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How to Do a Real Crossword Puzzle

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Those are the basic types of cryptic clues in their simplest forms, but you will encounter many which are combinations of two or more types: clues, for example, which contain anagrams and reversals within the container, like "Return to look around the dilapidated tavern for tires (9)." This is a characteristically complex clue. In attacking it, you should first off suspect the word "return" and connect it with "to look." "To look" is to see, so "return" it: EES. "Around" suggests that EES is "around" another word: E . . . . . . ES. What word? A "dilapidated tavern," of course—and your now-warped mind should tell you that "dilapidated" indicates an anagram. There are six letters missing still in the answer and "tavern" has six letters, so your hunch is confirmed. EntreavES? Check the dictionary to see if it's an obscure word for rubber wheels ("tires"). No—I told you there would be very few obscure words. Ah—EnervatES! "Tires" as a verb, meaning "weakens."

One more complex example should suffice before you plunge in or throw your pencil down in disgust. "The Last of the Mohicans is my composition paper (6)." Looks like a needless piece of information instead of a clue, but take it apart. Literally. Suppose that the answer, the word itself, is speaking. Then you could repunctuate the sentence something like this: "The, last of the Mohicans, is—my composition; paper." The first part is what composes "me": i.e., THE, S (last of the Mohicans in the sense of the last letter of "the Mohicans"), IS. THESIS. And what does it mean? Paper (in the sense of a doctorate or term paper). Note two further devices used in this clue: first, that "I" or some other form of the first person may refer to the word itself. "I run," for example, might be the definition part of a clue to MILER or RIVER or even POLITICIAN. Second, part-words are often trickily spliced into a clue. Just as "The Last of the Mohicans" indicated S, so a "tailless bird" might be BIR, "half a sixpence" might be ENCE or SIXP, and a "beheaded King" might be ING. Always look for the possible literal meaning of a clue.

Well, if you've slogged through the undergrowth of all this logodaedaly (a word worth going to the dictionary for) and are still unruffled, it should give you a start (pun meaning both "beginning" and "unpleasant surprise"). In the Listener-type puzzles which will appear on these pages, the solving of clues is only part of the task. Each of the puzzles has a gimmick of some sort which is fully explained in the Instructions accompanying the diagram. Be prepared for odd shapes, sizes and problems. Sometimes, for example, the words you enter into the diagram (or "lights," as the British call them) are not the same as the answers to the clues. The light may be a word associated with the answer (e.g., the answer may be ABERCROMBIE but the light may be FITCH) or it may be the answer in code or the answer with all vowels omitted or whatever the composer of the puzzle has in mind to torture you with. Most often, however, the light and the answer are one and the same, and always there are Instructions if some device is involved, so don't worry. Not this week, anyway.

The puzzles will employ as few East Indian betel nuts as possible and they will hopefully be more challenging and rewarding than those which do. The rewards, by the way, will be material as well as intellectual: each week copies of Chambers 20th Century Dictionary (published by Hawthorn Books, Inc. and available at bookstores at $5.50) will be awarded to the senders of the first three correct solutions opened (we will open submissions not in order of receipt but all at once on the day of deadline—some contestants would otherwise suffer from living in outlying postal districts, such as The Bronx). If no solutions are received, the prizes will be held over, accumulating as in a sanitation strike, and the offices of New York will eventually open a gift shop.

Send completed diagram with name and address to Puzzle Editor, New York Magazine, 207 East 32nd Street, New York, New York 10016. Entries must be received by Wednesday, April 14, at which time they will be opened.

If you haven't ripped these pages up by now, clip them out and keep them as a guide for future weeks. And as for "Banta hartebeest," I say it's "lebbek"—and I say the hell with it.

Answers to clues unsolved in the text above:
1. Anagrams: CINERAMA (American) ANTITHESIS (A snit is the . . .)
3. Reversals: RAILROAD (D.A./or/liar)
4. Charades: FORBIDDING
5. Containers: PLAIN (p-la-in) LAMA (L.-A.M.-A.)


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