*Please note, various annotation is used by various outlets. Currently, the following method is used by this site up until 01.08.12.
So far in the guide we have used diagrams to break down the constructions of cryptic clues. However, whilst diagrams are useful as a teaching aid, it is crossword annotation that is used to show how cryptic clues break down in the real world. So let's crack on with learning it!
To start to understand annotation, we need to get to know the various symbols that are used to help parse (show the construction of) a cryptic clue.
( ) container, insertion, surround or to split wordplay
" " homophone
--> letter shift
- + letter exchange
Each symbol indicates the type of action that has been performed on the fodder (words or parts words) which makes up the answer word. In the most basic parse of a cryptic clue you will only be given the answer word with symbols to explain the construction. However, in a full parse you will be given a full break down of the clue as well.
Let's move to the right hand side of the page and see how it all comes together.
Here is an example of a full parse (note the quick parse included at the end):
Editor backs spurious claim of Number Ten (7)
Editor - ED (abbreviation for editor)
backs - reversal indicator
spurious - anagram indicator
claim - anagram fodder
of number ten - definition
The full parse should be self-explanatory as it breaks down each part of the clue, so let's dissect the quick parse to make sure you have the hang of it.
Here, the brackets separate the fodder from the following bit of fodder to make it easier to read. Inside them we have DE <. The symbol < shows that a REVERSAL has been performed on the fodder (in this case a reversal of the abbreviation ED).
Again, the brackets are used to sperate off the fodder from the prior piece. Inside, we have CIMAL*. The symbol * shows an ANAGRAM has been performed on the fodder (in this case an anagram of CLAIM).
- The full parse breaks down the whole clue word by word.
- A quick parse gives the answer word only with symbols and brackets to show how it was constructed by the wordplay.
Look out for the quick parse at the end of the examples throughout the rest of the guide.