Is it fair to link clues both ways? E.g. can I do:

1a. Local girl gives 8 (4, 4)  
8d. 1 gives smooth head (5, 5)

I'm quite libertarian. What could I get away with in the Guardian?

If I have to share the solutions, then I suppose the answer is no, it isn't fair. But feel free to do post them as ancillary answers if you get it.

  • $\begingroup$ @Gilles I'm quite libertarian. What could I get away with in the Guardian? $\endgroup$ Oct 20, 2018 at 9:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ could you change the question too? i'm fairly sure The Guardian won't publish lewd questions - cryptic or not - such as this $\endgroup$
    – JMP
    Oct 20, 2018 at 9:44
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    $\begingroup$ @JonMarkPerry Nothing in the question is necessarily lewd, and newspapers not infrequently publish crossword clues that are suggestive. I think they would generally frown on ones that are genuinely sexual; e.g., if the answers to these do actually refer, as dirty-minded readers are encouraged to conjecture, to sexual acts then they probably wouldn't be acceptable in UK newspaper crosswords. But if the answers turn out to be quite innocent and the lewdness is all in your mind -- why, then, that's fine. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Oct 20, 2018 at 21:29

4 Answers 4


The construction of 1a is obvious enough without knowing the definition.


I’ve never seen this done before. I’ve seen examples where you’re told several clues lack a definition, which is the answer to a particular clue. But there’s no circularity there.


Disclaimer: I haven't solved the clues in the question, and obviously if I had I might think differently.

It looks to me -- perhaps wrongly -- as if these clues amount to this: "Local girl (4,4) gives smooth head (5,5)". (Of course that isn't a valid structure for an actual cryptic clue, but hopefully you see what I mean.) In terms of Hagen von Eitzen's answer, this feels much more like "X is son of Y" and "Y is father of X" rather than "y is x-3" and "x is 2y". Both clues are saying essentially the same thing.

This is more reliably bad in mathematics than it is in crosswords, and with a few cross-checking letters in hand these clues might become quite easy. It feels rather unkind, though.

I don't recall (though my memory is extremely fallible) ever seeing a pair of clues linked in this sort of way in an actual crossword. On the other hand, of course you do sometimes get a single clue whose solution is distributed between multiple spaces in the grid, so it's not like it's unheard of to have several spaces' worth of answer derived from a single piece of information.

For what little it's worth -- and, again, it's worth extra-little since I don't actually know how these clues work yet -- I don't think I would use these clues as they stand. Two mutually-referring clues giving two different relationships between their answers might be a different matter. (I would expect it to be difficult to come up with good clues of that sort.)

[EDITED to add:] Now Neil W has given us the solutions. Do I need to change any of the above? Well, I was right about the structure and about how the clues relate to one another, and I still dislike the redundancy. On the other hand, the fact that Neil found the solution -- fairly easily, if I'm understanding his comments right -- is evidence that the redundancy probably doesn't make the clues unfairly difficult. (And, knowing the answer, I agree that the first one seems like it shouldn't be too hard to think of.)


This may depend. Solutions should be unique (and fair to find). Mathematically speaking you are asking for $x$ and $y$ such that $y=f(x)$ and $x=g(y)$. This is fine if $x=f(g(x))$ (or $y=g(f(y))$) has a unique solution (given additional constraints perhaps) - e.g, staying in the realm of maths, "$y$ is three less than $x$" and "$x$ is twice as big as $y$" leads to $x=6$, $y=3$, whereas (now a more real-life example) "X is son of Y" and "Y is father of X" tells you nothing (except that both are male persons); then again, a third linked clue may resolve the circularity (e.g., "Z is latin and a movie starring both X and Y")

  • $\begingroup$ Bonus: Find my X,Y,Z $\endgroup$ Oct 20, 2018 at 12:17

I put these circular references in an (unpublished) crossword.

3 Counterpart of 9 can turn Roller too (both ways) (5)
9 Counterpart of 3 can start zero motion (6)

The solutions are

3 Rotor (Roller - Rolls Royce - RR, anagram of "rr too")
9 Stator (anagram of "start 0")

Regardless of whether the clues are any good, would this be allowed?


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