Saturday, August 24, 2013


Cryptic Crosswords
Part Ten

In our last post on Cryptic Crosswords we didn't get the chance to fill in any of our master puzzle grid. We're definitely going to make up for that today as we explore a more specific type of wordplay clue; charades.

As you'll remember from last time, word play clues give definitions of individual parts of the whole answer, along with an overall definition. This gives you a variety of routes to the answer.

Charade clues are similar, but instead of giving definitions of the individual words within the answer, charade clues give cryptic definitions of individual letters, and non-word groups of letters. You can then put together these individual elements to give the overall solution.

Roman Numerals are common in
Cryptic Crossword Charade Clues
Now here's the really challenging part, there are thousands and thousands of different ways letters can be clued in a charade clue. Even the best crossword solvers wouldn't be able to learn all of then, but there are plenty of reference guides available, like these from Highlight Press. Anything that can be reasonably abbreviated can appear in a charade clue: Compass points, chemical elements, chess pieces, postcodes and even Roman numerals make regular appearances.

Let's tackle a few examples of these charade clues so you can get a feel for how they work.

Dial from California to the outskirts of Liverpool. (4)

We have a definition in green, two charades in turquoise and something else new - functional link words in orange.

Dial from California to the outskirts of Liverpool.

So, charades first, outskirts of anywhere is a geographical way of referring to the first and last letter, it's also a great indication that this is a charade clue. Outskirts of Liverpool then gives 'LL' in the answer.

California is crossword language for 'CA' which gives us the other two letters we need. The link-words tell us how it all fits together. They say 'from' 'CA' to 'LL', which gives us 'CALL', and that fits our original definition.

There, now that wasn't too bad was it? Here's another example using some different kinds of clueing.

Ten in accident and emergency face the chop. (3)

This time there's no really obvious hint that this is a charade stye clue, indeed it reads like a news headline and as we have discussed before, crossword setters try to hide the true nature of a structured clue by disguising within an unrelated theme.

Ten in accident and emergency face the chop.

As you can see this clue is written backwards compared to our first example. There are also both functional, and non-functional link words.

Ten is a crossword clue for either 'IO' because it looks like the numerals for ten, or 'dec' from the latin root. If it's written '10' in the clue it might be clueing the word 'ten' but here, it's referring to Roman numerals and is therefore representing 'X'.

Accident and emergency is much easier to solve, it's commonly known as A&E. Our functional link word tells us to put 'X' in 'A&E' and that gives us 'axe'. In the sense of getting the sack, this is a perfect solution.

Just one more example then and this time we'll be dipping our toes into my preferred area of charade clues - science.

Science offers one of the widest ranges of possible charade options since from the periodic table, to physics variables and constants, almost everything in science has a one or two letter symbol.

While you don't need a degree in science to solve cryptic crosswords it's a good idea to be familiar with the SI units and the periodic table.

Sodium, Carbon and Rhenium make a lustrous material. (5)

This couldn't be simpler if you have access to a periodic table. the three chemicals give you 'na', 'c', and 're' which spells our nacre, the proper name for mother-of-pearl.

So, it's time to face the grid and an epic seven clues!

One Small Step


7. A penny per fruit (5)

8. One is in a location, smells fishy. (6)

14. Genial boy comes before culture, why? (6)

22. Ingests North-Eastern flipper and is ingested. (5)


4. See drunken exclamation is fashionable. (4)

9. Fifty Gear remix is massive. (5)

19. Cause of the ID-TEN-T error. (4)

You might find those last two a little more difficult. Nine Down is a combination of a charade and another type of clue we've already covered - there's an indicator word in there. Nineteen Down on the other hand requires you to solve a charade which then becomes part of your definition.

Good luck with those and until next time - keep puzzling!

photo credit: cbcastro and The_Decryptor via photopin cc

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