From CrosswordUnclued.com’s Tackling Cryptic Crosswords: 7-Step Guide For Beginners:
1. Know The Clue Types– Cryptic clues may be tricky to interpret, but they are not vague. There is logic and method in the way each clue is crafted; you only need to know how to read it right. The first thing to do is to learn about cryptic clue structure and types. Click here to find a list of cryptic clue types and tips to solve them.
2. Spot The Anagrams and Hidden Words – Anagrams and telescopic clues are usually the easiest to crack. The posts on How To Spot Anagrams and Digging Out Hidden Words tell you more about these clue types. Skim through the clues to identify these first, fill them in and see if you can get the crossing words next.
3. Crack The Long Ones – Check if you can get the long ones on sight. Really long words or phrases are sometimes easier to solve. If you get these into the grid at first go, you get plenty of crossing letters to help with the rest of the puzzle.
4. Guess Words – Make the most of crossing letters. If the grid has V?O???? for a word, there is a narrow selection of words that fit there. Think up some and then match them against the clue. VIOLENT? VIOLETS? VIOLATE?
5. Identify The Definition – In a clever puzzle, this may be difficult to do. Till you build on instinct and experience to help, the common rule is: the definition is either the first word/group of words, or the last word/group of words. Try each of these as definitions one by one, see if the solution fits in with the rest of the clue.
6. Fill In Word Parts– The answer to the clue must match with the part of speech and tense of the definition. So, if you’ve identified that the definition is “exploited” but don’t yet know what the exact answer is, you still know that the answer will be in past tense, and will most likely end in a “D”.
7. Keep At It – Solving cryptic crosswords does not require extra-ordinary abilities. If you have decent vocabulary and a fair knowledge of trivia, all you need more to master cryptics is familiarity. If you don’t get the hang of it in the first few tries, don’t despair. Take the grid with its solution and go through the clues to see how they work. Fill in a few words into the grid, then try the remaining once again with the crossings. Visit solving communities – see the links under “Solving Sites” on the sidebar of this page. Be patient, be persistent. As with any other skill, to excel you must practice – there are no short-cuts!
If you’ve been trying to solve for some time without much success, this might be of help: More Tips For Solving Cryptic Crosswords.
For examples, check out: