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Last week I left you to think about this clue:

Instructions: put boiled rice on edges of plate (6)

Most people would find this incomprehensible (impossible to understand) but if you have been following this series of posts you will by now know a bit about the strange world of cryptic crossword clues – a world where everything is not quite what it seems.  The aim of this blog is not really to teach the ESL learner how to solve such clues, although if it does so that is a bonus.  Rather, the objective is to use cryptic clues as a catalyst to explore the richness of the English language.  Because this approach is, to say the least, unusual I hope it makes learning new vocabulary interesting and memorable.  You may wish to make a note of words or expressions in bold italics.

In this case the answer means ‘instructions’.  It is obtained in two steps from the remainder of the clue as follows:

(a) The phrase ‘boiled’ rice indicates an anagram of the word RICE.  The idea is that ‘boiling’ the letters jumbles them up and puts them in a different order.  One possible way of doing so generates RECI.  This is not in itself a word in English, but just wait until we have completed the second step:  you have to add the boiled rice to two other letters meaning ‘edges of plate’.

(b) Since we are looking for only two letters for ‘edges of plate’ you can immediately guess that there is some sort of trick going on.  There are many two letter words in English but most are prepositions which could not possibly have that meaning.  The trick is to take letters from the edges – the two ends – of the word PlatE.  In other words, the letters P and E.

Now you can see where the answer is coming from.  It is formed from:

RECI added to PE, or:


A recipe is a set of instructions, normally used in cooking.  You can see a definition, and hear the correct pronunciation, here.  If you want to cook something new you may decide to follow a recipe – perhaps published online or in a recipe book.  You can search for a recipe on the BBC website here.

Note that there are some interesting ways of using the word recipe that do not involve cooking.  For example doing something unwise, like staying up all night before driving a long distance the next day, could be called a recipe for disaster.  Conversely, taking positive steps towards a particular goal could be a recipe for success.  An example is shown here.

The subject of cooking, and indeed food in general, often appears in crossword clues.  Here are two from Daily Telegraph Puzzle No. 27,851 dated 11th July 2015.

The first reads:

Not a square meal for Italians (5)

The interesting point of English in this clue is the idiom square meal.  When people speak of a having a square meal they are not referring to a meal that is literally a square shape. What is meant is a substantial and well-balanced meal, see here.  However, for a joke, the crossword setter has applied the literal meaning and the solution is:


The reason this is correct is that pizza, a classic Italian dish, is usually (but admittedly not always) cooked in a circular shape – for a photo of a mouth-watering (delicious looking) pizza see here.

The second clue refers to food but the answer comes as quite a surprise:

School sandwiches used to be cut in half in station (6)

Everyone reading this will have eaten a sandwich – two pieces of bread containing some kind of filling.  Sandwich is actually the name of a town in the county of Kent in England.  It is said that the snack (light meal) of the same name many of us enjoy for lunch was invented by the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, enabling him to eat without interrupting his gambling!  However, in the clue, sandwich is used as a verb, not a noun.  To sandwich (or to be sandwiched between) vividly conveys the meaning of something being squeezed into a small space.  You could say: ‘I was sandwiched between two commuters on the train this morning’.  For the definition and pronunciation of sandwich please see here.

Now let’s deal with the rest of the clue. A well known school in England is Eton, attended by many Prime Ministers, including the present one.  And ‘used’ cut in half provides the letters US (the other half is ED but that does not lead to a sensible answer).  Now sandwich US between the letters of ETON and with a blinding flash the answer appears:


Euston is an important main line railway station in London – and station is the remaining word in the clue!  Once again the crossword setter has tried to mislead us: the solution has nothing to do with the unappetising sandwiches you might have had at school, often cut from rather thickly sliced bread.

Speaking of bread, try this one from Daily Telegraph Crossword No. 27,864 dated 27th July 2015:

Break bread, even in Scotland (8)

The answer will appear next week.