Click on Yoda
Especially for Jo, some seasonal crossword clues:
Londoner watches with these treats. (5,4)
Lunatic stole item for parasite (9)
It goes backwards and forwards inside service of Jesus’ birth (8)
You can get a bit of it in Selfridges to decorate your tree (6)
A nut wants one to put on a show, or just to make a bang (7)
Check sweetheart heard delivery vehicle (8)
First heat charms in a mull for generous donor (6,9)
Joker’s greeting (4)
I was recently doing a crossword and my friend Jo took an interest so I was explaining it to her. She went from complete confusion to getting clues before I did within a weekend, but you do need someone to explain how it all works to get you going. So this is a beginner’s guide.
In some ways cryptic clues can be easier than straight clues because you often get two clues. A standard clue usually has a word or phrase that is a synonym for the answer (which is usually right at the start or the end) and then the rest of the clue somehow breaks down the letters of the answer. For example*;
Puzzle is about king’s big weapon = crossword
Puzzle = this is the whole thing i.e. crossword
About = C for circa
King = R for Rex
Big = OS meaning outsized
Weapon = SWORD
Different Types of Clue
Lots of words that mean anagram: mixed, funny, confused, developed, changed, moved, dancing etc
e.g. Italian food mixed with unknown spice (6)
(2) First Letter / last letter / middle letters / alternate letters
eg Head / initial / opener for first letter
Ultimate for last letter
Heart / middle for the middle letters
Odd or even for alernate letters
Extremes for first and last letters
e.g. Even-handed Queen turned out to be a snake (5)
Words like cropped / curtailed often means chop a letter or two off a word
e.g. Beheaded ladies are a bad sign (4)
Words like back, on its head etc means spell the word backwards
e.g. People to call if car is on its roof (3)
Words like in / around – often means you put one part of the clue inside another part.
e.g. Young enthusiast embraces own heart (4)
(6) Spelled out
Sometimes the whole answer appears hidden in the clue, often spread across two words
e.g. Get the gist from staring at her (6)
(7) Sounds like
Words such as said or hear are clues for this
e.g. I’ll say it’s a passageway (5)
(8) References to other clues
Sometimes it’ll refer to another clue that you may or may not have already got, it’ll put the number in as a number rather than spelled out.
e.g. 4 in Belgium for two (5)
These are ones which people who don’t understand cryptic crosswords would understand – you don’t break it down, but the whole thing means something that’s not immediately obvious and when you realise the answer you groan!
e.g. A stiff examination (7)
Common “Components” – short bits that go together into a longer answer
· Abbreviations – loads and loads of these, anything that’s a measurement like T for time, M for mass, L/R for left/right,
· King, Queen, Knight etc – King or queen are often R or ER, knight can be sir, or the chess abbreviations – K, Q, N (for knight) etc
· Point / pole / direction – can mean North, South etc – N, S etc – or if it refers to partners or pairs it can mean bridge partners with is N and S or E and W
· Musical notation – quiet could be P for piano, loud could be F
· Genealogical abbreviations – like m for married, d for died
· Female / Woman / Lady / Girl – can be she or her or F, or a female animal like hen or ewe, or a woman’s name, same for men.
· Revolutionary – red , Che (or it could be an anagram word)
· Ancient City – Ur (only ever heard of this in crosswords!)
· Note – NB, or doh ray mi etc, or A B C etc
· Periodic elements – Gold is Au etc
· Roman numerals – so two can be ii, ten can be x etc
· Unknown – usually means an unknown in algebra so x, y or z
· Sailor – AB or tar
· Doctor – Dr, MO, or MD
· Scholar / Master – MA, MSc etc
· Artist – RA
· Information – gen
· Firm or company – co
· Journalist – ed or hack
· About – c for circa, or re, or sometimes it means anagram, or putting a word around another word. Helpful.
· Article – a, an or the
· See – often means see as in bishopric like Ely
· Hesitation – um or er
· Sex appeal – it
· Love – o like in tennis
· The French – le or la, and other short words like “a” or “of” are un, une, de, du, etc. same for other languages.
· Flower – can sometimes just mean a type of flower, but sneakily sometimes mean flow-er i.e. a river. Often a river with a very short name like Ex or Po, or just R for river.
· Posh – means U and not posh is non-U
· Big – OS for outsize
Obviously there are loads of similar things, but these are common ones, and they give you the idea so that you can spot different ones.
I always look for clues with more than one word in the answer as those tend to be easier. Failing that, I look at the clues where the answer is only three or four letters long. If that doesn’t get me anywhere, I have a quick scan through to see if I can spot any anagram words. Once you’ve got one clue, you’ll have some letters to help you get started on the others.
Italian food (pizza) mixed (anagram) with unknown (z) spice (pizazz)
Even-hAnDeD (the 2nd, 4th and 6th letters of handed = add) Queen (ER) turns into snake (adder)
Beaheaded ladies (women – with the first letter chopped off) are a bad sign (omen)
People to call if car is on its roof (car spelled backwards = RAC)
Young (fawn is a young animal) enthusiast (fan) embraces (goes around) own heart (w – middle letter of own)
Get the gist (gather) from starinG AT HER
I’ll say (sounds like I’ll) it’s a passageway (aisle)
4 (RAC) in Belgium (BE) for two (Brace)
* I didn’t want to nick clues, so I’ve made these ones up myself (apart from 9). So they’re pretty clunky – real crossword clues are better!