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Uncle Bob’s Cryptic Tutorial
with examples

What is a Cryptic?

A cryptic crossword provides cryptic clues for the answers. A cryptic clue is assembled from two parts – one, the straightforward definition of the answer, and two, a definition which uses wordplay. These parts may come in either order. Finding the divide between them is a big help. The fact that the entire clue makes some sense is often only a distraction.

Types of Wordplay

1. Anagrams. All or part of the answer may have scrambled letters. A word in the clue will indicate a mixup.
Example: Beginner with no garbled voice. (No abbr. + voice anagram = NOVICE). The passive word “with” divides the two parts of the clue.

2. Containers. A word may be hidden inside a word or phrase.
Example: Liza’s idea conceals a stage secret. (Liza’s idea contains ASIDE).

3. Homophones. The wordplay answer sounds like the straight answer.
Example: Music heard in kid’s animation. (‘TOON)

4. Second Definition.
Example: A far cry from a Drake’s delicacy. (YODEL).

5. Charades. Assemble the answer by adding or removing pieces. These come in many types. Two of them are:

a. Initials. Use the first letters of the words in a phrase.
Example: New wrinkle every first of February, April, and December. (FAD).
b. Deletions.
Example: Prohibition pertains to barn right away. (BARN – R = BAN).

6. Reversals. Answers will be obtained from other words heading right-to-left or rising.
Example: [Down clue] “Bash the Left” always coming up. (L+EVER, rising, is REVEL).
and finally, be on the look out for

7. Miscellaneous. Example: No holds barred in Porter’s song, 2 wds. (ANYTHINGGOES)

An Example Mini-Cryptic

Across Down
1 Tree grows in Altoona’s penitentiary. 1 Destination of suitor sounds like instruction to suiter.
4 Enrico’s part perfect or ...? 2 Spend crazy and result awaits.
5 O’Donnell gets Spain’s OK to inject fish eggs. 3 Eric was right on the nose.



1 The clue contains ASPEN.

4 Caruso sings TENOR (ten + or).

5 ROSIE (si inside roe).


1 Alter sounds like ALTAR.

2 Anagram spend for PENDS.

3 Put right on nose for NORSE.

Cryptics are prized by solvers who want tough challenges. You’ll find that, after a slow start, you improve with every clue type that you experience. Oh yes, they give you lots of chuckles too. Try one.

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