From the Guardian Cryptic crossword No 26,271, set by Chifonie:

Mean to confine flower that's fibrous (7)

The confirmed answer is


I can see the definition, and I think part of the wordplay, but not all of it. Here's my understanding:

fibrous = def
mean (to) = TRY
flower = some river, presumably ING
So we have TRY confine ING = TRINGY.

But where does the first letter come from? (Or maybe I should phrase it this way: how does it get into first position?)

  • $\begingroup$ How is this not essentially a line of a riddle?... I would argue it is a short "real" riddle. Fair enough, it's about how to solve that riddle, but a riddle all the same $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Nov 20 '14 at 10:45
  • $\begingroup$ @d'alar'cop Cryptic crossword puzzles are intended to have a unique solution. Sometimes there's another solution that the setter didn't see and cross-letters are needed to know which word is right, but that's not the norm. Furthermore, this question isn't calling to find matching words, but to explain why this particular word fits. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Nov 20 '14 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I understand, and thank you. But I hope you see my point. If you put a good 5 of those together you will have a "real" riddle. $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Nov 20 '14 at 11:01
  • $\begingroup$ @d'alar'cop No, typical riddles do not operate on the same principle. Crossword clues that are not cryptic crossword clues are indeed mini-riddles, but cryptic crosswords require two ways of deriving the answer, precisely in order to remove the guessing aspect. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Nov 20 '14 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ "typical riddles"... I think I see our loggerheads, we define "riddle" differently sir. $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Nov 20 '14 at 11:17

You're on the wrong path: there's a different breakdown where the S is part of the confining word.

I read “mean” as STINGY, and “flower” as the R that abbreviates “river”.


Maybe a different take, since I'm not a native enlgish speaker, but here's what I make from it:

'mean to confine a flower' - a piece of string, or 'stringy'. (when you buy a bouquet, there's often a small piece of string tied around the stems to keep it together). 'fibrous' - consisting of fibres, which look like a set of small strings?

  • $\begingroup$ Cryptic clues are hardly ever as literal as that. $\endgroup$ – h34 Jan 2 '15 at 5:12

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