Garry Gillard > crosswords > clues

Times Cryptic Crossword Clue Types

This is a brief guide to the cryptic crossword puzzles published in The Times (of London) newspaper Monday-Friday.

Almost every cryptic crossword clue consists of two parts: the definition and the word-play.

One exception is when it consists of a double definition - two 'definitions' both referring to the same answer.

(The word 'definition' should not be taken too literally. Quite often the 'definitions' [or 'literals'] do not at all obviously mean the same thing as the answer. The 'difficulty' of a puzzle is easily [and often] increased simply by increasing the obliqueness of the 'definitions'. This can be expected to be the case with the Saturday puzzles.)

The definition is always at the beginning or end of the clue - and more often at the start. Always consider whether the very first word might be the definition - as setters will put two words (apparently) together to distract you from the first.

Anagrams must be indicated by an anagram indicator (or anagind/anagrind). There is an infinite number of anaginds (unlike homophone indicators, of which there are far fewer).

Perhaps the simplest clue type is the hidden word (which I’ve always called an inclusive). There is usually one inclusive in The Times - but only one. So I tend to look in every clue for one, until I've found it, and then can relax that bit of my attention.

Some clues can be called charades. As in the party game, the clue shows the answer in two or three or even more parts - and then the whole thing.

A close relation is the container, where there is a clue for something contained inside something else - for which there is also a clue, plus a clue for the whole thing.

Another clue type is the homophone, where something sounds like (another less technical name for it) something else. Homophones are always indicated by an indicator: 'sounds like', 'we hear', 'on the radio', etc.

There are another two clues I should mention, tho they're less specific, and may be combined with one above. One is called a cryptic definition, where the clue seems to be referring to something other than it is.

And then there's the &lit, which means that the whole clue leads to the answer. Once upon a time setters used to write (&lit) after such a clue, but no longer. They also used to write (anag.) for anagrams, but now must use an anagind (see above).


Garry Gillard | New: 23 October, 2010 | Now: 2 April, 2018