Lisa wants to enter the Citywide Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Lisa Simpson reads a flyer that says

So she enlists the help of...

Lisa says in excitement

The advice Will gave to Lisa will have you solving NYT crosswords like a pro!

Start Smart

NYT crosswords increase in difficulty throughout the week.

Whether you're a novice or expert puzzler, start with a Monday puzzle first before progressing to a later-week puzzle.

Monday puzzles are the easiest to solve of the week because the clues are straightforward.

Clue: Chocolate cookie with cream filling

Answer: Oreo

Saturday puzzles are filled with the most challenging clues and less direct answers

Clue: It has 12 flowers on each side

Answer: Oreo

Lisa Simpson writes in an answer to a clue: 'Oxidized Surface, well, that's Rusty'

Easy First Does It Best

Scan the clue list and pick out the easiest ones to solve first.

"Fill in the Blank" clues are usually the easiest to work out because they have a definite answer.

Clue: _____ of The Tiger

Answer: Eye

Trivia questions also have a definite answer and don't involve word play or logical deduction.

Clue: Actress Julia from the movie Steel Magnolias

Answer: Roberts

Lisa Simpson is writing in the answer to the following crossword puzzle clue: FDR'S Middle Name, Delano

Find The Shorter Answers And Use Crosswordese

Look for short-answer words first as well.

Take a look at your crosswords grid to see what clues are short answers (three to five letter words). The shorter answers will be easier to fill in, as there are only a certain number of logical letter combinations that can fit into the spaces. 

NYT crosswords love using certain words, aka "Crosswordese".  

Take note of some of the frequently used words in NYT crosswords. These words are often three or four-letter words that are rarely used in everyday speech:

Iota, Arno, Elbe, Area, Ode, Aloe, Apse, Olio, Epee, Aga

Lisa Simpson is writing in the letters r, a, and p to complete a crossword puzzle

Read Between The Clues

Lisa Simpson is writing in the answer for the clue

Clues often tell you how an answer should be written. The answers will agree in some of the following ways:

Tense

If a clue is a particular verb tense, then the answer will be in that same tense.

Clue: Located [past tense]

Answer: Found

Plurality

If a key word in the clue is plural, then the answer will also be a pluralized word.

Clue: Green fruits

Answer: Apples

Clues with a question mark

These clues tend to be a tricky play on words, with the answer usually being a pun or a misdirection.

Clue: Double Over?

Answer: Fold

Abbreviation

If there is an abbreviation in the clue, then the answer will also be an abbreviation.

Clue: Opposite of NE

Answer: SW

Quotes

A clue in quotes may mean that the answer is a title of a song, movie, or book.

For example, Clue: “Ooh, see that girl”

Answer: Dancing Queen

Language

If part of a clue is in a foreign language, then your answer should be written in a foreign language. 

Clue: Cat, en français

Answer: Chat

Quiz

The clue is "Surprised". What should you do to find the answer?

Be On The Lookout For Rebuses And Homonyms

Lisa Simpson and another character on the show are gasping for breath

Some of the harder puzzles — particularly Thursday and Sunday crosswords — have a "surprise" element called a "rebus".

This means you'll enter your answer — which can be a word or a group of words — into a single square instead of across multiple squares.

An example of a rebus puzzle, with the letters F A S T entered in 1 square to make the words Fasting, Breakfast and Fastener

In these examples, the word FAST is entered into a single square to make the following words: fasting, breakfast, and fastener.

Some puzzle clues use homonyms as a play on words.

Homonyms are two or more words that have the same spelling but different pronunciations and meanings.

Clue: One of them does ?

Answer: Deer

Give Yourself A Break

When you’re stuck on a puzzle, sometimes it’s best to put it aside for a while.

Clear your head in some way as you take a break from puzzle solving. This will help you refocus with fresh eyes and figure out the answers to clues that were previously a challenge.

Lisa Simpson is dancing

Look It Up And Learn

When you're in doubt, look up the answers.

It’s also OK to look up an answer when you're stuck. Sometimes, you just need that one clue to avoid frustration and giving up

Ultimately, crosswords are fun ways to learn a new word or phrase, or some interesting trivia. 

Lisa Simpson says, with her hand to her head as she looks down on a piece of paper

Quiz

Jerry is an avid NYT puzzler who finds this Saturday’s puzzle very challenging. What should he do?

Take Action

Lisa Simpson walks up to her mom with a crosswords in her hand. She says to her:

By following these tips and practicing regularly, you too could become a cruciverbalist!

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This Byte has been authored by

SH

Stephanie Hare

Learning Consultant & Content Moderator