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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.

Hide & Sequel

31 October, 2014

Think back over the umpteen movies that have hit the screens, from the classics to the fluff, and you must be able to find one candidate that could serve as a sequel to another. the idea struck me when Pride was released, which could be a sequel to 3 Lions (or Born Free), or maybe the prequel of Legends of the Fall.

Simple game - a handy Friday folly to block out the Halloweeners. Here's my first reverie, including a few trilogies to kickstart the exercise:  

Duck Soup > Heat > The Dish

Speed > One Fine Day > The Trial  

Up > Vertigo  

The Village > The Town

Kramer vs Kramer > The Kids Are All Right  

Fight Club > There Will Be Blood  

Hope today's DA has been a tricky treat, and all the ghosts who visit your doorstep tonight are of the linen kind. 


29 October, 2014

Jotted down an idea - or observation - and I can't make head or tail in hindsight. If you can offer a clue - or a theory - either sober or bizarre - I'd be grateful. So grateful, in fact, the best suggestions will get one of the finest crosswords of the year, by UK maestro, Dean Mayer.

Alias Anax, Dean sent me the puzzle earlier this week, and it's diabolically good. So put on your propeller cap and grab the forensic kit, and tell me what the hell I meant by this scribble below:  

1  168 (square)

2  1210 (shapes)

3  3889 (Nos)

4  34134  (anags)


Prepared to accept the task may be impossible, but thought the wisdom of crowds could better determine that fate! 

Salon 50 - The Sexting Episode

27 October, 2014

Looking forward to launching a brilliant program through the National Trust this afternoon. In tandem with Legal Aid, the Trust has created a mock-trial to highlight the perils of sexting, especially among teens. The campaign is called Respect Me, and the trials will run in Melbourne's Old Magistrates Court, allowing schoolkids to play the various roles in the hearing. Respect Me will open some young eyes.

By contrast, this week I'm unlocking the mystery of Chinese riddles, thanks to my good friend Yi. Like no other culture, China has three riddle subgenres, from the anagram riddle (where characters are recycled), the roll-up-the-blind riddle (where answers invert the question) and the duelling couplet. Could we ever invent those first two in English?

On the puzzle front, I'm trying to generate more examples of SILVER RESIDENCES. These are couples where the second word is a jumble of two words that can follow the first. Here that'd be: SILVER SCREEN/SIDE. Can you crack these others - or think of more couples?  

DA1 - Wall perpetrates

DA2 - Window tailless

DA3 - Bucket saltiest

DA4 - Foot protest

DA5 - Ginger readable

DA6 - Blood tattiness

DA7 (and speaking of sexting) - Electric molester

Have a wordy week, won & awl.

WoW: Distelfink

27 October, 2014

DISTELFINK - stylized goldfinch in Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, embodying good luck or happiness [From Old High German 'distilvinko,' - or 'thistle finch.'] Like the idyllic jaybird in Blue Velvet, the distelfink is a propitious totem for the Pennsylvanian Dutch.

Sporting GLOBE [BB483]

26 October, 2014

We’ve disguised notable Aussie sportsmen – past and present – by mixing their initial with their surname. GLOBE, say equals Brett Ogle. Can you tackle all ten? (And what other homegrown heroes of the arena - male or female - can you add?)

1. thunk

2. chaps

3. loser

4. answer

5. whittle         

6. manhood

7. morsel

8. opiners

9. cornets

10. blaster


BB482 SOLUTION: Igloo gloom, risqué squeal, electric tricycle, harbour bourbon, awkward warden, French enchantress, distort tortilla, piccolo colony

Notable Neologisms

24 October, 2014

Putting together a Wordplay column today, harvesting the Words of 2014 as chosen by the Chambers + Collins. Many of these candidates - like photobomb and digital native seem very old hat, and not in a hipster way. So instead, for a clue-game, here are seven suggestions of my own, plucked from Urban Dictionary, Twitter, and Macquarie's new Add-A-Word function. 

Can you create a good clue for any? And are there any other words or phrases you'd like to add to the newbie list? 

AMORTAL - kidult sort convinced that fasion and fitness will defy death 

FWITTERING - wasting time on Twitter

LOLOCAUST - killer joke

NILLIONAIRE - person who seems rich but is living on credit

PORNOCCHIO - one who exaggerates their sexual escapades  

RAGAZINE - trashy mag

TAPPO - texting typo

For our clues, let's include both wordplay and definition. And feel free to offer any other neologisms to the fray.

Salon 49 - Show & Tell

20 October, 2014

Just back from the RRR studios in Melbourne, as a guest of the weekly Show & Tell segment. The brief was to bring something you prize. After musing word books and dictionaries, I went left-field with walking boots. 

Why? Walking is my way of clue-hatching and idea-brewing.  Charles Darwin had a Thinking Path to mull on a problem. The habit also unlocks a suburb, a landscape, via the art of psychogeography. If you don't know the fruit of being a flaneur, then I suggest you meander into Westographer, or Humans of NY, or Locative Literature. or Walk Sydney Streets. My kind of sites - antidotes to the lingo overload.

What about you? What would be a prized item to show + tell - and why? And while we're walking, can you solve these gems from the Times of 2006

Everything bright in bouquet? (5)

Insect wings of white and black (6)

His perversion as transvestite could be cleaner (7)

Shakespeare lover writing here and there? (8)

Bra specification, say, included in shade of yellow (9)

Old scientist agreed to cut a holiday short (10)  

Share more clues, views or shoes here in the Comments. Have a great week.

WoW: Oflag

20 October, 2014

OFLAG [AWF-larg] - German prison camp reserved for inmates of officer rank [From a fusion of Of(fizer), lag(er) - 'officer camp'] Colditz was not strictly as oflag, as privates and NCOs were also interned.

Monster Stereo [BB482]

19 October, 2014

If huge hi-fi is MONSTER STEREO (where four letters overlap) can you name these nine other over-lappers? And can you dream up any more clues to add to our list?

1. Icehouse murk (5,5)

2. Sexy shriek (6,6)

3. Powered three-wheeler (8,8)

4. Port spirit (7,7)

5. Gauche gaoler (7,6)

6. Bardot? (6,11)

7. Mangle pancake (7,8)

8. Woodwindville? (7,6)


BB481 SOLUTION: Ancestor, beetroot, creosote, discreet, enormous, whatever

Musical Fusion

17 October, 2014

Spring carnival means offshore raiders and funny hats. And comical bloodlines too, where the sire Bannister and mare, Skylight, create a champion called Stairway to Heaven. Or Prince Charming and Persian Queen produce Glamourpuss.  

That's how it works for horses. So let's have combine bands in the same style, picking acts or ensembles from any era and making a superband that reflects the dual origins. Just for laughs - as God knows we need them - here's a few possibles:  

Deep Purple + The Vines = The Cabsavs

Blur + Radiohead = Poor Reception  

Muse + Dead Kennedys = Ghoul  

Blue Mondays + King Crimson = Maroon 5

That's the trend. Now try to blend.

Salon 48 - Gone Girl

13 October, 2014

On a scale of 10, Gone Girl gets 9. The film is engrossing - a genuine thriller with sinister statements about wedlock. Not another word, except to say the movie inspired three new puzzle ideas, soon to appear as Wordwits in The Age and SMH.  

The first relates to the title. Look at those letters: GONEGIRL. Can you see the hidden oxymoron? First you have GO, and then a blend of GO's antonym: LINGER.

Puzzle #2 relates to the star's name: BEN AFFLECK. The film is a mystery and the minute you drop each name's final duo, you spell what mysteries do: BAFFLE.

Puzzle #3 is where you're invited to contribute. GONE GIRL makes think of words that can lose a girl to become another word. AMY, say, can skip BIGAMY, leaving BIG behind. This inspires the clue: Massive multi-marriage.

See if you can solve these gone-girl clues below? And who can add their own?  

DA1 - Total recap (3,7)

DA2 - Dormant viper (3,6) 

DA3 - So-so candelabra (3,7)

DA4 - UK wastebasket (7,3)

DA5 - Mountie vessel? (8,3)

DA6 - Cautious white (5,10)  

Blab your answers below. Or make your own. And have a verbadelic week

WoW: Rupestrine

13 October, 2014

RUPESTRINE [roo-PES-trin] -living or growing among rocks or cliffs [From Latin, rupes, steep cliff] Moss and lichen are rupestrine organisms.


12 October, 2014

Drop a letter from each word below, then pair the new combos into eight-letter words. DEVIL and ACTED, say, leads to DEVIATED. Pairs come from any column.

beret           credo        dance  

disco          lever         mousy

reset           robot         smote

stork           tenor         wheat


BB480 SOLUTION: Shy, stove, runner, entertain, convention, particular, outstanding (PROCESS)

Moons of Saturn

9 October, 2014

Between blood moons and Iraq missions, I'm trying to write a manuscript about riddles, a long and loopy manuscript. Hence the blog will enter a quieter phase for a while. The mainstays of Birdbrain, WoW and Salon will keep their orbit, while the likes of Storms and Follies are likely to be more sporadic. I'm sure you can understand.

So let's take a flight out of here, a million miles from Operation Okra and burqa bans and political memoirs to admire the moons of Saturn. What lovely names they own - just perfect for manipulating. The seven principal moons are:  








Such is your mission, should you choose to accept it. Let's see who can conjure the niftiest clue - no definition needed - for any or all of these heavenly bodies. God speed.

Salon 47 - Only Connect

6 October, 2014

Found a fantastic bunch of lateral thinking puzzles. It's a fan-site for Only Connect, a BBC gameshow that asks contestants to link unlikely words or names. BIRDS, PINK, SHUT and MAGIC, say, can all precede EYE. While ORPHAN, RIVER, WIDOW and GUTTER are all typesetting terms.

In the same spirit, what links these:  

DA1 - Arctic, hill, elope, hem

DA2 - pride, flock, swarm, blend  

DA3 - prawn, serpent, trout, warrior  

DA4 - cone, inane, tern, cast  

DA5 - pack, charge, steel, raid

Invent your own, if you like. See if you can stump us. And/or share the pick of crosswords from The G and The Times. Like this gem from a recent puzzle: Make an effort and breed (6). Enjoy your week.

WoW: Psittacism

6 October, 2014

PSITTACISM [SIT-uh-ciz-em] - empty repetition of words; mechanical speech [From Latin psittacus, parrot] Bureaucrats often commit psittacism of the party line when under pressure.

Plug x 2 [BB480]

5 October, 2014

If ‘bung ad’ is PLUG, can you solve these double meanings? Then mix your answers’ initials to solve the double meaning: ‘document course’. No names or capital letters.

1. Short throw (3) 

2. Broken range (5)

3. Shoot athlete (6)

4. Consider host (9)                

5. Summit custom (10)

6. Meticulous detail (10)

7. Late great (11)


BB479 SOLUTION: Michael Plain, Francisco Yoga, Pat Farter, John Clearer, Tony Libra, David Romance, Stephenie Emery, Matt Nomad, Delta Groomed, WB Yeast, Rene Lactose, Nick Laser]

Dynamic Duets

3 October, 2014

Our Friday Folly is devising two names that share a puzzly link, seeing if others can figure out the logic. The NRL player Michael Ennis, say, could be matched with Agent 99 (anagram of NINES, and 99). Or Harold Pinter could sidle Eddie Eagle. Why? Both dog breeds with a letter missing. 

Simple game, but there are dozens of formulas at our disposal, keeping things wordy, versus biogrpahical. Name and number your couples, so we can take a stab. (Please ignore my dontattempt handle - I'm really DA with a current tech hitch.) Can you crack my opening six? And what recipe will your items obey?

DA1 - Kanye West & Thomas Hardy

DA2 - Bill Granger & David Jones

DA3 - Eva Cox & Malcolm X  

DA4 - Andrew Denton & Jules Verne  

DA5 - Bruce Springsteen & Banjo Paterson 

DA6 - Tori Spelling & Penny Cook  

Some easy. Some tricky. Can you undo the duos?


30 September, 2014

Flounder sur le plat

8-ounce wagyu beef patty burger and hand-cut fires

Tender chick breast in a rich marsala sauce with button mushrooms

Rustic apple galette with fresh cream 

Sorry if I'm making you drool, but this wordbook has made me think about devising a clue that reads like a menu excerpt. Can we do it? Oui we can: 

APPRENTICE = Pie with pecan nuts and tastier crust  

LETTUCE = Cooked cutlet with eggplant topping  

SUGAR = Big chunk of asparagus folded back

What MasterChef among us can concoct the perfect clue - one to make us congratulate and salivate in one sitting? Choose any word or name you like as starting point, so long as the clue speaks menuese. Start plating, people.

Salon 46 - Menu-Speak

29 September, 2014

Beware the restaurant whose menu mentions paddock, grass-fed, moghrabieh or exotic. (While the cheaper eateries will cite adjectives like delicious, real and crunchy.)

Currently reading The Language of Food by Dan Jurafsky, and it's scrumptious. Did you know a drinking toast and toasted bread are related? So too macaroni and macaroon? Or the less choice you have at the table, the more you can expect to pay. I'm only up to Chapter 2, Entree, but can commend the feast - lucid, erudite and fascinating. (Watch out for a foodie Storm tomorrow.)

Before then, a conundrum: Can you mix a common 5-letter word, and tag the new combo after M to make an antonym of your first word? (As a clue, most letters involved occur in the alphabet's second half.) Will offer more clues if it's too tough.

Any more takers on the Radio Storm idea from last week? I'll be announcing the prize for best brainwave on Tuesday. 

And of course, if you happen upon a fine crossword, from the Times, the G, or elsewhere, then do share the love right here. Get a wordy week under your belt.

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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Puzzles and Words 2

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News Wrap

Tune into ABC 774 this Friday [19/9] after 5 for Raf Epstein and I, plus another news junkie, hanging out the week's headlines and singling out the stories.

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