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How to Do a Real Crossword Puzzle


2. Multiple meanings. This form of clue combines two or more definitions (and not always the primary or most obvious definitions) of the answer in a misleading way. E.g., "Fight enclosure in the theater (3)" may look baffling but is simply two meanings of a single word strung together to make a peculiar set of associations. The answer, as you've guessed, is BOX. In this type of clue, watch out for words that look like one part of speech but turn out to be another. "Deliver from bar (4)" leads to SAVE in two senses: "deliver from" and "bar" (as a preposition meaning "except").

3. Reversals. These clues lead to words which, when read backwards, form other words. Indications like "reflex," "looking back," "from East to West" (in the case of Across words), and "upwards," "doing a headstand," "rising" (in the case of Down words), are what you should be on the alert for. E.g., "Emphasized trifles—in a roundabout way (8)." Here there is a small extra deception in that "trifles" doesn't refer to trivia but to desserts, which, when looked at "in a roundabout way" are STRESSED, which means "emphasized." Two or more words may be reversed, too, of course. As in "Push through the District Attorney—otherwise he lies back (8)." Get it? Well, first try to decide which is the definition part of the clue. Still don't get it? Look at the answer at the end of the column.

4. Charades. These lead to words which fall into convenient (continued on page 129) (continued from page 124) complete parts. Here's an example from Ximenes: "Remains precisely how he is (5)." You probably wouldn't think of "remains" as a noun in this context, but that's the definition. And the answer is ASHES. "How he is" becomes "As he's"—the whole word is a phrase in itself. Here's another: "One in flames made a landing (4)." "One" = a, "in flames" = lit, "made a landing" = ALIT. Here's one: "Sinister purpose of an auction? (10)." (Question marks and exclamation points at the ends of clues usually indicate some form of pun or outrageous misuse of meaning).

5. Container and contents. This type of clue resembles the Charades type in having wholes and parts, but the parts are outside and inside instead of side by side. Words in the clue like "in," "around," "holding," and "embraces" are signs of Containers. E.g., "Crooner takes clarinet inside—good manners (8)." What crooner? Bing, of course. A clarinet is a what? A reed. Let BING take a REED "inside" and you get BREEDING. Good manners.

Both Containers and their Contents often employ symbols and abbreviations, as in fact do all sorts of clues. But only well-known symbols and abbreviations are used and, in the Americanized puzzles on these pages, only those known to the American reader. There are dozens which pop up continually. When you see North, East, West or South or "point" (meaning compass-point) in a clue, think of N, E, W, or S. For "nothing" or "no" or "love" (as in a tennis score), think of O. For "about," keep in mind "re" (meaning "concerning") or "c" (abbreviation for "circa"). "Note" often refers to notes of the scale—"do," "re," "mi," etc. "One" may mean "a," "an," or "I." Other Roman numerals, too: V, X, L, C, D and M might be indicated by their arabic equivalents. "Steamship" for SS, "saint" or "street" for ST, "glamor" for IT or SA (abbreviation of Sex Appeal), "acceptable" or "high-class" for U (as opposed to non-U), "first-rate" for AI (A1), "soft" or "loud" for P or F (musical dynamics)—these are a few of the devices to watch for. Unusual abbreviations will always be hinted at by "briefly" or "in short." "General, in short" could indicate GEN as part of a word.

Here are some Container clues that use these devices: "When Peg holds a note, it comes out clear (5)." Look for a word meaning "peg" that holds a word meaning "note" that will make a word meaning "clear." How about "High priest seen in the morning in Los Angeles (4)"?

6. Puns. Some clues deal with homonyms—words of different meaning which have the same sound. Indications of them usually consist of phrases like "we hear" and "sounds like," as in "We hear the new musical is German (4)." The new musical is "Hair" and we hear it as HERR (German as a noun). Two-word puns are even lower and more frequent, as in "Ethyl alcohol is one way to kill a fish if you listen closely (6)." Ethyl alcohol is SPIRIT (yes, "spirits" can be singular)—listen to it closely.

7. Hidden. These clues are both the easiest to solve and the most deceptive. They involve burying the answer in the letters of the clue—either within a word or as a bridge between words. In point of fact the answer stares you so innocently in the face that you often don't see it. Watch out for indications like "seen in," "within," "containing," "found in," "some of." E.g., "This girl appears in black at every party (4)." Can you see KATE there staring out of "black at every"? Or "Beg for a piece of an apple a day (5)." Which piece? The core—that is, the core of "apple a day," which is PLEAD.

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