... Straight From a NYT Puzzle Maker!
The people who really know how to solve crossword puzzles? The ones who make them, of course. Professional puzzle makers have an inside look into the types of clues that are used by and the general thought processes behind the people who are making the puzzles that you solve.
One such puzzle maker is Will Shortz, who has been writing crosswords for the New York Times for over 20 years. His top 5 tips for improving your game are below - apply what you learn to become not just good, but exceptionally good at solving crosswords.
From The Huffington Post.
1 Do all types of puzzles, everywhere you can
There are two components to a crossword puzzle - the “making the words fit” part, and the actual trivia part.
For trivia, Will Shortz recommends quizzing yourself on theme-based sites such as Quiz Rocket. The answers to your quiz questions might not always be the exact same as the answers on a crossword puzzle, but you’ll get general knowledge of different topics that you didn’t have before. You can even get an app like QuizUp to practice on the go.
Current events, TV, movies, and sports are some of the most popular topics. Start there if you don’t know much about any of those categories.
We’ll go over the “making the words fit” part in #3.
2 Relax, silly
At times, doing a crossword can seem like mental warfare - but according to Shortz, you have to always be relaxed. Doing so will allow you to make connections and remember words that you couldn’t otherwise.
Shortz also says a critical component is to have fun - after all, these are games, and to stick with it, you need to be enjoying it!
3 Try other puzzles - namely, sudoku
Shortz recommends trying sudoku for a few reasons:
Take a break from crosswords - eventually, you’ll get burnt out and you won't be solving clues as efficiently as you could be
It’s a similar concept - numbers are organized in a grid (although the grid is smaller, usually 9x9)
It’s logical, just as crossword puzzles are - you have to make the same connections with numbers in sudoku that you’d make with words in crossword puzzles
You can try sudoku for free at Web Sudoko or Sudoko Kingdom.
4 Do physical exercise
A healthy body means a healthy mind, and considering crosswords are some of the hardest mental puzzles to solve, you need to be in peak condition.
Take the time to incorporate some sort of exercise into your daily routine. This exercise can be as simple as walking to the store or taking the stairs - just get your blood pumping!
5 Challenge yourself otherwise
Shortz ends with an inspirational message - the more you overcome other obstacles, the easier it will be to overcome the clues in your weekly or daily crossword puzzle.
Confidence breeds creativity, and Shortz believes the best way to get confidence is by challenging yourself. Try to step out of your comfort zone every day, even if that’s as simple as smiling at a stranger or saying “Hi” to someone on the train.
Want more? Check out our list of beginner crossword tips or read the full interview on Huffington post.