Puzzles, posts, news and general word-chat.

Diabolically Arcane

Bingo. You’ve reached David Astle dot com, a carnival of words, puzzles and more words. Welcome aboard, and have fun.

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WoW: Sainfoin

15 January, 2018

SAINFOIN [SANE-foyn] - pink-flowered plant of the pea family, grown widely for livestock fodder. [From French saintfoin, after modern Latin sanum foenum, or ‘healthy hay’, in reference to its purported medicinal properties.] "Hey Madeleine, your bovine looks divine after her sainfoin regimen."

See Ya Later, 2017

9 January, 2018

Regular clue-whiz and Big Issue compiler Stephen Knight (alias SK) has devised a crossword saluting a few moronic, sardonic & tonic moments of 2017.

Who knows? The grid could exhume a certain inauguration fizzer, the odd Brexit-gate, or maybe Sam Kerr's aerial somersault. Feel free to download the PDF below and test your wits, with all solvers invited to share their feedback in the Comments section. SK would be delighted. Enjoy the retrovision. 

pdf 70KB

WoW: Tantivy

8 January, 2018

TANTIVY [TAN-tee-vee] - at full tilt; a quick gallop; sound of a hunting horn imitating a speeding horse [Arguably deriving from onomatopoeia, echoing the sound of a hunting horn or galloping hooves.] The man from Snowy River rode tantivy down the spur.

WoW: Alveoliform

1 January, 2018

ALVEOLIFORM [al-vee-OH-lee-form] - shaped like a honeycomb [From Latin alve(us) - concave vessel + ole (diminutive) + form] Open-plan offices are alveoliform.

Clues of Repute - 2017 [4]

27 December, 2017

Your final tranche of ab-fab clues, harvested from the year's crop of British cryptics. Some you may have met, if you're an addict, while other will test how deep your addiction goes. Note: the final pair are both intended for DOWN solutions.

See how many you can crack solo, then consult the Comments for the hints of fellow travellers. Or relish the alternative clues for any of the same eight answers. Savour'm.

1. Attire worn by bishop? (7) [Times 11026]

2. Congestion likely here: take train (5,5) [Times 11031]

3. He wanted bottle of cordial, only laced with whisky (8,4) [Picaroon]

4. Like Inspector Clouseau's awful jewelry? (8) [Puck]

5. Axes cut perfect instrument (9) [Times 10960]

6. Competition winner awarded an Apple iPod, or the alternative (9) [Beet]

7. Transient supporter turned up to invade pitch (8) [Arachne]

8. Lie with young woman on top (8) [Vlad]

Dole out condolences, or braggadocio, below. And who can craft the niftiest alternative clue? 

WoW: Mudra

25 December, 2017

MUDRA [MUDD-rah] - symbolic hand gesture used in Hindu ceremonies and statues, as well as Indian dance. [From Sanskrit mudrā ‘sign or token.] Tantric rituals call on 108 mudras, each one a spiritual seal of authenticity.

WoW: Fraenum

18 December, 2017

FRAENUM [FREE-num] -  fold of membrane that restrains the motion of a part, such as the the tongue's underside [Pure Latin for 'bridle'.] Gossipmongers wag their their tongues as though fraenum-free.

Clues of Repute - 2017 [3]

15 December, 2017

Penultimate bunch of eight, celebrating the finest in Cryptopia 2017. How many will you nab at first glance, or second glance? Or will you need a big hint dropped by your fellow solvers below?

Gotta say, Nos 4-6 are ingenious. Damn - they're all good. That's why they made the list!

As a last hurrah, who can make a chic alternative to any of these, responding to the same answers? And if I don't get a chance later: a happy X to all Xworders.

1. Clubs seals and we'd get hides (4,5) [Times 10972]

2. Child allowance kept economy active (6,5) [Arachne]

3. One holds nothing back where it's easy to be anonymous (6) [Sunday Times 1062]

4. Fall back drunk, having swapped hands twice (7) [Times 10963]

5. Try getting popular on Twitter? Sad (5-7) [Tramp]

6. Tyre here heading for blowout, given external force (7) [Paul]

7.  Sound is a little faint, actually (6) [Anax]

8. Simplified drawings of clouds over Indian city (8) [Arachne]

Share ideas and huhs and rival clues below.

WoW: Hanyauku

11 December, 2017

HANYAUKU - the act of tiptoeing across hot sand so as not to burn your feet. [Bantu word that we need in English.] This time of year, you'll see heaps of hilarious hanyauku, including in my new Gargantuan.

Clues of Repute - 2017 [2]

7 December, 2017

Same deal as the other week - an octet of high-octane clues plucked from British puzzles through the year. No easier, these eight will need your grey matter, and your collective wisdom to boot.

Then, when solved, can you compose alternative clues for the same eight solutions? For one clue, you will need to bear in mind its culprit...

1. Lackey evidently revealing thighs? (6) [Times 10985]

2. Clothes off, as rubber will do (4,4) [Anax]

3. Hole opening in road, careful to go round it (6) [Paul]

4. Old enough to be a model (7) [Sunday Times 1074]

5. Tempt government to swap sides (4) [Arachne]

6. Ray, I assumed, picked up a generous invitation (2,2,5) [Times 11020]

7. Number one from George, John and Paul's dismal (6) [Paul]

8. The same two places to find students (7) [Picaroon]

Brainwaves, great saves and new clues below.

WoW: Isabelline

4 December, 2017

ISABELLINE - pale grey-yellow or parchment colour. [Several theories over origin, inc Isabel of Austria, the daughter of Philip II of Spain, who vowed to keep the same undergraments until Ostend fell to Spain's seige in 1601. Ended up taking three years....] Champagne - versus grubby knickers - can be dubbed isabelline.

WoW: Aoudad

27 November, 2017

AOUDAD [ow-uh-DAD] - short-coated sheep with a long neck ruffs, found in north African drylands [From Berber via French, udad] AOUDAD make a cameo in my new Gargantuan for the baa-baa's vowel string, as does BAAING.

Clues of Repute - 2017

23 November, 2017

In case you missed the memo, I'm off the grid till Christmas, traipsing Bosnia and Herze...Herza...um, thereabouts. But that's no cause for the blog to skive, with a delectable serving of clues handpicked from 2017. 

In the first of four rounds, see how many you can solve off the bat, hinting at your accomplishments in the Comments below. Or blabbing, if you're alone in your inspiration.

Then see if you can contrive a clue for the same answers, just to prove you did get the answer and/or still have the clue-mongering mojo. Enjoy.

1. Brexit not a disaster? It's very costly (10) [Picaroon]

2. Evidently living wage perhaps getting cut? Then object (9) [Times 10998]

3. Lawman put pressure on family involved in crime (9) [Times 11025]

4. Candid in flyer? (5-6) [Paul]

5. Extremely daring unmentionables! (7) [Nimrod]

6. Champion winning in game (7) [Tramp]

7. Old doctor content to leave Indian root (6) [Times 10980]

8. Trunk call doesn't have everyone present (6) [Times 10985]

Share your eurekas and alternative clues below.

WoW: Nuncupate

20 November, 2017

NUNCUPATE [nuhn-CUP-ait] - to utter in solemn tones; to compliment formally; to ascribe [From Latin nuncupare to name, declare, a contraction of nomen name + capere to take] Envelope bearers at every awards ceremony get to nuncupate the eventual winners. 

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(yĭ) black + zëm, variant, in compounds, of zemlyá earth] Hoary permafrost may cap loamy chernozem

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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