[First, three links:
• The current puzzle
• Our puzzle-solving guidelines
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog where you can ask for and offer hints, and where every one of our clues is explained in detail.]
In a recent post, we offered some tips for beginners on solving the Nation puzzle and other similar cryptic crosswords. Yet beginners and veterans alike are bound to occasionally run up against puzzles that resist their best efforts. One key strategy in these situations is simply to give the puzzle time (we recently quoted some of our solvers who have found this approach helpful). But when even that doesn’t do the job, why not get help? Here are some ways to do that.
Solving with a partner, or even with a group, can be great fun. Bouncing possible solutions off someone else is often a quick path to that “aha!” moment that makes puzzling worthwhile. Also, your areas of expertise may complement each other, and each member of the team benefits from the combined knowledge of the whole group. And it is a good way for an experienced solver to mentor a beginner. (In fact, we know of one such arrangement where the solving is discussed via Skype.) For decades, we belonged to a group in Berkeley that met to work on Frank Lewis’s puzzles over breakfast. Most of us felt we wouldn’t be able to solve them on our own, given the frequency of references to topics we knew nothing about, the abundance of words we didn’t know and his nonstandard cluing style. The same group now gathers to test-solve the Nation puzzle.
Consulting spouses, housemates, coworkers or even perfect strangers is always an option. In general, those people aren’t necessarily likely to know how to solve cryptic clues, but they can still confirm that Starsky and Hutch was in fact a TV show, that “superheat” means to heat past the boiling point, or that Sydney Greenstreet is indeed an actor.
Answers to such questions are of course always available on the web. In a previous post, we suggested some helpful websites, and here are a couple more.
• If you don’t like unscrambling long anagrams, try consulting the Internet Anagram Server which spits out one-word or multi-word anagrams. You can also restrict the usually voluminous output in various ways.
• The Chambers Word Wizard will not only anagram strings of letters, but will also find words with a given letter pattern, such as S?P?R???T.
• Perhaps most relevant to readers of this blog, the Nation Cryptic Crossword Forum is a place where you can out-and-out ask for hints on our puzzles from Braze, the blog’s host.
And of course, we welcome your quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle or any previous puzzle. To comment (and see other readers’ comments,) please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen.