A neat primer for wannabe solvers on how this precept works in numerous sorts of cryptic clues was set out in a BBC Radio 4 podcast by main modern setter Sarah Hayes, famous for the left-wing slant of her clues as The Guardian’s ‘Arachne’.
One sort of clue depends on double definitions. An instance could be: “Excursions streets,/and desires one hadn’t” (4). The reply is ‘rues’, taking part in on a double that means combining the French phrase for avenue with an English phrase for remorse.
Then there are ‘hidden phrase’ clues, akin to this quite fiendish instance by Brian Greer (aka ‘Brendan’, ‘Virgilius’ and ‘Jed’ for papers like The Occasions and Unbiased): “Some job at hand? We’ll quickly see” (4, 3, 5). The answer (underlined) is Tub and Wells, and the buried trace is the truth that ‘see’ is a phrase referring to a bishopric, of which Tub and Wells is a famed English instance.
‘Envelope’ clues, in the meantime, use one phrase inside one other. A brain-scrambling instance is: “Artist’s telephone hacked by horrible lady” (7). The reply is Chagall – puzzled out by taking part in with ‘hag’ (horrible lady) inside ‘name’ (the telephone reference), whereas additionally selecting up the trace that an artist is concerned within the answer.
Puzzles with type
As with every type of inventive expression, cryptic crossword setters can showcase their very own type, which devotees develop to understand as a lot as they could like an creator or songwriter.
In his article on the thrill of cryptics, Sondheim put the concept succinctly. “In the very best puzzles, kinds of clue-writing are distinctive, revealing particular pockets of curiosity and small mannerisms, as in any prose type. The clues of the creator who calls himself ‘Ximenes’ within the London Sunday Observer are, to the attention of a puzzle fan, as totally different from these in, say, The Guardian as Wilde is from Maugham.” Or as a Sondheim musical differs from one composed by Andrew Lloyd-Webber.
Fittingly for such cleverly inventive puzzles, cryptic crosswords have made telling appearances in British literature, notably in homicide mysteries. Famed fictional cop Inspector Morse was one devotee – hardly stunning given his creator Colin Dexter set cryptic crosswords for The Oxford Occasions. In Dorothy L Sayers’ story The Fascinating Drawback of Uncle Meleager’s Will, sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey solves a crossword with a purpose to resolve the thriller, as do the protagonists in books by Agatha Christie (Curtain) and Ruth Rendell (One Throughout, Two Down).
The quirky creativity of cryptic crosswords additionally gives a beacon of hope for these frightened on the approach computer systems have confirmed superiority over people at our most advanced video games like Go and poker – even with the latter drawing on psychological methods like ‘bluffing’. Laptop programmes are even churning out satisfactory efforts at formalised poetry kinds like haiku or primary types of jokes, akin to puns.
But specialists like Friedlander assume cryptic crosswords are one enviornment no AI will ever actually grasp, because of their use of “aesthetically stunning clues that incorporate refined nuances of language to misdirect the reader… Will probably be this type of deeply misleading clue which AI will wrestle to unravel, and which the human mind, with its capability for selecting up hidden hints, puns and remotely related ideas, will be capable of execute far more efficiently.”
Bringing people collectively
Regardless of the picture of solitary solvers puzzling over clues, cryptic crosswords truly typically engender a particular neighborhood spirit of shared appreciation within the effort to decode every setter’s methods. One poignant illustration of the particular unity of cryptic devotees was the outpouring of emotion when much-loved Guardian setter ‘Araucaria’ (Reverend John Graham) set clues in a 2013 puzzle whose options revealed that he was dying of most cancers.