Saturday, 16 June 2012

Time for a little cheating

My Dummies Cheat Sheets are online at last, and this step really marks the absolute end of work on both books. These Cheat Sheets have some good basic tips on solving cryptics, so keep them bookmarked!

Solving Cryptic Crosswords For Dummies Cheat Sheet

  • Understanding Cryptic Clue Anatomy
  • Getting to Grips with Cryptic Devices
  • Tackling Abbreviations
  • Making a Start on a Cryptic Crossword
  • Reference List of Common Abbreviations
  • Spotting Indicator Words
In a brilliant display of canine reasoning, Petal and Griff have discovered how to travel overseas real cheap! It just might work ...  ;)

Friday, 8 June 2012

Yes folks, it's a book!

Look what just showed up in the post! One of the really REALLY good moments of being an author ...

I'm enjoying working at the Attorney-General's Department at the moment, as a copyeditor for their website. It's just a one month contract, so I will only have time to rewrite about 100 pages from their 5,000 page website (which is being completely redesigned as well). Interesting and challenging work, and a lovely team to work with.

The only downside is it's a full time job, and I still have to run my business at the same time, only in evenings and on the weekends  :p  So posts may be thinner on the ground until July ...

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Gemini 6270

Here's my analysis of the Gemini Crossword from The Canberra Times, Friday 1 June.

Definitions are underlined (apart from double definition and cryptic definition clues). There are several Libertarian clues in this one, so look out!

Griff as a little puppy ... he still loves this position! Super Griff!


1. They may blow the lights out (5) = FUSES
Cryptic definition.

4. He often resorts to a piece in colour (7) = HABITUE
Container clue. A piece = A BIT, and you put it in HUE (colour)

8. Old agreement from extremely early times (3) = YEA
Hidden word clue. Extremely early times. Times isn't really needed in this clue. From is a rather broad hidden word indicator. Thanks to m1k1 for her more accurate analysis of this clue than mine!

9. Gives up an office from a basic date (9) = ABDICATES
Another anagram clue that's missing a clear indicator! Basic date is the fodder, but there's no anagram indicator. From is not enough to tell you there's an anagram. Libertarian (or just plan badly written).

10. The late converted into the quick? (7) = ATHLETE
Anagram. The late is the fodder, and converted is the anagram indicator. 

11. Having no inclination for a palindrome (5) = LEVEL
A palindrome that has no inclination (or tilt)!

13. More distant relative we hear about (6) = FATHER
Homophone clue. I actually think this clue is incorrect. Written as it is, the thing we hear about is relative = FATHER, and the definition is more distant, which = FARTHER. However the word in the grid is FATHER, not FARTHER!

It may be deemed a Libertarian clue, I suppose (where the order of the parts of the clue can be screwed up). But I think the clue ought to run along the lines of: Relative is more distant, we hear.

15. Much time and trouble is taken in its drafting (6) = AGENDA
Charade. Much time = AGE + an anagram of AND (trouble is the anagram indicator).

18. Another name for a criminal (5) = ALIAS
Double definition, I suppose? Or cryptic definition?

19. Postal despatch means trouble in China (7) = MAILING
Container clue. Trouble = AIL, and you put it in MING (a type of China, as in porcelain). The capital letter is a bit misleading here! Just ignore it.

21. Man to speak to for capital investment (9) = HEADDRESS
Charade clue. Man = HE + speak to = ADDRESS. A rather cryptic definition here — capital = HEAD and vestment can mean a garment (archaic) = DRESS. I don't think investment can really equal vestment, though.

23. Leave the French out of the welcome (3) = AVE
The (in) French = LE, and it's out of leave, for a word that means welcome (in Latin)

24. Used by writer and poet perhaps (7) = NOTEPAD
Cryptic definition, and not all that cryptic, really.

25. People who pull strings create rows (5) = TIERS
Double definition, and a bit of a coined definition. Someone who pulls strings, or ties things can be said to be a tier (although this isn't a dictionary definition!), and a bunch of them are tiers.


1. Rugby player is made to run to limited extent (3,4) = FLY HALF
Charade. Run to = FLY (as in "I must fly, or I'll be late!"). Limited extent = HALF.

2. Kind of western pasta (9) = SPAGHETTI
Double definition. A 'spaghetti western' is a kind of western movie, and it's also a pasta.

3. A ghost from Hades (5) = SHADE
An anagram clue (Hades is the fodder), but there isn't an anagram indicator! Libertarian, and unfair.

4. Acted evasively being naturally guarded (6) = HEDGED
Double definition, with a coined word. Your garden may be protected with a hedge, and that's a natural border, so if you're HEDGED, it could mean that you're being guarded by something natural, or being naturally guarded.

5. Combination lock in case is left undone (7) = BACKLOG
Container + anagram. An anagram of lock, indicated by combination = CKLO, in this case. Put that in another word for case  = BAG. BA(CKLO)G. Ta dah!

6. A child's drink (3) = TOT
Double definition clue,  TOT being both a little kid, and a small amount of a strong drink.

7. An unjustified picture frame (5) = EASEL 
Cryptic definition? I don't agree with this definition, an EASEL is not a picture frame. I must admit that I don't quite see how this clue works. Unjustified can mean not justified (as in typesetting), or unsupported, or baseless. Meh.

12. Justify making cat dive in (9) =VINDICATE
Anagram. Cat dive in is the fodder. Making is the anagram indicator, I suppose, but a poor one. Why not write it as something like Justify making insane cat dive in? It would work so much better!

14. Relaxed in the deep USA perhaps (5,2) = EASED UP
Anagram. Perhaps is the anagram indicator. Deep USA is the fodder.

16. Sportsmen seen at the bank (7) = ANGLERS
Cryptic definition. They're seen at the bank of the river, of course, not the financial institution!

17. Threaten one politician with death (6) = IMPEND
Charade. One = I (looks like 1). Politician = MP. Death = END.

18. A female Pole is pale (5) = ASHEN
Charade. A + SHE (female) + N (North Pole).

20. It's put in during games of tennis (5) =  INSET
Charade. During = IN + games of tennis  = SET. 

22. A small court of law (3) = ACT
Charade. A + CT (small court, as in mapping). Thanks to m1k1 for her more insightful assessment of the clue than mine!

How did you get on?

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Crossword fabric

I've been having fun designing my own crossword fabric!

This is particularly necessary if you want to have British-style crosswords on your cloth, as most crossword fabrics feature the more solid white American-style grids.

Spoonflower is an awesome print-on-demand textile company. You simply upload your designs, and check them with proofs (ie a printed swatch, which is posted to you), and you're away! There are a range of fabrics available, too, from quilting weight cotton and silk crepe de chine, to a more sturdy cotton twill. I've been very impressed with the quality of their fabric and printing.

I've designed two crossword fabrics, and one chihuahua fabric (featuring Petal). Petal's fabric has the motif quite small and repeating. This is just a close-up of my artwork below.

If you'd like to order any, simply visit my Shop on Spoonflower.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Lesson 5: Hidden Words

Hidden word clues are less common in cryptics — a typical cryptic may just have one or two — but they are so nice and easy (which is why they're often in short supply in cryptics!), I thought it would be good to cover them early in the piece. If you can find the hidden word clues in a cryptic, they are a good way to get something entered into the grid, which in turn will help you get a handle on the other clues.

So, why are these clues so easy? Well, the answer to the clue is actually staring you in the face, within the clue! OK, the setter has no doubt tried their best to hide the fact that the answer is right there in front of you, in plain view. So they can be tricky to spot sometimes, but they are basically a very easy clue device.

For example, the word PLAN can be hidden inside BIPLANE. And the word ROSE can be hidden inside the words ALLEGRO SERENADE. The last example is more typical of these sorts of clues ... the word is often split across two or even three words in the clue. Just ignore the spaces and any punctuation like hyphens, or commas, and so on.

Hidden word clues tend to clue short words, too, so they're unlikely to be used in the longest words in a crossword grid.

As with many other types of cryptic clues, hidden word clues have indicator words. These are words that tell you that the answer is within the letters of the clue. so words which give a sense of containment, insertion, or concealment can indicate a hidden word clue. Here are a few examples:
  • a bit of
  • buried in
  • central to
  • covers
  • employed by
  • from
  • held by
  • in
  • part of
  • revealed by
  • sample of
Now that you've got a little idea about the mechanics of a hidden word clue, let's see what a real one looks like:

Herb's buried in a filthy meadow (5)

No need to mourn poor Herb ... In this clue, buried in is the hidden word indicator. Herb is the definition (and it's not a name). Where is the name of a herb buried? In a filthy meadow, of course. Did you spot it? Yes, the answer is THYME (filTHY MEadow).

Here's another example:

Pilfer a bit of waste alexandrite (5)
 The hidden word indicator here is a bit of. The definition part of the clue is pilfer. Luckily, you don't need to know anything about gemstones to solve this clue ... the answer's right in front of your eyes, within waste alexandrite. You know the answer is 5 letters long, so you can scan through the letters of waste alexandrite, in sets of 5. I'm sure you got it — waSTE ALexandrite. Easy!

Here are 5 hidden word clues to have a go at. Griff (staying warm in his bag) is the guardian of the explanations and answers, scroll past him when you're ready for the full reveal!

1. Scapegoat concealed self esteem (3)

2. Tapestry covers primates (4)

3. Enjoyment from malfunction (3) 

4. Rug held by dermatologist (3)

5. Warmth in the atrium (4)


These are quite straightforward clues, so the explanations aren't long!

1. Scapegoat concealed self esteem (3)
Concealed is the hidden word indicator here. Self esteem is the definition, and the 3 letters you're looking for are in scapegoat.

2. Tapestry covers primates (4)
Tapestry is what covers another word for primates. 

3. Enjoyment from malfunction (3) 
What can you get from (indicator) malfunction? Another word for enjoyment, of course!

4. Rug held by dermatologist (3)
That dermatologist, what's he up to? Holding another word for rug. I'm sure you can find it!

5. Warmth in the atrium (4)
This clue splits the hidden word over two words. Warmth is the definition, and the answer is in the atrium.


1. EGO
3. FUN
4. MAT