Why do people think crosswords are a good idea?

Puzzles have been around since time immemorial – in the forms of jigsaws, riddles and assembly puzzles. Crosswords are one of the most popular forms of puzzles while being relatively new to the market. The first recorded crossword puzzle appeared in the 19th century. They were simple word blocks aimed at an audience consisting of primarily- children. However, the crosswords as we know it now, are considered an adult pastime.

Consider the above crossword clue and put your minds to figuring out what the word is by the time you’re done reading the article. The answer will be revealed at the end of this article.

Crosswords are commonplace, appearing in daily newspapers, websites and mobile applications. It’s popularity hinges on the fact that there are various levels to the game that allows anyone to try and succeed in filling it. There’s a certain child-like pleasure in looking at a filled crossword puzzle and knowing you figured out all the clues.

There are several types of clues in a crossword that force an individual to think outside the box.

Each of these steps helps improve a different aspect of your language and memory.

1.) Synonyms and meanings

Synonyms and meanings fall under the category of simple crosswords where the clues directly point to the word. They include synonyms of the required word or direct meanings.

For example, the clue for “SAGAS” is “Legendary stories”.

These kinds of clues help build vocabulary and overall communication skills. If crosswords are solved in a group, they are proven to improve team building and coordinating skills as well.

2.) Anagrams

Anagrams are one of the most common and simplest clues used in cryptic crosswords. An anagram is a type of word where if you rearrange the letters in a word, you obtain another word.

For example, the words “Nag a ram” make the word “anagram” when jumbled.

Such clues usually include a suggestion that you should be looking for an anagram. These suggestions could be “upset”, “moving another way”, “troubled” to name a few.

One of the most common ways to solve an anagram is by placing all the letters randomly in a circle, which consumes time. However, with the help of an anagram solver, you can quickly find the words. All you have to do is type in the word, and it will provide you with a list of possible anagrams.

This allows you to view other patterns and groupings in the word. Look for common suffixes or prefixes in the circle. Groupings such as -ING, -NESS, -LY, DIS-, SUB- if found, can help you start figuring out the word.

Try solving the following clue,

Go near fresh fruit (6)

There are two ways to solve this, either “go near” is the anagram and “fresh fruit” is the clue or the other way around. As the word is 6 letters, it is likely to be “go near”


On rearranging, we get ORANGE which is fresh fruit.

Anagrams allow individuals to improve their ability to identify patterns quickly and improve the ability to solve logical problems.

3.) Hidden words

This is another type of clue where the answer is hidden among the words in the clue. Hints pointing towards such a clue would be words like “in”.

Consider the example from The Times Jumbo, Some forget to get here for gathering (3-8)

The hidden words are in the phrase “Forget to get here”

These form the solution, GET TOGETHER which is another word for gathering.

Again, as in the case of anagrams, solving such puzzles helps in analyzing patterns.

4.) Homophones

Homophones are pairs of words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things.

 For example, deer and dear. The indication for such clues are phrases like “we hear” or “it is said”

Here is an example from Best For Puzzles, Narrow channel – not winding, we hear (6)

Let’s break this down. The meaning of the solution is “narrow channel” and the answer sounds like a synonym of “not winding”. Another word for not winding is straight and hence the answer is “STRAIT”

5.) Puns and common sayings

Plays on words are a common theme in cryptic crosswords. Solving such kinds of clues require a tad bit of practice, as they are usually indirect and confusing.

Take, for example, The Guardian Cryptic Crossword #27745 featured the following

Card game, somewhat spirited? (5)

This is a pun on the word “spirited” where it could, at first, seem to imply an energetic fast-paced game. However, it directs the answer to the alcohol spirit – rum.

The answer to this is “RUMMY”

If the following puzzles have not tickled your fancy, there is more than the crosswords have to offer.

It has been widely accepted that performing cognitive activities, like solving crossword puzzles, have a positive impact on one’s mental health.

An unfavorable, a research reporter for the Wall Street Journal, wrote the article “Puzzles Boost Verbal Skills, Cut Dementia Risk” that clearly favored the position that solving puzzles regularly cut the risk of dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, mentally challenging activities such as crossword puzzles keep your brain healthy and active and reduces the risk of the disease substantially. Apart from teaching you how to solve problems by looking at things from a different perspective, it also helps relieve stress and stave off boredom.

There are a great wide variety of sites that post daily crossword puzzles. Based on your level and interest, you can try a couple until you find your favorites. The USA Crossword offers crossword puzzles that fall under intermediate and expert levels. If cryptic crosswords are what you would like to try, The Guardian Cryptic Crossword also posts daily puzzles.

You can check your results against L.A Times Answers and also focus on solving individual clues instead of the whole crossword if you prefer.

Get cracking, fellow codebreakers!

The answer to the first puzzle is “ENIGMA”

“big name” is an anagram for the word enigma, which is true, a puzzle.

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