Monday 24 August 2009

Crosswords For Beginners

As promised in the post More Tips For Tackling Cryptic Crosswords (tip #5), some crossword recommendations for beginners.

This is a selection of good-quality easy crosswords available online, free of cost. I'm mentioning those that I'm familiar with myself; there must be other fine puzzles that I haven't had a chance to try. If you have recommendations to add or further thoughts on these crosswords, please drop a comment about it.

Crossword Description Availability
New Indian Express Crossword (NIE)
An easy crossword with simple vocabulary and accessible wordplay. The puzzle is fair, clever and fun, with lots of double definitions and cryptic definitions.

NIE is a UK-syndicated crossword (anyone knows the name of the original puzzle?) set by Roger Squires.

Online location: Go to the New Indian Express ePaper and use the site search facility for "crossword". From the search result, expand the grid image to get the printable crossword. [There's no direct URL to the puzzle and too many popup ads on NIE's website, which makes the process of locating the crossword quite painful. I hope NIE does something about it!]

Solving help: Bhargav Gopal's Orkut community Crosswordmania solves the NIE. Solutions to older crosswords can be found on the now defunct NIE XWord Orkut community.

Frequency: 6 days a week, Mon-Sat
The Hindu Crossword (THC)
Probably the most popular crossword in India. Indian solvers have an edge with THC because of the local flavour in the clues.

A number of compilers set for this puzzle. The quality and difficulty of the puzzle varies widely according to the setter.

The paper publishes the setters' puzzles cyclically - the full quota for one setter, then the next one takes over. The sequence of publication (with puzzles per cycle for each setter), as on 30th Jun 2011, is:

Sankalak (6) – Nita Jaggi (6) – Gridman (6) – M. Manna (7) – Neyartha (2) – Spiffytrix (2) – Cryptonyte (1)

My suggestion for beginners is to stick to Sankalak and Gridman puzzles. [You might want to check out The Hindu Crossword Compilers: Your Views?]
Online location: [Worked till 30th Jun 2011] Use this URL to access any Hindu crossword – just change the dates (YYYY/MM/DD): 

The puzzle is available in HTML and PDF printable formats.

Puzzles from the year 2000 onwards are available online. Use the same URL as above, with the required dates.

e.g. The 24th July 2008 crossword is at

Solving help: Plenty of help is available online – see the post The Hindu Crossword Solutions.

Frequency: 6 days a week, Mon-Sat
Everyman /
The Hindu Sunday Crossword (THC Sun)
Everyman puzzle of The Observer (a Sunday paper in the UK, owned by the Guardian group) helps you break into the puzzle gently, with its long anagrams and some simple wordplay.

The same puzzle is reproduced in The Hindu on Sundays, with a gap of 7 weeks from its original date of publication.

Everyman tends to have many British cultural references, so it might be easier for solvers from UK than from other countries.
For THC (Sun), the online location, archives and solving help details are the same as for the weekday THC.

For Everyman:
Online location: Everyman crossword

Archives: Puzzles published since July 2003 are available. Use "Crossword Archive Search" on Guardian's crossword page, with Type = Everyman.

Solving help: Visit the blog for Everyman on fifteensquared. As this is a prize puzzle, the solution is discussed after the deadline has passed (a week's gap from the date of publication).

Frequency: Once a week, each Sunday
Mint Crossword: Wordview An easy, fair and good crossword with a financial flavour.

The crossword appears in the paper every Friday. Two setters – Tony Sebastian and Vinod Raman – set this crossword alternately.
Online location: The crossword is available in the Mint ePaper, directly below the editorial on a page titled "Views".  See detailed instructions here: Mint Crossword Online.

Archives: The crossword archives can be accessed by changing the date of the ePaper.

Solving help: The crossword is occasionally solved on XWordClub on the day of publication (Friday). The solution grid is published in Mint a week later.  

Frequency: Once a week, every Friday
Economic Times Crossword (ET)
The crossword published in the Indian financial daily Economic Times is quite approachable for beginners. It has many "combination" clues (those that mix clue types, like anagram within container) without being overly tricky.

This crossword is syndicated from UK's The Daily Mail.
Online location: See the post Economic Times Crossword Online for instructions on how to access the puzzle.

Archives: A week's archives are available on the site. On step 3 in the how-to-access post, change the default search option from "This Newspaper" to "Whole Week".

Solving help: Bhargav Gopal's Orkut community CrosswordMania solves this crossword.

Frequency: Daily
Financial Times Crossword (FT)
A number of compilers set for this puzzle, and the style/difficulty varies according to the setter. This page gives style/difficulty ratings for some FT setters.

In general, the week starts with simpler puzzles, so Mon-Tue are good days for newbies. I've found the setters Dante, Armonie and Falcon to be quite easy. Dante incidentally is Roger Squires, the same as the NIE setter.
Online location: The Financial Times crossword page has links to the latest crosswords. FT has recently fixed legibility issues with the printable puzzle. They used to be blurred images earlier, now they're neat PDFs.

Archives: Older crosswords up to three weeks are available at the same location.

Solving help: Go to category FT on fifteensquared. The solutions appear on the same day, except for Mon and Sat prize puzzles which are blogged about after the deadline has passed.

Frequency: 6 days a week, Mon-Sat
Guardian Crossword
As with FT, a number of compilers set for this puzzle. Many compilers on FT also set for Guardian under different pseudonyms.

The Guardian crossword has a more adventurous style than FT and may be tougher, but Monday can be relied on for easy fare. The setter is usually Rufus on Mondays. No prizes for guessing who Rufus is (yes, it's Roger Squires, the same as the NIE setter and Dante of FT).
This paper provides excellent online access to its puzzles, user-friendly and easily searchable.

Online location:
The Guardian Crossword page has links to printable and interactive versions. (Old location: Guardian Crossword)

Archives: Use "Crossword Archive Search" on Guardian's crossword page, with Type = Cryptic. You can also filter by setter, date, format or puzzle number.

Solving help: Go to category Guardian on fifteensquared. The solutions appear on the same day, except for the Sat prize puzzle which is blogged about after the deadline has passed.

Frequency: 6 days a week, Mon-Sat
The I-do-it Box (TIB) TIB crosswords are set by Vinod (Diogenes) and Tony (Cryptonyte). They aren't in a mainstream publication yet, I hope they will soon be.

There isn't much obscurity in vocabulary or GK in their crosswords. There is a lot of good, fair wordplay.
Online location: The blog TV Crosswords. Interactive versions are provided too.

Archives: Look up the archives through their sidebar.

Solving help: Write a comment under the puzzle, the setters will respond.

Frequency: Roughly once a week. A new puzzle is generally uploaded around Fri-Sat. (Update: No new puzzles have appeared since a while, but have a go at the archives.)

Actually, you don't have to start with an easy puzzle. You could directly do the Times (which is harder than the puzzles above), only that you have to be stronger not to lose heart if you don't answer too many clues in the initial tries. With any puzzle, you will see progress if you solve regularly and seek explanations when you don't understand something.

Just cut your solving teeth on well-made puzzles, easy or hard doesn't matter all that much.

Related Posts:

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Raghunath said...

Carry on the good work! Just a minor correction: the ET crossword is put out on all days of the week.

Shuchi said...

Thanks for the correction, raghunath. Fixed.

Chaturvasi said...

The syndicated crossword that is published in the New Indian Express is supplied by Gemini Crosswords, which agency was previously known as First Features.
The same set of 12 grids is in use since 1970s when I became acquainted with the puzzle.

Chaturvasi said...

And if you want to solve what is NIE crossword interactively, visit
Not only the day's offering but also puzzles from an archive are available there.

Shuchi said...

Thank you, CV Sir. Great to know about the interactive version as well, but it doesn't match with the crossword published on the same day in NIE, does it? Is there a standard lag, as in THC Sun vs Everyman?