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Newsday Crossword Solving Hints

Unlike almost every other game, crossword puzzles don’t come with a set of instructions.  That’s why I’ve assembled for you these general solving hints.  You’ll find a separate set of hints for the Saturday Stumper here -- S.N.

  • You may have noticed that the Newsday Crossword gets gradually more difficult from Monday through Friday. In keeping with longstanding tradition, this is done deliberately to give puzzle fans a variety of challenges through the week.

  • The Monday and Tuesday puzzles are probably the easiest crosswords published in American newspapers today. They are specially designed and edited to give puzzlers a “quick start” for the week, and are ideal for youngsters (junior high grades and higher) to do together with adults, as well as for people who haven’t done crosswords before.  Virtually all the answers are common, everyday words, with very few proper names, and the clues are all extremely straightforward and “trick-free.”  The Saturday Stumper is a lot harder than Friday, and the Sunday puzzle (while larger) is of comparable difficulty to a Wednesday or Thursday.

  • Excluding the Saturday Stumper, the title on each Newsday Crossword is there to provide you with a hint as to the subject matter of the puzzle’s theme.  The Sunday puzzle has a additional blurb to give you a bit more of a hint.  So you should always look at the title and blurb before starting the puzzle.

  • The best answer to fill in first is one you’re absolutely sure of, so don’t automatically start with 1 Across.  Very often, a “fill-in-the-blank” clue is a good place to start.

  • After you’ve written in the first answer, try to fill in answers that already have one or more letters filled in from the crossing words.  It’s almost always easier to figure out answers that are partially filled in.  Also, you’re less likely to have a wrong answer that way.

  • Don’t “jump around,” filling in answers all over the puzzle.  Your solving will be easier and faster if you concentrate on one area of the puzzle at a time.  If you’re unable to think of any answers in the area you’re working on, look for a “fill-in-the-blank” clue in a nearby section of the puzzle and try to link up with the area you were working on before.

  • If you get stuck, try putting the puzzle away for a while.  Many people use this “fresh start” technique.  If that doesn’t work, it’s OK to get a little help by looking a word up in the dictionary or taking a peek at the answers.  Some think that’s “cheating,” but it’s perfectly all right, and now you have the permission of the teacher (me).

  • Keep in mind that, if you’ve got an entire section of a puzzle unfilled except for a word or two, it’s possible that those words are wrong.  You should erase those words, and starting working on that area from “square one.”

  • Speaking of erasing, you should never solve crosswords in pen.  You can’t erase pen mistakes, and looking at filled-in words you know are wrong makes successful solving extremely difficult.  If you want to impress onlookers, use an erasable pen.

  • Many solvers use crosswords as a springboard to self-improvement.  You can too, by looking up all clues and answers that are unfamiliar.  This may involve more than a dictionary, since the Newsday Crossword has a wide variety of factual references.  Your vocabulary and knowledge base will increase steadily as a result, and your crossword solving will improve also.

  • When you’ve completed the puzzle, reward yourself by taking another look at the title, and see how the title relates to the theme.  It should help your solving as well, as you become more familiar with the title/theme relationship.

  • There may be times when a particular clue/answer or puzzle theme isn’t clear.  If that happens, feel free to e-mail me for help.  Please be sure to mention the date and title of the puzzle when you write.