How to solve Cryptic Crosswords during Coronavirus

20 March 2020

Looking for a distracting hobby that takes a chunk of time? 

Maybe one with a bottomless supply that you can access without going out into the world?

But you find cryptic crosswords baffling?

Here’s a selection of understandable explainers from the Guardian (if you prefer, your local bookshop can get my book for you).

And another thing: crosswords are best learned with a friend or family member. Beginner-friendly puzzles: Observer Everyman; Guardian quiptic; Telegraph; Times2.

Cryptic devices

Right, these are the bits of business like anagrams that you find in cryptic clueshidden answersdouble definitionssoundalikesinitial lettersspoonerismsCockney rhyming slang; containersreversalsalternate letterscyclingstutteringtaking most of a word

Bits and bobs

You also come across abbreviations and whatnotRoman numeralsNato alphabetGreek letterschemistryabbreviations for countriespoints of the compassplaying cardscapital lettersapostrophescricketalcoholthe churchdrugsmusicanimalscarscitiesriverswhen the setter’s name appearswhen the solver appears

Individual letters

A surreal set of “interviews” with the alphabet: ABCDEFGHIJKL

Top 10 Crosswords in Fiction

10Brief Encounter
9PG Wodehouse
8The West Wing
7Martin Amis
6Madness’s Cardiac Arrest
5Rubicon
4Alan Plater
3Inspector Morse
2Lord Peter Wimsey
1: The Simpsons

Interviews with setters

What makes these people tick: Paul; Enigmatist; Anax; Tramp; Boatman; Arachne; Rufus; Shed; Puck; Pasquale; Morph; Orlando; Gordius; Audreus; Philistine; Otterden; Doc; Crucible; Picaroon; Nutmeg; Chifonie; Screw; Chalicea; Knut; Styx; Marc Breman; Azed; Navy; Smurf

Random bits and bobs

100 years of crosswords; commentary from the Times Crossword Championship; rudeness; plagiarism; David Nobbs; Steve Pemberton

Richard Osman’s House of Games | BBC2

7 October 2019

Series three of House of Games; 100 episodes.

See also: my book for Penguin, The Joy of Quiz

Richard Osman’s House of Games | BBC Books

2 August 2019
Book of Games

I am proud of this book, which comes out on 17 October.

It has some games from the TV show, and some new ones and, with a couple of exceptions, all new questions. There are some imaginary behind-the-scenes conversations and general nonsense.

Blurb:

Do you know how many post boxes there are in the UK? Could you guess how many times the word ‘goat’ appeara in the King James Version of the bible? Fancy playing a game of charades where all of the books, films and plays are entirely made up? Now, look around the room. Is anyone there the kind of person who’ll say ‘I just don’t understand this’, when faced with something that’s not just perfectly easy to understand, but is … well, fun? Ask them to leave. Have they gone? Good. Now welcome inside the House of Games.

Hotel California | BBC News

23 August 2018

030301gold_house.JPG

A Smashed Hits about (the) Eagles’ Hotel California:

“Vaguery is the primary tool of songwriters,” Frey told a journalist during a 2003 pro-am golf tournament in California’s Pebbel Beach, where he was partnered with Huey Lewis. “It works, it means whatever the listener wants it to mean.”

Sources: History of the Eagles; Hit Story: It All Started Because Of Rattlesnakes; Rockin’ ‘Round The Round, SF Gate; Jennifer Parker’s McBusted: The Story of the World’s Biggest Super Band and this lovely data collection from Southern California Public Radio.

Trump, double-negatives and politics | BBC News

23 July 2018
double negative

A quick piece for the BBC about double negatives:

It’s hard to understate how often we find ourselves using two negatives when we don’t mean to – in fact, this sentence begins with a common example

See also: