Secrets of the Private Eye crossword

There’s something odd about cryptic crosswords. They appear in every newspaper as if they’re self-explanatory, yet they have extremely intricate rules and customs. As the many hours I wasted in the school library, staring at the back pages of the broadsheets, if you don’t know what they’re about, you can’t even get started (I think the only cryptic clue I ever got in school was a Times clue along the lines of “A shock on a clear day (1,4,4,3,4)”). At least Sudokus always come with an explanation.

It was Cyclops that got me into crosswords – when my student digs were full of old tattered copies of Private Eye, the crossword (and its generous £100 prize) tempted me to pick up the organ. By then, the wonderful blog Fifteen Squared had started, with its explanations of each puzzle, and so I could gradually pick up the tricks of the trade. Compared to the broadsheets, Cyclops – real name Eddie James, or Brummie from the Guardian – is usually a bit easier. The wordplay is a bit more straightforward, and the answers are mostly drawn from current events and slang, which makes it a good place for beginners to start.

But solving the Eye crossword has its own challenges. Alongside the usual abbreviations (you know, L for “left”, C for “cold”) and handy letter combinations (“promises” are usually IOUS, a “revolutionary” can be a RED like CHE), there are some that are unique to the Eye‘s puzzle and its political, risque tone. Since I haven’t found a list of them anywhere, I thought I’d list them here.

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Crossword time!

One of the hobbies that I tend not to tell people about is my love of crosswords. With most major newspapers putting both a quick and a cryptic on their website every day (and Cyclops in Private Eye, my favourite cryptic, arriving every fortnight), it’s pretty easy to indulge.

But for a while I’ve wanted to have a go at crafting my own. So, without further ado, here’s my first full attempt at a cryptic, hosted by the lovely Across Crosswords:

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