A cryptic crossword clue is given as "Pay by a quarter to eight". 5 letters. The answer from Wordplays is "screw" and it fits other answers across. But why? I've looked at it forwards, backwards and upside down but it makes no sense. Anyone have any idea?


2 Answers 2


My explanation is

A screw is the pay you are getting - "I am on a good screw."
Lexico has for screw
5 An amount of salary or wages.

It starts with S - south - a compass point - a quarter.
Lexico has for quarter
5 The direction of one of the points of the compass, especially as a direction from which the wind blows.

It ends with CREW - an "eight" - a rowing crew.
Lexico has for eight
1.5 An eight-oared rowing boat or its crew.

So that is a quarter S + eight CREW = SCREW.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This is definitely correct. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ "Pay a quarter by eight" may have been a better clue, as S is "by" crew. Screw is never pay to, just pay or compensation. If anything it means extract payment from - screw it out of them (as in thumbscrews or the like). $\endgroup$
    – mckenzm
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ @mckenzm - But if it were changed the way you suggest, the surface sense would be blown. If you are going to do that, you might as well start over and completely rewrite the clue. $\endgroup$ Commented May 19, 2020 at 0:40

According to multiple dictionaries, including Collins, a British dictionary, screw is chiefly British slang for salary, wages, i.e. pay. That covers the straight clue.

For the cryptic clue... I'm not sure about the following, but one of the definitions for the Cockney rhyming slang four-by-two is screw as in prison office. And four-by-two is dividing eight into quarters.

It's not really satisfying, but it sort of fits.

  • 16
    $\begingroup$ "screw" is British slang for so many things: sex, prison warders, ... I'm British and I didn't even know about the "pay" meaning. $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2020 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ Ah ok. I want familiar with that meaning. Sort of makes sense. Thanks for both answers. $\endgroup$
    – Seagullos6
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 0:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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