Crosswords UK

A resource for fanatics and beginners

Tuesday 26th March, 2019

No. 4,172

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Strategy Page Four

The Last Few

If you're like me, you'll get to a stage where a handful of clues remain unsolved and you feel like you've looked at them each a hundred times. It's very tempting to give up at this stage and think that they're just too hard or that you don't have the skill to solve them but in truth it's far more likely that you've simply mis-read the clue or have made an incorrect assumption.

Many, many times, my colleagues and I have sweated over a seemingly impossible clue only to find that it's solution is actually one of the simplest in the puzzle and that we've been looking for an anagram where none existed, or have been reading a word as one meaning, not the one intended by the setter.

When you're at the 'stuck' stage, examine each of the remaining clues and try to read them differently. Try as many meanings for words as you can think of and, where you've assumed a clue is one type, try thinking of it as another. For example, 'place' can mean 'set' or 'put' as well as a location, 'employ' might mean 'use' as well as to give a job to.

Word constructions can be particularly difficult to complete so make sure you've split the clue down and checked any hints like 'about' or 'up' or 'around' where letters are to be swapped in some way. Also look out for the conventions used in particular crosswords. References to numbers such as 'hundred', 'fifty' and so on usually mean to use the appropriate Roman numeral(s), (often found with 'IVe' endings, i.e. 'four').

Make sure you give yourself a break every now and again and allow time for that 'eureka' moment. We often find that solutions come when you're able to 'step back' from the puzzle and think about it from a new angle. Most of the time the solution will be achievable but there will be times that the solution simply can't be found. Unfortunately, this is sometimes because a clue is poorly formed but occasionally it's simply a word, historical figure or place you don't recognise. There's no way to help with this so just think to yourself - 'Bad clue!'

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