Saturday, 18 July 2015

Cryptic Crosswords

I mentioned recently, somewhere, that I would blog a little on cryptic crosswords. My wife and I are big fans and usually manage to get one done every week. More when we are away on holidays together. When you do cryptic crosswords, you generally find the ordinary ones boring. Or, at least, I do. I believe some cryptic crosswords may be easier to do because they give you two clues. First, of all you need to have the real clue in there, then the cryptic one alongside. 

For example, in an ordinary crossword, you might want to have "Paris" as an answer. An easy clue might read: "European capital" (5) and so the solver is thinking of European capitals with 5 letters. Pretty easy. To make it more difficult, the clue could just read, "Capital city"  (5) and the whole world becomes your oyster, as far as an answer is concerned. A cryptic clue would read something like this: "Capital where equality is everything." (5) It is likely that the solver will catch on that "Capital..." is the real clue. Although he shouldn't take this for granted, but that's where I would look first. Basically, you are looking for a word that equates to capital but has either 5 or less letters. A Thesaurus becomes invaluable here. You come across "par" which sounds good. You think immediately "Paris" and the clue now reads: Capital where PAR is everything" or "Par+is" (half the answer was actually given in the required letters in the clue) = Capital. 

Here are some of my favourite ones from over the years. Enter the weird and wonderful world of anagrams, puns, palindromes, burials, homophones and what have you. 

CLUE: A different result in Ireland (6)
ANSWER: Ulster 
EXPLANATION: This is an easy one. It is an anagram on the word "result"  as signalled by the word "different". Anything that denotes movement or upset (my cryptic crossword dictionary gives over 500 words) usually flags up an anagram. Ulster is a province in the island of Ireland. 

CLUE: Expert to try a holy book by a person of religion (10)
ANSWER: Protestant 
EXPLANATION: "Expert" = "Pro" (again, the shortened down word) "To try" = "test" "a" = "a" and "holy book" = "NT" (i.e. New Testament") hence: pro+test+a+nt 

CLUE: Some exquisite American players" (4)
EXPLANATION: It is a burial, (flagged by the word "some") where the word appears in the clue. Hence "exquisiTE AMerican." Real clue is "players" i.e. team. 

CLUE: States before lunch with a girl (7)
ANSWER: America
EXPLANATION: "Before lunch" = morning i.e. "a.m." "Girl" = "Erica" and so "am+erica" = America = States. You might think that "states" is a verb in the clue, but it is obviously a proper noun. The crossword setter can't say something that isn't true, but he can so word things to lead you up a blind alley. You soon catch on. 

CLUE: Beginner's words in a restaurant. (8)
ANSWER: Initiate 
EXPLANATION: A classic pun. In-it-i-ate = what the beginner said he did in the restaurant.

So these are some examples. You have to watch the -er words in cryptic crosswords.  Butter = goat. A spanner = bridge etc. More shortened words include "Eli" for priest - "pen" for writer or editor - "RA" for artist etc. Phrases like "The French..." = "le" which is "the" in French. Or "The Spanish..." which is "el". 

Obviously the more you do, the more you get clued in (excuse the pun) to what is going on. However, there is sometimes a word that you have never ever heard of in your entire life and so you will hardly get them through the tortured medium of a cryptic clue. 

CLUE: Paddy and co. lose hothead and find girl (4)
EXPLANATION: "Paddy and Co." = Irish who lose "hothead" = "h" (the first letter or "head" of "hot") = Iris = girl. 

A word that "loses heart" is a word where the middle letter(s) are taken out.  If something is said to be "Indeed" is usually starts with the letters "De" and ends with them too. Example: "Indeed, the trial was despicable." (8) = "Detested" where test (trial) was "in deed" or in between the letters DE-test ED" = "Despicable" 

Here! I better run on. I've things to do. See you around. 


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