The codes used in cryptic crosswords Abbreviations and Indicators

At the Clinic we have put together a number of lists to assist crossword solvers, containing such things as abbreviations, anagram indicators, deletion indicators etc. For each form of ‘code’, those indicators which solvers are likely to encounter in any type of crossword are marked as ‘Standard’ and those likely to be found only in barred crosswords are flagged as ‘Advanced’. Because of the number of abbreviations, there is a separate list (Common Abbreviations) containing only the ‘Standard’ ones. All the lists can be searched and sorted, and you can select how many items you wish to see on each page.

The lists are shown below. By default they are arranged alphabetically, but they can also be be sorted by date of last update.

ListLast Updated
All Abbreviations23/11/27
Anagram Indicators24/05/21
Common Abbreviations23/11/27
Container and Contents Indicators24/05/21
The Cryptic Lexicon24/05/28
Deletion Indicators24/03/27
Drag and Drop Indicators23/11/27
Hidden Indicators24/03/18
Homophone Indicators24/03/07
Intermittent Selection Indicators24/02/09
Juxtaposition Indicators24/05/01
Letter Selection Indicators24/03/07
Replacement Indicators24/03/27
Reversal Indicators23/11/27
Single Letter Indicators23/11/27
Whimsical Indicators23/11/27

The page below presents some advice aimed at those who are relatively new to writing clues for the monthly Azed competitions:

Writing Clues for Azed Competitions

Each of these links will open in a new tab.

If you spot any errors in the lists or have suggestions for inclusions, please contact us using the details on the Contact page.

7 Responses

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Hi Human634, and welcome to the blog.

      I’ve had a look at the page which you reference, and the term ‘connector’ appears to embrace two components that I see as being distinct from each other. What I call a juxtaposition indicator appears within the wordplay of clues, and describes the position of one element with respect to another (eg ‘A after B’ to indicate BA) – there is a list of these indicators on the site. What I generally call a ‘link’, on the other hand, forms a bridge between the wordplay and the definition; there is no clear consensus regarding what is acceptable (and unacceptable) in this regard, and I have seen a great many variations used by setters. These days I tend to stick to wordplay and definition only in my own clues, but I’d be happy to put together a (necessarily subjective) list of those links which I consider fair to solvers. One of the problems is that the wealth of senses given by Chambers for the most common prepositions means that it is possible to bring forward some justification for just about all of them (eg ‘to’ = both ‘answering’ and ‘with the result of’, ‘in’ = both ‘within’ and ‘consisting of’). Watch this space!

  1. Dr Daniel Price (Saint Vincent) says:

    I was not truly disagreeing with your initial premise: that “piece of’, “bit of”, and such could refer to any part of the word and are not in themselves suggestive of a word’s first letter. With that said, setters and solvers together determine the meaning of indicators, and allowing “piece of” etc. to refer to any part of a word renders the solver’s task essentially impossible. We therefore decide that those indicators refer specifically to the first letter of the word, and use other indicators such as “second of” and “end of” to identify letters elsewhere in the word. The alternative is to use only “beginning”, “start”. and a limited few additional indicators that strictly refer to the word’s first letter. Such would make setting and solving cryptics unacceptably dull.

    • Doctor Clue says:

      Agreed. There are many instances in cryptic wordplay where custom and practice either qualify or override a strict literal interpretation. I felt that ruling out ‘piece’ was contrary to this precept, for the reasons which we have both mentioned. I list ‘end’ as a last letter selection indicator, but it is surely only custom and practice which determine that it is not equally valid as a first letter selector.

      That doesn’t mean that popularity trumps all other considerations. I won’t accept ‘touring’ as a containment indicator or ‘jolly’ for RM no matter how many times I see them.

  2. Dr Daniel Price (Saint Vincent) says:

    Letter Selection Indicators

    Whereas “piece of” to indicate selection of the word’s first letter has been discontinued, why are “bit of”, “hint of”, and the like acceptable? [I would wish to expand the universe of indicators as much as is possible.]

    • Doctor Clue says:

      A very fair question!

      Fundamentally, I think it’s impossible to rule definitively on how familiar words can be applied in a cryptic context to a string of letters. For instance, when we talk about ‘a bit of’ something, that something is invariably an abstract (non-countable) noun – ‘a bit of wood’ is not a small part of a larger wood.

      ‘A bit of that [specific] cake’ and ‘a piece of that [specific] cake’ come to pretty much the same thing, and I’m not sure that either implies that the bit/piece comes from any particular part of the cake under consideration. But whilst I might like to think that ‘glimpse’, ‘suggestion’ and ‘hint’ carry some idea of the part being peripheral, I’m not sure that I can adduce any evidence to support that. Only indicators like ‘start’ and ‘initial’

      I conclude that the removal of ‘piece’ was arbitrary and based on personal preference. Azed is happy to accept it in clues, and therefore I have reinstated it in the list of first letter selection indicators. I also noticed that ‘suspicion’ and ‘dash’, which seem every bit as good to me as the ones mentioned above, were not in the list, so I have added them. I’m more than happy to consider including others on request.

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