Cheat Sheet

Crosswords For Seniors For Dummies

From Crosswords for Seniors For Dummies by Timothy E. Parker

Discover how solving crossword puzzles can benefit your senior brain by strengthening memory, mind function, and more. Next, dive into crossword-puzzle tips for seniors that can enhance your efficiency and enjoyment and hone puzzle-solving skills.

Using Crosswords to Stimulate Your Senior Brain

For seniors, solving crossword puzzles can fortify memory and ability to focus, according to studies. Besides stimulating your senior brain, crosswords and other word puzzles can boost your vocabulary and be a great way to start a conversation.

Here are good reasons for you or any senior you know to sit down and work on those puzzles:

  • Crosswords test your memory. Any clue in a crossword is going to prompt you to try remembering names, places, events, foreign words, and other items that you perhaps haven’t thought about in years.

    In addition, working crosswords on a regular basis can give your memory a boost a couple of ways:

    • The more puzzles you work, the more you’ll want to rely on your own knowledge base for answers (as opposed to using outside resources).

    • Puzzle constructors have certain words that they work into puzzles on a regular basis. The more of these words you commit to memory, the easier working crosswords becomes.

  • Crosswords help hone your self-discipline. Most crossword puzzles require at least an hour to solve. When you tackle a crossword, you’re taking on a mental commitment, and succeeding requires self-discipline. If you’re going to complete a crossword grid, you have to develop the discipline to back up, re-read clues, consider what resources you may want to consult, and chip away at the empty spaces. Exercising this type of self-discipline helps you keep your thoughts focused and sharp.

  • Crosswords encourage you explore. Don’t hesitate to use outside resources to help solve crossword clues — if you get stuck on a clue, explore your options for finding the answer! Ask someone else for help (a great idea), go to a local library, or check for the answer in a book or on a Web site. Exploring helps to keep you from feeling isolated, and it stimulates your senses, and your mind.

  • *Crosswords keep you curious. Curiosity isn’t just for children, though carrying adult responsibilities often squeezes the life out of curiosity. But working crosswords can inspire you to be more curious. You may find that one little clue with a surprising solution leaves you wanting to know more about why that answer is correct. Feel free to put your puzzle on hold and find out more, right then and there. Your brain will benefit from it.

In order for crosswords to help keep your brain stimulated, you need to sit down and work on solving them regularly! After all, you can’t get your body fit by working out three hours in a row and then ignoring your health altogether for two weeks. You benefit much more from working out consistently for shorter amounts of time.

Your goal should be to make time for a crossword puzzle at least several days a week, if not every day. If you can’t devote time to working a crossword puzzle every day, no problem. But don’t let a month go by between mental workouts!

Basics of Working Crosswords for Seniors

Whether you're a senior or not, solving crossword puzzles is more satisfying if you know key tips and strategies. Attain "senior-level" expertise with crossword puzzles by using these techniques. You'll be able to tackle any puzzle grid comfortably and efficiently, and increase your enjoyment in the process.

  • Make sure you’re seated comfortably in a well-lit area. It can take an hour or more to solve certain crosswords, so make sure you’re seated comfortably at a table or desk, or in your favorite chair. You don’t want your joints to start aching over a crossword puzzle!

  • Work in pencil. It’s okay to guess and make mistakes. Remember to keep your eraser handy!

  • Stick with puzzles that are easy on the eyes. Even the most fine-tuned eyeglass prescription can only do so much to reduce the strain of looking at a small-print puzzle for a long period of time. Working on large-print puzzles helps keep your eyes from getting strained, and reduces your chance of getting a headache!

  • Start with the fill-in-the-blank clues. They’re often the easiest to solve, and they help get your thought processes ready for more difficult solutions.

  • Focus on small (three- to five-letter) word entries. There just aren’t as many of these short words to choose from in the English language. As you work more puzzles, you’ll get familiar with the short words that are used in puzzles over and over, and it will become another game for you find these in the puzzles and fill them in. The more brain stimulation, the better!

  • Check off each clue that you solve. It’ll give you a sense of accomplishment and help you remember what you’ve already done so you can focus on the clues that remain.

  • Work on more than one puzzle at a time. If one puzzle becomes too frustrating, move away it to another, more satisfying one. You can go back to the frustrating puzzle at a later time, and with a fresher perspective.

  • Keep the puzzle’s theme in mind. Many crossword puzzles have themes, and have titles that hint at those themes. Keeping the theme in mind will help you focus on information associated with the theme, and help you remember clues for solving the puzzle. Another memory booster!

  • Compile a trusty set of resources. Resources can help you find answers to puzzles, and open your mind to fresh information you can use later. Don’t be ashamed to use them. The object is to have fun and stimulate your brain.

  • Keep in mind that those resources can include friends and family members. Solving crosswords doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get solutions from other people. Getting help from others makes solving crossword puzzles more fun, and can help your mind stay sharp.

  • Write out your partial solutions if you get stuck. If you’re trying to solve a Down clue, use that pencil to write out the letters you already know in a horizontal line. Chances are, you’ll be able to better visualize words when they’re written horizontally. This will help jog your memory so you can come up with the solution.

  • Practice, practice, practice! To build muscle and stay in shape, you have to exercise frequently. The same is true of building your puzzling muscle — your brain. Make time for crosswords several times a week if you can.

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