Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Delicious Alphabet

I've started baking for the books' launch next month!

And my crossword corset is nearly done too!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Lesson 6: Containers

Containers are a common device which you will come across all the time in cryptic crosswords. You will also see them called Containers and Contents clues.

I bet you can guess what happens with this cryptic device, given the name ... yes, letters or words are put inside other letters or words to get to the answer. These clues can be written as A being put inside B, or A going around, or containing, B.

For example,  SARONG can be clued as RON put inside SAG – SA(RON)G. And PRY around an ANT to get a  PANTRY – P(ANT)RY.

Abbreviations are often used in container clues, especially as it's rather rare for words to break up exactly into "One word put inside another word". So you may find DENVER clued as NV (an abbreviation for Nevada) put in DEER – DE(NV)ER.

Containers may also be combined with other clue devices such as reversals (LAVENDER is VEND in REAL reversed –LA(VEND)ER), and anagrams (SCALLION is an anagram of LILAC put inside SON – S(CALLI)ON), and so on.

Container Indicators

Container clues definitely do need indicator words. They are one or a few words in the clue which will tell you to put one thing inside another, or put one thing around another. There is a more comprehensive list of container indicators on my website.

Here are some examples of indicator words that give a sense of one word containing, or around, another:

  • about
  • acquiring
  • breaking
  • clutching
  • devouring
  • enfolding
  • getting around
  • grasping
  • hugging
  • imprisoning
  • outside
  • pocketing
  • receiving
  • sheltering
  • taking in
  • wrapping
And now some indicator words that give a sense of one word being put into another:
  • aboard
  • amidst
  • between
  • contained by
  • entering
  • filling
  • held in
  • inside
  • interrupting
  • puncturing
  • trapped in
  • wearing
  • within
OK, so let's see how these elements all go together in a real cryptic clue:

Scrap of cloth consumed by Don's mythical beast (6)

A scrap of cloth is also a RAG. It is consumed by, or put inside, the letters of Don. The apostrophe S is just telling you that one part of the clue (Scrap of cloth is consumed by Don) is equivalent to the second part (mythical beast). Mythical beast is the definition. How did you get on? Yes, the answer is DRAGON - D(RAG)ON.

Here's another one, given that it's that time of the year again:

Tour de France activity? Hold on tightly, welcoming an unknown Charlie  (7)

Tour de France activity is the definition (and obsession in our household!). This clue uses some abbreviations (see Lesson 3 more for info on abbreviations). An unknown = Y (think of a simple maths equation; X and Y are often used as terms for unknowns). Charlie is from the phonetic alphabet code, and stands for the letter C. So you've got the letters Y + C. What to do now? What about that hold on tightly bit? Another word for hold on tightly is CLING. CLING is welcoming Y + C, so put those letters inside the word CLING, and you will quickly discover the only sensible arrangement is C(YC)LING.

Practice Container Clues

Now that you have more of an idea of how container clues work, here are five clues to try. Remember that, as with nearly all cryptic clues, the definition is right there, either at the start or end of the clue, and the rest of the clue is the wordplay. 

1. Sink, as in rubbish container (5)

2. Contented and very quiet, cutting hay (5)

3. Quick! Sieve, including tungsten! (5)

4. Find a doctor getting to grips with garbled voices (8)

5.  Shave back in south eastern Mexican shawl (6)

My mum's dog Bonnie is staying with us for a few weeks, so she is your guest Guardian of the Clues! Bonnie is a very sweet Lhasa apso, and has great fun playing with Griff especially. If you scroll below Bonnie, you will find explanations, and below them, the answers.


1. Sink, as in rubbish container (5)
Sink is the definition. This clue has a word 'in the clear' - as = AS. the container indicator is in. Put AS in another word for a rubbish container (BIN).

2. Contented and very quiet, cutting hay (5)
Cutting is the container indicator (some letters are cutting into another word). Very quiet is a popular cryptic abbreviation for PP, from the musical term pianissimo (meaning very quiet or soft). Hay is in the clear, so PP is put into HAY. Contented is the definition.

3. Quick! Sieve, including tungsten! (5)
Whenever you see the name of a chemical element in a cryptic clue, think of the periodic table! Tungsten = W. Another word for sieve is SIFT. Including is the container indicator, and quick is the definition. Ignore the punctuation!

4. Find a doctor getting to grips with garbled voices (7)
This is a container clue that includes an anagram. Did you spot the anagram indicator? Yes, it's garbled. Voices are what to jumble up. A doctor = DR, and getting to grips with is the container indicator. All this means that the jumbled letters of VOICES should be put inside DR. The letters DR are gripping, or holding, the anagram of VOICES. Find is the definition.

5.  Shave back in south eastern Mexican shawl (6)
This container clue includes a reversal, which is indicated by the word back. So, a synonym for shave is PARE (as in peeling fruit). Put PARE reversed (ERAP) in an abbreviation for south eastern = SE. Mexican shawl  is the definition.







Saturday, 7 July 2012

Gemini 6305

My analysis of the clues in the Gemini Cryptic from The Canberra Times Friday 6 July 2012

Definitions are underlined (apart from double definition and cryptic definition clues). 


1. Tales of feet? (7) = LEGENDS
Cryptic definition, feet are leg ends, get it?

5. Demoted at the centre, get all worked up (5) = EMOTE
Deletion, it's the centre part of demoted

8. Demanding porridge with fish (9) = GRUELLING
Charade. GRUEL (porridge) + LING (fish)

9. Return of Eastern opponent (3) = FOE
Reversal and charade. Of returns = FO + E (Eastern)

10. A gem of a girl? (4) = RUBY
Double definition, both a possible girl's name, and a gem stone

12. Jumper, pocket-size originally (8) = KANGAROO
Cryptic definition, I guess? I don't see any clear cryptic device at play in this one. Kangaroos have pockets, and baby kangaroos are originally very little and kept in pockets ...

14. The rest of the layers depends on them (6) = ROOSTS
Cryptic definition. Layers being chickens, and the rest of them meaning their rest or sleep ...

15. A call for repeated effort (6) = ENCORE
Cryptic definition

17. Hold back an expression of disapproval in play (4-1-3) = PEEK-A-BOO
Reversal + charade. Hold = KEEP, run it back to get PEEK. An expression of disapproval = A BOO.

18. Write touchingly (4) = TYPE
Cryptic definition, yet again. Think of touch typing ...

21. Drink and possibly eat (3)  = TEA
Anagram. Possibly is the indicator, and eat is the fodder. Drink is a noun, not a verb! Nice little clue.

22. Butter and milk producer (5,4) = NANNY GOAT
Cryptic definition

24. Disturbed adder shows fear (5) = DREAD
Anagram of adder. Disturbed is the anagram indicator.

25. Concern of an eleven yet to be organised (7) = ANXIETY
Charade with an anagram. An = AN (easy!), eleven = XI, and an anagram (organised) of yet = ETY.


1. Drink a regal cocktail (5) = LAGER
Another rather nifty drink-related anagram. Anagram of regal, indicated by cocktail. Once again, drink is a noun, not a verb.

2. Animal found in increasing numbers (3) = GNU
Hidden word clue, that animal is hiding in increasinG NUmbers!

3. Miss Gwynn is heard to ring the bell (4) = NELL
Homophone clue, ring the bell = KNELL, which sounds like NELL. Nell Gwyn(n) was an English actress (1650-1687), who was also a mistress of Charles II.

4. April's turned out to be springlike (6) = SPIRAL
Anagram. April's is the fodder, turned out is the anagram indicator.

5. Taking someone on and winning (8) = ENGAGING
Double definition. You can engage staff, and you may have engaging, or winning, ways  :)

6. A collection of service people perhaps (9) = OFFERTORY
Charade, or a cryptic definition? I admit this one stumped me, as I'm not very au fait with religious terminology. An offertory is "an offering or collection of money made at a religious service". I'm not quite sure whether the definition is collection or collection of service. I'm guessing that this is a charade clue, as service = OFFER + people, perhaps = TORY. But I don't much care for this clue  :p

7. Bad sight (7) = EYESORE
Double definition. Sight being bad = sore eyes is a bit of a coined term.

11. Exploded with fury when there's commission to pay (9) = BROKERAGE
Charade. Exploded = BROKE + (with) fury = RAGE.

13. Tense without any grounds (8) = STRAINED
Double definition, think of your coffee grounds ...

14. Held place in the rush (7) = REPUTED
Container. Place = PUT, in the rush = REED (not haste!). I don't really like the definition, held isn't a  great synonym for reputed.

16. No care for this part of the eye (6) = CORNEA
Anagram of no care. No clear anagram indicator though, for isn't really enough!

19. A record that's not way out? (5) = ENTRY
Double definition; a record can be an entry (in a database, for example), and an entry isn't the way out (that's the exit!).

20. Feline connections we hear (4) = LYNX
Homophone clue, connections = LINKS, which sounds like LYNX.

23. Expression the Spanish love to come up with (3) = OLE
Ooh, this is an &ilt clue ('and literally') - a rare breed ... the Spanish = EL (a Spanish word for the) + love = O (as in the tennis score of zero, and 0 looks like O). This gives us EL + O. If you run it backwards (come up with), it gives us OLE, which is an expression.

Now for the clever bit. If you read the whole clue literally again (& lit), I think it's reasonable to say that OLE is an expression the Spanish love to come up with! Very nice. &lit clues are some of the few cryptic clues where the literal meaning of the clue (ie the surface reading) is relevant to the answer.

How did you get on?

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Rude Clues

When my Cryptic Crosswords For Dummies book was being checked by the American editors at Wiley, they decided that my handful of risqué clues couldn't stay in. So I edited the offending 11 clues to tame them down.

But it's a pity to see such naughtiness go to waste. So I thought you'd like to have a try of them here! I've put the puzzle reference in, too, so you can find the edited versions in the book (which should be available in bookshops in a few weeks now).

As ever, my chihuahuas Petal and Griff are the Guardians of the Answers. Have a good try of the clues yourself, and scroll below the pups to see full explanations of the clues, and the answers.

The (Slightly) Rude Clues

1. Rampantly sexy, without a kiss? Absolutely! (3)
Crossword 5, 21 Down, pg 36

2. Mesmerist has weird phony tits (9)
Crossword 15, 1 Across, pg 56

3. Naughty escort's laced undergarment (6) 
Crossword 24, 24 Across, pg 74

4. 101 in advertisement for tart (4) 
Crossword 26, 27 Down, pg 80

5. Mischievously eyed girl ravenously (8) 
Crossword 30, 3 Down, pg 88

6. Make noises in bed, in pain around midday! (5) 
Crossword 33, 20 Across, pg 94

7. Topless tenant gets to cross the threshold (5) 
Crossword 38, 11 Down, pg 104

8. Jenny and I go, mischievously loving (8) 
Crossword 40, 11 Across, pg 108

9. Five engaged in awkward caresses lead to rifts (9) 
Crossword 43, 1 Across, pg 114

10. Call girls' pastries (5) 
Crossword 43, 24 Across, pg 114

11. Very well, tints without top on (3)
Crossword 45, 28 Across, pg 120

Griff and Petal on their way to the dog park, in their FidoRido seat

Explanations / Hints

1. Rampantly sexy, without a kiss? Absolutely! (3) 
Absolutely is the definition in this clue. Rampantly is an anagram indicator, and sexy is the anagram fodder, but without a kiss (the letter X).

2. Mesmerist has weird phony tits (9) 
Weird is an anagram indicator. Phony tits is the anagram fodder; jumbling them up will give you a synonym for mesmerist.

3. Naughty escort's laced undergarment (6) 
Another anagram ... naughty is the anagram indicator, escort is the anagram fodder. The apostrophe s is not included in the anagram here, it is saying "A naughty version of escort IS another word for laced undergarment".

4. 101 in advertisement for tart (4) 
Remember your Roman numerals here! 101 = CI. An advertisement is an AD. So put CI in AD, for a word that means tart (as an adjective).

5. Mischievously eyed girl ravenously (8) 
Another anagram, indicated by mischievously. Eyed girl is the anagram fodder. Ravenously is the definition.

6. Make noises in bed, in pain around midday! (5) 
Make noises in bed is the definition here. In pain = SORE. Put these letters around an abbreviation for midday (noon = N).

7. Topless tenant gets to cross the threshold (5) 
This is a deletion clue, indicated by topless. What is topless? A tenant, or RENTER. The definition is cross the threshold

8. Jenny and I go, mischievously loving (8) 
Mischievously indicates an anagram. The letters of Jenny plus (and) I go are the fodder, and loving is the definition.

9. Five engaged in awkward caresses lead to rifts (9) 
Five is another indication of a Roman numeral. So five = V. It is engaged in (or put in) an awkward version (anagram) of caresses. Rifts is a noun, and the definition.

10. Call girls' pastries (5) 
Double definition clue here. What are both call girls, and pastries?

11. Very well, tints without top on (3) 
Very well is the definition. Another word for tints is DYES. Without top on, means to delete the first letter from DYES.


1. YES
11. YES (again!)

Did you get through them all without blushing?!