Anyone well-acquainted with me knows that I am never far from a puzzle book or app. I love solving puzzles and I truly believe it helps keep my brain young and agile. I adore all sorts of puzzles–Double Trouble, Rows Garden, Marching Bands, Cryptograms, Laddergrams, Flower Power, Logic Problems, and the list goes on. But the type that really rouses my puzzle-solving passion is the Cryptic Crossword.
A cryptic crossword is very different from an ordinary crossword puzzle. If you’re not familiar with this British style of word puzzle, you are missing out on some of the most fun you can have on paper.
Other than reading a good thriller, of course.
What’s so great about cryptic crosswords?
In an ordinary crossword puzzle, you are given fairly straightforward clues to help you guess the word to enter. In a cryptic crossword, each clue is a riddle!
The clue might involve an anagram or pun or something almost resembling a game of charades. It might use a homophone or a code. Or, the answer might be hidden in plain sight right inside the clue. You never know what you’re going to get with each clue, which is part of what makes it so fun to solve.
Another fun factor comes from thinking outside the box, which is a skill you must master in order to solve these tricky puzzles. I also happen to think that developing this skill helps me craft the mysteries, thrillers, and suspense stories I write. Creativity and the ability to turn things around and see them from a number of perspectives are skills I use every day to solve puzzles—and to write them, too!
Let me show you what I mean
To give you a better idea of how much fun cryptic crosswords can be, I’m going to share a few of the clues from the one I’m currently working on. This comes from an online source, Lovatts Crossword and Puzzles. They feature a free cryptic crossword puzzle each day, so it’s a great way to break into this fun and fulfilling pastime.
They also provide a pretty good tutorial for those new to the game. Here are some clues from a Lovatt cryptic crossword, and I’ll walk you through how I worked them out.
Clue: Edward the Second very keen to be second king of the Israelites. (1) Edward the second refers to the letter “D,” the second letter of Edward. (2) Another word for very keen is AVID. (3) Put D and AVID together to get DAVID, an Israelite king.
Clue: Partly scarred arm, yet joined Soviet force. The answer is hidden right inside the clue: scarred arm, yet. The red army is the Soviet force.
Clue: Serve Lady Twist in a negative way. The answer is an anagram of serve + lady. Twisted. And the answer is something that means, “in a negative way.” That told me it was an adverb, probably ending in “ly,” so I unscrambled the rest of the letters and came up with the answer: adversely.
Clue: Heard rep lick a model! This one is a homophone. You can hear the answer if you say the clue out loud. Go ahead, try it. Replica, which is a model.
Clue: Be amusing like hiker’s mattress. For this one, I had to think of another term for a hiker’s mattress and another word for amusing. When I thought BEDROLL, I knew I had the answer. A hiker sleeps on a bedroll and if you want to be amusing, be droll.
Clue: Commercial lines for scanning pub etiquette. (1) Another name for a pub is a bar. (2) Etiquette is a type of social code. (3) Put bar and code together to get BARCODE—commercial lines for scanning.
Clue: The best approximation are in nest. The grammatical error in this clue hinted at the solution. I took ARE and inserted it into NEST to get NEAREST, which is the best approximation.
Clue: Spooner says to nag Mums over big wine bottles. Whenever you see Spooner in a clue, you know you’re dealing with a Spoonerism—a bit of wordplay where the beginning sounds of two words are swapped. So instead of nag Mums, it would be Magnums, which are big wine bottles.
See how much fun this is!
I hope you’ll give cryptic crosswords a try
Take a shot at solving some cryptic crosswords, and don’t be discouraged if you struggle over each clue. These are challenging puzzles. When I first discovered them, it might’ve taken me a week or two to complete a single crossword. With practice and experience, I got the hang of it and now I solve them way too fast and I wish they lasted longer.
Why not give them a try?
Another great source I use for puzzle fun is The Wall Street Journal puzzle page. I especially love Rows Gardens and Marching Bands. If you like puzzles, I encourage you to go check it out.
As I mentioned, I really believe I benefit from solving these puzzles on a regular basis. It keeps the neurons, synapses, and whatever else inside my brain active, making connections, getting stronger. I think this activity also contributes to making me a better writer, especially when it comes to plotting complex story lines and putting all the pieces together in a satisfying way.
Biggest benefit of all—it’s a whole lot of fun!
Don’t miss out. Give your brain some entertaining exercise today.
How about you? Do you solve puzzles? Have you tried cryptic crosswords? Tell us about it in the comments.