‘Cryptic abbreviations …’

LESSON 6 in ‘How to solve cryptic crosswords’

As you work through cryptic clues you'll find that the solutions contain a host of abbreviations (including chemical symbols and single letters) and some are peculiar to these British-style puzzles.

Model for example, is often reduced to T (from the T-model Ford of yesteryear) and boat, ship or vessel are often referred to as SS (from steamship).

To help you as you are learning, and later as a memory jogger, the soon-to-be-released Chandler Cryptic Clue Solver contains the most comprehensive listing of cryptic abbreviations available. They are categorised alphabetically both by clue word (to help as you are solving a puzzle), and by abbreviation (to help if you know the answer but can't understand how it was derived).

For example, if you look up soft you will see P (from piano which musically, means soft). If you look up P you will see PIANO and SOFT.

It is one thing to know that the cryptic abbreviation for poet is TS, it is more satisfying however, if you know why (from the great North American poet, T.S. Eliot).

Similarly, as a solver you may learn that artist is often reduced to RA, but cryptic crosswords will become more interesting if you also know that this has been derived from the British Royal Academy of Arts.

So unless they are exceedingly obvious, explanations are also given in the Chandler Cryptic Clue Solver.

Compilers will often challenge you to find the appropriate abbreviations for words, or groups of words, and combine them to form a new word, for example Flight late, overdrawn, and unserviceable (6). The answer is EXODUS, which is another word for flight and it is derived by combining: EX for late (as in dead), OD for overdrawn, and US for unserviceable.

Sometimes you will be asked to combine cryptic abbreviations with synonyms of other words to reach the solution.

An often-used device is SS for steamship and hence aboard, for example, Looks able to get aboard (5). The words get aboard tell you that the answer will begin and end with S; another word for able to is CAN; and combining the two gives you SCANS which is another word for looks.

Lesson 7: The Romans are still with us ...