A Guide to Crossword Clues

[Image courtesy of npr.org.]

For someone who has never solved a crossword before — or has solved them before with less-than-stellar results — the field of clues that accompanies the grid is a daunting sight.

But if you take those clues one at a time, you’ll quickly find that there are different kinds of crossword clues, each with their own flavor and level of difficulty.

Now, I’m referring to American-style crosswords here. Cryptic or British-style crosswords have a completely different language when it comes to cluing. (Let me know if you’d like me to do a post on cryptic cluing!)

By far the most common style of crossword cluing is the synonym clue. The default form of cluing is simply offering a synonym or definition of the word. You practically can’t have a crossword puzzle without at least one.

Some recent examples of synonym clues from our Crossword Clue Challenge every weekday on Facebook and Twitter include “Before sunrise” for PREDAWN, “Ample” for ENOUGH, and “Talent” for KNACK. Simple and straightforward.

Another common cluing form is the fill-in-the-blank clue.

These clues can vary wildly in difficulty depending on how much information is offered. For instance, “Quentin Tarantino’s ____ Fiction” is a super-easy clue, whereas “____ Sea” would be pretty tough, even knowing how many letters are in the answer.

Along the same lines are the see-also clues. These are clues that reference other clues in the same puzzle, often by spreading a multiple-word answer across several entries.

For instance, you look at 3 Across, and it says “See 9 Down.” And when you look at 9 Down, it says, “With 3 Across, popular song by The Verve.” But you might need help from the crossings to get BITTER SWEET SYMPHONY reading across several spaces in the grid.

[Wait, wrong Clue…]

Some clues offer more information than you expect, if you’re observant. For instance, it’s common in many crosswords to signal a variant spelling, a foreign word, or an abbreviated word as an answer within the clue.

For instance, if the answer is AMEER (instead of EMIR), you might clue it as “Moslem chief” instead of “Muslim chief” to indicate the variant spelling. For REP, a standard clue would be “D.C. fig.” For SRA — short for SENORA — you might get “Mrs., in Madrid”.

(You can also employ wordplay with entries like these. For a French-fueled clue, how about “Nice, in Nice” for BIEN?)

And that serves as a marvelous segue into our final crossword cluing style: wordplay clues!

[Image courtesy of Rocky Smith Files.]

Wordplay clues employ some sort of pun or linguistic trickery to take them a step beyond the average clue. Often, these clues are marked with a question mark, indicating that there’s something going on beyond the surface meaning of the clue.

As you’d expect, wordplay clues are a favorite of mine, and they’ve been featured several times in our weekday Crossword Clue Challenge. Some previous examples include “Tot rod?” for TRICYCLE, “Tread the boards?” for WALK THE PLANK, “Star trek?” for SPACEWALK, and “Take the honey and run?” for ELOPE.

If you’ve never solved a crossword before — or never had much luck with them in the past — hopefully you’ll find some helpful tools here to guide you toward crossword-solving success.

And hey, if you need more practice, you can always check out the Crossword Clue Challenge every day at 2 PM EST on Facebook and Twitter!

Good luck!


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A brand-new puzzle set for the Penny Dell Crosswords app!

It has been a busy summer here at PuzzleNation, especially with regards to the Penny Dell Crosswords App.

We launched several new puzzle sets for the app, including our June and July Deluxe puzzle sets, as well as Collection Eight, our 150-puzzle pack we mentioned a few weeks ago.

We also debuted our free daily puzzle feature for all app users!

And in case you’re not following us on Twitter or Facebook, we’re also doing a Crossword Clue Challenge every weekday at 3 PM, testing your familiarity with classic crossword clues as well as trickier fare!

But that’s not all! We’re excited to announce our newest downloadable content for the Penny Dell Crosswords app, the Back to School Deluxe set, is now available through the App Store!

That’s right, it’s almost Back to School time, and our August Deluxe set offers 35 terrific themed puzzles. Not only do you get 30 easy, medium, and hard puzzles, but there are 5 bonus puzzles you can unlock as you solve!

We are committed to providing you with the best puzzle games on the market today, and with this deluxe set of puzzles, we’ve continued that proud tradition. Terrific crosswords right in your pocket! What more could you ask for?

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: New Puzzle Set edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, we’re talking about our flagship product, the Penny Dell Crosswords App!

This has been a great summer for us and the app! Not only are we offering a free daily puzzle to all of our users, but we’ve added a new collection to our library of puzzles for in-app purchase!

Collection Eight features 150 puzzles, collected in 5 different 30-puzzle sets: Penny Easy, Penny Medium, Penny Hard, Dell Easy, and Dell Medium! This value pack contains all five of those sets and saves you 30% over buying them individually! It’s more puzzle bang for your puzzle buck!

Click here to check out all of the terrific features of the app AND all of our available puzzle sets! You can’t go wrong with PuzzleNation and the Penny Dell Crosswords app! Enjoy!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!