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Solving US Crosswords As A Brit

British solvers who venture across a US crossword, perhaps when on holiday, will notice that it is a very different beast.

The main difference you'll notice is that there are so many more clues and answers in a grid of a given size, and that answers tend to be shorter as a result. All letters appear in both a down and an across run: this means that it is possible to solve the entire puzzle by purely answering all the across clues correctly or alternatively all the down clues correctly.

When you solve a US crossword as a Brit, then a large number of the clues will still be accessible to you, with synonym type answers, so you'll just have the spelling issues to deal with.

However, there will generally be a considerable number that will be very hard for you to answer. This often happens with the smaller answers: acronyms for (for Brits) obscure US agencies you'll never have heard of abound, as do references to places in certain states that you no doubt won't have heard of, and most of all baseball references and related jargon appear frequently, and you'll need to learn this or cheat and look up the answers to make progress.

To get started, it is worth reading through all the clues looking for ones that you can answer straight off the bat: get these in as soon as you can. The good thing is that you will get lots of crossing letters that can help bring answers to mind, or even fully answer ones you don't know. Although US crosswords don't really have cryptic answers, they do sometimes have jokey clues or humorous clues that give an oblique reference to the answer that might make you smile when you get them. Also beware that, due to the crossing letters, clues can be a lot more general or obscure in leading to an answer than in the UK where a more precise clue is usually given to ensure that it means there is only one answer that will fit in the grid.

Also many US crosswords are themed, particularly with the long answers in the grid, so look out for this, and if you can spot the link it can help you solve the puzzle more easily, and particularly those longer answers.

There are many three letter words that appear frequently, and often only in crosswords - these are the so-called crosswordese - which abounds a lot more in US puzzles due to the fact there are so many answers in each grid. Some websites contain a list of the ones that occur most frequently, both three letter words and three letter acronyms (TLAs) that it is worth learning to give yourself a head start and a good chance of solving US crosswords successfully.

If you are a Brit and have solved US crosswords, then what have you found the hardest part of solving these puzzles? Do you have any tips on how to get better at solving them? If so please do share your feedback below as we'd love to hear from you and your tips will be invaluable for other solvers.
Date written: 14 Jun 2015



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