Cryptic crosswords are a special type of crossword puzzle where clues combine a definition with wordplay. Use [crosswords] where the clues don't obey the conventions of cryptic crosswords; [cryptic-clues] or [crossword-clues] for clues not assembled into whole crosswords.

A Cryptic crossword is a crossword puzzle where each clue is a word puzzle in and of itself. Cryptic crosswords are particularly popular in the United Kingdom (where they originated) Ireland, the Netherlands, and in several Commonwealth nations, including Australia, Canada, India, and New Zealand. In the United States, cryptics are sometimes known as "British-style" crosswords.

Most clues are composed of two parts: a definition, and a wordplay. The wordplay describes how to arrange the letters to form the word; types of word plays include abbreviations, anagrams, hidden words, deleting and adding letters, assembling multiple parts, etc.


Here is an example of a typical cryptic crossword clue (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.

Use in preference to for cryptic clues that aren't part of a crossword puzzle. Use for crosswords whose clues don't follow the conventions for cryptic clues.