There are 3 basics I must have in mind as I solve the grid & after I have solved it:
- Puzzle Title - It is involved with the answer or the path to the answer in 100% of puzzles.
- Meta Clue - It is involved with the answer or the path to the answer in 100% of puzzles.
- Theme Clues & *Entries and **Marked Grid Clues - Are involved with the answer or the path to the answer in 73% of puzzles.
*Theme Entries, Theme Answers, Long Across Answers, Longest Answers, etc.
**Asterisks, questions, parentheses, brackets, numbers, blanks, etc. These often point to what would be considered Theme Answers.
Since 3 of 4 of puzzles use Theme Entries in some manner, for me to begin by looking elsewhere for solutions is asking to be frustrated. If nothing else, I want to eliminate Theme Answers as being relevant. If clues are marked, there is no reason to begin elsewhere.
After establishing that there are or are not Theme Entries, I first relate these three basics to each other. I'll build lists of the different meanings of the words in the Puzzle Title & Meta Clues and see what clicks within the Theme Entries. I'll look for related words within the rest of the grid, clue answers that might give directions on what to do with the Theme Entries, etc.
If nothing pops, I'll move on to other strategies that may cover the other 27% of solutions.