Classic Crossword Clues (2022)

It seems like an endless stream of crossword puzzles are created, solved and discarded, and most of them have little wit or art. It truly sets my teeth on edge to work through a book of puzzles and discover that the puzzle writer has used the same puzzle cliches three or four times. Thus, On the Waterfront director is always ELIA, and A literary collection is always ANA, and so on.

This is one reason why I prefer cryptic crossword puzzles, where the clues themselves have been encoded through some kind of wordplay. It is possible to make clues so abstruse that simply making out what they mean is a satisfying (or infuriating) experience.

I recall that Rumpole of the Bailey used to do cryptic crosswords at the breakfast table. And in Joseph Losey's movie The Servant, James Fox struggles with the clue:

Waxed, so it can wane, 5 letters;
...we never find out what the answer is!

In Colin Dexter's "The Daughters of Cain", Inspector Morse puzzles over the crypic clue in the Times:

Kick in the pants?, (3-5) letters;
and has only worked out "-I- -L-S-" by the time Detective Sergeant Lewis comes in to work.

There is a recent book by Sandy Balfour, called "Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8)", subtitled "A memoir of Love, Exile and Crosswords", which includes an appreciation, examples, and history of cryptic crosswords.

In the lackluster movie "Enigma", NOT about Alan Turing, the not-at-all-like-Alan-Turing character is given the code-cracker cachet by instantly responding to the clue "Roast mules go topsy turvey, 10 letters."

In Jonathan Raban's novel "Waxwings", English expatriate Tom Janeway returns to the solace of cryptic crossword puzzles during a crisis, wishing it were yesterday:

He printed out the crosswords from the Guardian and the Times, then holed up in the kitchen, trying to figure out "In the past, you once strayed disastrously (9)."

In any case, I mention here a few of the clues, from regular or cryptic puzzles, that caught my fancy. One desirable property of a clever clue is misdirection, so that the clue seems strongly to indicate a certain word, while actually being susceptible of another interpretation. In that regard, the best clues are those where, even when you have the answer, you still need to think for a while to understand why it's the answer!

A as in Aachen. (4 letters)
EINE
A name is troublesome. (Cryptic: 7 letters)
AMNESIA (Colin Dexter: "Death is Now My Neighbour")
Amundsen's Forwarding Address. (Cryptic: 4 letters)
MUSH
An overnight letter? (3 letters)
INN
Bank depositor. (5 letters)
RIVER
Barely runs? (7 letters)
STREAKS
Big heart. (3 letters)
ACE
Black and white set. (5 letters)
CHESS
Bouncer's place. (10 letters)
TRAMPOLINE
Break one's word. (9 letters)
HYPHENATE
Browning pieces. (8 letters)
TOASTERS
Bust down reason? (Cryptic: 9 letters)
BRAINWASH
Calculus for canines? (6 letters)
TARTAR
Camel's end? (3 letters)
ASH
Celebrity center. (5 letters)
ONEAL
Consider an imaginary animal? (Cryptic: 4,2,4 letters)
BEAR IN MIND
Dame's introduction. (5 letters)
NOTRE
Dancer's group. (8 letters)
REINDEER
Delivery aid. (7 letters)
ZIPCODE
Do the dishes. (5 letters)
CATER
Do's that are don'ts. (9 letters)
COMBOVERS
Draft pick. (3 letters)
ALE
Eight letters. (3 letters)
TUV
Eleven? (3,5,7 letters)
ONE AFTER ANOTHER
English sum. (1,2 letters)
I AM
Flip side? (5 letters)
TAILS
Garden party. (4 letters)
ADAM
Gives a number to. (7 letters)
DEADENS
Globe plotter. (4 letters)
IAGO
Grace period. (8 letters)
MEALTIME
Half profile? (7 letters)
KENNEDY
Handled better? (7 letters)
RENAMED
Having not yet made the cut? (5 letters)
PREOP
Head of England. (3 letters)
LOO
Heartless one? (6 letters)
TINMAN
Horrid glances from Charles Grodin? (7 letters)
ANAGRAM
How to make a sinner thinner. (4 letters)
LISP
It can help you get a date? (6 letters)
CARBON
It may be fit for a queen. (8 letters)
BEDSHEET
It may be hung from a board. (3 letters)
TEN (still mad about this one!)
It may come after a bridge. (7 letters)
REFRAIN
Its employees are in training? (7 letters)
LIONEL
Jobs in the computer biz. (5 letters)
STEVE
Just a little out of place? (4 letters)
SHOW
Kick in the pants? (Cryptic: 3,5 letters)
HIP FLASK
Large container of brass. (8 letters)
PENTAGON
Leaves home. (4 letters)
TREE
Lift a curse. (5 letters)
BLEEP
Love handle? (7 letters)
PET NAME
LP insert. (3 letters)
MNO
Make-up artist. (4 letters)
LIAR
Mass communication medium. (5 letters)
LATIN
More work. (6 letters)
UTOPIA
No performers found here. (5 letters)
JAPAN
Number 10 on a table. (4 letters)
NEON
Numbers holder. (5 letters)
TORAH
Octavia's offer? (4 letters)
NERO
One can't do this. (4 letters)
DUET
One ordered to take two tablets. (5 letters)
MOSES
One past due? (3 letters)
TRE
Ones who never think of flying? (10 letters)
AUTOPILOTS
Open position (4 letters)
SEED
Owner of the Y? (4 letters)
MALE
Oxford foundation? (4 letters)
SOLE
Pan films? (6 letters)
TEFLON
Part of a plot. (4 letters)
ACRE
Passed illegally. (6 letters)
LEAKED
Passing events. (10 letters)
RELAY RACES
Permanent features (5 letters)
WAVES
Place to find a nun? (7 letters)
DREIDEL
Point of resolution? (5 letters)
PIXEL
Pole vault units? (6 letters)
ZLOTYS
Polo grounds. (4 letters)
ASIA
Preschoolers. (3 letters)
ROE
Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose? (Cryptic: 8 letters)
REBELLED
Put into gear. (6 letters)
CLOTHE
Puts on a coat. (6 letters)
PAINTS
Queen's home. (7 letters)
ANTHILL
Queens plate setting. (4 letters)
SHEA
Record Holder. (9 letters)
REGISTRAR
Refrain from piracy. (6 letters)
YOHOHO
Ring bearer. (6 letters)
SATURN
Roast mules go topsy turvy. (10 letters)
SOMERSAULT
Rock Singer. (7 letters)
LORELEI
S? (7 letters)
LARGESS
See people? (7 letters)
BISHOPS
Select a tie? (4 letters, cryptic)
DRAW
Selling points? (5 letters)
SHOPS
Sends off letters. (6 letters)
EVICTS
Six footer. (3 letters)
ANT
Slanted column. (9 letters)
EDITORIAL
So and so? (5 letters)
NOTES
Soap unit. (7 letters)
EPISODE
Some are fit for a king. (6 letters)
SHEETS
Starbuck's orderer. (4 letters)
AHAB
Steps on a scale? (5 letters)
TONES
Support for a proposal. (4 letters)
KNEE
They go back and forth to work. (4 letters)
SAWS
They may be shifted in transit. (9 letters)
TENSPEEDS
They wrap their food well. (4 letters)
BOAS
Three points in a row, perhaps. (8 letters)
ELLIPSIS
Throw for a loss? (9 letters)
SNAKEEYES
Tip of Massachusetts. (6 letters)
ONEILL
Tip of one's tongue. (3 letters)
ESE
Tongue-tied one. (4 letters)
SHOE
United, for one. (7 letters)
SYNONYM
Unlocked area? (4,4 letters)
BALD SPOT
Used to avoid listing. (8 letters)
ETCETERA
Way off base. (5 letters)
LEAVE
What I might mean. (3 letters)
ONE
What the bronco does to chesty cowgirls? (5 letters)
BUXOM
What they may be out of in January. (6 letters)
OFFICE
Work with feet. (3 letters)
ODE
Would one rather work there? (3 letters)
CBS
!? (Cryptic: 6,4,1,4 letters)
DOESN'T HAVE A CLUE

While I seem to have lost my interest in, or access to, cryptic crosswords, I still do some of the conventional kind. In that activity, I have become accustomed to the way puzzle posers feel that they may legitimately supply clues so indirect that they serve not as clues, but as confirmation after the answer has been guessed some other way. However, there comes a point when the clue is so worthless that you feel insulted and the whole flow of the puzzle solving process is stopped. I call such cases styptic crossword puzzles and I record here a few objects of my disdain:

Scuffling (4 letters)
ATIT ..., you know, "at it", which, among myriad meanings, could be taken to mean "scuffling" if you really really don't feel like thinking any further for a better clue than this.
Last revised on 17 October 2018.

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Prof. Nancy Dach

Last Updated: 11/05/2022

Views: 5874

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (57 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Prof. Nancy Dach

Birthday: 1993-08-23

Address: 569 Waelchi Ports, South Blainebury, LA 11589

Phone: +9958996486049

Job: Sales Manager

Hobby: Web surfing, Scuba diving, Mountaineering, Writing, Sailing, Dance, Blacksmithing

Introduction: My name is Prof. Nancy Dach, I am a lively, joyous, courageous, lovely, tender, charming, open person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.