I finally tried my hand at a cryptic crossword. I don't really have any experience with cryptic crosswords, or crosswords for that matter so I probably broke like 300 rules.

For example, 17 down is actually misspelled (I left out the third letter in the seven letter answer.)

Anyway, I spent a lot of time on this so I hope whoever solves it in like three seconds has some fun.

Also, any tips/feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Cryptic Crossword


1 Heads up! Stay undercover, Sherlock Holmes, investigator. (5)

5 Quickly, get in as appointed (4)

8 Forever a mixed one (3)

9 All around alabama, post soldiers visit parks (5)

11 Confused about great dog's head (4)

13 Before him in hell (3)

14 Associate lines through Africa without options? (6)

16 Again, they almost quarrel in an Arabic note from behind (4,5) (this is by far the most badly written clue)

18 Deserted and upset men invade (4)

19 Begins a simple preposition (2)

22 A stray dog bites up a man until he's cut (4)

24 Character carrying extra items (5)

25 Not even in disdain, everyone is normal (4)

26 Good, troubled eyes are bursting with drops (6)

28 Bad, but it could not rip! (4)

29 Herds away sis from water (5)


1 A terribly cut off cut off (5)

2 A slangy merchant and a Southern girl (5)

3 Half of em start, half soil (3)

4 Almost whole, it questions unity (9)

6 Hear a sharp trim (5)

7 A sheet of endless judges (4)

10 Drink until you're nearly deathly (3)

11 Twins in Australian advertisements (4)

12 Confusing, nearly-new data rises (2,4)

14 A headless armed sally (4)

17 More precipitation above mountains (7) (spelled wrong in the puzzle, missing the third letter)

20 Prophets tower of hearsay (5)

21 Do th' at again after the boob (1,3)

22 Hydrogen rises up epically (4)

23 Flying object falls: it's wood (4)

24 Apparently looking underwater (3)

27 In conjunction with itself, doubly mediocre (2)

  • $\begingroup$ Is the clue for 16 down supposed to be for 17 down? $\endgroup$
    – Chowzen
    Oct 21, 2018 at 21:25
  • $\begingroup$ There is no 19 down in the puzzle (right?), maybe numbered wrong. (--->20 D ?) $\endgroup$
    – Chowzen
    Oct 21, 2018 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ Same with 26 D --> 27 D. $\endgroup$
    – Chowzen
    Oct 21, 2018 at 21:30
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Chowzen I wouldn't really advise that - only about 5% of users know the sandbox exists, and only about 5% of those users actually check it regularly. (A message in The Sphinx's Lair would do much better.) $\endgroup$
    – Quintec
    Oct 22, 2018 at 0:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @gabbo1092 that's right $\endgroup$
    – awesomepi
    Oct 23, 2018 at 18:01

2 Answers 2


Many of these clues don't really work, so far as I can see, and at least one clue (23a) is missing outright. But this might be the solution, and if not then probably most of the words are right :-).

S U S H I # A S A P E # E O N # # H # A V A L E T # D E A N E L L # E Q U A T E R E A R G U A R D # # # # A R I D # A S A # S N I P # O W E T R A I T # S A N E A # G E Y S E R # R T E A R # O A S I S

Some comments on the setting, as requested:

Unfortunately, scarcely any of these clues is actually a valid cryptic clue! The thing is that there is a fairly strict grammar of cryptic crossword clues. A clue should have (1) a precise definition, (2) a cryptic part ("wordplay") leading to the same word, and (3) nothing else (except maybe some sort of connective like "is" or "gives" that appropriately marks the transition from definition to cryptic part or from cryptic part to definition. There are a few exceptions to this pattern, such as "cryptic definitions", but for the most part this is how it goes. And then the cryptic part also follows rules; for instance, anagrams and substrings and reversals and so on need to be explicitly marked with words that have the right sort of sense. Almost none of the clues in this crossword, if I am understanding them right, obey these rules.

I'll give some examples.

Let's begin at the beginning. 1 across is actually more or less valid wordplay: "heads" indicates that we take the first letters of what follows, and these yield S,U,S,H,I to make the answer SUSHI. But there's no definition! (Also, I would prefer either "heads of ..." or "... heads"; you can't really say "heads X" to mean the heads of X.) 5 across is actually a valid cryptic clue, in its entirety: well done! But it's considered slightly bad form for a substring clue to start at the start, or end at the end, of the text it's hidden in. And I'm not wild about ASAP as an answer because it's an abbreviation rather than a word. 8 across does have a definition and a cryptic part, but the definition doesn't really define the word: EON does not mean "forever". Also, nitpickily, the word "a" in the clue is not doing anything. 9 across has its heart in the right place but various imperfections. Presumably "soldiers" is cluing VET, but surely "vet" (short for "veteran") is a single soldier, and if you want soldiers then they would have to be VETS. I think the word "visit" is simply not doing anything and is only there to make the surface reading work; you aren't allowed to do that. And then "parks" is (I think) the definition; on the basis that a VALET parks your car; but it's not really a definition. If you'd found a way to make it, say, "Parker" instead of "parks" then that might work, since a valet (in the relevant sense) is a person who parks things. 11 across has two major problems. Most importantly, it's an "indirect anagram": you have to think of DANE for "great dog" (which itself isn't really fair) and then anagram it; that's considered unfair; if something is to be anagrammed then it needs to appear explicitly in the clue. Second, the word "about" isn't doing anything. Again, you aren't allowed to have words in the clue that perform no function other than making the surface reading nicer. 13 across seems to be like 1 across: wordplay but no definition. And the wordplay seems broken: if I'm understanding correctly how it works (which I may not be), we're meant to understand that "him" means H (why?) and that "before" means "after" (why?). 14 across has an incorrect definition (EQUATE doesn't mean "associate") and incorrect wordplay (if you remove ORS from EQUATORS you get EQUAT, not EQUATE).

That's probably enough to give the general picture, so I'll leave it there. The general thing that's lacking is accuracy. As someone else has said, you've made it extra-hard for yourself by making a grid with few empty cells, so that you have a lot of short words which are awkward to clue, but I don't think that's the main difficulty: aside from the misspelling in 17d, you've done a decent job of filling the grid. The only real problem is that the clues are too impressionistic.

  • $\begingroup$ "before" of 13 across might mean the first letter of "him." Although that doesn't leave anything else... $\endgroup$
    – DontMindMe
    Jan 31, 2020 at 19:37

I haven't solved it, as there are still problems with the grid not matching the clues (e.g. 4d), but I will offer some advice:

  1. Use crossword setting software. This will help you avoid errors like forgetting to renumber, or having the clue length not match the grid. I use Crossword Compiler.

  2. Make sure the grid is appropriate to the crossword. You have chosen an American-style grid, which has far fewer black spaces than a typical cryptic. Some of the pain you are experiencing is likely due to trying to find cryptic clues for lots of short words.

  3. Find a proofreader or two, to find these errors before you hit publish. Someone on Puzzling.SE may be willing to help, or if you follow some setters you like on Twitter, see if any of their other followers are interested.

  4. Don't give up. This can be very rewarding even if only a few people get to enjoy your puzzles.


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