Thursday, 18 April 2013

Nixie Cryptics

I've got a special treat for you today, two whole cryptic crosswords by me, for you to download. These are PDF files, which you can print out. The answers are included, too.

Griff is tucked up in bed, and doesn't seem that impressed — but hopefully you will enjoy them!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Lesson 10: Homophones

Homophone cryptic clues are rather fun. But first, let's figure out what a homophone is.

Homo means 'same', and phone means 'sound' — so homophones are words which sound alike, but have different meanings.

I'm sure you know a ton of these: ATE & EIGHT. FLOUR & FLOWER. FOWL & FOUL. WRIGHT & RIGHT. And that's just for starters!

When a cryptic clue uses a homophone, it tells you that the answer sounds like some other word. The wordplay tells you this. Homophones must have indicator words that give a sense of something being heard, spoken, broadcast, or audible in some way.

Here's a little example:

Take bites noisily (6)

Now, another word for bites could be CHEWS. And, look, CHOOSE is also another word for take.  I think we have a winner! Noisily is the homophone indicator, it's telling you that if you say CHEWS aloud, it will sound like CHOOSE, which is the answer.

One problem with homophone clues is that sometimes it's not clear which of your two options (FOWL vs FOUL) is the correct answer, especially if they have the same number of letters and the indicator is in the middle of the clue! It's hard to be 100% certain sometimes whether the indicator is acting on the first part of the clue, or the last.

In such cases, what you need to do is refer to your partially completed crossword grid, and look for crossing over letters. These should help you nail down the correct answer. In the above example, you'd need to have a checked letter for the third letter in the answer, to tell you if it's FOWL or FOUL.

Homophones are occasionally combined with other clue devices, and can be used to indicate just one letter (eg sounds like tea = T).

Homophone Indicators

Here is a list of a few homophone indicators. There is a more comprehensive list on my website.
  • aloud
  • announced
  • audibly
  • called
  • declared
  • I hear
  • in audition
  • listen
  • on air
  • on the radio
  • orally
  • overheard
  • reported
  • said
  • so to speak
  • to the audience
  • utter
  • vocal
  • voiced

Practice Homophone Clues

1. Deer is vocal about whipped dessert (6)
2. Sounds like rent is more inflated (6)
3. Told about female deer's money (5)
4. Ferry from California gets arty, on air (4)
5. Labyrinth is made from corn, I hear (4)

Petal and Griff are patiently waiting until you've had a good go at these clues. Scroll past them when you're ready for the explanations and answers!


1. Deer is vocal about whipped dessert (6)
One sort of a deer is a MOOSE. Is vocal is the homophone indicator. Whipped dessert is the definition.

2. Sounds like rent is more inflated (6)
To rent something is also to HIRE it. Inflated is the definition. Sounds like is the homophone indicator, naturally!

3. Told about female deer's money (5)
Told about is the homophone indicator here, and money is the definition.

4. Ferry from California gets arty, on air (4)
This is a charade clue that include a homophone. Ferry is the definition (and it's a verb, not a noun!). California = CA, and a homophone (on air) of arty = RT.

5. Labyrinth is made from corn, I hear (4)
What's another word for corn? MAIZE. I hear it, so say it aloud. You'll find the answer very quickly, I'm sure!



Monday, 15 April 2013

Crosswords For Kids

I'm very happy to announce our latest app: Crosswords For Kids! I noticed a while back that all of the crossword apps for children were aimed at the 5 year olds, with pictures of cats and cars and hats as clues. But what about all the kids older than 5 who like word games? Adult crosswords are too hard for them, but those little kiddie crosswords are way too easy.

Crosswords for Kids splash screen

Enter Crosswords For Kids. I wrote all of the crosswords in this app for kids around 10-13 years old (give or take a few years!). The clues are easier, and the vocabulary is easier. There are clues that mention Adventure Time, My Little Pony, The Simpson, Muppets, Harry Potter, and other 'pop culture' references.I even know adults who are enjoying solving these.

As with our other crossword apps, the interface is completely customisable. You can choose the colours of the background, grid, letters, and highlight. You can choose from five fonts. There are solving aids, too, like having incorrect letters show in red, which is very useful if you're just learning how to solve crosswords!
Crosswords for Kids screen

And yes, we are planning on producing more volumes of these crosswords. One friend's son solved six in one day, so I think I'd better get a wriggle on!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Captive Cruciverbalist

Even Griff is amazed ... yesterday I was called by a lovely ABC radio producer, to ask if I would be the new weekly 'captive cruciverbalist' on Statewide Afternoons with Chris Coleman!

I quickly said yes, and started immediately — you can now hear me on your local ABC radio throughout regional NSW (so not Canberra or Sydney, but everywhere else), on Wednesday afternoons, just after 2:30 pm.

Each week I'll pose one cryptic clue in the session and chat with listeners about their answers, and pose a harder cryptic clue to ponder over the week. The harder clue gets discussed the week after. And so on! I also reveal secrets to solving cryptics, and generally chat about the mad world of crosswords with Chris.

The harder clue is posted on the ABC NSW Facebook Page, and my sessions are available to listen to again on the ABC's blog, too.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Gemini 6569

Here we go again, my analysis of the clues in The Canberra Times' Gemini cryptic crossword. This is the one published on Thursday March 28th 2012.

The definitions are underlined (except in double definition and cryptic definition clues).


1. Man of action? (8) = LITIGANT
Cryptic definition. Someone who takes legal action is a LITIGANT.

5. A sticky appointment? (4) = DATE
Double definition, cryptic definition. A DATE can be an appointment, and it's also a sticky fruit.

9. Little girl all round the house (5) = VILLA
Abbreviation + reversal. Little girl = VI (yeah, I know, it could be any two-letter short name for any girl's name! Not that fair.) + LLA (all run round, or backwards).

10. Rushing madly in great confusion (7) = TEARING
Anagram indicated by confusion, the fodder is in great.

11. One in favour of the classics (7,5) = PERSONA GRATA
Cryptic definition. This one was hard! While we're familiar with the term 'persona non grata', this more positive variant is not well known. It means "personespecially a diplomat, acceptable to certain others; an acceptable person." So they can be said to be one in favour. Of the classics refers to the Latin origin of the phrase.

13. Deter or defer (3,3) = PUT OFF
Double definition. PUT OFF can mean to deter someone, and can also mean to delay or defer an event.

14. Squirm and turn whiter (6) = WRITHE
Anagram, indicated by turn. The word to muddle up is whiter.

17. Maybe a paper is torn making them (12) = PREPARATIONS
I think this is an &lit clue? What do you think? The surface reading as is is a definition of sorts for PREPARATIONS. The 'cryptic' reading of the clue gives us an anagram (indicated by maybe) of a paper is torn. That seems to tick a few boxes for an &lit clue. It's not really a cryptic definition, but maybe that's the best categorisation here. (ETA: not really an &lit, to Des and my minds ... a poor stab at one, anyway.)

20. Beg for an adjustment in net rate (7) = ENTREAT
Anagram of net rate, indicated by an adjustment in.

21. One of the family on the French Riviera we hear (5) = NIECE
Homophone clue, indicated by we hear. NICE is a city on the French Riviera, and it sounds the same as NIECE, who is one of the family.

22. Toy that gives you endless repetition (2-2) = YO-YO
Cute deletion clue. You endless = YOU - U = YO. Then repeat it!

23. Dilatory sort of hero-worship (8) = IDOLATRY
Anagram of dilatory, indicated by sort of.


1. It counts for nothing on the tennis court (4) = LOVE
Cryptic definition. LOVE is the word used to describe a score of nothing in tennis. You may also imagine that on some tennis courts there is no love between the players, LOL.

2. Higher than everyone in the exam? (7) = TALLEST
Container clue. Put everyone (ALL) in another word for the exam (TEST) = T(ALL)EST

3. Lower gas fast making a drink (5,2,5) = GLASS OF WATER
Anagram. The fodder is lower gas fast. The indicator (of sorts) is making. Which to my mind reads more as a linking word than an anagram indicator.

4. Observing the absence of a ring? (6) = NOTING
Charade. Absence = NO + ring (as in the sound, not a piece of jewellery) = TING.

6. Tina comes up with a new name (5) = ANITA
Reversal and charade. Tina comes up = ANIT (Tina written in reverse) with a = A = ANIT+A.

7. In the end the tomb inscription may be (8) = ENGRAVED
Double definition, with a coined meaning. In the tomb could possibly be written as EN-GRAVED (put in a grave). And tomb inscriptions may be ENGRAVED.

8. It cannot be safely ignored (6,6) = DANGER SIGNAL
Cryptic definition. You really need to have some crossing over letters in the crossword grid to get a way in to this one. But it's fair to say that a DANGER SIGNAL cannot be safely ignored.

12. A stroke of the worst misfortune? (8) = APOPLEXY
I think this is a cryptic definition, but admit that I don't have a very satisfactory explanation for the answer, apart from APOPLEXY being a dated definition for a stroke, and having a stroke possibly being the worst misfortune. 

15. Most suspenseful points witnessed in the trial (7) = TENSEST
Container. Another use of TEST in a clue (see 2 Down!). In this clue TEST is clued as trial. Points = ENS (or NSE), compass points. They are witnessed in or put inside TEST. T(ENS)EST — or TE(NSE)ST.

16. Left divided (6) = PARTED
Double definition, as very short clues often are. If you left someone, you PARTED from them. And if you PARTED the shrubbery, for example, you divided it.

18. A record number of contestants in the field (5) = ENTRY
Double definition, the first definition is A record, as in a record or ENTRY in a database. The second definition is number of contestants in the field, the singular noun is used to describe the number of competitors in a race.

19. Extremely important part of everything (4) = VERY
Hidden word. An important part of indicates the hidden word. The answer can be found within eVERYthing.