Understanding Cryptic Crosswords: A Step by Step Guide, Vivek Kumar Singh, Macmillan Publishers India Ltd, Pp 179, Rs 175
We all are fond of solving puzzles and riddles as these provide us food for exercising our brains. Generally we are able to crack the most complex of puzzles, but we do not know how and where to begin solving a cryptic crossword. In this esoteric pursuit, we can find curious school children, youth and even retired persons, deeply involved.
A crossword can appear inviting and yet daunting to us. Though capable of solving a cryptic crossword, something deters us from taking up our pen and cracking the code. Solving cryptic crosswords in this country has been the domain of a limited number of people, the prime reason being that Indian crosswords are still in the embryonic state. Barring a couple of newspapers and magazines, almost all the publications carry crosswords which have been lifted from British or American newspapers/magazines. Their clues, though of high quality, are not very easy for an Indian reader to decipher because they are British or American centric. Readers who are not familiar with names of British localities, rivers, trees, birds, animas, etc., often find them too alien for their comfort.
Crosswords are basically of two types – simple and cryptic. In the first case, the crosswords have direct clues and the solution is merely the meaning or the answer to the word/phrase given as the clue. The clue is straightforward, with no element of puzzle hidden or embedded in it. It merely requires a basic knowledge of English and at times general knowledge. A mere look at the Thesaurus or a book of knowledge can provide the answer to the clue given in the simple crossword. The cryptic crosswords are more complex, in which the direct clues are not clearly shown but are camouflaged in a longer word chain, which also comprises an additional hint in the form of a puzzle. This makes a cryptic clue appear slightly mysterious to a new person. The cryptic crossword, therefore, as the name suggests, has clues which are cryptic in nature. These clues are called cryptic clues.
Crossword is now almost a century old. The first published crossword was created by Arthur Wynne, a journalist from Liverpool, in the 21st December issue of New York World in 1913. Originally christened Word-Cross, it was renamed Cross-Word, which later lost its hyphen to become Crossword. A book on crosswords was a collection of New York World puzzles, published as a first effort by the famous publishers Simon and Shuster in 1924. It is this book which is credited to have popularised crosswords globally.
Coming to the book which is being reviewed we find that it explains how to identify the cryptic clues and cites examples to provide the answers.
The book is designed to be used a primer, a workbook, a refresher capsule and a reference book, all rolled into one, for use by school students of Class VII and above and who can be taught crosswords by the English teacher once a week.
(Macmillan Publishers India Ltd, 2/10, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002; www.macmillanpublishersindia.com)