Some Thoughts on Solving Advanced Cryptic Crosswords

Posted in Crosswords on Tuesday, the 9th of June, 2009.


I've recently been enjoying - if that's the right word - advanced cryptic crosswords. These are those extra challenging puzzles that crop up in the weekend supplements of the broadsheet newspapers here in the UK.

Advanced cryptics aren't quite like normal crosswords. They tend to be set out on a "barred" grid, as opposed to the more familiar "black and white" version, they typically employ obscure or obsolete vocabulary, and they often feature "special instructions" in the preamble of the puzzle. For example, the solver may be expected insert or remove letters before writing in the grid entry, or resolve clashes between "across" and "down" answers. It can be a bit like solving a puzzle layered on top of a puzzle on top of a puzzle.

Examples of the genre include Inquisitor and Beelzebub in the Independent, Mephisto and The Listener in the Times, Enigmatic Variations in the Sunday Telegraph and, perhaps the father of them all, Azed in the Observer.

I'm not even close to being an expert on these, but I've picked up a over recent months, and I thought it couldn't hurt to share what I've found out so far, and perhaps see if readers have any further advice. So here are my thoughts on solving advanced cryptics.


Posted by Brunellus on Wednesday, the 8th of July, 2009.

Thanks for such a helpful introductory post. As a former (and future) Listener obsessive myself, I occasionally evangelize about thematic cryptics, and I'll be sure to point people in this direction when I next do so.

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