Using Crosswords to Exercise Your Brain
One of the side effects of enjoying a crossword puzzle is that it gives your brain a great workout. Rarely will you work a puzzle from start to finish without learning something new. And if you work puzzles from the same source on a regular basis, you’ll start memorizing words that your puzzle editor uses frequently.
To maximize your mental workout, try doing the following:
Find your focus. Figure out what type of environment helps you boost your concentration. Many people find it helpful to sit in a comfortable chair with good lighting and to keep noise to a minimum. Soft music in the background works well for some people; others require silence.
Allot enough time. Whenever possible, set aside an hour or more for your crosswording. Providing yourself with plenty of time allows you to try to complete an entire puzzle from start to finish without interruption.
Start your own crosswordese list. Crosswordese is a group of short words that you run across in crossword puzzles but don’t often use in everyday speech. For example, consider the following:
Aerie: High nest
Epee: Dueling sword
Nee: Formerly called, or precedes a maiden name
Poi: Polynesian food
These words can help puzzle constructors get out of jams, and each puzzle constructor has certain favorites. Keep a list of the short, obscure words you run across more than once when solving puzzles, and store that list with your crosswording sources. (And if you want to mess with your friends, try working these words into your conversations!)
Look up what you don’t know. While some crossword purists pooh-pooh the use of outside resources, others are realists. These folks realize that most people need at least some help to finish a crossword. When you’re truly stuck, don’t just turn to the crossword solution. First make the effort to find the answer yourself in trusted print or online resources. Then pat yourself on the back when you learn something new.