My specially designed method of clue analysis is designed to make cryptic crosswords possible for beginners. Analysed Puzzles show how each clue is constructed, through formatting. This gives you a lot more information with which to solve the clues; in fact, if you want, you can approach an analysed puzzle as you would a quick crossword (albeit a particularly devious one).

This is not intended as a comprehensive guide to solving. For that, you might be better off consulting Don Manley's Chambers Crossword Manual, or any of the other books on the subject, or - if you're especially lazy - Wikipedia. But it is possible to get to grips with cryptics intuitively, so long as you have some awareness of the types of device that you will encounter. And besides, learning about clue types and so forth (as the books will allow you to do) is no substitute for real practice, on real crosswords - and this is what Analysed Puzzles are useful for.

Mastering Analysed Puzzles is the perfect introduction to solving normal (that is, unanalysed) cryptics, as they explain how cryptic clues work, without oversimplifying them or just giving you answers. I hope the method works for you!

A selection of analysed puzzles is linked to at the bottom of this page. To learn what to do with them, read on...

The system of clue analysis works as follows:

Sections of the clue in bold are definitions. The solution will be a word or phrase which directly corresponds to the definition. For instance:

Discusses, with friends initially becoming monster manipulators (11)

Here, the word in bold is a synonym for the solution - CONTROLLERS.

Underlined words are 'fodder', and lead to part or all of the solution. This might be a definition or synonym (chap for MAN), an abbreviation (sailors for RN), or simply the word itself (bun for BUN). Alternatively, the letters of the fodder might be manipulated, perhaps as an anagram (name + anagram indicator for MANE) or a reversal (rats + reversal indicator for STAR). Anyhow, the fodder makes up the substance of the solution.

In the example above, discusses denotes CONFERS, and monster leads to TROLL. You have to work out this sort of thing for yourself: when doing so, think about factors like word length and any crossing letters you already have in the puzzle. Don't forget to keep the definition (manipulators) in mind at all times too. Using a dictionary or thesaurus is also not forbidden!

Friends in the clue above remains simply friends - but it is conditioned by the following word, 'initially'...

So: other words in the clue (both plain and italicised) are descriptive, and explain how the fodder relates to the definition. Any number of devices might be used here! Anagrams are one of the most common, and to help you further anagram indicators are italicised. Here are some examples to explain the sort of devices which might be used, and how they are indicated:

Parking in reserved lines (4)

Parking leads to just P, which is a common enough abbreviation. There are lots of abbreviations in crosswords, as Wikipedia is well aware. Reserved gives COY, which is less easy to guess than P, but do note that as the solution is only four letters long we must be dealing with fairly short words here - COY or SHY are definitely the most likely. So, then we can put P in COY and find COPY, which is just about a synonym for one sense of the word lines.

Provide a fit of pique (5)

Here, the descriptive phrase 'a fit of' suggests that the following section of the clue should be rearranged. Note that I've used italics to highlight the anagram indicator. So the solution must be an anagram of pique which means provide. I'll leave that one to you...

Stop watching that which disgusts you (4-3)

This clue is virtually what's known as a 'double definition' - it's made up of two different definitions of the answer, rather than one definition and some wordplay. The answer is a phrase which means both that which disgusts you and stop watching. Oh, and the answer's TURN-OFF. I've called that which disgusts you the definition and stop watching the wordplay because of the hyphen, which indicates a noun phrase rather than a verb. Don't expect cruciverbalists not to be horrible pedants.

Envy, perhaps, clairvoyant declared for real (7)

'Perhaps' is often used in its sense of 'for example' - Envy, perhaps is a definition by example of SIN. Then, we have 'declared'. This is one of many words which often indicates homophone-based goings-on, and so what we want here is a word which sounds like clairvoyant... or how about "seer"? "CERE"? Ah yes - that leaves SINCERE, or for real. Super.

Queries task supervisor's grip (4)

Nice and easy, this one - the answer is held in the grip of task supervisor. Obviously, it's SKSU. I mean, ASKS.

Eat up, woman! (4)

This is a down clue, not an across one, and so the solver should immediately latch on to the word 'up' here, which often indicates a reversal. 'Climbing', 'rising', and so on are also common reversal indicators in down clues; for across clues you will find things like 'returning' and 'back'. So, we're looking for a four-letter word that means eat, which can be reversed to give a woman of some sort. Aha - DINE, which reverses to give ENID, a woman's name.

Discusses, with friends initially becoming monster manipulators (11)

In this one, 'friends initially' is just F - so what we have is CONFERS, but with the F in that word becoming TROLL. And this makes CONTROLLERS, who are manipulators.

Most solving guides will offer a list of all 'clue types' - double definitions, homophones, container clues, and so forth. That's all well and good, but I prefer a more flexible approach towards thinking about solving. Setters often use a variety of devices even within single clues, and in my opinion one key sign of a good setter is how freely they manage to use language to encode their solutions. In my view the most useful distinction to make is that between 'fodder' and description: once you've worked this out, half the battle is done. Analysed crosswords, doing this for you, will give you a great place to start solving - I wish you luck!...

So - have a go at some of these. They're arranged roughly in order of difficulty, with the easiest first...

Because I'm just a really helpful person, I have begun the process of adding hover text to all of these, to give further assistance with solving. Try hovering over words in the clues for more help. If nothing happens, try again soon!...


Not Singing in Key

A pub surely not satisfying fire regulations?

MD - a tribute to a certain TV show

This is a Crossword

Elaborate bedroom containing not me, but (shortly) you and I (7)