1. FIND THE DEFINITION
- The definition will almost always be at the beginning or the end of a clue. It may be one or more words, but working your way through will help you find a likely candidate for the definition.
- To help find the definition look for link words. These will often be words that give a sense of the definition being 'made from' the wordplay or the wordplay 'making' the definition. Other common link words are FOR/IN/FROM/BY.
2. THINK OF SYNONYMS THAT MATCH THE DEFINITION
- Once you have found the definition you can look at the enumeration and think of synonyms that fit the definition and are the correct number of letters. In this respect cryptic crosswords are just like concise crosswords - however, once you think you have a match you can then check the subsidiary indication to see if it confirms your answer.
3. LOOK FOR INDICATORS IN THE WORDPLAY & FIND SYNONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS OF WORDS IN THE WORDPLAY
- Indicators, as we have seen, help the solver perform an action on the fodder to produce part or all of the answer word. Finding indicators is the first step to untangling the wordplay - look for words that suggest some sort of modification in another word or suggest you move words and letters around or listen to them.
- Remember, to look for synonyms and abbreviations.
4. GET SOME PAPER AND WRITE OUT YOUR THOUGHTS
- Obvious, yes - but putting your thoughts about possible constructions on paper is very helpful. Use scrap paper to jot down potential parts of wordplay and write out the crossing letters you already have in the grid. Doing so will help you see what you have already tried and what can't work, and, often, potential solutions will jump out at you.
5. DON'T BE AFRAID TO 'CHEAT'
- When you are starting out, using anagram solvers or looking up synonyms in a thesaurus will help you solve more quickly and get to grips with cryptics more easily. Don't feel you have to soldier on without them.
6. CHOOSE A PAPER
- Local papers often have much easier versions of cryptics or, sometimes, puzzles that give quick and cryptic clues that lead to the same answer. This is a useful way to get started.
- Quiptic crosswords are also a good way to get the hang of cryptic crosswords - they are designed for beginners and should have easier answers words and simpler constructions.
- Try each daily paper and see which cryptic you get on best with. It might be The Times boggles your noggin, but you find you can get a few clues easily in The Independent. Go for the paper whose cryptic crossword best suits you rather than your political beliefs (if you should be so unfortunate to have some). Papers often have house styles or setters whose wavelength you will click with - these will be a great help in getting you going.
7. KEEP SOLVING
- Like the fella said, 'the more I practice the luckier I get'. This as true for cryptic crosswords as it is for any sportswoman. If you try to solve a cryptic every day of the week (and take time understand the clue you didn't solve) then within a year you will be a competent or even a very good solver.
8. CHECK THE SOLVING BLOGS
- Listed in the links section of this site you will find all the solving blogs you'll ever need. They all give clear and helpful deconstructions of the clues you'll find in every daily paper. Don't just use them when you get stuck, use them as a resource to see how each clue works and you'll get much better as a solver in no time at all.
9. GET OTHER PEOPLE TO SOLVE WITH YOU
- Two heads are definitely better than one. Often solving with another person will not only be a pleasant way to while away an afternoon, but you will be able to bounce ideas off each other and double your synonym and general knowledge.
10. TAKE A BREAK
- Sometimes you may stare at a crossword for half an hour and be totally stumped. Taking a break and coming back to the grid later in the day often helps you to see through the misdirections and traps the compiler has set for you. Although it's nice to complete in a single sitting, tackling a puzzle over a day or two can be just as rewarding (and often easier).