Cryptic Crosswords. Useful Tips for Beginners.

Cryptic Crosswords. Useful Tips for Beginners.

Solving Cryptic Crosswords with Alternate Letters

There are various devices used by the crosswords setters to hide the word you are looking for. You have to figure them out yourself, some codeword solver will be of little help here. Some of them will require a lot of skills and will not be that willing to crack, while others can be considered relatively simple and will give you the answer shortly after you have spotted them. One of those easier devices is alternate letters. Once you discover it is used in the clue, you will probably be very excited because the case is almost closed and all you have to do now is to write every other letter from the certain part of the clue in a correct order and fit the word into the answer box. The challenge is, however, to know for sure that you are dealing with alternate letters and not just perform this procedure with every clue hoping that it will miraculously reveal the right answer. Our guide will give you some useful tips on unmistakably spotting those.

What to Look for
As you probably already know, a cryptic crossword clue consists of two parts, definition and some kind of wordplay. It is the second part that can indicate the device used in the clue. For alternating letters, the setters usually put such words as “regularly” or “periodically”. Once you see those, you have to figure out the definition part and the word you have to take the letters from. For example, the following clue could be considered as very difficult for someone who is not familiar with the works of the Russian classical author:

24d Perhaps the elder Turgenev gets noticed periodically? (4)
However, “periodically” indicates the presence of the device we’ve been discussing, and if you look for four alternate letters in the word that stands out the most, the authors last name in this case, you will see that they make up a word TREE. It’s simple as that.

Another hint at the alternate letters is presented by the words “even” and “odd”, already telling you whether to start from the first or the second letter of the target word.

What If It’s Not That Simple?
Of course it will not always be that simple and sometimes the letters you get will have to be additionally rearranged or mirrored to make a word. That means, that even when you found them, it will be useless to look through the list of O words or words with Y. And in other cases you may feel frustrated, when you see the hint at the alternate letters device but cannot make any sense of the picked letters. That is because you may have to look for every third letter, not every other as in most cases.

24d Rebelliousness regularly viewed as vulgar (4)

We have “regularly”, the word that could have four alternating letters here is “rebelliousness”, and after a few attempts to pick different letters out of it we will get the solution, which is BLUE.

There can be even more challenging cases, but be patient and check if you have found all the necessary hints. Besides, you may already have some helping letters from other solutions you have already discovered in the crossword. If you are lucky and have the first letter, you can try the crosswordsolver and see if it contains any T words that can be the answer. That might help you to make a good use of those alternate letters you’ve found.


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