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Cryptic Crossword Solving: General Tips

In the series of articles on cryptic crossword solving, we've covered a huge range of different clues, with articles that look at each type of clue. So by now you should be familiar with the types of clue that might be thrown at you, if you've been working through this series (if not, and you are curious, just go to the blog homepage and look at the posts around this one).

What about some general solving tips that aren't specific to the clue types?

Well really the main tip is the obvious one: practice, and practice a lot.

It might help you to pick a particular publication, and then work through their puzzles, as there is often a house style, and once you get used to that, then it can become easier. Also try to pick a particular setter or two, and perhaps initially stick to their puzzles, as you will build up a feel for an individual setter's style over time.

If you want to read around the subject, then bone up on your anagram indicators, hidden clue indicators, common abbreviations and how certain words usually mean particular things, in ways they don't in common parlance (for instance 'soldier' being 'ant' or 'worker' being 'bee', or of course 'writer' being 'pen').

You might like to read through a clue and highlight what you think is the straight definition and what is the cryptic part of the clue. This can be a great help whilst learning, and of course you should expect to be wrong occasionally.

Or perhaps once you've finished a puzzle, read through the clues and highlight in this way: see how many times the definition is at the beginning and at the end, and how obvious it is in hindsight which is the straight part of the clue. This process can be instructive, and some interesting patterns might appear to you over time, perhaps generally, or on each setter.

You might also like to practice against lists of clues - there are hundreds of these online - and you can even practice clues on a type by type basis, so if you find something particularly tricky - like cryptic definition clues - then you can practice plenty of those. There are also several books that offer great introductions to solving cryptics, so you might like to work through these. Some contain starter puzzles that are easier than normal puzzles, for instance all short clues, or perhaps they have the clue type given to you in advance, or the definition part in bold.

What did you find helped you get into cryptics and become good at solving them? Or are you currently trying to get into cryptics but struggling - if so, what would help you? Any tips or ideas you might have will be gratefully received below!

Date written: 10 Apr 2015



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