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Diabolically Arcane

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Tough, Uncompromising

5 February, 2016

Two months back, Nutmeg in The Guardian served up this clue:

Outwardly tough, uncompromising ruffian (4)

Nothing too tough in that mischief, but the curious cat in me wondered if any other words could be described, or defined, in a similar way. EGOS, say, could be labelled as Emerging odious

MOSS, as in Kate, could be labelled as Metro-Sasssiness.

A stretch, but that's our Friday fanarkle: to depict or define a given word or person by both words, and extremities. Can it be done? Or will Nutmeg's thuggish precedent prove too tough, too uncompromising? Give it bash.

Night Thing

2 February, 2016

This week's Storm is a two-tier challenge - with a handsome prize attached. The first is clue-based, while the second is something of a dictionary quest. Let me spell it out:

Challenge 1 - Pick two anagrams - NIGHT & THING, or PLATITUDES & STIPULATED, and dream up two clues, neither creation relying on the anagram formula. For example:

CRATE - $100 price for box

TRACE - Suspicion remains?

Challenge 2 is trickier, on a related theme: Can you find TWO pairs of anagrams that rhyme with each other? CAT/ACT & PAT/APT is close, but imprecise. REMAIN/MARINE & VAINER/RAVINE is likewise nearby. I'm sure some pure couplings exist - but who can find the best?

So there's your double-whammy Storm, with the winner the player to excel in BOTH categories. (And being a battle of wits, you can win a brilliant hardback volume of trench lingo - Roger, Sausage & Whippet.)

Please use an alias for the contest (combining anagram words to make a code-name). And last up - very important - ensure you submit your best effort in both categories as a closing post before Thursday 7pm. (You can't expect me to trawl the entire forum to find your own treasures.) Though I'm looking forward to the treasure you unearth! 

WoW: Paddhereen

1 February, 2016

PADDHEREEN [padd-hur-REEN] - rosary bead, or the rosary itself [Irish paidrin, rosary, from paidir, the Lord's prayer, after Latin pater, short for paternoster.] Rockpool necklaces have many a squirt-filled paddhereen.


29 January, 2016

You can approach today's Folly a few ways, where we toy with two names that share a surname/first name overlap. George Harrison and Harrison Ford, for example, could appear mysteriously as George Ford (the mutual Harrison omitted).

That's one approach - just to serve up the nobbled names to see if others can ID the missing link.

Or maybe a funner game is to cook up a bogus bio for this invented character that alludes to both sourced lives. George Ford could be a Solo Beatle, perhaps.... (6,4)

Or treat the game as a clue Storm, where you create the overlap, and then clue the contrived name, seeing if fellow players can (a) crack your undefined clue, then (b) work out the dovetailed names.

Keeping with GEORGE FORD:

Either end of epee pierces Wolf Cross (6,4)

Too tough? Too many steps? That's up to you - depending on which approach you choose - the bous name; the fictional bio; the cryptic clue. But first, you need to think up the spliced candidates.

Good luck all players, and please present your offerings with byline and number to help us keep track of the clues.

Ocker Relics

25 January, 2016

News of their death may well be exaggerated, but this week I rang the death knell on some Australian slang. Meanwhile another tweeted list (from bludger to wowser) remains on life support.

Below are the dictionary stiffs, with necessary definitions supplied in a few cases. Can you revive their fortunes with a bobby-dazzler clue, the definition included? PS - have a bonzer smoko with the billy lids and may the best JJJ nominee score the lollies.

BOBBY-DAZZLER - shining example

BRICKFIELDER - Sydney's southerly buster

CHIACK - natter

GONE TO GOWINGS - vanished; bankrupt

ILLYWHACKER - swindler; tall-tale spinner

MOLLYDOOKER - left-hander

NORKS - breasts

PAKAPOO TICKET - any indecipherable document 

SHIVOO - shindig, get-together


STONE THE CROWS - exclamation of disbelief

WoW: Snoovie

25 January, 2016

SNOOVIE - a film selected for its soothing and soporific quality [Coined by ABC radio listener from Lancefield, combining snooze & movie.] Romcoms or period dramas make for ideal snoovies on a lazy afternoon. 

Radio & Lingo

18 January, 2016

All this week I'll be hosting the arvo shift on 774ABC Melbourne, nestled between 1 and 3. If you get a chance, tune in, and you may catch Sue Butler of the Macquarie Dictionary, or the grrl power behind Linguistics Roadshow, or a sports psychologist, or a Brazilian clown doctor, or a pub-trivia champ, or a therapist trained in helping cancer patients refind their voice.... and loads more. Should be a packed week.

Meanwhile, to offer a fresh Storm idea, treat yourselves to these succulent morsels of modern office slang. (The stuff of this week's Wordplay column.) If you'd like to explore more, try Matthew Irwin's Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary. Meanwhile, savour these: 

BOILING THE OCEAN - Attempting to do something with too broad a scope

CHAINSAW CONSULTANTOne hired to do the dirty work at lay-off time

COMPLIMENT SANDWICH - criticism delivered between two compliments 

DECEPTIONIST - receptionist who delays or block potential visitors

DECRUIT - fire

DRINK FROM THE FIREHOSEto be overwhelmed with information

MEERKATTING - peeking over one's office cubicle

PHONE SHUI - adjusting your phone to find a signal.

PHOTOX - Improving one's face in a using photo editing software.

ROLLING THE TORTOISE - Increasing resources to fast-track a slow project.

STEALTH PARENTING - Running errands for your kids after telling your boss that you have a business obligation

TWO COMMA - Anything that costs over $1,000,000

VULTURE CAPITALIST - Investors who helps to liquidate the remaining assets of failed companies

Wreck chaos with the coinages - wordplay & definition. And catch some airwaves if you can. (You may even decipher the secret theme of songs...)

WoW: Ombrophilous

18 January, 2016

OMBROPHILOUS [om-BROFF-uh-lus] - rain-loving [From Greek, ombros, rain shower, plus philos, loving] Labradors and All Black flankers are genetically ombrophilous.

Picaroon (Swoon...)

14 January, 2016

The last few days I've been catching up on some archive crosswords from The Guardian & The Indy. This includes Cryptic Puzzle #26756, which may not sound memorable, but I'm declaring Picaroon's creation to be one of last year's best.

In a single puzzle I found five swoon-worthy clues, the kind you envy as a fellow compiler, the gems that demand a place among the Clues of Repute. Here they are in isolation, or click here to tackle the excellence as a whole. 

1. Fat, eating rubbish? Time I'm sent away to get a petite figure (9)

2. What could be 90-ton lightweight (9)

3. Where the rubber trade's plied, or a maple sugar's refined (7,7)

4. Renovate expensively - grand door frames provided (8)

5. Back off beach, returning catch to dock (7)

Feel free to share tips or answer in the Comments. And while we're talking zinger clues, check out this corker from the Sunday Times 977:

6. Not able to show this disorder? (5,11)

God that's good. Enjoy your solving.

Starman Mantras

12 January, 2016

From Ziggy to Aladdin, I grew up with David Bowie. I adored the singer's shape-shifting, like a human anagram. His enigmatic charisma. His opaque lyrics. So that's the spirit of this week's Brainstorm: to create clues in the surreal tradition of David Jones, as he was born.

So get zany. Psychedelic. Bowiesque. Paint a strange picture, or invoke an obscure German librettist, a diamond dog, some serious moonlight. We can skip definitions (unless they chime) and just make mad with the wordplay. So long as your offering makes technical sense. And even better, doesn't waste a strange word.

Choose from these classics, or feel free to ransack the starman's back catalogue. Let's dance:

Space Oddity


Rebel, Rebel

Life on Mars

Suffragette City

Five Years

Scary Monsters

Modern Love

Under Pressure

Ashes to Ashes

Golden Years

Young Americans

China Girl

Let’s Dance 

WoW: Foehn

11 January, 2016

FOEHN [FURRN] - a hot, dry wind that blows along the northern Alps [From German, linking to Latin fovere, to warm] In summer, the heating Mediterranean creates the Alpine foehn. 

Clues of Repute 55

4 January, 2016

More fine clues from the British archive, each sample appearing in the closing months of 2015. In terms of crackability, I'd rate the last four as tough - so don't be too hard on yourself. 

Meanwhile the answers to the previous lot appear below - in case you struggled to solve any of the ten. (And if you haven't seen that earlier post - Clues of Repute 54 - then take a look before you peek.)

Enought patter. Get cracking. See what kind of strike rate you can manage against such top-drawer stuff. (And happy new year, all cluesmiths.)

1. Enough clues in fifty puzzles? (12) [Boatman's opener back in December]

2. Very old figure breaking leg (5,3) [Paul spins a seamless cloth.]

3. Judge barred from prize award (4) [Love an elusive short answer, via Indy's Nestor]

4. New England athlete gets clap at orgy (7) [Sunday Times 968 working blue]

5. Working at end of the main holiday period (4,6) [Times 10402 - a tricky one]

6. Folk preferring books to work, often seen on beach (6) [Timely holiday clue from Times 10421]

7. Bent, maybe from eating unfinished meal (14) [Vintage Anax]

8. Small part of shop error - grape's etc gone off (12,10) [That's not a typo in Anax's clue - but a clue in its own right.]

COR54 SOLUTIONS: 1. Small hours 2. Half-inched 3. Safe-cracking 4. Golf course 5. Think outside the box 6. Sinatra 7. Neat 8. Operate 9. Bringing up the rear 10. Ernest Hemingway

WoW: Gargalesis (and Knismesis)

4 January, 2016

GARGALESIS [gar-gah-LEASE-uhs] - forceful tickling [From Greek, garglismos, tickling] Aggressive gargalesis is in sober contrast to KNISMESIS, or feathery tickle - both terms coined in 1897 by US psychologists Hall & Allin.

Clues of Repute 54

30 December, 2015

You may have struck these Brit clues on your own steam. Each one stems from a recent crossword from that fair isle, attracting plenty of nerd-love from your blog host. Some you'll find a breeze to solve, others will need some forum confabbing - but all ten are classy creations. Enjoy them - and a wonderful clue-cracking new year to all solvers.

1. Shh...it's after midnight! (5,5) [Puck channels the Santa suspense.]

2. He'd possibly committed theft? (4-6) [Puck again. Toughest clue in the list - but good.]

3. Not threatened with fine for criminal activity (4-8) [Further felony, this one from Times 10438]

4. Links backbeat and gritty vocal (4,6) [Our own SK in a clue he'd crafted this year. A classy cocktail.]

5. Must've? (5,7,2,3,3) [Tramp's own favourite clue - a stellar rebus.]

6. Performing great act of wickedness, one is expelled from halls (7) [Key clue in a recent Arachne themer.]

7. Clean without water (4) [Love this Sunday Times sleight - it's neat.]

8. Work out initially what gym costs? (7) [Times 10426 lends fresh lustre to a familiar word.]

9. Preparing to twerk after rest (8,2,3,4) [Louche marvel from the Indy's Donk]

10. He wrote fliers in dynastic style (6,9) [Paul at his Pauline best]

Share your answers, hints, and rival clues (for the same answers) in the Comments below. And here's to a buoyant and brain-teasing 2016.

WoW: Bakugai

28 December, 2015

BAKUGAI [bah-coo-GUY] - intense shopping frenzy as may occur post-Christmas, or when a tour bus descends [Japanese, lit. 'buying explosion'] David Jones was almost demolished in the avid ones' bakugai this week.

Calling All Adorkables

22 December, 2015

Macquarie Dictionary is guarding its long-list for Word of the Year. But the DA site can provide a few sneak peeks before the Big Reveal on January 21. The first bunch of words below, in fact, hails from that secret ballot sheet, while the next set are words (I reckon) should be on the list.

If you missed the TV circus, I spoke more about neologisms on News Breakfast this morning. (A regular Tuesday gig through high summer.) Of course, feel free to add your own nominations for 2015 - like pub test, or push poll, or goat-cheese curtain. And to scratch your word-itch, who can devise the best clue for these neonates, including both definition and wordplay?

LUMBERSEXUAL - hipster subcult affecting a virile, outdoorsy air

BEARD BAUBLES - more hipster affectation, as is...

...MERMAN HAIR - where blue/green dyes feign a triton look

ATHLEISURE - exercise clothing that can pass as streetwear

DESO - short for designated driver

SWAGGY - confident, often expressed via an open, hip-swinging gait

UNDORSE - fiscal (or political) backflip

MANSPREADING - being a macho 'space invader' on a bus seat


VEEDUBBING - covert manipulation of software to create a false positive

NERDJACKING - derailing conversation with excessive geekery

DISCONNECTIONIST - digital detox practitioner 

BOOGAN - mouth-breather determined to scorn Adam Goodes

LAWNMOWER PARENT - parent who flattens all problems in a child's path

NEWSZAK - entertainment show posing as a news service

FOGO - Fear (Fatigue) Of Going Out, where staying in with home comforts trumps the helter-skelter of the real world

TSUNDOKU - the habitual art of buying books and piling them neglected beside your bed. (Japanese: reading pile)

This may will be our final Storm of 2015. So merry eponym all dabblers, and thanx for such a mercurial year of word-wrangling & creative contributions.

WoW: Juvenoia

21 December, 2015

JUVENOIA - exaggerated fear that the web and other social trends are having negative effects on kids [Neologism hybrid of juvenile & paranoia, coined in 2010 by US sociologist, Dr David Finkelhor] Parents tainted by juvenoia dread any online interaction by their kids could be lastingly harmful.


18 December, 2015

This Folly idea stemmed from a Guardian puzzle, where the wordplay for INTEGRAL was the 'altering of triangle'. Of course, the gimmick gave me wings, and seeded the plan for this Friday's muck-around.

Applying the same pattern, you might clue:

Spring - part of trap

Lime - genre of green

Aileron - panel of plane

Apple - present of serpent

Love? - dearth of hatred

Entropy - process of corpses

Two-word examples are fine (syndromes of Red Symons?), assuming you can find any. Or maybe you'd like to push the envelope, reporting on the ring-tone of nitrogren, or the real maid of Armidale... The game's in your hands. Let inspiration be the aide of idea -and may the best of bets prevail.

Who's Game?

15 December, 2015

I'm tempted to roll out these names in a cryptic, but I'm sure plenty of solvers would only howl me down. Too niche! Too geeky! Too Whovian!

Who knows? They may be right. So let's make our own fun with the dozen actors who've played Who in the last 50 years. No need for a definition, unless that happens to mesh like magic with your wordplay. Go forth and knead your Bakers, deploy McCoy and reinvent your Tennant. Most of all: enjoy the time warp.













Who will make the best Tardis Triads? 

Updates & Upgrades

14 December, 2015

By now you've spotted a little burger man - or RED GRUB ROW - in the top right corner. Click this icon to find posts aimed at a newer wordplay audience, Wordburger readers with an appetite for more games and language love. By all means drop by, or feel free to tell those L-plated solvers in your sphere.

Still on Wordburger biz, the new app is only $1.49 to upload - a bundle of beginner cryptics to help pass Yuletide. (And if you already have the toy, make sure you opt for the recent upgrades at the app store.)

Which leads us to the drumroll, announcing the latest Storm results. This was a matter of dreaming up simple cryptic clues for three words. Not an oxymoron, but a tall order. On the shortlist were:

RURAL - Back in a regular urban setting - not! [Elementary]

TWELFTH - Leading thespian was extremely lucky fellow to host Shakespearean night [Easy Rider]

ISTHMUS - Sh! Tsunami crashed, washing away an area to cross the sea [Disambiguate]

SORRY - Chris or Ryan are hiding - it's pathetic [Elementary]

ANEMONE - Extract of phenomenal climbing flower [That artisan called Elementary again]

Indeed, that same Stormer can consider themselves unlucky, as their fine clues were marginally shaded by the classiest three-pack at the picnic:

RURAL - Country group really neglects regulars
SQUIRREL - At Hogwarts, Quirrell hides stash
ANEMONE - A clownfish half-gone into coral

Congratulations Pie. All three clues were zestful and very gettable, which is the art of clueing for a start-up crowd. My own favourite clue in the Wordburger app: Dinosaur tore off ox’s head and ox’s tail (1-3) Bloody. Exciting. And very graspable.

Thanks to all players. Prize Storms will wind down for a while, reverting to general mucking about, follies, WoWs, and clues of repute. Pie: let me know your details, plus your book choice (Wordburger or a Fairfax volume), and I'll send you a Christmas present. Ho-ho-ho and merry eponym to all.

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.



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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Cluetopia roams the planet – and century – to find fresh crossword stories in 30+ languages. From shipwrecks to hoaxes, Cluetopia is a holiday for the head. Buy 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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