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How to Solve Skeleton Crosswords

One of the more popular crossword variants is the skeleton crossword - which you may also know under names such as diagramless crosswords.

The word 'skeleton' is apt as, unlike a normal crossword, you are just given a few scant details about a grid, and you must then work through to construct the grid AND solve the crossword at the same time. This clearly makes them much trickier to solve than standard crosswords.

If you'd like some tips on how to solve skeleton crosswords, then you should find the video below helpful:

At the start of any skeleton crossword, you will invariably be given some information to start you off: some black squares in the grid, and often some clue numbers. You can use the fact that the crossword grid will be symmetrical (usually standard rotational symmetry - if not, then you will usually be told) to make further progress.

For instance, if the first square in the grid is shaded black, then so is the final square in the grid. If you find it hard to visualise how this works, you can use counting: for instance if the third square on row two is black, then the third square from the end of row twelve is also black (on a 13x13 grid) - e.g. if you come down from the top of the grid two rows and then across three columns, to find its partner, simply start at the bottom of the puzzle and come up two rows, and then start in the final column and move back three to find the partner. The video explains this graphically.

Of course, the clues will also prove essential when solving a skeleton crossword, too. You should take a look through for a start and see if there are any anagram clues - these can often be solved straightaway and will give you the length of an answer, which is invaluable. Also look for clues that tend to have one clear answer rather than being ambiguous. This is very useful with skeleton puzzles because you aren't normally given the length of answer words with the clues so will have to work it out for yourself.

Particularly take a look at any clue numbers you have been given to start you off - are they going in an across or down direction (or both) and can you have a good guess at what their answers might be? As soon as you have an answer or two you can often make rapid progress, using the symmetry of the grid to quickly flesh out the details of more squares in the grid. It's worth bearing in mind that the minimum length of an answer is virtually always 3 letters, so if you are creating a grid pattern with 2-letter words you are probably going wrong somewhere.

You should also be prepared for a bit of working back - for instance if you are unsure of an answer then it's fine to give it a go, but first be sure that there are no other places where you can make easier or more certain progress - if you guess and find you've got the wrong word then you'll need to be prepared to unwind your work later on.

Are you a fan of skeleton crosswords? Perhaps you have some tips that you'd like to share as to how you tackle these puzzles - if so, then please do share them in the comments, it's always great to hear how solvers tackle different puzzle types.

If you're intrigued and would like a go at some skeleton crosswords, then you might like to take a look at our Skeleton Crossword Books
Date written: 19 Jun 2020

Category: crosswords | Keywords: skeleton | skeleton crosswords

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