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Crack the Code: Pro Tips for Mastering Cryptic Crosswords from NYTimes and WSJ

Pro Tips for Mastering Cryptic Crosswords from NYTimes and WSJ


Crack the Code: Pro Tips for Mastering Cryptic Crosswords from NYTimes and WSJ

Ever stared at a cryptic crossword in The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal and felt like you were trying to decode an alien language? You’re not alone. But some people actually get it, and guess what? You can too. CrosswordZone hooked us up with some insider tips straight from the pros on how to become a cryptic crossword-solving ninja. So, let’s get into it.

Tip #1: Learn the Lingo

  • From the Pros: “Cryptic crosswords have their own language. Get familiar with recurring clues, abbreviations, and crossword jargon to have a fighting chance.”
  • Our Take: Start building a glossary. For example, ‘E’ often stands for ‘east,’ and ‘R’ can stand for ‘right.’ The more you know, the better.

Tip #2: Focus on the Easy Ones First

  • From the Pros: “Don’t bang your head on one clue. Start with the easy ones to get a foothold and unlock the tricky ones.”
  • Our Take: It’s like filling in the corners of a jigsaw puzzle first. Getting the easy ones out of the way can help you see the bigger picture.

Tip #3: Split and Conquer

  • From the Pros: “Cryptic clues often have two parts: a definition and wordplay. Learn to identify which is which to dissect the clue better.”
  • Our Take: Once you separate the clue into these two parts, it becomes way easier to figure out.

Tip #4: Think Outside the Box

  • From the Pros: “Wordplay can be tricky, so let your mind wander. Anagrams, reversals, and hidden words are all fair game.”
  • Our Take: Flex those creative muscles. If a clue seems bizarre, it’s probably because it’s inviting you to think differently.

Tip #5: Keep Practicing

  • From the Pros: “The more you do, the better you get. Consistency is key.”
  • Our Take: Practice makes perfect. Keep a regular date with the cryptic crossword in your fave newspaper and stick with it.

Tip #6: Use Pencil

  • From the Pros: “When you’re unsure, write lightly so you can easily make changes.”
  • Our Take: This isn’t just practical; it’s symbolic. It reminds you that it’s okay to make mistakes and start over.

Tip #7: Don’t Be Shy—Collaborate

  • From the Pros: “A fresh pair of eyes can see what you missed. Don’t hesitate to solve it as a group.”
  • Our Take: Grab your buddy, hop on a Zoom call, or join a crossword forum online. Sometimes teamwork makes the dream work.

Tip #8: Know When to Take a Break

  • From the Pros: “If you’re stuck, walk away and come back later. A fresh mindset often sees new angles.”
  • Our Take: Give your brain a rest. You’d be surprised how often the answer comes to you when you’re doing something totally unrelated.


Cryptic crosswords might seem like the Mount Everest of puzzles, but with these tips from the experts, you’ll be scaling those heights in no time. Whether you’re a newbie looking for a mental challenge or a pro wanting to up your game, these tips are the keys to your crossword kingdom. So grab that pencil and dive in. Happy solving!

Tiffany Harris

I've been writing all teas happening in showbusiness since 2010. I'm a mom, sci-fi addict, and a fashion critique. I release weekly reviews on popular shows.

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