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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.

WoW: Ampster

26 January, 2015

AMPSTER - a decoy who works in cahoots with a sideshow operator, generating enthusiasm among onlookers [Australian rhyming slang, from Amsterdam > ram, a trickster's ally] Dummy bidders are the latter-day ampsters. 

Trio Con Brio [BB495]

25 January, 2015

Pretty merciful Birdbrain this week. Eight trios, each of whom contain notable people whose undisclosed names differ by a single letter only, in the same position. If Kevin/Elmer/Zola, say, is Rudd/Fudd/Budd, can you deduce the others?

(Clearly fictional characters are kosher, living among the genuine. Just as first names may be required as well.)

1. Chico/Skaife/McKillop

2. Douglas/Smoky/Henry

3. Hughes/Bryan/Carnegie

4. Brian/Moss/Irene

5. Marilyn/Ted/Pauline 

6. Fox/Ryan/Doyle

7. Damian/Colin/Robert

8. Katy/Armstrong/Brian

Can you add a trio? Use your byline and number to mark each set.


BB494 SOLUTION: Eel look, school leer, tattoo oodles, tweed doona, reef feel, grappa account, burro offal, Mallee llama, Lille egg. (Other trebles are possible.)

New Word Order

22 January, 2015

Macquarie Dictionary is inviting you to vote for the 2014 word of the year. (May seem a little late, but I admire the Mac for waiting until 2014 concludes.) I've been through the ballot box, lodging a preference per category, from Ag to Tech, from greylisting to tombstoning.

Of course, the same exercise unleashes new clue fodder. And below is a sampling of the current crop, each awaiting their inaugural wordplay. Good clueing, and happy voting.

DAUGHTERLESS TECHNOLOGY - removing females from a pest population  

ATOMIC TYPO - keyboard error that a spellcheck won't detect - pubic servant springs to mind  


JOB STOPPER - conspicuous tattoo  


VOLUNTOLD - coerced into volunteering  

FEELPINION - opinion based on emotions  



WARMIST - one who accepts global warming (cf COOLIST)

BABY HATCH - hospital conduit for abandoned newborns  

PUSH PRESENT - gift for a new mother


Who can best clue the new? Defintion & wordplay both, please.

Huh 47 (...and hooray for Riddling)

20 January, 2015

Delirious news, dabblers - the new opus has been sent to the publisher, some 80,000 words riddled with wonders. The due date for Riddling is August, meaning an interim of fine-tuning & fact-chasing, copyright clearance & liposuction. I hope you enjoy the read as much I've relished the researching. 

In between scribbling, and Suzzling, I've also braved some luscious cryptics too. The primo clues will appear in a month or so. For now however, your wisdom is sought to clarify how some of these clues below click. Any insight welcome. And be my guest to reinvent clues for the same solution.

1. Slap left for German that may take the role of Buttons = CUFFLINKS [Who's Links?]

2. Endure sister's approving comment? = BROOK [Same puzzle - Times 10127. Similar muddle.]

3. What rock bands may make, some of them occasionally? = COMEBACK [I get the reformation idea, but what's the gag?]

4. Flourish or flourished, overcoming trouble = FLAIL  [Perhaps my stab is wrong, or I just can't see how the wordplay works...]

5. Top brass met europe’s first lady in BrusselsMADAME [MADA = top brass? Does Madame Brussels the Melbourne brothel owner play a role?!]

6. Bank checks mostly eliminating one selfish hoarder = DOG IN THE MANGER [An oldie from Times 9753 that still contorts my logic.]

7. Cultivate them on cutting a European wild flower = WOOD ANEMONE  [An old Sunday Times 843. Any takers?]

Share your eurekas, and your DIY clues below.

WoW: Dysthymia

19 January, 2015

DYSTHYMIA [dis-THY-me-uh] mild depression [From Greek dys - bad, thymos - mind, or soul] Happily I pick dysthmia as our WoW for its troublesome vowel poverty.

Balloon Needles [BB494]

18 January, 2015

Sweet tooth has three doubles in a row (EE/TT/OO), as do the nine answers below. Except this lot are all contrived. BALLOON NEEDLES, say, might be party poppers.

DA1 - Moray guise (3,4)

DA2 - Playground ogle (6,4)

DA3 - Ink stacks (6,6)

DA4 - Woollen bedcovers (5,6)

DA5 - Coral sense (4,4)

DA6 - Liquor bill (6,7)

DA7 - Donkey drive (5,5)

DA8 - Mildura spitter? (6,5)

DA9 - Oeuf? (5,3)

Can you compose any more trebles, using byline and number as marker?


BB493 SOLUTION: Hurl earl, axe hacks, Oaks hoax, harder ardour, Ulster holster, armour harmer, Ovid hovered, oyster hoister, anchoring hankering

Clues of Repute 48

13 January, 2015

Been a while, cryptophiles, since my last Clues of Repute dispatch. (That's coz I'm still engulfed in cinching the first draft of Riddling - yay - as well as doing the daily Suzzle on RN Summer Breakfast.) Having a break as well? Not quite. One day.

Anyhow, hope this next bunch of seven merit the wait. I'm optimistic, as the clues are like a chocolate milk shake, only crunchy. Best of luck in munching the wordplay. (There are some stand-out novelties here.) Feel free to share your eurekas and/or alternative clues. Stay well.

1. Farmer gets inside combine (5)

2. Account includes a single wrong number (9)

3. Eccentric return of stuttering Labour Party? (7)

4. Conversely, where one might reckon to be after five? (2,3,5,4)

5. Sweater in pink emphasising the body (9)

6. Naturally belonging in coch (so spelled) (9)

7. It's nothing like Psycho! (3,4,4)


COR47 SOLUTION: Panorama, Marilyn Monroe, bungalow, accusative, noted, haddock, anxious

WoW: Solutionism

12 January, 2015

SOLUTIONISM - blind belief that science, technology or willpower can solve any problem [First recorded in 1885, and came to apply to crossword solvers, then the Northern Irish troubles.] If a puzzle setter plays fair, there's no reason to forsake your solutionism.

'all, 'allo [BB493]

11 January, 2015

Drop you first or second word’s initial H (in ’earty Cockney fashion) and you’ll create each clue’s answer. Abhor octet, say, is HATE EIGHT.

DA1 Toss aristocrat (4,4)

DA2 Dump journos (3,5)

DA3 Horse-race scam (4,4)

DA4 Tougher love? (6,6)

DA5 For an Irish gun? (6,7)

DA6 Lance? (6,6)

DA7 Poet hung (4,7)

DA8 Pearl thief (6,7)

DA9 Moorage urge (9,9)

Feel free to 'oller you answers in the Comments. And can you devise any other Cockneyisms? (Use your byline and number to help track the clues.)


BB492 SOLUTION: Ill-will, bedaubed, restores, antidepressant, over and above, ingratiating, underground, entertainment, microcosmic, Les Miserables, On The Waterfront

WoW: Zampone

5 January, 2015

ZAMPONE [zam-POHN-ee] - pig's trotter stuffed with spiced, ground pork then cured and dried [Enlargement of the Italian, zampa foot] Kudos to the next MKR contestant who can confabulate a redolent zampone.

REStoRES Sunday Puzzle.... [BB492]

4 January, 2015

As chief tormentor round these parts I’ve clued ten words and phrases below. Each answer will open and close with the same trio of letters, such as TORMENTOR. (Of course, I should note, despite my torturous tendencies, I mean you no ILL-WILL...)

DA1 Smeared with paint (8)

DA2 Lends new life (8)          

DA3 Happy pill? (14)

DA4 In addition to (4,3,5)

DA5 Toadyish (12)

DA6 Covert (11)

DA7 Diversion (13)

DA8 Of a tiny world (11)

DA9 Musical/movie (3,10)

DA10 Classic 1954 movie (2,3,10)

Feel free to blab answers below. And can you devise any fresh examples?


BB491 SOLUTION: Lie/hoe, feel/rake, cot/hold, pitch/raw, sad/main, taught/shawl, height/levy, slat/fender, lunar/satyr, dive/led, blight/whack, heart/pole

Clues of Repute 47

31 December, 2014

Happy new year, everyone. And to help us embrace 2015 with elan, here are seven sterling clues from 1995, along with the previous bunch's solutions if you still had a few more to seize. (You'll notice with Example #4, I've added some cross-letters to help with a tricky formula.)

Feel free to flex your cryptic muscle, sharing answers or hints in the Comments, and may the looming year of Chinese sheep find you in clover.

1. Broad sweep of waterway or inlet? (8)

2. I was Norma in my role-change! (7,6)

3. Stop at a humble house (8)

4. The prosecutor's case? (10)  [A_________________E]

5. Saw Bob & Carol & Alice? (5)

6. Fish sold on pier (7)

7. A team limited in gumption should be worried! (7)


COR46 SOLUTION: Hoop, mistral, arrivederci, tract, the real McCoy, DEFACE, Caine

WoW: Brummagem

29 December, 2014

BRUMMAGEM [BRUM-uh-jum] - tawdry; trashy trinket, or counterfeit [Corruption of Birmingham, where phony coins were produced in the 1600s.] I can only imagine the brummagem brummagems infesting most post-Christmas households.

Summer Siesta

23 December, 2014

DA.com will be taking its customary Yule lull for a month, resuming in late January. Visitors will still find diversion through the weekly Birdbrain puzzles, as well as the WoW - or Word of the Week, which you're free to clue. Thirdly, to break up the week, I will be dropping down some vintage Brit clues - circa 1995 - with answers supplied in the follow-up post.

Before that blab, however, take a crack. See if you can keep a perfect score. And if you're feeling inspired, or adequately charged by Xmas pudding, have a go at composing your own clues for the same answers.

Good luck with both, and thanks for a tribal 2014 - or the Year of the Manuscript as I call it. With Riddling all but written, I have a junior title now to cover before March 10. Yes, a busy man for his sins. Enjoy your break - cheers. 

1. Love in spring may result in ring (4)

2. Having defective hearing, one abandoned blower (7)

3. See you came with cooked rice (11)

4. Publication followed report (5)

5. Original mole-catcher arranged spy's end (3,4,5)

6. Bunch of keys found in trash (6)

7. One in movies! (5)

Share your answers, tips and/or DIY clues below.

WoW: Didapper

22 December, 2014

DIDAPPER - [DIE-dapp-uh] - someone who disappears for a time, then suddenly reappears; small grebe [Unknown origin, regarding the diving patterns of the dabchick] Teenage boys are classic didappers during the post-Christmas clean-up.

Yuletide Spooning [BB491]

21 December, 2014

Spoonerise your two answers to create opposites. Eager/brain, say, is KEEN/MIND (mean/kind). Keen minds will conquer all twelve, and still have time to bake the Christmas pudding.

DA1 - fib/garden tool

DA2 - sense/garden tool

DA3 - crib/grip

DA4 - spiel/callow

DA5 - glum/chief

DA6 - schooled/cloak

DA7 - altitude/tax

DA8 - louvre/bumper

DA9 - moonlike/sleaze

DA10 - plunge/ushered

DA11 - plague/thump

DA12 - core/staff


BB490 SOLUTION: Ritz, Flag, Raffles, Peppers, Ibis, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Clarion, Best Western, Four Seasons, Statler & Waldorf

Ad Breaks

16 December, 2014

For our final Storm of 2014, let's get commercial, dropping ads into words and phrases, names and titles. Or to be more precise: AD. Anywhere. Up front, down back, or in your target's midst, add AD and give new meaning to your choice.

Due to the range, this Storm will naturally take two forms. Either you present a pair of words - one intact, one with AD. Or you present a person or title, with AD added, and give us a comic summary. Here are both styles:

Esteem swamp = ADMIRE MIRE

President's pervs? = LEADER'S LEERS


Lana Del Ready > improv actress

Miami Advice > Slip, slop, slap

Fun enuf? A breezy prelude to X-day. Here's my kick-off:

DA1 - Stick this spot!

DA2 - Confined quintet

DA3 - Access quest

DA4 - Cat field?

DA5 - Old agent

DA6 - Bright & happy

The Truman Shadow - the legacy of Harry S

Radio Grande - boombox

Sex, Ladies & Videotape - pornucopia

Have fun. And may peace and pleasure be yours this Xmas.

WoW: Lalochezia

15 December, 2014

LALOCHEZIA [LARL-o-KEZ-ee-uh] - Emotional relief gained by vulgar language, or an outburst of swearing [Greek, lalia - speech, chezo - to relive oneself] One means of mitigating one's curglaff [see last week] is via lalochezia.

Holiday Hotels [BB490]

14 December, 2014

Your TWELVE answers embody a dozen well-known hotel chains. (Care to set a new list involving another related set of brand names or businesses?)

DA1 - Salted cracker

DA2 - Tire

DA3 - Lotteries

DA4 - Bombards

DA5 - Wader

DA6 - Furniture designer

DA7 - Berlin musical

DA8 - Antique trumpet

DA9 - High Noon?

DA10 - Pizza variety

DA11 - Muppet Show grumps


BB489 SOLUTION: Pro/contestant, pro/conduct, con/profession, pro/concession, con/progress, pro/contract, con/profusion, con/proscription, pro/constitution

Elk Cackle

12 December, 2014

For some Friday follying, how about we solve (and invent) mini-palindromes? Just two words only, with names legit, and lengths optional. A fish fanatic, say, would be a TUNA NUT, while a deer laugh is an ELK CACKLE.

Get a titter from these, and see if you can make your own, using your byline and numbering so we can track solutions. To lift the level of difficulty, there's no need for word lengths, with the only proviso that all answers own two words.

DA1 - Dense filth

DA2 - CEOs cry

DA3 - Brazil underbelly?

DA4 - Regal lubricant?

DA5 - Note umps

DA6 - Big jewel

DA7 - Small barbarian?

DA8 - NASA merch

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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Recent Comments

Summer Stumpers

Anywhere near a radio from Dec 22, try tackling my daily Radio National puzzle at 0650 hours. (Sorry - I know that's early...) With modest post-budget prizes part of the pageant.

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