In cryptic crosswords, the clues are puzzles in themselves. A typical clue contains both a definition at the beginning or end of the clue and wordplay, which provides a way to manufacture the word indicated by the definition, and which may not parse logically. Cryptics usually give the length of their answers in parentheses after the clue, which is especially useful with multi-word answers. Certain signs indicate different forms of wordplay. Solving cryptics is harder to learn than standard crosswords, as learning to interpret the different types of cryptic clues can take some practice. In Great Britain and throughout much of the Commonwealth, cryptics of varying degrees of difficulty are featured in many newspapers. It is very hard to crack the crossword puzzle answers and crossword quiz answers in these scenarios.
There are several types of wordplay used in cryptics. One is straightforward definition substitution using parts of a word. In a cryptic clue, there is almost always only one answer that fits both the definition and the wordplay, so that when one sees the answer, one knows that it is the right answer—although it can sometimes be a challenge to figure out why it is the right answer. A good cryptic clue should provide a fair and exact definition of the answer, while at the same time being deliberately misleading.
Another type of wordplay used in cryptics is the use of homophones. Words relating to sound or hearing can be used to signal the presence of a homophone clue. The double meaning is commonly used as another form of wordplay. This is the only form of a cryptic clue without wordplay—both parts of the clue are a straight definition of the crossword quiz answer. More often than not anagrams and embedded words are also used in cryptics. Another common clue type is the “hidden clue” or “container”, where the answer is hidden in the text of the clue itself.
With the different types of wordplay and definition possibilities, the composer of a cryptic puzzle is presented with many different possible ways to clue a given answer. Most desirable are clues that are clean but deceptive, with a smooth surface reading, that is, the resulting clue looks as natural a phrase as possible.
In principle, each cryptic clue is usually sufficient to define its answer uniquely, so it should be possible to answer each clue without the use of the grid. In practice, the use of checks is an important aid to the solver.
Some crossword designers have started including a meta-puzzle, which is simply put, a second puzzle within the completed puzzle. After the player has correctly solved the crossword puzzle in the usual fashion, the solution forms the basis of the second puzzle. The designer usually includes a hint to the meta-puzzle. Some puzzle grids contain more than one correct answer for the same set of clues. These are called Schrödinger or quantum puzzle.