Here is a link to a crossword published by The Guardian (UK newspaper).

As happens from time to time, the puzzle is headed by a brief note marked Special Instructions.

My friends and I invariably refer to that text as the byline, but we all agree this isn't the right word. Possibly there isn't one. I doubt there's a really common name for it, or The Guardian would have written that instead of Special Instructions.

Is there a more appropriate term out there?

  • 2
    Are you the Guardian editor?
    – user9682
    Jul 5, 2011 at 1:07
  • No. Why would you think that? It's just that I often do these puzzles in company. We commonly need to mention the special instructions, which it's easy to forget about when you're concentrating on clues. One of the friends is blind, so he often says "Remind me - what's the byline again?". We just want a better word, is all. Jul 5, 2011 at 1:16
  • How about 'Theme'? - Special instructions: the comments are generally light hearted, not to be taken too seriously.
    – user9682
    Jul 5, 2011 at 1:25
  • @osknows: ty on both counts. I didn't really think the question was being asked seriously, but I gotta admit I didn't see the joke at the time either. And I suggest you put theme up as an answer, 'cos I wouldn't be surprised if that turns out to be what I'll have to go with in the end. Only problem being that these puzzles often have an implicit "theme" that's never explicitly mentioned on the page, but which we solvers refer to once we discover there is a theme (several answers turn out to be quotes from Shakespeare, for example). Jul 5, 2011 at 1:36
  • @FumbleFingers. Why not mix the concept of theme and that of hint. Something like 'theme hint' or 'theme cue' or 'topical indication' (that's a mouthful for your blind friend I'm afraid). Just 'the cue' then, that would make it short and unambiguous... Jul 5, 2011 at 2:12

4 Answers 4


I don't know if there's an official name as such, but I would probably call it the rubric, by analogy to similar instructions at the top of exam papers.

  • I would use "rubric" too.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 5, 2011 at 14:11
  • Yes! That slots nicely into my lexicon, thanks! I was quite attracted to cue - simply because of the alliteration with clue (usuallly this additional text functions as an extra clue). But that would have been a bit too tichy (tongue-in-cheek). Rubric fits the bill nicely. Jul 5, 2011 at 16:41
  • Although thE guardiaN (or however they are capitalising it today) would probably use "rurbic"
    – mgb
    Jul 5, 2011 at 18:56

I'd say aside or annotation. If you want to label it, I'd use note.


It's certainly not a byline. That just refers to the name of the journalist who wrote a story. I would call what you saw a form of explanatory text.

  • Hmm. "explanatory text" is no better than "special instructions". I was rather hoping for a single word. Jul 5, 2011 at 1:18

I'd say it was a "hint", or a "note" or even better, "comment":

A comment is generally a verbal or written remark often related to an added piece of information, or an observation or statement.

In this case, it could be a "Hinting comment", or just either "hint" or "comment".

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