Thursday, February 28, 2013

Definitions, Defintitions

Cryptic Crosswords
Part Two
The simplest type of cryptic crossword clue takes a word and gives it's definition, twice. We call them double definitions. Now it might not sound that difficult, but as we've discovered in our adventures in the world of words, many words have multiple meanings.

So what you get with a double definition is often two quite different definitions with the challenge being to find the one word which matches both.

Here's an example from How To Solve a Crossword by Colin Parsons.

Post Office workers (5)

So we have a two definitions of the same word in the clue, and of course we are told the number of letters in the answer but what else do we have to help us?

Well, the setter here is trying to lure us down a blind alley with the phrase 'Post Office' you an ignore the capital letters, they are there to fool you. So it seems safe to presume that we have to split up that phrase to get our two definitions.

Post Office workers (5)

So we're looking for a word that means post, and a word that means office workers. Your first thought for 'post is probably mail or letters, but in thinking that you're still running down the dead end the setter placed with the phrase 'post office'. The setter wants you to think of letters, so we shouldn't. What other kinds of post are there?

Well how about a stick or a fence, they're both posts after a fashion, and once you're running down the route of post as a long thin wooden object it wont be long before you come across 'staff' which is a perfectly good answer for 'office workers' too.

So the process then is fairly simple, the difficulty is in finding the correct word to fill the gaps.

  1. Split the clue into definition one, definition two and link words.
  2. Find a word which matches one of the definitions.
  3. Test the word against the other definition to see if it fits.
  4. Test the word in the grid to make sure it matches the number of letters and any already filled letters.  

Here's another example:

Makes film shows the right way. (7)

Here's another clue where we're being encouraged by the setter to read the statement as a whole, rather than as a double definition, what we need is to find a point where we can split the clue, which doesn't result in one definition that means nothing.

We could split it like this:

Makes  film shows the right way

Makes is fine but 'film shows the right way' doesn't make a great deal of sense so the split must fall somewhere else.

Makes film shows the right way

This one seems a bit more likely, to show someone the right way is to direct them, and that fits rather well with 'makes film as well.

Don't forget that there might be the odd linking word between the two definition, it depends on the crossword setter whether you'll find any or not. Take a look at today's video for a couple more examples.

OK so it's time to tackle our very first crossword, or at least some of the double-definition clues that lie within. You'll find the grid for this crossword in our previous post on crosswords.

One Small Step 

These clues are all double definition clues and will come together with clues in the coming weeks to complete the 'One Small Step' cryptic crossword puzzle.


1. Detect smell (5)
17. North-Western meat stew (6)

5. When the boys are high the girls are low (4)
12. Detective won gold medal for running and jumping (5)
15. Aid one who takes a gamble (4)

We'll work through all of these clues in the next post, but for now go on, go out into the world of double definitions and start filling your grid. Until next time, keep on puzzling!
photo credit: ecstaticist via photopin cc

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