Friday, August 8, 2008

Tackling Cryptic Crosswords: 7-Step Guide For Beginners

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cryptic crossword guideFor those of you who want to solve cryptic crosswords but find them impossibly tough, here are a few tips to get you going.

1. Know The Clue Types- Cryptic clues may be tricky to interpret, but they are not vague. There is logic and method in the way each clue is crafted; you only need to know how to read it right. The first thing to do is to learn about cryptic clue structure and types. Click here to find a list of cryptic clue types and tips to solve them.

2. Spot The Anagrams and Hidden Words - Anagrams and telescopic clues are usually the easiest to crack. The posts on How To Spot Anagrams and Digging Out Hidden Words tell you more about these clue types. Skim through the clues to identify these first, fill them in and see if you can get the crossing words next.

3. Crack The Long Ones - Check if you can get the long ones on sight. Really long words or phrases are sometimes easier to solve. If you get these into the grid at first go, you get plenty of crossing letters to help with the rest of the puzzle.

4. Guess Words - Make the most of crossing letters. If the grid has V?O???? for a word, there is a narrow selection of words that fit there. Think up some and then match them against the clue. VIOLENT? VIOLETS? VIOLATE?

5. Identify The Definition - In a clever puzzle, this may be difficult to do. Till you build on instinct and experience to help, the common rule is: the definition is either the first word/group of words, or the last word/group of words. Try each of these as definitions one by one, see if the solution fits in with the rest of the clue.

6. Fill In Word Parts- The answer to the clue must match with the part of speech and tense of the definition. So, if you've identified that the definition is "exploited" but don't yet know what the exact answer is, you still know that the answer will be in past tense, and will most likely end in a "D".

7. Keep At It – Solving cryptic crosswords does not require extra-ordinary abilities. If you have decent vocabulary and a fair knowledge of trivia, all you need more to master cryptics is familiarity. If you don't get the hang of it in the first few tries, don't despair. Take the grid with its solution and go through the clues to see how they work. Fill in a few words into the grid, then try the remaining once again with the crossings. Visit solving communities – see the links under "Solving Sites" on the sidebar of this page. Be patient, be persistent. As with any other skill, to excel you must practice – there are no short-cuts!

If you've been trying to solve for some time without much success, this might be of help: More Tips For Solving Cryptic Crosswords.

Good luck!

Clue Types

Follow the links below to learn about the different types of clues you are likely to encounter, and how to solve them. Often a clue will use a combination of these types.

Cryptic crosswords use standard abbreviations to clue bits and pieces of the solution. Here's more about them: Cryptic Abbreviations.

Look up the Index page for More About Cryptic Wordplay.

If you're stuck with a clue, post it here: Want Help Deconstructing Clues? and I'll try to help.

Related Posts:

Book Recommendations:

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9 comments

xwd_fiend said...

No. 6: beware - not all past tenses end in a D. Today you eat your supper, yesterday you ate it.

Shuchi said...

@xwd_fiend: Fair enough. That was intended as a broad guideline not an infallible rule. I'll edit the tip to clarify that. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank You for this valuable article! I am trying to get into cryptic crosswords and I can see this guide is going to be a great help.

Doing a bit of googling I found this online cryptic crossword. It seems fairly easy - other users might find it good practice, as I am.
http://www.chambersharrap.co.uk/chambers/puzzles/cryptic_crossword/index.shtml

Anonymous said...

Silly silly me. I posted the wrong link. The correct link is:
http://www.btinternet.com/~ed.xword/beginners.html

Maybe the op can replace my previous post with this link and delete this post?

Shuchi said...

Hello, Thanks for sharing the links. The platform lets me delete comments, but not edit them.

The first link looks good to me too - let both remain!

sreelakshmi said...

Shuchi, I remember you posted an article about visual clues- where spectacles = OO I can't find it now.

Is this a valid clue?

Hotel attendant put straw in drink (6)

Shuchi said...

Hi sreelakshmi,

I like the clue. Nice surface and clear enough to solve. Straw = I is a little off-beat, not sure if everyone will be fine with it.

sreelakshmi said...

Thanks Shuchi :), the answer is obvious once you know it, but I suppose it's not totally fair in the view poinr of the solver.

totally bookmad said...

Hi I came across your blog while searching for some interesting Indian blogs. After reading the beginners posts I have taken to searching for cryptic crosswords. Will try to solve one after I finish going through the tips and suggestions.