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Full disclosure: These clues are part of Day 9 of Daniel Peake's Puzzlevent


I am new to Cryptic Crosswords and I'm stuck on a few and would like some hints to solve them (I'm NOT looking for full answers, just nudges to try and help me work them out). I understand that there is often a definition and some lateral thinking involved in these kind of clues but I'm not very good at actually spotting them! I can usually understand how to get from the clue to an answer when I have both though.

The clues I am having trouble with are below, along with a few of my thoughts:

  1. Construct river bordering six sons
    • Bordering may mean that each half is a separate clue and I put one after the other to make a word
  2. Get worse, remove head and pass
    • "Get worse" might be the definition - I need to remove the first letter(s) and maybe anagram the answer?
  3. Moving duet has note for composition
    • Something to do with an anagram of "duet"?
  4. Remove fish without experience
    • A word which I can remove "FISH" (or maybe a specific type of fish) from
  5. Beginning of working television?
    • Question marks often mean lateral thinking
    • Alphabetically must fall between "ND..." and "RD..." (one of the additional clues is that the answers are in alphabetical order)
      • Fairly sure it starts "ON..." but that relies on my other answers being correct!
  6. Umpire has Latin law - it's instinct!
    • May have something to do with the latin word for law but I can't find a translation
    • Alphabetically must fall between "RD..." and "SE..."
      • Fairly sure it starts "RE..." but that relies on my other answers being correct!

I also know that all the clues are in alphabetical order and, that clues 1-4 fall alphabetically between "DEN..." and "HA...". I also know that "DEVISE" and "EXPEL" are valid answers but I can't work out which clue they come from.

Any and all help will be much appreciated

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Bordering may mean that each half is a separate clue and I put one after the other to make a word

No it can't. This is a severe misunderstanding of how cryptic clues work; cryptic clues have both a definition for the answer that would be acceptable in a "straight" crossword, and entirely separately, they also have wordplay also leading to the answer. Several of your guesses seem to imply that the whole thing is wordplay, without leaving room for a definition. For example:

A word which I can remove "FISH" (or maybe a specific type of fish) from

That can't work - indicators need to grammatically apply to the words they modify. All cryptic wordplay can be read as either descriptions of how a word is modified, or instructions for how to modify it yourself. For instance, "Consider removing fish for communist (3)" could clue RED (removing "gar" from "regard"). Here's how this clue breaks down:

"For" there is a dividing word; the left part is the wordplay, working to give you the definition on the right.

"Consider removing fish" must be read as "[synonym for "consider"], removing [synonym for "fish"]". Note that this way, the wordplay applies to the word it modifies. If you just had "removing fish", there wouldn't be any indication of what to remove it from, unless you had "remove fish from gauge" or something to that effect.

[...] I need to remove the first letter(s) and maybe anagram the answer?

If that's the case, you haven't left any room for the definition in the clue! Remember, every cryptic clue has both wordplay and definition.

Additionally, "synonymize, then anagram" as a construction is generally considered bad form. It's called an "indirect anagram", and most cryptic setters (and publishers) will not allow it.


I've solved this puzzle - its clues do have some sketchy bits to them. (The setter enjoys using "has" for concatenation, which is definitely invalid in my book.) Here are some hints for the clues you mention:

Construct river bordering six sons

This uses an abbreviation you may not be familiar with (though you can probably guess it), and a river you also may not be familiar with (hint: it's in the UK).

Get worse, remove head and pass

"Get worse" probably isn't the best way to define the word here. I would go for "suffer a setback", maybe.

Moving duet has note for composition

Your intuition is correct here, but that's not all there is to the clue. (That comment about "has" is relevant here.)

Remove fish without experience

This clue uses a fairly atypical fish. Also, "without" is being used in a more archaic sense.

Beginning of working television?

If your guess is correct, then what could it correspond to in the wordplay?

Umpire has Latin law - it's instinct!

The setter's bad habit strikes again. (And your intuition about wanting Latin for "law" is correct. The word you want shouldn't be too hard to find, though it may not be the first result you see.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, this has been really helpful. I have managed to get 6. = rot13(ersyrk) and 2. = rot13(ryncfr) (although I'm not sure how the "pass" helped). By process of elimination (knowing everything is alphabetical), I have 1. = rot13(qrivfr). I can see that "six" is VI and I have heard of the rot13(Qrivmrf evire) but I can't make the connection between that and the final answer... Still working on the other ones :D $\endgroup$ – lioness99a Dec 14 '18 at 13:11
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    $\begingroup$ @lioness99a: In 2, "pass" (think of time) is the definition. What goes before is the wordplay that tells you how to get your answer: Remove the "head", i.e. the first letter of a word meaning "get worse" (again). In 1, the river "borders" the six sons -- it forms a border around them. The river itself is in Scotland and it is popular with crossword setters. $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Dec 14 '18 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ "has note" often implies you need to add a letter A - G or Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti $\endgroup$ – Chris Cudmore Dec 14 '18 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ I've managed all of them now, thanks all! $\endgroup$ – lioness99a Dec 21 '18 at 11:00

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