Friday, February 5, 2010

NATO Phonetic Alphabet in Crosswords

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nato-phonetic-alphabet The NATO phonetic alphabet or "radio alphabet" is a standard spelling alphabet – it assigns code words to letters, so that voice messages can be pronounced and understood correctly over phone or radio. (e.g. When you're giving your initials D.K. over the phone, you could use the NATO alphabet to say 'D for Delta, K for Kilo').

Cryptic clues use the phonetic alphabet in devious ways.

Clue Examples

Guardian 24774 (Brendan): Instrument of top player gripping India on the radio? (5) S{I}TAR
'India' = I in the phonetic alphabet. "on the radio" is an indicator that the phonetic alphabet is being used. (Note that it isn't necessary for such an indicator to be present, as the following examples show.)

Times 24080: Two old men, one after Oscar (4) PA PA
'Papa' follows 'Oscar' in the phonetic alphabet. No indicator here.

A contest-winning clue by Don Manley at &lit CWC:
November — then what? Carols being blasted, pounds being spent (5) OSCAR [(CAROLS)* – L]
The definition 'November – then what?' gives 'Oscar', which follows 'November' in the phonetic alphabet. The surface of course,  misdirects you into thinking of the Christmas season.

The Phonetic Alphabet Reference Table

A reference list of NATO codes for all the letters of the English alphabet.

Letter Code Word
A Alpha
B Bravo
C Charlie
D Delta
E Echo
F Foxtrot
G Golf
H Hotel
I India
J Juliet
K Kilo
L Lima
M Mike
Letter Code Word
N November
O Oscar
P Papa
Q Quebec
R Romeo
S Sierra
T Tango
U Uniform
V Victor
W Whiskey
X X-ray
Y Yankee
Z Zulu

Solving Tips

  • Make a mental note of the code words (you can remember the list, it's not that much!). If you see a word from this list in a clue, check if the phonetic alphabet is involved.
  • The easier the word is to disguise, the likelier it is to appear in a clue. You'll run into Golf more often than Quebec.
  • The clue might have an indicator like "on the radio", "over the phone", "broadcast". These are similar to homophone indicators.

Solve These

Try solving these clues which make use of the radio alphabet:

Guardian 24322 (Chifonie): Lecherous Romeo pushed into watercourse (6)
From this puzzle by Boaz: Putting nasty Mike in nursery is a bit rash (5-3-4)
Times 24436: I broadcast for the nation (5)

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7 comments

Vinod Raman said...

Guardian 24322 (Chifonie): Lecherous Romeo pushed into watercourse (6) CA(R)NAL

Times 24436: I broadcast for the nation (5) INDIA

sriks7 said...

Got Carnal & India

Shuchi said...

Good cracks.

Hint for the one remaining: The definition is "a bit rash".

Shuchi said...

One more hint:
D_ _ _ _ / M _ _ / C _ _ _

Vinod Raman said...

D(evil m)aycare. Thx for the hint. Nice clue.

gauri said...

Excellent crack on Devil may care. I got carnal and India as well; after seeing the answer to (2), I don't think I'd have have cracked that one.

Shuchi said...

As if to prove my assertion "You'll run into Golf more often than Quebec" wrong, this clue has appeared in FT today:

Mountain range not far from Quebec? (6)