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A puzzle that involves cryptic clues of the type found in cryptic crosswords, but is not a cryptic crossword. DO NOT use this tag for puzzles that are stated cryptically; use [enigmatic-puzzle] instead. Use [cryptic-crosswords] for whole crosswords; [crossword-clues] for crossword clues not obeying the conventions of cryptic crosswords (even if they are stated cryptically).

What is a cryptic clue ?

In essence, a cryptic clue leads to its answer as long as it is read in the right way. What the clue appears to say when read normally (the surface reading) is a distraction and usually has nothing to do with the clue answer. The challenge is to find the way of reading the clue that leads to the solution.

A typical clue consists of two parts, the definition and the wordplay. It provides two ways of getting to the answer. The definition, which usually exactly matches the part of speech, tense, and number of the answer, is in essence the same as any 'straight' crossword clue, a synonym for the answer. It usually appears at the start or the end of a clue.

The other part (the subsidiary indication, or wordplay) provides an alternative route to the answer (this part would be a second definition in the case of double definition clues). One of the tasks of the solver is to find the boundary between definition and wordplay and insert a mental pause there when reading the clue cryptically. This wordplay gives the solver some instructions on how to get to the answer another way. Sometimes the two parts are joined with a link word or phrase such as "from", "gives" or "could be". There are many sorts of wordplay, such as anagrams and double definitions.

Because a typical cryptic clue describes its answer in detail and often more than once, the solver can usually have a great deal of confidence in the answer once it has been determined. The clues are 'self-checking'.

From the Wikipedia article on cryptic crosswords

How can I make one?

See the Cryptic Clue Guide for information on how to make a cryptic clue.


Here is an example (taken from The Guardian crossword of 6 August 2002, set by "Shed").

Very sad unfinished story about rising smoke (8)

is a clue for TRAGICAL. This breaks down as follows.

  • "Very sad" is the definition
  • "unfinished story" gives "tal" ("tale" with one letter missing; i.e., unfinished)
  • "rising smoke" gives "ragic" (a "cigar" is a smoke and this is a down clue so "rising" indicates that "cigar" should be written up the page; i.e., backwards)
  • "about" means that the letters of "tal" should be put either side of "ragic", giving "tragical"
  • "(8)" says that the answer is a single word of eight letters.

 How to solve them

See for more information on solving this type of puzzle.

What tag to use

Use this tag for puzzles that use cryptic clues but are not cryptic crosswords. Use for actual cryptic crosswords. There are also and for use when the clues do not follow the conventions of cryptic crosswords described above.