Crossword Cheater Rules · 8 July 2012

My wife, The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi, thinks that crossword puzzles have cheater rules. As I was doing the crossword puzzle the other day, I thought she might be right.

People say that you ought to use a pencil to do crossword puzzles. Those who use pen are either rule breakers or do not make mistakes. One of my coworkers and friends does not seem to make mistakes on crossword puzzles. She finishes the Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle during her short break on Monday. (If it is not quite that fast, it sure seems like it.) And she always uses pen. We talked about it one time and we agreed that pen on newspaper feels better than pencil. While pen does have a better feel, I think my friend was just being nice to me. I do not think she makes crossword puzzle mistakes.

The rule of using a pencil to do a crossword puzzle is not one of the cheater rules that The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi laments about when she looks over my shoulder. What amazes her is that more than one word might be the answer. I am glad she did not see the puzzle I did on Thursday. It had several letters in one square. If she had seen that, she would have screamed in disgust, “Cheater rule!”

In reality, my wife might do crossword puzzles if her so called cheater rules were written down somewhere. There are sites out there which give people suggestions on how to solve crossword puzzles better, but they only cover one or two of the cheater rules I have found over the years. Here are a few that I have found:

  1. Not every answer is a single word. This is the thing my wife finds most annoying. According to her, one word should fit in the squares and answer the clue, not two or even more. (She would be happy to know that puzzle makers used to denote multi-word answers in the clues.)

  2. Not every square has just one letter. I am not even sure my wife has seen one of these lately. I usually find these puzzles difficult to solve. They are sure to elicit comments from The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi.

  3. Not every answer is in a straight line. I have only come across a few of these and found them fun even thought they were difficult. Of course, many Sunday crossword puzzles are difficult. And I usually find them entertaining. Especially, when my wife comments on them.

There is one last rule that I must mention, which others do cover, but which does not really fit in the list. When I have the time and inclination, I use reference materials to finish crossword puzzles. Like using pen, using a reference is not cheating. I am not the expert who can finish most Sunday crosswords without looking up at least a couple answers. However, I usually use references away from The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi lest she calls me a cheater.

I enjoy crossword puzzles. They entertain and challenge my mind, especially since they contain puns and other word play. Yes, they do have some arcane rules that only the initiated seem to know. And as time goes on, I am sure puzzle creators will make and break new rules to challenge people. But when it comes right down to it, we really do not get to know and understand the rules of anything we do right from the beginning. So people get to know the rules of crossword puzzles by doing them. Still, I am sure there will always be crossword cheater rules. At least according to The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi.

© 2012 Michael T. Miyoshi

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