Homophone cryptic clues are rather fun. But first, let's figure out what a homophone is.
Homo means 'same', and phone means 'sound' — so homophones are words which sound alike, but have different meanings.
I'm sure you know a ton of these: ATE & EIGHT. FLOUR & FLOWER. FOWL & FOUL. WRIGHT & RIGHT.
When a cryptic clue uses a homophone, it tells you that the answer sounds like some other word. The wordplay tells you this. Homophones must have indicator words that give a sense of something being heard, spoken, broadcast, or audible in some way.
Here's a little example:
Take bites noisily (6)
Now, another word for bites could be CHEWS. And, look, CHOOSE is also another word for take. I think we have a winner! Noisily is the homophone indicator, it's telling you that if you say CHEWS aloud, it will sound like CHOOSE, which is the answer.
One problem with homophone clues is that sometimes it's not clear which of your two options (FOWL vs FOUL) is the correct answer, especially if they have the same number of letters and the indicator is in the middle of the clue! It's hard to be 100% certain sometimes whether the indicator is acting on the first part of the clue, or the last.
In such cases, what you need to do is refer to your partially completed crossword grid, and look for crossing over letters. These should help you nail down the correct answer. In the above example, you'd need to have a checked letter for the third letter in the answer, to tell you if it's FOWL or FOUL.
Homophones are occasionally combined with other clue devices, and can be used to indicate just one letter (eg sounds like tea = T).
Here is a list of a few homophone indicators.
- I hear
- in audition
- on air
- on the radio
- so to speak
- to the audience
Some clues for you to try out:
- Deer is vocal about whipped dessert (6)
- Sounds like rent is more inflated (6)
- Told about female deer's money (5)
- Ferry from California gets arty, on air (4)
- Labyrinth is made from corn, I hear (4)
Deer is vocal about whipped dessert (6)
One sort of a deer is a MOOSE. Is vocal is the homophone indicator. Whipped dessert is the definition.
Sounds like rent is more inflated (6)
To rent something is also to HIRE it. Inflated is the definition. Sounds like is the homophone indicator, naturally!
Told about female deer's money (5)
Told about is the homophone indicator here, and money is the definition.
Ferry from California gets arty, on air (4)
This is a charade clue that include a homophone. Ferry is the definition (and it's a verb, not a noun!). California = CA, and a homophone (on air) of arty = RT.
Labyrinth is made from corn, I hear (4)
What's another word for corn? MAIZE. I hear it, so say it aloud. You'll find the answer very quickly, I'm sure!