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October 1, 2003 Peculiar robotics effort today (5,2,7) Cryptic crossword puzzles and how to solve them Daniel Stewart Recognizing cryptic crosswords Typical standard crossword grid Typical cryptic crossword grid Barred cryptic (or Torquemeda) grid

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peculiar robotics effort today 5 2 7

October 1, 2003

Peculiar robotics effort today (5,2,7)

Cryptic crossword puzzles and how to solve them

Daniel Stewart

recognizing cryptic crosswords
Recognizing cryptic crosswords

Typical standard crossword grid

Typical cryptic crossword grid

Barred cryptic (or Torquemeda) grid

however cryptic crosswords are mainly distinguished by their clues
However, cryptic crosswords are mainly distinguished by their clues
  • A cryptic crossword clue (almost always) consists of:

A surface reading which includes:

A definition + some kind of wordplay (or wordplay + definition) along with the number of letters in the answer

For example:

Resilient pig’s home filled with vomit (8)

slide4

surfacereading

Resilientpig’s home filled with vomit (8)

wordplay

definition

slide5

Resilientpig’s home filled with vomit (8)

wordplay

definition

“filled with” = container indicator (i.e. specifies the type of wordplay)

“pig’s home” = STY

“vomit” = RETCH

slide6
That is: sty filled with retch

ST … RETCH … Y

STRETCHY , one meaning of which is “resilient”

(the definition portion of the clue)

types of clues
Types of clues
  • containers
  • charades
  • anagrams
  • double definitions
  • hidden words
  • homonyms
  • reversals
  • subtractions
  • British-style cryptic clues
  • There are other, less common, types and more than one type can be combined in a single clue
slide8

Charade Clues

definition

Politically divided island tolerated

nothing (6)

wordplay

slide9
Politically divided island tolerated

nothing (6)

“Politically divided island” = definition

“tolerated” = BORNE

“nothing” = O

(“nothing” or “love” often indicates the letter “O”)

BORNE + O = BORNEO

Charade clues thus require “construction” of the answer from parts supplied in the clue

anagram clues
Anagram clues

definition

Peculiar robotics effort today (5,2,7)

wordplay

slide11
Peculiar robotics effort today (5,2,7)

“Peculiar” = anagram indicator

(anagram indicators can be words like “mixed”, “unusual”, and so on)

“robotics effort” = anagram fodder

“today” = definition

The letters in“robotics effort”can be rearranged to form:

FIRST OF OCTOBER

slide12

Double definition clues

definition

Make tea expensive (5)

definition

slide13

Make tea expensive (5)

“make tea” = STEEP

“expensive” = STEEP

The answer to the clue, STEEP, is a single word that satisfies the two, very different, definitions

slide14

Hidden word clues

definition

Scots snack foundin disco nearby (5)

wordplay

slide15

Scots snack foundin disco nearby (5)

“found in” = hidden word indicator

(others might be “holds”, “carries”, or just “in”)

“disco nearby” = words containing hidden answer

SCONE is contained in “disconearby”

slide16

Homonym clues

definition

Feudal drudge waves to the audience (4)

wordplay

slide17

Feudal drudge waves to the audience (4)

“to the audience” = homonym indicator

(others can be “to the ear”, “heard”, “for the auditor”, … )

“waves” = surf, which is a homonym of:

SERF, which satisfies the definition: “feudal drudge”

In this case the homonym indicator is at the end of the wordplay indicating that a word for “waves” is a homonym of a word for “feudal drudge” and not the other way around (they both have four letters). Compare to:

slide18

Actor Tom heard stage hands (5)

The answer here is CREWS, which has 5 letters; not CRUISE (if the clue had indicated 6 letters, the answer would be CRUISE). When the two homonyms have a different number of letters, the homonym indicator can be in the middle of the clue with the correct answer of the two possible indicated by the number of letters.

slide19

Reversal clues

definition

Touch horn backing up (4)

wordplay

slide20

Touch horn backing up (4)

“touch” = definition

“horn” = TUBA

“backing up” = reversal indicator

(others can be “from the south”—in a down clue, “from the East”—in an across clue, or just “reversed”)

TUBA backwards is ABUT

slide21

Subtraction clues

definition

Montana town spread endlessly(5)

wordplay

slide22

Montana town spread endlessly(5)

“spread” = BUTTER

“endlessly” = subtraction indicator

BUTTER with the “R” removed = BUTTE

Note that either end of the word can be removed and more than one letter can be removed. Consider:

Backside spread endlessly(4)

slide23

Clues using a combination of these principles:

Any of these can be combined. For example:

Brat at Ontario museum put outwithout warning(9)

slide24

wordplay

Brat at Ontario museum put out

without warning(9)

definition

slide25

This is a combination of a charade clue and an anagram:

  • “Brat” = IMP
  • “Ontario museum” = ROM
  • “put out”
    • “put” = anagram fodder
    • “out” = anagram indicator
  • IMP + ROM + PTU = IMPROMPTU
  • Which satisfies the definition, without warning
slide26

British-style cryptic clues

In American and Canadian cryptic crosswords there is great emphasis placed on the form of the clue—there must be a definition, wordplay, and an indicator, if one is required. No other words should appear in the clue.

slide27

The British-style cryptic clue is often much looser:

    • non-cryptic clues are occasionally included in puzzles; e.g. Mideastern city (5) -- Cairo
    • clues can be cryptic without the strict American structure; e.g. Kosher diet (7) -- Knesset
    • extra words are often found in the clues “linking” the definition and the wordplay; e.g.
      • Town in Montanaisspread endlessly(5)
      • “is” does not form part of the definition or the wordplay; it just links the two (occasionally seen in American puzzles also)
slide28

The most difficult cryptic crossword clue ever:

        • “E” (13)
  • The answer is SENSELESSNESS
  • This is a kind of a reversed subtraction clue.
  • SENSELESSNESS, that is:
  • the letters in SENSE
  • LESS (i.e. take away)
  • the letters in NESS
  • which leaves the letter “E”.

The solver here is being required to find the cryptic clue – “SENSELESSNESS” that produces the answer “E” as an answer to “E” presented as a cryptic clue.

slide29
Where to find cryptic crosswords:
  • Toronto Globe and Mail
    • Weekday: anonymous British (on line)
    • Weekend: Fraser Simpson
  • National Post
  • Virtually any British newspaper (particularly the Guardian, the Times, and the Telegraph—usually signed with a pseudonym)
  • A large number of web sites