We've all been there: you're blazing through a crossword grid when suddenly, everything grinds to a halt. You're stuck! You've looked twice or more at every clue you could possibly know, but nothing's happening. So now what?
Some solvers are reluctant to "cheat" by peeking at an answer or two, but here's a fun way to approach it: give yourself one free letter.
Back in the pre-internet days, getting a little help was often impossible (no answers given until the next day, as in newspaper crosswords), spoiler-ridden (as with a book of crosswords, where you might see the whole grid instead of just one answer, or even parts of solutions to puzzles you hadn't even tried yet), or expensive (there used to be 1-888 numbers you'd call to get automated answers for a dollar or two a minute. No joke! They were quite popular, which shows how frustrating it is to get puzzle-stuck).
But now help is just a click away, and we can be super-precise when getting a hint while solving online. On the Daily Beast's puzzle you can get any word you want in the grid revealed with the Reveal Word function, but you can also try an even more interesting option: Reveal Letter.
It's just what it sounds like: pick one square in the grid you really want and the software gives it to you.
Can one letter make that much difference? Surprisingly it can – ideally that one letter will cascade into a word, and then another word, and then a long entry that leads you successfully into an entire area of the puzzle that had seemed impenetrable before.
Choosing just one letter feels much less "cheaty" to solvers than an entire word, and you barely even feel the diminished sense of achievement that comes from peeking at two or three words in a grid like we did in the old days. Plus if you go into it knowing that part of your solve allows for one freebie, it shouldn't really feel like cheating at all.
It's also fun to strategically choose your one letter. There might be two or three candidates, and you've got to guess at which makes the most sense. Often the first letter of a word will be the best bet, since our brains tend to classify words by first letter (which is why an answer of, say, EARTH will come more readily from E???? than from ?A???.
Ever broken open a stubborn Daily Beast puzzle with a single Reveal Letter command? Brag about it by tweeting to #beastxword.
Play today’s puzzle and sign up for our weekly crossword newsletter on the bottom of the puzzle page.