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The first crossword puzzle, created by Arthur ...

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The first crossword puzzle, created by Arthur Wynne,
published in the New York World on December 21, 1913.

While solving today’s New York Times crossword, the various methods people use inspired me to write this post.

Do you do puzzles?  How do you go about it?

Some people:

go across first, then down, always in order

do the reverse

skip all over the puzzle

do the long clues first

do all the short words first

Sometimes I like to solve one word across, then down, alternating until I get to the bottom of the puzzle grid.

Do you have a consistent approach?  Or do you mix it up?

Not every puzzle works the same way.

Flexibility rocks!

All of the above can be applied to practicing.

If every piece is approached the same way, practicing is boring.

A Saturday morning student brought a book of Irish tunes for flute with piano accompaniment this week, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  We had a great time doing something different!

She showed me how she had practiced the tune (flute part) with the right hand of the piano part.  I thought that was an interesting choice ~ not what I would have chosen, but who says you can’t do it that way?

After she played her version, I wanted to see what happened if she switched around.  So she played the tune and the left hand, then both hands of the piano part.

Then I asked her to play the piano part while I played the tune.

When we switched to a different piece, our final version for the day was with her playing the tune and the left hand while I played the right hand part above the tune.

My student found that she could be more flexible than she ever thought possible.  I think that came from doing something different in the first place ~ she had to let go.

So learn music like a crossword!

Skip around.  Don’t do the same thing the same way every single day.


Practice hands alone

Start with the development section

Nail the key changes by starting before and continuing past a key change for a couple of bars

Nail the meter changes in the same way

Tempo changes too

Dynamic changes

Practice the end first

Work on the most difficult sections, then switch to another piece

Look at the music away from the instrument.  Sing it in your head.


Dance around the room while you sing out loud

Teach it to someone else

Play sequences/repetitions out of order, last section first

And then play it like you are performing it!

Did you solve the whole puzzle?

Any questions? 😉

What do you think?  Can crosswords and music share space in the puzzle realm?

Do you skip around when you practice?  What about solving puzzles?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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