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13 Jan 2014
Cryptic Crossword for 24Mag

Next weekend is the 2014 MIT Mystery Hunt, and I’ve been going through Prolog puzzles to prep in eager anticipation. And since I have puzzles on the brain, and this past weekend was the last issue of 24 Magazine, it seems like the right moment to finally post the first cryptic crossword I ever wrote! (This is from back when I was working on 24mag issue 4 in February of last year.)

This latest and final issue of 24 Magazine is stunningly beautiful, rich with color and texture, and I am a little in love with it. I’m totally allowed to say that, because I didn’t work on this issue at all! But I’m incredibly proud of and impressed by my friends who did. You can read 24 Magazine issue 6 (the last issue ever!) online here.

So, cryptic crosswords! They’re a bit different from the usual sort of crossword you might find in the paper. Each clue actually has two parts - a meaning clue, and a wordplay clue. Common forms of wordplay used in Cryptic clues include (but are not limited to): anagrams, hidden words, double definitions, containers, and homophones. Oh, and you’ll never see the meaning clue in the middle of the wordplay clue, mind - it’ll always be at the beginning or the end.

Here’s a great example from the 2012 MIT Mystery Hunt:

“Charge or no charge, rotten root must be extracted (3)”

You can deconstruct it as follows: “Charge” is the definition, and “no charge, rotten root must be extracted” is the wordplay clue. “No charge” is FREE, from which R (“rotten root” - the first letter of ‘rotten’) is “extracted”. FREE minus R gets you to the answer: FEE.

The following is the first cryptic crossword I wrote, over the course of one long sleepless day and night of magazine construction. If the clues are too hard, I promise it’s my fault. Enjoy!

(Extra thanks to Dave Turner, Mike Develin, and Martin DeMello for test-solving, brainstorming, and generally playing along with me back in February 2013 when I was writing this.)