Question: what makes a crossword puzzle difficult — the clues or the entries?
Answer: I'd say it's 85% clues, 15% entries. Sure, if you've got a tough word like BOSCH in the grid — that's Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch — then there's really no easy way to clue it. The solver either knows it or doesn't, so they'll need all the crossing letters if the name is unfamiliar.
But most words in a puzzle will be familiar, so usually the clue is the key factor in difficulty. As you probably know, Daily Beast puzzles are easiest on Mondays and get progressively tougher throughout the week until the trickiest of them all, which is Sunday's. So compare the clue for EPS in Wednesday's puzzle, which was [Alternative to a JPEG or GIF], with the clue for the same answer in Sunday's puzzle: [Formatting option]. That's much tougher, and typical of how the same entry can be made super-difficult via the clues.
How do you crack a particularly tricky clue? Assuming it's not a BOSCH-like proper name, try to read the clue in a different way than you did on the first run-through. Sometimes words have two meanings, as Led Zeppelin sang, so maybe [Ally in court] from Thursday's puzzle isn't a friendly judge, but rather the name "Ally" — the answer there was MCBEAL.
Saying the clue aloud might also jog something. 13-Down in Sunday's puzzle was clued [The last w in www], which might have left you puzzled. But saying "w w w" out loud might prompt you to realize we're talking about the World Wide WEB.
Are these puzzles too easy for you, just right, or on the tough side? If you're breezing right through them, share your secrets with the rest of the class by tweeting at #beastxword.
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