Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Something Cryptic This Way Comes

Cryptic Crosswords
Part One

I still remember the first cryptic crossword clue I solved, it was Monday 25th February... 2013. Yes that's right, yesterday. So you might wonder what I can possibly teach you about solving them.

Well the truth of the matter is that I've been studying how to solve cryptic crosswords for the best part of three years. I've never really put any of it into practice because, well basically cryptic crosswords scare the consonants out of me. There really isn't any other kind of puzzle with such a fearsome reputation, especially one that's so readily available.

Since I knew I was going to have to cover cryptic crosswords in this blog I thought it was about time I got over myself and gave it a go. So I did what I always do when I decide to tackle a new challenge - I went shopping. I bought myself a big book of cryptic crosswords, and some matchsticks of course along with a few other bits and pieces that I thought might help me both learn, and teach.

I quite surprised myself by the way, out of 29 clues I solved 25, not bad for a first try, but it certainly wasn't down to beginners luck. Cryptic crosswords are written in their own twisted version of the English language and cryptic setters have their own unique rules of engagement with us, the humble puzzlers.

One Small Step

Over the next few weeks I hope to give you some insight into how cryptic crosswords are both written and solved. To this end I have written The Wandering Puzzler's very first cryptic crossword which you should print out ready for the trials ahead.

So before we look at our own crossword, let's get started with the first ever cryptic clue I solved, it's 27 Across in The Telegraph's All New Big Book of Cryptic Crosswords if you want to check up on me.

27A Gibberish from Holland repeatedly? (6, 5)

It's an important clue for its puzzle, firstly it's a pure cryptic clue. That is to say that it doesn't have anagrams or definitions, word play or hidden words the whole clue, taken in one go, gives the answer. Secondly this clue is an entry point into the puzzle. It's relatively easy and fills in eleven letters seven of which form part of other clues.

All cryptic crosswords have an entry point, sometimes several, to get the solver started. Never be daunted if you cant solve the first few clues of a puzzle, they aren't meant to be solved in order. Instead have a quick run through the whole puzzle and find a clue you can solve.

Next time we'll start filling in our puzzle by looking at the simplest of cryptic clues, the double definition. Thanks for reading and keep on puzzling!

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