Crosswords

Are you any good at these?

Now I don’t mean saying words to others of an angry nature but the other crossword, the one defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as … 

“A puzzle consisting of a grid of squares and blanks into which words crossing vertically and horizontally are written according to clues.”

Me … I am absolutely hopeless. Well maybe I am being a tad too harsh on myself.

If it is a mini crossword with all the answers based on a theme that I have an interest in or know a little about then maybe I can solve it without asking Mr Google too much, if at all.

To the purists I apologise. Yes I use the internet for all those head scratching clues that become all too obvious when I see the options presented to me. 

And as for cryptic crosswords … don’t get me started on those. My brain catches fire and I start to hyperventilate at the mere mention of them. I regard people who can solve those as some of the most intelligent in the world.

My deficiency in this area got me pondering over the following question.  

Is the ability to solve a crossword (and do it well ie. no cheating) a skill that is gifted to you at birth or is it simply something that you get better at the more you do it?

I did some quick and lite research (back to Mr Google) and it appears that the general consensus is the latter although one article stated (based on a study by the University of Birmingham) that having an aptitude for problem solving helps.

Generally the mantra is practice, practice and more practice.

Do puzzles on a daily basis. Start small and easy then slowly work your way up the difficulty ladder. Train your brain!

But I happily discovered that there are also some techniques, tips and tricks that can help you in your quest to conquer that infernal square:

10 Tips For Solving Crossword Puzzles

During my ferret around I found the following article into how crosswords are created and thought it fascinating:

A New York Times Crossword Writer Explains His Craft

Incidentally, it seems that there is some controversy surrounding the origins of the puzzle.

The Wikipedia page (again apologies) for the crossword has a very informative history section listing no less than 1862, 1873,1890, 1913 as possible birth dates depending on what your definition of ‘crossword puzzle’ is.

Check it out as there are lots of other wonderful bits of info for the word anoraks among us.

So after all that I can state that I am, in a small way, following the advice of those more expert than myself. I have the NY Times crossword app on my phone and I complete their free daily mini puzzle. I have purchased packs of multiple puzzles when I am feeling particularly brave.

Being a crossword of American origin there are some words that I hit a roadblock with, being unfamiliar with the cultural reference, but I try not to beat myself up over it when it happens.

Yes – even with mini puzzles done on a casual basis it gets very involving and it becomes a matter of personal pride but the absolute joy when you make it to the end and are successful is very real indeed!

Do I think I am getting better?

Well, no frankly, but I am only spending 5 or 10 minutes a day in the pursuit of crossword glory. 

If I really put my mind to it and got my nose to the crossword grindstone I probably still wouldn’t get much better to be honest but I would have a lot of fun trying!

(Header Image: Pixabay)

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