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'Quick'or straightforward crosswords are composed of very short, simple clues that challenge the puzzler to find appropriate synonyms to form the linked grid pattern of solution words. Coming up with just the right set of synonyms, though, is not always so easy as it may seem.
With Cryptic Crosswords each clue supplies more than one pointer to its solution, and generally leaves the solver in no doubt about the answer. Clues are contrived to convey an apparent sense that is deliberately designed to mislead.
These are some of the main tricks used -
Just about every cryptic crossword includes some anagrams - a jumbling of letters to form different words - usually signalled in the clue phrasing.
Example: Doris has her ingredients for sauce (11)
The letters in Doris has her are the ingredients of an anagram for horseradish.
Two words in one
Example: Fighting observed in the capital (6)
Fighting = war; observed = saw. Warsaw is Poland's capital city.
Common foreign words
Example: Drop of French perfume (7)
De is of in French; scent = perfume. Descent = drop.
Example: Four make an appearance in trial of no importance (7)
The Roman letters for four - iv - are set in trial to form Trivial = of no importance.
Example: Throw light on a building (4)
Both parts of the clue are answered by shed.
Example: Prepare for take-off (8)
The puzzlers thoughts are led towards flight, but to assume the obvious is usually a mistake.
Unfasten - to prepare for taking off a garment - is the answer.
Watch out for flower - it might be a river... tower - which might pull a trailer...
number - which might be an anaesthetic... tender - which might be a nurse or money
Be on the lookout for words that suggest figures.
Example: Score but one (8)
The answer is nineteen. Score (20) minus 1.
Back to fronts
Example: Left a long time back - Christmas maybe (4)
'Back' indicates reversal of L = left and eon = a long time, to give Noel.
Ups and downs
In Down clues 'up' usually signals a reversal.
Example: Mother is upset over our love affair (5)
Ma (a common abbreviation for Mother) is set upwards as Am over our. Amour = love affair.
Two or more meanings of one word or expression are simply listed one after the other.
Example: Auspicious undertaking (9)
Both words mean promising
Example: Cat heard in a seaside playground (4)
The answer is Lynx, which sounds the same as Links, a seaside golf course.
Example: A girl some admire, needless to say (5)
Irene is the girl; the comma helps to conceal her
Example: Strain starting to undermine nervous energy (4)
The initial letters of the words after 'starting' give the answer to 'Strain' = Tune.
Odds and evens
Sometimes the solution lies in alternate letters of words within a clue.
Example: Turned on by ignition oddly (4)
The first, third, fifth and seventh letters of ignition give into = 'turned on by'.
Watch out for words which may need you to use the common abbreviations for them in solutions. There are far too many to list here, but C for about (circa) and AB fo sailor are favourites, as are the short forms for American states - GA, NY, CAL and so on.
'Doctor' may require MB, MD, DR or MO.
You will soon recognise other cunning devices clue-writers use in their efforts to mystify you.
Newcomers to cryptic crosswords are recommended to relate solutions back to the clues for them, to see how they were arrived at.
And another tip: try reading longish clues in other than the obvious way. Break them up into parts in a bid to identify the key word or words which require definition.
Nothing is ever quite what it seems. But then that's the whole mentally-stimulating idea.
WARNING: Cryptic Crosswords can rapidly become addictive