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Cryptic Crosswords And Common Abbreviations

When learning to solve cryptic crosswords, you will encounter many abbreviations, some of these will be obvious, whilst others you will just learn over time, if you don't know them initially.

Obvious ones include compass points, such as east = E and New York = NY, and 'kiss' being 'X'. whilst others will be a bit trickier. Often these just involve taking the first letter, such that 'Wife' in the clue might just mean take the letter 'W', or 'special' in the clue just contributes an 'S'.

Note that these are different to clues such as 'special initially' that specifically tells you to take the first letter, here 'S'.

Another common abbreviation is 'about' turning to 'c' for 'circa', or perhaps 'ca' (and of course 're'), whilst 'for example' often leads to 'eg'. You will sometimes find states of the US used where the setter wants you to use the common abbreviation for that state, like the example of New York above, but many state abbreviations may not be readily familiar to you, so you'll need to gen up on those.

If you encounter 'The City' then it might be asking you to enter 'EC' as in the City of London post code; 'city' on its own could just refer to somewhere like LA. A ship is often 'SS' and a sailor might be 'AB' (able seaman, don't you know). Sometimes these are a bit more intuitive but still tricky, like 'spectacles' referring to 'OO' as in the shape of a pair of glasses for instance.

So, when solving cryptics, what is the best way to tackle these abbreviation clues? Well, sometimes you just have to learn them, however generally you will just get a feel for them over time, and can always look them up in some of the exhaustive charts online that contain very common abbreviations. And, as ever, the more you know in terms of general knowledge, the easier you will find them to solve and/or learn - for instance if you play chess, then you will already know that 'knight' can be the letter 'N' as well as the more intuitive 'K', because knight is represented by the letter 'N' in chess notation - in order to distinguish it from the 'King' that is the letter 'K', if you were wondering!

Some words can refer to more than one abbreviation, thus 'queen' could be 'Q', 'Qu', 'R' or 'ER' (the last of these for the current queen, Elizabeth Regina (Latin for 'the ruling queen')). Church can be 'CE' or 'CH', the former being Church of England.

One of the least useful is note, since this refers to any letter from A to G that form the musical scale, so can be quite tricky to extract useful information from in isolation from the rest of the clue. The word 'key' generally could also be A to G, so is equally one to be wary of.

Date written: 19 Apr 2015



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