Crosswords UK

A resource for fanatics and beginners

Thursday 18th August, 2022

No. 5,413

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The Basics

Anyone who spends time in public doing cryptic crosswords will be familiar with the lament, 'I can't do cryptic crosswords'. The uninitiated seem to believe that there is a particular mental ability needed to tackle these clues and that they simple 'don't have' what it takes to work them out. The truth is that some cryptic clues can be very easy indeed - easier than a 'straight' clue; how they differ is that their solution is 'concealed' within the wording and design of the clue itself.

'Concealed' is really a better word than 'cryptic' since there's not really any such thing as 'a' cryptic clue. The clues that make up an entire crossword will actually be of several different types (as discussed in more detail in clue types) and you'll probably find one type easier than another. A large part of solving a crossword is simply in identifying the type of clue you're looking at since once identified some have their solution literally staring you in the face.

One of the most common mistakes made by cryptic 'virgins' is to approach a cryptic crossword in the same manner you would a 'straight' puzzle. While you might reasonably be able to start at '1 across' and work your way steadily through the answers in an ordinary puzzle, you're unlikely to be able to do this with a cryptic crossword (if you can, you probably don't need these guides!). With a cryptic crossword it's important to split the task down before you start, identify the easier solutions and fill those in, before attempting to tackle ones that seem harder.

Cryptic crosswords also require stamina and patience. I cannot count the number of times we've struggled with a clue and have got to the point of giving up, only to have a revelation that reveals it to be one of the simplest answers of the lot. Cryptic setters delight in misleading the unwary so if a solution appears to require an arcane knowledge of ancient Greek philosophers and their pets you may well be thinking too hard.

Follow the remainder of these guides and you'll have a good idea of how easy a cryptic crossword can be.

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