Is it safe to use indicators that only work "locally"?

Such as


1 Answer 1


If you're doing "local" clues, indicate it somehow

In other words, yes it is fair to use "quetzal" for Q if the crossword has a Game of Life or cellular automata theme (preferably with the fact that there is a theme called out somewhere). The solver is primed to be thinking in that direction. Thus using "locale-specific" terminology is fair. Or, you could indicate the context within the clue, for example with "Conway's/Dave Greene's quetzal".

However, solvers would probably riot if you tried to use something that specific in a standard crossword as a one-off with no warning.

As an example, see @jafe's cryptic crossword Never fear, Friday's cryptic is here! (specifically the instructions; I'm not going to spoil the answer).

Nineteen thematic answers have "in-universe" definitions. For example, Scrooge McDuck could be defined as "famous billionaire" rather than "Disney character".

The definition "famous billionaire" would be unfair for "Scrooge McDuck" in a standard crossword. But because it is explicitly indicated that this crossword has a theme, and themed definitions are to be expected, the crossword is fun instead of unfair.

What counts as a "local" clue requiring extra indication is occasionally a judgement call, and some things that I might consider absurdly "local" (e.g. British military terminology) are simply accepted as "normal" due to cryptics' UK roots. Making clues clearer and more unambiguous would never go amiss.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.