Conquering the Times of London Cryptic Crossword

Conquering the Times of London Cryptic Crossword
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An array of magic wands are pictured here at “Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods,” a gift shop at Hogwarts Castle at “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”, a new Harry Potter themed area at Universal Studios Hollywood. Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times

SPECIAL POST — As part of the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Harry Potter novels by author J. K. Rowling, cryptic crossword constructor Brian Greer made two puzzles for June 26, 2017: a cryptic for The Times of London and his debut American-style crossword in The New York Times. As far as we know, this was the first time that an individual constructor made two similarly-themed crosswords of such different styles that ran on the same day.

This seemed like so much fun that I invited The Times of London to do a “puzzle swap”: on Monday, June 26, the Times’s crosswords editor, David Parfitt, solved the American puzzle live on their Facebook page and on Thursday, June 29, Will Shortz, Mr. Greer and I solved the cryptic crossword that ran in The Times as part of the weekly Crosswords Live solve. During the live solve, Mr. Greer and Mr. Shortz offered the audience some basic tips on how to decipher those confounding cryptic clues:

Cryptic Crossword Facebook Live

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Wordplay Solves the June 26, 2017 Times of London Cryptic Crossword Video by WordplayNYT

I have to admit that, after learning more about cryptic crosswords, I’m now hooked on them and am practicing my newfound skills by solving as many as I can.

Want to get started on these wonderful puzzles yourself? The Guardian offers an informative lesson for beginners and composer Stephen Sondheim, himself a puzzle lover and constructor, wrote a 1968 article for New York Magazine that is worth perusing.

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