Like steak-and-kidney pie, the cryptic crossword is hugely popular in Britain and, to put it delicately, an acquired taste for most Americans. Unlike American-style crosswords, in which clues are usually synonyms or bits of trivia, a cryptic contains clues that are small puzzles in and of themselves. Basically, a cryptic clue consists of two elements: a definition of the answer (the so-called straight part), and a wordplay element that elliptically suggests the same answer (the cryptic portion). The magic happens, of course, where the two meet: “DISC,” considered as “IS” inside “DC,” can be clued as “Record is set in Washington”—“record” being another word for “disc,” and the word “is” being literally “set” within Washington (that is, metonymically, D.C.). If that kind of thing strikes you as sadistic, be grateful that you’re not tangling with the London Observer’s222eee野鸡网视频2区 weekly cryptic, where the celebrated setters (as cryptic constructors are known) have traditionally derived their pseudonyms from various Spanish Grand Inquisitors.

From 1997 to 1999, The New Yorker ran a cryptic crossword in the back of the magazine. Its unusual, condensed design—an eight-by-ten rectangular grid with bars in lieu of the typical black “blocks” separating words—was cooked up by the senior editor and staff writer Hendrik Hertzberg, who launched the puzzle. Fraser Simpson was the editor and a frequent constructor—along with Patrick Berry, whose name will be familiar to fans of our American-style crossword.

Browsing through those cryptics twenty years later, we were delighted to find that they remain a smooth, albeit challenging, solve. American-style crosswords, inseparably associated with daily newspapers, tend to yellow with age. Margaret Farrar, the first crossword editor of the Times, told this magazine222eee野鸡网视频2区, in 1959, “I favor using lots of book titles, play titles, names in the news, and so on.” The protean stuff of culture keeps the fifteen-by-fifteen grid lively, but it also makes the average Farrar-era puzzle, to a solver in 2019, as alien as a mid-sixties Betty Crocker recipe. Cryptics, by comparison, age gracefully: their sphinxlike wordplay has a long shelf life.

That non-newsy quality also makes cryptics an ideal holiday pastime: you can solve them with your aunt who’s on the other side of the political spectrum (or tune her out by getting lost in one). For Thanksgiving, we present this cornucopia of our favorite New Yorker cryptics. Starting in December, we’ll publish one every Sunday on

For those who are new to cryptics, there is a guide to some of the common varieties of cryptic clues below. And at the top of this post is a video in which two of our crossword constructors—Erik Agard and Anna Shechtman—offer some cryptic-solving tips. Finally, if you’d like an explanation of a particularly puzzling answer, consult the answer key at the bottom of this post.

You may find cryptics initially unappealing, their contorting clues too chewy. Call on a relative or a friend, pace around the room, but stick with it: wringing sense out of even one cryptic clue is deeply gratifying, and just might leave you wanting seconds.


222eee野鸡网视频2区Anagram clues are commonly indicated with words connoting violence (“ruined,” “destroyed”), altered states (“loony,” “drunk,” “nuts”), or reconfiguration (“in a new way,” “redesigned,” “novel,” “fresh”).

Hidden Word

222eee野鸡网视频2区In hidden-word clues, the answer is a sequence of letters inside the clue. Indicators might be “includes,” “entertains,” or simply “has.”


222eee野鸡网视频2区Common indicators for homophony are words relating to sound or speech: “heard,” “to an audience,” “said,” and the like. Remember that the straight part is always at the beginning or end of the clue.

Double Definition

222eee野鸡网视频2区Instead of a straight part and a cryptic part, double definition clues have, essentially, two straight parts: two different definitions of the same answer word. (These clues are never combined with other wordplay.)


Also called “charade” clues, assemblages work by breaking the answer into chunks and cluing each segment individually. These often don’t have an indicator word.


A deletion clue is what it sounds like: a prompt to remove the start or end of a word. Indicators include “headless,” “first off,” “half,” and “endlessly” or “without end.”


Reversals are a common component of assemblage clues, but they can also be used on their own. Signposts include “turned back,” “in reverse,” or “going up” (for words reading downward in the grid).


222eee野鸡网视频2区Container clues prompt you to insert one word inside another. They are often telegraphed by “within” or “going into” (referring to the inserted word), or by “surrounding” or “wrapping” (referring to the container word).

Bits and Pieces

If a clue contains a commonly abbreviated word, it might be a bits-and-pieces clue, prompting you to swap in the shorter form: “SD” for “South Dakota” (as in the previous example), “S” for “small,” “U” for “University” or “unsatisfactory,” “W” for “tungsten,” etc. This type of clue might also entail selecting the first letters from a series of words: e.g., “starts of many a yearly month (3)” could be MAY (Many A Yearly).    


222eee野鸡网视频2区Often, a cryptic clue will have more than one type of wordplay: using a reversal as part of an assemblage, or an anagram in a container. Those can be the trickiest of all, so keep an eye out for indicator words.

222eee野鸡网视频2区One last tip: start by trying to identify the portion of the clue most likely to be the straight part. For instance, in the previous clue, the answer is likely to be a synonym for either “entranced” (since “entranced rodent” isn’t a thing) or “piece of popcorn.” There’s really only one synonym for the latter—“kernel”—but there are many for the former. So it’s a good guess that you’re hunting for a word that means “entranced.”