Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Double Definition Clue

All quick crossword compilers secretly want to be cryptic crossword compilers. So you will often find the double definition clue in both types of crossword.

The extra information provided by a second definition gives the solver a helping hand. In a simple category item definition clue such as:

2. Vehicle (3)

the solver has no way to choose between solutions CAR, BUS and VAN until other solved clues in the grid provide a helpful consonant.  

The double definition clue solves this problem and is the ancestor of the cryptic clue. The solution is defined in two ways. In a simple crossword these definitions will usually be helpfully separated by a semi-colon or an em-dash:

2. Front (military slang); Vehicle (3)

A cryptic compiler writing a double definition clue for the same answer would leave out the helpful information and punctuation and perhaps throw in a little extra misdirection by making the first word more ambiguous:

2. Lead vehicle (3)

When you see a two word clue in a cryptic crossword, you should mentally fill in the semi-colon. You are not being asked to find a solution for the whole clue. Rather, you are being asked to find the same solution for each half of the clue.

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