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Diabolically Arcane

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Gruntling Results

16 November, 2017

So many sipid clues to sample – thanks for the Storm of contrary clues. I was gruntled all week, just seeing the wordplay appear.

Hard to single out a winner as well, as the hit-rate wasn’t effable. To pick out a few humdingers, I thought the best clue for surface and concision (and a brilliant dovetailing of wordplay and definition) went to that recidivist, SK:

NOCUOUS: Commonsense to save odd coupon cutting

Followed closely by SR’s grisly story:

MACULATE: Spotted male cat playing with mouse heart

Then there was Mauve’s amazing discovery, adding (and subtracting) an R to the target word:

EVITABLE: Avertible crash kills redhead

On the short-and-sweet side of the ledger, I loved Jon’s work:

RULY: Certainly not headstrong!

Plus Sam’s classy brace:

SIPID: Tasty dips I prepared

PECCABLE: Air-kissable? Wrong!

But in the spirit of contrary, looking for the best treble, with three consistent confections, I dip my lid to LA’s list, which almost reads like a noir synopsis:

EVITABLE - Bill detected in immorality – final outcome uncertain

KEMPTWaste reduced following introduction of kitchen tidy

WIELDY - Moderate, ye wild winds!

Thanks to all players for your gruntling work. Thanks also to SK for rebooting the Gargantuan prize – a simpatico gesture. Great as well to see some familiar names back at the forge, and look forward to more semantic shenanigans in 2018.

And LA – let me know your snail mail, and will send your humungous parcel soon. Yours nocently and not ungratefully, DA

WoW: Dostadning

13 November, 2017

DOSTADNING [doss-TARD-ning] - cleaning the house before you die, rather then leaving it to loved ones to tackle once you’ve gone. [Swedish, , ‘to die’, and städning, ‘cleaning’] Dostadning is bound to enter lexicons, thanks to Margareta Magnusson's bestseller, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.

Finessing the Effable

8 November, 2017

Some words own opposites you seldom hear - or don't truly exist. This perversity applies to the list below, in our final Brainstorm of 2017, as I will be off the grid for a few months, heading into a realm where a crossword is a keresztrejtvény.

In keeping with the year's last hurrah, there's a prize to win - my new Gargantuan Book of Words, as kindly donated back to the stock cupboard by SK.

No need for aliases when competing, as I'm prepared to let the clues speak for themselves. Your challenge is to craft a clue containing BOTH wordplay and definition for any of this dozen below. 

To help me pick a winner, please submit your best THREE clues by 6pm on next Wedesday, November 15. Thanks. And don't be too ruly, truly.













Share your clues and ideas in the forum here. Then post your three best as a shortlist before next Wednesday 6pm to be in the running for the Gargantuan prize.

WoW: Gowpen

6 November, 2017

GOWPEN - hollow formed when two hands create a bowl shape. [From Old Norse gaupn - cupped hands] To revive  your senses, splash your face with several gowpens of water. 

Sentence Folly

28 October, 2017

This is a creative challenge, so you get some extra time. The object is to write a 10-word sentence in which each word ends with the same letter of the alphabet.

For example: Dartmouth frosh clash with Pittsburgh church parish, clinch fifth triumph.

WoW: Chernozem

23 October, 2017

CHERNOZEM [CHUR-nuh-zem] - a soil common in cool or temperate semiarid climates, very black and rich in humus and carbonates. [From Russian,  chernozëm, equivalent to chërn(yń≠) black + zëm, variant, in compounds, of zemlyá earth] Hoary permafrost may cap loamy chernozem

Pasta Supreme

19 October, 2017

A modest Storm for a prize-touting Storm, but all the more reason for the pasta chefs to relish their moment. As was the case with Few Sillier, Unravioli, Penne Name, Papa Dell and Dodgy Diavolo, who ladled quality all last week. 

The challenge was twofold - to create a plausible pasta, and to clue those impastas I'd already devised. The best overall (as opposed to the best overalls) would win a copy of my new Gargantuan Book of Words, that does a whole lot more than invent pasta.

With no further oregano, the top 3 impastas, in ascending order:

3. Mickey Rooney (Few Sillier)

2. Ghetto Lingo (Penne Name)

1. Ugly Auntie (Penne again)


Top 3 impasta clues:

3. MONDAY LOTTO = Saying covers any old mistake (Un-Ravioli)

2. BUSY DELI = DIY blues after renovation (Few Sillier)

1. TAN BIKINI = Lauda reverses to stop in Batmobile (Few Sillier)

The surface sleekness of that last clue won me over, with both Few Sillier and Penne Name sharing the honours - yet not the spoils. Agouri, Sillier! You've won a Gargantuan prize, just as soon as you can reveal your secret recipes, and let me know your address via email. Thanks for the fun. Ciao for niao.

WoW: Vapourware

16 October, 2017

VAPOURWARE - new product, especially software, that is announced or promoted, yet is still to be produced or made available [Latin vapor - steam, heat - plus -ware] Consumers will stall on IT purchases in constant wait of the latest vapourware.


11 October, 2017

Contest time on the DA blog, your chance to win your own Gargantuan Book of Words - an omnibus of brain-games, quizzes, riddles, word stories and a list like the one below. 

The Impasta List, as I call it. Said aloud, with the right Roman rhythm, each double sounds like a type of pasta, from plasma telly to Monday lotto.

For a chance to grab Gargantuan, your challenge is twofold - and molto piccante. First, can you provide any more additions to the list - bona-fide or bogus couplings that mimic pasta? And second, can you contrive a classy clue for any of the impastas already listed here? No need for definition - just wordplay only.

To ensure fairness, choose a pasta-flavoured alias. And to ease admin, please assemble your best TWO examples, from the TWO categories, before this Sunday at 5pm. I will announce the winner late next week. Dig in.











WoW: Abderian

9 October, 2017

ABDERIAN [ab-DAIR-ee-uhn] - prone to incessant or idiotic laughter [From Abdera, a town in Thrace, where Democritus - the Laughing Philosopher - was born.] When one chuckle ripples through a group of friends, the mood soon turns abderian. 

WoW: Matutolypea

2 October, 2017

MATUTOLYPEA [mah-TOOT-uh-LO-pee-ah] - waking in a bad mood; ill-humour in the morning [Hybrid of Matuta Mater, the Roman Goddess of the dawn, plus Greek lype, grief or sorrow'] Those who habitually get out of the wrong side of the bed demonstrate matutolypea.

WoW: Synderesis

25 September, 2017

SYNDERESIS [sin-duh-REE-sis] - the innate capacity to understand ethics; the human disposition to morality; also SYNTERESIS (From Greek synteresis a guarding). Our conscience - the guiding voice within - underpins the notion of synderesis.

Brand Place/ment

19 September, 2017

On the back of this week's JETTATURA - a Volkswagen model beside a southern NSW beach - this Storm is out to continue the feat. Somewhere, somehow - let me explain.

Showing no shame, and getting parochial, your clue needs to enlist both a brand and a placename. Maybe that's GREECE evacuated, combining with NIVEA to spell GRIEVANCE. Or perhaps it's HAMPSTEAD boycotting AMP to create DEATHS. (Seems I'm tapping my inner Goth this morning...)

Global or local. Big brand or car model. However you can fuse the two elements, using sound or deletion, the whole thing working as a viable clue.

Of course, other wordplay elements may be involved. Or perhaps your answer carries its own place/brand combo, much like JETTATURA. So long as a trademark and something-like-Denmark get a gig.

Tricky? Sure. Here's a few whirls:

Bendigo's ultimate pet food a gem = OPAL

Around outback, IKEA prepared food = I(NT)AKE

Bizarrely Anita defends back in Africa = T(ANZ)ANIA

Maybe US and I brewed this! = BUDWEISER

Start your combine-harvesting, and let's see who wins the brief.

WoW: Jettatura

18 September, 2017

JETTATURA [jett-uh-TOO-ra] - the evil eye; bad luck [From Southern Italian, iettatura, hoodoo or jinx] Rankle a Sicilian and traditionally you may cop the jettatura, or a horse's head in the queen-size.

WoW: Kolinsky

11 September, 2017

KOLINSKY [koh-LIN-skee] - a dark brown weasel with bushy tail, found from Siberia to Japan; Siberian weasel. [Derived from Kola, a port in NW Russia, +plus faux-Russian suffix of -insky.] Do Siberians spend kopecks to play whack-a-kolinsky?

WoW: Mazeppa

4 September, 2017

MAZEPPA [mah-ZEPP-uh] - person bound to a wild force against their will [Named after Ukrainian Cossack Ivan Stepanovyc Mazepa, and Byron's subsequent poem Mazeppa.] In that poem, Ivan Mazeppa is punished for his affair with Countess Theresa, lashed to a wild horse by the Cossack's cuckold.

Would-Be Words

29 August, 2017

This week - at the Melb Writers' Fest - I rejoice in Shakespeare words (gloomy, scuffle) and Shakespeare quotes (insert favourite here) with gallant teens. Though let's not forget The Bard saw several of his coinages splutter, never reaching the popular lexicon.

Hence we toast those would-be words for this week's Storm, a dozen words Bill built, only to collapse soon after. Can you create a clue for any of these, using both wordplay AND definition this time? To quote King John, you 'can play fast and loose.' For the play's the thing...

BOGGLER - one who hesitates

CARLOT - churl; boor; bumpkin

CONGREEING - agreeing en masse

FAP - sozzled

FOXSHIP - wiliness, cunning

INCARNADINE - bright crimson

NEAR-LEGGED - of a horse with narrow stance


QUATCH - chubby

TANLING - either one seized with hopes of unattainable pleasure or sunbather [scholars can't decide - take your pick!]

VASTIDITY - magnitude

WAPPENED - corrupt

WoW: Flivver

28 August, 2017

FLIVVER - hand-propelled railway cart; jalopy - or inferior car; any item of poor quality; child' scooter [Originally a failure, blending flopper and fizzler] Historical TV ads remind me that travelling by flivver is hard yakka.

WoW: Noolbenger

21 August, 2017

NOOLBENGER [NOOL-ben-guh] - small nectar-feeding possum of SW Australia, also known as the honey possum, or tait [From Nyungar, nulbungur] The giant jarrahs of Pemberton often harbour the most diminutive noolbenger.

Meh 25

15 August, 2017

Not every clue can be a zinger. Some galumph, while others need orthopaedic shoes. Like this bunch, if I'm being honest. For different reasons (explained in brackets), I reckon these offerings could do with a refit.

Do you agree, or am I being harsh? Feel free to air your thoughts or craft some nimbler alternatives, using the same answers as your own.

1. Piqued person who helps actor for TV = CROSS-DRESSER [A few flaws from Times 10947 - dresser is dresser in both senses, and where's the definition?]

2. Dressing from clinic = MAYO [Philistine etches a neat picture, but I reckon the Mayo Clinic needs a stronger definition. Love the seaming; not sold on the def.]

3. No holding boy in battle = NASEBY [Seriously, SEB is boy? Why not LUC or ELI or GAZ. You feel me, Times 10926?]

4. Leap by black fighter = JUMP JET [Jump jets jump, hence their name. From Monk]

5. Former president getting paper's gossip = BUSH TELEGRAPH [Again from Monk, beset by a second hookworm]

6. I don’t believe a chap who thinks god exists = ATHEIST [More a paraprosdokian - or twisted sentence - than a clue, from Sunday Times 1039]

7. Ruler’s operation in wartime = OVERLORD  [The Normandy landing was called Overlord after overlord, the word, or ruler. Times 10811]

8. Settle for salary increase? = PAY UP [Orlando pushing the envelope of a double-def, but not far enough for mine.]

Agree? Dispute? Share your own views & clues.

Gargantuan News

Yep, my Gargantuan Book of Words is big & full of words. Not just English but secret codes, Papuan pidgin, Zulu worms, sound FX, funny goldfish, letter origami. You get the drift? It's big. It's fun. And it's out now


Gargantuan Book of Words

Sneeze words. Fake pasta. Viking slang. Gargantuan is a jumbo jumble of puzzles & games, mazes & quizzes, tailor-made for that wordy wonderkid in your life. Or anyone in love with letters, secret codes, puns, rhymes, emoji & all things languagey. More here 

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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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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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