‘When words sound like homophones
or homonyms …’
LESSON 10 in ‘How to solve cryptic crosswords’
Homophones are words which have the same sound as other words, but differ in meaning and spelling, for example blew and blue.
Homonyms are words which have the same sound and often the same spelling as other words, but differ in meaning, for example fast meaning SPEEDY and fast meaning ABSTAIN FROM FOOD.
Words that sound like others - or letters that sound like words - are often used in cryptic crosswords.
Examples include adorn which sounds like A DAWN; aisle which sounds like I'LL and ISLE; and caught which sounds like COURT.
Occasionally a clue will consist of letters which don't seem to make sense until you pronounce the clue out loud. XLNC is a good example. In cryptic language it says EXCELLENCY.
Often the sound-alike word will be used directly as the solution, but occasionally it will be used to alter the meaning of the clue and will not itself appear in the answer.
Sometimes the sound-alike may be one letter only, for example See, apparently socks selected (5). Here, the answer is CHOSE, another word for selected. The homophone is C (because it sounds like see), the pointer is apparently, and socks are HOSE.
Key words which should alert you to look for a homophone or a homonym include announced, I hear, reported, they say, it's said.
Next, backwards or forwards, they seem the same ...
Lesson 11: Palindromes