Variety Cryptic #5: “Spring Cleaning”

Hello, cryptic people!

I’m seldom happier as a constructor than on the days I get to drop a variety cryptic! I hope it’s fun for you too. It’s been a pleasure to keep learning and setting these things. As usual, the difficulty is gentle-ish, which is to say it should be approachable to beginners without being a total gimme. Thanks so much to Hayley Gold, Nate Cardin, and k0rmad for the invaluable feedback during the editing process.

I’m finishing out a week off of work right now and have enjoyed a lovely virtual vacation to the U.K., during which I’ve solved every major daily cryptic to come out there for five days in a row. That’s 35 British puzzles from The Guardian, Independent, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph and Times! As you might imagine, this was pretty time consuming! I’m a second-tier speed solver of non-cryptic crosswords, and this sort of endeavor would have taken me about two hours had the puzzles been straightforward. Instead, this took me about fifteen hours! Good thing it was fun! Some piping hot takes, if you’ll indulge me:

  • U.K. puzzles are much harder than American/Canadian cryptics. Even the easiest ones are often about twice as hard as today’s blog puzzle, in my opinion!
  • Each venue has a really strong house style and even within those, the setters show an incredibly diverse array of voices. It was great to get to know and savor their styles.
  • I think our cryptic rules here are too strict by comparison. There was some really wild and innovative cluing going on that certainly wouldn’t be kosher in a cryptic in the states.
  • The heavy use of abbreviations makes for shorter, more elegant clues while without sacrificing the challenge or entertainment factor.
  • British general knowledge, vocab, and idioms do play a part in making these puzzles difficult for an American like me, but a little bit of Googling and learning makes it a super fun way to engage with someone else’s culture!
  • Themes aren’t required but they do show up a lot and are a really fun addition to standard blocked cryptics.
  • Every single puzzle I solved showed real virtuosity in its construction. The standard is incredibly high, and I have so much to learn and aspire to as a cryptic setter.

If you’d like to share U.K. cryptic solving experiences, please hit me up. I’d love to chat!

That’s that! Take care, enjoy the puzzle, and I’ll see you Wednesday with a themeless puzzle on the one-year anniversary of Square Pursuit!

Solve Online

PDF Solution with explanations

2 thoughts on “Variety Cryptic #5: “Spring Cleaning”

  1. Thanks, Steve. This was a enjoyable solve. While I can handle cryptics from most US constructors, I have rarely been able to make much headway on a UK one. I don’t think I have ever found an easy one. Maybe in my next life. I give you much credit. Richard



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