Cryptic crosswords for beginners: naked words | Crosswords


In the example clues below, I explain the two parts of each: the definition of the answer, given in bold type, and the wordplay – the recipe for assembling its letters. In a puzzle environment, of course, you also have the crossing letters, which greatly alleviate your solving load. Hence “crossword”.

This time, let’s look at a handy little device that’s in the category “guess the word I’m thinking of and change it a bit”. Here’s a pleasingly straightforward example from Tramp:

11ac Variety of fruit that’s peeled (5)
[ wordplay: synonym for ‘fruit’ without first & last letters (‘peeled’) ]
[ ORANGES – O – S ]
[ definition: variety ]

So once we remember that “fruit” can be plural, we peel off the O and S of ORANGES for a slightly different sense of “variety”, RANGE.

Of course, there’s often an extra step. Here’s Pasquale:

5d Puzzle imagined to be tricky – not the first or last (6)
[ wordplay: anagram (‘to be tricky’) of IMAGINED without first & last letters (‘not the first or last’) ]
[ anagram of MAGINE ]
[ definition: puzzle ]

So this time, we’re directly given the word we need to “shave”, but we must jumble it for the synonym of puzzle, ENIGMA. And with this one from Paul

6d Change reversed, having shaved my dog (4)
[ wordplay: synonym for ‘change’, backwards (‘reversed’) without first and last letters (‘having shaved my’) ]
[ MODIFY, backwards – M – Y ]
[ definition: dog ]

… we first have to work out that we’re looking for MODIFY, but get the extra hint that the letters we’re shaving are M and Y en route to FIDO.

As when we looked at the removal of just the first letter of something, there are all kinds of words and phrases that setters may use to tell you to remove those outer letters. Also, that removal may give you only part of the answer. Qaos goes for a different kind of fruity image …

6ac Playing well, half-naked and relaxed (8)
[ wordplay: synonym for ‘playing well’ + HALF with outer letters removed (‘naked’) ]
[ IN FORM + HALF – H – F ]
[ definition: relaxed ]

… in a clue where you ignore some of the punctuation to get to INFORMAL. And when we looked at the removal of just the last letter of something, setter Pasquale reminded us that some words are used in different ways in different clues: “endless” being one which can be used to say “take off both ends” as well as “take off the end” (the end at the end, that is).

The instruction can also be done playfully. Let’s finish this section with an example from Screw.

4d Con man’s side-splitting accents (5)
[ wordplay: synonym for ‘accents’ minus first & last letters (‘side-splitting’) ]
[ BROGUES – B – S ]
[ definition: con man ]

After a couple of reads, or with some helpful crossing letters, we see that while this Del Boy-like character may have a hilarious set of funny voices, it’s the sides of the word BROGUES that need to “split” (in the informal sense) before we get the answer ROGUE.

Newcomers: any questions? And seasoned solvers: what have I missed?

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