Whether you’ve never filled in an answer or you’re a Sunday Times regular, crossword puzzles are fun, challenging and come every day in most major newspapers. The most most people do puzzles, the better they become, and the more they may want to challenge themselves. If you’re a beginner to an intermediate solver, learning how to answer common clues can help you on your way.
Ones For Sure: The first thing you should do when solving a crossword puzzle is to fill in the answers to clues of which you are certain. These are clues where there can be no debate, and often come are written in a "fill in the blank" manner, such as "_ _ _ Mahal", or "George W. _ _ _ _". These answers will help you get started, giving you a valuable head start on the clues around them.
More Than One Meaning, Abbreviations and Question Marks: Most crossword puzzle clues are not as simple as the fill-in-the-blanks. Proceed with a degree of caution, because many clues can have multiple answers. For these clues, consider several answers and see how they affect the answers around them. Filling these answers in with a pencil is a great way to see how the answers will lay out. Clues that are written with an abbreviation, or that include the word "briefly," almost always indicate that the answer will be abbreviated in some way. For instance, the answer to "Pres. Lincoln" could simply be "Abe," while the answer to "Scout mission, briefly" might be "recon." If a clue ends in a question mark, the answer could be a loose definition of the word, or otherwise tricky. "One without a to-do plan?" might turn out to be "Listless."
Plurals and Foreign Languages: When a clue is phrased with a plural, it almost always means the answer will be the plural form of the word. (However, this doesn't necessarily mean that the answer will end in "s".) Clues that are written with a foreign word will yield answers in that same language. For instance, a three-letter answer to the clue "hot saison" will likely be "ete," the French word for summer.
Take your Time, Notice the Repeats: Solving a puzzle is not a race. Give it some time, and you may surprise yourself with how many answers you come up with. Many puzzles repeat clues from day to day, especially ones with three- or four-letter answers. Remember them, because they show up again and again.