How to Solve Cryptoquip Puzzles

By Katherine Harder
Use a pencil for Cryptoquips; you'll need the eraser.

Cryptoquip letter puzzles appear in many lifestyle and comic sections of newspapers, as King Features Syndicate, Inc. syndicates the game. The puzzle is a variation on the cryptogram, a game that replaces all letters inside a phrase with other letters; each letter is always substituted with the same letter. The twist that Cryptoquips bring to the format is that each Cryptoquip includes a quotation, or “quip,” that is a clue about the solved phrase.

Write out the puzzle on a fresh sheet of scrap paper, spacing the letters, words and lines of text far enough apart so you can work with them more easily.

Find the letter clue, which is beneath the cryptogram itself. For example, the clue might read, “Today’s Cryptoquip Clue: P equals Q.” In that example, you’d now replace all the Ps in the puzzle with Qs.

Work with contractions first. Contractions inside the puzzle still have their apostrophes attached, so they are easy to spot. Since almost all contractions end in “t,” “nt,” “s,” or “m,” you may be able to figure out what some letters are by observing them. For example, if you see a “T’Y,” T probably equals “I” and “Y” probably equals “M.” You can now replace those letters throughout the puzzle.

Work with small words next. There are a limited amount of one-letter, two-letter and three-letter words, so you may be able to figure out some letters this way. For example, if you see many repeated “X” letters standing alone throughout the puzzle, and you’ve already solved for “I,” then “X” probably equals “A.” In that example you could now replace all the “X” letters in the clue for “A” letters.

Look for very frequently used words. Figure out what words are probably “the” or “and,” two other very common and short words, making them easy targets. Also look for words with double letters, which may give you further word clues. Other common three letter words include “for,” “was” and “his.” As you figure out letters, replace them throughout the puzzles. Write possible letters above or below their substitutes.

Guess the phrase once you’ve replaced enough letters.


Since Cryptoquips are entirely capitalized, you can’t use capitalization as a clue.

About the Author

Katherine Harder kicked off her writing career in 1999 in the San Antonio magazine "Xeriscapes." She's since worked many freelance gigs. Harder also ghostwrites for blogs and websites. She is the proud owner of a (surprisingly useful) Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas State University.