Want to increase your vocabulary and have fun with words? Try a crossword puzzle. Crosswords tap into vocabulary knowledge, history, popular culture, and word play. Moreover, doing crossword puzzles improves memory and focus, contributing to overall “brain fitness.” For instance, one study in The New England Journal of Medicine reported that seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a 47% lower risk of dementia than those who did them once a week. Who knows about ones who never did a puzzle.
For today’s Amaze-ing Words Wednesday, I want to share resources for working and making crossword puzzles.
Solving Crossword Puzzles
USA Today gives a daily crossword in which you type in the letters as you go. There are two skill levels – master and regular. Regular puzzle solvers can see when answers are wrong by different colors of letters displayed and can ask for a hint if they get stuck. Most of the puzzles are themed, with a few words or phrases all related to a certain topic.
The Globe and Mail publishes Universal Crossword puzzles. These are a syndicated feature in newspapers. These are also themed, have regular and master skill levels, and involve entering the words online. By the way, there is a timer as well for how long it takes you to solve the puzzle. It’s nice to mark progress as you do more and more puzzles and decrease your solution time.
The New York Times has some of the most challenging newspaper crosswords. If you want to complete their fresh puzzles, be ready to subscribe. However, you can get classic crosswords from their archive to solve online. For instance, the one that pulled up for me was from September 16, 2000.
Word Lords has a daily crossword puzzle you can do online. This site allows you to save your puzzle if you need to take a break from it. It also has options of getting hints, timing yourself, and receiving the solution by email. What’s particularly cool is that as you hover over the boxes, a pop-up window shows you what the clues for the Across and Down words are. That way you don’t have to look back and forth.
Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker allows you to make your own crossword puzzles to be printed. I have done this many times with young people, and it’s very easy to accomplish. Type in a title, hints and solutions, click a button, and the program makes the puzzle for you. You can then print it from that screen or save the crossword as a picture to be uploaded elsewhere.
EclipseCrossword is free software you can download to create your own crossword puzzles. These crosswords can be printed or saved as an interactive web page. For the interactive puzzle, readers click a word, a clue appears, and they can type in an answer or request the solution. It’s very easy to input words and clues, and you can save your word list to edit later and change the puzzle.
Of course, there are crossword puzzle books you can buy just about everywhere. I have found those to be less challenging that the daily ones online. Also, if you solve crosswords over and over, you’ll see some words appear again and again. For instance, I have never used the word “alee” in conversation, but I have used it in many crosswords. (Alee means “away from the wind.” Dictionary.com)
Do you enjoy doing crossword puzzles? What are your favorite word play activities? Do you have any crossword resources to add?