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The game's goal is to fill the white squares with letters , forming words or phrases , by solving clues, which lead to the answers. In languages that are written left-to-right, the answer words and phrases are placed in the grid from left to right and from top to bottom. The shaded squares are used to separate the words or phrases. Crossword grids such as those appearing in most North American newspapers and magazines feature solid areas of white squares.

Every letter is checked i.

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In such puzzles shaded squares are typically limited to about one-sixth of the total. For example, if the top row has an answer running all the way across, there will often be no across answers in the second row. Another tradition in puzzle design in North America, India, and Britain particularly is that the grid should have degree rotational also known as "radial" symmetry , so that its pattern appears the same if the paper is turned upside down. Most puzzle designs also require that all white cells be orthogonally contiguous that is, connected in one mass through shared sides, to form a single polyomino.

The design of Japanese crossword grids often follows two additional rules: The "Swedish-style" grid picture crosswords uses no clue numbers, as the clues are contained in the cells which do not contain answers. Arrows indicate in which direction the clues have to be answered: This style of grid is also used in several countries other than Sweden, often in magazines, but also in daily newspapers. The grid often has one or more photos replacing a block of squares as a clue to one or several answers, for example, the name of a pop star, or some kind of rhyme or phrase that can be associated with the photo.

These puzzles usually have no symmetry in the grid but instead often have a common theme literature, music, nature, geography, events of a special year, etc. Substantial variants from the usual forms exist. Two of the common ones are barred crosswords, which use bold lines between squares instead of shaded squares to separate answers, and circular designs, with answers entered either radially or in concentric circles.

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Grids forming shapes other than squares are also occasionally used. Puzzles are often one of several standard sizes. The New York Times puzzles also set a common pattern for American crosswords by increasing in difficulty throughout the week: Their larger Sunday puzzle is about the same level of difficulty as a weekday-size Thursday puzzle. Typically clues appear outside the grid, divided into an Across list and a Down list; the first cell of each entry contains a number referenced by the clue lists. For example, the answer to a clue labeled "17 Down" is entered with the first letter in the cell numbered "17", proceeding down from there.

Numbers are almost never repeated; numbered cells are numbered consecutively, usually from left to right across each row, starting with the top row and proceeding downward. Some Japanese crosswords are numbered from top to bottom down each column, starting with the leftmost column and proceeding right. Capitalization of answer letters is conventionally ignored; crossword puzzles are typically filled in, and their answer sheets are almost universally published, in all caps , except in the rare cases of ambigrams.

This ensures a proper name can have its initial capital letter checked with a non-capitalizable letter in the intersecting clue. Diacritical markings in foreign loanwords or foreign-language words appearing in English-language puzzles are ignored for similar reasons. Some crossword clues, called straight or quick clues , are simple definitions of the answers.

Some clues may feature anagrams , and these are usually explicitly described as such. Often, a straight clue is not in itself sufficient to distinguish between several possible answers, either because multiple synonymous answers may fit or because the clue itself is a homonym e. In most American-style crosswords, the majority of the clues in the puzzle are straight clues, [2] with the remainder being one of the other types described below.

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Crossword clues are generally consistent with the solutions. For instance, clues and their solutions should always agree in tense, number, and degree. In the hands of any but the most skilled constructors, the constraints of the American-style grid in which every letter is checked usually require a fair number of answers not to be dictionary words.

As a result, the following ways to clue abbreviations and other non-words, although they can be found in "straight" British crosswords, are much more common in American ones:. As an example, the New York Times crossword of April 26, by Sarah Keller, edited by Will Shortz , featured five themed entries ending in the different parts of a tree: The above is an example of a category theme, where the theme elements are all members of the same set. Other types of themes include:. Another unusual theme requires the solver to use the answer to a clue as another clue.

The answer to that clue is the real solution. Many puzzles feature clues involving wordplay which are to be taken metaphorically or in some sense other than their literal meaning, requiring some form of lateral thinking. Depending on the puzzle creator or the editor, this might be represented either with a question mark at the end of the clue or with a modifier such as "maybe" or "perhaps".

In more difficult puzzles, the indicator may be omitted, increasing ambiguity between a literal meaning and a wordplay meaning. In cryptic crosswords, the clues are puzzles in themselves. A typical clue contains both a definition at the beginning or end of the clue and wordplay, which provides a way to manufacture the word indicated by the definition, and which may not parse logically.

Cryptics usually give the length of their answers in parentheses after the clue, which is especially useful with multi-word answers. Certain signs indicate different forms of wordplay. Solving cryptics is harder to learn than standard crosswords, as learning to interpret the different types of cryptic clues can take some practice. In Great Britain and throughout much of the Commonwealth , cryptics of varying degrees of difficulty are featured in many newspapers.

There are several types of wordplay used in cryptics. One is straightforward definition substitution using parts of a word. The explanation is that to import means "to bring into the country", the "worker" is a worker ant , and "significant" means important. Here, "significant" is the straight definition appearing here at the end of the clue , "to bring worker into the country" is the wordplay definition, and "may prove" serves to link the two.

Note that in a cryptic clue, there is almost always only one answer that fits both the definition and the wordplay, so that when one sees the answer, one knows that it is the right answer—although it can sometimes be a challenge to figure out why it is the right answer. A good cryptic clue should provide a fair and exact definition of the answer, while at the same time being deliberately misleading. Another type of wordplay used in cryptics is the use of homophones.

For example, the clue "A few, we hear, add up 3 " is the clue for SUM. The straight definition is "add up", meaning "totalize". The solver must guess that "we hear" indicates a homophone , and so a homophone of a synonym of "A few" "some" is the answer. Other words relating to sound or hearing can be used to signal the presence of a homophone clue e. The double meaning is commonly used as another form of wordplay. This is the only type of cryptic clue without wordplay—both parts of the clue are a straight definition.


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Cryptics often include anagrams , as well. The clue "Ned T. The straight definition is "is rather bland", and the word "cooked" is a hint to the solver that this clue is an anagram the letters have been "cooked", or jumbled up. Ignoring all punctuation, "Ned T. Besides "cooked", other common hints that the clue contains an anagram are words such as "scrambled", "mixed up", "confused", "baked", or "twisted". Embedded words are another common trick in cryptics.

The straight definition is "bigotry", and the wordplay explains itself, indicated by the word "take" since one word "takes" another: Another common clue type is the "hidden clue" or "container", where the answer is hidden in the text of the clue itself. The answer is written in the clue: There are numerous other forms of wordplay found in cryptic clues. Backwards words can be indicated by words like "climbing", "retreating", or "ascending" depending on whether it is an across clue or a down clue or by directional indicators such as "going North" meaning upwards or "West" right-to-left ; letters can be replaced or removed with indicators such as "nothing rather than excellence" meaning replace E in a word with O ; the letter I can be indicated by "me" or "one;" the letter O can be indicated by "nought", "nothing", "zero", or "a ring" since it visually resembles one ; the letter X might be clued as "a cross", or "ten" as in the Roman numeral , or "an illiterate's signature", or "sounds like your old flame" homophone for "ex".

With the different types of wordplay and definition possibilities, the composer of a cryptic puzzle is presented with many different possible ways to clue a given answer. Most desirable are clues that are clean but deceptive, with a smooth surface reading that is, the resulting clue looks as natural a phrase as possible. The Usenet newsgroup rec.

In principle, each cryptic clue is usually sufficient to define its answer uniquely, so it should be possible to answer each clue without use of the grid. In practice, the use of checks is an important aid to the solver.


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Some crossword designers have started including a metapuzzle, or "meta" for short: The designer usually includes a hint to the metapuzzle. The solution to the meta is a similar phrase in which the middle word is "or": Some puzzle grids contain more than one correct answer for the same set of clues. In the 'Quick' crossword in The Daily Telegraph newspaper Sunday and Daily, UK , it has become a convention also to make the first few words usually two or three, but can be more into a phrase.

For example, " Dimmer, Allies " would make " Demoralise " or " You, ill, never, walk, alone " would become " You'll never walk alone ". This generally aids solvers in that if they have one of the words then they can attempt to guess the phrase. This has also become popular among other British newspapers. Sometimes newspapers publish one grid that can be filled by solving either of two lists of clues — usually a straight and a cryptic.

The solutions given by the two lists may be different, in which case the solver must decide at the outset which list they are going to follow, or the solutions may be identical, in which case the straight clues offer additional help for a solver having difficulty with the cryptic clues. Usually the straight clue matches the straight part of the cryptic clue, but this is not necessarily the case. Every issue of GAMES Magazine contains a large crossword with a double clue list, under the title The World's Most Ornery Crossword ; both lists are straight and arrive at the same solution, but one list is significantly more challenging than the other.

The solver is prompted to fold a page in half, showing the grid and the hard clues; the easy clues are tucked inside the fold, to be referenced if the solver gets stuck. A variant of the double-clue list is commonly called Siamese Twins: Determining which clue is to be applied to which grid is part of the puzzle.

Any type of puzzle may contain cross-references , where the answer to one clue forms part of another clue, in which it is referred to by number and direction. When an answer is composed of multiple or hyphenated words, some crosswords especially in Britain indicate the structure of the answer. For example, " 3,5 " after a clue indicates that the answer is composed of a three-letter word followed by a five-letter word. Most American-style crosswords do not provide this information. These are common crossword variants that vary more from a regular crossword than just an unusual grid shape or unusual clues; these crossword variants may be based on different solving principles and require a different solving skill set.

Cipher crosswords were invented in Germany in the 19th century. Published under various trade names including Code Breakers, Code Crackers, and Kaidoku , and not to be confused with cryptic crosswords ciphertext puzzles are commonly known as cryptograms , a cipher crossword replaces the clues for each entry with clues for each white cell of the grid — an integer from 1 to 26 inclusive is printed in the corner of each.

The objective, as any other crossword, is to determine the proper letter for each cell; in a cipher crossword, the 26 numbers serve as a cipher for those letters: All resultant entries must be valid words. Usually, at least one number's letter is given at the outset. English-language cipher crosswords are nearly always pangrammatic all letters of the alphabet appear in the solution.

As these puzzles are closer to codes than quizzes, they require a different skillset; many basic cryptographic techniques, such as determining likely vowels, are key to solving these.

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Given their pangrammaticity, a frequent start point is locating where 'Q' and 'U' must appear. In a diagramless crossword , often called a diagramless for short or, in the UK , a skeleton crossword or carte blanche , the grid offers overall dimensions, but the locations of most of the clue numbers and shaded squares are unspecified. A solver must deduce not only the answers to individual clues, but how to fit together partially built-up clumps of answers into larger clumps with properly set shaded squares.

Some of these puzzles follow the traditional symmetry rule, others have left-right mirror symmetry, and others have greater levels of symmetry or outlines suggesting other shapes. A variation is the Blankout puzzle in the Daily Mail Weekend magazine. The clues are not individually numbered, but given in terms of the rows and columns of the grid, which has rectangular symmetry. The list of clues gives hints of the locations of some of the shaded squares even before one starts solving them, e.

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A fill-in crossword also known as crusadex or cruzadex features a grid and the full list of words to be entered in that grid, but does not give explicit clues for where each word goes. The challenge is figuring out how to integrate the list of words together within the grid so that all intersections of words are valid. Fill-in crosswords may often have longer word length than regular crosswords to make the crossword easier to solve, and symmetry is often disregarded.

Fitting together several long words is easier than fitting together several short words because there are fewer possibilities for how the long words intersect together. These types of crosswords are also used to demonstrate artificial intelligence abilities, such as finding solutions to the puzzle based on a set of determined constraints. A crossnumber also known as a cross-figure is the numerical analogy of a crossword, in which the solutions to the clues are numbers instead of words. Clues are usually arithmetical expressions, but can also be general knowledge clues to which the answer is a number or year.

There are also numerical fill-in crosswords. This kind of puzzle should not be confused with a different puzzle that the Daily Mail refers to as Cross Number. An acrostic is a type of word puzzle, in eponymous acrostic form, that typically consists of two parts. The first is a set of lettered clues, each of which has numbered blanks representing the letters of the answer. The second part is a long series of numbered blanks and spaces, representing a quotation or other text, into which the answers for the clues fit.

In most forms of the puzzle, the first letters of each correct clue answer, read in order from clue A on down the list, will spell out the author of the quote and the title of the work it is taken from; this can be used as an additional solving aid. The arroword is a variant of a crossword that does not have as many black squares as a true crossword, but has arrows inside the grid, with clues preceding the arrows. It has been called the most popular word puzzle in many European countries, and is often called the Scandinavian crossword, as it is believed to have originated in Sweden.

The title for the world's first crossword puzzle is disputed. Some such puzzles were included in The Stockton Bee — , an ephemeral publication. Some of our crossword puzzles update daily, while some update weekly. After you make a selection, you can start filling in the puzzle! Simply read the clues and then type the answers into the crossword puzzle. If you want, you can go to the menu and customize your preferences.

For example, you can choose to skip boxes that are already full when typing in new answers. Additionally, you can reveal the answers for the whole cross word puzzle, individual words, or even certain letters. Free Online Crossword Puzzles. Free Online Daily Crossword Puzzle. Penny Dell Sunday Crossword.