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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: Materteral

25 May, 2015

MATERTERAL [mah-TURR-tur-uhl] - relating to an aunt [From Latin matertera, maiden aunt] Materteral is the seldom aired feminine flipside of avuncular.

Operation: Brainstorm [BB510]

24 May, 2015

No puzzle for the squeamish today. Each word has lost its body part, meaning PUNISHING, which holds SHIN, appears as PUNIG (4). Can you perform the vital surgery under pressure?

Please note, the last FOUR examples all require a body part of five letters.










DA10 - VER

DA11 - DEY



BB509 SOLUTION: Jinx, Jimi Hendrix, Ajax, jack-in-the-box, banjax, bijoux, Julius Marx, Mexican jumping bean, sex object, juxtapose, jambeaux, John Knox

H Honours

22 May, 2015

Holy hell, how hard and harrowing was our H hoedown this week? Not too hectic, but we did haul in some highly handsome handiwork. 

To cut to the chase, and hoick those H-words, I will offer a handful of musings, and then declare the book-winning pair.

Firstly, a warning from Rupert I enjoyed:

IRIS - Inside stir isn't the place to eye muscle

Then the devilry of jpr's CAMBER/well, clued as Rush home. That makes my Friday skulduggery seem like Cluedo.

Further credit to Rupert for his Arepo reference for SOWER - a meta-allusion for all genuine crossword geeks, as well as his lingerie comedy:

THONGS - Nothing's tangled in discarded underwear

I thrilled to SK's innovation, using 'quick' in the sense of essence:

Crossword (Quick) appear in Sunday Express initally = SORE

Genius idea, and an Anaxesque execution. Equally good was the CS double - with two smile-triggering clues, both original in their approach:

FARTHING - Coin 'black stump', say?

FARTING - Some of art in Guggenheim causing a stink

Very close to seizing the prize, but for sheer outrage and originality, I could not ignore Jon's deja-vu two that used without in contrary ways to present the epitome of ambiguity:

SAVING - Cutting excess without hard scraping

SHAVING - Cutting excess without hard scraping

Stunning deception, and a classy response to a dual clue challenge. Congratz to that hero, and hail all hands who had a whirl. (Jon, if you can let me know your best snail, I will send H Factor your way.) Thanks everyone for the hoot.

Hs Away!

19 May, 2015

Time for a contest, with a tangible and readable prize. The book up for grabs is called The (H)Aitch Factor by Macquarie Dictionary's own Susan Butler. The title alone should help you guess where this showdown is going...

That's right - H hoicking. But not just in Cockney style (turning hair into air), but anywhere the H is hiding. That means HERRING and ERRING is a legit pair, despite the sound variance, just as much as BATH and BAT can be a couple. (Ditto for HEATH and HEAT - or EAT - where you banish whichever H/s you choose.)

Once you devise your duo - ditching the H from any word or name to make another - can you cook up two classy clues?

Let's not worry about aliases, as in the past. (Not sure if DisQus is all that keen about the ploy anyhow.) The winner will likely emerge amid a hubbub of consensus, otherwise I'll play Lord High Honcho to decree the stand-out double. My starters:

HAILING - Poor weather flagging

AILING - Harbour pursuit to remove sulphur, going green

LATHER - Prepare to shave woodworker?

LATER - Old opener lost face by and by

Have a helluva hoot, and I'll announce the best duo on Friday.

Salon 54 - Unphonetic Alphabet

18 May, 2015

Received a brain-buzzing email from Chris Woods over the weekend, a bloke who's busy building his own non-phonetic alphabet

We all know about the ham-radio kind, where A is Alpha, and P is Papa etc, but Chris has sought out words that sound as though they should start with the nominated letter, but don't. To warm you up:

A as in Hair

E as in Aesthetic

F as in Photo

G as in Jet

The harder ones to harvest - so far - have been D (bdellium), I (yttrium), J (djibbah - long Muslim coat), K (qiviut - a musk ox's underwool!) and Q (kwacha - Zambia's currency, 100 ngwee in fact)

As you can see, this alphabet enters some obscure waters, but perhaps it will be creativity as much as vocabulary that will finalise Chris's task. In a drastic bid to seal the deal, Chris is still on the hunt for words that match up with B, C, M, U and V

For C, I could suggest and hard-k opener (kitchen, kettle), but that denies the soft-c option as well, as mimicked in soft and sun. Either way, the ideas are worth sharing to finish the folly that Chris gamely began. All out-there words and whims welcome.

WoW: Kakemono

18 May, 2015

KAKEMONO [kak-uh-MO-no] - Japanese scroll or calligraphy, usually edged with silk, often seen as a wall hanging [From Japanese, literally 'hanging thing'] Sushi houses create an authentic feel with ample kakemono on the walls.

J-Xs [BB509]

17 May, 2015

All twelve answers, including some names and phrases, hold both an X and J, such as extrajudicial or Jewish Orthodox.

(And is there any candidate we overlooked?)

1. Hoodoo

2. Purple Rain legend

3. Greek warrior

4. Spring toy

5. Ruin – UK slang

6. Small jewels  

7. Groucho

8. Latino moth pod

9. Person as beddable thing?           

10. Neighbour 

11. Leg armours

12. Presbyterian pioneer   


BB508 SOLUTION: Room, hoard, tied, whine, snots, tyro, rioted, hafts

Rupert's Recipe

15 May, 2015

Earlier this week, Rupert went wild with a recipe, cooking up a clue for the latest WoW in ENCHIRIDION. His formula was a fusion of alternation and anagram - plus deletion if you want to be pedantic, but let's skip that element. 

To remind you, here was Rupert's clue for ENCHIRIDION:

Handbook omits direction regularly - screwdriver is neither in nor out

The explanation, which many of us needed, revealed the devilry: Anagram of even letters of "screwdriver is neither in nor" - E.

What a marvel - a cocktail of alternation and anagram. Can we meet the challenge, dabblers? And just to give the folly one more degree of difficulty, let's focus on dogs, in honour of the impounded Pistol & Boo, those headline-hogging dogs of Johnny Depp. To kick off:

Oddly called in owls to ruffle dog (COLLIE)

Tarantula name (Indian) regularly mistaken for dog (DALMATIAN)

These aren't easy - but to master one is massive. Try it.

Budget 2015 Brainstorm

12 May, 2015

A storm with a fiscal twist this week, in honour of Joe's Budget. Instead of the usual clue-fest, the challenge is more about manipulation and imagination. Pick a word or name that contains a T, then budge that T to create a new entity.

Don't think CARTE > CARET, or TRAP > RAPT, but more along the lines of TAIPAN > AIPANT (excellent slacks), or PETER SINGER > PEER STINGER (tightwad ethicist).

Here's my opening BUDGE-T Brigade:

ERRAPINT = bungled bar order  

MASER PLANT = microwave factory

SAND BY MET = bus-stop beach strategy

DOLLY PATRON = girly-girl

WoW: Enchiridion

11 May, 2015

ENCHIRIDION (en-ky-RID-ee-uhn) - manual or handbook (From Greek, en-cheir (in-hand) + the diminutive suffix of -idion). IKEA chattels comes complete with their own cryptic echiridions.

Movie Excerpts [BB508]

10 May, 2015

If ROTOR hides in Raiders of the Lost Ark, selecting a letter per word, can you find the word, as clued in brackets, hiding in these other longer titles?

And can you add to the cineplex roster, with more hidden words from left to right within movie titles?

DA1 - Letters from Iwo Jima (space)

DA2 - How to Train Your Dragon (store)

DA3 - There Will Be Blood (even)

DA4 - Where the Wild Things Are (moan)

DA5 - Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (belts)

DA6 - The Day After Tomorrow (greenie?)

DA7 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (rose)

DA8 -The Passion of the Christ (handles)


BB507 SOLUTION: Boost Freedom, Guess My Size, Boost Freedom, Jigsaw Borders, Seduce Diva, Target Flight Centre, Cue House, Country Road Dangerfield, Fossil Gap


5 May, 2015

A, B, C, D, E, F, G

We know the notes by heart. We see them in clues, and hear them over the airwaves. So let's get a little more note-devoted and compose clues for words only using those same seven letters.


You choose whatever arrangement you desire, with names and repeats part of the fun - just note well: no non-notes are to appear in your answers.

I'll begin the beguine:

ABBA - Graduate reflected on cult band

GAFFE - Tape short slip?

BEG - CADGE to collect other notes? 

Feel free to offer several clues for the one answer, just to give other players the chance to BAG their own ACE versions. Tune in.

WoW: Pococurante

4 May, 2015

POCOCURANTE (po-CO-cyu-RAHN-tay) - a careless, indifferent, or nonchalant person. (From Italian, literally 'caring little') Devoid of empathy, a true sociopath is a pococurante.

Mall Mates [BB507]

3 May, 2015

At Birdbrain Mall, adjacent stores create odd phrases. Jana Rawlinson, say, seems embodied by the pairing of Rebel Sportsgirl. Without any lengths or initials supplied, just to make this puzzle extra devious, can you home in on these other outlets?

Keep in mind that each answer comprises two franchises side-by-side. Of course, these stores may sell electronics, clothes, juice, jewelry, furniture etc.

DA1 - Enhance Liberty

DA2 - How fat am I?

DA3 - Where frame bits go

DA4 - Entice opera singer

DA5 - Bomb airport

DA6 - Pool hall?

DA7 - Bull paddock?

DA8 - Missing link’s niche?


BB506 SOLUTION: Staircase, saddle, trombone, column, book, epee, brain, hang-glider

Huh 48

1 May, 2015

Lately I've been gathering a few huh clues - those pieces of wordplay that don't seem to add up. Maybe there's an allusion I'm missing, a formula I'm overlooking. Or possibly I'm being two short planks.

Take a look at this batch, culled from recent Brit puzzles, and see if you can nail them down to the last syllable. And of course, be my guest if you wish to take that extra step of devising your own clue for any of the same solutions. 

Thanks in advance!

1. Base used by florists' group = OASIS [There's the group, but why the flowers? From Prolixic]

2. Formula 1 driver just going over 100 = BUTTON [Jensen, I know. But can't fathom the numerical business from Qaos.]

3. Italian broadcaster coming under endless abuse after it styles Japanese mercenary = SAMURAI [Long and opaque, I'm afraid. Via Gazza]

4. Red bus left in the middle of Chasetown = SCARLET [Definition is clear at least. A clue from Bufo]

5. What, cobbled, may be used for a car? = ROAD SURFACE [Times 10224]

6. Cavalry officer's brass instrument = CORNET [Times 10223]

7. Suppress correspondence return to the French = STIFLE [Not sure how FITS fits, from Tilsit]

Aloha Agogo

28 April, 2015

The Hawaiian alphabet has just 17 letters, from A to W, skipping the likes of C, G, J and other Anglo favourites. In fact, rather than listing what's missing, let's see those 17 in one Polynesian block:

A, B, D, E, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, R, T, U, V, W

Can you see where this is going? Uh-huh, we'll be assembling words only built with these letters - and making cryptic clues only using these same seventeen.

Say you made LOIRE out of this block. Straight away you're prevented from mentioning French or river or flower in your clue - though you could say:

European banker adapted one role

Bonus points for choosing a word (and crafting a clue) with an Hawaiian flavour, and I don't necessarily mean ham and pineapple. Here's one bid:

MAUI - Bad bulimia wiped out Lib in Hawaii

Have fun in the sun. 

WoW: Cthulhu

27 April, 2015

CTHULHU (khul-LOO) - giant alien god with an octopus head, dragon wings and claws, who operated a demonic cult (Coined by HP Lovecraft in his 1926 story, 'The Call of Cthulhu.' Deemed a link to 'chthonic,' of the Greek underworld.) Most debate surrounding Cthulhu seems to dwell on the evil deity's pronunciation!

Spare Parts [BB506]

26 April, 2015

Another vocab test of sorts this week. If shank, eye, point and gape make up a fishhook, or chanter, bladder and bellow go to make up the bagpipes, then what object claims each set of parts below?

(What other trio of parts can you offer - with your byline and set number - that all stem from the one object, or organism?)

1. newel, riser, baluster

2. cantle, pommel, surcingle

3. bell, key, slide

4. scotia, fluting, echinus

5. gutter, orphan, spine

6. tang, button, shim

7. fornix, pons, sulcus

8. rib, skin, kingpost


BB505 SOLUTION: Genome, indigo, meerkat, torment, andante, intrepid, interact, shoehorn, covenant, ecstatic, interlace, compliance (Other words are possible.)

The Whisky's Great, Though The Steak is Lousy

24 April, 2015

That title is a rough translation of the famous Bible quote in Matthew: "The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak."

Same, same, but different. 

A better known butchery is the hatchet job for the idiom - "Out of sight, out of mind." Urban legend insists that a machine translation converted the phrases into "Invisible insane."

After so much top-shelf clueing, I thought the time was right to revel at a lower level, choosing a piece of idiom and dreaming up a botched translation. My openers:

Carry a torch for - Act as usher

By and large - Next-door and colossal

Can't see the wood for the trees - Lost in the canopy

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer - That's a spoon

Lightweight, but hey - it's Friday. Feel free to rnasakc the Rogets and add to this list of failed translations

Middle America

21 April, 2015

Back from a great break - lots of rock-hopping, beachcombing, book-gobbling and potbelly fires. In a word: therapy. (And thanks for sharing your own book lists. My pick of the break: Is That A Fish In Your Ear by David Bellos.)

Solved my share of crosswords too, many sourced from Big Dave's Aladdin Cave here. I can recommend anything Anax makes, as well as Gazza and Heiroglyph. (Radler is a required taste, while I'm still to sample the others.) 

One clue from Gazza almost inspired a Cryptic Court. But then I thought, hell, let's have a Storm instead. Here's the clue:

Middle America is rocked by wrongdoing (5)

The answer is CRIME, the five middle letters of AMERICA rocked into one misdemeanour. Pedants could quibble that Middle America is R only, but I don't mind the variation. Besides, the surface story is excellent.

So that's our challenge this week, to dream up a clue that matches Gazza's recipe, manipulating a central block of letters. The heart of ORANGUTAN, say, may well be G in standard clues, but here the ruse could lead to ANGUT (the fodder for GAUNT), or even NGU (revealing GNU!)

My opening bids:

Middle Eastern flower = ASTER

Rips into Middle Eastern conflict = TEARS

Style of screwball comedy, in essence = MODE 

Scottish boy vandalised central Adelaide = LADDIE

What's in your heart?

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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