Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Many people who are starting out on their crossword solving quest are confused about where to start. Many are worried they are not smart enough or patient enough to solve a crossword puzzle. This FAQ includes a handy checklist of questions and answers on how to approach and complete a crossword puzzle.

  1. What is a Crossword Puzzle?

    A crossword is a type of game or puzzle which can be solved using letters and words. Clues are often listed beside the crossword and arranged in columns headed DOWN and ACROSS to indicate the direction in which the answers should be written. The first letter of each answer should be written in the box with the number corresponding to the number of the clue.
    The crossword is complete when all blank squares have been completed to form words which make sense in all directions.
  2. What is a Quickie or Straight Crossword?

    This type of crossword is usually easier for the beginner as it comprises of simple one word definition answers or fill-in-the-blanks. Examples for this could include
    the tree from which acorns fall” (3), or
    famous London detective -------- Holmes” (8).
    Quickie or straight crosswords use a variety of grids including the typical black and white blocked grids, barred grids, thematic style grids and skeleton grids.
  3. What is a Cryptic Crossword?

    This type of crossword is often more difficult than a straight crossword. As well as being asked to provide a definition, cryptic clues often present a wordplay challenge aspect to the clue such as an anagram. An example of this could be
    Don’t forget to get here for the party”(3,8).
    The answer to this is Get Together, which is both a definition of party and an anagram of forget to get here. The U.K. blocked grid is generally used for this type of crossword and in the U.K. the letter count for each word is included after the clue while in the U.S. the letter count is not given.
  4. What is a Themed Crossword?

    This type of crossword usually has a specific theme i.e. wild animals or European countries. This means that the clues and answers will all relate to the theme. Themed crosswords may be arranged in a variety of formats including, blocked grids, barred grids and skeleton grids. Unlike other crosswords, the shape of themed puzzles is not always rectangular or square and often contain wacky graphics to match the theme.
  5. What is a Skeleton Crossword Puzzle?

    Skeleton crosswords, sometimes called diagramless puzzles or bare bones crosswords are usually set in a square or rectangular grid. Unlike other puzzles however, the solver must work out where the answers to the clues go within the grid as very little information is provided. The grids are usually laid out symmetrical, with one or two shaded squares already indicated. It is the job of the solver to work out where the other black squares will be. While one or two squares may be numbered, the puzzler must first solve some of the clues before he can tell where the other numbers should go.
  6. What is a Codeword?

    A codeword puzzle is like a crossword which has no clues. Each letter has a numerical representation and answers are made from combinations of letters. A numbered grid is accompanied by a set of 26 numbered squares. In most cases one or two of the letters are already included. The puzzler must fill in the blanks using the letters which they think correspond to the numbers i.e. 1 = R, 2 = M etc. while ensuring the resulting words are spelled correctly.
    On we have three wildcards available to help you solve codeword puzzles. ( *   ^   and   @ )
    cr*@@w*rd  (Finds `crossword`, with wildcards *=o and @=s)
    @upe^@ta^      (Finds `superstar` with wildcards .=s ^=r)
  7. Should I use a pen or a pencil to complete my crossword?

    Most beginners use a pencil as it is easier to erase than pen. Often there is more than one possible solution to a clue and only when a clue beside it has been solved is it obvious that an answer cannot be correct. Once you advance and are more experienced with crosswords, using a pen is a good way to challenge yourself.
  8. How do I complete a crossword?

    Most crossword clues can be arranged in groups. Try starting with the ones which result in a plural ending with the letter S. These can be filled in to give a letter in another answer. Next, try to answer the clues which require you to fill in the blanks and then attempt the clues with the least numbers of letters as these are often easier than longer words. Look for themed answers or trivia questions which require general knowledge and have no wordplay aspects as these are often more straightforward.
  9. How do I improve my crossword skills?

    Experience through practice is the only way to improve your puzzling skills. If you like themed puzzles then swot up on a few subjects in order to have a good knowledge base to draw on. Try doing the same crossword ever day i.e. the one in your daily newspaper or weekly magazine. Increase your trivia knowledge and use online resources such as to get some help.