Forget The Quick, Try The Cryptic

Posted: October 12, 2015 in Crosswords
Tags: , , , , , , ,


One of the most popular past times in the UK, (and very likely elsewhere), is crossword solving. Every newspaper, magazine and interminable internet publication contains them. Short clues to a one word answer just about sums up the quick crossword.

Less popular than attempting the “Quick” crosswords is taking on the “Cryptic” crossword.

Over the years I have met many people who “do not have the knack” to attempt a cryptic crossword. This has always sounded like the lazy mans cop-out to me. People will never have the “knack” if they never try to solve one. The other popular answer is “I tried it once but couldn’t get the hang of it.”

Well, trying something once rarely gives you the hang of it. Imagine if we only had to try driving a car once and were then given our licence. The roads would be slightly more chaotic than they are now as there would be a few more, probably not many, bad drivers around.

The problem is that, in general, people don’t like a challenge. I used to work with employees many years ago who would “do” The Sun crossword, or The Daily Mirror or The Daily Star. They would always attempt the “easy” crossword and would sometimes finish it. They never had any ambition to try anything a little more difficult, so would continuously finish the easier ones without moving on. What is the point of that? A sense of achievement, maybe? Sure, the first time you complete it, but not the second, third and fourth.

If solving cryptic crossword puzzles is something you have always wanted to do but don’t think that you can then try the following:

My first piece of advice will be offered only once and, if questioned by the police, I will deny ever saying it. Buy The Sun! There, I’ve said it. I do have my reasons for this. The main one is that The Sun provides two sets of clues to the same answers. So. if you are reasonably good at solving the easy clues, each time you fill one in, look at the cryptic clue and try and work out how your answer fits that clue. Eventually you will start to see how a cryptic clue works. Unfortunately, you may have to buy The Sun for a short while but it’s worth the sacrifice.

Once you are comfortable with the cryptic clues in The Sun, which should be after a week or less, you can move on to bigger and better crosswords. Clues like “Canine form of God”, or “New act for the animal” with the answers Dog and Cat, will be very boring for you by now so you should be aiming higher.

Wherever you are, your local paper will generally contain a cryptic crossword. It will be harder than the tabloids, but not up to the difficulty level of the broadsheets. Have a few goes at that one and again, once you are comfortable, start to aim higher.

After a while longer you should feel ready to take on a new challenge. As soon as you start finishing the local paper’s crossword on a reasonably regular basis it’s time to move on.

I personally would recommend The Guardian cryptic crossword, although others would, no doubt, offer The Times, The Telegraph and some of the other broadsheets as the best available.

My liking for The Guardian stems back years to one of the late, great compilers, The Rev. John Graham, better known as Araucaria. The best crossword compiler it has ever been my pleasure to cross swords with. The other advantage in choosing The Guardian is that, every day, there is a different compiler, so every day there is a different challenge.

Here is a link to the Guardian’s crossword page, where there is a variety to choose from, but remember to start with the easier ones and build your way up to these.

Let me know if you try this method and if you are successful with it. Alternatively, if you have a better way then please let me know of that as well.

Good luck!

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