Composite Anagram Finder

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Might paronomastic enigma be artistically expressed in this? (9,7)

If you find reading instructions a bit dull, try it now!

A composite anagram is a type of cryptic crossword clue where the letters of the answer are obtained by subtracting one set of letters from another. For example, the cryptic reading of the clue in the heading above indicates that the letters of ‘paronomastic enigma’, when rearranged, might give the letters of ‘in’ plus the letters of the answer (represented by ‘this’). The letters of the answer are thus {paronomastic enigma} minus {in}, or {paroomastcenigma}. As you’ve probably already realised, the answer is ‘composite anagram’.

In this case the surface reading of the clue also defines the answer - a paronomastic enigma might well be artistically expressed in a composite anagram - and so the clue type is called ‘composite anagram &lit.’ or ‘comp. anag. &lit.’ for short. This type of clue is very popular among entrants to clue-writing competitions, although good examples are hard to produce by hand.

screenshot This page (see screenshot to the right) aims to help you write composite anagram clues. There are two boxes where you can enter text, called ‘Credit’ and ‘Debit’. In the Credit box simply enter the word or phrase to be clued (for example ‘composite anagram’), and in the Debit box enter any likely-looking word or phrase you can think of with a reasonable number of letters in common with it (try ‘enigma’). Click on the ‘Search’ button and you are greeted by the following two-column list of words:

Credit    Debit
h  apochromats
r  comparators
hi  chromatopsia
in  paronomastic
him  apochromatism
lin nil  proclamations
anil lain nail  paronomastical
phil  pharmacopolist
hings singh  pharmacognosist
entwine  compensationwater

Try it for yourself.

The first row of the table of results means that if you add the letter ‘h’ to the Credit box and the letters of ‘apochromats’ to the Debit box, the result will balance: in other words, the Credit and Debit boxes will then contain the same set of letters. Subsequent rows give alternative possibilities. Glancing through the list for promising candidates - words that are either very common or related to the subject matter - we hit upon ‘in’ and ‘paronomastic’; and then the clue practically writes itself.

When a set of letters can form several different words (as in the case of ‘anil lain nail’ above) they are displayed on one line to save space.

The more similar in length the credit and debit entries are, and the more letters they have in common, the more likely you are to get useful results. Don’t expect to find a prize-winning combination on the first attempt: a certain amount of trial and error is needed!

New! Try the ‘Multi-word’ dictionary for more comprehensive results, including combinations of more than one word on both credit and debit sides. This feature is still being tested and refined; feedback on it is particularly welcome.

This page most recently updated Fri 4 Feb 16:49:51 GMT 2022
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