It is hard to convert words in WORD PROBLEMS to the language of algebra leading to the correct equation set up. There is no easy way to "master" word problems or am I wrong?

I know most of you will tell me to LET X BE WHAT WE'RE LOOKING FOR but there's gotta be more to it than this.

What's your secret? Most textbooks provide examples of word problems along with SIMILAR practice questions.

This is easy, right? BUT, what if you are reading a problem you never saw before and/or not explained in the textbook? What about that? How do you rationalize your way to the correct equation set up and answer?