[Webmaster's Note: Taken from the June 2008 issue of The Enigma, and later updated by its authors, Hot and Trazom. -- djr]
During the years we have been editing cryptic crosswords for The Enigma, we have developed certain editorial standards — many of which are shared more-or-less universally within the United States cryptic community — as well as certain aesthetic preferences, which may be slightly more individual. We offer them here as a guide for submitting cryptics for publication in The Enigma.
Before getting into the specific dos and don'ts, we would like to correct the misconception that all Enigma cryptics must be difficult. While we are happy to publish the toughest cryptics in the US, we know that many members appreciate more straightforward puzzles. Ideally, we would like to serve the whole range of solvers.
In a bar diagram, approximately one-third of the letters in any word should be unches, never more; in a black-square diagram, approximately one-half, never more.
Ideally, every word should include at least one unch. The reason is that, unlike in a standard crossword, you want the solver to have to solve every clue; if a word appears automatically in the grid by virtue of the solver getting all the crossing words, then an opportunity is lost for them to marvel at your wit and ingenuity.
At the same time, the cryptic reading of the clue must be accurate. In particular, the word or words connecting definition and wordplay, if any, should be readily understandable as indicating equivalence, or should point in the direction from wordplay to definition (not vice versa).
Both surface and cryptic readings of a clue must be grammatically correct.
There is a tug of war between surface and cryptic readings. Ideally, both sides should win, but in a square-dealing clue correctness trumps appearance.
Avoid definitions by example. “Puzzle” can be a definition for rebus, for example, but do not use “rebus” to define puzzle. Use “rebus, for one” or something similar.
Indirect anagrams (anagrams of synonyms) are not allowed. However, some constructors include abbreviations and other non-ambiguous ingredients in anagram fodder.
Any 11C abbreviation is acceptable as part of the wordplay. It is not necessary to indicate that it is an abbreviation.
Phonetic clues should be completely phonetic; partly phonetic clues are inelegant.
Wordplay indicators must work grammatically. For example, “last rites” is not an acceptable indicator for S, because a correct construction would require “last of rites”. In most cases, a compound word may be used heteronymically as part of a wordplay indicator, such as “redhead” for R.
Try to avoid clues for which two answers are possible because of symmetry. “Vampire returned key,” for instance, could be either bat or tab.
For hidden word clues, do not hide the sol in more words than necessary. For example, “Presiding officer in French airport” works for chair, but “Presiding officer in major French airport” or even “Presiding officer in a French airport” is not acceptable.
We do not end clues with a period.
We do not require an exclamation point or question mark at the end of an “& lit” clue.
We use a question mark for punny definitions.
Obscure (but MW) words are acceptable as clue answers. On the other hand, if there is to be obscurity in the wordplay, it should be 11C obscurity.
Abbreviations and partial words (prefixes, suffixes, etc.) should be avoided as much as possible. If used, they should be tagged.
For archaic or regional words, including an indication such as “formerly” or “in Edinburgh” is a kindness to solvers, but is not required.
There is no reason to apologize for or identify obscure words, nor to offer a count of capitalized words.
A few of our constructors work within the parameters of British square-dealing setters, which differ in some respects from U.S. traditions. That is acceptable, but the puzzle will of course still be edited.
Solutions should be in a separate e-mail message, or a different page.
This page was last updated on Friday, December 17, 2010. /webmaster