A beginner’s guide to cryptic crosswords for Gifted & Talented children
Cryptic crosswords. Those strange things at the back of the newspaper that one of the old codgers in your family always seems to be doing. Perhaps it’s one of your parents who sits there puzzling away over it whilst you’re trying (or not trying) to get ready for school in the morning. Perhaps it’s a grandparent who does it after Sunday lunch and invariably ends up falling asleep with it in their lap, reading glasses slipping off at a jaunty angle. Or maybe it’s that mad Uncle Barry from Lincolnshire that you only ever see at Christmas, weddings or funerals, who carries it around with him and seems to prefer doing it to actually talking to any of his bemused relatives, least of all you.
If you’ve read this far, you have an idea of what I’m talking about. In fact, you not only have an idea of what a cryptic crossword is, but you’ve also had a nagging suspicion that you’d like to find out how they work. After all, if they can keep your Uncle Barry happy, there must be something about them that is worth investigating. You may have heard him tell you why it is that he bothers sitting there for seems like hours, chewing the end of his pencil whilst he racks his brains for the answer to 27 across. He might have mentioned how he thinks it keeps his mind flexible. He might have said that it helps him to improve his vocabulary and his use of English. He might just have said that it helps him to relax, that all of his other worries seem to disappear whilst he is immersed in the business of solving a crossword. Only, you won’t have heard him say any of that, because he doesn’t speak to anyone, especially not when he has a puzzle to solve.
The possible reasons why people get into crosswords are infinite, but the thing that they may find harder to explain is how exactly they are able to solve cryptic crosswords, whilst your sane Auntie Sue from Shropshire, for example, cannot. Your Auntie Sue always says, “Oh, I can’t do those!” or “I’m no good with words!” or “I don’t even know where to start!” whilst Uncle Barry sits there, raises his eyebrows and gets busy with the final couple of clues. If only Uncle Barry would share the secret, then Auntie Sue wouldn’t feel so hopeless (and wouldn’t need to tell everybody), and you might be able to satisfy that little itch that tells you that this whole crosswords malarkey might actually be quite fun to explore.
What Auntie Sue doesn’t know is that, on at least two out of three points, she is wrong. Firstly, she is good with words - she’s just been using them, hasn’t she? Secondly, she can do crosswords; she just can’t do them yet. Yes, she doesn’t know where to start, but who does know where to start when they are facing a brand new challenge? Who ever picked up a violin for the first time and knew instantly how to play Mozart’s Concerto No.3? Nobody. The same goes for cryptic crosswords. They seem impossibly difficult at first glance, and then gradually, as you learn the rules and perfect your skills, they start to get easier. Just wait and see…
This workbook is intended to provide you with all of the knowledge and skills that you need to start solving cryptic crosswords. You may think that it’s all about English, but you’ll be surprised to find out how much your knowledge of mathematics, of humanities, of foreign languages and of general knowledge will help you with your solving. Dip into the different activities at leisure and work at your own speed. Solving is not a sprint to the finish. The joy comes from immersing yourself in the infinite variety of the English language. Sit back and enjoy the ride…
Click on the files to the right to download each Individual unit and its answer guide
Unit 5 coming soon...