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Finding beauty in (and explaining) cryptic crossword clues
Part five of a nine-part series of blogs

Cryptic crossword clues can be ingenious and witty, as this blog tries to explain. The blog tries to convey this owl's passion for the genre, but also to give a mini-tutorial on how cryptic crosswords clues are constructed.

  1. Finding beauty in (and explaining) cryptic crossword clues
  2. Anagrams
  3. Construction clues
  4. Cryptic definitions
  5. Double meaning clues (this blog)
  6. Lit clues
  7. Hidden clues
  8. Soundalike clues
  9. The overall winner

Posted by Andy Brown on 26 May 2020

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Double meaning clues

These clues are quite like cryptic definitions, with the difference that the definition is given twice.  Here are my favourites from the Times for the last couple of years.

For each clue I've put one part of the definition in red, and the other in blue.  In many cases the breakpoint between the two definitions is not where the casual reader would expect it to be!


The clue for this is:

Serious art making money? (7)

If you art making money, then it's an old-fashioned way of saying you earnest it!


The clue here is:

Lovely out? (8)

A striking girl is also a lovely one, usually, and if a worker is out they could be said to be on strike, or striking.  I like this clue because it's so misleading: the surface reading just suggests that the weather outside is nice.


Another beautifully simple clue:

Slap bottom?

The bottom of something is its foundation, and slap is a slang word for make-up (of which foundation is definitely a part).


The clue here is:

Quality of signal in first class (9)

This came very close to being my winner.  I love the fact that the surface reading is so plausible (as someone who used to travel on Virgin trains a lot I used to worry about it).  But the true interpretation of the clue is that:

  • The quality of a signal is its reception; and
  • The first class at school is often called the reception class.

The Winner: Straight

The winning clue in this category was:

Hand over drugs? (8)

It sounds like something you might do to the police, but:

  • One of the hands you can get in poker is a straight; and
  • If you've managed to be over drugs, then you're no longer using and you've gone straight.
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