A cryptic crossword may seem daunting at first, but each individual clue provides (almost always) two different ways to get to the answer:

DEFINITION – one part defines the answer, just like in a Quick or non-cryptic crossword;

WORDPLAY – the other part of the clue provides an alternate route to the answer through wordplay such as anagrams or charades.

Altogether, the definition and wordplay should fit together seamlessly, providing a surface reading designed to throw the solver off the scent.


Here are a couple of examples:

Cuban merchant exchanged basic cotton (11)

The clue can be divided like so: Cuban merchant exchanged basic cotton
Where cuban merchant is the definition, exchanged is an anagram indicator, and basic cotton is the anagram fodder, or letters to be rearranged making TOBACCONIST.

Charitable non-profit gutted for small change (4)

Charitable non-profit gutted for small change
Here small change is the definition, gutted is a deletion indicator, asking the solver to ‘gut’ the preceding words, giving CENT.

To put these techniques into practice try out some of our easy cryptic crosswords which all come with a solution explaining how each answer works. For more information have a look at our sample list of cryptic indicators and a list of some common cryptic abbreviations.