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I decided about a year ago that it was about time I learnt how to solve Cryptic Crosswords. (Actually it was just a convenient excuse to sit in the pub after work every evening with the local paper.)
For ages, I would diligently tear out the previous day's incomplete crossword and check it against
the answers printed in the current day's paper, and in that way I gradually learnt some of the rules and tricks that the compiler used:
"quiet" means there is a "p" in there somewhere
"confused" and "wobbly" might mean there is an anagram
"point" means any one or more from "n", "e", "s" or "w"
and so on.
Nowadays, I can often complete the crossword but I still come across clue/answer combinations that mean absolutely nothing to me; that is, I have no idea about how I was supposed to infer the answer from the clue.
What I propose is some sort of annotated list of answers to try and help out newbies like myself. Perhaps a system of underscores, dots and different types of bracket to denote which letter(s) of the answer are derived from abbreviations, anagrams or proper names.
This may enable me to one day move on from the Gloucestershire Echo crossword to the Daily Telegraph. Though heaven forbid that I should have to buy the paper...
Not sure if cryptic crosswords work the same in America, so here are a few [potatan, Oct 04 2004]
American style cryptic crossword
Cryptic by obscurity. [DrCurry, Oct 04 2004]
How to Solve Cryptic Crosswords
This might help. Couldn't be any cheaper. [DrCurry, Oct 04 2004]
||the answers will not transfer from compiler to compiler. you just have to get used to their own little idiosyncrasies. the more you do, the easier it gets.
||Upwardly mobile royal approval, we hear.
||Indeed. Which is why I can complete the Echo crossword (I've been doing it regularly for 6 months), but only manage one or two clues from more cerebral puzzles. But even now, there are still odd clues that really give no clue as to how the answer was arrived at. Or something.
||FYI, in terms of the cryptic crossword you are referring to (obscure clues that follow a fairly rigid set of rules, each one providing at least two ways to find the word), the only ones in the US are reprinted from UK newspapers. American cryptic crosswords are generally single word obscure clues but with closely interlocking grids. But with either, the only real answer is practice and looking at the answers the next day.
||Acrostic crosswords are something else again, and are so obscure that the answers do provide a detailed explanation of the kind you are looking for.
||Some of the really obscure cryptic crosswords do provide information on how the answers were derived: the Observer magazine crossword used to do this, as did one or two others. Sadly, the easier ones don't generally do this as it's supposed to be obvious.