A new Guardian crossword: the Quick Cryptic

<span>Reginald Perrin (played by Leonard Rossiter) was stumped by a clue that called for knowledge of Bolivian poets.</span><span>Photograph: Allstar Picture Library Limited./Alamy</span>
Reginald Perrin (played by Leonard Rossiter) was stumped by a clue that called for knowledge of Bolivian poets.Photograph: Allstar Picture Library Limited./Alamy

“I’d like to do cryptic crosswords, but I just don’t understand the damn things.”

Perhaps this is you. Or perhaps you are a happy solver and you have heard this from loved ones. Either way, what a regrettable state of affairs.

Cryptic crossword clues are, in truth, not hard to understand. They may be funny, pointed, rude, snide or absurd, but they are also designed to be gettable. Setters have different styles and solvers know which they like the best. A relationship between setter and solver lasts years – longer than some marriages – and is most like your relationship with your favourite author.

All this pleasure, denied to non-solvers. Well, not any more. We have concocted something to help.

Unlike a quick crossword, or a sudoku, the solver, going in, doesn’t know the rules of engagement. A clue might be looking for an anagram, or for you to write one word backwards to find another, and it’s up to you to work out the trick – every single time.

What if we just told you?

In our Quick Cryptic series, the setters use only four tricks each week and tell you upfront what they are.

The clues are still a collection of daft imagery, but the solver is able to say: “Now, this is either one of those ones where the answer is hidden in the words or it’s one where you take the first letters …” … and so on.

Hiding what you’re up to is so tightly bound to the essence of cryptics that baldly giving away how the magic works feels transgressive – but Guardian crosswords have long had an idiosyncratic relationship with the rulebook.

We will also avoid recherché vocabulary and names. There is no sadder announcement concerning crosswords than the one sighed by the fictional Reggie Perrin, still scratching his head when the other commuters have finished their puzzles: “I’m stuck on the top left-hand corner. I just don’t know any Bolivian poets.”

The quick cryptic will contain no Bolivian poets, no interesting species of mould whose names consist entirely of vowels and no style of hat less familiar than, let’s say, the trilby.

Otherwise, these are normal Guardian puzzles. The same humour, the same invention – and the same dynamic. No crossword setter wants their solvers to give up, miserable, their grid half-filled. The aim is to lose, after a struggle.

And here’s a suggestion for new solvers. Once you’ve built up a kind of toolbox of these tricks, you might want to try our Quiptic puzzle, which will now appear on Sundays. It’s an online crossword “for beginners and those in a hurry”. Sundays also offer the Observer’s Everyman, introduced in 1945 because the paper’s other puzzle is deliberately and astonishingly challenging. The Everyman has had only six setters; I am the sixth and I like to keep things gentle and solvers satisfied.

Since there’s an unofficial tradition here that the Monday puzzle is not going to take up too much of the start of your week, or leave you with a frustratingly unfinished grid, it’s a matter, perhaps, of working your way further and further through the crosswording week.

Finally, solving is not a solitary activity. Find a friend or family member and message them for help. Use the dictionary. Use an online word-finder. There is no such thing as cheating in a crossword. The only point of the thing, after all, is the same as the first answer in the first crossword, published in 1913: FUN.