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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: Voluntourism

24 October, 2016

VOLUNTOURISM - Travel that also includes volunteer work [First cited in 2002 - a hybrid of vounteer/ing and tourism] Offering your services to emerging countries as part of a wider itinerary is Voluntourism 101.

Meh 24

18 October, 2016

This week's Storm is more a Meh post, where we debate the merits of some so-so Brit clues, as well as seize the chance to create our own clues for the same 7 answers. But first to the so-so. Do my list of plaints hold water, or am I betraying my inner curmudgeon?

1.  From shortage of food, died, put to ground =  DEARTH [Really? A shortage of food, or just a shortage? Not even touching the clue's grimness, from Times 9923]

2. Tree associated with common colour = LIME GREEN [I rekcon Brummmie has succumbed to a hookworm here, as limes are lime.]

3. Part of play, playwright clutching opening to act – he covers the background in theatre = SCENE PAINTER  [Hookworm #2 with Tramp, as scenes are indeeds part of a play, hence a scene painter.]

4. Crashing bore very sensitive about conflict = BOER WAR [Unwise I reckon to make your anagram a homophone of the answer. From Times 10679]

5. Two men in kingly legend = ARTHURIAN [Worst Times clue of the year, from the above puzzle.]

6. Report firearms having been stolen = GUNSHOT [Another Times clanger, hate to say]

7. National newspaper = SCOTSMAN [And the newspaper is named after...?]

8. One is in nave, wide-eyed = NAIVE [Dare you to create an easier cryptic clue, more facile than Otterden's offering. In fact that could be our Storm: who can out-simple this simple cryptic?]

Keen to get your feedback, and your zestful alternatives.

WoW: Logomaniac

17 October, 2016

LOGOMANIAC - one obsessed with words, or talking. [From Greek logos, word, plus -mania, fixation] Without naming names, or bylines, I suggest this blog may entertain more than one logomaniac.

Cartoonist Contest

11 October, 2016

Cartoon fans will know these names, or recognise the messy signatures attributed to each legend. All 20 are giants of the New Yorker cartoon desk, cranking out gags for more than half a century.

(Pssst - cartoon fans will also love the four events I'm hosting over the next fortnight, toasting the work (and new book) of Melbourne imp, Oslo Davis. For details, head for the events page on Oslo's site. All are free, inc a caption contest with prizes.)

But perhaps you can win Oslo's book - Drawing Funny - right here. In celebration of all things, see who can best convert any of these captioneers into a nifty cryptic clue - with no wordplay needed. No call for a cover-name. Just go nuts, and submit your finest before Friday 5pm. I will pick the pearl next week.

So have fun with the letters, and come celebrate the funny pictures if you can. 



ROZ CHAST                                TOM CHENEY

LEO CULLUM                             DANA FRADON

EDWARD KOREN                      ARNIE LEVIN

FRANK MODELL                        GARRETT PRICE



MICK STEVENS                         JAMES THURBER

BARNEY TOBEY                         JACK ZIEGLER

WoW: Makiwara

10 October, 2016

MAKIWARA [mark-ee-WAH-ra] - a padded stake used in karate training, the Eastern equivalent of a punching bag. [Literally 'rolled straw'] As dojo students develop, they graduate from a soft makiwara to a stiff makiwara.

AWOL Animals

4 October, 2016

To bookmark the blog's disappearance for 10 days - damn domain disputes - let's try a Storm where beasts beat a retreat. 

Pick any word, where any kind of animal is nesting. Perhaps that's a PUMA in SPUMANTE, or the OWL in SUPERBOWL. Once these animals go AWOL, you are left with SNTE and SUPERB to clue.

That's the trick - concocting a clue that defines the original word, yet wangles the wordplay upon the leftovers only. Here's my first stab:

PAVI (PAVILION) - Cake on one stand

BRIE (BRIEFLY) - For a twinkling French wheel?

C (CRAVEN) - C-Chicken

Have some fun with the format. See who can qualify into the Who's Who of the AWOL Zoo.

WoW: Thrasonical

3 October, 2016

THRASONICAL [threy-SON-i-kuhl] - prone to boasting; vainglorious [From the braggart Thraso, as appears in Terence's play, Eunuchus] Grand final celebrations will tend to foment a rash of chest-beating, thrasonical behaviour.

Plese Give Bld

29 September, 2016

Ding-dong the glitch is dead. The DA website is back in action, after an enforced lull of IT wrangling and platform disputes.

The hiatus reminded me how rewarding this portal can be, hosting the cream in creative clueing, and sharing news, words and other scuttlebutt of an alphabetical nature. I hope you missed your word-nerd hit as well.

So to celebrate the site's resuscitation, let's do what some companies did last month - and donate blood. In name at least. In case you missed the yarn, several UK firms agreed to remove the blood types (A, B and O) from their names, inspiring folks to give their own blood.

Lovely gimmick. And a perfect Storm idea. Pick a company, and remove its various blood types - then clue the new transfused entity. Like so:

FXTEL - Movie racket OK in hindsight [FX + LET<]

NISC (NABISCO) - Regular clients mismanaged [CINS*]

PTUS - Puts out

As you can see, please provide parsing [where the clue is unpacked] for the more intricate bits of wordplay. And maybe let us know the company - like NABISCO - if the blood-drawing is extensive. Otherwise, get gory. Tell us an amazing story.

Long Time No Blog

28 September, 2016

Seems the blog is back on air. Hoo-bloody-ray and many thanks for your kind words over Twitter and personal email in the interim. Over a week of cyber-silence that's set to be broken tomorrow with a brief Storm, just like old times.

But this post is a place-holder in the meantime, a phew to recognise DA.com's revival. The glitch was linked to a muddle in domain names and domain renewals, but all that's in the tedious past. 

To celebrate the return of abnormal services, a few zingers from this week's Picaroon to savour:

Sarkozy's very small - it's a bit of a shock (5)

Bedazzled throng following One Direction (9)

Public scoffs a starter of cheese and ham (7)

Good to be back.

Australian A-Z (2)

13 September, 2016

Two weeks back I wheeled out the quirkier entries from the Australian National Dictionary, which gets its free Melbourne launch tonight. (I'm hunching the gig is booked out, but you can always try here.)

Anyhow, we kneaded a dozen Oz words, from AMPSTER to GONCE. A bonza Storm in anyone's vernacular. So now to fanfare the launch, we get our chance to mangle the alphabet's second half, all terms drawn from the same handsome tome. Carn - take a crack, digger.

GUMLEAF MAFIA - Australian actors in Hollywood

HOOSHTER - a camel driver (after the common Afghan call)

KOALA STAMP - merit award

LOLA MONTEZ - rum cocktail, named after a notable stripper

MULLENISE - to clear scrub (after Charles Mullen, a Gawler farmer)


OOGLIE - undesirable fish (corruption of ugly)

PACIFIC PESO - Australian dollar, as stigmatised by Paul Keating

PATIO INTELLECTUAL - pseudo-academic or general blowhard

SHINDYKIT - business consortium (alteration of syndicate)

SPEEWAH - imaginary station of many tall tales

YANKEE START - unfair advantage

WoW: Menoporsche

12 September, 2016

MENOPORSCHE - angst exhibited by some men upon reaching middle age, especially in the guise of a new sports car, or a fling with a younger woman; a luxury car purchased by a man undergoing a mid-life crisis. [Menopause + Porsche] Big boys with flash toys are often a symptom of menoporsche.

Home Letter

6 September, 2016

Can't say what will happen with this Storm, but that hasn't stopped me in the past, so why should it stop you?

English has several words that can be cased in two letters, so making two adjacent words unlinked to the opening term. OMELETTE, say, can sit in HR to create HOME LETTER. Just as the surname CAMPBELL can convert into SCAMP BELLY

Choosing wisely, you may turn any seven-plus letter word or name into a sweet phrase, or at least a phrase that could warrant a comical-cryptical definition. To show you the drill, try these four:

LOVER HEART - It throbs for thee

SALAD DINE - Vegan feast

'UPON TOONS' - Animation Oration

FATTEN DANCER - Prepare for the 17 veils

As you can see, your source word can vary in length. (But let's aim for seven-plus.) Just as the two-word split can fall anywhere, though TO MISSIONS isn't such a staggering makeover of OMISSION. Likewise, if you can, avoid a hookworm duplication like SHOOK WORMS, or morphing winehouse into SWINE HOUSED etc.

Aside from that, see what we can create. In essence, we have a double challenge: who can contrive the most stylish split, and the sleekest clue? Or possibly that feat will be one and the same. Start fattening your dancers.

WoW: Ahimsa

5 September, 2016

AHIMSA [a-HIM-zaa] - core principle of Buddhism and Hinduism promoting non-violence towards all living things. [From Sanskrit, a- meaning non-, plus himsa, violence] The sacred cows of Varanasi benefit from the citizens' ahimsa.

Australian A-Z

30 August, 2016

Melbourne bodies, help us raise a schooner to toast a brand-new dictionary landing in the Australian landscape in a few weeks. The event is free at Readings bookstore, though bookings are essential. 

I'll be chatting with the lexicon's leading lights, Bruce Moore and Amanda Laugesen, getting their take on Ned Kelly pies, mates' rates, motorbike frogs and grey nomads. Plus these other entries below, which seem ripe for clue-crafting.

Can you convert any of these home-grown terms - including definition - into a bonza clue? An admiring tip of the Akubra to the pick of the crop. (As you can see, I've only raided the early alphabet, so rich is this lexicon.)

AMPSTER - decoy who works with a sideshow operator, acting like an enthusiastic onlooker to arouse the interest of others; spruiker's stooge

ANGASI - mud oyster

ANZACKERY - wartime memorablia

AUSTERICA - mishmash of Australian and American culture, as coined by Robin Boyd

BIRRIDA - gypsum claypan

BOKO - animal blind in one eye

BUCKEENING - ritual killing of the enemy for kidney fat

BUNYIPIAN - fantastic; monstrous

CAFE LATTE SET - you know who you are

COWPAT LOTTO - fund-raising game involving a paddock of numbered squares and wandering cattle

CRAWLSOME - obsequious

DREY - possum nest

FANTAIL BANGER - heavy morning coat

GONCE - money

Perhaps I'll unleash H-Z next week, closer to the lexicon's Melbourne lift-off. Be great to see youse there. Ooroo.

WoW: Princess Lointaine

29 August, 2016

PRINCESS LOINTAINE [LWAN-tayn] - beautiful yet unattainable woman [Literally 'distant princess', based on the 1895 play by that title, by Edmond Rostand, creator of Cyrano de Bergerac. The play follows a troubadour who falls for the Countess of Tripoli despite never having seen her.] In the interests of equality, for every Princess Lointaine, there must be an out-of-reach Prince Charmer.

Brainstorm (R)

23 August, 2016

R stands for Registered. C stands for Copyright. While TM represents Trademark. So what would happen if we sprinkled any of this commercial shorthand among some well-known brands? How would these new ingredients (one, two, or all three) influence a clue's wordplay?

This week we find out, as we strew the world of car models, airlines, cameras, shampoos  etc with their customary warnings. MINOLTA, say, could become MINOLTAC, allowing for the clue: Bubbly mint cola?

Or MINTMOLTA, inserting the TM: New island sound [MINT + 'Malta']

See the sleight? You have one of three symbols to add (or a combo), and may add them wherever you like in the brand, to aid you wordplay. No need to include a definition, unless it benefits the clue overall. Not sure if this crazy idea will fly, but there's only one way to try!

PIRELLITM - I'll permit frolicking

TOSHRIBA - Rubbish joke opening act

COMO - Cleaner singer?

See who can command the expanding brands. 

WoW: Mahurat

22 August, 2016

MAHURAT [MEH-hyu-ret] - an auspicious time for an event, enterprise or ceremony to begin; inauguration ritual that often opens a Bollywood film in production. [From Hindi, linked to Sanskrit muhÅ«rta 'a division of time' (approx 48 minutes, or one thirtieth of a day).] In traditional Hinduism, a devotee will consult a pandit to learn the mahurat for a planned wedding. 

Oxford Arrivals

16 August, 2016

You may have missed the fanfare, given the general chaos of 2016, but the Oxford Dictionary accepted some 1000 new words in late June, with the list below a random sampling. And a red rag for cluemongers as well, a chance to weave some brand-new threads, from boteh (Persian paisley) to corrido (a Mexican ballad).

Please excuse the simplified definitions. If you'd like to explore the nuances in greater depth than hit the link and see the hardcore Swedish music of gabba is an audio assault with its own strange history, etc.

But otherwise, see if you can make sweet boteh of these fifteen, splicing both wordplay and definitions elements. Ole'.

AGENDER - person who doesn't identify with either gender

BAO - Chinese bread roll

BOTEH - Persian paisley

BOTIJO - clay pot

CONVERSATE - to chat

CORRIDO - Mexican ballad

DIVEY - Hinglish label for a seedy venue

DOPIAZA - Indian meat dish with onion garnish

DUDETTE - see ladette

FLAUTA - long deep-fried tortilla

GABBA - frenetic hard-core techno

GIANDUJA - rich hazelnut chocolate

KAYFABE - the unspoken pretence of wrestling [love this word]

SPOACHER - thief who sifts through your personal belongings 

TROUT POUT - supermodel's moue

Who can concoct the tastiest dopiaza, the crunchiest flauta? Dig in.

WoW: Cenobite

15 August, 2016

CENOBITE [SEE-noh-bite] - member of a religious order living in a monastery or convent; social bee [From Latin 'coenobium,' convent, which stems from Greek 'koinobios,' living in community.] And yes, I told the nun with an audio bent, cenobite really does sound like 'see no bite'.

WoW: Accismus

15 August, 2016

ACCISMUS [akk-SIS-mus] - feigned rejection of something you deeply desire; coyness [From Greek, akkismos, prudery]. 'I couldn't possibly accept another glass of wine' is bibulous accismus.

Wordburger Awaits!

Welcome all puzzle-lovers, including any chompers of the Wordburger book or app. (Check them out if you enjoy words & trickery.) And if you still crave more alphabet mischief, click on the burger icon above for a fresh serve.



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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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