Taking the cryptic out of crosswords

Double dealings, hide and seek, back flips… sounds like a day in the Australian parliament but instead these are just a few of the cryptic crossword techniques revealed in a ‘how to’ hands-on book.

Cryptic Crossword Secrets shows readers all the tricks and tips for mastering cryptic crosswords. The first pages of the book are filled with examples of the ruses used by cryptic crossword compilers. These include similar sounding words, words which appear in reverse, abbreviations and some much-used devilish and dastardly decoys.
The dictionary meaning of cryptic is ‘veiled in obscurity’ or ‘of mysterious meaning’ and this is how cryptics appear at first.

Straight crossword puzzles are like mind games with words.
Cryptic Crossword puzzles are like mined games with words.

Straight clues substitute a different but similar meaning word for that which is suggested in the clue.
Example: Clue: Climb (5) (indicates number of letters)
Answer: Scale

Cryptic clues are similar to straight clues but usually in two parts. One part proves the other.
Example: Clue: Climb onto the weighing machine (5)
Answer: Scale
To ‘climb’ is to scale and a ‘weighing machine’ is a scale

There is a key meaning usually at the beginning or end of the clue; a straight definition. The secondary part of the clue will be one or more describing words. Clever and devious means are used to hide the answer within these words.

When tackling cryptic crosswords don’t overtax yourself. Just read the clues through and see if any answers jump out at you. In Cryptic Crossword Secrets, each crossword grid comes with both straight and cryptic clues: the cryptic and corresponding straight clues have the same answers. Start by reading the cryptic clue. If you are unsure of the answer, read the corresponding straight clue. If you still can’t work out how the answer was arrived at, flick to the back of the book where all answers are fully explained. For example (this is a more complex question):

Clue: Dark near the end of August (5)
Answer: NIGHT: Dark (key) near (nigh) the end of August

With a cryptic crossword, it would be a very good result to solve three clues on the first try.

Cryptic crosswords are a fabulous way to exercise your brain. According to Alzheimer’s Australia “Keeping the brain active is thought to build reserves of healthy brain cells and connections between them. The role that exercising the brain may play in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia has therefore been the subject of considerable research.”

For the best way to learn how to do cryptic crosswords, refer freely to the answers and explanations at the back of Cryptic Crossword Secrets. You will gradually start to recognise how the crossword compiler is trying to trick you.

Be warned – cryptic crosswords are addictive.

Cryptic Crossword Secrets is available online at www.crypticcrosswordsecrets.com or ask at your local bookshop.

Barbara Gettinby
Radge Publishing
RRP: $18.50