Charades

Our next type of clue is the charade, one of the most common varieties in Cryptic World. Like in a game of charades, each word or phrase in the clue represents another little piece of the answer, presumably in a misleading way, and you stitch them together to get a result. (This will make more sense through examples).

Imagine the following are like jokes someone is telling you – without trying to solve them, read the clue then click the toggle to reveal the answer. (Also, prepare to groan). Later we'll explain some of the common tricks and tips, but it's one of those things that's easier to absorb through experience.

"Noodles," mafia man, is coming after you (4)

The answer is UDON, a type of noodle, where DON (a “mafia man”) comes after the letter U (“you”).

Small crew’s power source (5)

The answer is STEAM, a type of "power source", and the wordplay is S (short for “small”) plus TEAM (a synonym for “crew”)

Wet season soon after Monday (7) 

Put SOON after MON, a common abbreviation for “monday,” to get MONSOON (“wet season”)

The Parts Of A Charade

As you may have noticed in the examples above, each component of a charade represents a corresponding part of the answer in one of several ways:

  • - an abbreviation, such as S for Small, Mon for Monday or U for You
  • - a synonym, such as "don" for "mafia man" or "team" for "crew"
  • - the literal word, such as "soon" – look out for this especially with little words like "a" or "in" or "or".

By default the components should be used in the order they're presented in, but words like "after" can indicate re-arrangement.

Let's start with your first clue.

🧩
Subsequently cover 'Like a Rock' (5)

Since it's our first charade, we'll give you some pointers:

  • - the wordplay is composed of two synonyms, a synonym for "subsequently" and then a synonym for "cover"
  • - the definition is "like a rock"

Remember, the surface sense of a clue is deliberately misleading – try to wipe it out of your brain and think up other senses of the words that are completely different from the ones on the surface.

(By the way, the trick in this clue – where "cover" seems like a verb in the surface sense, but is actually a noun in the answer – is a classic cryptic shenanigan, you'll be seeing much more of it...)

Exhausting Abbreviations

An exhaustive list of the kinds of abbreviations you might encounter in a crytpic would be about as much fun as, well, an exhaustive list of abbreviations. Suffice it to say that any kind of recognisable abbreviation is liable to show up in a cryptic clue:

  • "Dr" for "doctor"
  • "Jan" or "J" for January
  • "Mon" or "M" for Monday
  • The NATO alphabet (A for Alpha, B for Bravo, C for Charlie....)
  • The chemical elements (H for Hydrogen, He for Helium, Li for Lithium....)

and so much more.

Here's one for you:

🧩
Encrypts 100 praiseful poems (5)

We'll tell you up front that the number 100 represents a single letter here; remember, you can always reveal hint letters if you're stuck.

A quick note: like in real life charades, you can often answer a charade clue without entirely understanding all the wordplay, by a combination of sensible guessing and a process of elimination (pluss the cross-tab letters you may have acquired from other clues on the grid).

My first... My last... My everything

Another common element of charades is the extraction of the first or last letter of a word in the clue. How will this be signalled? Misleadingly, of course.

your first love as part of a clue might be indicting L, the first letter of Love, or equally might be indicating Y, the first letter of Your.

their last night could be indicating R or T, similarly.

See if you can figure out the following clue, which plays a similar trick. We'll tell you the definition is "Nourish", and "Denmark's capital" is not really a reference to Copenhagen.

Charade Indicators: There Aren't Any

You may remember from our section on anagram-type clues that certain indicators tip off the solver that a particular clue is an anagram. So you may be wondering what the indicators are for charades.

Well: by convention, charades don't contain indicators at all.

That's all there is to say, really.

Cryptic Mini: Charades

How exciting – it's time for today's cryptic, where every clue is a charade.

Join 90,000+ curious readers who grow with us every day

No spam. No nonsense. Unsubscribe anytime.

Great! Check your inbox and click the link to confirm your subscription
Please enter a valid email address!
You've successfully subscribed to The Browser
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in
Could not sign in! Login link expired. Click here to retry
Cookies must be enabled in your browser to sign in
search