How to read a cryptic crossword clue: Beginner video (2023)


Simon discusses a few clues from today's crossword in The Times and explains, from first principles, how to read them correctly.


Hello, welcome to another edition of cracking.

The cryptic today, I'm going to look at the times, normal cryptic, crossword and I'm going to deliberately focus on, you know, taking my time going through this and giving those of you who are new to cryptic crosswords as much chance as possible to to understand how to approach these clues.

So the first thing we need to remember whenever we look at any cryptic clue is that there is always a definition.

So in some sense, you can always reduce a cryptic, crossword to a quick crossword, if you can read the clues, the correct way now in almost all Klum's, the definition appears either at the beginning, or the end of the clue.

And part of the skill obviously is trying to work out, which end of the clue is our straightforward definition.

And there are there are some clues that we can look for in terms of how foods are worded in terms of how we might go about this.

So let's let's have a look at 6 across.


So this is a nice.

This is a relatively easy clue.

So jewel a girl.

Finally displayed after work.

Now, my main technique, I suppose that I recommend for trying to work out, which end of the clue is which is to look for instructional words in the clue by which I mean.

If we if we look at this clue, we can see a couple of things.

We see the word.

Finally, a girl.

Finally and displayed after work.

Now, this displayed after language is trying to indicate the position of something.

Now, if something's trying to indicate the position of something that implies its word play what-what-what words, like this are doing, are they they're trying to shuffle up bits of wordplay in order to create a whole word? So this gives me the clue that jewel is probably the answer.

So can you think of a forth - jewels that might go in here? And you should be thinking was like room b, opal.

And once you've had a thought about things like that, then it's simply justifying, which one of those is going to fit fit the rest of it.

Now how to determine that? Well, there are words like work.

Here has has a standard abbreviation that you often see in a cryptic, crossword, which is op opie, which is shortened as an abbreviation for impass.

So the work of music didn't op now.

And here we've got a girl finally displayed after work.

So that suggests that this clue might start with o P.

Then the a here is just this a this, a include jewel a and then girl, finally, well, that's the last letter of the word girl.

So we get uncle, and which we were suspicious about simply from our definition of jewel.

So I've gone through that clearing quite a lot of detail.

I won't go through every clue in that much detail, but it's just to give you an example of what we're looking for and I'll, try and do we'll discuss the rest of the clues in that style.

So composure once discovered in American writer, okay.

So here here we have displayed after.

And here we've got discovered in okay.

So here that the words discovered in and making me think, okay, well I've got to put something in something else.

And the thing I've got to put around the outside is this American writer, an American right at the beginning with P? Well, there is a very common one again that you you see because it's a short number of letters and a very famous writer, who should be thinking of a poet and the Raven Annabel Lee and things like that.

So this word is a five letter word that means composure that's got PO, Edgar, Allan Poe around the outside of one's.

One often is an eye looks like a one I think and then apostrophe s is in the middle of PO.

We get poise, which, of course, means composure rose to a high point like some tits slightly risk a clue here.

Okay? But I think what this is getting at it's, not somebody's somebody's chest, but more like somebody's crest.

So if we were to think of the word that describes some tits is in birds, we might think of the word crested, crested, it's rose to a high point.

Well that also means crested.

So this is a double definition, and it just required us to read it in the correct way.

So we look at 50 and cross piece of furniture employed in one theater or another.

Okay, this is a slightly slightly more difficult clue because it's a when you see a question mark in a clue you have to be prepared to, you know, think laterally, I suppose so piece of furniture here is actually the definition.

So we need to think of a piece of furniture that would fit here.

And there is, there is a very obvious, one I think and it's the word dresser.

But the hard part about this clue is actually understanding why it's the correct answer because in these other Klum's, especially these two up here in its top right hand corner.

We need to shuffle letters around in order to create the answer.

Now here, there's, absolutely no shuffling around this employed in one theater or another question.

Mark is referring to the fact that there are there are two types of theater.

I think you might find in life.

There is urn.

The Philippine you go to see a play in and there's, the operating theater where you might have an operation.

Now what the clue is getting at here is that you might find a dresser in both of those types of theater in when you go and see a play, though there might be dresser who dresses the actors, and when you're going into theater to have an operation, somebody will dress a wound.

So this, this is why this clue is its phrase.

The way it is not more unusual clueless.

A most bad-tempered Italian brought up in County Street.


Well here again, let's see, if we can see some instructional words.

And here I think you've got the words brought up in County brought up in County Street.

And this is again, very much suggesting this is all part of wordplay here.

So probably this is a nine-letter word, which means most bad-tempered and a little tip.

If you seize the words like most bad-tempered, you can be pretty sure I.

Am est might even end, ie st, because it's sort of indicating the superlative now, knowing that you might be able to come up with the answer already Street is very often abbreviated to St.

And we can see that at the end there swing the short word for County and then Italian brought up while Italian is very often abbreviated to IT.

So Italian brought up would be saying reverse the I T to give T I.

So if we think this has T I in the middle given at what I just said about this might end in T iest, not have this construction.

So we need a five letter word for a County beginning with s, ending an e that we're going to put round the edge to give a nine-letter word, which means the most bad-tempered and pause if you need to, but the answer I think it's surest, constantly answer.



Abused, Morse, upset about wrongdoing.

Well, I want this to be something like sermon feast or something like that, because I can see that an anagram of most Maus would give me these letters sermonize.

And maybe you could see that's got a reversal of sin in it.

So hang was this working.

Okay, yes.

So this is.

This is an anagram of moss, which is include by abused moss, ie, you abused, the letters of the word moss.

And then you've got to reverse to things and the indicator of the reversal here is the word upset.

Do you upset something in a Down clue? It suggests that you you lift it up you up set it, and you've got a reversal here, but re which, of course, means about if something is really something it is about it and then a wrongdoing.

Well, the wrongdoing is a sin.

So reverse re and sin.

Put it at the end of the anagram of Morse.

We get sermonize er any questions, please, leave them in the chat and do subscribe to the channel at these.

These videos are helping you.

Thanks for watching.


How do you solve a cryptic crossword for beginners? ›

8 powerful ways to solve cryptic crossword puzzles
  1. Look for “anagram” clues. ...
  2. Consider whether a word needs to be reversed. ...
  3. Find the hidden answer indicator. ...
  4. Double definition. ...
  5. Soudalike. ...
  6. Don't take clues literally. ...
  7. Use previous crosswords to improve. ...
  8. Acrostic clues.

What is the secret to cryptic crosswords? ›

For those new to the game, we reveal the secret in a nutshell: The clues each have two parts. One part is a normal definition of the answer; the other is an additional hint using wordplay. Having two hints in each clue might seem a big giveaway to solvers.

How to master the times cryptic crossword puzzle clue? ›

Within each clue will be a number of different elements. Remember that there will always be a definition and a wordplay; either can come first in the clue sentence (in a Times crossword, the definition is almost always either at the beginning or end of the clue); either could be used first to get to the solution.

How do you explain cryptic crossword clues? ›

Basically, a cryptic clue consists of two elements: a definition of the answer (the so-called straight part), and a wordplay element that elliptically suggests the same answer (the cryptic portion).

How do you solve a coded crossword puzzle? ›

The best approach to solving is to enter the starter letters, wherever the relevant numbers appear, and once these are in, to see if any words suggest themselves. For several reasons, undertaking an analysis of letter frequency is not very useful as an approach to solving these puzzles.

Is there a strategy to crossword puzzles? ›

Tackle the easiest clues first.

Scan through the clues, and knock out all the easiest ones. Not only will this give your gameplay some structure, but also it'll give you an ego boost! Typically, fill-in-the-blank clues are the easiest.

What are the rules for cryptic clues? ›

Rules and Tips for Solving Cryptic Crosswords
  • Out, jumble, shake, unsteady etc – usually means throw the letters about. ...
  • Less than – can mean drop a letter.
  • Half cake – can mean CA or KE.
  • Some food – might mean a few letters of food, say FO.
  • Beginning – might mean the first letter eg Beginning to relax = R.
Jan 9, 2019

What do ellipses mean in cryptic crosswords? ›

Some crosswords use the ellipsis (...). If one clue finishes with an ellipsis and the next clue starts with one, the inference is that the two clues are connected. Sometimes they are and you will have to solve one in order to solve the other but in many cases the two clues can be read independently.

What does an exclamation mark mean in a cryptic crossword? ›

Literal Clues: In a special type of clue called an &lit the clue's definition and cryptic halves are the same (“and literally so”). You may also see the term all-in-one for these types of clues. This is usually indicated by an exclamation point at the end of the clue.

How long does it take to get good at cryptic crosswords? ›

Answer: Cryptic Crosswords. According to academics, any novice can be taught how to solve these brainteasers in just 12 months but to be an expert takes up to nine years.

What is an example of a cryptic crossword clue? ›

Look for signals such as "caught in," "buried in," "part of," and "housed by." For example, CAT could be clued as: "Lover of birds imprisoned in Alcatraz (3)." Here's another example: "Karen always displays an engagement ring? (5)" (As in standard crosswords, a question mark at the end of a clue typically signals a ...

What is an example of an anagram in cryptic crossword? ›

In an anagram, the letters of one or more words are rearranged to form another word or phrase. The solver can spot this type of clue by identifying the anagram indicator, a word that implies change, disarray, uncertainty or failure. Examples include doctor, model, organised, resort, wild and shattered.

What does S mean in cryptic crossword? ›

Crossword setters use the changeable nature of 's to create illusions in cryptic clues. They achieve this by making 's suggest one thing on the surface, and mean something else in the cryptic reading of the clue.

What does finally mean in cryptic crosswords? ›

FINALLY. May be a bits-and-pieces indicator indicating the last letter of a word.

What does oddly mean in cryptic crossword? ›

And please don't be disheartened to read that "oddly" is one of those words that has many duties in Crosswordland: it may well be indicating an anagram. Beware!

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