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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.

New Word Wrangling

August 19, 2014 22 comments

emo No prizes this week – just glory. The Oxford Dictionaries (different from the OED) has okayed a new shipment of slang, from adorkable to YOLO. And since this is an adorkable website with a YOLO motto, we should see what clues we can render from the news.

Below is a smatter of recent intakes, plus definitions. Cachet to the cluesmith who can ably camouflage geocache, and any of these other words. (Let’s aim to include both definition and wordplay, hey? Good luck.)

AMAZEBALLS – slang for astounding
ANTI-VAX – opposed to inoculations
DOUCHEBAGGERY – sleazy behaviour
EMOJI – emoticons 2.0
GEOCACHE – participate in a navigational race using GPS markers
HATE-WATCH – to watch a show or movie that one ardently dislikes
HUMBLEBRAG – ostensibly modest comment that signals a person’s status
LISTICLE – article built around a contrived list
PALEO DIET – reversion to trog food
TECH-SAVVY – see IT geek

Any other neo-words to add? Tell us, and please: clue away!

Salon 28 - Festival Season

August 18, 2014 6 comments

secret Crazy week this week, dabblers. Doing quite a few Fest things in Melbourne. The crossword session is a sellout, though there’s still a pew to grab if you wish to hear about secret treasures, or human handwriting. (And congrats to SK for scoring The Missing Ink prize in our last Storm.)

This week is also the kick-off week for the new MS, a look at riddles across the ages. More about that project later, but after months of research, and a few false starts, Riddling is up & roaring, spurred by a Yule deadline. If you have any riddle lore, yarns or leads, please drop a line as the marlin said.

Meantime I’m still riddling over 2 Picaroon clues, plus a Crucibile. Any ideas?

  1. A tip for trickery from one blue, politically = TORY [wordplay?]
  2. Special pair of queens in blue = SQUANDER [squander?]
  3. English paper’s readhead dropped? No latitude there! = EQUATOR [where’s OR come from?]

Any insights, or missed nuances, are welcome. Enjoy your wordy week.

WoW: Garua

August 18, 2014 6 comments

GARUA [gar-ROO-uh] – heavy fog that besets Peru during May to October [From Spanish, meaning ‘a light drizzle’] Multiple plants of the Peruvian foreshore depend on the annual garua for their moisture.

Watch Out! [BB473]

August 17, 2014 7 comments

WATCH Nine high-profile watch brands match the nine wordplay samples below. (Obviously no defintions are involved here – just a series of cryptic recipes, from anagram to reversal etc.) Ah, but what brands are used, and which watch goes where?

  1. Erratic drunk
  2. Caught spies
  3. Part 10
  4. Lley rebac?
  5. Paper mine outside
  6. Backrower grabs diamond
  7. Top slots backed
  8. Switch opposites
  9. Swell dock by Paris strip

BB472 SOLUTION: Butterfly, domino, Streisand (avoiding attention, attracts it), sound, Halo, Mass (video game), greenhouse, knock-on, Placebo, ripple

Ink Awards

August 16, 2014 5 comments

ink2 As predicted, the judging of this prize Storm was no picnic. The influx was modest by historic standards, though the benchmark was high.

A note for new Stormers – please decode your trickier recipes so your craft is luminous. And second, please submit your own final selections! One of the best entries went to Clark Nova (see below) despite that player skipping the latter phase. Just pick your pet entries before deadline – it helps the end-game no end.

So then, who wins? I loved the ambition of Pen & Ink, toying round with ZUSAK. David Agnew’s nude pervert made me rethink Dune. Dahl’s Chickens almost won for his alias alone, while Dickens Smith showed genuine mastery of the dreaded ‘dots’. But there were three clear podium occupants for mine. In ascending order:

POESpooner’s even…
THE RAVEN…better than ever! [Clark Nova constructs a sublime splice]

ANNE FADIMANMania fanned unrest
EX LIBRISRisible novel about Number 10 [Never heard of writer, or work, but Thomas Rowley made me applaud.]

A.B. FACEYFlathead and dab found in Broken Bay
A FORTUNATE LIFETwist of fate, not failure?! [Far from dreadful Penny went ker-ching with her splendid fishing trope, and then a killer &lit anagram. As a pro-cluer, and one-time Nib II, I’m envious of both.]

Congratz to all scribes, and hip-hip Penny for winning The Missing Ink by Philip Hensher. Kindly unmask yourself at your convenience and I will send on the prize. It’s a great read. Thanks for the showdown.

Loo Lighters

August 15, 2014 5 comments

loo Take a name, a phrase, a place, a person, that has repeat initials. This could be anything or anyone from Bill Bailey to road rage. Your next trick is to change those initials to another letter, so making a purely new phrase.

Foo Fighters would be LOO LIGHTERS, keeping the rest of the spelling intact. (Which thus rules out other tacks like BOO BITERS, or SUE SIGHTERS, etc.) A perfect Friday Folly. See you how you go with this batch:

EX: Kitchen appliance/win the DIY race? = MIX MASTER/FIX FASTER

DA1 – Slob seat?/nasty periodical
DA2 – Major dough/love Donald and Daffy
DA3 – Sport/ape
DA4 – Exercise/lilo kit?
DA5 – Biscuit/slow mother
DA6 – Clothes store/hillbilly scones?

Solve below. And create your own.

Written, by Writer

August 12, 2014 33 comments

shaks A new prize this week – The Missing Ink by Philip Hensher. It’s subtitle in a cursive script says it all – How Handwriting Made Us Who We Are.

(I’ll be chatting with Philip about squiggles, doodles, shopping lists and copperplate at the Melbourne Writers' Fest on Friday arvo, August 29. Come by. Tickets are still available.)

For a chance to win his dashing book, pick the title of a written work (classic, novel, document, poem, script…), plus its writer, and clue both. No need to define either, unless that suits your clue. It’s really a wordplay challenge. Here are some samplers, the first inspired by Mr X’s discovery:

THE ROSIE PROJECT – Eccentric theories stick out
GRAEME SIMSION – Meagre mission dismantled

CANDIDE – Open to designer drug
VOLTAIRE – Spring song on airwaves

Use a writerly alias to keep the voting kosher. Throw around as many ideas as you like, and then before Thursday 8PM, choose your best two pairs (only two) for judging. I will assess and assay to announce a winner on the weekend.

Salon 27

August 11, 2014

exmark “Exclamation marks give me piles; I must be inserting them the wrong way.” One among many zingers delivered at the grammar slamdown at the Bendigo Writers' Fest last weekend, this gag courtesy of street artist, Matt Blackwood.

A great weekend, with banter and boutique wine in equal measure, where sleep was the only loser! Writers to chase down: crime maestro Michael Robotham, science man John Pickerel, Sonya Hartnett’s new Children of the King, and Into the Silent Land by Paul Broks (about brain mysteries.)

While for those readers who loved The Perfect Storm, then a perfect alternative is called Blind Descent by James Tabor. A third in now, and loving this wild adventure yarn about exploring supercaves in southern Mexico.

Thanks too for all those kind words re the Times Ton. I skipped the Weekend Oz just been, which says I’m back to my desultory diet. Though I am keen to brag a G-week this week: 6 puzzles straight. Let’s see how we fare.

As for that difficult Friday folly, the Shark-Shear-Ark, here are the same six audio-celebs in randomised order: throat, know, ridge, yet, amble, honour, brew, jaw, keno, veiny, gnome, cheapen, meek, chair, chorus, jelly, hull, smacker. Good luck with that farrago.

And the week, a wordy one I hope.

WoW: Nothingarian

August 11, 2014 9 comments

NOTHINGARIAN [archaic US] – one who lacks any belief system, or political affiliation [Coined in the mid 1700s, obscure] Census forms would ideally offer citizens a nothingarian option.

FX [BB472]

August 10, 2014 16 comments

DOMINO Crack these clues effectively, and you’ll have ten types of effects. (Some may not be over-familiar, yet all are listed in at least one major dictionary – and most can brag a cool Wikipedia entry as well!)

  1. Pool stroke
  2. Pipped block
  3. Evergreen singer
  4. Healthy
  5. Combat game
  6. Catholic service
  7. Conservatory
  8. Rugby spill
  9. London rockers
  10. Chocolate _______

BB471 SOLUTION: Sinking; planking; thinking; flanking; booking; spanking; sparking; partaking; kinking, clanking; looking, peeking; carking, busking. (Other kings may click.)

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.



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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A pocketbook packed with 250 word stories – from Aga to Zemblanity – plus 175 new puzzles for all comers, this is a word nerd’s summer necessity.

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Puzzled combines memoir, wordplay history and a how-to guide for solvers. With bizarre crossword stories, example clues plus mini-puzzles to test your skill – and nerve. Buy here.

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Recent Comments

DA on Salon 28 - Festival Season

on August 21, 2014

Sam on Salon 28 - Festival Season

on August 21, 2014

Julieta on Ahoy All Ye Maties!

on August 21, 2014

jpr on New Word Wrangling

on August 20, 2014

Sam on New Word Wrangling

on August 20, 2014

AC on New Word Wrangling

on August 20, 2014

Bendigo Blathering


Rug up, roll up. This week I’m chatting at two Bendigo sessions – crosswords on Sat (9/8) & grammar on Sun (10/8). Go here for passes and more info. Breeze by.

Spoiler Alert


Today’s DA crossword [6/6] has a video link showing you a time-lapse of the puzzle’s hatching. Or peek at the story in Tower, the UTS magazine.

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