&lit – short for “and literally.” Most clues have the definition of the answer as one part, and the wordplay as a separate part. With an &lit clue the entire clue consists of the wordplay and is designed to be read literally to give the definition. This is unusual, since the surface reading of a clue is usually only there to distract and confuse. The term is said to have been coined by Ximenes, qv.
Anagram – A word, the letters of which can be altered to make a different word: ORCHESTRA/CARTHORSE for example, though see also chestnut below. There used to be a rule that a no more than five were allowed in any one crossword, and perhaps there still is
Anagrind/Anagrist – the word in a clue that indicates an anagram is the anagrind. The word(s) used to create it, form the anagrist. One or two commenters dislike these terms, which probably increases their frequency of use. An example: “Military equipment manufactured in real time (8)” Answer: MATERIEL. The definition is underlined, the anagrind is in italics, and the anagrist in bold.
BIFD, Biffed, Biffing – an acronym, “Bunged In From Definition,” coined by Grestyman in this January 2015 blog. Used when you know what the answer must be, but can’t quite work out why. Clearly an invaluable word, since it is used virtually every day.
Brand names – the inclusion thereof. Your author has been solving The Times cryptic since the mid 1960s, and brand names have appeared in it, on occasion, throughout that time and perhaps before. Different editors have had different policies on this and at times their appearance has been more sporadic than at others. Times, referring to the paper, is easily the most common .. though Sky and Sun have been appearing more frequently of late. Other old examples include Hoover and Sellotape, RAC, AA, Tate (Gallery) and Boots (the chemist). Here is an example from 2008, the early days of this blog (see 3dn).
Breezeblock (or breeze-block, breeze block) – a term for that situation where you have breezed through most of a crossword, only to come to a grinding halt with one (or two, or three) clues left to solve. Originally coined in this January 2018 QC blog, in a comment by Astartedon. If you fail to get them you may become an OWL.
CD – Cryptic definition
Charade – The commonest type of cryptic clue, where consecutive bits of the answer are taken from the different elements of the wordplay. For example: “Obstinacy ultimately gets container delivered at cape (12).” STUBBORNNESS: (get)S + TUB (container) + BORN (delivered) + NESS (cape)
Chestnut – A clue that has often been used with simple variations, easily recognized by experienced solvers. Examples: ‘carthorse’ as an anagram for ‘orchestra’, ‘decaf’ as ‘faced’ backwards, Eli the priest, U as posh.
Club Monthly – a (monthly!) crossword available only on the Crossword Club webpages, and blogged by TfTT. Generally considered roughly as difficult as the Mephisto and thus mainly for more advanced, or at least more masochistic, solvers.
COD – Clue of The Day
Crossers – White squares in a crossword grid that relate to two clues, an across and a down. Unlike unches.
Crossword Club, The – part of The Times website, available free to all Times subscribers, dedicated to crossword matters
CRS – Cockney Rhyming Slang.
DBE – Definition by example. Some say normal cryptic convention indicates that a specific word should be clued by a more general word, eg “deer,” as a description of “impala;” but a DBE does the opposite. It is considered good form to indicate a DBE by a hint such as ‘say’, or with a question mark, (“Impala, say? to mean “deer”) but it is not compulsory and is often omitted.
DD – Double definition
Definition – Thanks to Ximenes, (see below), it is now universally accepted that every clue must include a clear definition of its answer. Setters will try to hide or disguise it, but it must be included, somewhere. Occasionally the entire clue forms the definition as well as including the wordplay, see &lit above. For example: “Level crossing the writer will support (6),” answer: PILLAR – found from PAR [level] “crossing” I’LL [the writer will]. So the definition is “support,” as a noun, which the setter has tried to conceal by using it as a verb in the surface reading.
A clue can have more than one definition – see DD just above – and sometimes several. The most definitions so far identified in a single clue is no less than nine (!) – see 23dn in this Sunday Times crossword by David MacLean..
DNF – Did Not Finish. A technical DNF is where you actually did finish, but only after looking something up, ie not unaided.
DNK – Did Not Know.
D’OH – Surely no need to provide a source or definition … suffice it to say, that this word appears most days! See also PDM
Double duty – A word that performs two functions in a clue, such as being part of the definition and also part of the wordplay. This is not often done in more conservative puzzles such as the Times.
FOI – First One In. See also LOI, POI.
Green paint – A multi word answer that is not valid because it is not a commonly used idiomatic expression, but just random words (like ‘Green paint’. For example, “face the wall” would not be a valid crossword answer, but “face the music” would be. Skilled solvers will be doubtful of green paint answers, and try again, though they are seen from time to time. (Though arguably, the fact that the phrase is in the glossary, and in regular use, means it is no longer “Green paint” at all …)
Heyerite – A fan of the historical novelist Georgette Heyer. A rather marmite figure, some consider her romantic novels beneath them whilst others admire her assured writing style and her passion for historical accuracy, which if nothing else makes her books an invaluable source of useful period vocabulary.
Homophone – a word that sounds the same as another but is spelled differently: horse/hoarse, gutta percha/gutter percher for example. We love to criticise these, on such grounds as “Folk here in Preston/Rhode Island/Melbourne don’t say it like that”
IKEA clue – A charade (qv) clue in which the definition pops out once you self-assemble all the components of the clue in the correct order. Example: Ancestor of mine: the fellow isn’t able to get personnel work (15): PIT + HE + CAN’T + HR + OPUS = Pithecanthropus (ancestor). This is also a charade clue
Kevin – A jocular unit of speed invented by the SCC, in which they compare their times to one of the faster solvers.
Lift & Separate – In many clues, the part that is wordplay and the part that is the definition are perfectly clear. Sometimes however separating the clue into its component parts is very difficult; the setter may have deliberately tried to disguise the break. One example: “Odin’s son has a mark on map to denote treasure chest” (6) Answer: THORAX: THOR (Odin’s son) + A + X (mark on map to denote treasure) .. we have to “Lift & separate” treasure and chest. The term is a pun referring to a well-known advertisement for bras, coined by Mark Goodliffe in the title of this 2007 blog. More about the concept in this article as well as additional examples
Lipogram – any piece of writing with one letter of the alphabet deliberately missing. Whole novels have been written this way, eg try googling Georges Perec, who heroically wrote an entire novel containing no e’s. In a crossword context, a lipogram is therefore one letter short of being a pangram. Here is a clever example, QC 357 by Noel, which is a clue in itself .. and here is another example from the other end of the complexity scale, Club Monthly 20226, July 2019
LOI – Last One In. See also FOI, POI.
MCS – Monthly Club Special, see Club Monthly above.
Mephisto – The barred-grid Times puzzle that is published every Sunday. Because of its difficulty, only the more advanced solvers regularly attempt it.
MER – “Minor eyebrow raise,” a comment where you think the setter might perhaps be a little bit wrong, but (usually) isn’t. Invention of the term is attributed to Myrtilus (commenter and setter) and this is the earliest known example
Momble – A proposed answer that unfortunately turns out not to be a word, but does more or less fit the wordplay, put in by desperate solvers. The word was suggested by mctext and janie_l_b in the comments to this 2014 blog
Neutrino – A person who solves the puzzle on paper, and then goes to the Crossword Club and types in the answers as rapidly as possible, either in order to give a high position on the leaderboard or because they think they are entering a typing competition..
NHO – not heard of (or never heard of); as in, eg: “Knew x, but nho that particular meaning before” ..
Nina – a hidden theme or motif. They are named after the daughter of US artist Al Hirschfeld, whose name he hid in most of his artwork. Ninas are common in Times concise crosswords. They seldom appear in the daily cryptic but they have been known. For an example, look up Saturday Times cryptic 25,741 (22 March 2014). Ninas are similar to themes, but are hidden.
Ninja Turtling – divining the existence of something highbrow or classical from something distinctly not, as in: “Of course I’ve heard of Donatello. He’s the one with the purple mask..” Coined by Keriothe in this 2018 blog.
Obscurity – any word the person concerned has not come across before. Or has, but has forgotten doing so. Occasionally, OWAA or OWCAA (obscure word clued as an anagram).
OWL, or Owl Club – One word left, as those who can’t quite manage to finish describe themselves.
Pangram – a crossword that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet. They are not uncommon, and occasionally one comes across multiple pangrams, such as this example which is a triple pangram and only 8 letters short of being quadruple. Better still, here is the only known quintuple pangram, in 15×15 format (9740, by Maize). If you have trouble solving it, it is blogged, here. Unkind folk might say the setter gets more fun from a pangram than the solver does, but it is a feat worthy of admiration and can be a useful solving aide, provided you spot it in time. Another quintuple, in the Jumbo format.
PDM – Penny Drop Moment. That moment when what the setter had in mind finally strikes you …
POI – Penultimate one in. See also LOI, FOI.
Quickie, or QC – The daily 13 x 13 “Quick Cryptic” puzzle that was added by The Times in 2014, to try to get more people involved in solving cryptics. Very popular, so clearly succeeding in its aim.
SCC – The acronym for the Slow Coach Club, a name the less speedy solvers of the Quickie have made up for themselves. Some are permanently resigned to their fate. Others hope to improve and join the speedsters, not realising that speed isn’t important. See also Kevin.
Semi &Lit – see also &Lit. With an &lit, the whole of the clue forms the definition, and also the whole of the clue is wordplay. With a semi &lit, the whole of the clue still forms the definition, but only part of the clue is wordplay.
SNITCH, the – an acronym, from “Same-day Numeric Index of Times Cryptic Hardness.” A marvellous website developed by commenter Starstruck, to assess the relative difficulty of each day’s crossword. There is a link to it on every page of TfTT, and quite right too.
Surface – or surface reading. The literal sense of a clue, when taken only as an ordinary sentence or phrase. A good setter will try to make the clue into a normal, natural-sounding sentence, which nevertheless has nothing to do with the actual solution to the clue (but see &lit, above). For example: “Grouse fly east, retaining height (6)” .. the surface seems quite clearly to refer to birds in flight, but in fact the answer is WHINGE, ie H(eight) inside WING (fly), + E(ast), and the definition is “grouse.” Championship contenders often pay little or no attention to the surface reading, but a good set of surfaces is generally felt to be a sign of a good crossword..
Theme – The best-known thematic crossword is the Listener (qv), which invariably has one. The daily concise often has a theme, the daily cryptic very seldom, though they do occur. For an example, look up the Sunday Times Cryptic 4702 (10 July 2016) by David McLean. Themes are similar to Ninas but are not hidden. The Guardian has themed crosswords quite often, for those that like that sort of thing ..
TfTT – Times for The Times, the name of this blog, which was originally set up by Championship contenders as a means of comparing their solving times (and thereby, psyching out the opposition perhaps?). Note that it is TfTT and not TftT, because the proper title of our parent newspaper is The Times, not the Times.
Times – ie completion times, the quoting thereof. A number of commenters give their completion time each day. Occasionally accusations of boasting are made, but given short shrift. The title of the blog – see preceding entry above – provides a clue. Times are not important, except to Championship contenders.
TLS – Times Literary Supplement, a separate Murdoch publication that inter alia, publishes an excellent crossword each week. It used to be available on The Times website, and thus was blogged by TfTT, but sadly, no longer. A few diehards do still complete it each week.
Unch, unches – unchecked white squares in a crossword, ie that relate to only one clue. Unlike crossers, which relate to two..
WOD – Word of (the) day
WOE – With One Error
Wordplay – that part of a clue from which the answer can be worked out. Most clues consist of two parts, the wordplay and the definition, qv.
Ximenes – Ximenean. A term used to describe a particular style of crossword setting. Ximenes was the pseudonym of DS Macnutt, setter of the Observer barred crossword from 1939 until 1972, (no mean feat, not least because he died in 1971) as well as a setter for the Listener. The more closely a crossword adheres to the principles laid down in his seminal book, Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword , the more Ximenean it is said to be. Copies of this book are scarce but can sometimes be found. See his Wikipedia entry for more details. Ximenes did a great deal to improve the fairness and quality of crossword clues. His principles however should not be taken too literally; there are many ways in which a clue can be made fair.