Cryptic definition [CD] clues expect you to think laterally to arrive at the solution. Unlike most other clue types, pure CD clues do not have separate definition and wordplay. The entire clue is one single definition, worded in a misleading way and you need to use some "out-of-the-box" reasoning to solve it.
Example I (from Guardian 24566):
International contest won by gifted horse (6,3)
The clue leads you to think of a talented horse. Think instead of a horse given as a gift. You can work out then that TROJAN WAR is the answer.
Example II (from Times 24068):
Frames for summer's activities? (5)
"Summer" here isn't the season but "that which does sums" as in additions. The answer: counting frames, or ABACI.
Example III (from FT 12943):
I can see what is being said (3,6)
The clue does not say "hear what is being said", it says "see what is being said". Watch out for oddities like this, imagine possibilities of what it could mean. LIP READER, in this case.
Things To Watch Out For
- A ""?" at the end is a good sign that the clue is a cryptic definition.
Times 24451: Fallout when the deal is subjected to cuts? (7) SAWDUST
"deal" is meant to be taken as "business transaction" in the surface, and "wood" in the cryptic reading.
- At times the clue is not purely cryptic but is a double-definition with one or both of the solution definitions as CDs.
Example: FT 13326 (Bradman): Unique situation of team with waterlogged pitch? (9) MATCHLESS
There are two definitions here - the regular one 'unique', and the cryptic definition 'situation of team with waterlogged pitch?' which gives MATCH-LESS i.e. without a match. Read about cryptic double-definitions for more on this variant of CD.
Try solving these cryptic definition clues from NIE/ET/Guardian:
Her husband's late (5)
A piece of it presents no problem (4)
First impressions that stay with you? (10)
- Other Clue Types: Anagrams, Hidden Words, Charades, Containers, Deletions, Double Definitions,
Homophones, Substitutions, Letter Picking, Letter Shifting, Letter Exchange,
Acrostics, Reversals, &Lit.
If you wish to keep track of further articles on Crossword Unclued, you can subscribe to it in a reader via RSS Feed. You can also subscribe by email and have articles delivered to your inbox, or follow me on twitter to get notified of new links.