All too often it just seems impossible to find a way into a cryptic crossword. To help you make a start, and maybe even solve it all, here are my …
Top Ten Eleven Tips for Solvers
- Use a pencil and eraser, rather than pen.
- Read through all the clues before trying to solve any. You don’t have to start with 1 Across!
- Mark in any multiple words or hyphenated words on the grid, with a dividing line drawn onto the grid (see the photo below). These are the clues where the letter number is something like (3-4) or (2,4,3).
- See if you can spot some anagram clues. Most cryptics will have at least 6 or 7, and possibly many more. Read my lesson on anagrams to learn how to spot them.
- The longest words in the grid are often clued with anagrams, so check these clues carefully.
- Look for possible ‘hidden word’ clues, while some cryptics have none, there’s usually 1 or 2 of these in an average grid. Here’s my lesson on how to find and solve hidden word clues.
- Look for clues that seem to be plural — it may be worth penciling in an ‘S’ at the end of these words in the grid. Not all plurals end with S, it’s true, but enough do that it’s a reasonable guess.
- Search for common abbreviations in clues. If you see the word south, for example, it probably is clueing the letter S. Saint almost always clues the letters ST. And so on. You can find out more about abbreviations here.
- Once you have a few words entered into the grid, that will make it easier to get the words that intersect with them, especially if you can get their initial letters.
- If all else fails, look at the starting parts, and ending parts of clues in isolation — this is where the straight definition part of each clue resides, and you can just look for a synonym for that part of the clue, and work out the wordplay part later (after you’d got the answer just from the definition).
- If you’re really stuck on a clue, leave it overnight. Your brain will often figure it out for you while you’re asleep. Nice brain!