This year sees the centenary of the crossword puzzle. The first such puzzle appeared in the New York World in December 1913. You can see it here.
The cryptic crossword has no such definitive origin. It seems that setters for the British broadsheets, most notably one known as Torquemada, began in the late 1920s elaborating their clues with old parlour game and word game devices such as anagrams and charades. Those early puzzles contained only a sprinking of recognisably cryptic clues.
My predecessor at the Listener, RWH, maintained that early style throughout her tenure, from 1940 to 1997. Many of her clues were “straights”, with two or three literary quotations per puzzle. Like RWH, the British broadsheet setters assumed their solvers had had some literary education. The British indeed assumed that their solvers would have some grounding in the classics in Greek and Latin as well as English. That is no longer so.
Later this year I plan to use the centenary as an excuse to bring these puzzles to a wider audience. While some new people are learning to tackle cryptics, I suspect that the total number of solvers is slowly dwindling so I’ll be out there singing the delights. It’s a matter of both conviction and job protection for me.
Too many people see these puzzles as beyond their possible understanding but the enjoyment that comes when the penny drops for individual clues and for the game as a whole can be be a pleasure just to share.
|Across||Answers and Clues||Explanations|
|Cook him a bone to be unconventional (8)||Anagram of HIM A BONE, anagram indicator cook|
|Father leads a setter back to an Asian temple (6)||Father = PA, a setter = A GOD|
|The child in The Pilgrim’s Progress (5)||Hidden word, pilgrim S PROG ress|
|Mad racists around California can be disrespectful (9)||Anagram of RACISTS including CA|
|A new sort of try at live broadcast with members of the public in tricky situations (7,2)||Anagram of TRY AT LIVE|
|Some run at a loss from birth (5)||Hidden word, ru NATAL oss|
|What the guests did to sound properly dignified (6)||Homophone, properly dignified = staid|
|Train as poorly skilled worker (7)||Anagram of TRAIN AS|
|Sermon I composed for members of the flock (7)||Anagram of SERMON I|
|The Maori human resources article yields Asian capital (6)||The Maori = TE, human resources = HR, article = AN|
|Love to hit the jackpot? Good? Outstanding! (5)||Love = O, hit the jackpot = WIN, good = G|
|Real locum represcribes the smallest possible sort of dose (9)||Anagram of REAL LOCUM|
|Bigwig gives thanks about work with prohibition, not applicable in the end (3,6)||Thanks = TA, work = OP, prohibition = BAN, not applicable = NA|
|I sort of turn in the afternoon after love and a narcotic (5)||I + sort of turn = U, afternoon = PM, love = O|
|The French examination is the most fashionable (6)||The French = LA, examination = TEST|
|Knew race could be fixed to result in a tie (8)||Anagram of KNEW RACE.|
|Down||Answers and Clues||Explanations|
|An eatery offering a bit of cannabis, troublingly (6)||Hidden word, cannaBIS TROublingly|
|Free heart for new arrangement in the future (9)||Anagram of FREE HEART|
|A lens that can be adapted to filming gangs, say (10,5)||Anagram of FILMING GANGS SAY|
|Ads, easy to be misrepresented when tested (7)||Anagram of ADS EASY|
|6||AGAINST THE CLOCK|
|Set coach talking stupidly: “how to run a race on your own” (7,3,5)||Anagram of SET COACH TALKING|
|Musical group etc turned up in the Old Testament (5)||etc turned up = CTE in Old Testament = OT|
|Where the NZ Herald appears with an article on bad luck as well as … (8)||an article = A + anagram of LUCK + as well as = AND|
|… unimportant details of new varieties. (See letters have been removed) (6)||Anagram of VARIeTes (SEE deleted from varieties)|
|Second perhaps is of minor importance (5-4)||Cryptic definition|
|It is wicked about team leader being not liable to death duties (8)||wicked = IMMORAL, team leader = T|
|Aim to be different in evildoing like an ape (6)||Anagram of AIM inside evildoing = SIN|
|To give satisfaction remove political leader, a sign that it is available for use in exchange for money (2,5)||To give satisfaction = TO PLEASE minus P (political leader)|
|The introductory text is under coat, you might say (6)||double definition|
|Kidnap aunts every second to produce a stimulus (5)||Alternating letters, k I d N a P a U n T s .|