A Starter Pack for the Cryptic-Crossword Curious

Cryptic clues are bite-size riddles, each with the same structure: half the clue is a definition of the answer, and the other half is a bit of oblique wordplay suggesting the same answer. For those accustomed to standard American crossword puzzles, cryptics may seem like a daunting challenge, but few cruciverbal pleasures surpass that of cracking a well-crafted cryptic clue. All it takes to get started are the proper tools—and a bit of practice. To help, we’ve compiled a pack of four novice-friendly cryptics: three brand-new ones, plus one from our archive, all with some added hints.

If you’re new to cryptics, we recommend first browsing this interactive how-to guide. It includes sample clues and explanations, along with a video tutorial starring New Yorker crossword constructors Anna Shechtman and Erik Agard. With our primer at your disposal, you’ll be well equipped to tackle the puzzles in this pack.

Beginner-Friendly Cryptic No. 1, a puzzle from our archive that we’ve updated with some extra solving tips, is a good place to start. In each clue, you’ll be able to see which half is the definition and which half is the wordplay. We’ve also underlined the “indicators”—words or phrases meant to tip solvers off to the type of wordplay involved—and we’ve provided the type (or types) of wordplay in brackets.

Beginner-Friendly Cryptic No. 1

Keel over, becoming something green (4) [reversal]

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After you’ve conquered that challenge, you can try your hand at the three new cryptics below. In these puzzles, we’ll still show you which half of the clue is which, but we’ve removed the other training wheels. And, once you’re ready to start solving without any hints, we’ve got hundreds more cryptics in our archive just waiting to be unravelled.

Beginner-Friendly Cryptic No. 2

Cannes rejection overwhelms L.A. director Christopher (5)

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Beginner-Friendly Cryptic No. 3

Politicians such as Kamala Harris and Joe Biden sent up in TriStar comedy (9)

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Beginner-Friendly Cryptic No. 4

Castro holds up drag superstar (6)

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