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Diabolically Arcane

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Crosswords emerged 100 years ago. Cluetopia is one mad time-trip from jails to jungles, in search of the best crossword stories.

Spare Parts [BB506]

26 April, 2015

Another vocab test of sorts this week. If shank, eye, point and gape make up a fishhook, or chanter, bladder and bellow go to make up the bagpipes, then what object claims each set of parts below?

(What other trio of parts can you offer - with your byline and set number - that all stem from the one object, or organism?)

1. newel, riser, baluster

2. cantle, pommel, surcingle

3. bell, key, slide

4. scotia, fluting, echinus

5. gutter, orphan, spine

6. tang, button, shim

7. fornix, pons, sulcus

8. rib, skin, kingpost


BB505 SOLUTION: Genome, indigo, meerkat, torment, andante, intrepid, interact, shoehorn, covenant, ecstatic, interlace, compliance (Other words are possible.)

The Whisky's Great, Though The Steak is Lousy

24 April, 2015

That title is a rough translation of the famous Bible quote in Matthew: "The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak."

Same, same, but different. 

A better known butchery is the hatchet job for the idiom - "Out of sight, out of mind." Urban legend insists that a machine translation converted the phrases into "Invisible insane."

After so much top-shelf clueing, I thought the time was right to revel at a lower level, choosing a piece of idiom and dreaming up a botched translation. My openers:

Carry a torch for - Act as usher

By and large - Next-door and colossal

Can't see the wood for the trees - Lost in the canopy

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer - That's a spoon

Lightweight, but hey - it's Friday. Feel free to rnasakc the Rogets and add to this list of failed translations

Middle America

21 April, 2015

Back from a great break - lots of rock-hopping, beachcombing, book-gobbling and potbelly fires. In a word: therapy. (And thanks for sharing your own book lists. My pick of the break: Is That A Fish In Your Ear by David Bellos.)

Solved my share of crosswords too, many sourced from Big Dave's Aladdin Cave here. I can recommend anything Anax makes, as well as Gazza and Heiroglyph. (Radler is a required taste, while I'm still to sample the others.) 

One clue from Gazza almost inspired a Cryptic Court. But then I thought, hell, let's have a Storm instead. Here's the clue:

Middle America is rocked by wrongdoing (5)

The answer is CRIME, the five middle letters of AMERICA rocked into one misdemeanour. Pedants could quibble that Middle America is R only, but I don't mind the variation. Besides, the surface story is excellent.

So that's our challenge this week, to dream up a clue that matches Gazza's recipe, manipulating a central block of letters. The heart of ORANGUTAN, say, may well be G in standard clues, but here the ruse could lead to ANGUT (the fodder for GAUNT), or even NGU (revealing GNU!)

My opening bids:

Middle Eastern flower = ASTER

Rips into Middle Eastern conflict = TEARS

Style of screwball comedy, in essence = MODE 

Scottish boy vandalised central Adelaide = LADDIE

What's in your heart?

WoW: Redamancy

20 April, 2015

REDAMANCY (RED-uh-mun-see) -  Mutual love and reciprocal affection. (From Latin redamare, to love in return.) The moment you slip into the lucent pools of a labrador's eyes - when you're eating - you will know redamancy.

Sombre Bombers [BB505]

19 April, 2015

Double the right letter in each word below, then mix, and you’ll create a new word. SOMBRE + B, for example, gives you BOMBERS. While ETHICAL + T = ATHLETIC, which you will need to be to run down the rest.

(And can you coin a few double dilemmas of your own? Please provide your byline and clue number if you do.)

1. gnome

2. dingo

3. market

4. mentor

5. tanned

6. printed

7. certain

8. onshore

9. clarinet

10. policeman


BB504 SOLUTION: Anguine (like a snake), aquiline (eagle), corvine (deer), corvine (crow), leporine (rabbit), pavonine (peacock), psittacine (parrot), ranine (frog), ursine (bear)

Clues of Repute 51

17 April, 2015

Seven more sizzlers from the Times archive, circa 1998. A long time between solutions, but all the more reason to delight the palate. 

See how many you can crack. And as a bonus challenge, see if you can conjure a classy clue to denote any of today's answers. Ready? Git.  

1. Small bird feeling pain, having wings clipped (6)  

2. Smash hit a crass release (9)

3. Spotted Three Stooges after a fight? (4)  

4. Iron spirit - backbone (5)

5. Independently ring three times with different directions (2,4,3)

6. Very heavy rain can do damage (9)

7. Christmas present - open with anger (12)  

A little kinder this lot - but still delectable.

Clues of Repute 50

14 April, 2015

Just because I'm off-site doesn't mean you can't enjoy some flavoursome clues, this lot mustered from the Times backlist of 1998.

Perhaps I've run these beauties before. If that's the case, then glamour deserves a second glance. See how many you can solve - and by way of boasting: see how many you can convert into your own clues. Good luck.

1. Yes, Pound contrive metre like Eliot, for instance (9)  

2. It may describe a nurse but never does (4)

3. 'Bow' rhymes with 'now' (6)

4. Biscuits baking still (8)

5. Heart of Holy Land (4)

6. Writer turned into fat cat (7)

7. One half winning in court (6)  

Look for another septet on Friday.

WoW: Pulvinar

13 April, 2015

PULVINAR (puhl-vuh-NAR) - the 'sorting office' and 'attention centre' of the thalamus; throne at the Circus Maximus left empty for a deity (From Latin pulvinus - cushioned couch, via pulvin - cushion.) Associate Prof James Bourne of Monash has discovered a new pathway through the puvlinar which may subvert blindness.

Bestiality [BB504]

12 April, 2015

Equine obviously relates to the horse, and lupine, the wolf. Are you in line to divine the nine other –ine words below? An easy puzzle for vocab hounds, given your zoo of choice includes the bear, crow, deer, eagle, frog, parrot, peacock, rabbit and snake. (And for some extra neuron firing, can you cobble together a tidy clue for any of these words?)

1. anguine

2. aquiline

3. cervine

4. corvine

5. leporine

6. pavonine

7. psittacine             

8. ranine

9. ursine


BB503 SOLUTION: 3 Wise Men (or Monkeys), 3-Legged Race, Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, 3 Coins in a Fountain, 3 Sisters by Anton Chekhov, 3 Billy Goats Gruff, 3 Amigos with Steve Martin, 3-Point Turn, 3 Laws of Motion by Sir Isaac Newton, 3 Kings with George Clooney, 3-Ring Circus, 3 Tenors with Placido Domingo


7 April, 2015

You may have read my dictionary confession in the latest Wordplay column, appearing in the SMH's Spectrum. Fact is I've been gorging on the A-pages of the Macquarie, finding plenty of scrumptious oddity, including this assembly below.

Who will prove the Alpha among clue-mongers, devising a clue (complete with definition and wordplay) for any of these aberrations below.

ACRONYCHAL - occurring at sunset  

ALGOLAGNIA - sexual gratification derived from giving or receiving pain

AMARANTH - flower that never fades


APRIUM - hybrid of apricot and plum

ASTROVERTISEMENT - ad seen from space

AUDISM - discrimination against the deaf  

AXENIC - free of germs

Go ape.

My Shack Awaits

6 April, 2015

Taking a spell for two weeks, with two books written in a frenzied six months. Enough scribbling, and puzzling, column writing already! I'm thrilled by both new titles - Riddledom (out in August) and Wordburger (later this year), but the word cave is feeling cramped.

Time to rekindle my love of reading (for reading's sake), as I head for the shipwreck coast for trekking, snoozing and worshipping the Weber. Let the rain fall, as I'm happy by the hearth. Topping my wish list of books are these babies:  

A Crime in the Neighbourhood - Suzanne Berne

By Hook or by Crook - David Crystal

History of Silence - Lloyd Jones

Dead Souls - Nikolai Gogol

House of Grief - Helen Garner

Here & Now - Paul Auster & JM Coetzee

Plus Seamus Heaney's selection of Yeats

Throw in word books, travel books, potboilers and puzzles, and there's my fortnight. So what are you reading? What have read - and what's on the wish list? I'd love to know, and it's good to share as life's too short for the ordinary.

Meantime at DA Central, you can look forward to three lively posts to leaven the customary sequence of WoWs and Birdbrains, with the first to lob later today. Have fun when they come.

WoW: Filipendulous

6 April, 2015

FILIPENDULOUS [fill-ee-PEND-yu-lus] - Hanging by a thread; charged with suspense [From Latin filum (thread) + pendere (to hang).] Nail-biting contests are just as figuratively filipendulous as the sword of Damocles was literally.

Three Times' A Charm [BB503]

5 April, 2015

If 3-PS = 3-piece suit, or 3LP are 3 Little Pigs, can you figure out what other 3-titles and 3-phrases get short shrift below? And are there titles or phrases I overlooked?

1. 3WM

2. 3-LR

3. 3M by AD

4. 3C in a F

5. 3S by AC

6. 3BGG

7. 3A (with SM)

8. 3-PT

9. 3LOM by SIN

10. 3K (with GC)

11. 3-RC

12. 3T (with PD)


BB502 SOLUTION: O’Brien, Toys “R” Us, 7-Eleven, Yahoo!, Cap’n Snooze, Drāno, Häagen-Dazs, Lladró, Citroën


1 April, 2015

Pick a brand, any brand, and change one letter in its name. (If the name is too short for others to spot the original, then show the transformation.)

Your next step, once you've manipulated your marque, is to provide a new slogan for the product. Ideally the brand stays in the same marketplace - so Lego would remain in the toyshop, say, but now with newer options, such as:

Kego - Hey kids, build your own brewery, and sell the beer to Dad!

Nego - Model bricks for the emo child

Logo - For the label-savvy tween in your life.

Simple game, but who will claim the makeover fame?

Salon 53 - News & a Few Clues

30 March, 2015

Been a while since I posted a Salon - a bulletin board of stuff happening, and crosswords worth sharing. On the first front, this week is has some stage & radio:

+ tonight [Monday March 30] you can come play Late Night Letters & Numbers at Melbourne Town Hall;

+ on Wednesday - April Fools Day - I'm cohosting the Conversation Hour on ABC after 11, talking mental health & politics, seriously;

+ then later at 430 it's my fortnightly lingo window with Nicole Chvastek on ABC Drive Victoria;

+ a lot more looming too, with events in Canberra, Bendigo, Melbourne, Williamstown & a wintry Orange. So keep an eye peeled. 

As for puzzles, I've been loving some Times and Guardian offerings. Here's a grab of four classy clues. Can you solve'm? And what other puzzles have you come by?

1. Type of neck fit for woolly (5) [Times 10208]

2. Author in ship departing Scottish city (5) [Times 10206]

3. Fling with hunk is wild fantasy (7,8) [Picaroon - brilliant]

4. Vegetable to grill with stock (7) [Times 10202]

Have a wordy week.

WoW: Costean

30 March, 2015

COSTEAN [koz-TEEN] - to search for the mother lode [From Cornish - cothas, dropped + tean, tin] Musicians often jam in a freestyle costean of an appealing melody.

Diacritical [BB502]

29 March, 2015

We supply the unusual chunks from nine well-known brands, complete with their own quirky marks, plus a hint at the product itself. For example, é (sweet giant) would be Nestlé. Only Smarties will bag the lot.

1. O’ (glass)

2. “R” (playtime)

3. 7- (convenience)

4. o! (engine?)

5. ’n (zzz)

6. ā (un-blocker)

7. ä (sweet treat)

8. ó (porcelain)

9. ë (wheels)                         


BB501 SOLUTION: Krall, Koori, responsibility, Worcestershire, assume, iceberg, ninepins, familiar, company man, steel wool, rhododendron, dinnerware

Losing It Big-Time

27 March, 2015

Losing it. Kicking it. Forget about it....

Seems a lot of idiom that wants IT out of the picture. Or the word in our case. That's the game today - one we've played before in fact, many moons ago - where we skip IT in one word to create another.

Chomping on Cosby, say, would be BITING BING. While a Brown giant would lead to TAN TITAN. (Notice how IT can be flicked from the first or second word.)

No need for word lengths if you wish to make your own. But please remember to add your byline and clue number so we can keep track of things. Here we go:

DA1 - Feels for Collingwood

DA2 - Urbane European

DA3 - Sauce to keep you grounded?

DA4 - Cyclist's castle

DA5 - Suitably soar 

DA6 - "Adjective - clear-cut, certain."

You have my permission to lose it!

Haiku Clue

24 March, 2015

Fresh from our Arabic verse in GHAZAL, let's consider the delicate art of composing a haiku clue.

If you don't know the discipline, the Japanese verse entails 5 syllables in the first line, then 7 in the second, and five in the last. Your typical haiku reads:

Bamboo clattering.

Blossoms shudder free. Winter

Arrives with fanfare.

Or something like that. No call for rhyme - just a faithful syllable tally, and a central theme. Or cryptic clue in our case. That's the challenge - to pick a word or name from Japan or nearby Asia, and render both defintion and wordplay as a haiku.

Here's my flimsy dabble:


Feral cat might grab

Duck 'egg' with faddish whiz-bang

Animal inside.

Chinese and other Asian allusions are fine, just to give our poetry some licence. Please provide your answer as the haiku's title - selecting words, names, cities, movies or anything Asiatic in flavour. And let's see who can deliver the haiku de grace

WoW: Ghazal

23 March, 2015

GHAZAL [YAH-zarl] - Arabic love poem with a recurring rhyme and a limited number of stanzas [From Arabic] The classic ghazal includes the poet's takhallus - pen name - in the closing stanza.

This month's winner

Well done to Sam for his Emmy makeover in our latest Storm, turning Best Actresses into the best wordplay, and winning a copy of Superstar Crosswords.



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