Are you interested in improving your mental flexibility and learning some interesting things every day? Would you like to establish bragging rights among your friends? Doing crossword puzzles is like mental yoga – both challenging and relaxing at the same time. Moreover, this is fun, especially if you appreciate words and wordplay. With patience and practice, anyone can learn to solve crosswords. Once you master some basic strategies, you will find that puzzle-solving is not only possible but highly addictive. So, let’s get solving the NYT Mini Crossword!
“Solving crosswords eliminates worries. They make you a calmer and more focused person.” – Will Shortz, New York Times crossword editor and NPR puzzle master.
If you’ve ever picked up an NYT Mini Crossword puzzle and said to yourself, “I am not smart enough” or “My lexical resource is not big for this”, please allow us to let you in on a little secret. You can absolutely do that. This article is here to let you in on some of the rules that most clues follow, and to teach you how to read those clues so that they become easier to solve.
First, decide how you want to solve the: Are you a print-only person? Do you enjoy the extra help that comes from playing on the web or on the go with the app? If you subscribe, you get access to all the daily puzzles and the archive. And once you log in, you can save your progress across all the digital platforms.
Clue: A crossword clue is a hint that the solver must decipher to find the answer that is then entered into the puzzle grid. Clues are not necessarily dictionary definitions; they can involve puns, anagrams, and other types of wordplay.
Crossing: The intersection between an Across entry and a Down one. Crosswords are intended to play fair with solvers, so a difficult or obscure entry will ideally cross a more “gettable” one.
Entry: The answer to a clue that solvers write into the crossword puzzle. Entries that are part of a theme are called — wait for it — theme entries. Fun fact: In a typical American-style crossword, an entry must have at least three letters.
Fill A general term for the words or phrases that fill a crossword.
Fill-in-the-blank: A clue that contains a blank where the answer goes. One of the easiest types of clues to solve.
Mini crossword: A 5x5 crossword offered by The New York Times. For comparison, the size of a Times daily crossword is 15x15 and the Sunday crossword is 21x21.
The Monday NYT Mini Crossword is the simplest and the puzzles get more challenging as the week goes on. Solve as many of the Mondays as you can before pushing yourself to Tuesday puzzles. There is a common mistake of the beginning solvers: Having some downtime on a Saturday. So, not to be outdone, you pick up the paper or download the app and turn to the Saturday puzzle. How hard could it be?
While on Monday, you can easily solve the puzzle, and vice versa on Saturday. Because Saturday NYT mini crossword is actually the most difficult puzzle of the week. That is a popular belief example:
The Monday Clue: “Nabisco cookie,” “Cookie with creme filling” or “‘Twist, Lick, Dunk’ cookie”
The Saturday Clue: “Snack since 1912,” “It has 12 flowers on each side” or “Sandwich often given a twist”
The answer to all of these clues is the same: “OREO.” Those delicious sandwich cookies are so popular in crossword puzzles that they’ve been dubbed by some as the “official” cookie of the crossword.
But we weren’t kidding you. There is a big difference between a Monday puzzle clue and a Saturday puzzle. Late-week clues might require more specialized knowledge about these delicious treats.
If you’re just getting started, make your life easy and solve as many Monday puzzles as you can. Eventually, you’ll be ready for more of a challenge, and that’s when you move on to the Tuesday puzzles.
“Do more puzzles. The more you solve, the better you’ll get. It’s also useful to read Wordplay and other puzzle blogs, which helped me internalize the tricks and tropes of crossword clues while I was learning the ropes.” -- Dan Feyer, seven-time champion of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament
Once you’ve learned some of the shorter answers and how they are clued, you can almost be sure you’ll see them again. The brain works in weird and wonderful ways, and when you start solving crosswords consistently, you will feel really good when you can say, “Hey, I know that one!”
And don’t worry if you make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. That’s what erasers and the backspace key are for. It even happens to advanced solvers, so don’t let it get you down if you don’t know something or need to change an answer.
Pick out the clues that are meant to be the easiest and tackle them first.
See anything you definitely know? Those are your ‘gimmes.’ Are there any fill-in-the-blanks clues? Those are usually the easiest.
Trust us: There’s no better boost to your solving ego than to be able to fill in a few entries right off the bat.
You already know more than you think you do. To borrow a sports term, a puzzle, or an individual clue on topics that you know well is said to be “in your wheelhouse.” You’ll be able to find at least a few entries in each puzzle that you know.
We’re big fans of nyt mini crossword here, especially its incredible work ethic. But even brains get tired, so if you are stuck at some point in the puzzle, one of the best things you can do is put it down and take a break from it for a while.
I’m not sure how this works, but your brain will continue working on the clue in the background while you go about your day. When you come back to it, you might be surprised at the “Aha!” moment you experience when you thought you didn’t know the answer.