Friday, 3 January 2020

Cryptic Crosswords and YA/MG Clues

I decided to try and write a set of blog posts combining two of my favourite things, YA/MG novels and cryptic crosswords.

For the uninitiated, cryptic crosswords are crosswords where each clue generally has two parts, a definition, sometimes called a straight clue, and wordplay. Wordplay can consist of anagrams, definitions of different parts of the word (called 'charades'), words being put inside other words (called 'containers'), double definitions, and several more.

As an example, the title of my favourite book about crosswords, Sandy Balfour's Pretty Girl In Crimson Rose (8) gives the answer 'Rebelled'. (Pretty girl = Belle, Crimson = Red, so you put 'Belle' into 'Red' to get Rebelled, which can also mean rose.) That's a container clue, as it involved Belle being put inside Red.

For a full list of types of clue, check out the Wikipedia page on the topic, but I'm going to write a couple of YA/MG-themed ones here to give examples of a few.

Double definitions

Double definitions simply involve two definitions for the same word or phrase.

So for example, 'colour of eyes of John Green heroine (5)' gives Hazel, of the Fault In Our Stars.

(Note: questions are often intentionally misleading in their surface readings; I have no idea of the ACTUAL eye colour of any of JG's leads because my memory is terrible and it's a while since I read any!)

Two for you to try, answers below:

West End show about a fantasy author (8)
You'd be lucky to win this one of Nic Stone's books! (7)


Anagram clues have three parts - a definition, anagram fodder (letters to be arranged) and an anagram indicator to show there's an anagram. There are a huge amount of indicators available but they're generally something to do with change, rearrangement, or mixing things up.

Cryptipedia has lots but a few fairly common ones are things like 'awkwardly', 'acrobatically', 'mixed up', 'in a mix', 'all over the place' and 'eccentric'.

So for example 'Archer, asked, intervenes awkwardly (7, 8)' gives Katniss Everdeen - 'Archer' is a definition of Katniss, 'asked intervenes' is the anagram fodder, and 'awkwardly' shows it's an anagram. Note: punctuation is usually best ignored when solving cryptics, it's there to make the surface phrase read better.

Two more clues:

Prince hunts dorm acrobatically (9)
Prize-winning author is eccentric killer underneath! (9, 7)


A charade has a straight clue and wordplay consisting of clues to give parts of the word, or words. They can be shorter words, or abbreviations. Common abbreviations include 'N', 'E', 'S' and 'W' for 'compass point', 'p' for quiet - from pianissimo - and 'f' for loud - from forte, 'mp' for politician, 'o' for old, and many more.

Inspired by a clue she loved in a 'say what you see' round at Gary Wigglesworth's fabulous quiz at The Betsey, my wife wrote one which I adapted slightly to give 'Book about Jacques Cousteau and Bertie Wooster. (9)' The answer here is Divergent (Costeau being a diver, Wooster being a gentleman.)

Two for you:

Persistantly harrass quiet animal? Wizard! (5,6)
The wife is irritated by Dahl's book. (3,7)

I'm going to try and do another post next week with a few other types of clues, possibly building up to writing a small crossword myself at some point soon! If you read this, I hope you enjoyed it, and scroll down for the all-important answers...


Double cryptics:

West End show about a fantasy author (8) - Hamilton ('West end show' and 'a fantasy author', referring to Alwyn Hamilton)
You'd be lucky to win this one of Nic Stone's books! (7) - Jackpot ('You'd be lucky to win this' and 'One of Nic Stone's books')


Prince hunts dorm acrobatically (9) - Sturmhond, from Leigh Bardugo's books. 'Prince' is the definition, 'hunts dorm' the fodder, 'acrobatically' the indicator.
Prize-winning author is eccentric killer underneath! (9, 7) - Katherine Rundell. 'Prize-winning author' is the definition, 'killer underneath' the fodder, 'eccentric' the indicator.


Persistantly harrass quiet animal? Wizard! (5,6) - Harry Potter ('Harry' from persistently harass, 'p' from quiet - pianissimo in music, as mentioned above, 'otter' from animal, and of course 'wizard' is the definition.)
The wife is irritated by Dahl's book. (3,7) - The Witches ('The' stays the same, 'w' from 'wife', 'itches' from 'is irritated by', and 'Dahl's book' gives the straight clue.)

1 comment:

  1. I’ve never got the hang of cryptic crosswords, though they have been explained to me and I did work out the occasional clue. But for those who love them, they must be a terrific, enjoyable challenge!