Need Help Solving Crossword Puzzles: Learn The Secrets Of Reading Clues

Need help solving crossword puzzles? It's easy to learn the clues and secret patterns, read and find out.

Puzzled by crossword puzzles?

Some people think that crossword puzzle clues are written in a secret language. In a way, they're right. But it's a language that is very easy to learn, once you know how to spot the patterns. Here are some things to watch out for:

1. Fill-in-the-blank clues. These are often the easiest clues to solve, and they are a good place to start the puzzle. Clues may be everyday expressions ("How are ___?" Answer: YOU), or titles of movies, songs, or books ("God Bless ___" Answer: AMERICA), or quotes ("It's the economy, ___" Answer: STUPID). Starting with these clues will give you a toehold on the puzzle. You don't have to start with the first clue.

2. Plural and singular nouns. Words that are plural in the clues will be plural in the answers as well, and vice-versa. For example, if the clue is "Thanksgiving dessert," the answer might be PIE. But if the clue is "Thanksgiving desserts," in the plural, then the answer would be PIES, also in the plural. This is useful because if you see a plural clue, you can often put an "S" into the grid at the end of the word, even if you don't know any other part of the answer.

But beware. In harder puzzles, this may get tricky. For example, a harder puzzle might use irregular plurals. If the clue is "Kids," the answer might be CHILDREN.

3. Verb tenses. Just as plural and singular nouns match in clues and answer, verb tenses also match. If a clue is in the past tense, for example, then the answer must also be in the past tense. If the clue is "Love," the answer might be ADORE. But "Loved" would require ADORED as an answer, and "Loving" would require ADORING.

Here too, the harder puzzles may try and trick you with irregular verbs. If you see the clue "Carried a tune" you will be tempted, since you now know the trick, to put ED at the end of the answer. But the answer could actually be SANG.

4. Abbreviations. Most puzzles will signal that an answer is an abbreviation by using an abbreviation in the clue. For example ABA (American Bar Association) is a common answer in crosswords. The clue might signal that the answer is an abbreviation by using the abbreviation "attys": "Group for attys"

5. Foreign languages: Answers may be clued by references to the country. For example HOLA (hello, in Spanish) might be clued as "Greeting in Spain." In harder puzzles, a very common tricky clue is "Nice friend." The answer is AMIE (friend, in French) and the trick is that "Nice" is a city in France.

6. Phrases. Years ago, puzzle clues used to tell you if the answer was a multiple-word phrase, by putting "(2 words)" or "(3 words)" at the end of the clue. Nowadays, this information is often omitted. So keep in mind that your answer may have more than one word. For example, the clue "Greeting before noon" might have the two-word answer GOODMORNING.

7. Names. Sometimes a first name is given in a clue, and the answer is the last name, or the other way around. There can also be singular and plural names. For example "Al or Tipper" would be GORE, but "Al and Tipper" would be GORES.

The more puzzles you work on, the more that these patterns, and others, will become second nature. You will really be able to see your progress, and that will be very satisfying.

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