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Cryptic Crosswords – Part Two

Author: Ernie Esstell



In the first article in this series, it was stated that the general rule for understanding the cryptic clue is that there are always two parts – some wordplay and a definition. These are not always in the same order, but when considered carefully, lead to the solution. New readers who wish to catch up, can find the first article describing how these crosswords work, by clicking here.

  The first article introduced three types of wordplay – anagrams, reversals and containers. This article introduces four more types of wordplay – homographs, homophones, deletions and charades.

First – homographs. In this type of clue, the wordplay is literally a double definition which gives two hints of the solution. For example, “cover the head for a gangster (4)” requires that you recognize that there is a word which means both cover the head and a gangster and that, of course, is hood. Similarly if the clue is “desire for Japanese money (3)” then you would be directed to find a three letter word which matches both parts of the clue – yen.

  Next – homophones. Here a cue word such as “sounds like,” “orally,” “audibly” or something similar leads you to look for a word which sounds the same as the definition.

  To illustrate, if the clue is “animal is naked, we hear (4)” the cue words we hear direct us to find a four letter word which is an animal and at the same time sounds like naked. The solution here is bear – an animal – but the word sounds like bare (naked). A second example would be “rented it’s reported for the minimum (5).” Here, the cue words it’s reported suggest we need a word which sounds like rented and the minimum. Rented has the same meaning as leased – and that sounds like least (minimum). The fact that there are 5 letters in the solution point us to least as the solution.

  Thirdly – deletions. Cue words such as “headless,” “without a tail,” “heart out,” “truncated” or something similar suggest that the front or back (or centre) has been deleted from the word play to give the synonym for the definition. An example would be in the clue “lift the front off cooking method (5).” The cue words front off hint that the solver must find a word meaning cooking method – then take off the front of this word to find a synonym for lift. Consider roast, grill, bake, boil, steam – nothing fits yet when the front is taken off any of these …. but braise, without its front becomes raise!

  A second example here is the clue “swings and misses the heart out of young deer (4).” The cue words the heart out of hint at a deletion. So the solver needs a word meaning young deer from which some letter(s) can be deleted to produce a synonym for swings and misses. Bambi does not fit, but u (the heart) can be lifted from fauns to produce fans….which has the same meaning as swings and misses.

  Finally – charades. Just as in the party game, here there is a wordplay cue for each syllable of the word which is the solution. For example, “agriculture from distant ancient Chinese dynasty (7)” provides two consecutive cues which provide the syllables of the answer. Distant could be far; ancient Chinese dynasty could be Ming. That produces farming – a synonym for agriculture.

  The clue “Dean has one cocktail (7)” requires that you perform the following mental gymnastics: other words brainstormed from dean could be administrator, head, cleric, James or Martin. Can you add one to any of these to produce a cocktail? It is a bit of a stretch, but martini is martin with i (for one) at the end – and there is the cocktail!

  In the next article, your knowledge will be extended by adding more types of wordplay. But now, try the puzzle for this article …. it has clues which might use anagrams, reversals, containers (from the first article), and homophones, homographs, deletions or charades featured in this article. 

crypticcrossword-web-2The solution to this puzzle and others is at the following link: Cryptic Crosswords Solutions.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 20th, 2009 at 9:57 am and is filed under PONDERING. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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