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Big Dave’s Little Guide to Cryptic Crosswords

Miscellaneous Constructs

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These are not, in themselves, clue types but are constructs that can be used be used in most of the clue types, particularly charades.

abbreviation – part of a word used instead of the whole. This is one of the most common constructs, there are too many to list but these are some common examples:

A – adult (old film certificate)
A – answer
B – bishop in chess notation
C – constant (mathematics) [1]
CH – Companion of Honour / companion
DD – Divinitatis Doctor [Latin] / Doctor of Divinity / theologian / bishop
ER – Elizabeth Regina / Queen
N – knight in chess notation
RA – Royal Academician / artist
TA – Territorial Army / volunteers
V – vide [Latin] – see
W – with
Z – Zambia (IVR code)

Some examples:

Science that chooses to accept single constant (6) [DT 25892]
OPTICS, the scientific study of sight and the behaviour of light (science), is made up from OPTS (chooses) around (to accept) I (single) and C (constant)

See lofted shot going round bunker (6) [T 95]
A SKIER, a lofted shot, going round V (vide / see, Latin) giving SKIVER, someone who does a bunk (bunker)

across-clue construct – a construct that only works when used with an across clue. This is much rarer than the down-clue construct, and usually refers to going from the west to the east. An example of its use in a clue:

Woman of 27 heading west (3) [T 118]
Heading west tells you to reverse AVE, the answer to 27 across in this particular puzzle, to get EVA, a woman

alliteration – the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of several words in close succession. An example of its use in a clue:

This is what William Wordsworth wrote (12) [DT 25956]
Here what William Wordsworth wrote is an example of ALLITERATION
– strictly speaking the “w” in wrote is not usually pronounced

clue reference – sometimes a number in a clue is an indication that the answer to the specified clue be inserted into the wordplay. If both an across and a down clue are present for the number then it should be qualified, which usually spoils the effect. Very occasionally the clue reference may me in words rather than digits.

An example:

Display of 24 on church show (6) [DT 25856]
Here VEIN, the answer to 24 down, should be inserted into the clue, making it “Display of vein on church show”: now display indicates that VEIN should be arranged, into EVIN, and placed in front of CE (Church of England) to get EVINCE, a synonym for to show

Cockney and East End – Cockneys from the East End of London are notorious for dropping the leading aitches of words. Some examples of its use in clues:

As the cockney said, he’s no trouble (4) [T 123]
EASE, no trouble, sounds like ee’s, which is how a Cockney would say he’s

State-of-the-art description of East End gardener with shears (7,4) [DT 25861]
CUTTING EDGE is state-of-the-art, which sounds like CUTTING HEDGE (gardener with shears) if you drop the initial “h” from HEDGE

constant – a constant value used in a well-known formula. Various constants may be referenced, these include:

C – the speed of light [1]
H – Planck’s constant
K – the Boltzmann constant

An example:

Constant sharpness about curry-house’s latest dish (8) [T 128]
K (the Boltzmann constant) EDGE (sharpness) RE (about) and E (curry-house’s latest) giving KEDGEREE (dish)

down-clue construct – a construct that only works when used with a down clue. Some examples of its use in clues:

Tears up. It shows courage (6) [ST 2473]
Up tells you to reverse RIPS, tears, before adding IT to get SPIRIT, courage

Authority religious follower endlessly promoted (4) [T 132]
Promoted tells you to reverse RAST(A), a religious follower, without the A (endlessly) to get TSAR, an authority such as a drug tsar

Priests get special rise for oath (5) [T 112]
French priests are CURES; take the S (Special) and rise tells you to move it up one letter to give CURSE, an oath

literary allusion – this is were the clue alludes to a famous literary quotation, or perhaps a famous person in literature. Although it may be possible to obtain the answer without the benefit of the appropriate knowledge, the wordplay will remain a mystery.

An example of a quotation:

Man is one? Yes and no! (6) [DT 25911]
The Isle of Man is an ISLAND, which is the “Yes” part of the clue, but what about the “No”? This is a reference to a famous poem by John Donne:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Note how Man is the first word in the clue, disguising the fact that as a place name, Man needs to be capitalised.

An example of a literary character:

He had a tale to tell about first lady (5) [T 95]
The REEVE had a tale to tell in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and he comes from a charade of RE (about) and EVE (first lady)

other constructs – there are too many construct to list in a small guide, and new ones are being invented all the time. Here are just a few:

essentially – the middle two or more letters, usually dropping the same number of letters from each end

extremely – the outside letters of one or more words

mid – usually in midnight: the middle letter of night, i.e. g

mostly / most of – nearly all of one of more words

part of – some of the following word or words

specific letters – occasionally the setter will request specific letters from a word

palindrome -a word or phrase that can be read the same way in either direction. One of the most famous English palindromes is “Able was I ere I saw Elba”.

An example:

A muscle unaffected by lifting (7) [DT 25973]
The muscle is a ROTATOR and, as this was a down clue, lifting means reversing

punctuation – usually included to improve the surface reading and should be ignored, but occasionally forms an essential part of the wordplay.

An example where the punctuation should be ignored:

Swelling, to face, formed eating hospital meat (6,3) [T 177]
Take BOIL (a swelling) and then add MADE (formed) reversed (to face) around (eating) H (Hospital) to get BOILED HAM, a type of meat
the punctuation is intended to make you think that a swelling to the face and hospital meat are involved

Examples where the punctuation is essential:

European language – found around part of UK (6) [ST 2485]
DASH (-) around NI (Northern Ireland / part of UK) giving DANISH (European language)

Settlement: unknown figure (6) [DT 25818 – not covered by this blog]
COLON (:) and Y (unknown figure) giving COLONY (settlement)

Roman numerals – the Romans used letters to represent numerals and these are a very convenient way of representing letters like V, X, L, C, D and M – as in these examples:

We hear forty of the Romans do better (5) [DT 25955]
EXCEL, to do better, sounds like XL which is forty in Roman numerals

A hundred remaining in the chasm (5) [DT 25905]
Combine C, a hundred in Roman numerals, with LEFT (remaining) to get CLEFT, a chasm or narrow opening in a rock

Find five hundred is a hundred too many (8) [T 143]
DISCOVER, a synonym for find, comes from D (five hundred in Roman numerals) IS C (a hundred in Roman numerals) and OVER (too many)

unknown – the algebraic unknown x, y or z

Some examples:

Study of wood by 3 unknown characters about to behold a plank (8) [DT 25933]
XYLOLOGY, the study of wood, comes from putting X, Y and Y (3 unknown characters) around LO (behold) and LOG (a plank)

Music maker’s unknown. Answer? Thin material (7) [T 156]
The music maker is an ORGAN; add Z (unknown) and A (Answer) to get ORGANZA, a thin material

visual – a description that can represent one or more letters – these are not at all common, and usually involve the letter “O”

Some examples:

Ban circle following old soldier (4) [T 154]
VETO, a ban, is a charade of O (looks like a circle) following VET (veteran / old soldier)

Bar drunken tramp pinching pair of spectacles (7) [DT 25978]
TAPROOM, a bar in a pub where beer is served from the tap or cask, is derived from an anagram (drunken) of TRAMP around (pinching) OO (looks like a pair of spectacles)

[1] ~ how do you tell if the setter meant C as an abbreviation for constant or C as the speed of light? Most of the time you can’t!

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