A cryptic crossword, explained

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Cryptic crosswords are a British invention. The first ones were printed in the Daily Telegraph. Unless you have knowledge of British geography (especially rivers, counties and towns), games (especially cricket), past prime ministers, abbreviations. you’ll flounder helplessly. The English language has an impressive range of metaphoric expressions, some of which you can see here.

We shall see how the answers relate to the clues.

1a. This is a “double definition”. a)squash him = put him down b) squash (British) is a fruit concentrate, e.g. from orange juice, diluted to make a drink
2a.  The lad’s is “he’s”. A dive is a sort of club. “in” means in the middle of other letters. “In” often means at home; or in fashion. Adhesive is tacky
9a Bed of roses: literal and metaphoric.
10a. To milk is to extract. “Upright” contains the letters p r i g—a moralist
11a. When we rewrite the letters in “racist as” in the form of an anagram, we get an early geological period
12a. The  in Spanish is “el”. To call is to “name”. Wearing means enclosed within. Enamel is a coat
13a. The surrealist is Salvador Dali. The math symbol for energy is “e”. Change e for a and you get a retail outlet
15a. An old word for the lowest level sailor in the Royal Navy is “AB” for able-bodied seaman. “At sea” is one of the words used to mean anagram. Dictionary says “all at sea” means confuse
18a. Mousse is a sweet dish. In crossword language short means remove the last letter. AKA means also known as. Moussaka is a savoury dish from Greece and Turkey
19a. Woman or women is “W”. An old-fashioned abbreviation for railway is Ry, from which we get a word meaning wrong
21a. “set” is a group. “off” is not working
23a. in crossword-land, “n” means new, “noun” is a grammatical term, “ce” is an abbreviation for Church of England
25a. “16 perhaps” refers to the answer to 16 down. If a statuette were dropped, its head might break off
26a. “dark” is a synonym for sinister. “matter” has many meanings, including situation and physical stuff as opposed to mind or spirit. So the answer can be interpreted two ways
27a. “dough” has two meanings. The teachers’ national union is abbreviated as the NUT
28a. a trial is also called a hearing. Extremely means that the following is reduced to the first and last letters. “Shears” make cuts


2d. as an adjective “Queer” means singular. As verb it means ruin
3d. it’s a crossword convention to use criminal to mean anagram of the preceding or following words. Hence this answer meaning inconsistencies
4d. Here’s means this is. ” y” when spoken is the same as why. broadcast is one of any number of crossword terms meaning sounds like
5d. A phrase meaning upset. Poll is a nickname for parrot.
6d. An anagram (arranged) of SHORTLY contains E, the IVR code for Spain
7d. “sea” is another word for marine.  “Seen in”  means containing. “oddly” means take the first and third letters of pair giving us PI
8d. “vice” is a weakness. Accepting nothing means insert the letter o. Finished is “over”
14d. Former lover is “ex”. Away is “off”. here in French is “ici”. The answer is Latin meaning by virtue of job.
16d. “statute” means law. ET is an alien as in the Spielberg movie. Together they mean a kind of image.
17d. “trembling” means anagram of the two preceding words, giving us our creature
20d. Point here is “aim”, welcoming (embracing) N for north and US for American
22d “SH” is quiet, “RU” abbreviation for Rugby Union, is a game, golf is the phonetic alphabet for “G”
24d. “C” is the British abbreviation for Conservative party. Edward Lear was a writer and illustrator of comic verse


2 thoughts on “A cryptic crossword, explained”

  1. Here’s a clue from today’s Cryptic: “slim judge scratches bottom”, 4 letters third “I”.
    Find the right answer from all these words that might fit:



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