Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I love puzzles and puns. That’s why my favorite challenges are British-style cryptic crosswords, which require solvers to manipulate words to find each answer. Part of every seemingly nonsensical clue is the definition of the word being sought, while the other part features some kind of devious wordplay. To make matters even more maddening, punctuation is often used deceptively. But clue-setters aren’t completely sadistic; they tell you, in parentheses following the clue, how many letters the solution contains. For instance:
Example 1: A backwards dog? I have no faith in him. (3)
Definition: “I have no faith in him.”
Wordplay: “a backwards d-o-g,” which yields “g-o-d.”
Example 2: The believer arises from disassembled tin chairs. (9)
Definition: The believer.
Wordplay: “tin chairs” anagrammed, or disassembled.
Example 3: Give pay to a kind of a magician or a religious nut. (14)
Definition: a religious nut.
Wordplay: “Give pay to” = fund + a +“kind of a magician” = mentalist.
Example 4: Glare from the sun nicely hides a potential fanatic. (5)
Definition: a potential fanatic.
Wordplay: “Glare from the sun nicely" hides.
(If you'd like more help with cryptic clues, you might want to take a look at this short guide to solving them.)
I can't get enough of this kind of brainteaser. The sad fact, though, is that I’ve never found a set of cryptic clues all written specifically for atheists. That's why I’ve tried to rectify this lack with the following, each of which will lead to the name of a well-known freethinker. The clues below are roughly in the order of difficulty, with the easiest first.
- This atheist gives a funny-sad wink. (7)
- Any darn mixed-up godless person. (3,4)
- An atheist’s true worth is in depression. (7)
- This nonbeliever is the result of an irresistible urge in chickens. (8)
- A crooked arrow, looked at only partially, might point to this devil’s advocate. (6)
- Sweet honey, but heartless atheist. (7)
- Backward mothers a pronounced bother for such a faithless man. (3,6)
- A strange Kmart leads to shower for Elmer Fudd, that blasphemer. (4,5)
- A loud noise amidst the turbulence of war? Just the opposite for this original ex-Christian. (6)
- Meek CNN ridiculously goes after hell. But without the Spanish atheist. (1,1,7)
ADDENDUM (7:16 p.m. EDT): The contest is now closed. Winners will be notified of their symbolic prizes in my next post. I'm proud to have some of the most mentally agile readers in the entire blogosphere, and I thank you all for participating; fortunately, I had no work to do today so I could have fun watching your comments pour in. SPOILER ALERT: If you've just arrived for the first time at this puzzle, and want to test your own skill in solving it, don't look at the comments.