Today's cryptic clue type is the reversal: the wordplay in the clue reveals the requisite letters, and then you turn them backwards to get the answer.

Unlike with anagrams, where the "fodder" has to be given explicitly in the text of the clue itself, for reversals the fodder is essentially a charade: it might consist of any combination of synonyms, initials, implied letters and explicitly-given words. For example, take a look at this clue:

Lasso a cavalry's leader, returning military trainee (5)

In this case, "Lasso a cavalry's leader" is the wordplay and includes a substitution, a literal word, and an implied letter, which together give a five letter string. "Returning" is the reversal indicator, so once you reverse the original string you'll get a word meaning "military trainee". Have a go here:

Reversal Indicators

Reversals will always have an indicator, and it'll be exactly what you imagine: a phrase like....

  • “backward” or “reverse"
  • an expression like “turned about,” “about-face,” “U-turn” or "wrong way"
  • Gymnastics terms like “somersault” and “backflip”
  • Words that indicate backward motion, like “retreat”

Additionally, there are some reversal indicators that are dependent on the clue direction (that is, whether it's Across or Down). For Across-es, you might see indictors about going right to left instead of left to right: “turns left,” “go west.” For Down entries, you might see indicators like “up” or “north”, "standing up", or "climb" or "rise".

Here's a clue that only makes sense as a Down – give it a go!

As always, the joy of the clue is how the literal reading is so smooth yet entirely misleading – we raise our hands in apprecation of our puzzle setter Andrew Ries!

Today's Cryptic: Reversals

And on to today's cryptic! We hope you find it straight-forwards, and that your fortunes continue to steam right ahead...

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