Clued In (Blogs)

Clued In #4 | Grey areas in grey matter

 |  14 December 2019

Cryptic crossworders live life on the edge. They thrive on the boundaries that words share with one another. Ensconced within that sweet spot, that zone of coterminousness, they get their kicks by harvesting the intersections between word meanings and parts of speech. Unlike Brexiteers, who have with Boris Johnson’s victory effectively won a mandate to solidify national borders, crossword setters like semantic boundaries that are more fluid. Which is why...


THC #12795 (1 DOWN)

Clue surface: Protective cover at a prime ground (3,5)


Definition: Protective cover

Clue type: Anagram

Annotation: the letters of ‘AT A PRIME’ are anagrammed (‘ground’) to give us the Latin term for an inner sheath or membrane covering the folds of a brain

... you see the word ‘ground’ often making an appearance as an anagram indicator. Take ‘ground’ as a noun, and you’d be thinking about a sports venue (or that which the Labour Party has ceded to the Conservatives in Britain). Take it as a past participle, though, and it allows you to indicate that an adjacent word or phrase is mashed up as anagram fodder.

(Also, did you know that the anatomical term Pia mater, which means ‘tender mother’, exposes the intersection between the words ‘tender’ and ‘pious’? Medieval Latin translators appear to have acted in a purely discretionary way as they imported the Arabic phrase, umm Raqīqah, which actually meant ‘pious mother’, into their lexicon. (Is that why a good pie’s always soft on the inside?)

Speaking of fodder and mash, if you saw a six-letter clue about horses running around in Australia...



THC #12801 (21 ACROSS)

Clue surface: Horses run around East Australia’s coast (8)


Definition: Coast

Clue types: Anagram, containment, abbreviation

Annotation: The letters of ‘HORSES’ are jumbled (as indicated by ‘run around’) and placed around ‘EA’, the common abbreviation of ‘East Australia’

... your mind might understandably jump to ‘brumbies’. But that would be down to a slight misfiring of your commendable general knowledge (brumbies are free-roaming horses found in the Northern outback of the Land Down Under, not the East). And that’s how the setter can use the plausibility of a misleading surface to smuggle the actual answer over your head.

It does help to have a cross-cultural vocabulary if you want to be good at cryptic crosswords. Or in some cases, simply a casual familiarity with wine-tasting lingo...




THC #12805 (8 DOWN)

Clue surface: European, one in dry city (6)

Answer: BEIRUT

Definition: City

Clue type: Containment with Abbreviation

Annotation: ‘E’, a common abbreviation for ‘European’, and ‘I’, a common crosswording symbol for the roman numeral ‘1’, are inserted into the letters of ‘BRUT’, a synonym for ‘dry’ used to describe champagne texture


... may also help. Speaking of stimulants, by a show of shakers, how many of you actually find a condiment bracing? The answer may not be as black and white as salt and pepper appear to be.



THC #12801 (19 ACROSS)

Clue surface: Invigorating spice? (6)

Answer: PEPPER

Definition: Invigorating spice?

Clue type: Cryptic Definition and &lit.

Annotation: It’s subjective how energising a dash of pepper is. But if the spice peps you up, it certainly is a pepper


Then again, nothing really is ever black and white. Not in our world, and certainly not in the world of crosswording. But here’s where the setter displays an almost divine magnanimity by dropping associative hints within his cryptic clues and delivers you the answer with a touch of spice.



Everyman #15 (1 ACROSS)

Clue surface: Cluedo. Mortal sin. I will be outstanding suspect! (7,7)


Definition: Suspect

Clue type: Anagram, Deletion, &lit

Annotation: The letters of ‘CLUEDO’ and ‘MORTAL SIN’ are to be reshuffled (the word ‘suspect’ functions also as an anagrind), and the letter ‘i’ to be removed (as literally indicated by ‘I will be outstanding’) from the jumble, to reveal one of the suspects of the popular murder mystery game Cluedo

Were there any clues that discombobulated/delighted you in the past few weeks? Let us know in the comments below.

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