Abbreviations are another device used by cryptic crossword setter’s to add further complexity to word-play. Often appearing in charade type clues, these abbreviations originate from a very diverse field of subjects. Some common ones with obscure origins are shown below:

Queen/Sovereign – ER for Queen Elizabeth Regina

Books – OT or NT for old and new testament of Bible

Soft – P for piano meaning soft in musical notation

Sailor – AB for able-body or TAR

Unhesitating – drop off ER. Sound of hesitation “er…”. Therefore unhesitating means remove the ER

Unknown – X or Y from unknown variables in maths

Remember: Often more than one abbreviation exists!

Abbreviation Resources

Here is a list of the best online list of crossword abbreviations, often with the obscure word origins listed:

Wikipedia Crossword Abbreviations

Reverse Abbreviations List

Spiritus Temporis Abbreviations

These lists are excellent but they do not contain all the abbreviations out there. For the enthusiast, cryptic crossword dictionaries are available that are full of abbreviations. While I was able to buy one online for only a few dollars, for the casual solver the online lists are a great place to start. To passively learn abbreviations, work back from cryptic solutions taking care to note how they are used. If you are looking for more help, the best resources (that I personally own) are the following:

The seamstress's sensation? (4, 3, 7)

See solution