Cryptic class — Hidden Words

Hidden word clues are so nice and easy (which is why they're often in short supply in cryptics!), I thought it would be good to cover them early in the piece. If you can find the hidden word clues in a cryptic, they are a good way to get something entered into the grid, which in turn will help you get a handle on the other clues.

So, why are these clues so easy? Well, the answer to the clue is actually staring you in the face, within the clue! OK, the setter has no doubt tried their best to hide the fact that the answer is right there in front of you, in plain view. So they can be tricky to spot sometimes, but they are basically a very easy clue device.

For example, the word PLAN can be hidden inside BIPLANE. And the word ROSE can be hidden inside the words ALLEGRO SERENADE. The last example is more typical of these sorts of clues ... the word is often split across two or even three words in the clue. Just ignore the spaces and any punctuation like hyphens, or commas, and so on.

Hidden word clues tend to be for short words in the crossword, too, so they're unlikely to be used in the longest words in a crossword grid.

As with many other types of cryptic clues, hidden word clues have indicator words. These are words that tell you that the answer is within the letters of the clue. Words which give a sense of containment, insertion, or concealment can indicate a hidden word clue. Here are a few examples:

  • a bit of
  • buried in
  • central to
  • covers
  • employed by
  • from
  • held by
  • in
  • part of
  • revealed by
  • sample of

Now that you've got a little idea about the mechanics of a hidden word clue, let's see what a real one looks like:

Herb's buried in a filthy meadow (5)

No need to mourn poor Herb ... In this clue, buried in is the hidden word indicator. Herb is the definition (and it's not a name). Where is the name of a herb buried? In a filthy meadow, of course. Did you spot it? Yes, the answer is THYME (filTHY MEadow).

Here's another example:

Pilfer a bit of waste alexandrite (5)

The hidden word indicator here is a bit of. The definition part of the clue is pilfer. Luckily, you don't need to know anything about gemstones to solve this clue ... the answer's right in front of your eyes, within waste alexandrite. You know the answer is 5 letters long, so you can scan through the letters of waste alexandrite, in sets of 5. I'm sure you got it — waSTE ALexandrite. Easy!

Here are 5 hidden word clues to have a go at, with explanations and answers below.

  1. Scapegoat concealed self esteem (3)
  2. Tapestry covers primates (4)
  3. Enjoyment from malfunction (3)
  4. Rug held by dermatologist (3)
  5. Warmth in the atrium (4)


These are quite straightforward clues, so the explanations aren't long!

  1. Scapegoat concealed self esteem (3)
    Concealed is the hidden word indicator here. Self esteem is the definition, and the 3 letters you're looking for are in scapegoat.
  2. Tapestry covers primates (4)
    Tapestry is what covers another word for primates.
  3. Enjoyment from malfunction (3)
    What can you get from (indicator) malfunction? Another word for enjoyment, of course!
  4. Rug held by dermatologist (3)
    That dermatologist, what's he up to? Holding another word for rug. I'm sure you can find it!
  5. Warmth in the atrium (4)
    This clue splits the hidden word over two words. Warmth is the definition, and the answer is in the atrium.


  1. EGO
  2. APES
  3. FUN
  4. MAT
  5. HEAT