Cryptic Crossword

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Cryptic Crosswords are a type of Crossword puzzle in which, rather than clues giving definitions to their respective entries, they provide both wordplay and a definition cluing the same thing, mashed into one otherwise nonsensical phrase. Popular in the UK, these puzzles were invented in the 1920s but took until the 1960s to arrive in the US.

Background[edit | edit source]

Fundamentally, the structure of a cryptic clue is that it has

  • a definition part — kinda like a standard crossword clue, but often more vague/more ambiguous; and
  • a wordplay part — looks like a sentence but actually contains instructions on how to manipulate words or letters.

The definition part is always at the start or end. However, the clue doesn’t tell you where one part ends and the other begins! To do TO DO

Example Cryptic[edit | edit source]

1. Flowers that ascended south
6. Simplicity surrounding real wipe out
7. A mode of transport finally gone wrong
8. Princess daughter returned for money
9. A sty messy with his last remains

1. Delivers through regular freehand use
2. Revolution for Bitcoin, in part
3. Odd statue near steam bath
4. South American announces class assignment
5. Prophets are timeless guides

The solution is -

1. Flowers = ROSES (def.); ascended = ROSE + south = S
6. Simplicity = EASE, surrounding real = R; wipe out = ERASE (def.)
7. A (lit.) + mode of transport = BUS + finally gone = E (last letter of gone); wrong = ABUSE (def.)
8. Princess = RANI + daughter = D; returned (written backwards); for (glue); money = DINAR (def.)
9. A sty (lit.) messy (rearrange A STY, giving STAY) + with his last = S (last letter of his); remains = STAYS (def.)

1. Delivers = READS (def.); through (glue); regular freehand use (take every other letter)
2. Revolution = ORBIT (def.); for Bitcoin, in part (containment)
3. Odd statue near (take odd-positioned letters); steam bath = SAUNA (def.)
4. South American = SA (abbrev.); announces (homophone of “SA”); class assignment = ESSAY (def.)
5. Prophets = SEERS (def.); are (glue); timeless (remove letter T from) guides = STEERS

Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]

Cryptic crosswords differ from normal crosswords by way of their clue structure. Traditional crossword clues may use definitions or a bit of wordplay to clue a particular entry. Cryptic clues always use both, with every clue being split into a 'definition' half, which can be read as normal and directly clues the answer, and a 'wordplay' half, which needs to be interpreted step-by-step to form the final answer. Sometimes, these parts can be connected by a joining word like 'is', 'for', or 'to'. These halves are usually chosen so that, when combined, they form something that parses as a sentence or clue, but doesn't make any sense as a regular definition.

Example: To do  TO DO

Cryptic crosswords tend to use barred grids. To do TO DO

Types of Cryptic Clue[edit | edit source]

To do TO DO

Strategy[edit | edit source]

To do TO DO

Notable Examples[edit | edit source]

  • Hall of Mystery (MITMH 2020)

See Also[edit | edit source]