Since November 2016, there has been a game ongoing in The Sphinx's Lair called Cryptic Clue Chat Chains. It involves one person thinking up a cryptic clue, such as might be found in a Cryptic Crossword, and everyone else trying to solve it.

We have been maintaining an archive of these clues, but many excellent clues, especially if they get solved relatively quickly, disappear into the chat transcript and the archive and are rarely seen.

This post is an attempt to highlight some of those excellent clues, and to allow more people to enjoy the ingenuity of some of the excellent puzzle-setters in chat.

If you see (or have seen) a particularly clever or well-constructed cryptic clue in the game, nominate it here. Hopefully, over time, we will develop a repository of great cryptic clues.

Don't forget to vote on your favourites!

Please post one clue per answer. Answers should be of the following form, without any other content:

Cryptic clue as it was posed (don't forget the enumeration) — Author

Answer in a spoiler


Explanation in a spoiler. This explains how the answer is derived.


Explanation of what makes this clue so great, or why you think it deserves mention. Please keep it to 2 or 3 sentences.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It will continue until November 2106 :-) $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 30 '17 at 18:42
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Should the setters be credited in these answers? (Yes, because they deserve it. No, because then voting might be influenced by knowing whose clues they are. Not sure how it balances out.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Jul 2 '17 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Gareth I suspect that most people who are voting already know who the setter is. Even if that's not true, almost all other voting on this site is subject to the same bias, so why not allow it here as well? $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Jul 6 '17 at 14:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think I think it would be better to credit setters. But I wanted to give both sides of the argument. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Jul 6 '17 at 14:54
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I've made the executive decision and added all the authors. $\endgroup$ – Alconja Aug 21 '17 at 1:16

Note: I'm going to have to bend a few rules with this submission. For example, even though it's technically about a single clue, I'd have to at least mention many other clues for reasons that will be obvious soon.

Regarding potentially common solution to an archived minipuzzle?? (2, 4) — Sp3000



First, let's have a look at the "solution to an archived minipuzzle" part. What archive? What minipuzzle? Well, archive refers to the CCCC archive put together by GentlePurpleRain, but that's not supposed contain a minipuzzle or anything, right?

Wrong. As ffao astutely observed, Sp3000 (the author of this clue) has been setting some rather unusual clues for the CCCC for the last two months. Here are the clues with answers:

Help cut commercial for negative neophyte (6) NOVICE
One rhythmically moved about, five moved forward (8)  ADVANCED
Deluxe therapy uses water regularly — it's a waste (7)    EXHAUST
Countless use tin if nickel selection's recalled (8)  INFINITE
Force it inside cushy sort of train (7)   GRAVITY
That woman provided nothing but dismissed leads? Wonderful (8)    HEAVENLY
Greatest saying about Greek character (7) MAXIMUM
Simple, as in extremely elementary (4)    EASY
Mother left after Weasley returned - typical (6)  NORMAL
Shy person, on the inside, is overly excited (5)  HYPER
Letter from old flame (2) EX
Pale pickle's pepperless (5)  LIGHT
Moderate channel (6)  MEDIUM
Defeat consumed a monster (5) BEAST
Fear in @GarethM: being wrong (9) NIGHTMARE
First time out, caught a local train back (5) DEBUT
Even leaders of alpine race followed sledder going the wrong way (7)  REGULAR
Naked apron is a plus (3) PRO
Jack let go from drifting scrap, receding, with first sign of Rose being overcome (6) MASTER
Nauseous, couple left a piece of cake (4) EASY
Casual's first to leave without loud type of Pokémon (6)  NORMAL 
Fragment cut head forcefully (4)  HARD
Cycling Dino, a silent performer (5)  EXTRA
Gin and tonic, essentially, consumed by alcohol newbie (8)    BEGINNER
Hack back, restricting half of site's early programming language (5)  BASIC
Very loud one in returning type of dream, with time, becomes troublesome (9)  DIFFICULT
Make an effort to conceal opener of pair ace (6)  EXPERT
Gabriel perhaps stripped following the lead of Chuck Berry for dare (9)   CHALLENGE  

ffao figured out that the answers are all difficulty settings of rhythm games. Here are the corresponding games (image courtesy Deusovi, click to enlarge):
enter image description here
As noted by Deusovi, if we count the number of difficulty settings for each game, say $n$, and take the $n$th letter from the corresponding game, we get the letters of the answer, ON TIME.

Now what about the "Regarding potentially common" part? "Regarding" of course means "ON", and "potentially common" denotes TIME, as in Common time.


  • The amount of effort and time spent on planning the whole thing, making the clues, sneaking them into the CCCC archive without anyone noticing over a period of two months is not like anything else we've seen so far in CCCC.
  • The individual clues are very well-polished.
  • The overall puzzle, on its own, is clever and enjoyable.
  • The fact that one can be so productive even without the incentive of imaginary internet points, is fairly shocking, to put it lightly.


It makes wet god - disgusting! (6) — Deusovi



ROT(10) (or ROT TEN) changes wet into god. Disgusting = ROTTEN. So, it is a double definition.


This clue is one of those clues where you just applaud the ingenuity behind it. These quotes will justify why I consider this clue so great.
- Sconibulus: "I think I hate you"
- Alconja: "You said I will love it or hate it. Love the clue, hate you"
The above was said to Deusovi and can be found on his profile too.


Mistake Gates for Jobs? (7) — Sp3000





This is misdirection at its best. In isolation, the first images that the words Gates and Jobs elicit are rather mundane ones, but there clever positioning in the clue immediately makes us think of two of the biggest names in the tech field. Even if you manage avoid that false lead, you still need to get over your first impression to figure out what gates here sneakily hints at.


000-ish (5) — Deusovi





It's unbelievable that there's even a word that's so magnificently clue-able. Sheer brevity, novelty and cleverness make it one of the finest clues ever posed in CCCC.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thanks so much! :D $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Jul 1 '17 at 16:27

I inseminate article of clothing (3) — Rand al'Thor



inseminate = in semi nate = inside half of NATE = inside TE


Sounds a lot worse than it actually is. Rand seems to be fairly proud of it too.


Not end ends not end, not end ends end (4) — HTM



[[Not end] ends] [[not end], [not [end ends]] = end

[[(no)T] comes after] [[DEBUT], [minus [E(n)D]]] = end

[_T after] [(-de)BUT] = end = BUTT


The clue stands out because it is constructed from only three different words (with two in fact having the same base word)! I still cannot believe that the English language and cryptic clue construction customs, as we know them today, have aligned to make such a beautiful surface possible. Cheers to HTM for bringing that surface into reality.


Crawler trap top spins discourse (7) — Sconibulus



CAPTCHA = Crawler trap = CAP (top) + (CHAT -> TCHA)


Well of course we should include the infamous longest standing clue (as of this moment). Some have come close, but none have yet overtaken it. I also think it's a very misleading clue, which are often a sign of a good clue.

  • $\begingroup$ How do you get CAP from crawler trap? $\endgroup$ – ErikE Jul 9 '17 at 14:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ErikE CAP is clued by "top", "Crawler trap" is the definition of the whole answer, CAPTCHA. $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Jul 11 '17 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ All the others had the whole-answer clue at the end, so I was not expecting it at the beginning. $\endgroup$ – ErikE Jul 11 '17 at 16:21

An old saw ends like this: part of the precipitate (5) — msh210




An old saw ends like TRASH (def), and part of the word THE is the letter T, plus RASH, which is an adjective from "precipitate".


This is the one which stumped the chat the most. We started talking about chemistry, double definitions, rain patterns, antique tools, music, you name it, it really stumped us. But, once again, @jafe's problem solving skills threw that c4 in the TRASH!


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .