Cryptic class — Double definitions

Double definitions are cute little cryptic clues. They break the usual Definition + Wordplay = Answer cryptic equation. With these clues (as you may have already surmised) the equation is Definition + Definition = Answer.

English is a language with masses of redundancy. There are multiple ways of saying most things, and many words have multiple meanings. So in double definition clues, the clue simply presents two definitions of the same word, one after the other. Indicator words are not usually used (if they are, they are words like and, or, but, gives, provides, or though, or some punctuation such as a comma, dash, or apostrophe S).

Here's an example:

Craving for Japanese currency (3) = YEN

As you can no doubt see, YEN is a word for both craving, and Japanese currency

While they seem ridiculously simple in essence, these clues can be very difficult to spot 'in the wild' amongst a all the other cryptic clues in a crossword. You are all keyed up to looking for indicator words, anagrams, containers, reversals, homophones, and the whole catastrophe. This simple device can quickly trip you up.

Say you come across Wretched fluffy feathers (4); it would be perfectly reasonable to think that wretched is an anagram indicator, only there's nothing there that's four letters long to be the anagram fodder, argh ...

The trick with any clue that you suspect might be a double definition is to mentally insert a comma or break between the words in a clue, to see if two definitions suddenly fall out.

Wretched fluffy / feathers? Nope ... unless Fluffy is your naughty cat!

Wretched / fluffy feathers ... Aaah, there we go. A four letter word for fluffy feathers  is DOWN. And if you're feeling wretched, or depressed, you're also DOWN!

Double definition clues can be very short, even just two words. So if you spot a very short clue, check it for double definitioness.

Another thing to look out for is that the pronunciation of the answer may be slightly different (think of WINDY, as in a winding road, and WINDY, as in blustery weather). Or one meaning may be a noun, and another may be a verb (or adjective, or whatever). One of the definitions can also be archaic or a rare usage (you have been warned!).

Here are some double definition clues to try:

  1. Abandons fronds (6)
  2. Hawthorn blossom's month (3)
  3. Abandon the wasteland (6)
  4. Loud noise from a tennis bat (6)
  5. Glide over ice, Ray (5)


  1. Abandons fronds (6)
    This one is (hopefully) easy, as there's only two words, and only one place to put that 'mental comma'.
  2. Hawthorn blossom's month (3)
    This double definition clue uses a less-known definition for one part (hawthorn blossom). The other definition is a name of a month of the year.
  3. Abandon the wasteland (6)
    In this clue, the two answers for the two definition are pronounced differently (but must, of course, be spelled the same way). The break goes after abandon.
  4. Loud noise from a tennis bat (6)
    This is a more wordy double definition clue. Loud, noise from a tennis bat? No ... Loud noise from a tennis, bat? Nope. How about Loud noise (from is an indicator/linking word here), a tennis bat. There you go.
  5. Glide over ice, Ray (5)
    Bit of a trick here, the comma is actually in the right place for you already! Ray isn't Raymond, as I have blatantly tried to trick you into thinking, but a type of marine creature ...


  2. MAY
  5. SKATE