Thursday, June 17, 2010


This post is a result of some pleasant and many unsavoury experiences I had while i tried my hand at cracking a few crosswords. Whoa! Whoa ! Stop it right there .Before you march down this post let me clarify a few things.This post is not a comprehensive list of do's and dont's of crossward-cracking.Why? Simply because no such list exists. Secondly I am not an expert . I have solved only a few crosswords ; but i must confess I relished those moments!
This post is about the discoveries I made during my humble endeavors. So here it goes:
Discovery 1: Getting a crossword is easy!
Most newspapers have a daily crossword and there is a high probability that the newspaper that you follow has one. Or there are numerous free crossword puzzles online which you can access after a simple 'googling'. The more serious among you can buy crossword puzzles books.
The New York Times Supersized Book of Sunday Crosswords: 500 Puzzles (New York Times Crossword Puzzles)

Discovery 2 : Getting started is tough!
Seriously, the toughest part of the crossword is not in cracking the clues but pushing yourself to attempt it. You might feel that you are not upto it or that the clues dont make any sense.Don't worry relax! It didn't make any sense to me the first time either. If you feel that the online tutorials will make you a 'crossie-genius' then the time has come to share my third discovery

Discovery 3: Online tutorials does not make you a genius
Yes they don't because they can't. If they promise you they can then definitely they CANNOT. Some of the online communities actually encourage discussion on crosswords and thus might improve your understanding but thats about it. The website is a very useful website for beginners and veterans alike but ultimately you have to walk the walk yourself

Discovey 4 : Some clues
Most of the easier clues in crosswords, I have come to know,  involve anagrams and containers. Let me explain. Anagrams are words formed by rearranging the alphabets of another word. For example

dormitory = dirty room (how true!)

another example made popular by the Da vinci code is

Oh! lame saint = the mona lisa.
Click here for more on anagrams

Most clues involving anagrams are indicated in the clues by the words out, break/broken, mix/mixed etc. because anagrams involve breaking and
mixing to bring out new words.

Example ( from Hindu crossword : nita jaggi)
Old man breaks the nut(6)
Here the breaks is adjacent to the old man. so by rearranging we get
old man = almond ;which is a nut
Also notice that old man contains six alphabets as indicated in  the question.

Containers are clues in which the answer lies within the question, literally.

Example ( from Hindu crossword 9870 : nita jaggi):
Rabbit found in the Gurkha regiment (4)
Usually the words in, inside, within etc. indicate a container. So observing closely inside the phrase
Gorkha regiment we get the answer hare which is a rabbit.

for other abbreviations and clues:  Click here

Discovery 5 : Enjoying the process is the goal!

I had been very disappointed at my not being  able to crack the easiest of clues and overlooking the simplest of hints.I cursed myself for it. Then I realised that beating myself up was taking the fun out of it. So if you feel dejected while in the middle of a crossie-session  take a break , freshen up, and have a go at it later. Trust me it will a lot more enjoyable then.

Final Discovery : the atlantis
No esoteric lectures can replace the exhilarating experience of that eureka movement. So are you up to it?


  1. ohhh those crosswords make me go crazy... coz the answers are always simple but difficult to crack...

  2. Hi Nikhil

    A few points - hope this helps.

    #1 The NYT book you have linked to is of straight crosswords; the grid image too is of a straight crossword. But most of your other content (clues don't make sense, clue types etc.) is about cryptic crosswords, an entirely different kettle of fish.

    It's important to distinguish between the two as the solving approaches they call for are not the same.

    #4 Clues in which the answer lies within the question, literally, are called "hidden" in standard crossword parlance. "Containers" are a different clue type: in container clues, one word wraps around another. An example: Horseman capturing a freebooter (6) R{A}IDER

    If you're new to cryptic crosswords, I'd suggest avoiding Nita Jaggi's puzzles, they have a lot of flaws. In the quoted clues, ALMOND can be "nut" or "a nut", not "the nut". The HARE clue's "the" does not have a role in the wordplay, which is considered inartistic.

    Best wishes for your solving, and congrats for being showcased on BlogAdda!

  3. @shuchi : Thanks for the suggestion. Will work on it and try to incorporate them in my post. And yes I have stopped trying NJ's puzzle!(phew!*relief*)
    thanks for reading my post!
    @Rajlakshmi: I know the feeling. trust me it will get better. thanks for the comment. Thanks for reading

  4. Great post, Nikhil. You've motivated me start doing crosswords again!

  5. Hey I am going to pick a cross word tonight..I left the habit of bedtime crosswords after college..
    Thanks for motivating me :)

  6. @heyithinkthisway: Thank You! happy crossies!

  7. nice site, good to sharpen the brains, will be coming back for more, especially when i am in low moods

  8. @prashanth: Thanks a lot. It really inspires me to keep going. Thanks once again