Cranium-Cracking Cryptic Crosswords, Volume 2
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link words
Letter shiftsWordplay devices

Wordplay devices


Probably the rarest of all wordplay devices, the substitution replaces one or more letters in a word with another. For example:

Qualify trial with TV (4)
Modest lady has time for daughter (4)

The first answer is VEST, where the T in TEST (“trial”) is replaced by V. The second is TAME, where a T (“time”) has been substituted in place of D (“daughter”).

Substitutions are quite uncommon, as they are difficult to pull off convincingly and fairly. Indicators that could possibly signal a substitution are more than likely calling out something else – with is usually a link or connector, for instance. However, it’s useful to at least know that substitutions exist, in case you encounter one. In general, a clue might be a substitution if you see words that suggest swapping, replacement or standing in – but it’s best to consider this possibility only if the wordplay is really obvious, or if other mechanisms have been ruled out.