Bits and Pieces

In the clues we have looked at in previous sections, we have considered whole words being manipulated in various ways: reversed, placed one after the other, placed one inside the other. In a cryptic clue these operations may be applied not just to whole words but to single letters or combinations of letters - the bits and pieces of the title.

One way in which these bits and pieces may be indicated is by making use of common abbreviations and symbols. Thus, for example, the word left in a clue may indicate the letter L, right may indicate R, that is may indicate IE, sailors may indicate RN, fliers may indicate RAF.

Among the abbreviations and symbols used most often, you will find:

Points of the compass - N, E, S, W and also SE, SW, NE, NNE, etc.
Roman numerals - I, V, X, L, C, D, M
Chemical elements - H, O, AL, CU, FE, SN, etc.

Here are some sample clues employing abbreviations:

The first man seen by a duke in the morning (4)

Graduate going to New York a lot (4)

Insurance for a hundred and more (5)

The people who write cryptic clues, however, are by no means satisfied with ready-made abbreviations and symbols; they also employ a variety of cryptic devices to indicate odd letters. They may indicate the first letter, the middle, or the last letter of a word. For example:

Head of state to indicate S
Heart of stone to indicate O
Conclusion of journey to indicate Y
Land's End to indicate D
A piece of cheese to indicate C
Outskirts of Liverpool to indicate LL

Sometimes single words will do this trick: Maidenhead may indicate M and Lionheart may indicate IO.

Next: Subtraction

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