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Diabolically Arcane

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Clues of Repute 57

6 December, 2016

Here are some splendid bits of business drawn from recent Brit xwords, from The Guardian to The Independent (my new cryptic fix of choice, esp Punk, Donk, Anax & Nestor). Anyhow, you know the drill: can you solve them, and who can compose a fine alternative clue for any of the same solutions?

1. Bottom of flask in pocket [Sunday Times 1017]

2. River's current between banks (4) [as above - among the COTY]

3. Rasher gnarl? (8,3,4) [Nimrod - starts with T, ends with D....]

4. Condemned equal rights dispute (7) [Vlad]

5. Futile swimming in central European river, one that's deep (10) [Nestor]

6. One going down for a long time, a reviled criminal in prison, is on for release (5,5) [Paul]

7. Potty-trains baby, ignoring books on hygiene (8) [Bogus]

8. Hateful how satellite cable may be connected (7) [Times 10710]

WoW: Pop Shuvit

5 December, 2016

POP SHUVIT [POP SHOVE-it] -  a skateboarding manoeuvre where the rider jumps into the air while the board spins beneath their feet [Pop as in burst, plus shove] The pop shuvit requires the skater to kick her board's tail down on leaping, so making the board airborne, and spin.

Troppo Post Strategy

29 November, 2016

This week we skip the cryptic cookbook and look to make music with one big restraint. Can you build a plausible phrase, or complete sentence, where a two-letter overlap applies from word-to-word? 

This post's heading is a tame example, as is:

Often English shaped editorial allusions. 


Llama made delightful ululations.

Remember: length ain't everything, not when you can craft a seamless semantic unit, a little classier than my opening salvos. Simple on the page, but one God-forsaken enigma, mate.

Who will be our overlap overlord?

WoW: Gegenschein

28 November, 2016

GEGENSCHEIN [GEGG-en-shine] - faint illumination of the sky at night which is sometimes seen opposite the sun; caused by sunlight being reflected by meteoric dust in space. [From German, literally counter-glow] Hubble blamed a greasy lens when first spying gegenschein through his telescope.

Hindi Heirlooms

23 November, 2016

The DA blog will take a low profile for the next while, as I'm heading off to India for a Wordburger barnstormer, from Delhi to Jaipur. (Look for a column - and a Brainstorm - about the rare joys of Hinglish come late December.)

Before then, I've preloaded a few distractions, from the customary WoWs, to a few Clues of Repute, plus a Friday folly if you're up for the fun. So by all means drop by. Have a crack. Drop a line. Just don't think I've dropped off the perch. Blame Bangalore instead.

Meanwhile, to keep the mind in the mould, here's a dozen words we owe to Hindi. Can you devise a fresh clue for any example? Feel free to add the definition element only if it suits your clue's surface reading. Alavida, for now!







JUGGERNAUT (corruption of the god Jaganath)




SORBET (and not French as I'd suspected)


Enjoy the chicanery, and your early summer. Who will outdo the Hindo to-do?

WoW: Dasyurid

21 November, 2016

DASYURID -  [dass-ee-YOUH-ruhd] - member of the marsupial family Dasyuridae, which includes quolls, dunnarts, planigales, ningauis [From Greek dasy(s) shaggy + ūr(ys) (via oura tail)] The principal dasyurid in northern Tassie is the Eastern quoll. 


18 November, 2016

You may have caught the dictionary goss, or spotted your blog host rapping with Leigh Sales on The 730 Report last night, but the Words of the Year are in bloom again.

For some lexicons at least. (The Macquarie has the good grace to wait until the year is done.) Here below's a sample of the picks from the Oxford Dictionaries and Collins. All we need is your fresh clue, using both elements: wordplay and definition in the one neat bundle.

POST-TRUTH - disconnected from objective facts in favour of emotional appeal

SHARENTING - oversharing parents who post/Instagram/Tweet every minor milestone

SNOWFLAKE GENERATION - young adults of the 2010s viewed as less resilient & more prone to taking offence

ADULTING - playing the role of grown-up, especially the fulfililng of mundane but necessary tasks

THROW SHADE - make a public show of contempt for someone or something, often in a subtle or non-verbal manner

TRUMPISM - Trump policies rejecting the current political establishment

ALT-RIGHT - extreme conservatism

HYYGE - feeling of cosiness, safety and harmony (Danish)

GLASS CLIFF - precarious ascent to leadership for women or minority groups

MIC DROP - gesture where one feigns to drop a hand-held microphone as a finale

DUDE FOOD - Junk food such as hot dogs, burgers, etc 

COULROPHOBIA - fear of clowns

BOGANAIRE - under-educated, low-cultured moneybags

That last one is my tip for Macquarie's WOTY, but let's see how the jury swings. The new words are all yours.


15 November, 2016

Rather than running with cryptic clues this Storm, let's mark America's new boss, a man as white, as wealthy and as waspish as they come. 

In honour of The Donald's ancestral wasp nest, your challenge is to conjure up pair of words where W in one appear as P in the other. SWILL SPILL is one example, which could be clued as 'Pigsty mishap (6,6)'.

The W-P exchange can occur in either direction. And don't forget to supply your byline and clue number, so we can keep track of clues yet to be solved. Here's my opening wodge:

DA1 - Harvest pest (4,4)

DA2 - Making out laundry? (7,7)

DA3 - Where to find Don's cufflinks? (6,6)

DA4 - B-U-M-P (8,8)

DA5 - Dry Rapunzel? (5,5)

DA6 - Licensed private dancer? (6,6)

WoW: Phillumeny

14 November, 2016

PHILLUMENY [fill-LOOM-en-ee] -  collecting of any match-related items, including matchboxes, matchbox labels and matchbooks [From Greek, phil- [loving] + Latin lumen- [light] Thanks to blog regular Sam for matchmaking pillumeny with the WoW roster - a striking addition. 

WoW: Carretela

12 November, 2016

CARRETELA [karr-ah-TELL-uh] - horse-drawn cart used in the Philippines. Its bodywork is low and two rows of passengers sit face to face. [Fro Spanish, small cart] The carretela is a popular rental for Manila's more grandiose weddings. 

Reshap'd Pradesh

8 November, 2016

In a few weeks I'll be touring India with Wordburger, a non-vegan book for non-Hindi readers who can't get enough of quirky wordplay. Hence the blog has been a tad quiet as I cram to finish my 2nd manuscript inside 3 months. Crazy, hazy days of hay-fever November...

Anyhow, just to keep your clue-pecs toned, here's a shortlist of 15 Indian states and territories. Some delectable names for you to mould in any shape or mode, with no call for a definition unless that benefits the clue's flow. 

Jump in. The subcontinent awaits.
















Get it India!

WoW: Edison medicine

7 November, 2016

EDISON MEDICINE - US slang for electric shock therapy [After Thomas Alva Edison, creator of the lightbulb, among many other electric innovations.] Nurse Ratched "volunteered" McMurphy for a crash course of Edison medicine.


1 November, 2016

This week's brainstorm comes from intermittent cluer and long-time mate of the site, JD. Her idea is so neat I was envious as soon as I opened her email. (And by all means send in your own Storm ideas.) The theme is BREXIT, where BR exits.

Tidy, timely, and illiant. As that's what words become when BR bails, from LI(BR)ARY to CANDELA(BR)A...

Let's indicate where the BR has been ditched, since a combo like INED will have us guessing if you meant INBRED or maybe BRINED.

Mind you, that dilemma will soon dispel as we need to offer both a definition (for the original word) and wordplay (for the BR-free version). Here's one or two openers:

DE(BR)IS - Curling side remains

(BR)ITAIN - Buttrose visiting UK

(BR)IC-A-(BR)AC - Acacia briefly wore baubles

Thanks JD for the (BR)AINWAVE. Let's see who can (BR)ING home the tastiest (BR)ISKET, showing Europe's loss is our gain. 

WoW: Stravaig

31 October, 2016

STRAVAIG (struh-VAYG) - to meander without purpose [Scottish/N English dialect from Medieval Latin extravagari, from vagari to wander] Brown's cows were apt to stravaig until straggling home.

Phrases Of Course

25 October, 2016

All ten phrases below hail from the home straight of horse racing, with a snip of shorthand etymology in brackets. If you missed my equine cameo on News Breakfast this morning, talking track parlance, then view here. And look for this week's Wordplay column in the Sydney Morning Herald where I splice Flemington with Washington.

Meantime, a week from the Cup, can you win the 'Big Apple' with any of these gee-gee gems? All you need do is to craft a piece of wordplay only - no need for defintion unless that chimes sweetly with your subterfuge. Happy punting.

ACROSS THE BOARD [combination bet on tote]

GIVE AND TAKE [handicap system]

RUNNING MATE [companion horse]


HANDS DOWN [no need for whip]

SHOO-IN [only needs shooing over line]

HOME AND HOSED [easy win]


COME A CROPPER [fall off horse]

BIG APPLE [plump prize purse]

And we're off!

WoW: Voluntourism

24 October, 2016

VOLUNTOURISM - Travel that also includes volunteer work [First cited in 2002 - a hybrid of vounteer/ing and tourism] Offering your services to emerging countries as part of a wider itinerary is Voluntourism 101.

Meh 24

18 October, 2016

This week's Storm is more a Meh post, where we debate the merits of some so-so Brit clues, as well as seize the chance to create our own clues for the same 7 answers. But first to the so-so. Do my list of plaints hold water, or am I betraying my inner curmudgeon?

1.  From shortage of food, died, put to ground =  DEARTH [Really? A shortage of food, or just a shortage? Not even touching the clue's grimness, from Times 9923]

2. Tree associated with common colour = LIME GREEN [I rekcon Brummmie has succumbed to a hookworm here, as limes are lime.]

3. Part of play, playwright clutching opening to act – he covers the background in theatre = SCENE PAINTER  [Hookworm #2 with Tramp, as scenes are indeeds part of a play, hence a scene painter.]

4. Crashing bore very sensitive about conflict = BOER WAR [Unwise I reckon to make your anagram a homophone of the answer. From Times 10679]

5. Two men in kingly legend = ARTHURIAN [Worst Times clue of the year, from the above puzzle.]

6. Report firearms having been stolen = GUNSHOT [Another Times clanger, hate to say]

7. National newspaper = SCOTSMAN [And the newspaper is named after...?]

8. One is in nave, wide-eyed = NAIVE [Dare you to create an easier cryptic clue, more facile than Otterden's offering. In fact that could be our Storm: who can out-simple this simple cryptic?]

Keen to get your feedback, and your zestful alternatives.

WoW: Logomaniac

17 October, 2016

LOGOMANIAC - one obsessed with words, or talking. [From Greek logos, word, plus -mania, fixation] Without naming names, or bylines, I suggest this blog may entertain more than one logomaniac.

Cartoonist Contest

11 October, 2016

Cartoon fans will know these names, or recognise the messy signatures attributed to each legend. All 20 are giants of the New Yorker cartoon desk, cranking out gags for more than half a century.

(Pssst - cartoon fans will also love the four events I'm hosting over the next fortnight, toasting the work (and new book) of Melbourne imp, Oslo Davis. For details, head for the events page on Oslo's site. All are free, inc a caption contest with prizes.)

But perhaps you can win Oslo's book - Drawing Funny - right here. In celebration of all things, see who can best convert any of these captioneers into a nifty cryptic clue - with no wordplay needed. No call for a cover-name. Just go nuts, and submit your finest before Friday 5pm. I will pick the pearl next week.

So have fun with the letters, and come celebrate the funny pictures if you can. 



ROZ CHAST                                TOM CHENEY

LEO CULLUM                             DANA FRADON

EDWARD KOREN                      ARNIE LEVIN

FRANK MODELL                        GARRETT PRICE



MICK STEVENS                         JAMES THURBER

BARNEY TOBEY                         JACK ZIEGLER

WoW: Makiwara

10 October, 2016

MAKIWARA [mark-ee-WAH-ra] - a padded stake used in karate training, the Eastern equivalent of a punching bag. [Literally 'rolled straw'] As dojo students develop, they graduate from a soft makiwara to a stiff makiwara.

Wordburger Awaits!

Welcome all puzzle-lovers, including any chompers of the Wordburger book or app. (Check them out if you enjoy words & trickery.) And if you still crave more alphabet mischief, click on the burger icon above for a fresh serve.



Packed with games, pickles, codes and cheesy puns, Wordburger is your chance to be a champion puzzler in 20 quick bites. Ideal for wordy kids keen to open a new language door, or grown-ups who want to cut their cryptic teeth. Click here. 

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Riddles in song, in code, in pictures. From Ireland & Wonderland, Einstein & Pompeii. Riddledom reveals 101 wry questions from 50+ languages & shares their secrets. A book to unlock culture via conundrum. Order here.

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Cluetopia roams the planet – and century – to find fresh crossword stories in 30+ languages. From shipwrecks to hoaxes, Cluetopia is a holiday for the head. Buy here.

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Recent Comments

Riddledom Rave

If you missed my riddle chat with Richard Fidler, then feel free to slurp the podcast at http://ab.co/1I9t1x5

Text-speak is creeping into Scrabble. Where do you sit?
OBVS I'm fine with it
Entrenched stuff - like LOL and OMG - but no more.
Words With Friends, maybe. Scrabble, no
Let the 'real' dictionaries decide first
Just the handy stuff, like FAQ and EUW
I mean, WTF?! No way
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