10 Tips for Solving Crosswords


Completing a crossword in English can be very satisfying. On the other hand, if you get stuck, it can also be very frustrating. To get the job done here are ten tips which should stop you pulling your hair out!

1. Do the easy ones first

Rather than starting with 1 Across and doing the clues in order, quickly scan all the clues for the easiest and most obvious ones such as: 'verb of movement' (2 letters) or 'frozen water' (3 letters).

2. Look for ‘free’ letters

If you cannot find the solution to a particular word, don’t abandon it. You may be able to guess some of its letters in any case. For example, try to understand if it is plural. If it is, the last letter, in most cases, will be ‘s’. Similarly, if the word in question is long, and a verb in the past, or an adjective, the final two letters could be ‘ed’. If the word is a job, there’s a good chance that it will finish with ‘er’ or ‘ist’. These letters will fill boxes which may help you find the solution to another clue so you can complete a different word in the crossword.

3. Question yourself   

Don’t assume that the words that you have already filled in are correct. If you are stuck, be quick to question your work. It could be that you have put in an incorrect response which is blocking your way forward.   

4. Get the first letter

If you are having problems with a particular word, its first letter will be a great help. You might be able to find that first letter through finding the solution to another word.

5. Watch out for false friends

Many crossword writers love to put in false friends to lead you astray. Don’t let them fool you with words like ‘actually’, ‘pretend’, ‘argument’ and ‘eventually’!

6. Try to guess good friends

Over sixty percent of all English words have Greek or Latin roots. Although many of these are false friends as mentioned above, many are ‘good friends’, particularly if they are formal, technical or academic words.

7. Check for synonyms

If the word that you think is the answer doesn’t fit, check in a dictionary for synonyms. You might find the answer there.

8. Have a break

If you take a break and come back at later, you may see things from a different perspective.  

9. Put in letters at random

If you are really stuck, put letters in the empty boxes at random. The most common 11 letters in the English language are: a, e, i, o, u, d, h, l, r, s t. Start with these. The complete word might then come to you.

10. Get help!

As last resort, why not just ask a family member or  a friend for help? It could be fun!