Cryptic Crosswords, a Unique Type

If you know your crosswords, then you know that there are different variations other than the usual stuff you see in the newspapers. And one that usually calls attention to is the one called cryptic crosswords, a unique type.

The main difference of cryptic crossword puzzles from any other kind of crosswords is the fact that the clues themselves are little puzzles that you need to solve. So unlike the ordinary crossword where all you need to do is read the clue and figure out the answer, in a cryptic puzzle, you will need to figure out what the clue is all about before you get to thinking of the possible answers. If you find the regular crosswords as hard to finish, attempting to fill out the boxes of a cryptic crossword would be a very daunting task.

This kind of crossword is not that popular in the United States, however, it has quite a following in its birth place, the United Kingdom. In fact, the crossword is sometimes referred to as “British-style” crossword puzzle in the US. It was around 1923, during when the crossword phenomenon was sweeping the globe that the cryptic kind of crossword puzzles came to be. At first the clues were not like today but rather the clues were composed more of anagrams, incomplete quotations, and, of course, wordplay.

Outside the UK, it seems that the crossword is also popular in Kenya, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Malta, and even in South Africa. A lot of daily newspapers in the UK and Canada carry cryptic crosswords.

Cryptic crossword has been further subdivided into two kinds. We have the basic or ordinary cryptic puzzle where the clues are mini-puzzles and we have the advanced version. In the advanced version which is also called variety cryptic crosswords, aside from the clue being mini puzzles, some or all of the answers have to be changed or altered based on certain rules that can be apparent to the solver or totally hidden and have to be discovered first.

Getting confused? Let’s break it down. In the basic cryptic crosswords you won’t get the answer from reading the clues and taking them literally. The clues have to be dissected and sifted through. The literal translation of the clue is often the distraction. So never absorb the literal meaning of the clues in cryptic crosswords. Usually, a clue in a cryptic puzzle will have the first part describing the answer in terms of its definition, tense, or part of speech. On the other hand, you will find that the second part of the clue is usually more of wordplays that point you to the answer.

Although it is difficult, once you identify which part of the clue is the definition and which part is the wordplay you can get the answer more accurately. So the trick would be to where the first part ends and where the second part begins. It can be obvious in some cases but other times you have to really put your mind to it. There are clues that have double definitions because of the nature of the answer. The size of a typical cryptic crossword is 15 by 15 but the advanced version usually is only 12 by 12.

Cryptic crossword puzzles are very challenging. It takes a certain amount of practice before you get good at it. Your knowledge should cover a wide enough range of topics and subject matter in order to excel in solving cryptic puzzles.