Crosswords will be more of a cinch after you’ve digested our guide to the best of the broadsheets’ cryptic clues.
In the sample clues below, the links take you to explainers from our beginners series. The setter’s name often links to an interview with him or her, in case you feel like getting to know these people better.
The news in clues
Any setter who refers to goings-on in the real world develops a sense of what the readers of a paper are thinking and talking about. On the one hand, we’re told that we’ve forgiven and forgotten the suitcase of wine and so on; on the other, and in crosswords, there it all lingers, as in this clue from Artexlen …
6d Parties around start of lockdown journalist revealed (9)
[ wordplay: type of “parties”, containing (“around”) first letter (“start”) of LOCKDOWN, then abbrev. for a “journalist” ]
[ DISCOS containing L, then ED ]
[ definition: revealed ]
… for DISCLOSED.
It’s serendipitous connection time! From the quiptic, the Guardian’s puzzle for beginners and those in a hurry, here’s Pasquale’s neat clue …
… for CLINCH. This pleasing word goes back to the Old English clęncan, and you can practically hear the sense of “hold tight” in its cluster of consonants. A CINCH is of course something different, as explained in a pleasing exchange in the novel Carry On, Jeeves (“‘It’s a cert!’ I said. ‘An absolute cinch!’ said Corky.”) – but it wasn’t always.
Before a CINCH was a nailed-on certainty, it was an attachment of another kind: it was the strap that goes under a horse to keep its saddle from flying off. Too close to CLINCH in meaning to be a coincidence, the reasonable person would say; and the reasonable person would be wrong.
The original CINCH was made out of some of the horse’s spare hair, and was talked about where Mexico meets the US, and, while it’s not unlike CLINCH or CLENCH, it came independently from the Spanish cincha.