INTRODUCTION TO CRYPTIC CROSSWORDS - LESSON 1


At the outset, I'd like to acknowledge that material for these lessons have been taken from a number of sites, the most important of which are

www.biddlecombe.demon.co.uk/yagcc/YAGCC1.html

www.btinternet.com/~ed.xword/AbbrevA_C.html
(This site has added to the original list made by Guardian of UK.)

I have been solving cryptic crosswords for over 40 years. You may well ask what is a crossword. Crossword puzzles are mainly of two types, Cryptic and non-cryptic. Non-cryptic are more in use in USA, while Britain is the home of cryptic crosswords. The non-cryptic puzzles or easy puzzles, as they are sometimes called, generally are one-liner clues. I do not personally derive any joy in solving them. What I propose to teach you is how to solve Cryptic puzzles.

These lessons are intended to help you to understand what cryptic crosswords are, how the clues work, and what you can do to solve the puzzles in newspapers like the Economic Times, The Hindu, Indian Express etc.

I think 'solve' is perhaps a wrong word, maybe I should say 'attempt to solve'. You can't learn to solve cryptic puzzles just by reading these or any other lessons. Real progress requires regular practice. This practice will inevitably include making mistakes, and not getting very far with some puzzles. It may take you several years to reach the point where you can be confident of finishing most newspaper puzzles, but persistence and determination will pay off in the end. The joy of finishing a good Crossword is a great one.

All cryptic clues consist of a definition of the answer (usually at the beginning or the end through a key-word), and a separate subsidiary indication which provides a set of instructions for constructing the answer. A cryptic clue is a sentence or phrase, appearing to make some kind of sense and putting ideas into the solver's head. These often have little or nothing to do with the answer, which can be derived by interpreting all or part of the clue in ways which are less obvious.

In other words, some element of bluffing or deception is the whole point of a good cryptic clue. A few examples will add to your enlightenment. Number will be used to denote something that numbs you rather than to indicate one, two etc. Similarly flower will be used to indicate a river (which flows rather than rose or any other flower.

Of the different types of Cryptic clues, ANAGRAMS or a re-arrangement of the letters are the most popular. For knowing whether the clue is an anagram, look for words that suggest mixing: "confused", "wild", "upset", "broken" etc.


I have given ten anagram clues ranging from 4-letter words (parliamentary, of course) to a 12-letter word. Four of these are with names of relatives and six are general. I have also underlined the word from which the anagram is formed. For example, the solution to the clue 'Am Rathi, may be, but she's my wife(7)' is 'AMRITHA'. The definition in the form of a jumble is 'AM RATHI' and the answer is 'My wife'. The solution to the clue 'Broken SHELF holds meat (5)' is 'FLESH'


Good Luck and get cracking !!


A source of food poisoning in crab I ate, possibly (8)

Tong and pin are assembled for an Australian cricketer(7)

Newspaper chief rode up carrying it (6)

Rathy has a part remade for this crossword teacher (13)

Wild West food (4)

Noises in restless slumber(7)

It rarely turns out like this in books (8)

Flamboyantly heave rod above (8)

This man, Ben, thrown into exile (10)

Watson's kit - or bits of modern office kit (12)

Two interesting anagram clues which were sent by my brother-in-law from Sydney Morning Herald are given below. You can try to solve them. The answers are available in the next lesson.

Logically and logistically where in the world do TROOPS BUSTLE? (7,5)

And still on warfare, what peaceful option is available to those of us who can STAND IT NO MORE (13)

FORWARD to Next Lesson



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