’These tools will help you solve cryptic clues ...'

LESSON 2 in 'How to solve cryptic crosswords'

Several cryptic crossword 'tools of the trade' will help you as you begin to solve cryptic clues ...

While it might seem obvious, it's best to use a pencil rather than a pen. This will allow you to erase any errors and keep your crossword grid uncluttered. One or two pieces of paper will also be helpful. It is not always easy to visualise what letters are required (particularly with down clues), so writing down the letters you know and using dashes to represent missing letters, will often help you 'see' the answer. The writing paper will also be useful for deciphering anagrams.

A good dictionary is an essential tool for the cryptic crossword solver. Often compilers will use obscure meanings of words and sometimes they will choose an unusual, but legitimate spelling-for example lanyard meaning ROPE can also be spelt laniard. A dictionary may therefore, save you a good deal of frustration.

Many compilers recommend Chambers Twenty First Century Dictionary, the Preface of which talks of the book being "the crossword addict's favourite tool".

Encyclopedic dictionaries can also be useful because they often provide information about people and their achievements and are likely to help you find data on a variety of topics.

Because there is almost no limit to what might be included in a cryptic crossword, many solvers set up comprehensive reference libraries to help them solve cryptic puzzles.

Phrases, place names, book or film titles, astrological signs, mythology, Roman numerals, biblical allusions, history, art, music and the names of Walt Disney's Seven Dwarfs are all likely contenders for the answers to cryptic crosswords.

Perhaps the most essential tools for the cryptic crossword solver are patience and a sense of humour.

Patience because some clues take a long time and considerable research to solve, and a sense of humour so you can look for and appreciate the wit of many cryptic crossword compilers.

OK, now it's time to start the cryptic crossword ...

Lesson 3: Starting the puzzle ...

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