment: By enhancing your crossword skills, you can remove the frustration of getting stuck on different clues. Instead, you’ll be able to fly through even difficult crosswords and gain far more enjoyment from them as a result.

Intelligence benefits: More complex crosswords can help you to learn challenging and often specialist vocabulary, as well as boosting more general skills, like spelling. In a way, then, you could argue that, the further you take your crossword skills, the more intelligent this pastime can make you.

Improved mental function: Regularly completing crosswords that challenge you is thought to boost mental functions like concentration, memory, and executive function.

A more relaxing experience: The more competent you are at a variety of crossword skill levels, the more relaxing you’ll find this past time, making it a great and portable way to unwind on your lunch break, in your evenings, and even during your commute.

Access to more varied crosswords: When you have a good crossword skillset behind you, you’ll be able to click on or open up any crossword and get going. This variety can keep things interesting, continually challenge you, and make sure that crosswords always utilize your brain power.

How to Improve Your Crossword Puzzle Skills

Once you know why your crossword skills are struggling, and also the benefits of overcoming that, it’s time to get down to the important business of improvement.

In reality, there’s no set way to become a crossword pro. You’ll likely find that the best route for you will vary depending on what you most related to in the sections that we’ve already covered.

Generally, speaking, though, the best tips for improvement include –

Make Crosswords a Habit

As we’ve already mentioned, an irregular crossword habit can significantly hold back your skills in this area. After all, regardless of your intelligence, developing a wide enough vocabulary to tackle a broad range of crosswords requires ongoing, regular practice. And, to achieve that, you really need to make crosswords a habit.

By this, we don’t mean that you should be forcing yourself to sit down at the computer to complete your crossword every day. That’s only going to result in resentment, and ultimately hold you back. Instead, you should try to reach for crosswords whenever you have a spare minute. The more you do this, the more natural the process will become. And, when crosswords become a natural habit, you should automatically see your skills start to develop.

A few ways that you can get into a daily crossword habit include –

Make crosswords accessible wherever you are, either by carrying a book, or finding a great app or crossword website like 247 Crossword.

Get into the habit of completing crosswords whenever you have a minute, such as on your work break or commute.

Set yourself fun, achievable goals, e.g. completing a crossword by the end of the day, or doing a more difficult crossword in x amount of time.

Keep going!

Perhaps the main thing to remember here is that you don’t have to complete a crossword every single day if that doesn’t suit you. Simply aim to do something on a crossword each day, even if that’s just one or two clues. This way, you’ll keep flexing the right mental muscles, and ultimately building a solid crossword skill base.

Take Your Time

Once you’ve developed your skills, you may find that timed crosswords are a fun way to challenge yourself and push yourself even further. But, when you’re first starting with crosswords, rushing may end up having a detrimental impact, and leave you giving up before you’ve had the chance to harness your skills. Worse, given that the words you don’t know are likely the ones that hold your practice back, this could prevent you from ever developing your vocabulary as required.

So, it’s important to give yourself the grace to finish a crossword in as much time as you need, especially if you’re attempting to go up a difficulty level. Even if you’re only completing one or two clues each time you open your crossword, you’re still learning a lot in this process. And, you’re also more likely to enjoy yourself.

Luckily, there are some great ways to slow your crossword process down. With a crossword book, you’ll be able to just pick up and go from where you left off. If you don’t fancy taking a book around with you, though, crossword apps and websites like 247 Crossword allow you to resume any crossword at a time and place that suits you.

Start Simply

As humans, we’re naturally competitive, but there’s no benefit in attempting to tackle a complex or intermediate-level crossword before you’re ready. In fact, this is a sure way to guarantee that your skills here won’t budge.

Why? Because crosswords rely on your vocabulary. No matter how well-spoken you believe yourself to be, you probably don’t yet have the often specialist vocabulary necessary for complex puzzles. And, the only way to get it is to complete plenty of basic puzzles first.

But don’t despair – you won’t be stuck on the basics forever. You will, however, want to stick to easy puzzles until you notice clear signs that you’re ready to move on, including –

The ability to quickly complete a range of easy crosswords

Boredom with easy crossword clues

Confidence when looking at more difficult crosswords

Try a Range of Different Crosswords

All crosswords cater to different skill levels. While attempting to jump in at a difficulty that’s beyond your current stage can hold you back, it’s also important that you don’t just stick to the same old thing. After all, if you’re only ever completing basic crosswords, your skills will never get much further than that.

Once you’re at the stage where you can easily answer the most basic crossword clues, it’s therefore crucial to push yourself by trying something different. Luckily, there are now plenty of crosswords out there to challenge you, and most of them are available at either easy, difficult, or intermediate levels.

With crosswords, you’ll generally find three main types, all of which are worth playing around with to take your skills further. Those include –

Fill-in crossword puzzles: Crosswords that provide a list of words that you must fit into the grid provided.

Hint crossword puzzles: These are perhaps the most common form of crossword. Several hints or clues help you to fill in the crossword.

Cryptic crossword puzzles: A more difficult type of hint crossword that provides cryptic hints, like riddles, puns, and wordplay.

Of course, managing all of these regularly might be tricky if you’re working in traditional crossword books. However, with ample online crossword resources now available, it’s never been easier to access each kind of crossword. With resources like 247 Crossword, you can also select your difficulty level on each crossword that you complete, meaning that you’re easily able to push yourself and enjoy the developmental benefits of doing so.

Use What you Know to Fill in What you Don’t

If you try to take each crossword clue as a single entity, then the chances are that you’ll struggle to fill even basic crosswords, let alone develop your skill sets here. This is because crosswords don’t expect you to know everything upfront, but rather they teach you new words by working with the knowledge that you do have.

Take this example – you might have absolutely no idea what the clue for 1 down means, but you do know the clue for 1 across, 2 across, and 3 down. This will give you three letters out of, let’s say, a four-letter word (if you’re working at a basic level). With the help of those three letters, you may return to 1 down and realize that it’s a word you know, after all. Or, you may fill 1 down with a word that you’ve heard before, but have never used, and it could turn out to be right. And, if it is right? You’ve just expanded your vocabulary, and enhanced your crossword skills, all with the knowledge that you already had.

All of this is to say that, especially if you’re attempting to go up to a harder crossword difficulty level, you should always ignore the clues you don’t know until you’ve filled in the ones that you do. You’d be amazed by how much this can help you to take things further.

Take Regular Breaks

Hang on, weren’t we just telling you to complete crosswords more regularly? Now we’re telling you to take regular breaks. What gives?

Honestly, while this information might seem contradictory, it isn’t. Building a regular crossword habit is all about picking up a crossword and doing a few clues in your free time. But, there’s no good to be had from staring at a crossword until your thoughts turn to mush and you start to doubt yourself.

By all means, crossword competency requires regular practice, but you should also know when to take a break, even if that just means walking away to get a drink. You would be amazed by how your brain reconfigures just from looking away from your paper or screen. Coming back, you’ll see the words that you’ve already filled in afresh, and may instantly spot obvious words that you’d altogether missed by looking at your crossword for too long.

As with the previous point, this can be great for expanding your knowledge, and generally keeping your crossword practice fresh, exciting, and more likely to move onto the next level.

Don’t be Afraid to Research

We’re a proud species, and too often we assume that we need to battle on through to the end rather than just looking at the crossword clues or looking up a word online. In reality, though, our last point is perhaps the most important one on this list, and it involves letting go of that pride and just doing the research already.

We get it, you want the glory of saying that you completed a crossword from start to finish. And, trust us, that goal will soon be yours if you keep on putting the work in. But, remember, crossword success is all about expanding vocabulary. And, if you put aside a crossword and never come back to it because of that one clue that defeated you, then your vocabulary will never have a chance to develop.

Of course, we’re not saying that you should jump to the clues page as soon as you stumble – that would be as counterintuitive as not researching, at all. But, if you’ve been stuck on one clue for a day or more, it’s probably time to look at what it is. The more you do this, the easier you’ll be able to tackle/tap into even cryptic clues, and the less you’ll ultimately require that help. And, when that happens, we’d say you’ve finally developed your crossword puzzle skills!

Take Your Crossword Skills Further With 247 Crossword

Here at 247 Crossword, we provide easy access to a wide range of crossword puzzles that each have three difficulty settings for your personal skill development. Whether you’re a complete beginner or require accessible difficult crosswords that you can take around with you, you’re sure to find them here. Once you’re competent with difficult crosswords, we also provide a range of fun challenges, including daily scoreboards and timed penalties that can see your crossword puzzle skills grow from strength to strength.


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