Trivia Teaser

'Omphalos' is the Greek word for which body part?

Big toe



By Miranda

We do try hard to write clues which are understandable, which allow the puzzler to solve a puzzle, if not easily, then at least not having felt that the clue compiler was deliberately trying to make life difficult or even to make people solving the puzzle think they are stupid.


Much editing and discussion goes into the construction of each clue, and every one of them can be, and often is, queried by our compilers.

The trouble is that, when you make a clue, you already know the answer. The skill lies in placing yourself outside that knowledge and making a phrase which both excludes the bulk of other possibilities and is clear.

Generally this is successful but occasionally we fail to make allowances for the gloriously lateral minds of our puzzlers. Or, having written a clue and being handicapped by knowing which word we're trying to reach, we write a clue that's positively silly.

A 'Water barrier', for example, is most probably a barrier TO the flow of water and thus leads the puzzler to a DAM or WEIR. It's not impossible however for 'Water barrier' to be a barrier consisting OF water – perhaps frozen, perhaps on one side of a semi-permeable membrane or even being a barrier to some other fluid or substance which is repelled by water.

I came across 'Salad side dish' the other day and I simply couldn't work out what on Earth we'd intended it to clue…

Some are merely amusing in the images they evoke. Yes, a 'Frozen drip' is likely to be the literal ICICLE but I've known a few people I could describe as DRIPS and would cheerfully imagine them in the freezer. As for the 'Skiing medium', how would they carry the crystal ball or Ouija board?

I have no quarrel with this flexibility of our language – it's what makes Cryptic puzzles possible and enjoyable but it can be a little trying.

What's the most (accidentally) amusing clue you've come across?

362 Responses to


January 11, 2014 at 12:15 PM

I noticed that as well, elmo7. Even though I smiled, I would have to respectfully disagree with that answer.

elmo7 said:
January 11, 2014 at 1:02 PM

LOL...same here fir..a dog's life sure isn't wretched