by Denise Sutherland
So – what are cryptic crosswords? To the uninitiated they appear completely unfathomable, and deservedly so. The clues seem to make no sense whatsoever!
Well, I’m happy to tell you that they can make sense, once you know the tricks of the trade.
A cryptic crossword is a fiendish variation on the basic crossword, that was developed in the UK. In a cryptic, each clue is a tiny word puzzle. There are about nine types of common ‘wordplay’ used in these clues, and I will explain them all over the coming months.
A cryptic clue is typically formed from two elements : the definition, and the wordplay. Yes, you heard me right. The straight definition is right there in front of you (well, most of the time). So one part of the clue is a definition, and the rest of the clue is the wordplay. The answer to both parts of the clue is the same word.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
Jumped up with broken plate (5)
I know this looks incomprehensible … but let me break it down into bits for you.
In this clue, jumped up is the definition, just like you’d get in any quick crossword. This means that broken plate is the wordplay (with is a connecting word). If you get the letters of plate and ‘break’ them (or jumble them up), you will discover that LEAPT is an anagram of PLATE. And — how about that? LEAPT is a good synonym for jumped up. That wasn’t so bad, was it?
As you can see, rather nice feature of cryptic clues is that you get confirmation that you’ve got the right answer, as the correct answer will fit both the definition part of the clue, and the wordplay part.