Cryptic Crossword Solving Tips & Tricks

This page will give all the necessary tips and tricks to easily solve Cryptic Crosswords like the Hindu Crossword.

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Traditional Crosswords, like the ones in Times of India, are the type where the answer for a particular clue is the direct meaning of the word/phrase given. Solving these requires a sound knowledge of the English Language rather than logical skills and intuition.

The other type of crosswords are the ones with cryptic clues, the answer to which can be obtained even if you have absolutely no idea what the end answer means!!! Cryptic crossword clues are different in the aspect that the clue given, when seen at first glance seems to bear absolutely no relation to the answer expected. But, that is the whole essence of Cryptic clues.

Decoding these seemingly incoherent words is the charm of cryptic clues. It is difficult as such to quantify the competence of one in solving cryptic clues as say, for a particular a person might solve it in a jiffy, while someone else might take hours and still have no clue ( no pun intended ! ) about it !

For those who are new to this wonderful pastime, I have briefly tried to explain the tricks of the trade which I hope will interest you enough to get involved in solving crosswords. Most of these tips would apply to the standards followed in the Hindu Crossword, but once you get the hang of solving cryptic crosswords, any crossword appearing in any newspaper/magazine should pose no threat to you or as they would proverbially say, the world is your playground.

Cryptic clues can be split into two parts, one which explains the meaning of the final result and the other part which has this answer encoded into it. Seems simple, doesn't it. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.The trouble starts when you try to find out which part gives the meaning an which part gives the encoded answer. I will get to this point a little later.

The most common types of wordplay involved in Cryptic clues are mentioned below, with detailed explanations following immediately after.




Excitement as tension explodes (9)


Friend follows fish part at last(7)

Double Definition

Give up and return(5)


Abnormal Roman way in a depression (7)

Hidden Words

In the clamp , I once saw a source of light (7)


The Llama went back to the shopping complex ( 1,4 )


Her feet, we hear are as light as this (7)


Fiery bird without a tail (7)


An anagram, lexicographically means "a word or phrase formed by jumbling the letters of another word/phrase". For example : anagrams of "cat" are atc,cta,act,tca,tac. These are the most common and the easiest ones to solve in a crossword.

Consider this clue : Excitement as tension explodes (9)
The answer to this is "sensation".

Sensation is an anagram of "as tension". But , how do we know that the answer is an anagram of "as tension" ? The trick here is to look for words which suggest the presence of anagrams. "Anagrams" indicate jumbling up, so you have to look for words which indicate that and are hence called anagram indicators.

Here, I will give a very brief list of words which I have come across, the rest you will identify with experience.The word may appear in any form in the clue i.e as a verb,noun,or an adverb.
Some examples are Confuse, stir, change, make, explode, wrong, rearrange, awkwardly, bad, play, broken, mad, crush and mend.
So, here in the clue, you have to conclude that "excitement" is the meaning and "explodes" suggests anagram.

A cheat code :: Whenever the clue contains absolutely arbitrary names like Ivan H. Foe or any other name with lots of initials, it is almost always an anagram clue. You can get more such examples with solutions in the "Anagrams" page.


As in Dumb-Charades, here a word/phrase is split across the clue.

For eg: Loan installment charge in Dubai for example (7)
Loan Installment gives "emi" , charge gives "rate" , so the answer is emirate. Dubai is one of the "United Arab Emirates".

A different kind of this clue could be..

Friend follows fish part at last(7)
Here, friend == ally , fish part == fin , ally follows fin , so the answer is finally !!

There is no particular way of identifying this type of clue. There are cases where particular words have to be substituted for other letters to solve these kind of clues.
The word outside the bracket has to be interpreted (in most cases) as the word/letters given inside the brackets.. about(re),prisoner(con),doctor(md,mb),former(ex),princess(di)...

A more comprehensive list can be found at the end of this tutorial.

Double Definition

These are more like direct clues where two meanings of the required answer are given together as a clue.

Give up and return(5)
The answer is "yield" which means both "to give up" and "return".

How do we identify such clues ??? Such clues are relatively short in length (5 to 6 words) and in plain english without confusing parts.

Acquit without charge (4)
The answer is "free".


A container clue is on in which one word is embedded or contained within another.

Abnormal Roman way in a depression (7)
Here you have to put the word via ("Roman Way") inside the word dent ("depression") which makes "deviant".

Words/phrase which suggest this type of clueing include "get together", "consumed","taken by","eaten by","along with" and any other phrase which suggests union. But, some care has to shown at this stage, the same indicators may also be used for a different type of clueing which is described next.

Hidden words

These are clues in which the answer is itself given in the clue albeit in a hidden form.

In the clamp , I once saw a source of light (7)
The answer is "lampion" which is hidden in "clamp I once" .

Relaxed, in a surcease,dreaming (5)
The answer is "eased" which is hidden in "surc-ease d-reaming".

The most obvious indicator of this type is "in", others are "part of", "hides","inside". First, take the number of letters of the answer, look for probable hidden answers, if you are not able to find any , then proceed to look for container clues.


These type of clues are those in which the answer can be got by reversing a sequence of letters.

The Llama went back to the shopping complex ( 1,4 )
Here, reverse Llama to get " a mall".

These types of clues can be identified by the presence of "reversed" "went back", "uphill" ,"flipped around" etc.


A homophone definition is a definition of a word that sounds the same as the answer, but is spelled differently i.e the words rhyme.

Her feet, we hear are as light as this (7)
The moment we see "we hear" or "i hear" , the clue definitely consists a homophone. For the above clue , we have to look for a rhyming word for feet, which is feat, then the anagram of "her feat" gives "feather" which is the answer.


Many new words can be formed from existing words by taking off letters from them and this is the concept applied in these kind of clues. There are mainly four types of deletion clues: Ones where letters are taken from the head , ones where the letters are taken from the end, ones where the first and the last letters are taken and ones where the letters are from the middle.

Star-turn, extremely hasty, is worthless (6)
Star-turn --> Anagram of star. Extremely hasty = Extremes of hasty = hy, giving trash, meaning worthless!

Wages out west aren't keeping with the times (4)
Here , out west means "w" is removed which gives "ages".

Some other examples: German Capital = G, Company Head = C, account briefly = ac.

Hope the above explanations were useful. Do check out the archives of the Hindu Crossword Solutions, for you might interesting clues with explanations.

Below, i have tried to give a exhaustive list of abbreviations, substitutions normally used in crosswords.I will add in more as and when I encounter them.

  1. All roman numerals ..Fifty == L, Hundred == C
  2. Hesitate == er , about == re
  3. doctor == mb,md,doc
  4. Princess == Di
  5. Model == T ( from the ford model T )
  6. first lady == Eve , first man == adam
  7. Symbol of elements ..silver == ag , gold == au
  8. editor == ed , learner, student , beginner == L
  9. French == de,le,la... German == der (The French = the in french, The german = The in german)
  10. church == ch
  11. worker == ant
  12. sailor == ab
  13. Former = ex
  14. Direction = n,e,s,w
These are not to be always implemented, but they work in most cases !!
I will keep updating these pages too because its difficult to remember all types and cases at once !

Have fun and hope you all become cruciverbalists !!!!!!

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