‘Cryptic clues give you cryptic pointers
to the answer …’

LESSON 12 in ‘How to solve cryptic crosswords’

Cryptic crossword clues will invariably contain cryptic pointers and signposts to show you how the clues can be solved. Of course, the meaning or intent of many words can be varied at the compiler's whim, however, here are some examples of frequently-used cryptic pointers and what they may mean.

Look for an anagram ... abnormal, abstract, all over the place, askew, befuddle, blur, broken, chop up, convert, different, drunk, entangle, form of, go astray, higgledy-piggledy, improvise, kick around, loosely, manipulate, new order, otherwise, pull apart, rebuild, scramble, stir, turnover, unmade, violate, with a difference.

Look for an abbreviation or shortened form ... abbreviate, brief, compact, condensed, contract, cut, decrease, diminutive, head, initial, in short, little, minor, quick, short, small, some of, start, tiny.

Delete letters from the clue or a word for the clue ... abandon, away, disbar, leaving, losing, moving.

Reverse the clue or a word for the clue ... aback, around, backward, converse, flip, give over, go west, head over heels, invert, knock back, mirror, over, receding, reflect, retreat, retrograde, return, reverse, revolutionary, throw back, volte-face, withdraw, wrong direction. As answers to downwords are written into a crossword top to bottom, reversal can also be indicated by such words as ... lifted, mounted, raised, up, overturned.


The Chandler Cryptic Clue Solver contains all these cryptic pointers,
and more. It will be available for you to download soon ...


Look for a foreign word ... abroad, continental, exotic.

Look for a hidden word ... absorb, accommodated, apparent, bit of, captivated, carried, constituent of, contained, discover, disguised in, embracing, emerge from, encircle, evident, excerpt, feature, filed in, from, held, hidden, ingredients, look inside, piece of, reveal, show, swallow, visible, within.

Look for an old word or old spelling ... ancient, once, formerly, old.

Delete the beginning or end of a word ... amputate, behead, curtail, cut, decapitate, detailed, don't start, endless, headless, leaderless, never-ending, shorten, tailless, tip off, top and tail, trim, unfinished.

Include letters or a word within another ... about, absorb, all round, bury, captive, carrying, cover, disconnect, interrupting, keeping, out, retained, ringed by, settle in, surround, swallow, without.

Letters or a word join another ... after, and, before, beside, encounter, join, meet, next to, receiving, unending, uninterrupted, union, unite.

Add letters or word(s) to a word for the clue ... generally these pointers will be quite specific, for example, superlatively suggests you add EST or MOST to a word for the clue, or be an accessory suggests that BE be added to a word for the clue.

Look for the opposite meaning or negate the clue ... apparently, contrary, not, opposed, presumably, reverse.

Look for a key word or phrase from a proverb ... it's said.

Look for a homonym or homophone ... announced, apparently, as they say, auditor, by the sound of it, echo, given voice, hear, in conversation, it sounds as if, orally, reported, say so, spoken, they tell us, verbally, we hear.

As you can see, cryptic crossword setters can use cryptic pointers to mean anything they like!

Part of the joy of cryptic crosswords is the fun you can have with words. Now you've mastered cryptic pointers, it's time to see the funny side of cryptic clues ...

Lesson 13: Cryptic puns


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