by Will Shortz, editor of The New York Times crossword
First, you look for the fill-in-the-blank clues. They're easy to spot in the clue list and often easy to solve. Also go for the shortest answers first. There are relatively few short words in English, and the same ones tend to appear in crosswords again and again—especially those with lots of vowels, like era, area, ale, ore, erie, etc. It helps to work off consonants more than vowels, because consonants are more distinctive. A "w" or a "z" is going to be more helpful than an "e" or an "i". If necessary, guess at an answer. People say, "Ooooh, So-and-so does it in pen," as if that's a big deal. It just means that you have to cross out your mistakes instead of erase them. I use a pen sometimes, and I still get the answers wrong.