Cryptic Crossword Tutorial: Getting Started
Copyright Peter Lolley. All rights reserved.
In a regular (and in my opinion, boring) crossword puzzle, the clues are straightforward. They are either synonyms or pieces of trivia.
A five-letter word for “rage”
The seven-letter name of the director of La Dolce Vita
You either know the answers or you don’t.
(The answers are ANGER and FELLINI, by the way.)
Cryptics are different because every clue is a little coded message that you can figure out. Reading the clue superficially won’t make any sense. In order to solve it, you need to break the clue down into its individual parts.
Two Parts to Every Clue
Each cryptic crossword clue has two components: the definition and the riddle.
Think of it like a house that has two entrances. The front entrance (that's the definition) is direct. There’s also the side entrance (that’s the riddle) which you can only reach by going the long way through the rock garden that hasn’t been weeded in ages, around the kids’ tricycles, and past the empty gardening pots that you keep meaning to put in the garage. Both get you into the house but one requires a bit more figuring out.
The trickiest part when you first start out with cryptics is figuring out which part of the clue is the definition and which part is the riddle.
(Hint: The definition is always either at the beginning or the end of the clue.)
The second trickiest part is figuring out what kind of riddle you’re looking at.
In order to help you get started, I’ve described each of the seven types of clues. I’ve also given you some examples so that you can see how they work.