Cryptic crosswords are bamboozling

Cryptic crosswords? I find them bamboozling …

Some Crickle players were at a loss. “What are cryptic crosswords exactly?”  “How do they work?! ” So we let Maya know of this difficulty, and Maya has written an excellent article explaining …

A cryptic crossword by Māyā

Featured in British newspapers (The Times, The Guardian and Daily Telegraph) and magazines (Radio Times, Private Eye and Viz) and in the US (Harpers, The Nation and New York Magazine), the cryptic crossword has been a favoured pastime of literary-minded people for over a century.

Cryptic crosswords often appear in British literature (particularly in murder mysteries). Colin Dexter’s Detective Inspector Morse is fond of solving crosswords, which sometimes become part of the mystery. Dorothy L Sayers and Ruth Rendell have used this device in novels, as did Anthony Horowitz in his latest murder mystery.

Crosswords have also featured in TV series, such as The Simpsons and The West Wing, and feature prominently in the 1945 romantic drama Brief Encounter scripted by Noël Coward (which is number two in the British Film Institute’s Top 100 British films).

Cryptic clues require a certain way of thinking, but once you become used to them, they become easier – if not quite as easy as:    “I wandered lonely as a ______ (5)”.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

  1. Deny returning to get potato, perhaps (5)

The number in parenthesis is the letter count of the answer. “Returning” can mean that a word is backwards – so “deny returning” may mean “find a word meaning ‘deny’ and write it backwards”. The “to get” indicates that we’re trying to get a word that means “potato, perhaps”, so probably something of which a potato is an example. If we think of “rebut” as another word for “deny” and reverse it, we get “tuber” – which could indeed be a potato. So, the answer is “tuber”.

  1. False Romeo wearing torn gown (5)

Again, certain words jump out at the seasoned solver. “Torn” (or many similar words that mean “to break up or rearrange”) might indicate that an anagram is being used, while “wearing” could indicate that one word is contained by another one. Given the length of the answer, if torn indicates an anagram, it must be “gown” that has its letters rearranged – which only leaves one letter to add. At this point we might recall that “Romeo” is the phonetic alphabet version of “R”, giving us one more letter. If we scramble up “gown” and insert an ‘R’ into the mix we get the answer, “wrong” which means “false”.

This crossword has been compiled especially for the launch of Crickle®