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4.5 out of 5 stars56
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 26 February 2001
I have always wanted to be able solve cryptic crosswords, in particular those appearing on the back pages of the broadsheets. Solving these crosswords has always been an impossible task for me and I found it extremely frustrating. This book has however changed all of that. The book begins by clearly explaining the various types of clues encountered and more importantly the indicators used by the crossword compilers to indicate these clues. There are example crosswords consisting of only one type of clue which is great for practice. Once you have been introduced to the basics you are gently eased into complete crosswords of steadily increasing difficulty. Having explanations of how each answer is arrived at is easily the best feature of this book, it actually seems simple once you realise how clues are constructed. Another handy feature of the book is the lists of typical indicators for anagrams, word exchanges and abbreviations. These are excellent at helping you to spot the more subtle clue indicators. Overall I found this book to be an excellent guide to understanding and solving cryptic crosswords.
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on 11 November 2003
If you want to learn how to solve these "bizarre" crosswords, this is a very good book. What I particularly liked was that after you had been taught a certain technique, there was a whole crossword devoted to this particular type of clue. After a few chapters there was then a revision chapter and revision crosswords, covering all sorts of clues taught to that point. A brilliant introduction to solving cryptics.
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on 13 January 2005
If, like me, you find cryptic crosswords from The Independent and their ilk totally impenetrable, this great little book (written by an actual compiler) will almost certainly cut through most of the mystique.
Skinner teaches the reader his own method for recognizing the different types of clue and how to go about solving them. His explanations make the derivation of the solutions extremely logical. From knowing nothing initialy, within around ten pages I managed to complete the first practice crossword without cheating once!
Now the caveat: as Skinner (quite correctly) maintains, the best way of learning how to do crosswords is to DO CROSSWORDS, which means that the last two thirds of the book are exactly that: crosswords. Having said that, they do come with fully exploded solutions (which newspaper versions lack).
This book will let you tackle cryptic crosswords in no time at all. Definitely recommended.
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on 11 November 2003
The way this book leads you through the minefield of the different types of clue gives you the confidence and skills to have a successful attempt at a "real" cryptic crossword. A very good book for taking the interested beginner into the fascinating and totally-absorbing world of cryptic crosswords. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 23 November 2002
The learning curve of this book is pitched just right. Easily the best feature of the book are the sample puzzles, with answers explained on the following pages. There are 2 difficulty levels, tabloid and broadsheet, and this works well.
He explains the various tricks of the trade clearly and concisely.
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on 29 March 2006
A very useful book for people like me who have never attempted a cryptic crossword and wonder how on earth friends even begin to break down cryptic clues.
Thank you Kevin, I've started enjoying my bus journey in the morning now.
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on 2 September 2014
I have bought several books on how to solve cryptic crosswords before and got a few tips, but usually given up half way because I have not got a cryptic clue mind. On average I get 3 or 4 clues in a normal broadsheet crossword. That's not as bad as it seems because sometimes I get none, I tell myself in defeat. Reader, measure your own capabilities to mine.

However, I decided to try to understand clues again and recently bought this most helpful book by Kevin Skinner. The author teaches us to "think cryptic" and gives very helpful advice in reading clues, with simple revision. He gives very clear and economical explanations of the most common clues, together with examples. He sets mini crosswords using each clue type in turn and then explains in simple, illustrated sentences how the correct solutions fit the type of clue. He also provides concise, helpful lists of commonly-used exchange words and abbreviations in order to guide and teach the reader by example. Finally, he has a section of graded crosswords: 14 on level 1- and 12 on level 2-type crosswords. The reader solves these, hopefully, using all the methods he has demonstrated in the book and by reading how the clues worked.

I found the book so easy to use and my skills developing so fast that I bought a copy each for two of my friends. Not only is the book clearly written and encouraging, but the author uses humour in a non-patronising way, which is always a bonus. He tells us he has been through this journey himself. At present I have only done four of the final examples and have no idea how I will progress, but I am so much better than I was a week ago. This is a winner in every way for me and highly recommended.
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on 4 March 2009
Very happy with this little book - straightforward explanations and examples help you get to grips with the previously impossible cryptic clues .... much easier to crack these once you have a little insider knowledge. Am now working my way through the last few 'easier' crosswords before getting on to tackle the second section - already finding them considerably challenging but the book definitely gives you a head start with knowledge it would take a long time to accumulate through practice alone. Now loving the world of cryptic crosswords!!
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on 10 February 2015
As an absolute beginner in this area, I bought this book based on the reviews. I regretted it quickly. Reading through the reviews I thought there would be enough practice puzzles for every kind of new clue taught. But that is not the case. The book talks about double definitions first, gives 2 practice puzzles, talks about anagrams next and gives 2 practice puzzles. And then it speeds up. It covers several different more complex kinds of clues next, but gives only 2 puzzles to cover the whole lot. Then there are more complex clues and no practice at all. Instead it jumps straight into full-fledged puzzles. It may be hard to create a full puzzle for each kind of clue, I don't know. But it cannot be hard to ask the reader to solve words instead of a full puzzle. It would have been a lot more helpful if each kind of clue came with 40-50 words to be solved by the reader. I don't like the full puzzles either. I don't see them going up in difficulty level as the author claims. I've done only a few so far, but in each puzzle, right from the first one, some clues are too easy and some simply cannot be solved by absolute beginners. Some of the clues seem less than fair as well. I think for a beginner, it is much more helpful to read Alan Connor's blog on the Guardian website and to start practising by solving some of their Quiptics before graduating to cryptics.
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on 13 February 2012
I've literally had a go at just about every teach yourself cryptic crosswords puzzle book out there and nothing seemed to make it all click with me - I'd go through the book but then when I tried a puzzle by myself - I'd be back to square one - then I'd give up and a couple of months later try another book and so on. The Kevin Skinner book is quite cheap so I wasn't holding out much hope but it is brilliant!! - the graded puzzles make you feel you are making progress and the detailed explanations of each solution make it easy to see where you have gone wrong - lots of practice and not too much theory. If you take it slowly and have a proper go at each puzzle you'll find like me that you really can solve cryptic crosswords.
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