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Welcome to a series which will explore the rules which crossword setters use and, hopefully, will give solvers pointers towards some of the tell-tale signs of clue construction.
A glib phrase such as “the rules” should be read with caution. At one end of the clue-writing spectrum we have strict Ximenean principles, loose Libertarian at the other, and a great many shades of in-betweenness. The sort of clues that appear in the Telegraph and the Guardian, for example, can be unacceptable to solvers of the Times and Independent. Similarly, the Ximenean requirements of the Times and Independent lead to clues which Telegraph and Guardian solvers might find insufficiently exciting or risk-taking.
I see nothing wrong with Libertarian clues. Regardless of whether or not the rules of grammar and syntax may be broken, the simple fact is that the British cryptic crossword is popular worldwide, and the bigger the audience the more variety should be on offer. You may have a 13×13 cryptic in your free local weekly advertising newspaper, and its clues may offend you with their poor or inaccurate construction, but you can be sure it has a large and avid following who love that crossword for what it is. And this applies to every crossword and to every setter – each has a particular following for whom that style is perfectly suited.
For the purposes of these articles, though, I’ll try to stick to Ximenean principles, simply because they tend to be least prone to argument. So, let’s start with:•Anagrams >