What is Cryptic Crossword?

cryptic crosswords

A Cryptic Crossword is a crossword in which the clues have different meanings. It can be solved in various manners such as the straight way and the roundabout way. The hints in Cryptic crossword are a puzzle themselves. Cryptic crosswords are more complicated than normal crosswords. They are very popular in Commonwealth countries such as United Kingdom, New Zealand, India, Kenya, South African, Malta, Australia and Canada. Millions of people play them daily on reputed puzzle sites.

History of Cryptic Crossword

Cryptic crossword were invented by a British translator and poet Edward Powys Mathers in mid 1920s. At first, his cryptic puzzles were quite complicated and utterly difficult to solve but latter setters (crossword compilers in UK) developed their own ways of setting a standard of Cryptic crossword which could be solved by general public. According to one of the most popular British crossword compilers Jonathan Crowther (Zed), a good Cryptic crossword is made up of three elements:

  • An accurate definition
  • A fair secondary sign
  • Nothing else

In the 1920s, newspapers in UK started publishing normal crossword. These crosswords were followed by cryptic crosswords which gained popularity among people.

Popularity of Cryptic Crossword

Almost every major newspaper in UK publishes cryptic crosswords. They are quite popular with the audiences. The Guardian cryptic crosswords are especially appreciated for their humour and creativity. Cryptic puzzles are also very popular in Canada, Israel, Ireland, Netherlands and Australia. However, they are not very popular in the United States. Many newspapers in the US do not publish them although they tend to appear in several US magazines such as The Nation, Harper’s, The New Yorker and Games Magazine.

How does Cryptic Cues work?

To decode the answer of cryptic crossword, you must read the clue in the right way. There is a straight definition which usually appears at the start or end of the hint. Then there is the cryptic part which has a double meaning. It could alternate the answer of the first part. You have to read carefully when trying to solve a cryptic puzzle. Setters do their best to adhere to the rules of the Cryptic Crossword.

How to Understand Cryptic Clues

There are many different types of cryptic clues. To solve the cryptic crossword successfully, you should be aware of these clues.

  • Anagrams
    An anagram is the rearrangement of words. Words in the clues can be anagrams. Sometimes the answer can be an anagram. The longest words in the grid are often anagrams. For example, Thing is an anagram for Night. Chin is an anagram for Inch.
  • Charades
    A charade is a clue in which one part is joined with another part to form the answer. All cryptic crosswords have some charades.
  • Containers
    A container clue is one where one set of words is put inside other words. A few examples of them are outside, breaking, within, about, enters.
  • Deletions
    A deletion clue is one where you have to delete some words from a letter to get the answer.
  • Double Definitions
    A clue which has double meanings. They are very common in cryptic crosswords. Some of the examples are bark, arm, date, left, fall, rose, right, crane and clip.
  • Reversals
    Reversals are clues in which the word or some part of the word is turned around to get the answer. They are very common cryptic devices.
  • Homophones
    Homophones are those words which have the same sound but different meanings. For example, too and two are homophones. Other examples include Ball and Bawl, Eye and I, Bored and Board. They are less common and usually appear only once in the cryptic puzzle.


Now that you understand how to solve cryptic crosswords, you can go ahead and start playing cryptic puzzles. One of the best places to play cryptic crossword is VOX (OFC out top recommended ). It published cryptic crossword daily and you can even play them on your smartphone. You can play from your mobile app for you which you can download on your smartphone and play daily free Cryptic crosswords easily.