'What do those numbers mean ...?"

LESSON 4 in ‘How to solve cryptic crosswords’

Most cryptic crosswords will include numbers in brackets at the end of each clue, but what do they mean?

They are there to let you know how many letters are in the answer.

Sometimes two or more numbers may be included. This means the answer will contain two or more words. For example, a clue may be followed by (3,4) which means the answer will consist of two words, with the first word comprising three letters and the second word comprising four letters.

A hyphen between the digits (3-4) means the answer itself will be hyphenated.

To help your eyes break down the empty squares into more manageable blocks, count off the letters and put a stroke or line in the crossword itself where each new word will start.

If you find that the answer requires several words, you can generally be comfortable that you are looking for a well-known phrase or saying.

Sometimes a cryptic crossword compiler will be seeking a series of initials as the answer (for example, if the answer was RAF (Royal Air Force), (1,1,1) would be included in the clue).

Generally, however, if you see 1 included in a series of numbers, you can fairly safely assume one of the words in the answer is A or perhaps, I.

Let's move on to deciphering the clues ...

Lesson 5: Deciphering cryptic clues


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