In all the years I've been torturing solvers with Gridwords, I've never written a full article on how to solve them. Here is a brief guide on how to solve a cryptic crossword.
Changing triangle into mathematical expression. (8)
Every clue involving an anagram needs to have an indicator to tell you what to do. For anagrams, the indicator can be any word or phrase suggesting mixing or bad treatment. In the above clue, the indicator is changing. If you change triangle you get INTEGRAL, which is defined as mathematical expression. The (8) tells you that you want an eight-letter word.
In this type of clue, several words are strung together to form a longer word. This clue does not need an indicator, but if there is one, it will imply one thing being next to another.
Tin weight and piece of china. (6)
A tin is a CAN, and a weight might be a TON. If you put the two words together, you get CANTON, defined as piece of China. The definition isn't capitalized properly, but this is legal. It's a trick used to fool you. Punctuation can also be added or removed to make a clue trickier.
A container clue involves one word being inserted into another.
Loud noise envelops Cardinal; it's not exciting. (7)
A loud noise could be BOOM, and cardinal ( capitalization again!) is another word for RED. The indicator says that BOOM goes on the outside of (or envelops) RED, giving us BOREDOM (It's not exciting.) If the indicator meant something more like ``wears'' or ``interrupts'', then the first word goes on the inside.
Sometimes a word is clued by starting with a longer word and chopping off bits you don't need. Any indicator referring to cutting or removing something can be used.
Angry buccaneer loses his head. (5)
A buccaneer is a PIRATE, and if he loses his head, i.e. the first letter, he becomes IRATE, which means angry.
Sometimes both halves of a clue are definitions of the same word.
Horses and badgers. (4)
Both horses (as a noun) and badgers (as a verb) are synonyms of NAGS.
Every once in a while, a constructor will just hide the word you want inside other words.
Fleeing rat escapes harbours (thankless sort!). (7)
The answer, INGRATE, can be found intact in the first three words: fleeING RAT Escapes literally harbours this word. Be careful. The indicators for a hidden word are often the same as for a container. You have been warned.
The answer and something else clued nearby are sound-alikes. So, indicators can be any expression involving hearing or talking.
Shakespearean king gets look from the audience. (4)
LEAR and LEER are homonyms, clued as Shakespearean king and look respectively. Since LEER is next to the indicator, and LEAR isn't, LEER must be the homonym clue, and LEAR the answer.
This type of clue consists of a word or phrase being written backwards to make a new word.
Looks around for servers. (6)
If we use SNOOPS for looks and SPOONS for servers, then we have a pair of words that reverse. The word for suggests that we turn SNOOPS around for SPOONS, meaning SPOONS is the answer.
If the clue is a Down clue, then writing backwards could be considered to be writing upwards.
Sweets are touted up. (8)
In this case, DESSERTS is STRESSED (touted) backwards, which is to say, upwards.
More often than not, none of these eight methods will work for a word all by themselves. I can combine any of these methods, but in all cases the indicators still have to be there, telling you what must be done.
In other even more hopeless cases, sometimes using whole words in the wordplay isn't going to work. I can use abbreviations (and often do). If a letter sequence isn't a ready-made abbreviation, I may just take bits of other words: head of lettuce = L, done at last = E, and so on.
Another trick that is only found in Gridwords is the Acronym, where the whole clue is the definition, and the first letters spell out the word.
Play ivories, although not organ. (5)
If a clue has a ``?'' where it doesn't need one, then something punny is going on in that clue. And if a clue has a ``!'' at the end where it doesn't belong, then the clue is an &lit. clue. In this special clue, the whole clue acts as a definition and as a subsidiary clue.
Those are all the tricks of my trade. If you have any questions about cryptics, I'll be happy to answer them. Just e-mail me. Gridby
© 1996 mathNEWS