A Puzzle of a Present

Happy Christmas Umbracians! This post is a bit of a change from the norm, but hopefully I'm not the only Umbraco developer who enjoys solving puzzles!

This crossword is a mixture of cryptic and standard clues, plus a few odd ones that will no doubt upset the crossword purists out there. All answers are related to Umbraco, coding, the web or IT.

I know that not everyone is familiar with (or indeed a fan of) cryptic clues so if that describes you then please start by reading the section below the puzzle to see if I can change that.

When you've completed the grid, submit your answers to see if you got them all correct. There are no prizes, just the reward of knowing you were successful! And don't worry if you need to take a break, answers are saved automatically to your browser.

Get Puzzling!

Many thanks to Dylan Beattie for creating iPuzzler, the open source JavaScript client and game grid that made this post possible.

I learned how to do cryptic crosswords from my parents. The same can be said for me and coding: mum and dad were both software developers and following in their footsteps appealed to me. My brother, on the other hand, took to neither coding nor crosswords, so perhaps there is a link between the two?!

A Cryptic Crosswords Primer

Standard crossword clues can be taken at face value, for example “The founder of Umbraco (5, 7)”. The answer you think is of course, Niels Hartvig. But then you realise that Chief Unicorn is also 5 then 7 letters. You wouldn’t know which was the right answer until you had some crossing clues in the grid. Well crafted cryptic crossword clues, however, should only have one correct answer. I can’t guarantee this is true of the clues that I’ve set here, but that’s what the professional setters aim for.

The key to solving cryptic crosswords is recognising how to parse each clue, and that comes with practise. Perhaps similar to training a bot to analyse natural language text to determine intention.

A general rule of thumb is that the clue comes in two halves, one half is a straight definition of the answer, and the other half is wordplay that you can use to deduce your way to the same answer. The definition is almost always at the beginning or the end of the clue (i.e. not in the middle), remember this!

As the above crossword is a mix of standard and cryptic I suggest you approach clues as follows:

  • Does the clue have underscores (__) in? If so, it’s a straight-forward clue and you just have to find the right word to complete the sentence. I confess that using underscores in clues is probably ‘bad practice’, but creating clues was taking quite some time and I am sure everyone prefers a grid with 100% clue coverage!
  • Does the clue sound like a sensible statement? If so it’s probably a straight-forward clue, so just try to answer it
  • If neither of the above are true then it’s probably cryptic. So next step is to determine which type of cryptic clue it could be. Some say there are 12 types, which might be true. But as we don’t want to be here until next Christmas I've only described the types that I’ve used in this puzzle, with examples, in this separate PDF.

Sometimes with cryptic crosswords you get a gut feel for an answer but you don’t actually understand how the clue relates. If you would like to know how these clues work then please get in touch and I'll send you explanations. You can find me on Twitter and on the Umbraco Discord server.

And Finally

Many congratulations to the 24 Days Team for the milestone reached in 27 down! And thank you for letting me properly geek out about cryptic crosswords!

Happy puzzling, and happy holidays!

Lotte Pitcher

Lotte is on Twitter as