Finding the split
So far we have seen that almost every cryptic clue type is split into a definition and a subsidiary indication of that definition. However, the crossword setter is a devious animal and, knowing she's given you two ways to get the answer, thinks it only fair to make the split between the two definitions difficult to spot.
So in the previous page's example ...
Capital city in Georgia (6)
... the setter seeks to fool the solver into thinking there is only one definition and make them try to squeeze ATLANTA or TBILISI into the grid.
It is only when the solver sees the split and separates CAPITAL as definition one, and CITY IN GEORGIA as definition two, that they may look for two different cities with the same name - in this case, the capital of Greece, and a city in Georgia, USA.
In this case, the split between definition and subsidiary indication is not highlighted - however, do not despair, the definition can still be found because:
- In roughly 90% of all cryptic crossword clues the definition will either come at the end or the beginning of the clue
The above is very important to remember. If you can't easily find the split between definition and subsidiary indication, then simply look at the first word or words and the last word or words and see if there is a potential definition there.
In the case of ...
Capital city in Georgia (6)
... the potential definitions are limited to the following choices:
City in Georgia
Once you have isolated potential definitions and you know that there are usually two parts to a cryptic clue, you can further narrow down the potential definitions. After narrowing things down, you can start to think of capitals and cities in Georgia that share the same name and fit the number of letters of the answer word.
Splits are not always unindicated though. Sometimes an indication of the split between definition and subsidiary indication will appear in the form of a link word. A link word does what it says on the tin - it links the first definition to the subsidiary indication or vice-versa.
A link word will also suggest the definition word is FOUND IN the subsidiary indication, or the definition comes FROM the subsidiary indication, or shows an equivalence between the definition and subsidiary indication. To help us begin to understand this, let's look at an example diagram:
In the above example we can see the link words DISCOVERED BY links the definition PAINTER to the subsidiary indication RAILWAY FOLLOWING DEPRESSION - remember, the subsidiary indication is where we find another way to get to the answer word. So, not only does the link word link the two parts of the clue, but it also can be read as 'definition DISCOVERED BY subsidiary indication'.
A link word links the definition to the subsidiary indication or vice-versa. It can be read as the definition being DISCOVERED BY the subsidiary indication. That is, the definition word can be found by the subsidiary indication also making the same word.
Now you have a basic understanding of link words, let's look at some more. In the following examples I have stripped a clue to show only how link words fit between definition and subsidiary indication.
Here are link words when the definition is at the front of the clue:
definition OF/IS/FROM/BY/WITH/IN subsidiary indication
definition OR/AND/AS subsidiary indication
Here are link words when the definition is at the end of the clue:
subsidiary indication CREATES/PRODUCES/FOR definition
subsidiary indication OR/AND/LIKE definition
You can see the kind of link words used here suggest the definition being FOUND IN the subsidiary indication, or the subsidiary indication CREATING the definition, or just suggesting equivalency with AND/OR.
As such, any words giving this sort of suggestion may well be link words and will help you find the split between definition and subsidiary indication. And, once you have found the split, you can look for synonyms of the definition or start to unravel the wordplay found in the subsidiary indication.