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Introduction to Cryptic Crosswords

Cryptic crosswords are an extension of standard ('quick') crosswords in which each clue consists of both a definition of the answer word and an indication of how to stitch other words together to get to it, kind of like lexical papercraft. See the Wikipedia page for a good example and analysis of a typical cryptic clue. If you enjoy wordplay, quick crosswords or word puzzles in general, chances are you'll love cryptic crosswords!

This course is for anyone who is baffled and bemused by cryptic crosswords but wishes not to be. Classes will focus on the different types of cryptic clue and solution techniques, with additional information for those interested in solving advanced crosswords or setting their own.

By the end of the course, you should have a firm grasp of the fundamental ideas behind cryptic crosswords, and be able to solve most of them with nothing more than some brainpower and a little tenacity.

Lectures
  1. The clues and the crosswords

    A general look at cryptic crossword grids and clues.

  2. The clues and the crosswords

    Same as lecture one above.

  3. Cryptic definitions

    We take a look at our first clue type, cryptic definition clues.

  4. Double definitions

    The next clue type, double definitions.

  5. Hidden answers

    An introduction to hidden answer clues.

  6. Palindromes

    A little about palindrome clues.

  7. Homophones

    All about homophone clues.

  8. Homophone double definitions

    Our first foray into the world of hybrid clues!

  9. Anagrams

    An extended lesson about anagrams.

  10. Charades

    We meet charade clues at last.

  11. Reversals

    Things get turned around!

  12. Reverse hidden answers

    The exciting twist mentioned in lesson 5 finally makes an appearance.

  13. Containers and contents

    Words in and words around.

  14. Bits and pieces

    The crossword equivalent of scissors in origami (part 1).

  15. Deletions, substitutions and movements

    The crossword equivalent of scissors in origami (part 2).

  16. Lesson 16: compound anagrams

    Anagrams with deletions come back to bite us in a new form.

  17. Lesson 17: meta-clues

    Anything you can do, I can do meta.

  18. Lesson 18: &lits.

    The worlds of definitions and wordplay collide.

    This is the last lesson in Part I. Stay tuned for Part II!

Prerequisites

Familiarity with 'standard' crosswords.

Useful, but completely optional, bonuses include lateral thinking skills and an appetite for words.

Syllabus

All class materials, worksheets and solutions thereto will be posted on the official course subreddit, /r/introtocryptics.

Course content:

Part I: Know Thine Enemy

Topics include: anatomy of a crossword grid; anatomy of a clue; cryptic definitions; double definitions; hidden answers; palindromes; homophones; anagrams; charades; reversals; containers and contents; bits and pieces; deletions, substitutions and movements; compound anagrams; meta-clues; complex clues; &lits.

Part II: To Arms!

Various clue-level and crossword-level strategies for solving crosswords with minimal pain.

Part III: Sic Them on Someone Else!

How to create (good) clues and (good) crosswords of your own.

Part IV: Beyond the Beyond

A little about barred crosswords, crosswords with themes or special instructions, and crossword variants.

Additional information
Teacher qualifications
Latest Update
Intro to Cryptics: The Great Revival! (2013-06-28 07:11:23)

"Hello, all!

After an inexcusably-protracted six-month period of downtime, Introduction to Cryptic Crosswords is back on its feet and ready to plough on. This is actually my first time on reddit in six months: a number of life events and responsibilities hit me far harder than I'd anticipated and several side projects have suffered as a result.

I have reuploaded and reposted all lesson PDFs for Part I and all practice clues.up to and including those for lesson 14, Bits and Pieces. The final four sets of practice clues will follow shortly, as will Part II (how to solve clues and actual crosswords), which is currently being finished and finalized.

Thanks for your patience, and hope to see you on the subreddit!

--IU"

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