Guidelines for Composing Cryptic Crosswords 
By Sibyl

These are some brief additions to and repetitions from the solving article, which covers almost everything you need. I hope that Enigma cryptic crosswords will continue to be adventurous, taking risks and pushing boundaries not necessarily taken or pushed elsewhere.

Diagrams are generally symmetrical, as in regular crossword puzzles; they don’t necessarily have black spaces.

Diagram entries (lights) should be approximately fifty percent checked -- approximately two-thirds checked in bar puzzles. (A checked letter is one that appears in more than one word.)

Avoid extraneous words: according to British cryptic composer Azed (Jonathan Crowther), a good cryptic clue has three parts:

  1. the definition,
  2. the subsidiary indication-wordplay-and
  3. nothing else.

An occasional word beyond that -- almost always between the two parts -- may be acceptable on behalf of surface sense. Common linking words include and and with. There may be no indicator, just an implied colon.

Some puzzlers object to one-word clues with two parts (halfwits for WI, figurehead for F). However, this kind of clue appears regularly in British cryptics and occasionally in U.S. puzzles.

Indirect anagrams aren’t allowed. In the example given in the solving article, Inebriated freebooters travel about would be an indirect anagram: the solver must find the right synonym for freebooters (pirates) and then anagram that word. This construction is considered too difficult.

These guidelines may be superseded by the themes or gimmicks in puzzles with themes or gimmicks.

See The Enigma masthead for the name and address of the current cryptic checker. Be sure to send the clues with their enumerations; a blank, numbered grid; and a separate page (or a separate e-mail message) of answers and their explanations. If the diagram entries are different from the answers, send the filled-in diagram as well. Note if any answers are capitalized, not in 11C, or not MW at all.

Some easy cryptic forms have been published as forms in recent years, to encourage solvers to learn cryptic techniques. But in general, forms with cryptic clues are presented as extras.

These symbols are commonly used to explain the clues:

* anagram: traipse*
+ charade: must + ache
( ) container: re(veal)ed
(R) reversal: snoops (R)
“ ” homophone: “barred”
[ ] deletion: re[a]ctor
(2) double definition: bellow (2)
(H) hidden words: roquefort (H)
{ } additional comments

Note that several types may be involved in a single answer: for example, must* + ache for a transposal of smut or tums plus charade.

[Webmaster's note: For specific information on how to compose a cryptic to make our cryptic editors at The Enigma happy, read what they have to say. -- djr]

This page was last updated on Thursday, June 18, 2015. /webmaster