How To Solve A Bare Bones

How To Solve image - climbing the puzzle mountain

by Tom McDermott |
Updated on

Are you a fan of Skeleton Crosswords and looking to take your puzzle solving to the next level? Then you might like to try a Bare Bones puzzle.

As you may already know, in a Skeleton puzzle the solver not only has to work out the answers to the clues, but they must also build the puzzle grid as they go. Typically, the solver is given a few black squares and clue numbers to orient themselves.

These squares can then be safely rotated around the fully symmetrical grid meaning that it’s possible to have a decent sense of how the finished puzzle will look before you even get to the clues.

With a Bare Bones, however, the only part of the puzzle you’re given aside from the clues is the puzzle grid. So a Bare Bones puzzle is just that — completely bare.

And whilst it can seem a little intimidating at first, once you know the trick to getting started, you’re sure to find this puzzle bare-ly give you any trouble at all!

Getting started

So how do you get started? The answer lies in the list of clues — not in the hints themselves but in how they are numbered.

Specifically, when a Bare Bones puzzle includes both a clue at 1A and at 1D then you know that both solutions must start in the upper left-hand corner of the puzzle grid because otherwise, they won’t both be at number 1.

Once you’ve got the first two solutions in and added a black square at the end of each one it’s simply a case of heading back to the clues and building from there.

In other cases, it can often be helpful to start by working out the solutions to the clues and seeing where they may overlap. For example, if the clue at 1A is “Muscle spasm” giving CRAMP, and the clue at 2D is “Decorative tape” giving RIBBON, then there is only one way they can fit together (see below). You can add in a few extra black squares before heading back to the clues to see what else might fit alongside the clues you already have.

Bear in mind

And don’t forget, because Bare Bones crosswords are fully symmetrical, each black square can be rotated around the grid to help in other areas of the puzzle.

Good luck and happy solving!

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