Crossword Puzzles: The Good, the Bad, and the Interesting 

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Solving crosswords is an ideal, inexpensive hobby if you need to tackle stress and distract yourself from every day worries. You might have got into crosswords during lockdown to keep your mind active, or you may be a long-time, even life-long enthusiast.

However, not everyone is convinced by the notion that crosswords can be beneficial for both your physical and mental health. Indeed, there has been much debate as to whether these puzzles are good for you or are just another way to stave off boredom. I find the idea intriguing though and think it’s a hobby well worth investigating further.

Later, we’ll note some drawbacks of crosswords and discover some interesting crossword-related facts. First though, let’s find out some of the great benefits we can get from enjoying them. You might be surprised.

Surprising benefits of doing crossword puzzles  

Here are some of the best advantages of crosswords I’ve been able to find. Feel free to let me know in the comments if I don’t mention an upside you know of.

It’s a great way to spruce up your vocabulary

If you want to improve your vocabulary and become a real wordsmith, crosswords might be just the thing. You’re bound to pick up the meaning of a new word or three each time you complete a puzzle.

Helps reduce stress

Ever wonder what to do when you’re stressed, and your head is spinning? Why not try doing a crossword to help calm your mind. This will help you feel less stressed and the more often you do it, the easier you’ll find it to calm down and relax.

Can be a fun group hobby

It’s good fun doing a crossword on your own, but it can be even more enjoyable if you make it a team effort. It might be more rewarding when you solve it, knowing that you’ve all chipped in and contributed to the group’s success.

Solving crossword puzzles can unlock your creativity

You’ll be presented with clues that are misleading, confusing, and hard to figure out. To decipher them, you’ll need to be a bit creative. Thus, you’ll unlock hitherto unplumbed reserves of creativity that you’ll then be able to access and use in other areas of your life.

Improves your ability to focus on the present moment

You need to be able to focus on the present moment to solve a crossword. You cannot allow yourself to get distracted and must fully engage with the task. This is the core of mindfulness, and therefore doing crosswords can help increase your skills in that area.

It’s an inexpensive hobby

Fun hobbies don’t need to cost much. Doing crossword puzzles can be a superb way to spend a few lazy Sunday afternoons. Many crosswords can be downloaded for free, or you can buy a few puzzle books to work through. You can also do the crosswords in the back of the newspapers you read.

Improves your problem-solving and analytical skills

When you engage in crossword puzzles often, parts of the brain are activated which makes you quicker at solving problems. This can help you work faster, be more productive, and remain motivated. In addition to this, you will sharpen your analytical skills and become faster at working through answers. One consequence of this is that you’ll start to become more confident that you’ll be able to handle whatever life might throw at you.

Can make you feel you’ve accomplished something

Everyone gets a kick out of it when they feel they’ve finished something and that it gave them a good mental workout. Crosswords can give you that feeling and help boost your mood because dopamine is released in the brain, and you’ll feel happier. Hence, when you’re feeling down and decide to do a crossword, you can emerge from the puzzle feeling much better.

Can help guard your brain against diseases

In much the same way as doing jigsaws may help stave off illnesses like Alzheimer’s and slow mental decline, so to can doing crosswords. You can keep your brain active and help slow the onset of diseases like dementia. It might even help relieve some of the symptoms.

Improve your memory

Completing crosswords can improve your memory in a way similar to the neural connections which are formed and strengthened when you solve jigsaw puzzles. This is because your brain gets a good workout which keeps your brain cells more active for longer.

It’s an activity that helps ward off loneliness

If you’re feeling a little lonely, a crossword puzzle can be a great way to distract yourself. When you’re solving a crossword puzzle, you don’t have to focus on feeling lonely. It’s a fantastic way to keep yourself occupied.

Makes you a good reasoner

You need to work your way through plausible answers and look at the crossword clues from various angles whenever you come across difficult ones. Your reasoning skills will become more advanced the more often you practice. You can then apply your improved reasoning skills to your life. Doing crossword puzzles can also help you develop an enquiring mind. People with an enquiring mind typically learn more, so you may even end up becoming smarter if you assume this hobby.

Increases your patience

Crosswords teach us to be patient and reward persistence. If you do crosswords with your children, you can teach them the value of patience too. They may even come to realise that to achieve something, you have to persist and put in some real effort and that sometimes you need to wait for things.

Provides a break from screens and social media

Nowadays, the online world and social media take much of our attention, and it can be good to take a break from it all every now and again. Crosswords can give you this break and keep you busy so that you’ll be able to come back to your screens refreshed.

Can improve your spelling

In the days of spellcheck and autocorrect, our phones and computers are making us lazy, because any spelling gaffs we make are corrected for us. The good news is, the more often you practice crosswords, the more you will become accustomed to spelling words correctly. Over time, therefore, you’ll become a more accomplished speller.

If you can get all those benefits from a few simple crosswords, you’re not doing too badly. If you’re a novice, you might want to start by deciphering simple quick ones and work your way up to trickier cryptic crosswords.

Before long, we’ll uncover some interesting facts about humble crosswords. For now, though, it’s time to look at some of the drawbacks of solving them.

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Downsides of solving crossword puzzles  

Here are a few drawbacks that I’ve come up with from trying to solve some of these pesky puzzles myself.

Can prove frustrating when you can’t work out an answer

Sometimes you can spend hours trying to solve a single clue. This can happen to anyone, even the most seasoned, experienced puzzlers. This can be frustrating and create a vicious cycle in which the more frustrated you become, the harder it becomes to reason out clues and solve the puzzle.

They can distract you from important tasks

When you’re engrossed in a crossword, you can end up puzzling over them for some time. In this way, it can have a detrimental effect on your productivity and stop you from finishing other important tasks.

Crossword puzzles can become addictive

It’s easy to get addicted to these puzzles. Once you become skilled at working out clues, you can find yourself chasing the sense of accomplishment you get from solving them. So, if you don’t want to get hooked on them, it might be a good idea to find yourself another fun hobby.

It’s hard to bond over difficult crosswords

If you want to use crosswords to have a good time with your family and friends, it’s best to pick easy puzzles and not plump for anything too tricky. So, while you may have become a pro crossword solver, consider the skill level and enthusiasm of others involved if you want to keep things light-hearted and fun. Of course, if all your family and friends love crosswords, you can crank up the difficulty.

Doing crosswords might make you feel like you’re losing touch with those around you

The more often you solve puzzles, the more you’ll learn and the more analytical you’ll become. You might feel that you have less in common with your peers as you begin to develop a more enquiring mind and start gaining more knowledge.

Becoming obsessed with crosswords might make you less mindful

Unsolved puzzles can stay on your mind for a long time. This can take your attention away from the situations you find yourself in and make you less aware of the present moment. This may prevent you from enjoying the present as you should or deriving maximum value from it.

You may not have all the knowledge you need to solve puzzles

If you’re new to crosswords, you might not have the range of vocabulary or knowledge you need to complete some puzzles. This means that the first few puzzles you try might be tricky. It’s up to you whether to give up or press on.

All you need to do now is weigh the pros and cons and decide whether you want to try it out. Who knows? You might find it’s the perfect hobby for you.

Are you still undecided? Well, let’s look at some interesting facts about crosswords. You might find something out that helps you make up your mind.

Interesting stuff about crossword puzzles

The crossword is a word puzzle with a long, interesting – and sometimes even surprising — past. If you’re still on the fence about whether to try completing a crossword, check out this list of fun facts.

  • Journalist Arthur Wynne created the crossword.
  • The first crossword puzzle was published in the New York World, Christmas edition in 1913, on Sunday 21st December.
  • In the early days, they were the bane of an editor’s life, so for a long time, the New York World remained the only newspaper to print crosswords.
  • The name given to a crossword enthusiast is a Cruciverbalist. That is also a term for someone who enjoys creating them.
  • When first invented, this was called Word-Cross.
  • In 1942, the first crossword appeared in the New York Times.
  • A waiter in Budapest left a crossword as his suicide note in 1926.
  • The six main types of crosswords are word searches, codeword crosswords, barred grids, blocked grids, thematic crosswords, and cryptic crosswords.
  • Crosswords were banned in Paris during World War II.
  • The first puzzle book containing crosswords was published in 1924 by Simon & Schuster.
  • Rufus (a.k.a. Roger Squires) of Great Britain is thought to have created the most crosswords in the world, with a total of around 75,000 to his credit.
  • This is an effective way to learn new things. In fact, most people learn something with each crossword they do.
  • The Royal Family, in particular Queen Mary, were reported as being addicted to crosswords by the Times, in January 1925.

So, there you have it. Thirteen cool titbits about crosswords you probably never knew.

The wrap-up

We may have made you itch to pick up a puzzle book or newspaper and get solving crosswords when you discovered the multitude of interesting benefits you can get from doing them. It may turn out to be a cheap way to improve your reasoning skills, boost your memory and turn you into a better problem solver, among much else.

We also highlighted some of the pitfalls of taking up this hobby and shared some great interesting facts about this traditional, stimulating pastime that may even have the bonus of making you smarter. All that’s left to decide is whether you fancy giving them a go yourself. You may find that doing crosswords is the perfect way to while away those lazy Sunday afternoons or evenings.

If you choose to give it a whirl, start simple and work your way up to more complex crosswords. Happy puzzling!

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold a MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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