Eat mush for a beverage” [3]

Can you solve this simple cryptic clue and come up with the correct answer?

If not read on and you will learn that it is not too difficult.



A word from the cryptic pro




is a new book I am writing to clear up most of the puzzle mysteries; it explains the breakdown of integral elements without which the corresponding clues would make no sense at all to the average individual.


In America the time is ripe to see the cryptic craze spread across the continent. The only missing element is a series of lessons exposing all the devious tricks of the clue constructors. This void is about to be filled.


These instructions expose all the secrets.


Each lesson concentrates on one particular element of trickery and deceit. There are more than a score of elements that combine to puzzle the solver and they will come later. Each one is thoroughly explained with examples, puzzles, clues, exercises and also eye opening answers that are the essence in explaining how the cryptic enigma evolves.


This is an introduction to the cryptic world briefly explaining the cryptic elements. Other lessons will follow periodically, hang in there, there is a lot of knowledge to be gained and a lot of intellectual fun to be had into the bargain.


Study this introductory piece and see if you become hooked. I'm betting you will crave the subsequent lessons,


The cryptic Pro



You don’t have to be a university graduate. A second grader can handle cryptic-solving with the proper guidance. You can too, just by following the lessons in this book.


Cryptic crosswords are addictive. Once you become interested in them you are hooked.

Alcohol, drugs and tobacco are also addictive but these metaphorically fry your brain and destroy your health. A cryptic crossword addiction is good for you. It stimulates your thoughts, sharpens your memory and keeps your mind active. It opens up mental doors to greater understanding of the written text and keeps you mentally alert well into the declining years of old age.

Scientists agree that an old mind can learn new tricks and perform intriguing tasks as well as a young mind. Studies have shown that people who remain mentally active reading, writing and doing crossword puzzles tend to stay sharper longer and are less likely to get dementia than people who are less mentally active.

A cryptic crossword is actually a simple puzzle set in code or in a form that seems complicated to the straightforward reader. Basically it is a skilful form of wordplay. The coded portion of the clue normally confirms the answer and makes it easier to solve for the connoisseur [you, when you complete all the lessons in this book]. For example, beverage is tea in a simple crossword puzzle but a beverage could also be gin or rye. An element of doubt exists.

In a cryptic puzzle the clue could read, “Eat mush for a beverage”. Sounds complicated but it is not difficult at all to the cryptic adept person.

The skilled solver would recognize mush as a word suggesting eat is rearranged to spell TEA which is the correct answer without the doubts found in the simple version.



A cryptic puzzle is a special sort of puzzle. Each clue is actually a cryptogram and a puzzle in it’s own right. Cryptic crosswords reportedly have originated in England and continue to be extremely popular there appearing in Britain daily in every major newspaper. They are also catching on in Canada and appear regularly in national newspapers such as; The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, National Post and the Ottawa Citizen. In America the time is ripe to see the cryptic craze spread across the continent. The only missing element is a series of lessons exposing all the tricks of the clue constructors, that is what this instruction is all about.



Each lesson concentrates on one particular element of trickery and deceit. There are more than a score of elements that combine to puzzle the solver. Each one is thoroughly explained with examples, puzzles, clues, exercises and also eye opening answers that are the essence in explaining how the cryptic enigma evolves.


The exercises are designed to be fun and entertaining offering similar pleasures to those one would actually get doing a cryptic crossword puzzle.

It is not known if any newspapers in the US publish regular cryptic crossword puzzles, however, in this day and age of high technology on the Internet provides a large offering of puzzles free for the taking. Foreign English language newspapers that feature cryptic are also freely published on the Internet.



The difference between a standard crossword puzzle and a cryptic puzzle is the way a clue is written. Both types of puzzle have a straight definition that suggests a synonym as the answer. The cryptic version adds word play that generally gives two ways to confirm the answer. Example, a standard clue might say stumble that is synonymous with trip.

A cryptic clue could say fall journey. Note that fall is trip and journey is also a trip.

Every word in a cryptic clue is there for a purpose. You could say that the entire cryptic clue is a set of instructions for solving the answer. No doubt as you go along you will note that the cryptic constructors enhance the complexity of the clues by purposely omitting punctuation. At other times punctuation may be deviously included to confuse you.



Remember this when reading a cryptic clue. There are two ways to solve it. One part is a straight definition the other is a play on words. Once you discover the answer to a clue you will realize the importance attributed to each word. Ninety nine percent of the time the definition is either at the beginning or at the end of the clue. It is up to the solver to establish the definition and separate it from the wordplay. The number one rule in cryptic solving is “Establish the straight definition in the clue and work from there. It may seem difficult at first but will come easier with practice. Once you establish the definition you know you are looking for a straight answer. The rest of the clue words can be broken down to confirm the answer. When you have the correct answer you will know it by the way the wordplay simplifies the solution.



Technically speaking a cryptic crossword clue is in itself a cryptogram, “A communication in cipher or code.” The intent is to use cipher or code to challenge the solver. The creator is a specialist in cryptography meaning secret writing. The solver could well be described as a cryptanalyst. So much for the technical terms, for the record the solver is a cryptic puzzle fanatic and the cryptographer is mostly known as the puzzle creator, setter or constructor.



Without prior knowledge of how cryptic works its normal to be puzzled by the complexity of the clues. Ordinary minds would be unable to make any sense of them at all. That is until someone shows them the deceiving techniques used by the creators, which will enable them to break down the various elements of complexity. Once these techniques are learned a passion takes over. Solving a cryptic clue generates a feeling of accomplishment and intellectual satisfaction and impresses one’s friends enormously.



This series of lessons shows practically all of the strategies the creators use and in simple language explains how they are to be interpreted. Examples along the way demonstrate the use of each coded letter or phrase and the lessons contain numerous clues for you to decipher yourself.

The lessons cover the entire spectrum of cryptic crossword solving. Those who finish the course will be prepared to enjoy one of the most rewarding pastimes a newspaper can offer. In addition the mental workout keeps the brain alert. If you are an older person the risk of the mind becoming senile is practically eliminated. Cryptic puzzles provide too much mental activity for this to happen.




In cryptic clues the lack of punctuation serves to confuse the novice. From time to time, though an occasional comma or question mark may be necessary to complement the clue but for the most part there is very little punctuation used. Skilled solvers know from experience how to read the clues in their simple form and are then able to use the complicated form to confirm the correct answer.

A cryptic clue always contains two distinct parts. One part of the clue, the simple form, gives the true meaning. The other part can vary according to the creator but will usually give the meaning of each syllable or words or letters that make up the answer, this the word play. When you learn to separate one from the other you will find that both forms support each other, in fact you have two ways or double clues for each answer.



The simple form can come either at the beginning or end of the cryptic clue. Its up to the solver to decide what is simple form and what is cryptic form. With practice it gets easier.

Once you discover the answer you will realize that every word in the clue plays a specific role. Each word or symbol is there for a reason. As you progress the logic will become clear to you.



As a beginner you need to think about most clues very carefully. As you progress you will learn to recognize the cryptic jargon and also the words that make up many of the clue types. You’ll also remember particular clues and recognize them when you see them again, whether in the same form or a slightly different version. After a while you will be able to solve the clues instinctively. You will find yourself reading the clues and solving them with very little conscious thought and unlike a simple crossword puzzle, when you find the solution you will know that it is the correct answer.



The fun of doing a cryptic puzzle lies in trying to see through the creator’s deception. While every clue is designed to be fair to lead you directly to the answer the appearance of the clue can be very misleading. The lack of punctuation and questionable substance are the main ingredients that lead to confusion. The questionable substance implies that some words are merely letters in word form. They may have to be rearranged to form the real words that are part of the solution.



The following examples briefly describe the type of clues that make up the cryptic spectrum. Later on each clue type will be explained and practiced thoroughly. You will get all the inside information you need to be able to attack any type of cryptic crossword puzzle or coded message effectively and successfully. Each element is presented in puzzle form with plenty of examples to clearly explain each step. Instructions on how to proceed and explanations providing the route to the answers are clearly laid out. The breakdown of each clue and its components will open many mental doors for you. Amazingly you will discover that it doesn’t take a genius to do a cryptic crossword puzzle. You just have to know the tricks of the trade. Before entering the learning stage where each cryptic element is thoroughly hashed the following brief examples are designed to introduce you to the various forms of clue components.



A word backwards sometimes is the answer you will be looking for in cryptic solving.

The crossword creators seldom tell you in a straightforward way that a word is reversed, that would be too easy. They prefer to sneak it in surreptitiously and it is up to you the solver to spot the indicator. With experience you will quickly catch on to this element.




“Keats is up to something meaty.”[5]



The main definition in this clue is something meaty. In a crossword puzzle there are clues across and down. When the word up is used it is one of the many indicators that suggest a reversal of letters. In this case Keats is up to STEAK when reversed.



“A star shooting upwards breeds scabs” [4]



Shooting upwards is the indicator suggesting that star is reversed to RATS, which is the correct answer and synonym for the main definition scabs.






In the game of charades contestants break up the answers into two three or more convenient parts and define the parts individually in sequence towards an eventual solution. Pleasant is a word that breaks into plea [prayer] and ant [insect]. The clue could appear as, “A prayer insect is agreeable”.



“Each article all told” [10]



Each, [every], article [thing]. The answer is EVERY +THING for the main definition all told.



“Wall supports only locks”[10]



A definition is required for wall supports. The two worded charade consists of, but [only] and tresses [locks]. Together but + tresses become BUTTRESSES.



Refer to the lesson CHARADES for other examples.






Clue making is not a matter of combining neat little components into words. The answer doesn’t always break down easily so the writer may choose to abbreviate and define individual letters as part of the clue.



You will not be told that an abbreviation is in order that would be too easy, it is part of the cryptic challenge that you will have to figure out for yourself. Practically all words fall into the abbreviation category and the few examples here only touch the surface. As you study the lesson on abbreviations you will get the feel of it and with practice you will easily spot when an abbreviation is a part of the clue. Here are a few examples:

A road sign in a clue could be H for hospital.



“A road sign put Alf in to one of two equal parts.” …………………H+ALF.



A road sign could also be P for parking.



“Put a road sign on the pathway for aircraft”. [5]



PLANE. [Pathway is a lane preceded by P for parking.]



A card may be an A for ace or a K for king and so on.

A grade could be A or B for first or second class. A grade can also be G for good.

More on abbreviations can be found in other parts of the book.



“Timber died when cleaned.”[6]



SPRUCED is the answer for the main definition cleaned. Timber [SPRUCE+ D] D is an abbreviation for died.

With experience your instinct tends to spot abbreviations quickly.






This cryptic element combines some of the basic clue types together and can be tough at times to solve. In a crossword puzzle experienced solvers usually fill in the easier clue types and then use the crossing letters in the crossword grid as an aid to finding the solution. Example combination clue could read,



“ Smashing money for taking rook in the first game” [8]



A container, two abbreviations and a charade are combined in this clue and must be decoded in order to come to the answer. After some thought we assume that the main definition is smashing. The next word in the clue is money, which we translate into cash. Cash takes rook thus c[r] ash. Cash is the container and the letter ‘r’ is the abbreviation for rook.

Following rook in the clue comes the word ‘in’ which we add to crash + in. Finally, the first game [the first letter ‘g’] completes the word CRASHING which is the answer for the main definition, smashing.

This is one of the more complicated clues not often found in North American papers:they are generally used by leading English papers such as the Times of London and The Financial Times.


The lesson on combinations is fun, challenging and physically stimulating. Each time you study a clue, even if you cannot fathom it at this time the breakdown of the answers will continue to open up the mental doors.






You will have to memorize these to enable you to complete a word in the puzzle whenever a roman numeral is specified in a clue.

Common numbers like one, five, ten, fifty, one hundred, five hundred and one thousand are translated into letters to facilitate the solving of a clue.



One = I, Five = V, Ten = X, Fifty = L, One Hundred = C, Five Hundred = D, One Thousand = M.



Try this one..



“Fifty finished Casanova” [5]



In roman numerals fifty is ‘L’. Over is the synonym for finished, Thus you now have L + OVER. LOVER is the definition for Casanova.

Another example for you to chew on;

“ Baby sheep left with a 1000 Roman boys”.

This clue uses abbreviations and keeps the article a as well as using the Roman numeral concept.

When broken down you will find that left becomes L+A [the article a] M [1000] +B [boys abbreviated]. LAMB

The lesson on roman numerals gives further examples and shows the many ways the numbers can be used.








Even or odd letters in a word or phrase can be used in this cryptic element to form an eventual solution. The first, third and fifth letters, etc are specifically odd and two, four, six and so on can be defined as even letters. A simple clue could read;



“Oddly cluer beast” [3]



For most people the phrase doesn’t make much sense, however, the cryptic literate person identifies the significance of the indicator oddly. As such the first, third and fifth letters of cluer spells the word CUR and qualifies as the required definition for beast.







North, South, East and West are abbreviated as NSEW and any of the letters can be defined in a cryptic clue as a point or a direction. A pole mentioned would be S or N for the South Pole or the North Pole.



By the same token a Pole can be a Polish person, a post or a staff. If it suits the creator to use any of these references in any form he will certainly do so and you can expect to see them pop up regularly in daily cryptic puzzles. Here are a couple of teasers for you to try,



“Entire direction covers an opening.” [5]



In a simple crossword puzzle the clue would be a single word, entire, for which the synonym is WHOLE. The cryptic version adds the wordplay direction covers an opening. The direction is W [west] covering the opening defined in this case as HOLE.



“A pry always needs direction” [lever]



Always is EVER and needs a direction. In this incident the direction that is needed is L [left] in order to confirm the answer as LEVER for the main definition the word, pry.



If there were a comma after pry in the above clue it would be as easy to solve as the simple version. The lack of punctuation always tends to confuse the beginner. A good lesson in clue reading is to try and visualize if and where punctuation would simplify the task of searching for a solution.



For further study of this element consult the corresponding lesson.


Cryptic jargon substitutes certain words to represent the letter “O”. Nil or nothing in a clue would suggest the insertion of the letter “O” as part of the solution. The tennis term love also qualifies as well as the word duck they both indicate a zero count in sport. Try the following examples to enhance your comprehension of this element.

“I love little thanks for the small item” [4]

It may look complicated but is actually very simple when you learn how to break it down into cryptic logic.

“Game duck behind Mr. Crosby” [5]

The first example is broken down as I + O [love] TA [little thanks]. The main definition is small item for which IOTA qualifies as the correct answer.

In the second example the main definition is the first word game. Mr. Crosby is BING + O [duck behind].

The two examples also used abbreviations and famous name elements to suit the clues.

Study all the examples in the “O” lesson for further clarification. Practice makes perfect.


This cryptic element uses indicators to suggest removing a letter or sometimes a group of letters from a word to yield a solution. A clue may read;

“Heartless revolutionary to dance.”[4]

Note that a revolutionary is defined as a rebel. The indicator heartless suggests that the heart of the word rebel [the letter B] is removed to spell REEL the answer you are looking for as the synonym for dance. In an ordinary crossword puzzle the clue would simply read dance. The cryptic word play tends to support the answer. In this type of clue the indicator usually stands out and is difficult to miss once you get used to it.

Removing the first letter indicator could read:

“ Headless dog for bird”[5]

The ordinary crossword clue would be simply, Bird [5] and you would be looking for the name of a bird with five letters. This cryptic version is still looking for the name of a bird as the final answer but first you must find the name of a dog and take it’s head off in order to confirm the answer. Cryptically speaking if the first letter of the dog’s name is removed it will give you the answer you are looking for. In this example the dog in question is a beagle and when you remove its head [the letter B] the remaining letters spell EAGLE.

“A planet evolves from a swamp without end”. [4]

MARS evolves from a swamp [marsh] without end [the letter H].

The deletion lesson illustrates many other examples of words that cater to this cryptic element.



There is much more to learn so let’s proceed by taking subsequent lessons one by one and enjoy the challenges. Have fun.

Comments 5 comments

crypticpro profile image

crypticpro 8 years ago from Author

This is an introduction to the cryptic world briefly explaining the cryptic elements. Other lessons will follow periodically, hang in there, there is a lot of knowledge to be gained and a lot of intellectual fun to be had into the bargain.

Study this introductory piece and see if you become hooked. I'm betting you will crave the subsequent lessons,


The cryptic Pro

Nickny79 profile image

Nickny79 8 years ago from New York, New York

Excellent contribution.

sweet 8 years ago

hahha sorry code is mess up

mersea 7 years ago

I am so happy to have found your page! I notice that the last comment dates from 13 months ago - I am so hoping that you still check your hub page! As you mentioned - once you have gone cryptic - you never go back. I have solved a few simple ones in The SUN, and have the Random House book - but I am still just starting...and I am totally hooked. I appreciated your first lesson! How do I get the rest of them? Thanks a million for posting this...Maggie-beth aka chattycraftycook.

thukkaram 6 years ago

suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper waste

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