Cranium-Cracking Cryptic Crosswords, Volume 2
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Wordplay devices


A deletion removes one or more letters from a source word to arrive at a solution. In addition to signaling a letter drop, a deletion indicator either tells you where the deletion occurs (start, middle or end) or calls out a specific letter to be deleted. Here are some examples:

  • First letter deletion: not starting, first off, left off (across clues only), topping off (down clues only)
  • Middle letter deletion: empty, gutless
  • Last letter deletion: backing off, endlessly, mostly, nearly, right away (across clues only), bottomless (down clues only)
  • Outside letter deletion: limitless, edges away
  • Specific letter deletion: dropping + letter, without + letter, letter + away

Here are examples of positional deletion:

Vehicle backing away from wagon (3)
First off, mobilize supporter (4)

The first answer is CAR, which is CARt with the last letter deleted. The second is ALLY, which is rALLY with the first letter removed.

Deletions that call out letters by name typically use common abbreviations, for example:

Puréed meat dish left out (4)

The answer is PÂTÉ, which is PlATE minus the letter L (an abbreviation for “left”).

Note: “Left” and “right“ are two multipurpose words that can signify position, direction or the letters L and R. Thus right away could mean deletion of either a final letter or the letter R depending on context.