Improving memory by playing games is a productive and fun activity. Crosswords provide a great mind work-out as they require the use of logic and memory on several levels: the direct recall of words, exploring different interpretations of clues and seeking patterns. If you do crosswords mindfully, yet with a sense of mischief, they are an excellent and fun way to protect and improve your memory. Your approach to the puzzle will help increase success and enjoyment. Here are some hints:
Start working on the crossword by proceeding through the clues from start to finish, filling in the answers you know. Resist the temptation to do the cross-hatched words. This will provide an immediate sense of progress as a significant number of clues will be completed.
The tougher clues will become easier as more letters will have been filled in and your mind will have had a preview of them. Attack the missed clues in any order, concentrating on building up areas where there are letters already filled in. Don’t worry if a specific clue doesn’t solve immediately. Allow time and space for the mind to explore different possibilities; this is where the fun really starts. Think about:
- different meanings of the clue
- related words or ideas; this may create a link to the correct solution
- common letter combinations
- the crossword’s theme, if applicable
- the frequent crossword clues (This is the only reason I know what an ‘epee’ is)
After spending time on all the clues take a break. Given the opportunity, the subconscious mind will find new patterns between clues, letters and memories. Be ready to be amazed when you come back to the crossword.
Put the ego to the side as some of your answers will be wrong. Be willing to erase answers if they do not line up with other clues and do a bit of ‘trial by error’ detective work if there are multiple candidate answers.
Most importantly, keep in mind that it is only a game — a trifle. The rules and expectations of crossword experts do not apply to everyday solvers. After giving a crossword a few solid attempts, keep making progress by using dictionaries, atlases, friends and the web. You can’t know what you don’t know.
However you do a crossword, as long as you relax and enjoy the experience, they are good for the mind and memory. Have fun and perhaps learn a few new words to impress your friends.