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Cryptic crosswords are one of the most enjoyable types of puzzle, both to create and solve. Whether you are a potential creator or solver, the knowledge in how these types of crossword clues are formulated is essential. The following are guidelines on the types of clues you can use for cryptic crosswords, and the reasoning behind them.

One of the easiest of cryptic crossword clues to create is the anagram, which occurs in many other puzzles as well. It is where the solution words letters are changed to form one or more words in the clue. There must also be a word in the clue that suggests this word has to be rearranged.

CLUE: Gloves involved in mood change – smitten
ANSWER: Mittens
REASONING: The clue is ‘gloves’, is an anagram of smitten, and the change is suggested by ‘mood change’.

Another common ploy for crossword clues is the word placed within a word.

CLUE: Let down, is flat indeed.
ANSWER: Deflated
REASONING: ‘Let down’ is the clue. The word ‘flat’ is placed in between the first ‘de’ and the last ‘ed’. The ‘in’ part of ‘indeed’ suggests it should be placed there.

These types of puzzles also use a similar, but often more obvious ploy, the hidden word, formed when joining together the end of one word in a clue and the beginning of the next.

CLUE: Finished in fallen dedication.
REASONING: Finished is the clue. By joining the ‘en’ of ‘fallen’ and the ‘ded’ of dedication, you get ‘ended’.

Cryptic crosswords also make use of an easier to spot device still, the word contraction, where the answer is found within one of the clue words. Again a part of the clue should suggest that the answer is found within another word of the clue.

CLUE: Gender in a part of Essex.
REASONING: The clue is ‘gender’. The ‘in a part of’ suggests it is in part of the next word, which is ‘Essex’.

Reversal of words is another method favoured by these types of puzzle. This is where a word is reversed in the clue to give the answer. Again a different word in the clue should suggest that a reversal is to take place.

CLUE: Tops back to end it.
REASONING: ‘to end it’ is the clue. By sending ‘tops’ back as the clue suggests you end up with ‘stops’.

Abbreviations are often used as crossword clues. This is where the abbreviation of a well-known happening, institution, or place is used to give all or part of the answer.

CLUE: Contest a line during Victory in Europe
REASONING: The clue is ‘contest’. The abbreviation for Victory in Europe is VE, with a line during, signifying an ‘i’ in-between, giving ‘vie’.

Cryptic crosswords sometimes require you to substitute words or phrases in the clue for other semantically similar words, that when joined together give the answer.

CLUE: Fashionable, sense of timing as a whole.
ANSWER: Intact
REASONING: The clue is ‘as a whole’. If something is fashionable it is said to be ‘in’. If someone has a sense of timing they show tact. By joining ‘in’ and ‘tact’ together you get ‘intact’, as a whole.

Of course these types of crossword clues can be mixed together to form fiendishly difficult cryptic crosswords. It is up to the compiler to experiment. I hope you have plenty of fun constructing your puzzles!