Cheat Sheet

Word Searches For Dummies

Word searches are fun, first of all, once you get the low-down on how to solve them. They also bring benefits you may not realize and can play an important role in keeping you mentally fit. And, you can stretch your brain another way and try composing your own word searches.

How to Solve a Word Search Puzzle

If you already have a solving method for word search puzzles that works for you, consider adding it to the following list. In the meantime, give some of these tips a try:

  • Scan back and forth along each row of the letter grid, looking for the first letter in a word. Also scan up and down each column of the grid.

  • Use a finger or the (capped) end of your pen or pencil to help guide your search.

  • Do a circle search around letters to see whether they lead on to the next letter in the word you’re looking for.

  • Use a highlighter pen or light-colored pencil if you want to mark on top of the words you find. Otherwise, use a pen or pencil to draw loops around the words.

  • Search for less-common letters in a word, such as J, B, K, Q, X, Y, or Z. This strategy makes the rest of the word easier to find.

  • Search the grid for the double letters in a list word.

  • Look for circular letters, especially O, D, and Q.

  • If you see a Q in the grid with no adjacent U, you probably don’t need to follow it any further.

  • Cross off the words in the list as you find them.

Benefits of Solving Puzzles

Don’t let anyone tell you that puzzles — word searches, crosswords, Sudokus — are nothing more than mindless entertainment. Solving them has benefits, and those benefits aren’t limited to the following list. Puzzles offer

  • Portable and inexpensive entertainment — no batteries required

  • A way to keep you mentally active and fit

  • Improved word power and vocabulary

  • Painless spelling practice

  • A great way to learn English or practice other languages

  • An enjoyable, low-stress puzzle option for people with dyslexia

  • An appealing learning method for a range of learning styles

  • The appeal of a solvable problem in a complicated life

  • Practice for your pattern recognition skills

  • An easy, fun activity for all ages to do together

How to Write a Word Search Puzzle

If you’re into solving word searches, why not try your hand at making one up yourself? You know the basics, just follow the ten steps here to write your own word search puzzle:

  1. Decide on a theme.

  2. Collect a lot of words on your topic, avoiding too many short words.

  3. Decide on your grid size and difficulty level.

  4. Gather your gear: graph paper, pencil, and eraser for writing the puzzle; good-quality paper, pen, and ruler for the finished copy.

  5. Place words into your grid. Use online resources to help if need be.

  6. Don’t include punctuation, spaces between multiword list items, or accented letters in the grid, but keep them in the word list.

  7. Erase and change words to get a better grid fit as required.

  8. Add random fill letters to complete the puzzle.

  9. Check the grid to make sure you haven’t included any duplicated words or swear words.

  10. Draw up the final puzzle, along with the word list, on nice paper by hand or on your computer.

Tips for Staying Mentally Fit — Solve Puzzles and More!

Doing word searches and other puzzles are great ways to stay mentally fit. In addition to solving puzzles of all types, try the following tips to keep your brain in tiptop shape:

  • Rediscover lost talents. Skills can be quickly regained.

  • Be interested in the world around you — you can be an involved citizen at any age.

  • Stay in touch with your friends and family; be social and enjoy good company and conversation.

  • Stay physically active — activity has huge benefits for your brain.

  • Try new ways of doing routine activities, like driving to work by a different route or expanding your cooking repertoire.

  • Take up a new hobby or sport, or learn a language.

  • Get out and about, visit museums, galleries, markets, art shows, car shows, free concerts — whatever you enjoy.

  • Do jigsaw puzzles and play games like chess, card games, mahjong, and other board games.

  • Solve puzzles! Crosswords, word searches, Sudoku, mazes, cryptograms, and so on are all great for your brain, as well as good fun!

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